Our Century

The day the war turned nuclear

Gladys Welsh, West Bromwich Born 1909

Gladys Welsh

"It was 1945. My father had been discharged from the army three years earlier and within a year was smitten with a particularly painful and virulent form of cancer. We were all completely devastated. The war was put on the back burner.

"All our efforts went into caring for him and doing what we felt was our inadequate best to ease his final days.

"Throughout his suffering he still cracked jokes, played cards and shaved himself. Sometimes he lay back, closed his eyes, clenched his teeth, and beads of sweat formed on his forehead. Then I would try to insert a morphine tablet into his mouth.

"Later he would open his eyes and give a little smile. Towards the end, I was reading Gone With the Wind to him, and once he said, 'I would love to know how it ends."

"I said, 'Patience. You'll soon know.' But he didn't. He died less than half-way through it. The doctor said, 'He died like a soldier.' I said, 'He was a soldier.'

"After his death our war was finished. Although it was still dragging on, we were becoming inured to the news, to rationing and shortages and the whole dreary set-up. Our private grief had taken over from what was happening in the outside world.

"D-Day came and went. VE-Day came and went. Then, shortly afterwards on the radio, I heard the news of the bombing of Hiroshima. I went cold. I thought, 'Thank God Dad never knew about that.'

"Thus another war ended but, for us as a family, without the rejoicing of November 11, 1918.