THEY lived through one of history's darkest and bloodiest hours.
From dodging Nazi bombs to watching neighbours get tortured, these World War Two survivors rebuilt their lives after years of utter terror.
And now, as Britain marks Remembrance Sunday amid the Covid pandemic, their stories are a reminder of the strength of the human spirit.
War survivor Jo Davey, 92, tells Sun Online: “During the war we were united in fighting one common enemy, the Germans, and nothing else mattered – but we came through it stronger and with real hope for the future.
"Today we need the same energy and effort in fighting Covid, our silent unseen enemy. It affects us all and it needs a united effort again from everyone to see off the disease."
The never-before-heard stories, documented by UK biography writing service StoryTerrace, come 75 years after the end of WW2 in 1945.
The service hopes they will allow the wartime survivors' legacies to live on, as well as helping to educate future generations on the horrors of war.
StoryTerrace CEO Rutger Bruining adds: "In times like this, as the nation heads back into lockdown, it is vital to be reminded of other times in our history in which we have had to come together and persevere through times of difficulty."
Here, as the nation pays tribute to those who lost their lives in conflict, we reveal the inspiring stories of WW2 veterans and civilians:
'I was nearly machine-gunned to death on way home from school'
Jo Davey, now 92, lost her aunt and narrowly avoided being shot in the Nazis' bombing raids on London. She went on to break down barriers in the financial sector, becoming the Bank of England's youngest ever female employee aged just 16.
Jo says: "I was 12 when The Blitz was at its height in 1940.
My mother couldn’t sleep, she practically had a nervous breakdown. At school, you never knew who would survive to be there the next day.
Though I was evacuated from my bomb-hit hometown of Penge, south east London, for a while, I soon returned to face the horrors of the war.
When I was 15, I was walking back from school when suddenly there was gunfire. I looked up to see a Messerschmitt machine-gunning the street.
I lay down in the gutter, terrified.
Mother was hanging washing out, and as she watched the pilot, he waved.
I found out later that he had also flown past nearby Sandhurst Road School, where children had waved at him from the window and playground.
The pilot had waved back at the schoolchildren before machine-gunning the playground
He’d waved back, before machine-gunning the playground.
Then the pilot had turned the plane, swooped, and dropped an 1100lb bomb on the school, killing 32 children and six staff. It was horrifying.
Though I could have gone to university, there was never any money – so straight after my 16th birthday, I got my first job at the Bank of England.
But before I could start, two or three incendiary bombs fell on our home, blasting out the windows and meaning I had to be evacuated again.
My mum and sister Janet came too.
Yet we were the lucky ones: my Aunty Rose was killed by a 'doodlebug' (V-1 flying bomb) when it turned back on itself after the all-clear was given.
My Aunty Rose was killed by a 'doodlebug' when it turned back on itself after the all-clear was given
After hearing about my destroyed home, the Bank of England recommended I go to work in the local branch at Whitchurch, Hampshire.
I was the bank's youngest ever female employee – and I was so nervous!
I stayed with some older girls in a hostel, a building which was also the local morgue. I was so homesick, but stayed at the branch until 1945.
After the war ended, I worked at the Finsbury Circus branch – and even modelled for the Evening Standard newspaper one lunchtime!
In total, I'd work for the bank for 16 years. Today, I feel very strongly about equal work for equal pay – because for years I didn’t get it.
Today I feel very strongly about equal work for equal pay – because for years I didn’t get it
Away from work, I loved doing one-act plays. And at one audition for a play in 1949, I met a man called Harry who would become my husband.
I didn’t know it then, but apparently when I walked in Harry turned to his friend, Allan, and said, 'Who’s that snooty cow?'
But fortunately, he asked me on a date, and we fell in love. We married at St John’s Church in Penge in 1952, and later bought our first house.
Like me, Harry – who was earning around £6 a week at the Pall Mall deposit and forwarding company – loved the theatre and going on adventures.
In 1955, we took a trip around Europe on a motorbike.
We covered 2,000 miles in two weeks with no crash helmet and only £25 in our pockets – all you were allowed to take out of the country at the time.
In later years, we welcomed children Lesley and Paul, now married to their wonderful partners Keith and Zoë, and lived in Eastbourne, Sussex.
Sadly, Harry died in June 1999.
But in the years since, I've travelled to countless far-flung destinations, even enjoying a round-the-world getaway with Lesley and Keith.
When I was young, the attitude to life was ‘Get on with it’. And today, aged 92 and living through the pandemic, I'm trying to do just that."
Jo’s daughter Lesley tells Sun Online: “Mum said to us at the beginning of the pandemic that 'there is no point griping about it – we all need to get on and make the best of things. We know the pandemic won’t last forever, and if we all do our bit and stand together as we did in the war then we’ll beat it all the sooner'. And she’s right."
'My first two loves were killed in action – but my third endured it all'
English soldier Stanley Greene fell in love with East German beauty Anneliese as he liberated the German people in 1945. Despite a series of potentially deadly obstacles, they married, settled down in London and had two daughters. They have both died in recent years aged 85.
In words penned before her death, Anneliese says: "I remember the moment things started to change in my hometown of Magdeburg, Germany.
Instead of our daily school assembly, we were told to raise the Nazi flag, salute it and sing the Nazi anthem Die Fahne Hoch (‘the flag on high’).
Outside of school, greeting passersby with ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ became illegal. You had to say ‘Heil Hitler’ every time.
Once I saw a butcher refuse to salute passing Nazis. They stopped their lorry, seized him and thrust a burning torch under his right armpit.
The war brought fear and brutality, international condemnation, food shortages and forced labour. It also brought me heartbreak.
My then-fiancé Peter, a young Luftwaffe officer, died when his plane was shot down. My second love, an officer called Rudi, was also killed in action.
Stanley survived a string of horrors, including malaria, shelling by enemy forces and a near-strike by a German soldier's bazooka
It was in 1945, after Germany surrendered, that I met English soldier Stanley, who had been tasked with liberating the German people.
Like me, he'd already survived a string of horrors, including malaria, shelling by enemy forces and a near-strike by a German soldier's bazooka.
We met by chance on the banks of the River Bode at Klein Oschersleben, where I had been sunbathing and swimming with my friend Gerda.
I was 23, and couldn't stop gazing at the soldier's tousled fair hair, high forehead and wide-set smiley eyes. I thought he had a wonderful face.
For the next fortnight, I met Stanley, then 22, every day.
‘You realise’, he said to me, ‘that fraternisation with Germans is a custodial offence in the British Army? They put you in prison for it.’
I was shocked, but Stanley told me: 'It’s a rule made to be broken.' He added: 'I intend to fraternise with you every day of my life.'
We had a wonderful June, but in July 1945 the Russians took over as the occupying force in the area, and Stanley had to depart with his squadron.
He left me his photo, and a burning determination to join him soon.
After their arrival, the Russians began a campaign of looting and assault. They broke down doors, and dragged out and raped women of all ages.
The Russians broke down doors, and dragged out and raped women of all ages… I knew I had to escape
I knew I had to escape – for my own sake and Stanley’s.
I wanted my parents to flee with me to safety in the West, yet they wouldn't. They begged me to stay, but I knew my future had to lie elsewhere.
It was an agonising choice, but in the end I went without them.
It wasn't an easy journey, however: I had to walk for miles then cross the border into a British-controlled zone without getting shot or seized.
Against military orders, Stanley then helped me escape by stowing me in the back of a truck with half a dozen kind soldiers and a pile of kit bags.
I had to walk for miles then cross the border into a British-controlled zone without getting shot or seized
We spent months in Bruehl and Bonn, before Stanley and I finally moved to his home country, England. There, his family welcomed me with kindness.
But English food took some getting used to! I found baked potatoes hard work, and I never did come to terms with mint sauce or kippers.
In coming months and years, Stanley and I married, settled down in Lewisham, south-east London, and had daughters Karol and Karen.
Stanley, who had by this point quit military life, even set up his own business as a manufacturers’ agent in the high-quality fashion trade.
Though we were eventually able to return to Magdeburg to visit my parents, my father sadly died during the lengthy application process.
I still regret that I was never able to see him again.
Since then, Stanley and I have moved to New Ash Green in Kent, and have been blessed with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Our life together has been frightening at times, but a very happy one.
It proves that love can endure anything."
- Extracts adapted from war survivors' life stories, as documented by biography writing service StoryTerrace. The service has documented more than 1,000 life stories of everyday Brits
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