There'll Be Blue Skies - By Ellie Dean


There’ll be Blue Skies is set in a time before I was born, so I have had to pester many people to help me make the story as authentic as possible.

Edie Brit, you’re a star! Thank you so much for giving me the many insights into how life was in a seaside town during WW2. Your input was invaluable. Thanks too, to Brian Putland for introducing us.

I would also like to thank my mother-in-law, Kathleen Cater, and her friend, Jean Lane, for answering all my questions, and to Paul Nash for the information on southern RAF stations, life on the south coast during WW2, and the many hours you must have spent trawling through your extensive library. To Mick Barrow at the Hastings Fisherman’s Museum, the staff at the Eastbourne Lifeboat Museum, and the curator at Newhaven Fort, I am most grateful for your time and your generosity in sharing your vast knowledge. A huge thank-you also goes to the hundreds of people who have posted their war memories on the Internet. I’ve pinched a few comic – and not so comic – incidents I hope you don’t mind.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the unswerving loyalty of my literary agent, Teresa Chris, and the support, faith and guidance given by my editor, Georgina Hawtrey-Woore. Without these two brilliant women, this book would never have been written.

Chapter One

October, 1939

The threat of war had been the talk of the East End and, although Sally Turner had little idea of what it would really mean, she’d heard enough of the old men’s tales to know it would probably be the most frightening thing she could ever experience. After the rumours and fears had been confirmed in Chamberlain’s declaration, she could see the changes in the narrow streets and alleyways of Bow, for many of the children had already been sent to the countryside. Now it was her turn to leave with her little brother, and the thought of being taken far from the sights, sounds and smells of the only place she knew was terrifying.

She carefully placed the birthday card on top of their clothes, closed the battered suitcase, and secured it with one of her father’s old belts. It was the only card she’d received and, as it had come from her father, it was extra special, and not something to be left behind. Harold Turner was already at sea when war was declared, and she had no idea where he was – but he’d remembered she’d turned sixteen a month ago, and it made her adore him even more. Her mother, Florrie, had forgotten as usual.

‘Where’s Mum?’ Ernie was sitting on the end of the sagging couch which pulled out as a bed. He and Sally slept there every night unless Florrie was entertaining – then they went downstairs to Maisie Kemp’s. ‘I want Mum.’

Florrie hadn’t come home last night and Sally could have done with knowing where she’d got to, but she had her suspicions. The pubs, clubs and streets in the East End were heaving with servicemen looking for a bit of fun – and Florrie liked a good time. ‘She’s probably gone off to work early,’ she said, calmly.

‘Mum never goes to work early,’ he muttered.

Sally wasn’t willing to get into an argument over their mother’s whereabouts. Ernie was only six. ‘There’s a war on,’ she said, instead. ‘Everyone’s got to do their bit – including Mum.’

Ernie’s clear brown eyes regarded her steadily. ‘Old Mother Kemp says Mum’s doing ’er bit all right, and that Dad wouldn’t like it. What did she mean by that, Sal?’

Maisie Kemp should learn to keep her trap shut around Ernie, thought Sally. ‘I don’t know, luv. Now, sit still and let me sort you out or we’ll never be on time.’ She tucked her fair curls behind her ears and picked up the special boot which she eased carefully over Ernie’s misshapen foot. Once the laces were tied, she began to buckle the leather straps round his twisted, withered leg.

The polio had struck just before Ernie’s second birthday, and it had left him with a crippled leg and weakened muscles – but, despite his disability, Ernie was like any other six year old – full of cheeky mischief and far too many questions.

‘Do we ’ave to go, Sal?’

She made sure the callipers weren’t too tight and patted the bony knee that jutted from beneath the hem of his short trousers. ‘The prime minister says we ’ave to get out of London cos