Loughton grandmother publishes evacuee memories

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Josie Ruston with grandson Billy Josie Ruston with grandson Billy

A grandmother has published her story as an evacuee during the Second World War with the help of her grandson.

Josie Ruston, 80, of Hillcroft, Loughton, was sent with one of her sisters from her home near East India Dock in London to stay with a family in Oxford in 1939, when she was just seven.

Not long after she arrived, she injured her leg while on a school trip to the grave of Fair Rosamund, a mistress of King Henry II, and contracted Tuberculosis, leaving her in hospital for four and a half years.

She decided to tell her story two years ago, after she told a nurse about the unusual treatment she was given for her infected leg, which was kept still using weights rather than being amputated.

She said: “The nurse told me they would normally have taken the leg off, but they put it in thick plaster of Paris.

“She said I should write about what had happened.”

While she was in hospital in Oxford, she was visited by American servicemen, who were staying in the city, along with British troops who were camped out there.

She said: “They would ask who had the fewest visitors and the nurses said I did.

“The Americans bought sweets – we didn’t have any, just fig sandwiches – and a lovely dolls’ house.”

Meanwhile, her mother was bombed out of three east London homes and gave birth to her little brother Billy in an air-raid shelter during a bombardment.

She added: “My mum came and visited me with my baby brother, but she must have been so worried.

“The nurses wrote to her to tell her how I was doing.”

After the war, the family moved first to Queen’s Road in Buckhurst Hill and then to Hatfields in Loughton.

Mrs Ruston asked her grandson, 17-year-old Billy Ruston, of Hillyfields, to help her and he has spent two years noting down her story and editing it.

He said: “I just wrote it down in my notepad and let her tell me all about it.

“I can’t imagine what it was like then. I’m glad I did it.”

The story has been made into a book, Josie’s War, with the help of Billy’s great-uncle, Jimmy Ruston.

For a copy of the book, write to JR Marketing, 41 High Street, Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, BS37 6BA.

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