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The lucid deep blue eyes of the child held a constant gleam of anticipation as the train sped on through the English countryside towards London. His bubbling inner excitement was fanned constantly by the magical ebb and flow of this, his first journey into the greater outer world. To his boyish senses, a harmony, virtually lost to adult perception, blended together in sweet symphony the odours of steam, oil and burning coal with the rhythmic rocking of the time-worn wooden railway carriage.
Totally consumed by the sound of the labouring locomotive up ahead, the child’s gaze began to follow the telegraph wires that ran parallel to the track. They suddenly appeared as a living thing, whipping up and down, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. It was as though someone was holding a giant pencil through the window to draw lines on the sky, he thought.
The illusion held his attention for several enchanted minutes before he at last turned his rosy cheeks towards the young woman seated beside him. A tiny lace handkerchief, that she’d been dabbing at her eyes with, was hurriedly returned to her handbag. The little boys gaze regarded her intently.
“Mummy, why are you crying?” he asked softly. Till then, her efforts to remain cheerful for the child’s sake would have been more than obvious to any casual observer. She squared her shapely shoulders and with an effort, glanced down affectionately at her fair-headed son.
“Mummy’s not crying, silly! Just a little soot in my eye from the locomotive!”
She stood up and pulled on the leather strap to lift the window a little and turned unsteadily to seat herself on the opposite side,
“Come, sit over here with me, darling. We should have our backs to the engine!” she said.
The boy slid obediently to the floor and clambered up beside his mother. They shared the compartment with one other passenger, an elderly gentleman who, after a polite nod to the mother and a friendly wink at the child had promptly fallen asleep after a rather hasty glance through the pages of his ‘Daily Express’ and a sorrowful shaking of his head.
The pleasant autumn weather on this Saturday, the 12th of September 1940, did nothing to subtract from the mounting gloom of Julie Ann Wade. Today she was en route to the south-eastern English county of Kent to place her eldest son in the care of an institution, namely, St James, a boarding school for boys.