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Western FrontMay 1945

War Widow

Kathleen Woodside
Having lost her husband on the last day of the war, she helped found the War Widow's Association.

Kathleen Woodside's words are read by Poppy Gillespie

Testimony Transcript

Laurence Rees: Kathleen Woodside experienced a great deal of personal loss during the war.

Words of Kathleen Woodside: I had 2 brothers who were both in the war, the youngest brother was in Malta, I was very proud of him, he died of his wounds, he was under a spitfire when the Germans came over and dropped a bomb on it. And he was in Valetta hospital for 4 years. And my other brother, he was killed, he was a pilot, and he was killed bombing the Kiel Canal, in Germany.

Laurence Rees: She herself volunteered to work at a hospital for the badly wounded near her home town of Liverpool.

Words of Kathleen Woodside: Ormskirk general hospital. That’s where they brought a lot of the paratroops in. If they wanted to write home, and lost their limbs, we used to do the writing home for them. Or if they wanted anything particular, we would get them. And we used to go on a Sunday after we’d finished work, and we used to take them to the park, there was a nice park by Ormskirk general, so we used to take them to the park. Just so they had some fresh air, and see some different faces. And in those days, you won’t know this, they didn’t have wheelchairs, they were long baskets. You could lay flat and you push it like a pram. We’d take them to this lovely park. It was so sad those boys, and the more limbs they lost, the more cheerful they were.

One person was very quiet, and I said to him, are you alright, and he just said to me I was just thinking. And I said well can you share it with me if its worrying you? Or upsetting you, perhaps I can help you? And he said well he wasn’t in the paratroops he was in the RAF, and his pal went too near the blades and it cut his head off. And this used to upset him and he used to cry about it. That was very very hard. You used to have to bite your tongue and you know. Just give them a cuddle. A hug you know.

Laurence Rees: Kathleen got married to an officer in the household cavalry in the autumn of 1942. Their entire married life together would consist of a week’s honeymoon in Wales.

Words of Kathleen Woodside: He had a week’s leave and we went up and spent our time around Snowdon. And then, I always remember, I walked all the way back from Lime Street Station to Chewell Road, never saw him again. I never thought he would be killed, no, I never really did think he would be, although he went through some very sticky zones, you know with the fighting through the desert, it was very very dicey round there and when they went into Sicily, that was quite bad. And then they came through Sicily into Italy. The day the war ended in Italy, he was blown up, seven of them went for a walk, and it was a booby trap where they walked, of course they wouldn’t know that. It was terrible because, you see I’d never had a funeral, and always felt he’d walk in one day. I just expected him to walk in one day. I didn’t accept it because I hadn’t had a funeral.

Laurence Rees: But then, in 1986, she finally managed to visit her husband’s grave in Northern Italy.

Words of Kathleen Woodside: Once I’d been to the cemetery, been to his grave, that was it, the book was closed, he was rested. And next to my husband’s grave was a husband and wife believe it or not in the RAF, and then there were seven boys on that line, where my husband was buried, all unknown. My god, that’s upset me. So we split the roses up, we had enough to have several for each grave. But the upsetting part of that is you come home, and you can’t write and tell anybody, tell the wives or their mothers, or their girlfriends or whatever, that I’d put a couple of roses and a couple of poppies on the grave, you can’t do that cause you don’t know where they live or anything. Cause they’re unknown. No names, they got no names, seven of them there were. When I saw these boys I thought, gosh, well I’m lucky aren’t I, I’ve been able to come and see where my husband is.

Laurence Rees: After the war Kathleen became one of the founding members’ of the War Widows’ Association, and subsequently recieved an MBE in recognition for her charitable work.

Words of Kathleen Woodside: I’ve been on my own now 65, yes 65 years. I still feel awful about it. I really do, but then again, there’s a lot of sadness in this world. I’ve got a lot of good friends, lovely friends