Rugby woman who lived through Coventry Blitz celebrates 100th birthday

Rosamond Gumbley with her 100th birthday letter from the Queen.
Rosamond Gumbley with her 100th birthday letter from the Queen.

A Rugby woman who spent time in a workhouse and recalls the smell of burning during the Coventry Blitz celebrated her 100th birthday.

Rosamond Gumbley, famed for her homemade jam, celebrated with family and friends at the Green Man in Dunchurch on Sunday, ahead of her birthday on April 24.

Born in London in 1918, the mother of four had nine other siblings.

Her parents were both working in domestic service so Mrs Gumbley had to stay with family for some time.

In around 1925, when she was around six years old, Rosalind’s father lost his job and could not pay rent. She said: “We were thrown out of the house because we couldn’t pay the rent. It was hard to find a job in those days.”

Mrs Gumbley was moved to a workhouse, where she stayed for around two nights.

She said the workhouse was full of unruly children who had made a game out of putting their fingers in an electrical outlet to get a shock.

She was then moved to Briar Patch Children’s Home in Hertfordshire, where she said she spent several very happy years.

She said: “It was a really lovely place.

“My mother had to stay in the workhouse until my father found work and a house.”

Mrs Gumbley left school at 14 and within days had found work in domestic service.

She married her first husband, Charles, in 1936 when she was 18. The couple would stay together until Charles’ death 36 years later.

The couple moved to Coventry to work for GEC, where they lived through the horrors of the Coventry Blitz.

GEC had an underground bunker, which the pair sought shelter in night after night as the Luftwaffe hammered the city.

Mrs Gumbley said: “We could hear all the bombs through the night.

“In the morning you could smell burning and there would be people among the ruins looking for their belongings. Some looting did happen.

“We took things day by day. You couldn’t make any plans - you just carried on with your life until the sirens went off.

“We were scared, but we hated Hitler and there was a lot of fighting spirit. No one ever spoke about the possibility we could lose.

“I have thought about how we all survived. There was so much going on you didn’t really have time to feel anything.”

Mrs Gumbley said the war brought one good thing – a sense of community.

She said people made lifelong friends as they sought refuge in bomb shelters.

She said: “There was no fighting in the shelters, everyone got along and people helped each other.”

Her husband had diabetes and, although he was given extra rations, Mrs Gumbley said she would sometimes have to give him some of her rations to keep him from getting seriously ill.

They topped-up their rations by foraging for potatoes and fruit.

Following the war Mrs Gumbley moved to Rugby. She married her second husband, Harry, in 1984. They remained together until he died in 1998.

Mrs Gumbley, who now lives at Onley Park, said she would like to thank friends and family for their support – especially her daughter Judith and neighbours Ilse and John.