2020 Third Place


by Denise Bennett

She never talked about it,
that last night
at 16 Cowper Road,
before the bomb dropped.

Lucy had just put the kettle on,

their married sister Lily
had popped in after shopping,
parked the pram in the hall.
They all sat chatting,
drinking tea in the front parlour
mourning the death of their mother;
Mary and Ivy were knitting,
the baby sleeping.

She never said how long it took
the squad, scrabbling bare-handed
to dig the bodies from the rubble;
how Kathy had died
in the ambulance beside her,
Nellie, days later, in the next bed –

or how Tony aged six months,
blown over a mile,
across roof-tops, was found dead
in a bed of nettles.
It took nearly a week
to find and identify him.
Just one small bump on his head.

She didn’t remember the siren;
only the silence, the explosion,
the darkness.

She never talked about it
her daughter said.

On the night of 5th December, 1940 the Luftwaffe dropped a bomb on 16 Cowper Road, Portsmouth, killing the six Wilkinson sisters and Tony, aged six months. Irene, aged 12 was the only survivor.