am Odgers lost her home, most of her possessions and a few of her friends during the Second World War. But still, she says, she was one of the lucky ones.
“During the war, during the Blitz, 30,000 people were killed, 14,000 of them were women and there’s no memorial for them anywhere,” said the quick-talking septuagenarian. She lays a bouquet of flowers during the Oak Bay Remembrance Day ceremony each year to commemorate those women of Britain who lost their lives.
“I like to put flowers down in their memory. I was born in London and I know people who were killed,” she said.
Odgers was just 12 years old when bombs began to fall on the streets of London. Streets where she and her twin sister had played, walked to school and along the park where they flew kites.
“It was the first time in England’s history since William the Conqueror where women were killed in war … my generation likes to commemorate them, to remind people of their loss,” she said.
Odgers, her sisters and mother were quickly evacuated from the war-torn city, leaving the blackouts and sound of V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets behind.
“The well-to-do and middle class left London – we went to live in Devon. The poorer people and the working class, they had to stay,” she recalled.
Odgers’ father owned a factory that made canvass and was busy producing “war work” during those years. “They had a fire watch at night and one of the workers, after his shift, would stand on the roof of the factory looking for incendiary devices – small bombs about 18-inches long.
“He would pick them up with his bare hands and put them in a bucket of sand or a barrel of water, then he would walk 10 miles to his home over rubble, live electrical power lines, people being dug out of the rubble, desperate people trying to find their relatives under collapsed buildings …” her voice trailed off momentarily as she became lost in her memories.
Her mother was American and the family moved to the U.S. during the war years, but Odgers returned to her homeland in 1944. She met her future husband Graham at Cambridge and together they came to Oak Bay in 1949. The couple raised their three children here.
Odgers can’t remember how long she has been attending the Oak Bay ceremony and placing flowers for those women who died, but she will be among the hundreds who will gather today (Nov. 11) at 11 a.m. in Uplands Park to honour the memory of those who served Canada in the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Afghanistan and in peacekeeping forces.
The service is organized by the Oak Bay Police Department and includes participation from the Oak Bay secondary Brass Choir, Victoria Male Choir, various Oak Bay clergy, the fifth and 12th Garry Oak Scouts, Girl Guides and Oak Bay Fire Department.
As Odgers and others lay flowers and wreaths at the base of the cenotaph today, they will be thinking of those who died in the Blitz and the bombings, and in the trenches – those who were not as lucky.