Stories: Annie Dongray

Annie Dongray by Loraine Yalland

I really don't know very much and my mother has now passed on. She was from a family of twelve who lived in Bethnal Green. She always told me about my auntie Annie Dongray. Apparently she hadn’t been married very long, she was 22 and her maiden name was Fowles. She married a soldier and they only managed to have one weekend together when they got married as her husband had to return to the war. Mum used to say auntie Annie never went in the shelters or down the tube during raids as she said it was like being buried alive. On that particular day she was with a friend who was very frightened so Auntie Annie decided to go down the tube with her friend but then come back out. I don't know how true it is but mum said they were quite near the front of the queue and my auntie’s friend survived, but was in a wheelchair as she damaged her legs.

Mum said that day a neighbour came to their house and told my grandma that she thought she had seen Auntie Annie in the chapel of rest, and unfortunately it was true, she had. My auntie’s husband came back from the war to bury her and insisted that she should be buried in her wedding dress, which she was. Mum said it was terrible that the chapel was so full of people that had died that bodies were on the pavement covered in sheets. Mum was only 7 when war broke out but she always remembered it vividly.Mum had one photo of Auntie Annie with her puppy bob, and it was uncanny how much my auntie looked like my mum.

I also had an uncle named John Dongray who married my Auntie Dolly so it all seems to fit. It’s hard to find anymore information as so many of my family have passed away. Mum always told me stories of when she was young in the war and even though all her brother in laws fought in the war and she was from a large family they only ever lost auntie Annie, who mum said was so full of life and so young and had not been married very long, I remember that my auntie was about 5ft 2in with dark hair past her shoulder, mum said the government paid for the funerals and there were rows and rows of identical white headstones, I don't know if this is what actually happened as mum was young herself when it all happened.

It always seemed like such a sad story when i was young and i never really thought about it until recently when i saw a programme on TV about it. I think what you are doing to remember everyone who died is wonderful and i am sure if my mum was still alive she would have been as grateful as I am. Thank you so much for all you have done and are doing to make sure everyone from that terrible day will not be forgotten.

Thank you once again,
kind regards Loraine Yalland.