First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Memories of Jill Cross (former name Iris Sylvia Volk known as 'Babs')

Iris Sylvia Volk known as "Babs" was born in 1914. Bab's father was Cecil Volk. He and Babs' mother were living in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where he worked as a railway surveyor. Their first two daughters, Cecilie and Barbara were born there. In 1914 their mother returned to Britain when she was expecting "Babs". After the First World War was declared Cecil returned to Britain to join-up. He served as a petty officer in Royal Naval Air Service.

Cecil served at Gallipoli. He received a letter from home to say that their daughter Barbara had died of peritonitis when a swab was left in the wound after an operation to remove her appendix. She was only 5 years old. Babs was told that her father - on reading this news - leapt onto the parapet and shouted "Shoot me!" His friends pulled him down to safety. Whilst in Gallipoli he was bitten by a mosquito and had malaria. "Babs" remembers that every year afterwards he suffered a malaria attack, so bad that he was bed- ridden for a week at least. He had no visible wounds or signs of this condition but he was wounded as a result of his service, the same as other
men's wounds.

Living at 11 Priory Gardens, Barnes, near London "Babs" remembers a Zeppelin Raid, circa 1917. She was woken up by her mother and gathered up in a paisley pattern eiderdown with her older sister Cecilie, and with their mother they sheltered underneath the kitchen table. She would have been 4-5 years old at the time, and the strongest memory is that paisley pattern!

Late in the War "Babs" remembers visiting her father at his base in Roehampton. She was lifted into the basket of an observation balloon, and screamed until she was lifted out again - she was scared she would be carried off by the balloon. The basket was not even attached to its balloon!

On Armistice Day 11 November 1918 "Babs" remembers being given a flag and waving it on the street in Barnes, in very large crowds.

After the war Cecil did not return to his surveying work - apart from occasional jobs - for which Babs remembers holding the theodolite. Instead he decided that motor cars were the future. He took over a building in Brighton owned by his father (who had established Volk's Electrical Railway in 1883), and set up a garage. "Babs" remembers serving petrol at the pumps (1 shilling 4d a gallon!) Cecil also raced motorcycles at Brooklands.

To view other similar items in the archive click on the hyper-linked words below.