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When the War came, suddenly the sky was upon us all like a huge hawk hovering, threatening. Everyone was searching the sky waiting for some terror to fall.

Paul Nash, Aerial Flowers, 1945

Rosebay willowherb grew rapidly on bombsites in WWII. Often called Bombweed, its image conjured up the terror of the blitz and its aftermath; a reminder of the lifelong consequences of wartime loss and the choice to cling to, discard or lock away the memories of those who have disappeared from view in the fog of war.

Bombweed, by Gillian F Morton, tells the story of Vivienne, a naive teenager in 1938, who has to grow up in a world at war. Her family is shattered, like the buildings in her town, by the Luftwaffe. Vivienne and her sisters each seek ways to deal with devastating loss. Memories are destroyed, blotted out with drink and sex, or clung to obsessively. Houses can be repaired when peace comes, but the heart is a trickier matter. Vivienne knows that to recover she must reach into the dark past.

Available in paperback and as an ebook
paperback ISBN 9781781327975
ebook    ISBN 978-1-78132-810-1

RRP £11.99

Available to order from all good bookshops, on-line retailers, or

The story of the story

One evening in 1947, Margaret Smith put her two daughters to bed and sat down at her typewriter. The war was over. Her husband, recently “demobbed” from the RAF, was away at college. Now she had time to write.

Over the following months she wrote the novel that was, eventually, to become “Bombweed”. She created a story of family tensions, love and loss, survival and recovery. Everything was drawn from her own experiences during the previous ten years, although she was always clear that it was not an autobiography. Her characters were amalgams of herself and her friends. The incidents really happened, though not necessarily to the people and in the places as told in the story.

In the late 1940s, publishers were not interested in Home Front stories. Their readers were too close to the real thing. They wanted heroics. Margaret wanted to remember the reality of wartime Britain; the struggles and fear, and the love and friendships that got them through. But when her husband came back from college, she became pregnant again, and her typescript was put away – but not forgotten.

Twenty years later, Margaret’s life had changed. Her youngest child had died, she had divorced her husband, and both her daughters were married. She had become a school teacher. Through all these changes, the manuscript lay safely on top of a wardrobe. She continued to hope that one day it would be published.

Maureen Armstrong

After her death her daughters inherited the typescript. Now, after four years editing, they feel Margaret’s story is ready for a 21st century reader. They hope they have done justice to their mother’s vision and talent.

Gillian Fernandez Morton
Maureen Armstrong

May 2018



5 stars

I couldn’t put this book down, caring about the family at the heart of the story from the beginning, and wanting to know how they would fare in this uncompromising and realistic account of how the war affects three very different sisters and their immediate family and friends. Written by a woman who had lived through it, and edited by her daughters, it is a moving and memorable read, highly recommended for anyone interested in the social history of that era.

5 stars

A fantastic window onto life on the “Home Front”, interwoven with love, loss and lies.

5 stars

I could not put this book down. Bombweed (or fireweed) grows where fire has been – life beginning again after loss. Three young sisters face war and loss. The war changes them and they begin life again. Each one deals with loss differently bringing about rivalry and strain between the sisters.

5 stars

An arresting novel, so true to life, this book far surpasses my expectations; it is a story of life during the 2nd world war for a family in the Portsmouth area, badly affected by bombing and loss of life. Vivienne and her sisters go out into the world, dealing with war time conditions in their different ways. It is told in a clear and true voice and is a great read.


The storyline is so well written that you are almost there with the characters. Standing in line trying to get food that is available. Looking forward to getting your ration booklet so you could maybe get the necessary items you needed. Unless they ran out. I enjoyed this book immensely. I know that if you read it you will get as much enjoyment as I did.


Tea for Two

A young woman stands uncertainly in the doorway of the Lyons tea room. One hand struggles to stop fair hair escaping from a felt hat. Eyes scanning the crowded tea room, she takes in the familiar sounds of hissing steam, clinking china cups and smell of teacake. Face relaxing in recognition, she winds through the little tables.
‘Well, here we are again, Carrie,’ she says, smiling down at the young woman absent-mindedly stroking a scarlet silk scarf, so absorbed by a magazine that she hasn’t noticed the arrival.
‘Caroline – always the one with style,’ Vivienne thinks. Glancing up, Caroline is quickly on her feet, arms out, a little theatrically, to meet her friend’s more tentative gesture. The man in a suit at the next table, noticing the slightly awkward embrace as he brushes cake crumbs from his lips, wonders if they are friends, family or strangers.
‘Viv! Oh good, you made it. I wondered if you would cry off.’
‘What a gorgeous scarf!’ says Vivienne. Something safe to say. Caroline touches the scarlet paisley at her throat.
‘Oh, this old thing. Picked it up in Rome last year. Those poor Italians were so desperate for our currency they’d sell us anything.’ Was there ever a time when Caroline had not worn something red? Vivienne thinks. Even at Dad’s funeral last week, a red bead choker with her neat black costume.
‘Viv, darling, do sit down and I’ll order tea. Scones and cream? They do have them now, even if it is that sickly artificial stuff.’
‘Well yes, it does feel a bit of an occasion doesn’t it? And if it hadn’t been for the…well who knows when…?’ Vivienne trails off, as she settles her old green raincoat on the back of the chair, and brushes imaginary fluff from her suit jacket.
‘Yes,we have to thank the funeral for that at least. It was such a good turnout so no time to talk properly, but without it we might have gone on missing each other in Portsmouth for years!’ Caroline’s bracelets tinkle, as with one red shiny nail she pushes a sleek blonde lock behind an ear.
‘And with all your gadding about in the WAAFs, Caroline, we never quite knew where you were. So hush-hush your mother always said, although we took that with a pinch of salt.’
‘Lord, my mother!’ Caroline says, rolling her eyes. ‘Although hush-hush was right, really. Still not supposed to go into details even now!’ One finger touches her lips in a playful shush. ‘But since I got back from Italy, well, life’s been rather dull.’ A moment’s hesitation, a quick glance down at her lap, looking for chipped polish or seeking her own reflection in the scarlet shine of her fingertips.
‘But listen, really darling, how are you feeling now? The funeral – quite a day for you, wasn’t it?’ She turns her head to summon the nippy, avoiding her friend’s eyes. As the waitress takes the order, Vivienne picks up a silver teaspoon, as if checking its cleanliness, needing time to think. The waitress turns away, fingers quickly touching her white frilled uniform cap out of habit, vaguely wondering why the young women seem so awkward.
‘I’d say quite a day for everyone,’ Vivienne sighs. ‘What would poor Dad have made of it? Even our old Edith turning up after all these years.’
‘And still with all that red frizzy hair!’
‘You know, after she’d left us I used to wish I’d talked properly with her. She was just there. Answering the phone, making cocoa and hot water bottles, devouring her film magazines. Strange though, seeing her again at the funeral I didn’t seem able to ask her a single thing.’
‘Both your sisters turning up too. Did you wonder if they’d make it, given everything?’ Caroline takes a quick breath but hasn’t finished. ‘Mummy was in pieces of course, not just about your father. She really did love Alex, you know. But trying to think of a plan…if there were difficulties I suppose.’
‘Of course, we’d all been wondering who else would show up and how on earth it would be managed if he…well, you know,’ Vivienne says, a small frown focusing on a green napkin.
‘And you remember how much she’s always seen herself as a party maker! Everything must run like clockwork, enough to eat and drink and lots of compliments on her youthful figure and face. Even at a funeral!’
‘Your mother! Goodness, yes. I’ll never forget that ghastly Christmas do of hers.’ Vivienne’s frown is replaced with a girlish grin. ‘Was it ’41 or ’42?’
‘Oh, don’t remind me – all her twinkly showing off and sausage rolls! And she gave Julia a real grilling about her love life, didn’t she? I’d never seen your sister so pink and stumped for words.’ Thoughts overlapping, they are both smiling as the tea and a plate of scones arrive. ‘Now, of course we know what all that was about, don’t we?’ says Caroline. They both give the waitress a grateful smile and she is relieved. She takes her job seriously.
‘We remember things like that, but how much have we forgotten?’ says Vivienne. ‘All those years, all those people, all those awful – ’
‘Dried eggs!’ Caroline says, looking across at the sunlight slipping through a nearby window. And again a shared smile.
‘Carrie, some things I think have gone forever and then suddenly – don’t you find that something really tiny can conjure up so much?’
‘And is that good or bad, sweetie?’ Caroline asks softly, as she pours tea. Vivienne is folding and unfolding her napkin for a long moment.
‘Like Dad’s funeral, I suppose. All those dark coats and demob suits and sympathetic glances and whispered words.’ A smaller voice now, Vivienne seems to shrink a little into her chair.
‘Yes. People never quite know what to say on these occasions, do they? All that odd collection of people last week drifting around us, and the – here, take your tea, Viv. Hey, come back, you look miles away.’ She stares at her friend.
‘Darling, what is it?’
Still the sounds of spoons on teacups, scrapings of chairs from tables, murmurings of couples. Vivienne doesn’t hear them. She is seeing a window of memory slowly slide open. Her mind’s eye races to meet the past, spreading into a haze of remembered acrid smoke.