Keeping things civil

Barb Sweet
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Woman was part of Second World War civil defence

At 101, Mary Ann Bugden can put you on the spot of major world events.

Mary Anne Bugden holds a photo of her and her husband, James, taken after the Second World War. During the war they served in civil defence. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

She can tell you about her uncles returning from the First World War in 1919.

“Two were Navy and one was Merchant Marine, my mother’s brothers. I can remember her youngest brother getting married when they came home,” Bugden recalled.

“Her youngest brother, he was 49 years old working over on Bell Island and he got drowned opposite his door in Portugal Cove.”

She can also tell you about her and her husband James Budgen’s involvement in the civil defence organization relief and evacuation unit  during the Second World War and afterwards.

“I did everything that was possible to do. I did everything that I was called to do,” she said.

As a member of the Anglican Church Women’s group, Budgen would also organize entertainment for servicemen. She formed a bond with American sailors, one of whom she and her husband visited years after the war in Scotland.

Bugden said when there were structure fires — unconnected to the war —  she would help organize evacuation efforts.

She and her husband were issued cards from the civil defence headquarters at Bishop Feild College.

“We never stopped,” she said.

Her husband walked the beat in the  east end during the Second World War making sure people had their lights off at night and blackout curtains drawn. But people weren’t always co-operative, Budgen said.

“He would get the lights turned off and he’d go back and check and they’d have them on again. The same people. Some, not everybody,” she recalled.

“They didn’t listen then, same as the ones that don’t listen now. They won’t stop drinking and driving.”

Budgen’s mother lived in Portugal Cove and she said she could remember a torpedoing.

“I was standing in my mother’s kitchen in the back porch, when there was this loud bang where they torpedoed those boats on Bell Island. Mother had hens. One went right in through the porch door and went out through the kitchen window,” she said.

U-boats hit the island twice in 1942, according to Four ore carriers were sunk and more than 60 men killed.

The couple were also involved in the St. John Ambulance and she took the first ambulance on duty in the 1950s.

In the 1960s, Budgen worked as an assistant matron at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, which then had female prisoners.

“The girls washed clothes for men,” she said.

She also worked at the School for the Deaf in St. John’s.

Budgen said she never, ever watched TV because she was too busy and now, because of failing eyesight, she cannot.

“Radio and open line is the only thing I have in this world,” said Budgen, who raised five children with her husband and now resides in

St. Luke’s nursing home.

Organizations: Bishop Feild College, Anglican Church Women, School for the Deaf

Geographic location: Bell Island, Portugal Cove

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