The story of my sister Nina, by Raymond…
It was a hot, sunny, sultry day on Saturday, Feb 5 1942. Hardly a cloud in the African sky as the ships in Mombasa’s harbour prepared to leave port. Heading out into the Indian Ocean, one of those ships, the Khedive Ismael had over 1,500 passengers on board and most were not necessarily looking forward to the six-day voyage to Ceylon. There was little to do, little to see, except the waves, and with no air conditioning it would prove to be a hot and tiresome journey. No doubt this was part of the reason why it was decided to have a Concert Party on the following Saturday. So it was then, during the early afternoon of the 12th, a large audience had gathered in the main lounge to enjoy the efforts of any who were talented enough to do a turn. Elsewhere a game of tombola was underway on deck, while others lay on their bunks, near open portholes, hoping that some little breeze would help them cope with the tropical heat. Apart from the heat and the boredom, everything was fine, UNTIL 33 minutes past two. Then two violent explosions shook the ship from stem to stern. A Japanese submarine had unleashed two torpedoes, that scored direct hits on the Khedive Ismael, one smashing into the boiler room, which added to the explosive effect.
Almost immediately the ship started to break up and within two minutes she was on her way to the bottom, some 12,000 feet below. On board were 1511 souls, of which 1297 were lost. This was the third highest Merchant Navy loss of life throughout World War II, and the highest loss of female life with hundreds of nurses.
Just two minutes after the first explosion, there were only 214 survivors. Among the 226 Naval Personnel aboard, only 22 were saved. One of those lost at sea was named as John D. Dudley. Assistant Cook, on his way to serve aboard HMS Lanka, a shore-based station in what was then Ceylon.
So it was on the 12th of Feb 1944, Nina’s dad lost his life while she was just 20 months old. How much time John Dudley spent with his daughter we do not know. But we do know that the next few months proved to be harrowing for Nina and her mum.
London was in the midst of a bombing campaign and having lost two homes to the Luftwaffe, Dorothy Dudley and her daughter Nina, came to old friends in Essex to relative peace and calm. It was here that she later married Claude Lee, who took Nina as his own, and despite the subsequent birth of three other children (or perhaps because of it), he loved Nina more than the rest of us put together. So it was then that I (along with my brother and sister, Geoffrey and Paula), came to share Nina’s life.
She was a smashing kid, never any trouble (more than can be said of us three). She loved helping mum. In fact she found joy in all that she did (even making beds). She went to the local village school, but was soon left behind, so it was felt that Nina would benefit from a different type of schooling. Thus it was then, at the age of 12, Nina went to ‘The Hollies’ at Ockendon. A residential school, which she loved. We did not think she would, and it was a terrible wrench for mum. Some time later Nina moved to residences in Shoeburyness and Leigh-on-Sea, and latterly, came to meet the wonderful staff at ‘The Lodge’ where she ended her days on 15 October 2013.
The below are extracts read at Nina’s funeral
“Some here today will only have met Nina in later life, and will only have an incomplete picture of our sister.
For example; they won’t know what a genius Nina was at solving jigsaw puzzles. Nor will they know of Nina’s prowess with knitting needles. Only those who were present when doctors or nurses needed to examine her, will appreciate her dignity, modesty and her sense of right and wrong. Her keen sense of rhythm and song, along with her uncanny ability to work her way through a stack of CDs and her legendary devotion to a certain Irish Singer.”
As read by Raymond (Nina’s brother)
“Oh what a shame”, they’d silently say
When they learned that Nina was born that way
Yet why should a chromosome, out of place
Bring such sadness to a smiling face.
For a while so many felt dismay
We looked at Nina in a different way
We had a sister with a talent rare
a special gift, she loved to share.
You might find it on a rainy day
Stuck indoors, can’t go out to play
Yet Nina would smile, Nina would sing
and make the best of everything.
Her gift would surface when things seemed grim
When times were tight and pickings were slim
There she would be, that giggling child
putting things in perspective, if just for a while.
If you were poorly, or just feeling low
She’d give you a cuddle, just letting you know
that she felt your sorrow, experienced your pain
and give you a kiss – “Make it better again”.
She taught us a lesson that we thank her for
Be easily contented – not striving for more
Enjoy what you have, you’re just here for a while
So make people feel better, by sharing a smile.
As read by Paula (Nina’s sister)