20 NOVEMBER 2004, Page 34

We did our bit

From Doris Lessing Sir: If Francis Bennion (Letters, 6 November) had troubled to read what I had written instead of what someone else said I had written, he would have seen there was no rejoicing, sour or otherwise, when I listed some of the great powers that loomed over my youth — Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, the Soviet Union (our ally in the war, as it happened), the British empire — and said they had all vanished. All of those seemed set to last. I could have added the other European empires: Franco, Salazar, racism enstructurcd in certain nations, like South Africa. My point, which I had thought it unnecessary to labour, was that certain contemporary great powers will probably disappear too, no matter how impregnable they seem now.

Francis Bennion cites his war service. I, being female, was merely having babies, but my family has more than done its bit. My father lost a limb and his health in the trenches. My mother nursed the wounded from 1914 to 1918. My brother, Harry Tayler, was sunk in the Repulse by the Japanese (yes, there was that empire too, I nearly forgot), my son John Wisdom fought for good ole Smithie who was defending white supremacy in former Southern Rhodesia. I knew many of the 'brave young men and women' fighting Hitler, as of course anyone of our age was bound to have done.

Francis Bennion says he is 81 years old, an Englishman living near Exeter. Well, I am 85, an Englishwoman (with Scottish and Irish tinctures) living in London.

Doris Lessing

London NW6