High Explosive Bomb

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High Explosive Bomb :

Source: Aggregate Night Time Bomb Census 7th October 1940 to 6 June 1941

Fell between Oct. 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941

Present-day address

Kingsbury, London Borough of Brent, NW10 7UD, London

Further details

56 20 SW - comment:

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Contributed originally by Wymondham Learning Centre (BBC WW2 People's War)

This story was submitted to the BBC People’s War site by Wymondham Learning Centre on behalf of the author who fully understand the site's terms and conditions.

I was born in November 1926 and was almost thirteen when the war began. We lived in a small house in East Acton, near Wormwood Scrubs in London — my father and mother, myself, and my three sisters. My two older sisters, who were sixteen and almost eighteen, went to work in factories. My father, who was about forty-one, had been in the army in India and was in the Territorial Army. He was called up at the start of the war. Later an Irish girl doing war work came to live with us. I think one of my sisters might have met her in a factory. The house was always full of girls during the war.

My younger sister was only seven and was evacuated to Oxford. Because she was so young I went with her. We boarded with a young couple with a baby. The wife was a wonderful cook and the food was lovely. She made delicious lardy-cakes.

I don’t remember how long I stayed in Oxford, but I remember seeing some of the wounded from Dunkirk laid out on the lawns at the front of one of the Oxford hospitals in 1940. A sea of blue hospital uniforms. It’s a sight I’ll never forget.

My younger sister stayed in Oxford but after some time I went back to East Acton, left school and started work. My first job was as tea boy and general dogsbody in a garage where my father had worked as a mechanic. I was paid 16 shillings and four pence for a five and a half day week. I learnt to drive there.

The Germans were bombing London. An Anderson shelter was built in our garden but it leaked badly and was constantly flooded. The interior was concreted so often that in the end it was too small to be any use and we didn’t bother with it. We got used to the bombing. They say you can get used to anything, don’t they? When the doodlebugs first started coming over we’d hide under the table, but the bombs didn’t stop my older sisters from going out and having a good time. There were dances in every pub and in many factory canteens, and they’d be out nearly every night. I used to save up my clothing coupons for them in return for cigarettes or other things, like butter- I can’t stand margarine. I often went to visit a friend in Harlesden and had to walk home — buses stopped at 9 p.m. It was a long walk through an air raid, but I just kept going. We never used Underground station shelters because where we were the line ran mostly above ground, where there were none.

Shortages are what I remember. Our family hadn’t had a lot before the war, when my father was often out of work and my mother skinned rabbits and washed jam jars in factories to keep us afloat. But we didn’t need a lot — not as much as people seem to need today.

Most factories had good canteens selling good solid British food very cheaply — better than you could get at home. There was a good British restaurant on the estate at East Acton selling the same. We were pretty well off for food, really.

Eventually I got work at Dubilier, a factory making electrical transformers.
I joined the Home Guard when I was at Dubilier. We trained in the factory canteen, using rifles with no bullets. The use of the rifle was demonstrated with blanks. In fact I never saw any ammo when I was in the Home Guard. One Saturday evening we went on an exercise in Hanger Lane, some of us positioned with our empty rifles on the balconies of the flats having cups of tea with the tenants while we hung about waiting for the “Germans” to arrive.

I was also a firewatcher. We’d work on a rota, usually two of us watching from the factory roof for fires started by incendiary bombs. If we spotted a fire one of us would run down and alert the fire-fighters.

It wasn’t easy changing jobs during the war — you had to get permission from the Ministry of Labour and were only allowed to move from one type of war work to another. I managed to transfer to a better-paid job at an aircraft factory on the North Circular Road, making Mosquito bombers and parts for Halifax bombers. Lots of girls worked there.

When the bombing got bad I left and joined a building firm that worked for the “Flying Squad”. It was good money. When the doodlebugs started coming over in earnest teams of men, many Irish, would go wherever they were sent to clean up the mess and put tarpaulins up to make places watertight as fast as possible. We went all over London.

My team was called out when a London bus fell into a bomb crater when a bomb landed immediately in front of it. I don’t know whether anyone survived. Heavy machinery was needed to haul the bus out of the hole.

While I was working on the roof of a place in Kilburn, three storeys high, I slipped. I slid down the roof on my back, digging my heels into the tiles to try to stop myself. My feet hit the guttering, which gave way, and I fell off the roof. I landed on a huge pile of broken tiles that had been tossed off the roof, and they broke my fall. If they hadn’t been there I’d almost certainly have been killed. I was sent home for the day. I must have been bruised, but I had no broken bones.

In 1944, the year I turned eighteen, I was called up, so for a while my father and I were both in the army, though we only saw each other once on leave during the war. I was put into the Grenadier Guards. I was given a warrant for railway travel and sent to barracks at Caterham in Surrey, where everyone went for initial training. I remember the jazz trumpeter Humphrey Littleton, who was also in training in the Grenadiers, playing in the NAAFI. It was winter, and we were made to gallop around in the snow in our vests and shorts to toughen us up. I was already pretty tough, as I’d had a hard life. Some of the men probably suffered more than I did.

After initial training we went to Windsor, where there was more marching and running around in Windsor Park, and night training on the river. Then to Minehead in Somerset to practice landing from barges — doing the opposite of lemmings, trying to leap out of the water and up cliffs.

Then we were sent to Scotland, near Hawick in the Borders. There was a German POW camp there and one of our duties was to guard it. It wasn’t a big camp — about two hundred or so prisoners. Hawick was a small place and there wasn’t a lot to do for entertainment. There were Polish soldiers stationed nearby. There was a regular hop in the village hall, and there were lots of fights with the Poles over girls. I didn’t get involved in any myself. One of my mates had an auntie in the town and when we had leave we’d visit her, and she’d give us some homemade cake to take back to camp. The grub was good in Hawick. We had good porridge with sugar.

Sometime after VE day in 1945 we were sent abroad. We were given seventy-two hours embarkation leave in London. I stood for eight hours on the train from Carlisle to London with all my gear, and then had to travel all the way back to Scotland with it before being sent down to ship out at Southampton. I don’t know why we couldn’t have been sent to the port from London. They talk about red tape today, but there was a lot more of it then.

We went on an old, rotten French tub, the “Champollion”. The food was foul. A battalion of South Wales Borderers travelled with us and we organised boxing matches with them for entertainment. We thought we were headed for the Far East, but we ended up at Haifa in what was then Palestine. Of course we weren’t told why, but later we thought that probably the atom bomb had been dropped on Japan while we were at sea, and we had been diverted.

Although the war was officially over there was still trouble in Palestine, which was being flooded with Jewish refugees. Palestine was under British mandate and the British were attempting to limit Jewish immigration because of protests from the Arabs. At one point we were called out to back up the Red Caps in an incident with a ship full of illegal immigrants — men, women and children - that had been refused entry into Haifa. Some of the refugees jumped overboard, others refused to leave the ship. The ship was rusty and conditions on board filthy. They were all taken off. Some of them had to be dragged. They were stripped and sprayed with DDT to delouse them and taken away to detention camps.

We thought the local Jews were friendly, until two British Sergeants were taken out of a bar by members of the Stern gang and hanged in an orange grove. The gang, led by Abraham Stern, were Zionists extremists who objected to the British administration. We never had any trouble from the Arabs.

I got dysentery in Palestine. It just struck me down. I was out of the Regiment for three months, and my weight went down to seven stone. I was at a convalescence centre outside Haifa. There was a horse-changing centre nearby and I learnt to ride a horse there. Camel trains ended up there as well — it must have been a staging post, because we’d see hundreds of camels milling around on the beach overnight and they’d be gone next day.

In the winter of 1947 I was given leave. I was sent home by what was called the MEDLOC route, on a US Liberty ship via Port Said to Toulon in Vichy France, where we stayed in a transit camp for three days during which we were forbidden to have any contact with the locals because the Vichy regime had collaborated with the enemy. It must have been someone in the camp who made the postcard containing my photo in a rose-wreathed heart, which I sent to my mother. We then travelled across France by train. It was bitterly cold. I’ve never been so cold in my life. The train stopped at Lyon or Dijon, where German prisoners served us food. They were better off than we were. They had tins laid out in which they were collecting foreign coins, and were selling cigarette cases made from old mess tins — beautiful filigree work.

I eventually got a boat to Liverpool and was demobbed at the end of 1947. I was twenty-one. I was given three months demob leave and then I had to find a job.

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Contributed originally by WMCSVActionDesk (BBC WW2 People's War)

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Anastasia Travers from CSV Action Desk on behalf of Ashley Leather and has been added to the site with his permission. Ashley Leather fully understands the sites terms and conditions.

1st and 2nd parts of Starborad Watch were stationed in the R.N.Barracks at Chatham. We were on weekend leave from 12 midday Saturday to 07.00 hours Monday. There was insufficient time to travel to my home in Ossett (West Yorkshire) so my pal Jeff Clements whose home was in Annerly (London suburb) invited me to go home with him. On arrival his mother immediately informed us there was a rumour that the Glen Miller Orchestra might be passing through London on the way back to an American airbase. The destination and time was not known but she thought that the Hammersmith Palaise seemed a likely venue.

After tea we duly set forth, I hadn’t a clue which direction I was travelling, just trusted Jeff to lead the way. People were gathering in small groups so the whispers had travelled far and wide. Eventually a large coach (American style) was seen approaching. A band with instruments at the ready soon piled into the Palaise and straight onto the stage. With their attractive vocalists and their overcoats still on, it soon began to feel like a Wembley football crowd.

No sooner had the orchestra struck up with ‘In the Mood’ I grabbed the young lady standing beside me and pulled her quickly onto the floor with the words ‘come on girl lets make history’. ‘Wha Eah’ (typical cockney girl) she replied. We only managed to dance once around the floor but it was of no consequence. We had danced to the music of the Glen Miller Orchestra. I said to the girl ‘stand still where you are and don’t attempt to move off, you won’t get on the floor again.’ Dancing was now impossible due to the increase in crowd. Within 45 minutes the Orchestra waved the crowd goodbye. I dragged the girl to the nearest exit and we were able to watch the Orchestra mount the coach steps one by one with a smile and half salute/wave from each member.

I believe this route of the orchestra was a deliberate attempt to raise people’s morale. On reflection, so much for the slogan ‘careless talk costs lives.’ I was pleased to think that my impulse to pull a young lady onto the dance floor had given her an experience to talk of for the rest of her life.

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Contributed originally by sarahbateson (BBC WW2 People's War)

This story was submitted to the Peoples War website by Sarah Bateson on behalf of John Dyer.

I was 11 when the war broke out attending Wembley Hill School and often when the registar was call there would be no answer and someone would say 'he was bombed out last night sir'.The school had a direct hit one night just before I was 14 so that was the end of my education.I started work learning plumbing with R.J.Audrey of Kilburn Park Road.One of my first jobs was at Euston Fire Station,I would cycle there from Wembley in the blackout.The crews often worked through the night and would fall asleep on the floor still in their wet uniforms.Another job was at either Caledonian School or the Brecknock installing a sinks and slop hoppers for a mortuary.I often saw the bodies coming in,some had to be hosed down,there were mothers still clutching babies.Everyone had to have a post mortem.The school was still open and the children played in the playground around a pile of clothes from the
bodies.The mortuary attendants coped by being comedians and casual but when I was sent for the sandwiches and tea and gave them brawn they,not surprisingly threw it back at me.They used to try and frighten me with their tales of blood and gore.I also worked at Northolt Aerodrome which was a fighter command at the time.One airman crashed landed and his plane went 15 feet into the ground,I can still see the rescuer's tears when they dug him out.I stole some dark chocolate,a rare treat in the war,but unbeknown to me it was to keep the pilots awake on missions,I didn't sleep for a week.I was still just a kid witnessing unimaginable horrors. About 1940 the IRA bombed the reservoir supplying the water for the cooling station for the Bakerloo Line,it didn't do too much damage but all Wembley had to be evacuated.An aerial torpedo bombed the Grand Union Canal in Wembley where it goes over the road in a viaduct.It caused terrible flooding and many people lost their lives in Tokington Avenue,where I lived.They were drowned in their garden Anderson shelters.I did lots of war damage work in London and I was on a roof in Finchley Road when I saw the doodle bug hit the London Zoo.I worked at many British Restaurants which were subsidised by the government,you could get a good meal and a cup of tea for a shilling (5p).Well then my war began and I was called up and did my initial train ing at Whitby,I enjoyed that as I was trained to be a dispatch driver and had the moors to ride on.Although I had seen some terrible things I was still quite naive.One day,whilst queuing for dinner at the old Metropol Hotel,which was now our canteen,wanting to light my cigarette I asked a girl in the queue if she had a match.When she replied 'yes my face and your a**** I was quite shocked.It was VE day whilst I was there but I can't remember any celebrating,infact we were all quite disappointed we wouldn't be in the war.I was sent to India and had a wonderful tour of the country by rail,I witnessed the beginning of the riots in Calcutta and saw the British Flag come down over India for the last time.I can't leave India without mentioning Curly.He was an ol d soldier who couldn't read or write,he had no teeth but a lovely head of hair.He had lots of girl penfriends and he proposed to them all.We would write the letters he dictated and he even included samples of material for the wedding dress.He would sit on his bed roaring with laughter at the replies saying 'read it again kid'.He received lovely food parcels which he shared among us.If we went out in the evening we had to take condoms with us whether we wanted to or not.A very upperclass officer used to say to us 'if you don't go out with a pecket,you'll come back with a pecket'.I was then sent to Japan with the occupational forces,we had to guard the officers who were considered war criminals.The Japanese civilians were so polite and humble in defeat it wa s impossible to imagine the atrocities they committed.They were starving when we arrived,it wasn't the bomb that finished the war it was the starvation.We had to escort the prisoners to Singapore for the war trials.They were kept in the hold of the ship.One soldier closed his eyes in the heat for a moment and a Japanese officer threw himself on the soldier's fixed bayonet,the blade went through his throat.There was a big enquiry but I don't know the outcome. That was my war and all before I was 21.

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Contributed originally by David West (BBC WW2 People's War)

Chapter 1 - Call-up to Northampton

On the 5th of January 1943 I was notified that I was to report for duty in the ATS. I was not surprised, as I had signed on at Southend some time before.

On the 15th of January, my brother Victors friend, Peter Savill and my mother travelled with me to Euston station to see me on the train to Northampton, where I had to report to No1 ATS training centre. We were met at Northampton by army lorries, which took us to the centre. I do not remember too much of Northampton.

It was a very cold January that year with snow on the ground for most of my three weeks training. I had chilblains on my feet and trying to break in new army shoes was very painful as there were parades, PE and marching everyday. My first breakfast was kippers, not quite what I was used to at home but when you are hungry you eat. I did go into Northampton once to look around and marched one Sunday to Church Parade but cannot remember the name of the large Church we were in. Training was mainly learning the dos and don’ts and regulations of army life and being assessed as to where I would be posted.

Chapter 2 — Posted to Greenford

I was posted in February to the RAOC (Royal Army Ordinance Corp) camp and depot at Greenford Middlesex. The camp was a short distance from the depot and we had to march to work each day. The camp itself was quite nice, we were in Nissan huts, I suppose about twenty girls to a hut. They were cold in the winter months, there being a coke stove in the middle of the hut. The depot was originally a factory owned by Heinz 57 Varieties, before the Government took it over. There were army and civilian personnel working there, the buildings were all numbered, some were offices and some warehouses. I worked in 409, which was an office. Major Bush and RSM Dumbleton were over the army personnel and Mr Melhuish supervised the civilians. We were all a friendly crowd and worked well together. Our main job was to issue stores to various places in Europe, India, Burma and Africa and to make sure that everything was available in the warehouses; it was interesting work.

Two civilians I remember were Mr Doughty and Jimmy Peach. Mr Doughty lived at Greenford with his son and daughter-in-law, he always seemed to have a supply of peppermints. I was invited to tea at his home one Sunday with a friend and we were made very welcome. After the war he visited my home at Lodge Lane and later after I was married came to visit me at my new home at Chadwell St Mary.

We had all our meals at the cookhouse in the depot; on the whole they were not at all bad. Sometimes when we were on night work and there were air raids. The air raid shelters were concrete, above ground and not very comfortable. Being near to Northolt aerodrome we were a target for the Germans. They did bomb the airfield and on one occasion dropped a land mine on one of our warehouses. It was quite frightening; there were casualties, but not anyone that I knew.

My old school friend Phyllis lived at Hanwell, not far from Greenford and my friend Ivy and I were invited to visit her home for a meal. It was lovely to see her and her parents but travelling was dangerous then, as you never knew when there would be an air raid. On one occasion we went to a dance at Ealing and there was an air raid, the military police took us back to camp.
I remember once, we had been on night work; we went back to camp to sleep and later that afternoon my friend Ivy took me to visit her home at Holloway London. Her mum made me very welcome and gave us a nice meal. We had to go back to camp early in the evening because we were working again that night.

I took Ivy home with me to meet my parents on a weekend pass. She also met my brother Vic who was home on leave; after that first meeting she came to see Vic and they later married and she became my sister-in-law.

In July 1943 I heard that my boyfriend Charlie would be speaking on BBC radio from Calcutta. Although I was working in the depot, I was given permission to walk back to camp and listen on the radio there, it was lovely to here him.

I was put forward for promotion and went before a selection committee of officers but declined the offer of a stripe. I could not imagine myself giving orders and I didn’t want the extra duties an NCO had to perform or to be moved from my friends. When we were unable to get home at weekends we would go into Harrow and on one occasion saw the film star, “Richard Green” live in, “Arms and a Man”. On another occasion, when we were coming home, Joan Creagh, Ivy and I accepted a lift to Park Royal station from some Americans in a jeep, it was a case of “hang on to your hat”, but it was a laugh and kind of them. Sometimes on the journey home there would be a raid and the train would stop at the nearest station. I remember this happening at Mansion House station and having to get out and wait; you never knew how long a journey would take. On another occasion the three of us came home on a weekend pass and decided to travel back to camp early on Monday morning instead of Sunday evening. Joan, who lived in William Street Grays, spent the Sunday night with us, so that we could get the first bus to Upminster. This we missed by a few seconds and had to run all the way to Grays station from Lodge Lane. The porter at Grays station practically threw us in the compartment and we were still out of breath when we got to Barking but we did get back to camp on time.

On January 20th 1945 Ivy and Victor were married and I had seven days leave. I missed her after she was demobbed.

Chapter 3 — move to Donnington

I had another leave in April 1945 and was then posted to Donnington Shropshire Section 92 E Company ATS Camp. Audrey Hale, who was also at Greenford, came too, along with other girls from the depot. The camp at Donnington was mainly a men’s camp and we were crowded into Nissan Huts with very little room but later we were transferred to a new housing estate. This was luxury, there were orderlies to keep the houses clean and we only had to worry about our own personal things. I worked in an office on an industrial site the army had taken over and once again there were civilians too and I made many friends. We were about eight girls to a house and we were all good friends, Irene, Audrey, Dorothy, May, Doris, Joyce, Rene and myself. Whilst posted here at Donnington I attended a Housewifery course, I enjoyed this very much; we were shown how to do everything in the home from window cleaning, polishing, washing-up, cooking; everything you would have to do in your home. We finished the course by cooking a meal. I passed and did get a certificate but cannot find it now. I did get to meet Billy Wright, who played football for Wolverhampton Wanderers; his desk was in front of mine; he later married Joy out of the Beverly Sisters. I could only get home on a long leave as my army pay was 26/- (£1.30) and it would have taken all that for my fare. So on weekends Audrey and I went to Wellington, Shrewsbury or Derby and stayed in YWCA. Audrey had two maiden aunts who lived in Birmingham and we had a weekend with them, which was very nice, on the Sunday we went to Church in the Bull Ring.

In December 1945 when Charlie came home from Burma, I borrowed Dorothy Stapleton’s engagement ring and pretended I was engaged, in order to get twenty-eight days compassionate leave.

Audrey met her husband Sam at Donnington. They were married in August 1946 and I was one of her bridesmaids.

I enjoyed my ATS days and in 2005, still write to some of my friends.

I was demobbed in July 1946 and married Charlie on the 26th October 1946.

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Contributed originally by BBC Scotland (BBC WW2 People's War)

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Nadine from the People’s War Team on behalf of Doreen Mackie and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

1939, I was part of a team involved in keeping track of the number of enemy ships, aircraft and any other warlike vessels to be seen around Norway and as far south as the French coasts.

I was based at the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit in Wembley, Middlesex and was one of the C shift — three shorthand typists, employed in the task of taking shorthand dictations from archeologists, explorers and geophysicists, who had been called up into the RAF for the purpose of examining photographs, in order to assess the enemies strength and perhaps their purpose of intent. One of the interpreters had during the 1930’s reached the then highest point on Mount Everest and another was the late Glyn E Daniel, the archaeologist, later Emeritus Professor at Cambridge, and famous broadcaster in the erudite television quiz programme “Animal, Vegetable or Mineral”.

Often we would work all night; sometimes we would come in for our shift duties, only to find that due to bad weather the aeroplanes had been unable to take off, or the deterioration in the weather had precluded any photographs being taken. Then we would be able to get some sleep. I remember a very small, stuff room with no window and a mattress on the floor — called a biscuit — where we were able to relax for a few hours.

The photographs were interpreted in a special metal protected room and the Intelligence Officers would sit before a Swiss-made Wild photo-geometric machine, which would make prints to distort the images — to compensate for the errors in alignment of the aeroplane with the ground — and study the different types of craft and enemy activity. They would dictate the results of their observations to the secretaries who would be expected to transcribe in quick time for the reports to be sent out by special delivery to the Coastal Command, Bomber Command, the Admiralty etc...
Typing the correct spelling of the locations dictated to us took considerable concentration, as errors were severely frowned upon. We typed on waxed sheets (mistakes amended by most noticeable red ink) and then rolled off on a Gestetner Duplicating Machine which hungrily used up many tubes of a black inky substance.

An example:

ST. NAZAIRE - General Shipping
There has been no significant change in the Port since 15.12.40
One M/V 400-500ft and a tanker 300-400ft have departed from the BASSIN DE PENHOUET, 1 motor patrol craft and a few small craft have left the BASSIN DE ST. NAZAIRE. There has been no evidence in these photographs that ST. NAZAIRE is being used as a submarine base.

When the bombing increased in Wembley we moved to Danesfield Court, Medmenham, Buckinghamshire, near Marlow to a stately home built in the style of The White House in Washington. It certainly was very grand, surrounded by beautiful terraced gardens. We secretaries boarded out in nearby cottages and enjoyed the respite from the bombing. After a while, all civilians working in the RAF were expected to join the service. Some of us did go into uniform while others went their own several ways into different war work. I myself was directed by interest to Cheadle, Staffordshire, where I was secretary to a coal-mining office. Here obsolete machinery around the disused mine was being dismantled to provide iron for the war effort. Before the cage was removed, I persuaded the Colliery Manager to take me down to the coal face, 375ft underground where I hacked loose a piece of shiny black coal — which I still have!

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High Explosive Bomb :

Source: Aggregate Night Time Bomb Census 7th October 1940 to 6 June 1941

Fell between Oct. 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941

Present-day address

Kingsbury, London Borough of Brent, NW10 7UD, London

Further details

56 20 SW - comment:

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