High Explosive Bomb at Aberfeldy Street
High Explosive Bomb :
Source: 24 hours of Blitz Sept 7th 1940
Fell on Sept. 7, 1940, at 11:46 p.m.
Aberfeldy Street, Blackwall, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, E14 2AA, London
50 -68 and 41-71 Aberfeldy Street Poplar, E14., London, UK ; London Country Council. 18 Private houses of 6 rooms and contnts, garages damaged. One van, one car, a staff car all destoryed. 24 inch gas main, 4 inch service pipe, 80x60 roadway damaged. 76
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Contributed originally by angaval (BBC WW2 People's War)
It is September 1940 and I am returning from Chrisp Street Market with my mother. I'm nearly seven and I've come back to London after being evacuated to Glastonbury during the 'phoney war'. It's a lovely warm evening and my mum is anxious to get back home with her shopping.
As we begin to turn into Brunswick Road, we hear the sound of gunfire - not unusual, as we live near the East India Docks and there is frequent gunnery practice. But then we hear the planes and the air raid sirens. ARP wardens are running about blowing whistles, shouting, 'Take cover, take cover!' We start running the last few yards home.
My dad is panicking and my nana (who speaks little English) is hysterical. We then all bolt into the Anderson shelter in the back yard, just as the first bombs start exploding. My Dad hates the Anderson as it's always full of spiders and he's scared of them. The noise is horrendous. Every time a bomb falls near, everything shakes. Above us there is the 'voom, voom, voom' sound of the planes. The ack-ack guns make a hollow booming noise and the Bofors make a rapid staccato rattle. It seems to go on for hours and then, suddenly, there is a pause, then the 'all clear'.
Stunned by the noise, we emerge. The house is still standing and doesn't seem damaged. We go out through the front door to see a scene which even now I recall as vividly as when it happened. The entire street is choked with emergency vehicles - ambulances, fire engines - all clanging their bells. The gutters and pavements are full of writhing hoses like giant snakes, and above... the sky. The sky - to the south, still a deep, beautiful blue, but to the north a vision of hell. It is red, it is orange, it is luminous yellow. It writhes in billows, it is threaded through with wisps and clouds of grey smoke and white steam. All around there are shouts and occasional screams, whistles blow and bells clang.
The neighbours stand around in small groups. They talk quietly and seem as dazed as us. Apparently most of the flames are from the Lloyd Loom factory down the road, which has taken a direct hit. The gutters run with water, soot and oily rainbows and the reflections of the fiery sky. Our respite does not last long. About 20 minutes later, another alert, we are back in the Anderson, and it all begins again.
The noise makes my knees hurt. When I tell my mother, she laughs and says it's growing pains. Maybe, maybe, but for the rest of the war; whenever there was a raid my knees always ached!
Contributed originally by Leicestershire Library Services - Countesthorpe Library (BBC WW2 People's War)
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Jim Humphreys. He fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
2 CHILDHOOD MEMORIES
3 FATHERS ROLE
THESE ARE TO BE FOUND IN SEPARATE ENTRY UNDER 'JIM HUMPHREYS - PART 2 OF 2'
I was born in South London in October 1935 to the sound of Bow Bells. In 1938 my parents, younger sister and myself moved to Grosvenor Terrace, Camberwell, and lived there until the 1960s. Soon after war was declared we were evacuated to an area 10 miles from Swansea.
I have no recollection as to how we arrived there, all that I remember is that we were standing outside a café, together with my family, my mother's mother and 3 of her children plus about 3 suitcases. Next to the café was the local bus terminal to Swansea.
The garden had some vegetables. Grandmother was advised to make bread as there was no guarantee that the deliveryman would appear at a regular time.
To get to school we sometimes had a bus; more often we had to walk through the woods. We later experienced some rumbles and bangs during the night. We, the children, were told that it was nothing to worry about. We later discovered that after the bangs etc., a certain area of the sky was always a reddish colour. We were told by our older school friends that Swansea had been bombed again.
Not far from the bus terminal was a steep cliff edge with a path down to the sandy beach. To get to the sea we had to climb over some rocks and sometimes on these rocks and at the water's edge was this thick black sticky stuff. Once on your clothes it was very difficult to remove. We later learned that this was crude oil from ships in the channel.
An uncle and aunt, who were too old for the junior school that I attended, managed to get a job at the local farm. I have no recollection of coming back to London, but we apparently had been away for about 6 months.
Our second evacuation was to Leicester. I can remember going to the junior school along our street with my mother, two sisters and father. Father carried a suitcase and I had a parcel tied to my belt and wrist, and of course my gasmask around my neck. All the children had a luggage label tied to a buttonhole or some place where it could be seen. We were marched with a lot of other families to the main road where we waited for trams. The trams came in a long line and when our names were called, we had to get onto a certain tram. Dad did not get on. After having our names checked, some families got on and others got off.
At last we were away. There was lots of crying by the mums and children including mine. I dont remember me crying though. We ended up in Leicester station. We were asked every time a train was due, "once again in case you fall, please keep against the wall". We were there for ages; trains were arriving; some families got on and some got off. Eventually we were lead to a line of busses. After a lot of checking names again we set off. I know we ended up at a school in Earl Shilton. We were given blankets, pillows and told that there were mattresses where we would sleep.
It was here I experienced my first shower. We used to stand under the shower and get wet, then we soaped our stomachs and chest, lay on the floor against the wall and pushed off with both feet skidding across the width of the shower area. There were collisions of course bit no real damage was done. We were at the school (now known as Bell View School for Girls) for about 10 days. We were then taken down to a shoe factory on the corner of the main road and New Street. We were to lodge in what was then the night watchman's accommodation. Another woman and her two young daughters joined us. She had told the authorities that she was related to us. In fact they lived further down the street and she thought it was better to live with somebody that you knew than with total strangers.
We were made very welcome by the factory staff and workers, in as much that they offered my mother and this other woman a part time job each. My mother accepted but the woman did not. This later led to confrontation because she was quite happy for my mother to feed her and her 2 daughters.
There was quite a large family living next door and they were very good to us. They showed us where the best fruit was for scrumping and where the best play areas were. We in turn showed them where the sheets of leather were kept.
At weekends when it was wet and we were not allowed into the street, we would enter the factory, collecting on our way a reasonable size sheet of leather, take it to the very top of the building where there was this track with rollers. We would place the leather onto the rollers and let it go and chase it all the way to the bottom. Somebody then had the bright idea of sitting on top of the leather. We fell off on many occasions before we perfected the run and apart from a few minor cuts and bruises no damage was done.
In the mornings we used to go to the little school at the end of the village. After school we would walk to the local recreation area for about an hour. By the time we got home Mum would have finished her shift and then we would muck in and get tea. It was about a month after the woman and Mum had the row that she finally accepted a job at the factory but asked not to be near where Mum was.
I cant recall having many air raids and people came round to make sure that there were no lights showing. There was one incident that I remember very well, and that was when everybody was asked to show as much light as possible. We later learned that there were some aircraft that had some problems, fully loaded with fuel and bombs and if they had to crash they did not want to land on populated areas.
One day our father arrived unexpectedly and said that it was now considered safe to return to London. We left unwillingly about a week later. We had a great time for about 9 months.
2 CHILDHOOD MEMORIES
I cant remember much about the start of the war except my father used to disappear on certain evenings. It was when we returned from our evacuation from South Wales that our street looked somewhat different. Passed the Infant School and not far from where we lived, there were some 4 houses that had fallen down. Then on our way to where my mother's mother lived there were some more and even across the road there were more houses that had fallen. I was told that air-planes had dropped bombs and this was why the houses were like they were. I was also told that we were not to go in them as they were dangerous and not to be played in.
At the bottom of our street there was an old wooden railway bridge and when the trains went across it, the noise was such that it used to keep us awake. Later we found out that the noise was to do with an anti-aircraft gun on the rails and it used to go to the areas that were being bombed.
After school there was not a lot to do, apart from collecting shrapnel (bits of metal from either bombs or anti-aircraft shells). Some cannon shells were also a collectable item. Later on there were the Butterfly Bombs (anti-personnel devices). These had a pair of little propeller blades and they used to float down so they did not explode on impact. (You touched them and they did!).
There was no television and no cinemas that we could go to at that time of the evening, so we had to invent things. There were about six or seven of us lads about the same age. One of them found an old motorcycle tyre and we organised races up and down the street. While one lad rolled his tyre up and down the others counted. We all took turns, the fastest being declared the winner.
Other tyres were found and in a short time we all had one. We used to use plaster from the ruins to mark out hopscotch grids, positions of goals and penalty areas for football. Coats or pullovers were used to mark the width of the goal down the middle of the road and very rarely did we have to remove them. A ball game we used to play was called Cannon. Two teams were formed and four pieces of firewood were placed against a wall in the form of a cricket wicket. One team would try to dislodge this wicket with a tennis ball (team A), if successful they would scatter away from the area and try to resurrect the wicket. However team B would try to stop this happening by trying to hit the members of team A with the tennis ball. Once hit by the ball you were out of the game until the game was restarted. Another game was rounders.
During the war years we used to have what was known as double summer time. At 10PM in the evening it was still very light and at times we were so engrossed in games that time was forgotten. These games would be interrupted by parents or others to remind us that it was late. It would be about this time of day we would watch the bombers flying quite high going to their targets. At times we would wonder if the children where the bombs were going to be dropped were being treated as we were.Were they getting tear gas dropped on them; and were they in the playground being shot at?
We were not allowed into the playground while there was an air raid on. When the all clear went, a teacher used to go out to see if it was safe. The following day about lunchtime the aircraft would return, some of them quite high but others very low. We used to stop what we were doing and marvel on how they were still flying in the condition that they were in. Some had engines stopped while others had tail parts missing and others had such large holes that you could see right through them. We also saw the vapour trails when the dogfights between Allied and the German fighter planes occurred.
On V.E. and V.J. days everybody local erected huge bonfires where the bombed houses had been to celebrate the end of the war.
3. FATHERS ROLE
I was born in London in 1935 within the sound of Bow Bells. In 1938 my parents, younger sister and myself moved to Grosvenor Terrace, which is in S.E London.
Before the war my father was a very keen football player and had taken some first aid courses, his job at that time was that of a bricklayer.
At the start of the war he volunteered as an Air Raid Warden. When he was called for the armed services, he was rejected on the grounds that with his knowledge he would be of better use in the Heavy Rescue, which was being set up.
He was stationed at a disused girls school about 3 miles from where we lived and so was able to come home when things were quiet. He accepted the fact that at times he would not be home as frequently as he liked or there may come a time when he might not at all. I was given the task, that in his absence, there were various jobs to be performed. Feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, if there were any, and tickling the flowers on the plants with a fine paint brush. This was required because there were no or very few bees to do it for us. We were fortunate that both sets of grandparents lived in the same street, therefore if we ran short of anything they were on hand to help.
The function of the Heavy Rescue was to be on the scene as soon as possible after any bombs were dropped and to organise any rescue procedures that were required. This also involved the required ambulances and fire engines. He was soon promoted to be the team leader with the responsibility of having several teams under his leadership. His duties were to organise the scene and then move to another area and do the same until all areas were doing what they could in the circumstances.
There were times when we would not see him for days and then weeks;
Mother did not know whether he was alive or not. It was at this time that he started smoking. He developed into a very heavy smoker. As there was no chance of him getting regular supplies of cigarettes himself, and as they were in short supply, it was down to Mum and I to collect and supply them. The allowance was 100 per week. This satisfied dad for a short period of time. Eventually we were collecting 500 a week, they were the strongest that were on the market. He would use 1 match per day.
On the few occasions that we were out together he would make sure that together with the packet he was using he would have at least 2 more full packets. If he had to start a fresh packet while we were out, he would purchase another before we arrived home. While we were evacuated to Leicester he came to visit us. He had developed two growths in his throat. I was allowed time off from school to fetch ice so that he could put this around his throat to help him swallow. When these growths finally subsided he advised Mum not to purchase any more cigarettes. He put on a lot of weight and eventually died at the age of 92.
At the bottom of the playground of this school was a swimming pool. In the bottom of this empty pool there was placed a Master Searchlight. This had a very powerful beam and was used to locate the enemy aircraft. Once the planes were lit up the secondary or less powerful searchlight would take over allowing the Master Searchlight to look for other targets. The enemy realised the importance of this searchlight and tried to bomb it on many occasions but were unsuccessful because the crew used to move it to a different location every evening.
Because of the lack of ambulances, a lot of injured were laid along the pavement if it was safe to do so. If they had had to have severe bleeding stopped by very tight dressings, the time of the application of the dressing was marked in blood on their forehead. If a medic or firstaider noticed that the time of application had exceeded 15 minutes then the wound would be undone, allowed to bleed and then tightened up again and the new time marked on the forehead.
His main area of work was in the City of London or the Docklands where the bombing was more or less concentrated. A lot of buildings used to collapse and therefore block roads so that emergency crews could not get their vehicles to where they were required. In these incidents the crews had to carry their stretchers and hoses around or between the ruins before they could render any assistance.
One occasion (we learned later) there was a very large fire in the docklands, which he was trying to organise. He was called away to another emergency and when he returned within 15 minutes he found that more bombs had been dropped across the road where his fire was, causing a warehouse to collapse onto many fire engines and ambulances, killing the majority of their crews.
On one of his rare days off, he took me to a place some streets away from were we lived to show me something that had happened a week or so previously.
A parachute was seen coming down by the local A.R. Warden. With some colleagues they stood under the tree were the parachute was tangled within the branches. They called up but received no answer. Assuming the airman was either dead or injured a guard was placed until daylight. To their horror the airman was in fact a large metal cylinder, which turned out to be a landmine. The area was immediately evacuated until it could be defused.
The King and Queen were frequent visitors to bombed areas within days of the raids taking place, as was the Prime Minister. They also used to visit the school that was being used as my father's base.
My father was mentioned twice in despatches for courage and bravery.
Contributed originally by Kent Libraries- Shepway District (BBC WW2 People's War)
This is an extract from an interview with Stan Hook, taped on 14 July 2003 and added to the site with his permission by Rob Illingworth of the Folkestone Heritage Team.
Stan Hook was a motorcycle messenger boy in the Auxiliary Fire Service. His account of the London Blitz, especially the bombing of Docklands and the City of London, has been published in We Remember the Blitz, compiled by Frank and Joan Shaw.
'I've not mentioned this anywhere but I was in the bath. It was about five o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, September the 3rd I think it was, 1940. I lived in the slums of London and we had a tin bath. I was out there scrubbing my back and bathing myself as best I could and all of a sudden the sirens went.
'I thought, that's early tonight. Usually it's about six o'clock, seven o'clock when the sirens go, but this particular evening they went and I thought, that's unusual. All of a sudden I heard this whistling noise and Crump! My hair absolutely shot 'cos this bomb fell about 50 yards away from the house and I thought, My Christ, that's a bomb!
'And then I don't remember getting dressed but I remember getting on my motorcycle and driving to [Millwall fire] station. I don't remember any of the bit before I arrived at the station. And it was absolute chaos. Fires were starting everywhere. But up until then it had been a phoney war.'
Editor's note: The date normally association with the start of the Blitz in London is 7 September 1940. War was declared the previous year on 3 September.