Bombs dropped in the borough of: Barking and Dagenham
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Barking and Dagenham:
- High Explosive Bomb
- Parachute Mine
Number of bombs dropped during the week of 7th October 1940 to 14th of October:
Number of bombs dropped during the first 24h of the Blitz:
No bombs were registered in this area
Memories in Barking and Dagenham
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by Bill (BBC WW2 People's War)
Picture the scene. Wartime Britain, a London suburb, and a 13-year-old lad setting off at 7am to do his paper round.
I lived in Chadwell Heath, Dagenham, on the outskirts of London. I was quite tall for my age and, like most youngsters of that time, and indeed today, eager to supplement the ill-spared pocket money from my parents.
I quite liked the early mornings in the summer, but the winter was a totally different tale. In spite of wearing a pair of lovingly knitted mittens, which were meant to keep the hands warm while leaving the fingers free to handle the newspapers, I often came home all but crying with the cold. It was especially painful as the fingers started warming up and the blood started flowing again.
But I digress. I wanted to tell you a little about my wartime hobby - not that it was unique, in fact most of the kids of that time, especially the boys, collected shrapnel. It came mostly not from bombs dropped on us by the Nazis during the Blitz, but from the exploded anti-aircraft shells that our boys were sending up to greet them.
There was a surfeit of small jagged pieces if iron shrapnel, and most boys had a box of it. We would swap pieces and admire each other's collections. My prize exhibit was a nose cone with three fuse band rings still attached. Yes, that's right, THREE! There were a few about in the various collections with two, but THREE! I had it because it came down in our back garden, narrowly missing my father, and I was the envy of many of my friends.
That valued prize was to be eclipsed on one particularly cold morning. Although there had been an air raid the night before, the papers were there and ready for us. They were often delayed and we would have to go back at lunchtime or even after school to deliver the morning papers.
On this particularly frosty morning, I was wearing an old but warm, long overcoat, along with the trusty mittens, with my paper bag slung across my shoulder. The bag wasn't too heavy - the publishers were very economical with that precious commodity, paper, during the war. The coat had seen better days and the linings of the pockets were more holey than righteous, but I still tended to stick things in them so that they fell down into the lining to inside the hem of the coat.
Onward then in pursuit of the objective - getting the right papers through the right letterboxes, a seemingly simple task, but more complicated than you would suppose at that early hour, especially if one of the customers had cancelled their paper, and I delivered one as usual, then all that followed were wrong. It didn't happen often, but it happened!
As always I kept a lookout for bits of shrapnel, after all this was the best time to find some, before the streets were aired and the rest of the world was up and about. On this morning, quite unexpectedly, I came across an unexploded incendiary bomb. About 18 inches long, looking like an aluminium cylinder with a tail fin of another metal and painted in a drab khaki colour. WOW! A prize indeed. The bomb was carefully picked up and slipped into my pocket, where it went through the holes into the lining of the coat. As I walked it was a bit uncomfortable banging against my knee, but still, it was worth it, there weren't any such bombs in any of the collections I had seen.
I finished the round and made my way back to the newsagent's shop to hand in my bag, but more importantly, to show him my new treasure. I thought there would be a reaction, but instead of a glow of envy, he almost shouted, 'Get that out of the shop!'
A little taken aback, I retreated to the sound of my employer ordering me to take it to the police station, some 80 yards along the road. I reluctantly complied with his 'request', but strangely I received a similar welcome in the police station. 'Give that here,' said the sergeant, who took the bomb from me, deposited it in a bucket of sand that was by the wall and took it out to the yard.
Sadly, that was the last I saw of what I thought was destined to be the crowning exhibit of my collection.
Copyright BBC WW2 People's War
Contributed originally by Billericay Library (BBC WW2 People's War)
I was evacuated from Eastbrook Senior School in Dagenham, Essex on 2nd September 1939. We left on the Ford Motor Company Jetty, Dagenham on the River Thames.
We went on a paddle steamer to Lowestoft, Norfolk. I walked with my borthers Denis and Ted; our ages were mine (8), Den (9) and Ted (12). It was cloudy and windy; the moon was seen now and again through the clouds.
We carried our clothes and others bits in white pillow cases. To me it was scary walking past an old barn at Dagenham Village High Street. At the Jetty a cry went up ‘the gates are locked.’ We hung around a bit. Gates opened and we went. All I can remember about the trip was me running up and down the steps, watching the paddles go round. Watching girls queuing up for a cup of tea at a tea urn on a lower deck for Mum’s surprise.
On arrived at Lowestoft, we were taken to a local school for sandwiches and drinks. I slept on a sack full of straw. I was woken up, told the air raid siren had gone and was taken to sleep the rest of the night on the school field. A full moon was shining.
In the morning, we were loaded onto coaches. I was given a brown carrier bag with a bottle of water, orange, apple, a big bar of chocolate, I was told not to eat any of it, it was emergency rations. I ate the chocolate as soon as the coach started.
My brothers and I handed up at Thurgarton Rectory, Thurgaton Village, near Norwich 3rd – 4th September 1939.
When we went to bed, I asked my brother Ted ‘Where is the toilet?’
Over there, he said. I got up in the night to use the toilet for a wee. Couldn’t find it in the dark. Tiddled on the floor.
Mrs Steadman cried out, ‘What’s going on?’
We had half days at the village school. To go to school we walked through fields full of horses. Field with heifers and a big black bull with enormous horns. We used to ride on the heifers.
Being townies, we didn’t know the heifers kept the bull! Two horses in a field, you walked slowly, they never took any notice of you. If you ran, they chased you. I always ran. I got to a fence just in time to climb up on it. They were big, good at snorting over my shoulder, great fun. We went to the local church every Sunday morning.
Inside it was whitewashed walls. Mr Steadman the vicar got very ill. We were moved to Mrs Barbar, Shop House, Thurgarton, on 30th October 1939. I remember coming down for breakfast, a table was full of food. Lovely.
Our mum bought us back home early November ’39 by coach. All I remember is fields with hundreds of pee-wits flyaround.
I lived in 77 Standfield Road, Dagenham, Essex. IN 1940, the spitfires used to fly over the house to land at Hornchurch aerodrome. There was always one missing, I could tell. Spitfires flew in vics of three.
When I got a bit older, I realized what was going on. I had a cousin, Eric, who was a air frame fitter stationed at Hornchurch. Eric would stay at 77 for 24 hour leave. Eric used to sit and just look out of the front room window. My mum told me to, ‘Leave him alone,’ Did as you were told in them days.
My brothers and I were evacuated again late in 1940 to Gloustershire by train. All I remember is sitting in the carriage with other kids.
I was put in a house in Tewkesbury with my brother Denis. We were told we had scabies. I remember telling people quite clearly, ‘I haven’t got it.’ And I didn’t. But I soon got it from other boys and girls who had it.
I was cured and sent to live in Twyning Manor House, Tywning, 4 or 5 miles from Tewksbury town. Twyning was on the river Avon. A bank in the river was dug for us kids to swim in.
I had a portrait painted of me by the daughter of Manor Lady. Six pence for every sitting. A fortune. I went back after the war. No sigh of a portrait.
I lived at Manor with another boy. My brothers were at a cottage at Hill End. The bedroom was about sixty foot long. It’s a luxury flats complex now.
I was thrown out of Manor House. I would not wear a tie at the food table. I never had one, looking back.
I ate with the servants. I was sent to live in the gardener’s house called ‘the stables’, all part of Manor House grounds. A nice family by the name of Beacham. Went back for a week to stay after the war.
Across the yard was the chauffeur’s house. Nice family. Had a girl evacuee with a crippled leg. She was great. Her leg didn’t stop her playing with boys.
My brothers and I would walk for miles up the Beacon Hill with just a bottle of water and cross the Avon on a ferry punt, half a penny each.
We caught a village bus that ran Wednesdays and Saturdays only to Tewksbury. If you wanted to see the end of a film at the cinema, we had to walk back to Twyning on the main road in the dark. The bus always left ten minutes before the end of the film. Done a lot of walking.
At school the headmaster was a nasty man.
One day at school a skua dive bomber of the Fleet Air Arm was practising dive bombing over the fields. He got into trouble. You heard the engine coughing.
The airplane came very low over the school. I waved to the man at the back; next minute the plane crashed. Big cloud of smoke went up. The teachers hushed us back into school. Sad.
After school, my brothers and me had a look at the crash. Lots of blood. Bodies taken away. I took a lot of bullets. Police came and took them away later.
I watch Bristol burning one night.
Then I was brought home with Denis. Ted stayed at Twyning for years.
At home the mini blitz was on. My mum used to wake me up, saying, ‘They’re over, make a cup of tea.’ Every night. Got a bit tired.
My eldest brother Bob joined the RAF in 1940. He ws the first ATC cadet to get his pilot wings. The mayor of Dagenham presented Bob with a wrist watch. In 1941 the Mayor-Alderman Clack, presentation at Bonham Road School Dagenham. Bob crashed in Northamptonshire July 12th – 13th 1942. Killed. He was burned to death. My mum nearly fainted. I wish I hadn’t told her.
Bob’s funeral. From my house, had my dad marching behind with borther Len in Home Guard uniforms, ATC cadets alongside the cortege and behind to Eastbrook Cemetery. Past Eastbrook School, school boys and teachers lined outside by air raid shelters. I have the photos.
A V2 rocket blew up at the school in Heathway, I fell off my chair.
A Doodlebug blew up at Osbourne Square. I stuck my head out of the bedroom window to see it come down like a falling leaf. The blast hurt my ears. Perforated one. A lot of trouble over the years with that.
I was riding along Hunters Hall Road, Dagenham, when a buzz bomb came along just over the roof tops. A riad warden blew his whistle and rattle: ‘When I tell you to lay down, you bloody well LAY DOWN.’ The warden was about four foot ten tall.
I used to go bike riding at the weekend to see the damage done. Riding along a rocket V2 blew up in the air over Rainham Road South. A piece just missed my head. I picked it up. Lots of bits fluttered down too, in the ditches.
My brother Len who joined the RN, he was a gunner on a destroyer on D Day. He sold it to an Aussie sailor for £5. My brother Len used to come home from Chatham for 48 hour leave with a few mates. My mum would be up. Get out of bed: ‘The Navy needs it.’
I was in the back garden when a load of German fighters (FW190) came over very low. Saw pilots and bombs.
Germans shot my dad up at Barking Bus Garage. He came home. He said, ‘Bastards missed me.’ Dad had got through 1914 – 1918.
On a bike ride, I used to look at German prisoners at Purfleet (now ‘The Tavern’) prison camp. I just looked at them, then rode off.
I started work at Blacksmith Shop River Plant 1945 Briggs Motor Bodies. I had the pleasure of seeing a Workers’ Play Time (Chequers Lane).
On VE Day, I sat in the back garden thinking of all who lived in the road and were dead: soldier next door, air gunner, a friend blown to bits, a Merchant Navy 16 year old drowned.
At school 1944 we had a man on a trower ‘Briggs Motors’, Rainham Road North. If a Buzz Bomb was coming. If a buzz bomb was coming he waved a red Flag, blew a hooter. We would run like mad to get in an Air Raid Shelter.
Copyright BBC WW2 People's War
Contributed originally by chrisimac (BBC WW2 People's War)
WRITTEN BY MY MOTHER, GEORGINA ROBBINS, NOW AGED 76 YEARS.
Looking back it seems incredible that World War 2 started sixty five years ago, but still most of the events leading to that time are so clear it seems like yesterday.
We came to live in Dagenham, my mum, dad, brother and myself in 1931, when I was three years old, on the new Becontree Estate which was built to house families from London. Before this it had been all farm land, and thirty minutes walk from our house would take us to the original Old Dagenham village. I still have fond memories of a lovely place where my mum used to take me for walks when I was little. Sadly the Council had it pulled to the ground and replaced it with an ugly concrete jungle, sacrilege, and all that was left was the Cross Keys pub and the Old Dagenham Church where some years later I was married.
I was eleven years old in January 1939 and still in the junior school, which was only two doors away from where we lived, so quite close to home. When the bell rang at four it took just a few minutes to get home to mum for a cup of tea and something to eat. As summer approached there was talk of war and there was lots of excitement in the air, a feeling of expectancy. A centre was set up in the old village and I was sent there with my friend from next door to either get, or sign for, ration books (that is a bit hazy).
Days later lorries came into the street loaded with metal air-raid shelters, ‘Anderson Shelters’ as they were called, which were in sections and had to be bolted together. One of these was delivered to every family who had to dig a large hole in the ground and set it in, covering earth over the top. These gave good protection from shrapnel in bombing raids, and gave you a feeling of safety in the months ahead.
Then we all had to go again to the Old Village centre to be issued with gas masks. Fortunately we never had to use them, but the awful smell of that rubber reminded me of having teeth out at the school dentists. But we soon got used to it when the war came and teacher used to make us have gas mask drill! These masks had to be carried at all times throughout the war; they came in a cardboard box with a string so you could carry it like a sling bag.
Looking back I realize how well prepared the politicians were foreseeing every eventuality to make sure the British public was safeguarded in every way possible. We had ration books to ensure we had adequate food, identity cards (still have mine) so everyone was accounted for, and brick built shelters at shopping centres in case of a raid.
War was declared on 3rd September 1939, this was the very time I should have started at the senior girl’s school, and instead those children that were going to be evacuated had to assemble at the school. My brother and I were among them with name tags pinned to our coats and our clothes in a knapsack on our backs. We had to walk to Dagenham Dock, which must have been at least two miles, and from there we were taken by pleasure boat, The Golden Daffodil, to Norfolk.
That journey was a dream, it was such a lovely hot summer day and music was playing out from the tannoy, ‘South of the Border’. As lovely as this adventure was it was overshadowed for me, because by this time I had a two year old sister and she and my mum were also on this boat travelling with the Infant school and were to be billeted elsewhere. They were actually sent to Dis in Norfolk but came home after six weeks. My brother and I were taken to Caister and ended up in a church hall where we were selected like cattle. That was the bit I disliked, young as I was. This woman chose me and two little sisters, who were nice, but one was a bed wetter so after a few weeks this lady asked the parents to come and take these girls. There was an awful row on the doorstep when they arrived, and off they went. Then my loneliness began.
The woman I stayed with was very clean and a superb cook but had no children of her own, and she was very hard. Her husband, however, was nice and friendly — but she ruled the roost. They lived in Coastguard Cottages so we were literally on the sand dunes overlooking the sea, and as the weather was so lovely in those first few weeks we had a great time sliding down the dunes. Then back to school, an old fashioned country school and we mixed well there with the local children. The time I was there was very pleasant, it was always nice and warm in that school and the cookery teacher was round and plump and taught us how to make apple turnovers!
During my stay in Caister occasionally a mine would be washed up on the shore, and it was quite a spectacle for the kids to see. So barbed wire was put along the dunes to stop us having access. Lots of driftwood came ashore as well so the men used to go down to the beach to collect it.
That winter of 1940 was bitter; I have never seen snow drifts like it. Beautiful scenes though and sometimes we would go along and skate on the dykes on Saturdays, that was good fun. But when the snow melted we were just left with cold wintry days, and by this time most of the evacuees had gone home to Dagenham. The local children lived in the village near the school, whereas I was isolated from them being on the edge of the dunes. My dad used to send me a sixpenny piece every week in an envelope which was taped down with brown sticky tape, and on those cold dull Saturdays I used to walk to the village store to buy a cake, sweets and a stamp to write home to my mum.
The man of the house where I was billeted used to work on a sugar beet farm and his wife used to knit him long warm socks to wear under his Wellington boots. I longed to knit socks like she did so I asked her to teach me. She taught me well but if I made a mistake she would get into such a temper. But I did learn how to turn a heel and was very pleased to have done so despite her annoyance. I used to spend time writing my weekly letter home in the evening, and when I finished the woman of the house used to always want to read it. So unbeknown to her I would wait until she went out of the room and add a sentence at the end saying ‘please take me home mum, please take me home’. I felt quite guilty over that later on, to think how my poor mum must have felt. My brother, however, was billeted on a farm and the farmer and his wife treated him like they would a son. So he was very happy with them and every so often the lady, Mrs Skoyles, used to send one of the farmhands along for me to go and have tea with them.
Nothing much was happening on the home front so after nine months of the war my mum and dad decided to have me home. Through the efforts of Mrs Mackay, one of mum’s neighbours who liased between parents and evacuees, she organized for me to return home to Dagenham by coach in May 1940, lovely to get back where I belonged. Back to my new school, Eastbrook Senior Girls School, and all my classmates. That was a lovely school and the teachers were real professionals.
But now the war was beginning. The blitz on London started in earnest that summer, night raids on London and in the suburbs. It was mostly aimed in the city but we also had quite a few bombs dropped here in Dagenham due to the German bombers aiming for the docks and nearby munitions factories. Lots of men were conscripted into the armed forces; my dad enlisted and was based at Catterick camp in Yorkshire. Meanwhile when there were night raids searchlights used to scan the skies for enemy planes, and my mum and I with my young sister were woken up most nights by the wailing siren and we made our way swiftly to the garden shelter. My brother had returned home from Norfolk and was eventually called up to join the army as were all the young men, and signed up in the Royal Engineers the same as my dad. Tom was first sent to Belfast and then on to India, and my dad went to Italy.
I left school at fourteen and had a couple of Saturday jobs prior to that, then found a job as a provisions assistant at the Co-operative Wholesale Society. We still had air raids to contend with and the doodle bugs mainly, and then came the V2 rockets which were more powerful, but it became a way of life. With my friends from the Co-op I used to go to the cinema as often as my wages would allow, and we would watch all the lovely American musicals with Betty Grable and the rest. We wished we could have lovely clothes to wear like them! Clothes were rationed the same as food so we had to make do or buy a dress on the black market. I had one special friend and we used to go ballroom dancing whenever we could, regardless of the noise from the raids, we would cringe if it was too loud but it didn’t deter us.
Everyone was encouraged to make do and mend and nothing was wasted. Mums used to make things like carrot cake and rhubarb jam, and men that were exempt from the forces like firemen and policemen were encouraged to grow their own vegetables. ‘Dig for victory’ said the adverts on the hoardings. Another was ‘Careless talk costs lives’ and everyone heeded that warning for the sake of their men folk.
Constantly there was something going on so things were never boring during those five years of war, and looking back I remember how well people coped with shortages and hardships and never complained. I had turned sixteen when it finally came to an end and was quite naïve in some respects, but I felt I had grown up. Then came the dancing in the streets!
Copyright BBC WW2 People's War
Contributed originally by 2nd Air Division Memorial Library (BBC WW2 People's War)
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Jenny Christian of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library on behalf of Christine Franks and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
At the outbreak of the war on September 3 we heard on the radio Neville Chamberlain broadcast to the nation that we were at war with Germany.
I was at my uncle's parent's home in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, having come over with my auntie and cousin of a year old on a night crossing from Holyhead to Dunlaoghaire. The reason my parents wanted this was because they were Mayor and Mayoress of Dagenham and were going to be extremely busy (my brother was eventually sent off with the Kingsley Hall Nursery School to Gloucestershire). My mother and father wanted to get us away from the London area; a decision Mum really regretted later.
It was my first experience of the countryside and I loved it; at the same time very homesick and frightened I may never see my parents again. I still have the letters I wrote home from Ireland. I was 9 years old. I went to the village Church of England School; Mr Steele being the Headmaster with one class of multi-ages and he as deaf as a post. Some of the lessons were in Gallic, which I couldn't understand at all. The only other English child was a boy from Yorkshire. I didn't learn much.
The scenery was lovely with the Sugar Loaf Mountain in the distance. The smell of the pine trees, the sound of the rooks coming home to roost in the nearby trees and the smell of earth after rain. We did a lot of walking. When my uncle came over he took me to the Scalp where rocks had been brought
down from the Ice age. There was a stream running alongside the road where we picked watercress.
On Sunday mornings Bapa would walk me to church at Kilbride. We picked mushrooms in the field next to the house, collected eggs (some Guinea Fowls). I remember the lovely smell of Barm Brack and Soda bread baking in the Aga. There were trips to Dublin for clothes and shoes and to bray for paddles in the sea and donkey rides on the sand. I would sometimes go to the pictures there with my aunty. One film stands out in my memory; "Love Affair" with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunn.
The following February my father came to take me home as the elderly folks were getting past coping with us all in the house and my education was suffering. Our crossing coming back was awful. The ship kept zig zagging to avoid the mines and my mother had read in the early morning newspapers that a ship just north of us had sunk. She was so relieved to see us. My brother had come home too, because he had been ill in Gloucestershire and was very homesick too.
So I was home for all of the Blitz. My mother started the WVS in Chadwell Heath where we lived. She handed out gas masks, drove a mobile canteen to Oldchurch Hospital to serve the Outpatients, and was involved in the running of the local British Restaurants and the making of clothes at Valance House and distributing them to the 'bombed out'
While I was in Ireland they went to different parts of the country to visit the billets of the evacuees to see if they were well cared for. They visited all the bomb sites in the borough and organised re housing people.
My father had a meeting at the Civic Centre. Mother would not stay in the house, so we all went with him. We'd eat in the Mayor's parlour at the canteen in the basement. There was a games room where I learnt to play table tennis with the noise of gunfire without. One night the control room was hit. I slept through it and asked the next morning what was all the dust flying about! We slept on camp beds in the corridors.
In the garden at home we had an Anderson shelter with a sandbag entrance. We went to bed as usual and if the siren went at night we got up and went down to the shelter. I remember the siren going one Sunday dinnertime when Mum was ready to serve up lamb, new potatoes and peas. After we all got down there she put all the saucepans etc. at the entrance and handed our plates of food back to us. I always admired the way she coped with rations and powdered egg!
Dad was in the ARP and wore a tin helmet. When the doodlebugs droned overhead and then stopped I was scared wondering where the bombs would drop. We had an anti aircraft gun in Whalebone Lane which we called whalebone Winnie; it was deafening.
When Dad went to the station one morning on his way to work in London, he had to lay in the gutter because of machine gun fire.
We went to visit my grandparents in East Ham one day and they showed us the incendiary bomb shells and shrapnel which had fallen the night before, in their garden.
One morning coming back form the Civic Centre we found a large piece of masonry on the pillow where I would have been sleeping.
Another night while at the Civic Centre the roads next to our home were almost completely flattened. Our house was so badly blasted it had to be pulled down and eventually rebuilt. It was then that I became a weekly boarder at the Ursuline Convent.
The Civic Centre control room was hit as I previously mentioned; the borough Surveyor had been sleeping in a room in the basement. The blast threw him
out and under the bed. Later in dressing gown he went to look at the damage to the building. The little wall around the pond had been broken down. He stepped back to look at the roof and fell into the pond! Fortunately several nurses were on hand and wrapped him in blankets while his clothes dried; how embarrassing!
My summer holidays were spent in Norfolk at my cousin's cottage. Her husband was a P.O.W. in Japanese hands and worked on the Burma railway. She had a little boy, 2 years old. My father thought it would be good for her
and get me away from London again. I loved it with the smell of wood fires, oil lamps, collecting fire wood and lovely home cooking – blackcurrant pies.
While our house was being rebuilt we were given a requisitioned house, bigger than our own, with bigger gardens – I loved it. This time we had a Morrison shelter in the front room where we all slept with our feet sticking out on sofa cushions. I was no longer a weekly boarder then, just a daygirl.
One evening some friends of my parents were having a party for the American soldiers. I was invited and jived to 'In the Mood'. I still love Glenn Miller's music. The memories were as clear as if it were yesterday. We were always looking out for Clark Gable in Brentwood.
We didn't lose anyone in the war. My cousin's husband came home. He was 12 stone and came back 6 stone. The war tore our family apart. I didn't see enough of my father, especially, but on the upside everyone pulled together. It gave us a perspective to value the real things in life; that material things mean very little, its our relationships, love and kindness that matter.
At school when I boarded in we slept in a large concrete shelter under the school hall, the nuns also. When the sirens went we trooped down for lessons where I did my school certificate. The dormitory block was hit one night. We survived thank God to live a good and fulfilling life. My father died at 84, mother 90.
To end on a funny note; my father was walking home in the blackout and bumped into something. He said " Sorry old man" no answer. He thought 'I really have offended him'. He put his hand out only to feel the opening in the pillar-box where you post the letters.
I was awakened by my mother when the siren went in the middle of the night. As I was a long time she came back in the bedroom to ask me what I was doing. I was looking in the wardrobe. "What are you doing?" she said and I replied, "I'm looking for my lunch!!"
Copyright BBC WW2 People's War
Contributed originally by littlebylittle (BBC WW2 People's War)
With my sister Pat, I was a witness to one of the first German V2 rocket attacks on London and, with it, one of the many small miracles of WW2.
In the autumn of 1944, as a boy of nine, I used to go with my 12-year old sister Pat to take our baby sister Jill, then 2, in her pushchair to Bentry School, a local council-run pre-school day centre in Dagenham before ourselves going on to school. Our parents started work early, mum at Hipperson's timber yard in Dagenham and dad as a manual worker for Dagenham Borough Council.
We were well accustomed to air-raids and V1 'doodle-bug' raids as we lived in a prime target area. However, there was no air-raid warning given out on that particular morning. It was a fine, calm day, with a heavy dew on the ground.
On any previous morning the infants would have been left to play in the school playground until the official starting time of seven a.m. but on this occasion the children were taken into the building as soon as they arrived. There were three nurses on duty and one of them told us to take Jill into the school straight away. We turned to walk back through the grounds towards Heathway, the main road.
Pat clearly remembers looking back and admiring the straight parallel tracks made in the dew on the grass by the wheels of the now-empty pushchair. Then there was a tremendous explosion. We stared around at a scene of devastation all around us. Rubble was everywhere; doors hung off buildings, windows were shattered. A column of thick black smoke, containing slowly-swirling debris, which included a whole wooden door, rose straight up from the edge of the playground up into the clear sky.
People were running around, some talking of sabotage or 'clock bombs'. We hadn't heard about V2 rockets until after then.
At home afterwards we never talked about the bomb. It was 50 years before I asked my mother about it. With 3 of her 4 small children involved, it must have been horrendous for her.
'It was,' she said simply.
The explosion was clearly heard at the timber yard about a mile away where she worked. The column of smoke and debris could be seen rising above the roofs of the council houses.
Word came through that the infants day centre had been bombed. Mothers ran from work and raced along Oxlow Lane to the scene.
By a miracle, no-one was killed. Mum soon found Jill, who was unhurt, at the school, but Pat and I were unaccounted for. We weren't at the school, and hadn't got home.
After the blast, we didn't go back to find Jill. Insstead, we walked, shocked, away from the scene, and were later found wandering through the rubble-strewn side-streets, pushing the empty pushchair. We were picked up by a cruising ambulance and taken to a casualty centre.
The episode has had its effects on me. I'm still afraid of sudden loud bangs. But, in a way, I don't mind. It reminds me, after all these years, of the time when a miracle spared the lives of so many innocents.
Copyright BBC WW2 People's War
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