Bombs dropped in the ward of: Hendon
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Hendon:
- High Explosive Bomb
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 Hendon
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by Basil Grose (BBC WW2 People's War)
About a week before the war started the powers that be decided that the enemy would attempt to defeat the blackout by setting up radio beacons to guide their bombers, an unlikely event because the Luftwaffe's bombers were destined for battlefield use to support ground forces and had insufficient range to reach England, at least until France fell.
(In any case they had a system that enabled their aircraft to navigate with accuracy and but for the efforts of Dr RV Jones would have torn the heart out of Britain. When his countermeasures were defeated at Coventry the results were only too plain.)
Therefore the GPO Engineering department, where I worked, was combed for people to listen with radio receivers for spy transmissions.
As I was between appointments I was nobody's baby and so was sent on a course on radio interception without being asked whether I minded. I can't remember what we were taught but it could not have been much, as no one knew what we were meant to listen for or what equipment we should use. All I remember was being instructed how to wear a service gas mask. This came in handy when I enlisted later on.
After training I was stationed at Hendon telephone exchange in northwest London with a variety of radio receivers scraped from the GPO's reserves, sweeping the ether for… 'What?', that was the question. All I heard was the interference produced by the generator charging the batteries of the exchange. Another unfortunate and myself manned this post 24 hours a day, seven days a week, turn and turn about. Why we did not object I do not know; we had some idea that we had to do as we were instructed with a war on. No spies were ever found anywhere in the country as none was needed.
After four months continuous duty I enlisted in the army and escaped; the post was closed soon after. Many years after the war I found that MI5 was involved in this, so for a brief period I was a counteragent, and after reading Spy Catcher by Peter Wright I am not surprised that I was caught up in such a makeshift setup.
Contributed originally by Judy Stevens (BBC WW2 People's War)
From Hendon to Hiroshima
In many ways I was fortunate in the war. Although I did a lot of things which were, with the benefit of hindsight, stupid, I came off lightly and unscathed.
Instead of taking a year as a reserved occupation at London Transport, I
decided all my mates were going in the Forces and I didn¹t really want
to beleft behind. The other stupid thing that I did as well was to volunteer
tothe reconnaissance, which is the most dangerous unit apart from commandos
you could find. But fortunately, although I didn¹t realise it at the time,
they decided to put me in the Royal Army Service Corps and that¹s where I
stayed for four and a half years.
I was fortunate in other ways as well. When I returned from embarkation
leave to Aylesford, I and four others discovered that Unit 902 of the
RoyalArmy Service Corps had left while we were on leave. We were allocated
toEight Unit and went to Banstead before being posted to India and then
Japan.I did hear afterwards, though I don¹t know if it was true, that 902
Unit had gone to France where they became involved in the Battle at Caen and
very few of them survived.
People say that the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
was a war crime, but as far as I was concerned if they hadn¹t dropped that
bomb then I had a good chance of not being here. We were told by our
officers after the Japanese surrender that they had been expecting 75% casualties in
the first two days of our landing and I would¹ve been going in on the third
day, I remember some wag saying ³Would that day have made a lot of difference?² and the officer replied; ³It might have made a difference by about one in every thousand.² In other words it wouldn¹t have made a
lot of difference at all. So from my point of view I¹ve always looked upon the
dropping of the atom bomb as saving my life. Far more Japanese were
killed in the bombing raids of Colonel Curtis Le May, Commander of the
American Airforce, whose idea was to bomb Japan into submission. There was an
area of sixteen and a half square miles in Tokyo, which I went to, where
everything was burnt and destroyed, where there was nothing higher than knee level
and over 360,000 Japanese died in seven days. That¹s far more than died in
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A little group of us, 14,15.16 year olds used to go around together and
one of the boys had a father who became an officer and said to us ³Right
you lotyou can join the Home Guard that I¹m in charge of.² So we all went
along to the hall in Hendon Technical College three nights a week and weekends,
Sundays cause you used to work Saturdays half day you were working a 48-hour week. Occasionally we used to go to Mill Hill Barracks where they had a rifle range. You had youngsters firing standard army issue rifle with the idea of actually killing somebody. A lot of people think of Dads
Army as a joke but at that time it wasn¹t a case of if the Germans were going
to invade, it was when, so at the time it wasn¹t a joke it was dead serious.
We did guard duty at the college because in the basement there was the
control for the fire brigade for the north west sector of London. Although
we were guarding it, we didn¹t really know what we guarding, we were just
young kids and it was all a big game. We had a rota and did a Guard duty
once maybe twice a week depending on how many people were off sick or if
there had been a rush on and people had to work overtime, there were a lot
of armament factories all the way along the Edgware Road. The commander was
a little fat man, I think he was about 4¹6² which was a bit of a joke because on parade you had all these great big blokes, well over 50% of them had seen First World War service and you had this little fella coming along,I don¹t think he¹d ever seen a gun fired in anger, but because he was a
Director of a tobacco company, he was automatically the commanding
The first drink I ever had was when I was 16 and we¹d been up to Boreham
Wood on an exercise. Three units were competing to capture an empty
house and retrieve a lantern from it. I can¹t remember if we won but I do
remember that an old coach that should have been on the scrap heap years before
brought us all back to Hendon and we went into the Chequers. A lot of the
older blokes went home but we went in this pub for a drink. The fella who
owned the pub was called Taylor and he was a real stickler for the law and
had no time for the Home Guard. So when he saw us all in there and the Major
had ordered drinks for about ten or fifteen of us, he said, ³I am not
serving them because they¹re not old enough² so the Major turned round
and said ³If they¹re old enough to wear a uniform they¹re old enough to
have a drink. Now give them a bloody drink or we¹ll break the place up.² With
that he promptly decided to serve us. It was more bravado than anything
else. But he did serve us and that was the first pint of beer I ever had.
Anthony Eden made an appeal on the radio for people to join local defence
units and so many people turned up that they just couldn¹t handle them. You
had this enormous army of men volunteers, it was the biggest force of
the three, the Navy, the RAF and the Army. And then they introduced conscription
into the Home Guard. Troops were out in the desert taking a pasting, France
had collapsed and you had all the soldiers there and they were out in India.
But at home you had all these blokes on reserved occupations and a lot of
them, let¹s face it, had managed to con their way out of the forces one
way or another. It was not unknown for a little bit of bribery to go on and
all they were interested in was how much money they could make. A lot of
them would get coaches or big vans and put seats in them, especially around
the East End of London where the raids and the blitzes took place, they
used to take anybody, mostly women and children who could afford a shilling or
two out into the country for the night. They would only go out to the other
side of Romford or just into Essex and they would pull up alongside the road
out in the country and they¹d all have blankets and flasks of tea and the
coach driver and the people who supplied the coaches who were collecting the
money didn¹t want to know about the army did they? So when they brought this
conscription in the idea was to make the actual soldiers feel a bit better
that these people were having to spend two or three nights a week away from
home in the cold up on Hampstead Heath or wherever, doing guard duties.
Because we were in the original Home Guard in an infantry unit we were
asked to go up to Hampstead on anti aircraft guns. Really the officers conned
us into doing it saying what good fellas we were and we were made up to
corporals. There I was, 17 or 18 ordering these blokes about who were
twice my age, if not more, except they had been conscripted in to the Home
Guard and they didn¹t like it. You know, they were a real handful, they used
to disappear and go down the pub, it was horrendous really.
We were billeted at Flask Walk in big old 4 storey Victorian houses and
we used to sleep there at night on palliasses, sacks filled with straw.
Because of the war you would have a bath once a week but you always had a good
wash but conscripts¹ standards of hygiene were well below ours, it was a bit
disconcerting and when you had breakfast in the morning you¹d think knives
and forks had never been invented, you know, they would literally use a
piece of bread to eat with.
Although there were quite a few air raids while I was there we only
fired the anti-aircraft guns once. They were very easy to fire, you put
rockets on two long rails. You had one man on either side, one responsible for the
elevation and the other for the direction of it. But both men had to do
something to make it fire, the bloke on the right stood on a pedal, the
fella on the left pulled the leaver towards him and then they fired on a
little electric circuit and these two rockets shot off. We were trained
to do it, they were very heavy those blimming things.
On this particular night we fired them, the direction was given so all the
guns were rotated round and they were elevated and all pointing in the
same direction and you waited for ³Fire!² And they shouted, ³Fire!² so you
did and it was absolutely miraculous because everybody¹s fired at the same
time,there was a terrific whoosh, flames, the place was lit up. There were
54 of these rockets each one with two rockets, so 108 rockets fired and they
all exploded in a big square in the sky. The idea was that it covered an
area half the size of a football pitch, exploding, shooting shrapnel all
over the place, if there was an aeroplane anywhere near then it had to be badly
damaged. All of a sudden as it died down, two rockets went off in the
opposite direction and only missed the top of a block of flats by about
ten feet. Nobody could figure out where these two rockets came from but
they had a rough idea, there was a couple of old boys, talk about Godfrey in
Dads Army it was nowhere near it. One of them must have been about seventy
and the other one must have been about the same age but he hadn¹t really
got all his marbles, he shouldn¹t have ever been there in the first place, and
they had got it completely wrong. They thought everybody else has fired, so
Lanark, Aylesford & Southend
I decided not to take the opportunity of an automatically reserved
occupation for a year at London Transport where I was a trainee mechanic
and, like my mates, I joined up when I was eighteen in 1943.
I did eight weeks primary training in the barracks at Lanark where I was
interviewed. Being young with delusions of grandeur, I volunteered to
be in the reconnaissance. Fortunately, although I didn¹t realise it at the
time, they decided to put me in the Royal Army Service Corps and that¹s where
I stayed for over four years.
Initially I went to Aylesford where I was a learner artificer for six
months and then I got made up to a third class mechanic, I came out a first
class mechanic. I got posted to a company in Wembley High Street to do a
trade test to get up to a third class mechanic. I had a job on a Humber staff
car, great big thick tyres, a sloping back, an enormous great thing. I had
another couple of blokes with me in the car and we switched the engine
off and let it run down a hill in gear for something like a hundred and
fifty yards and then we switched the ignition on and it made an enormous bang
and people ran in all different directions. We thought it was funny but of
course it wasn¹t very funny, it was a stupid thing to do.
On the days leading up to D Day our Camp was like a great big café for
the convoys going through to the coast, they would stop for fuel,
sandwiches that sort of thing. I was mending lorries at the time. We thought it
was funny; there were no drivers for the lorries, we were just fixing them
and lining them up. After the landings of course we realised that they were
going to be used to move ammunition around for the anti aircraft guns
shooting down the doodlebugs.
One night we had been to party for one of the chap¹s birthdays. Beer
was rationed but, being Kent, there was plenty of strong scrumpy cider and
you could get drunk on it quickly. We¹d had a good time and got back to
camp late. Round about two o¹clock one of the fellas got up and shouted out,
²There¹s an aeroplane over there on fire². This plane sounded like a
very loud motorbike popping but no one took any notice of him. About 20 minutes
later he shouted out ³For God¹s sake come and have a look there¹s another
one on fire.² By this time one or two people got up and, sure enough,
there was this thing flying through the air with flames coming out the back
of it, making this odd sound. Nobody realised at that time it was a flying
bomb.Of course, after the anti aircraft guns were mobilised and a balloon
barrage was mounted, there were thousands of them. A balloon was bigger than a
double decker bus with cables hanging down, the idea was that the doodle
bugs would fly into them causing them to crash. The draw-back was that occasionally the balloons would drift away, I remember one day we had onedrifting over the Camp and a couple of Typhoon Fighter Planes came over to shoot it down, but they were concentrating so hard on shooting the
balloon down they didn¹t take into account the bullets hitting the camp. There
were blokes rushing all over the place trying to get out of the way of these
machine gun bullets!
Before I was posted to India, I got nine days embarkation leave, actually it
was seven days, but you said you were going to the Lizard lighthouse or
somewhere so you got an extra two days travelling time. When I got back
to Southend we were issued with new overseas kit and we got paid and they
stopped everybody nine pence barrack room damages. I don¹t know what
happened to the money but obviously somebody was making a lot. We were
all in this cookhouse with all our gear packed because we were going on the
train that night, so we ate our meal on china plates for once.
Everybody said the same thing, ³Now I¹m going to get my barrack room damages
back², and we all promptly smashed the cup and the plate.
We boarded a train packed with troops, God knows how many carriages.
Mum came and said goodbye. Later, in the pitch dark the train stopped on a
bridge over a road with back-to-back houses, with outside loos. You
could almost lean out the window and shake hands with the bloke in the
bedroom. We was hanging out the window all hollering about 2.30 in the morning. So
the people in the houses leant out their windows in their pyjamas or with
nothing on at all, telling us to shut up. You can imagine the ribald remarks
that were being made well it was hilarious! You know, blokes were
piling into the various carriages to join in the fun so you were being crushed
out the window with everybody shouting at these people. I often wonder how
many times that happened.
We got to the ship, the Almanzora, it was on its way to the breakers
yard when the war started, brought back into service as a troop ship and
coincidently took Uncle George to Italy a year or so before. In the Bay of
Biscay, one of the engines broke down and it was going very slowly and
everybody was so seasick. It was my turn to go and get the meals, you had a
long table with six blokes either side and the two at the top went down into
the galley to collect the food. I collected the composite salad, diced carrots and swede and haricot beans and all that sort of thing, it was revolting, but it was either that or nothing. I had a bowl of rice in one hand and composite salad in the other and as I came down the iron
stairway, the ship rolled, the front lifted and I let go of these two cans, and
everyone got their meals spread all over the place. I crawled back up onto
the deck and stayed there for about three days. The engines kept breaking
down and the lights kept fading and one of the merchant seamen used to come
and unscrew a little plug in the deck and lower down a piece of string with
a weight on the end and knots tied in it all the way up to see how much
water there was still in the boat.
When we got to India we got into troop trains, the seats were wooden and you
could turn up the back of the seat into bunks with six blokes sleeping in
each carriage. The train went through Bombay, through the Ghats, mountain
passes and then we got to a big holding camp. In peacetime Deolali was
a hostelry where soldiers from the Indian Army or who gone out to India
between the wars and were suffering from any mental disorder went.
Hence the expression ³He¹s doolally.²After a few days I met a fella there who was
an orderly corporal I¹d known when I was at Maidstone. He¹d been in India
for a few months and he told me they wanted a tactical guard corporal doing
twenty four hours on and two days off. He said ³Don¹t forget if you¹re on this
and they make you a corporal you¹ll get grade I artificer¹s pay, about five
shillings extra a week² normally a corporal¹s rank was unpaid but if
you were an artificer, a tradesman, then you got paid for it. Someone
cleaned our kit when we went on this parade, it was right in the middle of the
camp with buglers and the gear had to be spotlessly clean and you were
inspected by the officer. Once he went then it was just standing, walking up and
down in this big guardroom, where there were cells with soldiers who had
committed various offences, deserting, insulting or hitting officers,
all sorts of crimes like that and they were locked up in the cells in the
guardroom awaiting trial or being sent to glasshouses. A glasshouse is
a military prison, the original one at Aldershot had a glass roof and
looked like a giant glasshouse. That¹s how that name came about.
It was quite good, for three days you were walking around the camp, swimming, staying in bed till late with a note tucked in the end of your bed saying Œtactical guard¹ so if you were asleep and the camp guards came
round they left you alone. The cinema was a big old shed run by Indians. We
saw Casablanca every night for seven days, in the end we knew the blimming
words by heart.
I was posted to eight company Royal Army Service Corps which was going
to Japan. The Americans had lost twenty odd thousand men in the battle of
Okinawa, mind you the Japanese had lost nearly a hundred thousand both
civilians and soldiers. It was a very, very bloody battle - the Japanese
literally did fight to the last man. Now the next stop was mainland
Japan. Although we didn¹t know this at the time the military assessment was
that there would be at least a 75% casualty rate on the first couple of days
that we landed on Honshu, the mainland. The American Government knew that
their people wouldn¹t stand for all these casualties, if the allies weren¹t
involved but the American army wanted to make this solely an American
operation to equal the score over Pearl Harbour. But when they
confronted the figures and realised the political implications they decided to
invite the British, Canadians and especially the Australians who had played a
big part in the Pacific. We were issued with special equipment and a Jungle
Mark 1V, which was a rather deluxe version of a sten gun, much more
accurate, and we were issued khaki colour clothes with big tubs to tie dye them in a
darker green. So we spent days doing this and training for all sorts of things, beach landings and all that but, of course, there weren¹t any beaches where we were because we were miles inland.
One night there was a whole lot of us sitting in the Naafi having a
drink and all of a sudden a bloke came running in, jumped up on the table and
shouted, ³Listen everybody, listen everybody², and everybody started
shouting, ³Oh shut up² you know, ³No, No listen, listen the war¹s over!²
And of course having shouted that several times, everybody went quiet
and said, ³What do you mean the war¹s over?² And he said, ³They¹ve dropped
a bloody great bomb on Tokyo, the war¹s over and the Japanese have packed
it in.² And that¹s the first we knew that the war was over. The following
morning we were on parade and one of the officers, a Captain, explained
to us that two cities in Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed and
consequently the Emperor of Japan had made a complete unconditional surrender to the Americans.
Then we sat kicking our heels in India, parades, marches, various
exercises, anything to try and keep us busy. Months later we were told that we
were going to Japan with the army of occupation. At the time that we were
packing up to go to Japan, the Indian Navy mutinied because they wanted
independence and there were riots in Bombay so when we went by train from Deolali to
the docks in Bombay we were all issued with our arms, rifles, sten guns and
ammunition as well. The position was very serious and a lot of people
thought that if they attacked the train with a load of troops on it
especially in the Ghats a lot of us would have got hurt. The rioters tried
to break in the gates of the docks but they kept them up and by the morning
it was quiet and so we got on the boat, I think it was called the Empress of
Australia, and left for Japan. Much bigger than the Almanzora, it was
more reliable and luxurious.
A Japanese pilot took the ship down the narrow channel into Kure
Harbour, at one point it looked as if you were at a dead end but he got this big
ship through, like they had all those battleships and aircraft carriers that
they had built there. We stayed on the ship for about two days until a
temporary billet was found at a Japanese Naval Camp. We had no idea whether the
Japanese were going to be hostile or what so we were walking around
with sten guns or pistols or bayonets. The first night we went out it was
dark and through the high street an enormous great train came along,
food for the civilian population. I had never seen anything like this
American type of train with a cow catcher on it and about a hundred
carriages, the rails were like tram rails, they were sunk into the road.
Actually, I must admit I was never very keen on the dark and the four
of us that had gone out for a walk had got split up. So I was on my own
walking down a narrow street with low-lying two storey and one storey wooden
houses either side, totally different to anything I knew and I heard this
shoo..shoo.shoo noise behind me. Quite honestly, I was frightened to
look round, and where there was a little gap between two of these houses I
stepped out of the way and looked round and there was a little old man
in a black kimono with his arms tucked inside big sleeves and he had what we
called hubba hubba shoes, a piece of wood with a piece down at a right angle
and where he was shuffling along it was that that made the shoo..shoo
He had a long wispy beard, he must have been about a hundred years old
and there was me being this soldier, all brave, but frightened because of
this funny little man coming down the road.
The people were perfectly polite; they walked off the pavement into the
gutter and bowed to us as they went by. We asked the American Military
Police, commonly known as Snowdrops because of their white helmets and
gloves, why this was and they explained, ³Well we¹re the victors, we
won the war and they didn¹t, they lost, so they walk in the road, you know.²
Eventually they did stop because the idea was it was making the Japanese
feel down-trodden and that is what the Americans didn¹t want.
They lived in small wooden houses built around a little square garden
in the middle, some of them were only about four foot square it was amazing.
It had a little pond in it with probably a few carp, and bonsai trees and
indoor plants and they were spotlessly clean, oh you¹d never see cleanliness
like it. They used to have barges for carting coal, wheat, rice, anything,
and after every voyage you¹d see them in the little docks in the towns
being scrubbed down. The girls wore sort of balloon type trousers that came
in tight at the ankle and were rather big around the hips like ill-fitting
pyjamas and quilted jackets with a blouse or pullover underneath and
the men wore a sort of assortment of bits of army uniform and more or less sort
of Westernised clothes. A lot of Japanese, more women than men, wore
kimonos so it was quite colourful. The Ashanti News was written in English and it
was the largest selling newspaper in Japan, you could find people that
could read in English but couldn¹t speak it but you were never far from
somebody who could speak English in Japan.
The Americans had taken over this completely dysfunctional country, the
economy had collapsed overnight and the only thing they wanted was to get it
all back on an even keel. So they employed as many Japanese as they could.
We had a camp out at a place called Warashima which was a big aerodrome
that had been used for training the pilots that bombed Pearl Harbour. We
employed so many Japanese, I think there were about one hundred and fifty two
hundred soldiers in the camp, and I think we employed about five hundred
Japanese labourers. We had them doing everything, sweeping up the runway: we
got a load of witch¹s brooms and a line of about one hundred and fifty of
them swept the runway. It was a complete waste of time, but we had to find
something for them to do. They worked in the cookhouse, repairing the
trucks, they knew as much about them as we did because their lorries
had a standard engine which they used in landing craft, motor boats and in
lorries which were an exact copy of a six cylinder Bedford engine, which we
built here, this was also the same as a General Motors Chevrolet in America
so even the spare parts were no problem You know, they¹re still benefiting
by it today and my personal view is that General Macarthur should have a
statue in the middle of Tokyo, because he did more for that country, liberated
that country from their various oppressive laws, like the bonding of women
and boys, ill treatment in the coal mines, all that was stamped out. So
were the land laws where absentee landlords were supplied so many sacks of rice
as rent first and then if there wasn¹t enough the people starved.
Progressive parties in Japan had been trying to do this for thirty years but when
General Macarthur came along and took over the Dalhachi Building, the
biggest building in Tokyo for his Headquarters, he called all these
Japanese ministers in and said that¹s what he wanted to do and that¹s what he
Every village had a big well from four foot across the top to maybe ten to
twelve foot deep with water in and all the household and toilet waste went
in there and it was left to ferment. This was then put into barrels about
four foot high, and about eighteen inches round with a tapered top which
were a stained yellow colour with tight fitting lids. Between ten and
fifteen barrels were put on carts about ten-twelve foot long and a couple of
feet wide with rubber wheels, we called them honey carts. Between the paddy
fields there were narrow dykes and these carts were pulled by hacking horses
to the top of each field.
A foot operated pump system like a small water wheel took the water
from the dyke onto the paddy because the rice always grew on about eight to ten
inches of water so, they would tip these barrels on their side with the
lids partially removed so that it just trickled out into the water and then
they used to pedal pump the water into the dyke and the stuff used to flow
in with the water so it fertilised the whole of the paddy field. This was
essential because if they didn¹t do that they wouldn¹t have enough rice
to feed the population. So although it sounds disgusting it was a necessity.
The stench of these pumps was terrible, it had another effect, but you could
be on guard or sitting at a table just talking and you just closed your
eyes and you nodded off. This disease was known as encephalitis type B which
is sleeping sickness, but it comes out of these blimming wells and the
paddy fields. The Americans didn¹t want the Japanese to know there was any
weaknesses in the forces, so immediately the camp was confined to barracks.
But all these labourers were still coming in and they could see what was
happening. We were all given two injections of broth of mouse brain in
little phials. For a month or so though it was very bad, some people were
very ill and had to be flown home to England. The food was terrible, I
think it came from Hong Kong or Singapore because by the time it got to us it
was rotten. Everything was tinned, tinned bacon, Soya links, they were
supposed to be a sausage - they were about six inches long and were packed
inside tins triangular shaped, long ways and there was a lot of grease. We had
Pacific rations, a packet that was greaseproof on the outside and on
the inside biscuits, cheese, composite which was a squashed bar of dried
fruit and raisins, nuts, hard tack biscuits, four tablets to give you energy,
and five cigarettes.
Now these cigarettes caused a big problem because these rations were
about two years old which we got from the Americans, they were so dry and
they had mould on them The blokes didn¹t know about this and so they were
smoking them and of course they were getting sore throats and they were making
people ill. So what they did was open all these blimming packets, take
all the cigarettes out, Camels, Lucky Strikes, Marlborough, various makes
of American cigarette. The only thing that you had in tins that you could
really eat was corned beef and we had porridge, and fruit we bought
from the Japanese, which we weren¹t supposed to do because they said you might
get dysentery. Little barrows at stations sold hard boiled eggs, boiled
squid, sticks with steak on - probably horsemeat but anyway it was edible and
it was better than the food they were supplying us. When the Americans
found out that we were all suffering from scurvy, there was a big row between
our Officers and the American Medical Officers and after that we got our
food supplied from Australia. That was the first time I ever had pineapple
juice for breakfast, it used to come in tins, I used to get a lot of mince
meat, that was good because they used to buy local onions and we used to make
up boiled up mince meat and vegetables, you even used to get fried eggs but
they were tinned, I think they came from China probably.
When we left, more shops had opened, selling kimonos, cloth, clothes.
The majority of shops were very small, cause in Tokyo they had big shops.
But when I was in India, I went to Bombay several times, and I would say
that the Japanese were better off with the war than the Indians were
without,because of the weight of population and the economy.
Published by heirloompublishing.net
Words: Reg Berthold
Research: Judy Stevens
Design: Gary Curtis
Printed: AbbeyPrint Ltd
Cartoons: Derek Abel
Photographs: Reg Berthold,
Memories of Hendon
National Maritime Museum
First published 2004
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Contributed originally by photo34 (BBC WW2 People's War)
I was 5 years old when the war began; we lived in Mill Hill, a suburb of northwest London. I went to St Paul’s infant school. We learned useful things like threading laces and tying bows so teachers did not have that chore of putting our shoes on. Numbers were in patterns like dominos or cards. That is why in those days to discover if a person was mentally deficient he was asked, “How many beans make five?” The answer from the number patterns is ‘Three plus Two’. Knowing that could keep you out of the lunatic asylum.
We were issued with gas masks and had to take them to school every day. They built a large shelter under the playground with a gas tight door. I don’t think there was any way of replenishing the air if a hundred kids were locked up down there for more than an hour. If the door got obstructed there was an escape tunnel which led out into the church grave yard. We only had one practice use of it while I was at that school. The teachers complained the tunnel was too small for their bottoms and the gas mask boxes kept jamming up against the walls.
Our house was rented and quite large. I had a younger sister and brother. Dad was a carpenter, working on new houses and flats that were being built to re-house people from the slums of London. He started work just after the First World War and had seen the results of the mess our rulers had made of our country, not because of the war, but their sheer incompetence. At various jobs through the Twenties he developed attitudes that were much different to the ‘Gung Ho, Rule Britannia’ attitude that is displayed in films about the war. He, his brothers and friends believed no matter who ran the country, they would still be sawing wood and banging in nails for some fat b***** to make a profit. In principle at least, they believed in the Russian way of life and all the negative stories were just propaganda put out by the government and Tory press. That was probably half true and may have been the birth of spin.
I can remember one day when we had no money and no food in the house. My brother was still being nursed and my sister had some baby food, but me, my cousin, Aunty and Mum had nothing. Dad went out after dark to an empty house where he had worked and seen some potatoes in the garden. He dug them up and brought home a small boxful. Mum cooked them and made us one of the most satisfying meals I can remember.
Dad also hated Jews through his experiences of working for and with them at the film studios.
The experience clouded his judgement for the rest of his life. He could have had a good job at Elstree or Pinewood after the war, but he never forgot how badly he suffered before the war.
Because we had a large house at the very beginning of the war we had two couples of Jewish refugees billeted on us. They were OK but used our sympathy for their hardship to get favours done. They worked hard making handbags in our front room, they got a business started and left us for a posh flat in Hendon. Funny they never got called up to help with the war effort. Some of our neighbours got sent to work in factories. It did not help when after the war dad was modernising houses and the Jewish customers were trying to persuade him to do the work saying it was bomb damage so they could claim a grant. A Labour government was in power doing good things for the working classes so Dad did not like fiddlers.
Because of these attitudes Dad, his brothers and friends did not rush to the recruitment offices. His brother and brother-in law were called up anyway. Uncle B**** was in the RE’s, but he could play the piano so he spent the war from France to Berlin entertaining the officers and sergeants in their messes. Uncle F**** was in the RAMC making sure he never got promoted because leaders led by example which could be dangerous. Both my uncles each had a wife and two lovely children to come home to; their priority was to survive
In 1940 we moved to Apex corner, the junction of the A41 and A1, close to the main railway line from London to Edinburgh. We had a Morrison shelter delivered. This was a huge steel table with steel mesh sides. Dad was able to assemble it himself although DIY and ‘flat-pack’
had not been officially invented. We three children slept under this table and when the bombs came closer mum would crawl in with us. Dad insisted on staying outside to watch the ‘dog fights’. At that early period we only had one scare, I was in the toilet and a bomb passed between our house and next door over the round-about for the A41, A1 junction to land on a house in Glendor Gardens. You can guess what I did when it went off! Funny I still remember getting dust in my eye as it whizzed by.
At school they built brick shelters with reinforced concrete roofs, they had the gas tight doors and there were vents which could be closed in case of gas and opened to avoid suffocation. When the sirens went we would troop into the shelter for special lessons. There were no blackboards at first so it was more like baby sitting than teaching. Our class had 46 pupils and other classes were of similar size yet the teachers would get about 60% of us through the 11+ into grammar schools. Many children were from single parent families because the father was in the forces. You can’t help wondering why education is so difficult these days. In our part of London the air raids did not affect us very much. In the blitz the raids were mostly at night, towards the end of the war we were sent to the shelters fairly often because doodlebugs were on the way during daylight hours.
We boys wore short trousers all through the war years; in the winter the cold caused painful sores inside our thighs just above the knees. I’ll never forget or forgive Hitler for that. It bloody hurt. Clothing was controlled by coupons; some extra large children were allowed extra coupons. Wellingtons were cheaper than shoes, were probably coupon free and did not wear out so quickly, so in winter Wellingtons were our best shoes. They could give you another sore just below the knee and the probably caused chilblains. Another pain to blame Hitler for. We used to collect shrapnel, but had to keep it secret, partly because some incendiary bombs had a booby trap in the tail and there were butterfly bombs for children to pick up and be killed. The authorities were too thick to realise that even us kids of six or seven knew about bombs and we knew what shrapnel looked like.
A strange thing happened after the Battle of Britain; they re-opened the outdoor swimming pool near our old house. It closed originally to have a supply of water for fighting fires, but there was nothing much to burn near the pool. It was staffed and run from May to September right through the war. I used it as a second home. At Saturday morning pictures we would watch Johnny Weissmuller play Tarzan then at the pool, swim under water re-enact the films. That pool played a major part of my life right up to the 1950’s. It’s a garden centre now which makes me a bit sad.
Dad was sent away to build huts for air force personnel in East Anglia. He dined on the finest food he’d ever had in his life. The farmer’s wife where he was billeted sent him home with a box of eggs and some chicken once a month when he was given leave. That posting did teach dad that the people running this war were just as bad as the ones who ran the first one.
He was always complaining about the waste and inefficiencies. Years later I worked with an electrical engineer who worked on the same project as dad and he had the same complaints.
The people in charge were a bunch of public school boys who hadn’t a clue about building and through ‘connections’ were given a nice safe little job.
We followed the war by reading the papers and listening to the news and hearing the discussions of our parents. It all seemed fairly matched and our parents feared a long stalemate like the WW1, but Alemein seemed slowly to swing the pendulum in our favour then there was more good news than bad. There were a few frights Arnhem and the Battle of the Bulge, but generally we knew we going to win.
We were not particularly hungry; our parents had endured hard times for most of their lives so mum knew a few cheap filling meals. Suet pudding, layered with bacon and herbs. Mostly stodge with occasional bursts of flavour. At school we had pilchards with mashed potato and a helping of grated carrot with shredded cabbage; very healthy. I am sure our stomachs shrank so we were filled up easily. We were certainly much thinner than kids of today. We could easily count or ribs. One Christmas dad made a couple of wooden revolvers, the lady across the road knew a scenic artist from the film studios who painted our revolvers to look real we were thrilled to bits to have such realistic toy guns.
One night there was a knock at our door. It was Nan and Aunt M****, she said.” You’ve got to take us in we’ve been bombed out”. Aunt M**** got married to a lorry driver from Glasgow and Nan stayed with us until 1947. She still worked at the laundry and sometimes walked home a distance of about 8 miles. That generation were tough having been brought up on hardship. She sometimes took me to the variety shows at the Golders Green theatre; I remember trying not to laugh at some of the rude bits to save embarrassment. Other treats were our uncles coming home on leave always loaded with presents and exciting stories. Not bravery but things they had got away with. One man found a bottle of rum, drank it all, fell unconscious into a ditch, was overrun by the Germans then while he was asleep our troops recovered the ground. He boasted that he went to France with 25 bullets and came back with 24. He used one to mend the pivot on a toilet cistern.
At home life was humdrum with occasional high points, low points like deaths of friends fathers were not spoken about, it was bad for moral. We knew D-day was approaching but not exactly when; the first I knew was seeing hundreds of planes with black and white stripes on there wings flying south, some planes towing gliders; the noise was more like a continuous cheer than engines. At school we all felt very happy, we knew it would all soon be over, but did not know what would change. I suppose we expected more toys, more variety in our food, nicer clothes, and more sweets having our parents and uncles’ home and not being threatened. On VE night I saw the first fireworks in my life. I can’t imagine where they came from; they must have been saved from before the war. Another treat that night was eating a potato that had been cooked in the embers of the fire. That’s twice a meal of potatoes had pleased me.
Next day all our attention was on Japan. There was no remorse about the atom bomb; it could have been 4 times as big and we would have cheered. That is how war and propaganda can brainwash a nation into thinking anything is right for our side. I hope we are never forced to go through such an experience again.
Contributed originally by footslogger (BBC WW2 People's War)
Remembering the War
I have recently been told about this site initiated by the BBC.so that peoples memories of that great conflict can be recorded for posterity.
It is hard for me to know where to start being unused to doing this type of recording fro other people to read, and whether the items that I am writing about will be of interest to this web site.
First a brief introduction.: My name is Raymond and I was born in London England, but after being “Demobbed” couldn’t settle down and moved to Canada a few years later where I have lived ever since. My home is in a town in an area known as “The Greater Toronto Area” or GTA for short which is in the province of Ontario.
So where should I start with my reminiscing? How about this as a beginning?
In August 1939 I went on holiday to Herne Bay in Kent and one day walking along the front I heard the sound of aircraft engines and being interested in aircraft I looked up and saw what I identified as a Lufthansa Junkers tri motor passenger plane coming in over the coast it was quite low all silver in the sunlight and I noticed the red background with the big black swastika on the tail fin, and seeing it I thought (which I suppose at the time a strange thought for a fifteen year old boy though again maybe not with all the talk of war going on) I wonder how soon the pilot of that plane would be over England again but this time dropping bombs.
I watched until it disappeared in land then I forgot about and went to the local cinema and saw maybe appropriately a film called“Fire over England” with Laurence Olivier though the action took place in Elizabethan times
September 3rd 1939 : Living in Finchley in north London I was with my friend (also named Raymond) who lived on the same road as me but at the opposite end of it; and for some reason I was at his home instead of my own listening to Mr Chamberlain’s speech declaring “That Britain was now at war with Germany“.
At the end of the speech not be sure what to do as his family were in a sombre mood we left the house and decided to walk down to the end of the road back to my home to see how my family were taking the news, and I suppose also to see if anything was going to happen that we had been warned about, we just reached the end of the road and the sirens started to sound, we both stood stock still for a moment and then did a mad dash back to his house ,I swear we covered that distance in less than 30 seconds and it is a long road, at his house we both suddenly stopped and then strolled very nonchalantly inside only to find all his family sitting in a cupboard under the stairs.
Of course the “All clear” sounded soon afterwards. We again went outside Ray’s house and outside several houses people were standing and looking up and wondering most likely like us what the warning was all about, and I am not sure how long after the All Clear sounded this event happened, that we heard this loud explosion, naturally we wondered what it was and whether bombs had fallen.It was rather a mystery and it
wasn’t until some months later that I heard a rumour that an RAF plane had crashed,
I was told at Hendon aerodrome which was not far from us, but at the time this was never confirmed.
When I was in London on a visit a couple of years ago I went to the RAF museum at Colindale the site of the old aerodrome and was looking through its history records and there I did find an entry which confirmed that rumour of a plane crash Apparantly a student pilot on a training flight was coming into land, miscalculated his approach and crashed into a house in Colindale, unfortunately killing not only himself but several people who were in that house.
Naturally as a young boy all that was happening was very novel and exciting for me, although my parents did not think the same, especially my father who served the Middlesex Regt. in the first war.
He became an Air Raid Warden, so I thought I would the same but would only be accepted as a messenger which was fine for me, I was issued with a steel helmet and a respirator, and was told my duties would be relaying messages from the District Wardens office to the various Wardens Posts in the district.
At the beginning my job was rather quiet until the raids on London started and the things started to happen. and I felt a bit apprehensive riding around on a bike with messages especially during a raid with the ack-ack firing away and bits of shell coming down, I could hear the pieces hitting the ground. One time I heard some splinters came down and I think one must have hit my front wheel while I was riding as all of a sudden I had a flat tire which gave me a scare..
One of my most chilling experiences happened one night while I was out delivering messages during a raid. I heard this strange whistling and shushing sound that seemed to be coming down, the sound eventually stopped but I couldn’t see anything and it obviously was not a bomb, no explosion.
I continued cycling up the high road to point where there was a boulevard with some very high trees, and I saw something white hanging from one of them naturally I stopped to look and saw it was a parachute with something very large and black hanging from it I immediately had a good idea what it was A Land Mine ! Luckily it got snagged in the trees as I hate to think what would have happened if it had landed on the ground.
,I didn’t wait to look any closer but took off like the wind back to the local police station that I had passed, when I got there it took me a couple of minutes to calm down and then I managed to tell the police what I had just found. They got in touch with the army bomb disposal squad and in short time the area was evacuated and roped off. The army I was told later defused the mine and took it away.
Apparently this strange noise had also been heard by someone nobody was sure what it was and if it was some sort of bomb that had come down where it had landed, but everyone was very pleased that I saw the mine and reported it. I was quite excited about what had happened and told my parents afterwards, my father said you did a good job, but my mother naturally was horrified
A Home Guard experience
As soon as I was old enough I joined the Home Guard and went through all the training in what we were expected to do should the Germans invade Britain.
One exercise I went on was to do with house to house fighting, which we were doing in a partly finished housing site in Mill Hill, I was detailed to give covering fire with a grenade firing rifle and had to camouflage myself, there was a grass ditch at side of the road so I dived in there and as there was a lot of loose grass I decided to cover myself with just my head showing, a perfect covering I thought.
While I was lying there the local milkman came by with his horse and cart and stopped in front of me to deliver his milk (he could not have noticed me lying there for which I was pleased about) while he was gone the horse decided it was hungry and started to eat the grass that was covering me, not only that he also relieved himself at the same time which splashed all over me, I gave a yell and jumped up scaring the horse which took off at a great speed down the road with the cart , all the bottles rattling, some falling off, and. with the milkman who had just returned after his delivery, running after it calling the horse all sorts of names to stop which he eventually managed to make it do, then coming back to me to say some rather nasty things at what I had caused..
My platoon sergeant who came by to see what the ruckus was about and saw me rather wet and smelling not too good into the bargain, couldn‘t stop laughing neither could the rest of the platoon when they found out what happened and saw me all wet with bits of grass stuck to my uniform.
My mother told me to keep out of the house when I returned home until I changed in fresh clothing. The odour would not go away and I had to get a new uniform from the QM stores where again to my embarrassment I had to explain what happened to me. It took a long time for me to live this episode down! .
1942 I was still studying to be a mechanical engineer at and was possibly in theory exempt from military service, but on turning eighteen I decided to volunteer for the RAF. I was accepted and soon after orders came for me to report to Euston House to collect my travel documents for Penarth in South Wales for Primary Training , When I reported in with the rest of the intake we were told we were being put on Deferred Service as the RAF now had too many volunteers to cope with
So after all that excitement I was back in “Civvy Street” waiting for a recall which I hoped would not be too long in coming.
What I did get a few months later much to my annoyance was my call up for the army ,I immediately went to the RAF recruiting station at Euston House to complain and found some others like me there. We were told too bad that although we were on deferred service technically we not in the RAF so into the army you go!
Reluctantly I went to Canterbury and did my 6 weeks basic training again ,then posted to the East Surrey regiment for my Corps Training after which I posted to my battalion in the 3‘mortor platoon of “S“ company.
Until I went overseas it was the usual round of training, route marches, schemes etc
When we received our overseas postings we were issued with tropical kit including Solar Topees, so we all thought it’s the far east
Images in Hendon
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