Bombs dropped in the ward of: Barnehurst
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Barnehurst:
- High Explosive Bomb
Number of bombs dropped during the week of 7th October 1940 to 14th of October:
No bombs were registered in this area
Number of bombs dropped during the first 24h of the Blitz:
No bombs were registered in this area
Memories in Barnehurst
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Contributed originally by Grayish (BBC WW2 People's War)
This account of my world war II memories comprises extracts from my autobiography (unpublished) which I have linked with explanatory paragraphs.
The account starts when I was aged 8 living with my Mother, Father and younger brother Ian in Baldwyns Park, Bexley on the edge of Dartford Heath.
One Sunday I was out on my roller skates when my Dad suddenly appeared and took me home. War had been declared and everyone thought we would immediately be subjected to heavy air attack. The sirens sounded but nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen for about a year and life went on pretty much as before. They dug up the playground at school and made an air raid shelter and we were all issued with gas masks which we carried everywhere. Dad became an ARP Warden and a battery of heavy anti-aircraft guns was installed on Dartford Heath. After dark a strict blackout was enforced. Dad made plywood shutters for all the windows in the house that prevented any light showing and gave protection against flying glass. Later on an Anderson air raid shelter, named after the then Home Secretary Sir John Anderson, was delivered and installed in the garden. These shelters were assembled from sheets of corrugated iron bolted together and partially buried in a hole excavated for the purpose. The soil dug out of the hole was then piled on top of the shelter which then afforded good protection from everything but a direct hit. When the daylight raids started we would hurry to the shelters, either at home or at school, but later we became inured to the noise of the guns and we would stay out and watch the battles in the sky. Several aircraft were shot down near Baldwyns Park one, a Hurricane, crashed in nearby Joydens Woods and the pilot baled out. We later saw him being taken back to his base in the back of an RAF truck. Many years later we learnt that the pilot was shot down and killed eight days later. Eventually the shelter in the garden filled with water and we had an indoor Morrison shelter named after Herbert Morrison who had taken over as Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security under Winston Churchill. These shelters were made of steel sections bolted together in the form of a large table with a steel sheet forming the top. Wire mesh screens could be clipped to the sides after the occupants had crawled in and a system of steel laths fixed to the sides by springs afforded support to mattresses so that a family of four could spend a reasonably comfortable night.
I had just started my second year at Secondary School when I contracted appendicitis. Whilst still in hospital recovering from the operation I further contracted scarlet fever and was transferred to the Brook Hospital at Shooters Hill.
The Brook Hospital at the foot of Shooter's Hill was built in 1896 to accommodate patients with infectious diseases. Separate wards were provided for each disease, scarlet fever, diphtheria, poliomyelitis etc. the wards being spaced well apart and inter-connected by open walkways. Each ward was on two levels, females on the first floor males below, and was situated in its own grounds in which walking patients could exercise. The wards were spacious with some ten beds arranged down each side and the centre area occupied by the nurses' stations, and tables and chairs where those up and about, which was pretty well all of us once the spots had gone, had their meals. There was strict isolation from the outside world and of course no visitors. All outgoing mail was 'baked' to kill any bugs. Dad sent me maths exercises every week which I worked at and sent back for marking. The night time bombing of London was in progress and some of us helped the nurses put up the blackout curtains every night and for this we were allowed to join them for a late supper. There were no air raid shelters, we put our heads under the pillows and hoped for the best. Occasionally we ventured into the garden where we found a pile of earth heaped against the wall which allowed us to hob-nob with the diphtheria patients next door.
My father worked for Molins in Deptford, manufacturers of cigarette making machinery
The manufacture of cigarette making machines was not regarded as an important wartime industry and the government ordered that the Molins workforce be employed on more urgent work. One result of this was the building of a ‘secret’ factory in a disused sand-pit on Dartford Heath where Molins personnel manufactured ‘Very’ pistols, used for firing signal flares, and aircraft cannon. Dad was transferred to this site, just two miles from home, and of course it made a tremendous difference to his journey to work every day. Instead of many changes on public transport he now went by bicycle, although this did not mean he was at home any earlier since large amounts of overtime had to be worked. The factory was designated ‘secret’ but you only had to follow the noise of the cannon being tested, a Hurricane wing was installed for this purpose, to find its location. However it was beautifully camouflaged from the air. I was taken to the top of the sand-pit one day and you just could not see the place even being right on top of it. An enormous net had been draped across to form a false floor to the pit and with a few gorse bushes placed over it the factory was invisible. After the war Molins gave up the factory and Dad had to return to the Deptford site in Evelyn Street.
The Dartford and Crayford area contained many factories engaged on ‘war work’ and various methods of hiding them from enemy air attack were adopted. One of these was the use of smoke screens. The prevailing wind determined that the smoke generators should be sited in our area. These crude paraffin burners were positioned every few yards all along our local roads. They were lit at night and apart from the smell, which was appalling, the spillage of paraffin from the daily refuelling gradually caused a black oily stain to spread all over the pavements and roads. Another consequence of our closeness to an important industrial area was the requirement to show our identity cards when travelling. If we took the bus to Dartford it stopped on the Heath, just by the army camp containing the anti-aircraft guns as it happened, and a policeman checked everyone's card. While we waited we could check the performance of the guns on the nearby notice board which showed the number of enemy aircraft they had shot down.
In 1944 we moved home to a larger house in the same area of Bexley.
We installed our Morrison table air raid shelter in the downstairs bedroom in the new house and when a bad raid appeared imminent we crept inside. This bedroom became to be called the shelter room and retained that name, much to the bemusement of visitors, until my parents moved away in 1958. Sometimes the raiding aircraft dropped a flare, either as a guide to following planes or to illuminate the countryside below in an effort to ascertain their whereabouts. The gunners on the Heath tried to bring these flares down using a small calibre gun firing tracer shells and we sometimes stood on the doorstep to watch. Loud cheers greeted a direct hit and the fact was duly posted on the camp side notice board.
We were fortunate to live on the edge of the main target areas and although a few high explosive and incendiary bombs fell in the vicinity, mostly jettisoned by pilots anxious to head for home, no serious damage was done. The main hazard was falling shrapnel from the explosion of the anti-aircraft shells. Jagged chunks of metal would litter the ground after a raid and the larger pieces, if they hit a roof could easily smash several tiles. Damaged roofs were repaired with any tiles available and these were invariably of a different colour to the originals. Houses wore their multicoloured patched roofs with pride. The shrapnel together with the remains of incendiary bombs were gathered up and most households had a sizeable collection.
One night soon after we moved we realised that the engine noise from aircraft overhead was suddenly stopping and was followed by an enormous bang. The pilot less flying bomb, Hitler’s V1 secret weapon was being used for the first time. These ‘doodle bugs’ as they came to be known were quite indiscriminate. They were launched from sites near the French and Dutch coasts in the general direction of various British cities and the engine timed to cut out when the target was reached. The plane would then glide down and explode on contact. Various defensive measures were taken. We had become used to seeing the hundreds of barrage balloons deployed around London, their tethering cables designed to rip the wing off a low flying aircraft. We were astonished to see that overnight the entire barrage had been removed. They were now deployed along the coast as a first line of defence against the new attack. As we had watched the dogfights of the Battle of Britain from our back garden in Baldwyns Park we could now watch the doodlebugs fly over from the roof of our coalbunker in our new garden. If the engine of an approaching V1 cut out before it reached us we dived for cover. If it passed overhead still running we could watch it in relative safety although some were known to double back on themselves.
In the Summer of 1944 my mother and brother and I spent the summer holidays with my uncle’s family in Rowlands Castle in Hampshire.
Although the raids at home continued and Dad reported that all our back windows had been blown out it was decided that we should return home at the end of the summer. The story is that on the day we returned the first of another of Hitler’s secret weapons, the V2 rocket, fell on London. The V2 was a rocket-propelled ballistic missile with a range of just over 200 miles and a high explosive payload of about a ton. There was no defence against these things, they fell apparently at random, you couldn’t hear them coming until after they had hit the ground and exploded, so we tended as far as possible to ignore them. Ian and I were cycling home one day when we were blown to the ground by the explosion of a nearby V2. It had fallen in soft ground and we were showered by stones and earth but we were unhurt and after brushing ourselves down we continued home.
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