Bombs dropped in the ward of: South Norwood

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Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in South Norwood:

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 South Norwood

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

Letter writing during the Second World War

During the early days of the Second World War many men and women from the age of 18 onwards either volunteered or were conscripted into the Armed Forces. For most, it was the first time they had ever been separated from family for any length of time.

It was felt that one thing that could be done to counteract possible feelings of separation or loneliness among serving members of the Armed Forces or those left at home was to encourage letter writing. Many local newspapers played a part in this strategy by encouraging people to write in and find a 'Pen Pal' and exchange letters. One of the local newspapers who did this was the 'Norwood News', whose main circulation area covered an area of south London including Norwood, Thornton Heath and Croydon.

Norwood Newspaper

One of those who wrote took up this invitation and wrote asking for a 'Pen Pal' was a Leading Aircraftswoman in the WRAF Marie Cranfield, originally from South Norwood, London. In 1942 Marie was 19 years old. By co-incidence, her letter went to soldiers in the Royal Army Medical Corps one of whom was Marie's first cousin Clifford English.

Ronald Ritson, who was one of Clifford English's best friends in the Medical Corps, read Marie's letter. Ronald was originally from Scilly Banks, near Whitehaven in what was then the county of Cumberland. Scilly Banks was a small village of about twenty dwellings and a Brethren Chapel. It is now in the county of Cumbria.

Pen Friends

Ronald and Marie started to write to each other and exchanged photographs. Things stayed like this for a while. Then Cliff English left the Unit and was posted elsewhere. This is how Ronald explained it to me on one occasion:

‘‘Well then, there was this young fellow that I had met up with in Aldershot. They called him Private Clifford English. Now, he left us after a while. I don’t know where he went to start with. I think he finished up in North Africa and Italy. We were training up at Inverness then.’’

‘‘But while I was in Inverness, I got another letter from my future wife. She told me that she had met her cousin, who was Private Cliff English then. He made corporal later on. Anyway, they must have got talking, and he had likely given her my pedigree, I suppose! So she sent me another letter and I sent a letter back, and so on. We kept in touch.’’


The two Pen Pals, Marie and Ronald, kept writing to each other for some time. After a while, Ronald’s Unit was moved from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands to near Portsmouth on the South coast of England. This is how Ronald explained to me what happened next:

‘‘So when we went down near Portsmouth, they used to let us have some weekend leave. But, living so far away in Cumberland, I just couldn't take any extended leave. However, I could take a twenty-four hours leave. So I went to Marie’s Mam and Dad's place in South Norwood and stayed there for twenty-four hours in London.

This was when we first met, really. Otherwise, we had just been pen-friends up until then. My future wife's family were called Cranfield, so she was called Marie Cranfield. I must have spent about three weekends with them I suppose.’’

Marie’s home address was 47 Huntley Road, South Norwood, London SE25. Ronald’s letters were sent either to that address or sometimes to a different address depending where Marie happened to be billeted by the WRAF, such as Eastcote, Ruislip. Eventually, in 1944 Marie and Ronald became engaged, as Ronald explained:

‘‘Now, when we used to meet up, we used to talk about getting engaged. Well, I wasn't too keen really to begin with. Mainly because I said to her that I didn't think I would come back! Marie asked me why I thought that.’’

‘‘So I said "Well there's going to be this going overseas. I have two brothers at home so I'm the only one that's come into the army." Being among the first to go across into the war zone that turned out to be Normandy, I didn't think I'd have much chance coming back alive. However, we did get engaged before D-Day. It was before D-Day.’’

Letters from the Frontline

Ronald took part in the Normandy Landings and landed at Sword Beach on 8 June 1944. He subsequently travelled through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Writing letters home became even more special when Ronald was with the colours on active service in mainland Europe. When I asked Ronald about letter writing from the Front line, this is what he said:

‘‘I used to write home to my father and mother and my two brothers that were at home at that time, Tom and Joe. Then I used to write to my Pen Friend Marie in London, who was by then my fiancée.

Of course, as you know, Marie later became my wife. I think we did pretty well really getting letters through. They might have been held up sometimes but this was probably for some good reason. But generally with letters, they did get through.’’

On the evening of Tuesday 11 July 1944,Ronald wrote a letter while in his camp at Plumetot, Calvados. Just a few hours before Ronald had driven his CO Major Hargreaves into newly-liberated Caen and witnessed scenes he later told me were ‘indescribable’. In the letter he mentions none of this. In a wartime frontline letter, specific references to places and names are avoided. This is a transcript of that letter addressed to ‘2033627 ACW1 M.F. Cranfield, London’:

‘‘Private R. Ritson,
7517826, RAMC,
26 Field Hygiene Sect.,

Tues 11 July

My Darling Marie,

Today I have received another of your most welcome letters. I‘m pleased you are keeping fine, as I am in the best of health. We all feel much better and happier since the day we landed.

Today we had bread for the first time since we left England and it was nice and fresh. I think it had been baked here by the Army. But it was lovely. Of course all our other food is in tins. It’s very good, but nothing like the food cooked at home.

Well darling I hope you have heard from your Mum and Dad. But I have a feeling they will be much safer where they are for the time being.

The letter which I have received is dated Friday 7 July. So it hasn’t taken very long has it dear? Now they are coming in by air, it’s very good.

I hope you are getting some of my letters dear, also a few bars of chocolate which I sent off over a week ago. And I have sent lots of letters off, so I do hope you are getting some darling.

We have still got our wireless, and get some good music on. It’s grand to know it’s coming from home. We have just heard General Montgomery on the wireless and should say a recording from over here, but I think it‘s very heartening. What do you think Marie?

I keep hearing from home, and Mother writes to be remembered to you, and hopes you are keeping well and sends her best regards to your people and hopes your Dad is getting much better. I had a letter from my pal and he asked had I brought you out there, and says I must take you up there even if it is on my next leave (if we get any). Even my relations always ask about you. So you are going to be very welcome no doubt.

There are one or two of my old pals over here, some were from my own village. It’s rather funny with only being a few houses there are three of my pals, four including myself and I have a feeling there is another one which must make five. So, it’s quite a lot considering there are only twenty houses there. But I haven’t met any of them yet. I may do, one never knows.

Well darling, I think that is about all I have for the moment. So in the meantime, please take good care of yourself and keep your chin up. I’m always thinking about you, darling. So Cheerio for now and the best of luck.

All my love,


On Thursday 8 February 1945, Ronald and Marie married at St Chad’s Church, South Norwood, London. Mainly because they were originally ‘Pen Pals’, the story of their wedding was the lead story in the local Norwood newspaper, ‘Norwood News’ published on Friday 16 February 1945. Both of them continued to serve in the Forces until in November of that year Ronald was released to return to his former job as a coalminer at Walkmilll Colliery, Moresby Parks in what is now Cumbria. Originally, because of housing shortages, they had to live in the same cottage as Ronald’s parents and younger brother at a place called Scilly Banks. Although there was no Mains electricity, they were able to obtain fresh food and there was candlelight, oil lamps, running water and a battery-powered ‘wireless’.

Marie and Ronald saved virtually all of their wartime letters in a box. From time to time they would look through the letters, read them again and think of past experiences, both good and bad. During the war, many of the letters were shown to close friends in their unit when they were received. However, after the war probably only Marie and Ronald ever read these personal wartime letters.

Some years later Marie and Ronald decided to place their wartime letters into a sealed box and place it in the ground. Although the exact location where they buried the box is unknown, it is thought this may be in the Scilly Banks / Moresby Parks area in Cumbria, near their first home. .

As with many others with experiences of World War Two Marie and Ronald talked very little about their wartime experiences to others, and especially the post-war generations. The main reason was that no-one asked them! They retained several items to remind them about wartime, such as photographs, the newspaper article about their wedding and a couple of letters they had written.

It was some time after Marie passed away in 1990 that Ronald told me about his wartime experiences to help with my research for a university project. It was only then I learnt, and perhaps began to understand for the first time, the extent that World War Two was indeed a «People’s War». Everyone who lived through those times must have had experiences that should be recorded and remembered. In Marie and Ronald’s case, Normandy and Norwood were two places that would always remain in their memories.

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


Some years ago I was researching the Battle of Normandy and World War Two for a university project. I asked one of my uncles for assistance as he had served with the RAMC during the war, taken part in the Normandy Landings, Battle of Normandy and other battles before V.E. Day on 8 May 1945. During the World War Two he was 7517826 Private Ronald Ritson, RAMC. He signed a form to say I could write about the events of his life, that they could be donated to an archive that could be read by others.

One day, Ronald said to me “You do know I was two days late for my own wedding?” When I said I didn’t know of this, Ronald told me about the events in February 1945 when he married his fiancée. During the war she was known as 2033627 ACW1 Marie Florence Cranfield. Unfortunately, by the time Ronald told this to me Marie had passed away. Hence I was unable to record Marie’s version of events that, looking at retrospectively, seem unusual even for World War Two.

However, Ronald did have a contemporaneous copy of ‘Norwood News’ dated 16 February 1945 that had featured Marie and Ronald’s wedding as the front page lead story that day. I have used these and other sources to write the account of Marie and Ronald’s wedding. I believe it is an accurate account of what happened based on the evidence.


One of the things that the official authorities encouraged during World War Two was writing letters. For many people it was the first time many young people had been away from home for any length of time. Many local newspapers played a part in this strategy by encouraging people to write in and find a ‘Pen Pal’ and exchange letters and even photographs. One of the local newspapers that helped with this was ‘Norwood News’. Its main circulation area covered an area of south London covering Norwood, Thornton Heath and Croydon.

In 1942 Leading Aircraftswoman Marie F. Cranfield was 19 years old and was one of those who started writing to a ‘Pen Pal’. By chance this was a Private Ronald Ritson a soldier in the Royal Army Medical Corps who came from the small village of Scilly Banks near Moresby Parks in what was then Cumberland, and today is in Cumbria. By further coincidence, one of Ronald’s best friends in the RAMC was one of Marie’s cousins, Private Clifford English, also from South Norwood, London.

It was through Cliff English that Marie and Ronald met in person for the first time. Eventually, early in 1944 they became engaged. Marie continued to serve with the WRAF in the London area including, it is believed, a posting at RAF Uxbridge. For his part, Ronald landed at Sword Beach, Calvados (Normandy) on 8 June 1944, eventually moving into Belgium and the Netherlands.

Wedding plans

Throughout the period while Ronald was in Normandy and Marie in Norwood, they continued writing to each other on an almost daily basis. Marie and Ronald began to make plans for their wedding and began putting aside a little money to pay for it. Ronald’s four shillings a week (20 New Pence!) was no use to him while in Normandy.

On 17 June 1944 Ronald received a little help to arrange things from his Commanding Officer, Major Hargreaves. The CO wrote to Mrs Hargreaves, also back home in Britain, asking her to assist Marie and Ronald to set up a Post Office Savings Account and arrange Ronald’s magnificent sum of four shillings a week to be paid into it. This was a small act of kindness by Dr and Mrs Hargreaves that was never forgotten. It is recorded here so that it is acknowledged and also that others will know how important such apparently insignificant acts were during World War Two.

Wedding plans

Eventually, in the New Year of 1945, Marie and Ronald were able to set a date for their wedding day. By this time Major Hargreaves had left Ronald’s Unit to take up a Staff job in Paris. By this time Ronald’s Unit, 26 FHS, was in the Netherlands, close to the German border and the Siegfried Line. So it was that Major B. Mann, the new CO, kindly arranged that he could have leave, travel to London and marry Marie.

Naturally, with Ronald at the frontline in Europe, it was Marie and her parents and sister who made virtually all the arrangements. The wedding was arranged for Tuesday 6 February 1945 and would take place at St Chad’s Church, South Norwood. The reception was booked for the Hol-Mesdale Road Baptist Church. Marie had a wedding dress made and also one for her sister Joyce who would be bridesmaid. By coincidence, Marie’s cousin and Ronald’s friend Cliff English had won a five week’s ballot leave from the Sanitation Section of the RAMC he was then serving with in Italy, so he too would be at the wedding.

With it being wartime, only a few of Ronald’s close family were able to travel to London for the wedding. They lived over 300 miles away near the West Cumbrian town of Whitehaven. In wartime sometimes even the closest of relations were unable to attend family events such as weddings, christenings or funerals if they were needed elsewhere for the war effort. Ronald himself had been unable to obtain leave for his brother Tom’s wedding earlier in the war. Nevertheless, Ronald’s mother and two brothers were able to travel to London for the wedding.

The Wedding Day

Ronald should have arrived at Norwood on Monday 5 February the day before the wedding. His relatives arrived that day by train and were accommodated with Marie’s relatives nearby. Ronald however, did not appear. The wedding day came and went and there was still no bridegroom. Nor was there any word from him. In circumstances like this, no news is not good news.

So the arrangements were postponed until the following day. Wednesday came and there was still no bridegroom, and still no word. So the wedding was put off yet again. I asked my Uncle Tom about this and he said, “I said to them I didn’t think he was going to turn up!” My father Joe Ritson remembered he saw and heard a German ‘doodlebug’ for the first time, and that the Londoners just went about their business in spite of it.

Meanwhile, Ronald the bridegroom was rather ‘lost in France’ not knowing what to do. He had got as far as Calais and was then unable to cross the English Channel because of stormy weather. In those days, especially with there being a war on, there was no means of telephoning or sending a message to let anyone know what was going on. The ‘Norwood News’ headline about the event stated,

“Wedding Twice Postponed: The Bridegroom had to wait across the Channel. The Ship was held up until storm abated”

However, while crossing the Channel, Ronald was able to send a ship-to-shore telegram to Marie to say he was on the way. At last, the wedding could go ahead! According to ‘Norwood News’, “It all ended happily for Norwood Pen Friends”.

So Marie Florence Cranfield was married to Ronald Ritson at St Chad’s Church on Thursday 8 February 1945. The priest was a Father Corrocan and the organist a Miss Brown. Tom Ritson, Ronald’s elder brother, was the Best Man and Joyce Cranfield the bridesmaid as had been originally planned.

Somehow, Marie had managed to obtain a white crepe-de-Chine wedding dress, halo and orange blossom and carried red tulips. Her sister and bridesmaid Joyce wore powder blue taffeta with a matching net and carried pink tulips. There was only one photograph of the wedding, of the bride and groom, the bride’s parents, the Best Man and the Bridesmaid. The wedding photograph didn’t even make it into the ’Norwood News’ article!

There were about thirty guests at the wedding. However, because the Baptist Church hall had another prior booking for the Thursday, the guests were entertained at Marie’s family home. Marie and Ronald then went on honeymoon to Ronald’s home village of Scilly Banks in what is now Cumbria. It must have seemed a rather tranquil place after all the events in Norwood! Because of the delayed wedding, Marie had to obtain a few days’ leave extension from the WRAF. She received the telegram granting this leave while at Scilly Banks.


Cliff English, who by this time was a corporal in the RAMC, also got married during this leave, on Saturday 17 February 1945. No doubt that wedding was a rather more organised event than Marie and Ronald’s wedding had turned out.

The events that happened at many wartime weddings seem extraordinary when looked at years afterwards. At the time, and to those who lived through World War Two it may have been that events did not seem so extraordinary, whether they were bad or good. Perhaps this partly explains why for many years I knew hardly anything about what is really a good and happy memory of the war.

Marie’s wedding day, in spite of everything that happened, must have been one of the happiest of her life. Unfortunately, we cannot now ask for Marie’s view of what happened. It cannot have been every wartime bride who had the bridegroom lost in France.

Marie and Ronald enjoyed many years together, living at various times either in South Norwood, London or in and around Whitehaven, Cumbria and had four children. Marie passed away in October 1990 and Ronald in July 2000. I am pleased to honour their memory by writing this memory of World War Two.

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


N.B. Sheila Granger came to visit me, Rosalind Stew in my office at Age Concern Epsom & Ewell. She had heard about your web site but had no access to a computer so I edited her written memories for her down to less than 3,000 words. She has approved this version and asked me to submit it on her behalf. If you need to contact her, send me an e-mail and I will pass it on to her.


In 1939 I was nineteen and living at home with my parents in South London. I had met a young man called Don when I was on holiday in Jersey two years previously and I was there visiting him when suddenly our joy was shattered by the announcement of War. Don enlisted at once and expected to be sent to England but this did not happen and I soon met another fellow, Ralph, who worked at the de Havilland factory. He was a nice chap who took me out a lot and who very much wanted to marry me. Who knows I may well have drifted into marriage with Ralph. In those days marriage was considered to be the ultimate aim for a woman giving her security for her future and in return she would keep house and bear children (to be honest, that part did not very much appeal to me). Due to the war Ralph worked many late nights, which meant I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. I went with my friend, Milly, to the Lorcano (? sp ? Locarno) Dance Hall in Streatham; it is still there by the way but has since changed names many times. Milly had a dancing partner who suggested that he bring along his friend to meet us for a foursome and that of course is how I met Matt (never dreaming that he would be my future husband!).

A meeting was arranged, a blind date! To my delight he was very tall, 6 fit 6 inches in fact, and I a mere cheeky 5 ft! In those early war days we wore gas masks around our necks so we must have looked very silly. We did not strike a rapport immediately but I would say we felt comfortable with each other. It turned out that Matt also had a girl, Ivy, to whom he had been engaged for some years. However, she worked for the Admiralty and had been evacuated to Bath because London was considered to be unsafe in the war. Matt eas therefore lonely and willing to make the date just for a bit of fun and company. Now Matt was a very keen cyclist and loved riding out into the countryside. He missed this form of recreation with Ivy so much that he bought a bicycle for me and coaxed me to go riding with him. It did not take me long to become as keen on this way of life as Matt was. In 1940 Matt was thirty-one and had not yet been called up. We had glorious days out in the quiet countryside (there was no traffic around due to the war). Mutual thinking and a love of the country made our friendship strong. However those friendly feelings became more than just that. We then knew that we had a problem knowing that we wanted to marry. It was easy for me to disentangle myself from Ralph but more difficult for Matt who had been engaged to Ivy for many years. Ivy solved our problem by meeting and falling in love with a South African pilot. One day Matt came to my house with the news that he was a now a free man as Ivy had married her pilot.l He had a few mixed feelings as I imagine it was a bit of a blow to his ego. I had to comfort him and remind him that this was what we had wanted and he soon consoled himself with me. This made me wonder at the time if he was not rather fickle but I have to say that my thoughts could not have been more wrong because Matt was for the fifty years the most loyal, true and loving lover and husband that anyone could have wished for …

Memories race through my mind of lovely days out in the country on our bikes. I remember at one time we having a picnic and cooking sausages on a spirit stove with Spitfires flying overhead engaged in fighting with German aircrafts. It was frightening but quick thinking Matt threw me into a ditch near by and jumped in after me. We could easily have been killed. Despite the war the lovely summer of 1940 will remain in my thoughts for the rest of my life. I was really in love with this nice gentle giant as he was so often called.

Matt then decided that, although he was a printer exempt from war duty, he would volunteer for the Forces. This upset me terribly and I tried to persuade him not to join but he felt he had enjoyed a fairly easy life up to that point and felt it was his duty. The dreaded day came at Easter in 1941 when he was called and sent to Blackpool. I remember thinking how stupid he was to go and that he need not have done so. I did not understand at all. However, having lived with him for fifty years I now realise that he was a man of high moral code and principles. His good character remained with him for the rest of his life, which probably explains why he was so loved by all. He stayed in Blackpool for a year and I travelled up at weekends to visit him. Those were hard days and I do not know how I got through them. I dreaded the thought that he would eventually be sent abroad and perhaps even be killed. When the call for embarkation came we decided to get married at once thinking that if we did not we might never get the chance. He got forty-eight hours leave and a mad rush was on for the wedding with the help of my wonderful mother. Thanks to dear Barbara Cartland who campaigned for brides to obtain the special privilege of having material for white weddings, I already had a wedding gown made and two blue ones for the bridesmaids because we had always planned to get married at some time. A dear vicar of St Luke’s Church at Norwood agreed to marry us at short notice, what seemed like thousands of telegrams were despatched and a photographer was arranged. My husband wore his civilian clothes against the rules and on September 20 we had a lovely white wedding with the sun shining. After the service we went back to my parents’ house where as if by magic many guest had gathered for a wonderful buffet spontaneously arranged by my mother, her neighbour and friends. It was a miracle that they managed to obtain chocolate biscuits, jellies, sandwiches and even a homemade wedding cake with a Union Jack on the top. In the middle of the music and dancing an air raid came with guns going and bombs falling but no one cared and at midnight we were ordered to go off for our honeymoon. Friends lent us their house overlooking Norwood Park but we only had until the next evening when my husband had to journey to Liverpool ready to sail to unknown destinations. After a tearful parting from me Matt was gone. The next time I heard from him he was in North Africa; it might as well have been the moon as far as I was concerned. The worst part of my life followed. For the next four years all I had of Matt were his letters and what wonderful letters they were. I received them four or five times a week. They never stopped coming. They meant so much to me in those dark days when bombs were falling, the terrible V1s and V2s. The letters continued so bright, cheerful and optimistic. The army soon realised that Matt was of officer material and tried to promote him but he turned them down. He did not want the responsibility. Instead he found himself in Italy and North Africa driving around in a lorry delivering water.

Meanwhile I lived in my mother’s large house. She had given us three rooms on the top floor which I furnished and decorated myself. I had help from some Irish workmen who had been sent here to clean up the damage caused by the bombing. I hunted the shops for second hand furniture and soon I had a three room furnished flat ready for my warrior’s return.

I worked from 8 — 5.30 in an office of a perfume making company at the Elephant and Castle to which I travelled by bus from West Norwood. I often had to dodge behind vans for cover from the bombs. I remember one occasion coming home at six o clock when a bomb fell en route and we all had to get off the bus at Herne Hill. We had to go into an underground shelter and stay there all night. We were only a quarter of a mile from home but we were not allowed through and our poor mother worried all night about us but there was no way of letting her know we were safe. I still remember that night. There were no lavatories — only buckets behind a curtain. My sister and I were desperate to spend a penny but we did not want to use those buckets so did not go all night. After that and several other hair raising experiences, I left the job in Walworth and moved to the T.M.C. (Telephone Manufacturing Comapany) where I often worked night shifts but was walking distance of home. I remember one terrible night when the East India Docks were bombed. We could see them blazing from Norwood. We spent many nights in my father’s makeshift shelter which he had made in the place where we stored our coal. We literally slept on blankets on top of piles of coal. On one occasion some houses in our street were bombed — there was glass everywhere. The first thing my mother did was to check the gas so that she could make a cup of tea and then she set to work sweeping up all the glass. Despite the wartime shortages we did not go hungry — we always had bread, biscuits and soy sausages. There was a Civic Restaurant at Norwood which provided a simple, basic cheap meal for the bombed out. We survived the war and eventually my husband returned and we enjoyed fifty very happy years together. Sadl, just eight weeks after the big celebration we held for our Golden Wedding my Matt died leaving me desolate but with a lot of lovely memories and photos.

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Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in South Norwood:

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

Images in South Norwood

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