Bombs dropped in the ward of: Ravenscourt Park
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Ravenscourt Park:
- 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 Ravenscourt Park
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by Roland Hindmarsh (BBC WW2 People's War)
By now we were well into the open ocean and meeting with the full strength of the Atlantic swell. The ungainly shape of the carrier tilted first this way - and then that - in a long rhythm of pitching and rolling quite different from the Manchester’s responses to movement caused by the sea. The Victorious, with a displacement of about 22,000 tons, rode the swell heavily, ponderously. It was while I was peeling spuds, perched in a kind of balcony projecting from the ship's side about half way between the waterline and the flight deck, that I first realised how slow and extensive was the ship's motion.
The sequence tended to be like this. For ten or fifteen seconds we would be almost on an even keel, as the carrier moved along the line of a trough between two swells, two or three hundred yards apart. As the next swell, always from the west, approached the vessel, she would begin to heel to starboard, and the water surface in front of my balcony would come nearer as I was tilted over more and more towards it. For a moment or two I would be struggling to hold myself on my stool, my feet strongly braced against stanchions at the balcony edge, as I peered down into the blue-black waters only about fifteen feet below. Then the swell would lift the great mass of the carrier on its shoulders, and pass underneath it. The Victorious would begin to right herself, come back to vertical, and then, as she slid down the back of the swell, roll slowly over to port. Now I would be raised on my balcony sixty or seventy feet above the water, and look out into the sky, or across at one of our escorting destroyers rolling and butting her way through configurations of minor waves that complicated the overall pattern of the swell. The huge mass would finally smash down into the next trough, and then sluggishly right herself, before running on an even keel for a while and then recommencing the same sequence.
As I was out in the open air, and on the lee side of the vessel, I was able to withstand this motion better than I had feared. I think I vomited briefly a couple of times, and then learnt how to adjust my breathing to counteract the effect of the roll, taking in air as she fell away under me, and expelling it steadily as she rose. I found it easier to stand than sit, for then I could tilt my body against the ship and remain more or less upright. So I placed my two buckets between my feet - one bucket with the unpeeled spuds in, the other with rinsing water and peelings in it. Facing forward to help me gauge the ship’s movement by the swinging of the bows, I did my share of the work as a scullion, becoming increasingly proficient at it.
Another skill I acquired was the art of going up and downstairs in heavy weather. I learnt that it was a pointless expenditure of effort to try to climb up the metal stairs of a companionway when the deck was rising, for my body felt twice as heavy as normal, and each step was heavy labour. If I waited till the deck was dropping away, all I had to do was kick my feet in and out smartly as the near vertical stairway feel away below me, and run my hand up the chain at the side to steady myself - and in a trice I would reach the top. The same trick worked in reverse for descending: wait for the ship to be rising under me, and kick my feet in and out as the ladder passed by - and I was at the bottom. In each case I had hardly moved through the air: the ship had changed her position in respect of mine.
Provided the weather wasn't too rough, we were allowed on the flight deck, with lifejackets on. I felt strangely exposed to be walking on that tilting platform, without any guardrail protection at the edge. In sunny spells Coates and I, with others from the fo'c'sle messes on the Manchester, would promenade up and down the length of the deck. In part this was simply for exercise - the Navy made a virtue of moving your bowels once a day - but it was also to give ourselves the space to move more freely than we could between decks, as well as to chat and chaff each other the meanwhile. Some bravado was also involved, for some of us would see how close we dared go aft to the stern edge of the flight deck. There the heaving and movement was accentuated, and staring down into the heaving swell and the ship's wake could induce a sense of vertigo and make you feel as if you were about to be pitched overboard into those powerful waves.
The further north we went, the fewer were the sailors walking the windy flight deck, and the more were the rumours passed around about which port we were making for. Liverpool, said some, but Glasgow seemed more likely. Crewmen of the Victorious believed she was due for repair, which increased speculation, but did not point clearly to where survivors would be disembarked — which was all that interested the sailors in transit. But day after day went by without any land heaving into sight. We knew from the sun we were travelling east, and should therefore see something soon.
When at last the cry went up, we all rushed up on to the flight deck, hunching our shoulders and clustering together against the wind. On our starboard bow was a great green headland, with one whitewashed lighthouse and a small cottage nearby. Surely we had seen that before ...
'It's Cape Wrath!' shouted one of the Manchester men. 'Back to bloody Scapa then!'
There was a groan of disappointment. Rumours flew about wildly: we were going into Scapa to be kitted out on Hoy, and then kept ashore there to await posting to another ship; we were to be transferred to a troop carrier and taken down to Glasgow … But everyone was proved wrong when the Victorious steamed on the whole night. Next morning we were still making way; land lay on our right hand, but the sun told us we were now moving south. Scotland's east coast! This was confirmed when around midday we found ourselves passing Aberdeen, identified by a sailor whose home was in that city. I had been on deck since mid-morning, for the chance to see more of the coastline of Britain was something I didn’t want to miss. Also I was aware that mines might have been sown by an enemy submarine in what was supposed to be a swept channel, and I did not want to be trapped below decks when we were so close to safety.
Around tea-time we anchored off a port. The ship's tannoy told all survivors to gather in the aircraft hangar to await transfer ashore to Arbroath, where a train was said to be ready to take us further south. We were taken away in barges hauled by tugs, and made fast alongside a simple jetty. Dry land again underfoot, and Britain: I had made it. The adventure was complete. But there were no welcoming bands to parade us victoriously into the town: only surly Petty Officers dragooning us into squads to be marched along the dockside and into a railway siding where a number of carriages were drawn up waiting. These looked as if they had been taken out of some dusty storage shed. As we clambered up into them from ground level, we found that we would have to travel four a side, crammed together into the space meant for three. Once we had got in, the doors were locked on us; the temptation might be too great for some to make a break, especially as none of us had any movement papers and thus there was no efficient means of checking on us. So we waited, and waited, until at last an engine came and coupled up and slowly began easing us out of that siding.
The journey south had begun, but we found ourselves stopping frequently, for we were a special train and had to fit into the gaps between scheduled services. Several times we were shoved into a siding to let other trains pass; as they did so, we jeered at the driver and passengers, shouting:
'There's a war on — ain’t you heard?'
The passengers looked back in alarm to see so many ruffianly figures hanging out of the railway carriage windows, only half dressed as seamen. Then we would hear the whistle from our own engine and it would reluctantly puff and sigh and clank, as it again took the strain of the old coaches and their charge of ragamuffin sailors.
We noticed too that there was no question of pausing at any station. We trailed through Perth and then Stirling, many of us casting longing eyes at the railway buffet. The vision of tea and buns grew gradually into images of much more substantial meals, as we approached the border and the evening lengthened into night. Our headway was still desperately slow, and hunger was becoming a major concern; thirst too.
But the train merely dragged on, southwards. Soon sailors were spreading themselves out on the floor for the night. This move, once begun, spread so swiftly that the only bit of flooring I could find was immediately outside a toilet. Throughout the night, as the train clanked on and stopped and started again, men stepped over me, or in their half-awake condition stubbed their toes against me, or kicked me in anger at being in their way. They seemed to come every few minutes to use the loo. By morning I was stiff and bruised, hungry and very thirsty. My tongue was thick and furred, and I felt that the train was some kind of prison, out of which I might never be allowed. We could be shunted into a siding somewhere, and forgotten. Then we would climb out through the windows, I reasoned, and all go absent without leave, or AWOL.
Nevertheless we must have made considerable headway during the night hours. By daylight names on hoardings gave clues that we must by now be somewhere in the home counties and apparently making for London. The mood in the train, however, was becoming quite rebellious, with ugly outbursts of temper between men. We had had nothing to eat or drink since late afternoon in Arbroath. As we shuffled into the outskirts of London around eleven in the morning, we hung out of the windows, trying to attract attention from anyone we could see. At windows of three-storey houses backing onto the tracks women appeared, roused by our shouting:
'How about a cup o’ char, then, love?'
'Just throw us down yer teapot, then!'
'Got a crust o’ bread for a shipwrecked sailor?'
Finally we pulled in at a derelict-looking station somewhere in the Willesden area. There was no-one about but Petty Officers, equipped with keys to unlock the carriage doors.
'Out yer get, then. Look smart! Fall in on the platform!'
Stiff and famished, we stretched our limbs at last in the unwonted space of the platform, ignoring the harrying of the Petty Officers. 'How about some grub, then, Chief?'
'Some char - we ain't drunk since yesterday, not a drop!'
The PO’s looked incredulously at us. It was clear they had no idea what our journey had been like. It soon came out that they had simply been told to stand by for survivors who needed re-kitting. The sailors, especially the older hands, lost no time in telling the PO’s just what the score was, and all pretence of trying to discipline us into three ranks disappeared.
Not far from me a PO was speaking to a group of sailors.
'All the gen we got was to take you from the station to the pusser's stores - that's nearby, only a few hundred yards down the road - and get you kitted out.'
'They got a canteen there, then?'
'Yeah, or a NAAFI?'
The PO hung his head. 'Not that I've seen.'
'Come back from the Med, and this is the way they treat yer!'
By now sailors were breaking off here and there and going to the station toilet, where some cold taps had been found.
'Once we're kitted out,' a Leading Seaman asked, ‘what then?'
'You get a pass for indefinite leave home,' replied the PO.
There was a gasp of satisfaction. 'Home leave!'
'What are we waiting for!'
'Come on - fall in then!'
'The sooner the kitting out's done, we can all get away!'
'Roll on six o' bleedin’ clock!'
'I can just feel that pint goin' down me throat!'
Within minutes we were walking, not marching, along a drab back street of London in some industrial zone, and turned in to a large warehouse. There we shed our survivors' garments (though I kept the paint-stained overalls as a kind of memento of the Manchester) and were issued with the full set of clothing and equipment, just as had happened on my second day in Collingwood. In the warmth of late August we had to try on all the articles to get the right size. But this time the men behind the counter couldn't bully us as they had when we were raw recruits. It was we who did the choosing, and satisfied ourselves that we were getting what suited us. Yet the boots were stiff and squeaked as I walked; the socks were too thick for summer wear; the cap was stubbornly round and would not yield easily to my attempts at wrestling its brim into the shape of my head. The kitbag, filled with all the bits and pieces, was heavy and lumpy. Bearing it on my shoulder, and wearing full uniform for the first time since leaving Scapa for the Med, I moved through to the pay office, was issued with a fresh identity card - retaining my Official Number of PJX 294798 - and paid arrears for July and August, the sum being entered in a new paybook. Last of all I got a travel warrant for the underground journey to Turnham Green station, and a pass saying 'On indefinite leave'.
I must have had a cup of tea and a bun at a station somewhere; I have a feeling I passed through King's Cross. That would have meant taking the tube to Hammersmith, and then the familiar District Line train passing through Ravenscourt Park - a glimpse of Latymer, my old school - and of Stamford Brook — crossing the bridge under which I used to walk as a schoolboy every morning and evening - and so to Turnham Green.
It felt strange to be carrying a whole kitbag down the station stairs, so familiar from my adolescence, and turning into Bedford Park again. I had forgotten my parents' new address; all I remembered was that it was close to Mrs Brunsden's house. I recalled that this was 13 Fairfax Road, from visits paid there in the mid-1930s. So I rang the bell.
Mrs Brunsden - long nose, enormous spectacles, tall and bony - opened the door, and gasped.
'Hallo, Mrs Brunsden. I'm looking for my parents' house.'
'Along there,' she managed to say, scarcely able to find her voice at the shock of seeing me suddenly at the door, and in sailor's uniform. 'Nineteen.'
'Thank you.' She stood there, stupefied, so I went down the path and shut the gate behind me, nodding a goodbye to her.
Strangely enough I can hardly remember anything of the moment of home-coming itself. I have the impression that it was my sister who opened the door, and on seeing me whooped for joy. But no memory remains of how my parents responded to my reappearance. I know that they had heard that the Manchester had been lost, and that most of the crew had made their way into internment in North Africa; I am not sure any information had been given about survivors getting back to Britain.
I reached home late in August. The Manchester had been torpedoed on the 13th of that month, and so the journey back must have taken about a fortnight. I remember telling them about the exploits we had been through, and feeling proud to have covered already both the Arctic and the Med. But it felt very strange to be back in Chiswick, where I had spent my early teens in another house, and living again for a while with my father and mother, now a little aged, but still basically unchanged.