Bombs dropped in the ward of: Clapham Common
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Clapham Common:
- 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:
Memories in Clapham Common
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by Peter R. Marchant (BBC WW2 People's War)
Don’t tell Adolf about the wonders of country living for a small city boy. Don’t tell Adolf about the exciting playgrounds of the bomb damaged houses. Don’t tell Adolf about the excitement of the search lights and the guns and don’t tell Adolf how he changed my early childhood into an adventure often frightening, but with vivid memories I recall to this day.
My very first ever memories are framed by the war. It must have been sometime in 1940 when I was almost four years old. Our family, my Mum and Dad and my older sister Thelma, were living in a Victorian row house in Clapham, London. This area has now become quite fashionable with house prices equal to my father’s life time income. Then, it was a working class neighborhood, clean and respectable, populated by postmen, mechanics and lorry driver tenants like my father. The only thing I can remember about the interior of the house was the Morrison shelter in the center of the bedroom. There I spent many weeks of isolation with a severe attack of the mumps in uncomprehending discomfort, picking at the grey paint of the cage unable to take anything more solid than my mother’s blancmange and barley water, her remedies for all known human ills. I’m sure my parents were grateful the authorities provided us with a combination bomb shelter, table and sick bed, although I wonder was anyone actually saved by this contraption? This was a time when one’s betters weren’t questioned; my family rarely doubted they must know what was best for us. For those who know only about more serious bomb protection the Morrison shelter consisted of a bed surrounded with stout wire mesh and a steel top on four corner legs about the right height for a table. The idea was to prevent the occupants from being crushed to death under falling masonry, a small sanctuary to wait in, listening for the scrape of shovels and praying to be rescued before the air ran out. In addition to the ugliness and awful paint its major flaw was the assumption that we would all be in bed when the house collapsed, a family so stunted by food rationing that we were able to sleep together comfortably in a double bed. Did Adolf realize the Morrison was part of the propaganda war designed to show the Germans that we English were just as viral as the master race; a people that only needed a tin bed as protection from their bombs?
As I got better I was allowed to play in the garden at the rear of the house. I remember it as long and narrow flanked on one side by the windows of a small factory making parachutes, or bully beef, or some other necessity for killing the enemy. The weather must have been hot as I recall the young women talking to me through open windows. They seemed happy in their factory routine and the pound or two a day they earned which was probably the best money they had ever made. Or were their smiles just for the rather shy little boy they gave the small pieces of chocolate and orange segments then as rare and sought after as black truffles? If there’s a page in the calendar that can marked as the beginning of my generally good relations with the opposite sex it’s probably spring 1940.
There are many more memories that come to me clearly but they are mixed in a jumble of time. It must have been after the serious bombing of London started in summer 1940 that my sister and I were evacuated. We were all caught up in a great sea of events and
if the choice for our parents was having us with them so we could all be reduced to rubble together or safe country life for their children, it was not difficult to decide which train to catch. An adult knows the terrors and uncertainty of the world and has worries beyond tomorrow but a small boy knows only the moment and thinks of an hour as an eternity if an ice cream is promised.
We were sent to live with a Mr. and Mrs. Daniels and their two sons on their small holding at Gidcott Cross, a junction of narrow country roads about six miles from the market town of Holsworthy in the county of Devon. The surrounding country was divided into small irregular fields on a plan lost in antiquity, surrounded by tall hedges topped with thick bushes and occasional trees.
Many evacuees have grim stories to tell and we were very lucky to be in the care of a loving couple who treated us like their own. The Daniels had a few acres near the house and some additional pasture rented nearby. On this they kept a few milk cows, all with pet names, Daisy, Sadie and Jessie, a pig or two and a muddy barnyard full of chickens. A pair of ducks stayed most of the year in a narrow rivulet that ran around the house. A female dog Sally, always ready for a rabbit hunt, followed us around everywhere when she was not ensuring a new supply of terriers. The farm house had, or rather has, as it seems little changed over the years, thick rough walls yearly whitewashed, four or five rooms in two stories under a thick thatched roof. The Daniel’s house was at the foot of gently sloping fields set back from the road with a pig barn on the left and the milking shed and hay storage on the right of the heavy slab stone front path.
Mr. Daniels was a member of the local Home Guard, a group of tough wiry men too old for immediate military service. There were no blunderbusses or pikes, but modern weapons were in short supply. Mr. Daniels had upgraded to a worn double barreled shot gun a deadly weapon in his hands as all the rabbits knew. At lane intersections old farm wagons loaded with rocks were ready to be pushed into a road block. One clever ruse was redirecting the road signs, a confused German being thought better than a lost one. Any one advancing down the road to Holsworthy would find them selves in Stibbs Cross with only one pub, a much less desirable place to take over. The home guard met regularly near our cottage for drill and comradeship. It was so popular that the institution lived on well after the war as a social club. These men knew every blade of grass for miles around and would have caused any German paratroopers much annoyance if Adolf the military genius had ordered landings in this remote corner of England.
When they were not repelling German invaders the Home Guard kept an eye on the Italians in the area. Up the road was the Big Farm, big because it had a barn large enough to house a half dozen trustee Italian prisoners of war working the land. Riding on farm wagons pulled by huge shire horses, as petrol was very scarce, they would stop outside our cottage on their way to the fields. They looked like old men to me though they were just young boys probably not yet 18, endlessly happy to be out of the war, captured by a humane enemy and ending up in this idyllic setting. They carved wooden whirligig toys with their pen knives for me and the nostalgic Italian songs they sang I can hear in my mind to this day.
It was a wonderland for we city kids with farm animals, the open country to explore and no shortages of food. The farm was in most ways self supporting, if you wanted a stew you shot a rabbit or two, or cut the throat of a chicken. I helped with the endless farm chores collecting eggs every day from the nest boxes, when the chickens were good enough to cooperate. Many chickens didn’t appreciate the conveniences we provided and made the job into an adventure searching the hedgerows for errant layers. No tinned or horrible dried food for us, everything was fresh as the vegetables pulled from the ground within sight of the front door. When we eventually returned to London my sister and I were noticeably well fed and quite fat, the battle for my waist line probably goes back that far!
Without modern conveniences it took most of the daylight hours to keep the house running and everybody was expected to pitch in. Another of my ‘helping’ jobs was to help fill the water barrel. With a small boy’s bucket and many trips I walked up the road a hundred feet, to the well hidden in a hedge tangled with wild roses, pushed the wooden cover aside and, after tapping on the surface to send the water spiders skimming out of the way, dipped in my bucket. This taught country ways very quickly and water became a precious commodity to be recycled for many uses until it was finally used to scrub down the flag stone floor. The water was heated in a large black iron kettle hung on a chain over a log fire in the inglenook fireplace the only source of heat in the house. Cooking had changed little over hundreds of years and savory stews and soups were made over the burning logs in large iron cauldrons. There was no electricity or gas in our cottage and finer cooking required Mrs. Daniels skillful fussing with a flimsy paraffin oven in the back room from where emerged a stream of delicious pasties, or covered pies, filled with a range of edibles that would have surprised even a Chinese cook. These pasties were brought out every meal covering the table with a smorgasbord of dishes from ham and egg, potato and wild berries, until finished. The men took them into the fields stuffed in their Home Guard haversacks and with a jug of local cider and after grueling days in the sun bringing in the harvest ate dinner sprawled against the hay stacks. The days ran with the cycle of the sun; the evenings were lit sporadically with a noisy pressured paraffin lantern and bedtimes were shadowy with the light of candles.
I remember my evacuation with the Daniels as an idyllic time although now I detect there must have been a feeling of abandonment and bewilderment long buried. One of my parent’s visits I didn’t recognize the lady with my father as my mother had just started wearing glasses. Later on, another visit, I wandered the lanes all day looking for them on a country walk they had taken and was tearfully relieved to find them sitting in a field eating sandwiches having no idea how upset I was at being left. Evacuation must have had a profound effect on many young children like me. My wife thinks that this experience is the cause of many of my strange ways and quirks of personality although I claim genius has its own rules.
My sister and I were returned to London after a couple of years in the country, the precise timing is vague in my memory. The aircraft bombing was much less now although the sirens still wailed for the occasional raid setting the guns booming on our local Clapham Common. I wish I still had my treasured collection of shrapnel from the antiaircraft shell bursts that rained down razor sharp fragments of torn steel and made being outside as dangerous as the bombing. These would be poignant reminders of this time so distant it feels like another life. Memories of my best friend Basil who always managed to find the pieces with serial numbers, the most coveted in our collection.
I recall one night the warning sirens sounded and the sky was lit by searchlight beams probing for the attackers. Within minutes the street was as bright as the sky, plastered with small oil filled fire bombs. They were everywhere causing small fires in the gardens and on the roofs of our street. One slid through the slates and wedged itself under the cooker of our upstairs neighbour, Mrs. Tapsfield. My father spent the night running up and down the stairs carrying buckets of dirt from the garden and spraying the cooked cooker with a stirrup pump. I can, even now 60 years later, see my mother next morning standing on a chair with a hat pin puncturing the hanging bladders of water filled ceiling paper from the flood upstairs. The fire bombs caused a lot of minor damage but they were all damped down and none of our neighbours lost more than a room or two. For many years after the sheet metal bomb fins would turn up when a new flower bed was dug deep. The trusty stirrup pump gathered dust in the coal cellar ready in case it was of need in another war in the new atomic age.
England was a very grey place with some rationing into the 50’s. For us kids Clapham was a wonderland of bomb damaged play houses and vacant rubble strewn lots. There were complete sides of buildings missing leaving the floors with wallpapered rooms precariously suspended. Bath tubs and staircases were stuck teetering to a wall with no apparent support stories up and the cellars were half filled with debris with only dusty tunnels for access. You can imagine the games these inspired for us boys. A special game was attacking and defending the half flooded abandoned concrete gun emplacements on Clapham Common and exploring the communal air raid shelters dug in the square. If only our parents had known!
How do you remember the events of a war time childhood? Memories are like a damaged film, occasional clear scenes separated by long stretches scratched and out of focus.
Through the often repeated stories distorted by their retelling; by today’s chance incidents that start a flow of thoughts to a half forgotten scene. Was it a page in a book or an E mail from a friend, who can tell the truth from imagination? I cannot be sure of the exact timing and the precise details of my experiences in WW2 they have been rounded off by time, and in this diary I have done my best. Although the accuracy may not be perfect and who can be sure in the valley of the shadow of memory, I hope to have conveyed the atmosphere of my experiences in these anecdotes.
Contributed originally by Jean_Jeffries (BBC WW2 People's War)
First thing I remember of September 1939 is being told we must deny any Jewish family connections.
We lived in a fairly large house opposite Clapham Junction, South London. We quickly moved house to one further from the busiest railway junction in London, which was a prime target.
Our first Air Raid Shelter was the London Transport underground tube station. Bunks had been placed along the platforms and each evening, we would arrive with a few possessions and take our place in a two-tier bunk; the only privacy was a blanket suspended from the top bunk. At this time, my father was a fire-fighter so mum was alone in the Tube with two small children. If one wanted the loo, we all had to go, complete with any possessions - teddy bears and dolls! I was very nervous, not of bombs but of some of the weird people who we were living so close to.
If we were out during the day and a siren sounded, some of the shops would open the trap-door in front of their shop (which was used for deliveries) and we'd scuttle down the ladder. My favourite shop was David Greigs, us kids were spoilt there. I always dawdled outside hoping the siren would sound, never giving a thought to bombs! Then the Government installed the Anderson Shelter for each family. It was sunk into the ground for about 3ft and measured roughly 9ft by 9ft. It had two, two-tier bunks and accommodated our 6 family members with a squeeze. This was luxury after the Tube, but, being below ground level with no ventilation, it was damp and began to smell. Everything went mouldy and I still recognise the smell. I hated the toilet arrangements - a bucket outside for use during a lull, brought inside for use during a raid. During this time, my brother, aged 5, developed asthma and my father T.B., although he was not aware he had it. Dad got his calling-up papers and was turned down on medical grounds, but the examining doctor refused to tell him why or warn him of the Tuberculosis they'd found. I heard my parents worriedly discussing it and I was glad he wouldn't be going to war.
The evacuation of London began. I was ready to go with my gas mask, case and with a label tied to my coat. My brother was too ill to go, so, at the last minute, my mother decided to go also and take him away from London. So we set off for some vague address in Bakewell, Derbyshire. Families in safe areas were ordered to take in evacuees and, in this house, we were resented and made to feel very unwanted. Food, already scarce, was even more so for us. Our mean hostess fed her own family well with the rations intended for us. Within a month we had left and it was years before I ate a Bakewell tart or admitted Derbyshire was beautiful!
Next, we reached an old farm cottage in Bampton, Oxfordshire. Our landlady was a Mrs Tanner, a warm-hearted person who made us welcome with a full meal and a blazing fire - what a difference!
Mrs Tanner was the wife of the local Thatcher. They kept livestock for their own food, as country people did then. Despite being Cockneys, we had come from an immaculate home with electricity, hot water, a bathroom and an indoor toilet. We now found ourselves in this warm, well-fed friendly cottage with friendly bed bugs, kids with head lice, a tin bath hanging on the garden wall and a bucket'n'plank loo in the yard. The loo had a lovely picture of "Bubbles", the Pears advert, hanging on its wall - very tasteful.
On Thursdays, all doors and windows were tightly closed whilst we waited the coming of the Dung men; two gentlemen wearing leather aprons emptied everyone's buckets into their cart. What a job!
My brother was very much worse, skinny and weak with breathing difficulties. He spent time in hospital and mum stayed with him. Mrs Tanner treated me like yet another grandchild and I soon settled happily into my new way of life. Mum asked her if she would take me to the town, a bus ride away, to get new shoes and some clothes. Off we went on what was literally a shop-lifting spree. I was both frightened and excited and sworn to secrecy. Mrs T. kept the money and the coupons and mum was thrilled to have got so many bargains. I never told her! But, when I wore my new shoes or my finery, I always dreaded someone asking me questions. I laid awake at night rehearsing my answers. I was never tempted to try it myself. When I see Travellers, kids, I often think "that was me once". After a year of my idea of heaven, mum decided to return to London to see if the hospitals there could help little Eddie. We got back just in time for The Battle of Britain; I'm glad they waited for us. I was so homesick for Bampton that I even contemplated running away to try to go back. Although I settled down, I still think of Bampton as my home and, after 63 years, I still go back for holidays. Just one year made such an impression on me. It was so carefree and I enjoyed some of the jobs with the animals.
During the time we were away, my dad had carried on with his job and Fire-fighting in London. Our home had gone, so we stayed with an Aunt until we got somewhere to live. Empty houses were requisitioned by the Authorities, who then allocated them to those who needed them. My parents applied for a house, explaining that Eddie needed to be near a hospital, but they were told that, as the father was not in the forces, they did not qualify for accommodation. They were heartbroken as a doctor had informed them that, without a decent home, Eddie would not live long. My father insisted on volunteering for any of the forces, but was once again declared unfit. Eventually, after mum worried them every day, we were given two rooms in a small terraced house, sharing a toilet with another family. There was no bathroom and we were made to feel almost like traitors with frequent remarks directed at my dad. Even at school the teachers singled us out with "anyone who's father is not in the forces will not be getting this" - this could be milk or some other treat we regarded as a luxury. One teacher was so obsessed that today she would be considered mentally unbalanced. A project she gave us 10year olds was to devise tortures for Hitler or any German unlucky enough to survive a plane crash. I cheated and copied one from a book.
Our shelter was now a reinforced cellar. It was dry and spacious and, during heavy bombing, some of our neighbours joined us and we had what I considered to be jolly times together. Food was in very short supply; although we had ration books, there was not always enough food in the shops. I was sent to queue up, then mum would take over while I queued again at the next shop with food, where we repeated the pattern. I once reached the counter before mum got there; we were waiting for eggs. I got 4 eggs in a paper bag and, as I left the shop, I dropped them. Carefully carrying them back to the counter I told the assistant she had given me cracked eggs. I was shouted at and called a lying, nasty little girl but managed to obtain 4 replacement eggs. I just could not have told my mum I'd broken them.
A neighbour of ours was a fishmonger, poulterer and game merchant. He sometimes had rabbits for sale; they were always skinned and usually in pieces. After bombing raids, there were often cats straying where their home was destroyed, or dogs wandering about the streets. We think our fishmonger solved this problem. I believe most women realised the meat wasn't quite what they wanted but had to have some meat to put in the stew. Luckily we had a vicious wild cat I had taken in and being so spiteful, she lived a long and happy life, occasionally bringing home a piece of fish. How she managed this I don't know. Could it have been bait for a lesser cat?
School was rather a shambles. We had our classes in a shelter, that is 2 or 3 classes at a time; as there was insufficient room for all the children we had mornings or afternoons only. The other class we shared our shelter with always had such interesting lessons! I feel awful about admitting this but the education system was so easy to play truant from. If you didn't turn up they assumed you'd been bombed or sent away to safety. A couple of friends and I used to ignore the danger of air raids and go to the centre of London where we could be sure of meeting American servicemen. We begged for gum or chocolate from them, then had to eat or hide it before going home. At no time did we ever think of how our families would have no idea where we were if we never came back. It's rather frightening really. Our excursions came to an end when, on a very wet day, mum came to meet me from school with an umbrella. After waiting until all the kids had left, she went in to see our teacher who said I had not attended for some time and thought I had gone back to Bampton. Boy, did I get a beating! She was as vicious as my cat but not as lovable.
One night we were in our shelter when a neighbour called us to come out to see the incredible amount of German planes that our boys were shooting down. We stood outside in the street and cheered, linking arms and dancing. The next day we heard on the radio that they had not been shot down but were a new weapon - the Doodle Bug. From then on I understood fear. I don't know what triggered it but I joined the ranks of the old dears who swore they recognised one of ours or one of theirs. I henceforth scrambled to get my pets into the shelter as soon as we heard the siren. My dog soon learnt this and was first down; her hearing being keener than ours, she could hear the siren in the next town before ours. Soon we had Rockets. There was no warning with them. The first one we saw was on a summer's evening when my friends and self were practising the Tango on the street corner. We were singing "Pedro the Fisherman" as a whine came from above our heads, followed by a cloud of dust and then the impact and sound of the explosion. Four screaming dancers rushed for shelter. We knew many of the people who had been killed or injured and it seemed too close to us. It never had been safe but we hadn't noticed it before, now I did, worrying, "where did that one land?" "Is it near dad's shop or near our relations?" I guess I'd grown up but it was so quick. I was twelve, learning to tango and worrying about our family. I decided I would join the Land Army as soon as they would let me; I'd heard one no longer needed parents' permission. This was not anything to do with the war effort. I simply wanted my life back in beloved Bampton. My feelings were mixed when the war ended, no more terrifying Rockets but trapped in London with no chance of getting away until I married!
Contributed originally by vegetop (BBC WW2 People's War)
My first memory goes back to the night when the docks were bombed with incendiary bombs and the whole sky was lit up.
My parents and I were walking our dog when the siren sounded and we turned to go back home. Immediately after the siren, we heard the German planes overhead and then, when we were almost home, there was a shrill screaming sound which was getting louder and louder. My father shouted; "It's a bomb" and we all ran as fast as we could to our front door, and as Dad fumbled for the key and opened the door, the screaming sound seemed to be chasing after us and we all fell into the hall in a heap. Then followed a tremendous explosion. The bomb fell not far from our home. My father gave me some sips of brandy to get over the shock. It was my first experience of a bomb and that kind of bomb, a screaming bomb was meant to terrify you.
I remember my mother putting up the thick black curtains at our windows to stop any light showing on the outside and my father putting sticky brown tape across the windows to protect them from bomb blasts.
At night everywhere was pitch black. No lights of any kind were allowed. We had a torch, which had a shade over the top so that it didn't shine upwards.
All the schools in London closed, and most children were evacuated. My mother didn't want me to go, so I stayed on in London. I didn't go to school for a whole year. Then one of our French teachers came back to London and she started giving French lessons at her home.
We lived in an upstairs maisonette, and during the blitz we spent every night huddled under our dining room table to get some protection if the roof fell in. I used to get stomach cramps from crouching under there for so long. Later we started sheltering, with our downstairs neighbours, in the cupboard under their stairs.
Eventually, brick shelters were built in the road with bunk beds in them. Each night at dusk when the sirens sounded, we made our way to the shelter with our blankets. I recall that the shelter had a leaky roof and, if you slept on a top bunk, you had to put up an umbrella if it rained.
My father was in the Police and was stationed in Clapham where we lived. He used to work four weeks at a time on night duty. Mum and I always worried for his safety as the bombs fell. There was also the danger of being hit by shrapnel from the four big guns on Clapham Common.
The noise was unbelievable with the sound of the aeroplanes, the bombs, and the gunfire, which shook our house. After one air raid, when we came back in the morning from the air raid shelter, we found a hole in the roof. A lump of shrapnel had come through and was embedded in the seat of my father's armchair!
The next day, after the night raids, I often went out picking up shrapnel from the streets.
My father would come home with awful tales of his rescue work. I think he needed to talk about it to relieve his stress. One night, when a bomb had fallen quite close to us, he told us that they had been taking arms and legs out of the trees.
He would come home with burned out incendiary bombs for us to see, and he had cut a cord off the parachute of a de-fused land mine and brought that home.
When the London blitz was on the siren would sound every night as dusk fell. It was a sound that tied one's stomach in knots with fear.
One night when Mum and I were crouched under the table, we heard a crash as something hit our guttering. We fled downstairs terrified, and when we opened the front door the whole street was lit up with houses on fire from incendiary bombs. The one which had hit our guttering had luckily bounced off into the garden.
During these raids there was also the constant worry that there would be a gas attack and so, of course, your gas mask went with you everywhere and we would often put it on to practise using it. I remember being very upset because my dog had not got a gas mask and I decided he would perhaps be protected if I put him in my wardrobe during a gas attack. I put a blanket in there and hoped the door was a tight enough fit to stop any gas getting in.
In the next road a large empty house had been taken over by the bomb disposal squad, known as the "suicide squad". The garden of the house was full of de-fused bombs and land mines.
As I said earlier, I had no school to go to for a year during the heavy raids, but when things quietened down a little St. Martins in the Fields High School opened up in Tulse Hill. It was a fee-paying school, but I and four other children in the area were told to go there. As we were scholarship children we were the only children whose parents did not pay fees, which made me feel a bit of an outcast. I was there for over a year.
Then my old school was opened under the new name of South West London Emergency Secondary School and all the children from quite a large area who had not been evacuated went there. I was then fourteen years old.
To get to school I had to cycle across Clapham Common past those four big guns. I used to pray that there would not be an air raid when I was anywhere near them.
The memory of the school dinners remains to this day. Mainly we had salads consisting of grated raw cabbage, raw turnips, carrots and dried potatoes; and at almost every meal the pudding was semolina and jam!
When the sirens sounded we had to go to the sandbagged cloakrooms.
During this time another empty school in Clapham had become a billet for French sailors. On our way home from school my friend and I used to chat to them to try out our French.
American soldiers occupied a small block of flats near the common and several times we spotted one of our teachers on the arm of one of them.
Everyone had allotments at that time to "dig for victory" and part of the common had been allocated for allotments.
My father had one, and my friend and I took one on. We had to dig up the turf first which was a hard job. We worked on the allotment after school and at weekends.
Homework was quite a problem. Many times during air raids I sat on the doorstep doing it until the German planes were overhead, and then I would dash into the shelter.
One night a bomb fell in the High Road between Clapham South and Balham Underground stations making a huge crater. A bus came along and fell into the hole.
That was bad enough, but even worse, the bomb had penetrated the underground tube which ran along under the road and also burst the water main. The water flooded the Underground between the two stations drowning hundreds of people who were sleeping on the platforms believing it to be very safe down there.
My father helped in the rescue operation and bodies were being brought out for weeks afterwards.
My father had tried to persuade my mother to spend our nights on the Underground platforms. I wouldn't be here today if I had!
Later came the flying bombs also known as "buzzbombs" or "doodlebugs".
My first experience of bomb blast happened when I was walking down Balham High Road one day with friends. I looked up and saw a flying bomb above us. We prayed the engine would not cut out. It did, and it started to dive towards us. We flung ourselves flat on the ground and waited for the explosion. It landed very close by and the blast took my breath away, and glass was flying everywhere from the shop windows.
We took our School Certificate or Matriculation, as it was known in those days, during these attacks. We had desks lined up in the aisles of the sandbagged cloakrooms and we did all our exams in there.
It was very hard to concentrate. When the siren had sounded you were listening for the droning sound of a flying bomb and hoping it would pass over. The wait seemed interminable, hoping the engine wouldn't cut out. While writing one of my exams there was a tremendous explosion and my pen went right across the page crossing out all I had written. Afterwards there was the extra worry that my home could have been hit - and were my mother and father safe?
I don't think anyone passed those exams, not surprising under the circumstances!
I won a music scholarship and moved on to the sixth form at Mary Datchelor School in Camberwell where I re-sat the School Certificate exams & was successful that time because things were a bit quieter then.
At about this time the V2 rockets started falling. There was no warning with them so life had to go on with the terrible fear always with you that at any time one could fall on you or your family.
There was one outstanding occasion when, before coming home from school, we had heard a big explosion. When I got off the bus and started walking home there was broken glass and debris along the streets and the nearer I got to home there was more and more debris and damage. I dreaded turning the last corner in case it was our home that had been hit and I knew my mother would have been at home. Luckily we escaped with just blast damage.
Then came VE day. I think I was at school when it was announced that the war in Europe had ended.
We didn't have any street parties but what excitement and mainly relief that all our worries were over at last.
Contributed originally by heather noble (BBC WW2 People's War)
THE SUMMARY OF CAROL AND VIVIENNE’S STORY —
“TWINS” - differs from the other girls in so much, that whilst they grew up enjoying the company of a sister, they were sadly denied the company of a Father, as when they were just 3 weeks old, he was tragically killed in Anzio, Italy. Their Mother’s struggle to survive in the post —world war of scarcity on a widow’s pension, which also had to meet the needs of her two growing daughters, and how she overcame her difficulties to successfully create a happy home for them all, is movingly told by the twins. In those days, when Wandsworth and Clapham Common were — in parts — still countrified suburbs, they have also told of how, whilst growing up there, they roamed freely and safely over them, recalling their many “attractions”, from H.M Prison to the Boating Pond! They conclude with an account of their Mother’s pilgrimage to Anzio, over forty years later, to visit their Father’s grave, when at last she was able to say goodbye. . .
CAROL AND VIVIENNE’S STORY - Unlike the other girls, who did not have the pleasure of growing up in the company of a sister, we did have each other. But sadly, we were never to know the company of a Father. As when we were just 3 weeks old, he was tragically killed in Anzio, Italy.
Our Father William Budd, had been born in South West London, as had our Mother Rose Collins. So upon her marriage on August 5th, 1939, at “St Michael’s Church”, Wandsworth Common, she charmingly, became known as “Rose Budd”!
They set up home in the lower part of a house on Clapham Common, where they lived for most of the war.
Our Father was employed as an aircraft fitter at “British Aerospace” in Kingston, Surrey, whilst our Mother “did her bit” working as one of a chain of fire-watchers. Sitting aloft on roofs, balconies and such-like, which did duty as their “headquarters”, they kept a lookout for incendiary bombs and similar substances — reporting any incidents to the local fire service.
Then in September, 1943, our Father was called up for active service and was subsequently sent to Canterbury, Kent for four months training.
During this time, our Mother finding herself pregnant, decided to join him — living in “digs” in the city — so they could meet on his weekly days-off from the camp.
On completion of his training in January 1944, they parted — he to join his regiment “The Sherwood Foresters” as a Lance Corporal — and she, back to their Clapham home.
By the Spring of 1944, the worst of the London raids had eased off, and the new terrors of the “Doodlebugs” were yet to come, nevertheless, pregnant women were still routinely sent out of London to the peace of the countryside to give birth. And so it was, our Mother found herself safely installed in a Nursing Home in the Roman city of St. Albans, Hertfordshire, to await the arrival of her first child. But much to her surprise, in the event, she gave birth to two!
On March 18th 1944, as Germany entered Hungary — the pair of us entered the world. Carol led the way, followed three quarters of an hour later by Vivienne — each of us weighing in at four pounds exactly.
Immediately, a telegram was dispatched to Lance Corporal Budd’s regiment, informing him “That he was now the Father of TWIN daughters!” He replied saying, “That he couldn’t wait to get home to see us all”. But sadly, it was not to be. On April 6th, 1944, whilst fighting in hand-to-hand combat in Anzio, he — together with the entire battalion — was killed. He was 28 years old.
Although utterly devastated at the tragedy that had befallen her, it seems that — after three months convalescence in Hertfordshire - our Mother began to tackle her difficulties with commendable courage, as she tried to come to terms with her new, sad situation back in her Clapham home, where we grew up. .
On August 6th, 1945, the first Atomic bomb was cast upon Hiroshimahi by the U.S.A devastating the city and killing 75,000 Japanese citizens. Then on August 9th a second one was dropped on the city of Nagashi - codenamed “Big Boy” by an American Super Fortress aircraft - killing a further 65,000.
Thus it was that on August 14th at midnight, the new British Prime Minister Clement Atlee, announced to the Nation on the wireless, “That the Japanese has today surrendered and the last of our enemies is laid low”. So with the ghastly power of the atomic bomb, the 2nd World War finally came to an end.
Of course there was universal relief that soon the day would come when the men would be returning home and life for many families’ - after almost six long years of separation — would return to normal.
It can only be imagined the overwhelming sense of loss that our Mother must have felt, that for her, that day would never come. But despite her shattered dreams, with the help and support of our parents large, extended families’, she successfully went on to create a happy home for us all.
During our early years, she decided to be “a-stay-at-home-Mum”, and as she had to be both Mother and Father to “her twins”, the bond between the three of us was unusually strong. But it was not until much later, that we realised just how much we owed to her constant care, companionship and incessant love.
Looking back now, we realise what a terrible struggle she must have had as a young woman trying to make ends meet in a world of scarcity on the pittance of a widow’s pension, which also had to meet our own growing needs. As it was necessary for both of us to have clothes and shoes at the same time, nothing could be handed down. Although she did receive extra help in the form of a small bursary from “The Church of England Children’s Society”, she later told us that at one point, when our Father’s savings had been depleted, she was left with only one shilling in her purse. And she did not know whether to put this into the electric meter, or to buy a loaf of bread, until her pension was due the next day.
Nevertheless, despite her many anxieties and lack of money, we all managed to enjoy life in a quiet way.
As we were fortunate enough to live on Clapham Common and our Grandparents lived on neighbouring Wandsworth Common, daily, Mother wheeled us across them in our large twin pram and later, the pair of us spent many happy hours roaming freely and safely over these wide open spaces. Between us, on our expeditions to and fro, we made some interesting discoveries.
The area surrounding Wandsworth Common, which was originally developed in Victorian times, even by the 1940’s, in parts, still resembled a countrified suburb.
The top of the Common was generally considered to be the better part! Threaded with footpaths, over which we followed, secret gardens, belonging to the “big houses”, could be glimpsed in the roads in-between, where the two Commons — Wandsworth and Clapham — merged.
As well, we explored the little parade of shops, the cemetery, and the railway station — waving to the passengers on the passing trains further down the line - and of course, the ubitiquious bomb sites, which sadly abounded in those post-war days.
Hidden behind some large gates, there was what was then called ”Springfield”, known locally as the “Lunatic Asylum. Complete with its own farm, sometimes, the patients could be seen working here.
There was also Wandsworth Prison, which was as large as a village, originally built with streets of Wardens houses and gardens. And beyond its high walls, lay acres of open ground, which was leased for bowls and tennis courts, where many of us later played.
The façade of the prison was impressive, like a fortress with huge main gates resembling a medieval castle. These gates had a small door let into them and now and again, a notice was posted there notifying the public of when a murderer was to be hanged! Often, on the appointed day, a small crowd collected outside waiting for the dreadful deed to be done.
In contrast, the attractions on Clapham Common were of a very different kind!
As Spring unfolded, we looked out for the early catkins on the budding hazel trees and in Summer, we took our picnics of bread, jam, fairy cakes and a bottle of homemade lemonade and played such simple games as — “film stars”, hop-scotch and skipping.
On sunny, weekend afternoons, families’ flocked to the popular bandstand. Here, the grown-ups sat in deckchairs to listen to the music, whilst we children sailed our toy boats or fished for “tiddlers”in the nearby pond. Then there was the annual arrival of
“The Horse Shows” and the excitement of “The Circus” with its impressive Big Top, which dominated the common.
On misty Autumn days, we walked through the rustling leaves, collecting acorns and conkers and later when the common was covered with snow, the foggy smell of the winter’s coal fires, caught our throats.
Our diet, compared to children’s of today, would be considered very, plain. But we were lucky - that even when our Mother later began working part-time - there was always a well cooked meal awaiting us when we returned home from school. We well remember her savoury suet, roly-poly puddings, dumplings, casseroles and pastry —topped pies, prepared from our meagre meat allowance, which unlike other commodities, were rationed by price, not weight. From 1941, the weekly allowance for an adult, was one shilling and for a child sixpence, and fell into two categories. A= the more expensive joints and B= the cheaper cuts. These were mainly used for stews, or put through the kitchen mincer for rissoles and cottage pies.
Then of course, there were the American “Lend Lease” tins of “SPAM.” Used cold in sandwiches and hot in fritters, all these, became familiar fare to children of our generation.
Beside the usual seasonal fruit and vegetables, of a limited variety, found in the local greengrocers, there was also garden fruit, starting with the early rhubarb and gooseberries and continuing through the Summer months to the last late plums and apples. Blackberries too, were collected for bottling and jam making and were stored in our larders for use in the Winter months.
Alas, our home during those long, bitter Winter’s of the 1940’s were extremely chilly indeed. We could only afford one open coal fire in the living room and an oil heater in the hall, which made smuts when it smoked, and in the dark, made interesting patterns on the ceiling. And the pungency of the paraffin lingered on well into the Spring!
Our bedrooms, being totally unheated, all too frequently had icicles hanging from the INSIDE of the windows, when the temperature fell below zero!
Needless to say, there was little money left over for luxuries, so we did not have a telephone or a television set. But we all enjoyed listening to the wireless together, to such programmes as — “Listen With Mother”, with Daphne Oxenford, “Children’s Hour”, “Children’s Favourites”, Dick Barton” and later “Life With The Lyons”.
There was always a warm welcome awaiting us in both of our Grandparent’s homes and however busy they were, each of them could spare time and love for us.
As sometimes happened with twins back then, Carol had the misfortune to be born with Talipes, a distortion of the foot. So, frequent visits to “Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children” were necessary for treatment and for the fitting of special shoes. On those days when our Mother accompanied Carol to London, Vivienne looked forward to staying behind with our paternal Grandparents. Here, we remember Grandad Budd lifting the kettle onto the kitchen range to boil, whilst Granny Budd knelt in front of the fire with a toasting fork to make toast for our tea.
Equally memorable, were our weekend visits to the Collins household where we regularly joined our maternal relatives for family occasions.
And so surrounded by affection, the early years of our childhood slipped by.
In the Autumn of 1986, over forty years since our Father’s death, our Mother was at long last, able to visit the war graves on a pilgrimage to Anzio, where he was buried. Arranged by the “British Legion”, she travelled in the company of other war widows with whom she had much in common. None of them had enjoyed an easy life. All had known the tragedy of war and the numbing poverty of its aftermath. And yet, almost all had gone on to build successful lives and loving families.
Thus, it came about, that on a quiet September morning, our Mother finally found herself beside our Father’s last resting place. Alone, with head bowed, she stood motionless for a moment, before gently setting her wreath against his memorial cross. Later, she watched the “Union Jack Flag” being lowered upon it, whilst a solitary bugler sounded the Last Post. Who knows what she felt at that time … love, loss and a longing for what might have been?
Before turning to retrace her steps, she lingered to take a final look at the sea of graves around her and thought of all those thousands of young men — all missed and all mourned.
Then as the dying strains of the salute echoed across the cemetery, she reluctantly said her last goodbye and slowly walked away into the Autumnal stillness.
Contributed originally by heather noble (BBC WW2 People's War)
4)THE SUMMARY OF OLLIE’S STORY — With her Father away in the “R.A.F”, working as a design engineer and instrument maker on the SPITFIRES and LANCASTER BOMBERS, she recalls her first journey, taken with her Mother, sailing across the choppy, waters of the North Sea, on a Grimsby cargo boat, to the remote Faroes Islands. There, she lived with her maternal Grandparents in the family’s isolated, turf-roofed farmhouse. The vivid memories of her family, their home and the strong sense of a close-knit community — give an evocative picture of everyday living on the beautiful Island of Faroes in the shadow of the Second World War…
OLLIE’S STORY — My parents Bruce and Anne met at a wartime dance on New Year’s Eve, 1939 in Grimsby, Lincolnshire — married on Midsummer’s Day 1941 in my Mother’s local church, “St Stephens” — and set up their first home in nearby Cleethorpes. It was there, in due course, that I was born — Olwyn (Ollie) Christine — their only child.
But by then my Father, who had earlier joined the R.A.F, was away working as a design engineer and instrument maker on the Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers. And it was during this time that he met with a serious accident. Whilst cycling down a country lane - in the blackout - back to his “R.A.F” Camp Digby in Lincolnshire, he collided into an unseen vehicle, receiving severe facial injuries.
Immediately he was taken to “R.A.F” hospital at Cranwell, and he was fortunate to be attended by the renowned surgeon Sir Archibold McIndoe, who travelled down from Glasgow, Scotland to perform his pioneering operation on my Father. After a lengthy convalescence, he recovered sufficiently to return to his “R.A.F” base where he resumed his duties. So sadly, like many other wartime Fathers, he missed the early days of my life.
Later on, when I was just a toddler, my Mother became unwell. So the decision was made for us to go and live with her parents, Christina and Ole Olsen, a trawler skipper, and her Uncle David, a sheep farmer, on the Faroes, a little group of Islands near Greenland in the North Atlantic waters.
Although it was a dangerous time to be travelling by sea, on one wild and bleak day, my Mother and I sailed across the choppy waters on a Grimsby cargo boat to the capital town, Torshaven and thence onto a fishing boat, over to the Island of Sand — one of the smaller of the Faroese Islands. There, in the peace of the family’s old farmhouse, we made our home.
Angled into the hillside- as protection against the elements — and made of stone and wood- its roof was thickly thatched with turfs of grass. Solidly built as a two-storey dwelling, there was also an interesting byre, which ran beneath the entire ground floor. Access to this area was by means of an internal staircase that led directly to the kitchen. On one side of this cheerful room, stood a sink with a water pump, where I was routinely washed, and on the other, a black- leaded range, from which endless meals streamed forth.
In her youth, my Grandmother -“Grama”- had left the Faroes to train as a professional cook in Edinburgh, Scotland. So although the staple diet of the Islanders, by today’s standards was limited, Granny used her skills to provide wholesome dishes from the local produce. As well as lamb, beef, dried sea birds, fish and the ubiquitous whale-meat — she baked bread, cakes and pies and of course there were plenty of sweet potatoes, turnips, milk and eggs from the farm. So we fared better than many people on the mainland during those ration stricken days.
The farmhouse was simply furnished with rag rugs and sheepskins covering the stone floors and rustic style furniture. One of my favourite pieces was Grama’s rocking chair. Here she sat to knit her fine Fair Isle garments with wool from my Great Uncle David’s sheep to the accompaniment of a big wooden wireless. We listened to the voices, from which miraculously emerged from inside of the set! Later I realised how much this vital link to the outside world, must have meant to the household back then. Directly opposite the kitchen was “the parlour”, kept only for high days and holidays!
Upstairs there were two bedrooms, reached by a ladder staircase, with windows overlooking sandy fields and inlets from the sea. Now and again, after a night of stormy weather, flotsam and jetsam washed upon the shore and many of these objects of interest often found their way into the farmhouse!
Behind the kitchen was the washhouse, where the copper was lit for the weekly wash. And beyond this was the outhouse. There, barrels of fish were salted, carcasses of beef and lamb were cured and sea birds hung from racks above.
Then there was the unforgettable “outside privy” - housed in a small shed - quite a distance from the farmhouse, with its sheets of threaded newspaper flapping in the wind!
Our nearest “neighbours” were herds of cows and flocks of sheep and every so often some of these sheep wandered down from the hillside onto the roof of the farmhouse. Here they grazed from above!
Most of my family made their living from farming, fishing and whaling. And during these years large quantities of fish and whale-meat were delivered to ports on the mainland, by the Faroese fishermen, to help feed the British population. However, there were several local fishermen — and my Uncle Toby was one of them — who were tragically killed whilst fishing in the deep waters near to where the floating mines had been laid.
But despite these casualties of war, the daily life of the Islanders went on much the same. I well remember being taken “across the water” to visit the relatives, who lived on the neighbouring Islands on a small fishing boat. Every time we boarded, my poor Mother was sick, when the huge waves lashed over the sides. It was quite a frightening experience for a small child.
Then alas, my Mother’s health worsened. As there were only limited medical facilities on the Faroes — and Denmark was already under German occupation — she decided to return to England for treatment, leaving me in the care of my Grandparents.
After several months my Mother partially recovered and arrangements were made for me to join her back home. But unfortunately the weather closed in — blanketing the Islands in a thick mist- that meant that I had no other choice but to stay put! And it was there, that I spent my first Christmas - on the Island of Sand.
As Christmas trees are not native to the Islands, they are imported from the mainland. And on Christmas Eve, my Grandparents gave their little tree pride of place in the parlour. I have fond memories of watching Grama bake special cakes and heart -shaped ginger and cinnamon biscuits, to hang from the branches. At its foot, the Christmas crib was set up — small hand carved wooden figures, stood in straw, provided by Great Uncle David. As darkness fell, the tiny white, candles that decorated our tree, our windowsills and those of many of the Islander’s homes were lit.
On Christmas morning, I awoke to find my stocking filled with little things that delighted me — sweets, nuts, a wooden toy, a pair of Fair Isle gloves, knitted by Grama, and a tangerine tucked into the toe.
The journey to the Island’s little Chapel - on board Great Uncle David’s horse and cart - was a real adventure. Grama was quite a generously proportioned lady, but despite her bulk, she always dressed smartly for such occasions, in her “Sunday Best”. I was warmly wrapped up against the bitter wind and carefully lifted on board. We squeezed together on the back seat and the horse ambled along over the sands. From across the fields came the bleating of the sheep, and as we came nearer to the chapel, we heard the sound of carols at the door. Clutching Grama’s hand, I tiptoed beside her down the aisle to join the congregation at their simple, Christmas service.
Later the family sat down to a Faroese feast. There were fish balls, cold lamb, beef, with sweet potatoes, turnips, Klenater- biscuits made from potato flour and cardamom, fried in hot fat- followed by Aebteskiver- delicious sweet doughnuts, rolled in sugar.
The happy day wore on. Peace gradually descended on the farmhouse and soon I found myself tucked up in bed. It was a Christmas that I have remembered for the rest of my life.
When Spring came to the Islands, clumps of Faroese flowers appeared in the fields - some sweet smelling- and high above I could see Great Uncle David’s shepherd’s hut and sheep pens. Sometimes newly born lambs were brought into the warm kitchen to be bottle- fed, and to my joy, I was given them to hold in my arms.
Then in the Summer, when there was almost around the clock daylight — “White Nights” — we walked on the shore by the rock pools, where I found secret places to play. I have never forgotten the sights and the sounds of the plump puffins, kittiwakes, colonies of eider ducks and the gulls and guillemots wheeling and screaming above the cliffs. From these cliffs - where it is said the legendary trolls lurk — fresh waterfalls cascaded into the sea, hundreds of feet below.
When the rain lashed down — and it seemed to rain almost every other day — we watched the seals bobbing up and down with their pups and the porpoises and dolphins diving in the choppy waters.
It was not long before I began chatting fluently in Faroese, which is a mixture of the Icelandic and Norwegian languages. But once I returned home to England, sadly, it faded from my memory.
It was an idyllic life for a small child and seemed to be miles away from a world at war. But elsewhere on the Island, were reminders of the on -going hostilities. There, camps had been set up for British forces, who came to protect the Faroese people - then under the Danish Crown — soon after Germany invaded Denmark in 1940. And inevitably, the sudden influx of young men on the local girls, led to a boom in wartime weddings!
But undoubtedly the strategic significance of the Faroes, Shetlands, Orkneys, and Iceland — linking Europe- were the Islands most important wartime role. Then the Royal Navy, operating from their huge base at Scapa Flow, courageously attempted to protect British ships from enemy action when Hitler’s U boats stalked the North Atlantic waters.
After peace was declared, my Mother travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark for further medical treatment and soon after, my father was demobbed. Meanwhile, I stayed on the Island until my parents found a temporary home in Rugby, Warwickshire, before they decided to make a fresh start in London. There, my Father was lucky enough to find a position with “Smiths Industries” and a spacious old house, for us to live, on Clapham Common, South West London.
And so it was that in 1946, Grama reluctantly brought me back to England on a Cargo boat and finally I was reunited with both my Father and Mother.
But the vivid memories of my Grandparents, their family, their home, and the strong sense of a close-knit community, left me with an unforgettable picture of everyday living on the beautiful Island of Faroes- in the shadow of the Second World War.
Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)
1 Tue Third occasion of sudden gunfire at planes over city area, but no general “alert”. Long delayed issue of steel helmets (Staff association has been asking for personal issue for a year). Air raids took up hours of time, barely time to write letter before night raids (7.40).
2 Wed In and out of the Customs House basement shelter a ridiculous number of times. At home, poor Kay was in despair, house in a pickle, time for meals only. Helped her with the shelter bed — damp!
3 Thu In the grey drizzle and cold, did not expect many raids. Nevertheless, had three, the last one keeping me at Customs House till nearly 5 pm. There was thus only time to have my tea and prepare for bed. Wretched night, was irritable and cramped. Short night raids.
4 Fri Took my turn as Elm Walk (Upper end) fire picket, from 4 am till 6, but except for a short alarm, there was no raid in progress. Replaced the upper Customs APO, and noted on our journey up river, damage to riverside buildings. Damaged room (see 27/8) being redecorated.
5 Sat Low lying cloud gave lone raiders much advantage and raids continued for long periods throughout day. The only way we found (Kay in particular) was to ignore them. Half day, called Worcester Park ?? as cleaners in Raynes Park branch have closed. Marvelled at development of it and of North Cheam. Called at Mum’s to, as clothes left for treatment had been left there. Happy sight as kiddies danced and sang to radiogram. Beryl toddles now.
6 Sun There were long drawn out raids all day as yesterday, and when I left for 4/11 “Harpy” a plane passed and re-passed in clouds ahead. Was kindly allowed home before night raids developed. Attended demonstration of putting out and incendiary bomb. Dug small patch of garden.
8 Tue Beryl bad again. Took her from shelter to the house at 3.30 am. The night raid then worsened from then onwards while I took my turn as fire picket (4am — 6) and caused anxiety lest house was struck. Room damaged by incendiary bomb now redecorated.
9 Wed Very busy afternoon and evening (up to siren time) for Kay and I returning and cleaning furniture to both upstairs and downstairs front rooms. The redecorated rooms look well and give Kay something to delight in. She herself is far from well though.
10 Thu Beryl’s cold a little better, but Kay bad. Andersons have their disadvantages in spite of all precautions. Night raid came at dusk = 7.30. In night time, bomb fell in playing field back of Betty’s school (Hillcross). Day off for her.
11 Fri In and out the Custom House basement shelter till at 12.30, I decided to ask for a half day. At home, many raids, Kay and Betty braved them, Beryl and I went to sleep in the Anderson. At 9, a time bomb fell nearby, searched garden but “not in our section” — warden.
12 Sat Foggy but raiders still came over. In the afternoon, at home, ignored them, but Kay and Betty were caught out shopping for two hours. They saw the effects of the high explosives which fell after the time bomb. They demolished three houses in Cannon Hill Lane about 150 yards distant: Kay knew the young mother in one of them and was most upset. In the evening again , there fell another bomb, which set me searching gardens in the moonlight again. The raids are confined to evenings now.
13 Sun After yesterdays tragedy and the night’s alarms, another fall of bombs at St Holier at 1 pm so upset Kay that we spoke of sending her home. I continued to bale out the shelter during the raid: it was 1” over the floorboards. 4/11 duty, but home to be of comfort to Kay before night raids.
14 Mon 8/4 upper coast: Up river by launch surveying all the damage done by bombs. Home: pleasant time playing with Beryl: gave Kay chance of shopping with Betty. Beryl’s cold (or cough rather) still bad. Kay similar, rather queer. More bombs in night.
15 Tue This time, passing up river, saw that the very place the PO had landed yesterday was in ruins. Had difficulty in getting to work too: bus to Clapham North, tube to Borough, bus to Monument. Visited Aunt Emma at Kew. Very pleased to see me again. Upset by raids though.
16 Wed Raids very intense at night. One bomb locally. Route still disorganised to work, but direct Clapham North to Bank this time. Up at 3.30 am for the 4 — 6 am fire patrol. Very tired by afternoon. Spent some time in Anderson shelter asleep.
17 Thu Misty on the river and chilly. Travel conditions to and from work improved. At work by 8.40 am. Few air raids by day, but terrific raids by night. Kay says she had five lots (salvoes) of bombs drop in the locality this (Thursday) evening and early Friday morning.
18 Fri Foggy morning. For a time it “wasn’t prudent” to go afloat. Patrolling the river and wharves up about London Bridge was a chilly job. Mr Hersey retuned home from Slough (his new workplace) to collect some gear. He and wife definitely removing from next door.
19 Sat On fire picket from 4 till 6 am with a new neighbour, Mr Jones. Things were quiet and time passed quickly. Last day up — river, Proper APO retiring Monday. Home by the devious route, but after dinner with Beryl whilst Kay and Betty shopped, and slept from 3 till 6 pm. (was up at 3.30 this morning). Little time left then but for tea and prepare shelter for raid, which commence regularly at 7 pm.
20 Sun 8/4 “Harpy”. A bomb near the diversion route caused yet a bigger detour and I revisited old scenes in Northcote Road. 5 “alerts” in all. Kay reported bombs having fallen locally and there were definitely some overnight.
21 Mon Grey and miserable morning. A tremendous rush to work, arrive “Harpy” 8.45 am. There were isolated raiders in the sky all day. One hovering about when Mr Haxman and I were visiting ships in London Dock. In the short time between arrival home and night raid, tried to fix baby a bunk in shelter. NG.
22 Tue Cold and foggy. Night bombing raids finish early in consequence, but there were a couple of day raids which we passed (miserably) in the Customs House shelter. Kay helped me put sandbags (be quested by Mr Hersey) on shelter. Kay queer and baby coughing. 6 bombs in evening.
23 Wed Quiet morning. Night bombing finished early. I was fire picket with Mr Walker (146) at usual time 4 — 6 am. Foggy on river. No improvement in travelling facilities. Kay and I working on fire claim damage done on 26/9. In shelter at 6.35 pm for night raid.
24 Thu Travel facilities worsened, no buses, the whole way from Morden to Kennington now. Arrived office 9 for 8 am! Went almost all round the London Dock. And saw the damage done thereto. (Comment on extent of damage unwise). Ordered for 3/11 Surrey Dock tomorrow. Means “lie in”)
25 Fri Had the morning at my disposal and by 1 pm, we were all ready to walk into Morden, I en route to work, Kay and kiddies to do shopping. Alas, “alert” stopped us and I left 1.30 pm alone. Arrived Surrey Dock 3.45 pm = 2¼ hours.
26 Sat Did a spell of fire picketing with Mr Morris. Things were very quiet (fortunately). Had until 1 pm at home with Kay and kiddies, which is a happiness I haven’t had for a while. (I usually get from 5.30 pm — 7 only on weekdays owing to time travelling, and early to bed because of night raiders). Travelling to Surrey Dock took 2 hours today, slight improvement on yesterday.
27 Sun Volunteered for another spell of fire picket again this morning (4 - 6) as they are short of men. Moved over some sandbags Mr Hersey gave me, but found very few which were not rotten. Air raids all day, Kay and children to Mum’s for tea. I on 4/11 duty.
29 Tue Had a grumble about the “blackout” in the house. Kay soon got busy and when I got home, found new pelmet and rearranged curtains in front (living) room. Neighbour “borrowed” me for a tap washer job, often am only man available.
31 Thu Miserable day. Rain. Travelling was difficult. (1¾ hours Surrey Dock to home) and shelter full of water. Betty bailed out. She is small and can get between seats. Often she is most obliging with small jobs and is a great help to Kay and I.
Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)
1 Sun The intense cold and fog lead to only one short “alert” during the night, and we all slept the night very soundly. A very thick frost and some ice. 8/4 duties at Surrey Dock — quite busy, barely home in time for dinner and night raid. Warning however somewhat later. Returned home to sleep at 9.30 pm.
2 Mon One short interruption by a passing raider, but otherwise serene night. Still cold but less so. 8/4 at Surrey, sufficient to keep us busy all day. Pursued same policy as yesterday with registered ARP — had all ready for an immediate departure from house on ”alert”. Had not to take shelter however.
3 Tue Grateful for undisturbed night’s rest. Needed energy for day’s labours. Full day at office till 4 pm — compiling shipping returns, conveying same to Custom House, visiting shipping and office duties. Evening raid commenced even as I sat at dinner table — 6 pm. One bomb near Cheam. Home at 10 to sleep.
4 Wed Very little disturbance during night, and slept well. Work a little less intense. Home a little earlier, in day light so was able to use bathroom (blackout not perfect). Very early “alert” — almost caught out. Spent evening in shelter. Wireless there now.
5 Thu Things seemed all wrong when I reached home this evening after a pretty hard day. Kay was queer, and domestic events had aggravated things. Gasman said meter was short registering and refused her usual rebate — said we owed them something. All smoothed out by shelter time however.
6 Fri A little less busy in Surrey Dock — not so hard on the feet. Never-the-less, had short rest after my dinner in which Kay and Beryl joined me. Received a shock when I received electric light bill for 29/-, September quarter, December quarter to come! The warning of night raid went at 6.30, but “all clear” 9.30.
7 Sat For the past fortnight, set off from home for work at 7 am, (to catch last workman’s 7.30). In the darkness which prevails until I reach Clapham Common by bus. Diversions on the road shorter, or else, now, not taken at all: my travelling time to Surrey Dock has become 1½ hours. Took official half day. Kay out on arrival home. Listened to a Beethoven concert by London Philharmonic Orchestra. Reclaimed “Valor” heating stove from under fuel in coal cellar and found it still works well. No raid at night.
8 Sun Commencement of my night-watch week. Pleasant morning spent at home in upstairs front room at my desk studying official papers, and with playing with Beryl as a diversion. (Betty, of course, out with her friend Rosemary.) Intense night “blitz”, many bombs near shelter in Dock.
9 Mon Bombing eased up at 3 am. In Green, Silley Weirs shelter near dock gate, which has a fire — our own small and unheated (also unlighted). Traffic dislocated but home by railway — bus at Elephant. Good sleep at home, gas meter changed. Evening in front room, reading and cards.
10 Tue The expected air raid did not come. Moonlight almost all night now for the next week or so. Oiled and cleaned perambulators and Kay and I took Beryl to Raynes Park for shopping. (Betty, of course, at school (9.15 — 2.15 now)). A ship to board at 4 pm, but a quiet night, played my PO a game of chess.
11 Wed Night quiet this time (cf Sunday night), save for an alert 6 am — 6.30. Travelled home almost all way in darkness. Kay queer with her current nervous complaint, but better after a dose of salts(!). Good sleep, listened in. Shelter 6 pm — 10 pm.
12 Thu The local AA guns now fire salvoes simultaneously, a terrific noise which makes baby jump in her sleep and Betty (sometimes) to cry out. Any thought to rev’t in our decision to leave here now entirely gone. Another pleasant walk with Kay and Beryl in pram, to Raynes Park. On duty: raid at 6 pm.
13 Fri Succession of planes passed overhead at Surrey Dock until 2 am. Did some amending of insurance. Kay had had a wretched night in Cannon Hill Shelter, even the valour stove did not fend off cold. Thick morning frost and treacherous underfoot. Morning in bed, leisurely afternoon. No warning till 8, all clear 9.
14 Sat Good night’s rest, did not hear a gun all night. Left Kay and children sleeping soundly. 8/4 Surrey Dock, a full day. Got home at dusk, had hardly finished dinner when siren went. Moonlight, but very cloudy and teeming with rain, before taking baby out in it waited for first sound of AA gun. Which fortunately never came, “all clear” sounding about half hour later. Rest of evening all together in front room, listening to radio (“In Town Tonight”) and playing with Beryl who toddles around to each of us with her toy dog, doll or her book.
15 Sun No lay in this Sunday! 8/4 at the “Harpy” so was up at the usual time = 5.45 am. Work not so busy as at my normal duty station — Surrey. Was glad to leave the “Harpy” at 4 although I met many old friends. Siren sounded early — evening in shelter, but returned home.
16 Mon Undisturbed night but a very busy day. Conditions underfoot muddy, shoes, socks and trousers smothered. After dinner at home, awaited siren, whilst Beryl played around in the front room in her “Pixie” hat, light blue coat and leggings — a pretty picture. Shelter “alert” 10 — 10.20.
17 Tue Went about our business today in a choking fog. It affected my nose and throat, and gave me the feeling of a cold. It had it’s advantages, however, for after preparing as usual for the evening bombing, settled down comfortably to radio, knowing a raid to be improbable — and it was!
18 Wed Weather conditions better and we were not so sure of there being no evening raid. Although we were at the “ready”, nothing happened. Beryl trotted around from chair to chair, Kay and Betty knitted. Radio and big log fire.
19 Thu Description of damage by heavy explosive and incendiary bombs in Surry Dock, and the condition of shipping, I am precluded from writing about. That is why I have very little to say about my time at work. In the evening, missed the “alert” due to having the radio on. “All clear” at 9 pm however.
20 Fri Over did it this morning and did not arrive at work until 9.10 am. However, as this is not a habit of mine, nothing much was said. For certain reasons, our half day didn’t start till 1 pm. Called in on “Kennards” Wimbledon on homeward journey re. Removal. Finally fixed up with Ely’s by phone for Saturday December 28th.
21 Sat Walked into Wimbledon with Kay, Betty and Beryl in pram and there did best part of Christmas shopping. Met Mum there, who aided us in choosing Roy’s present. Mum had secured a turkey — 25/- (current rate being nearly 3/- a pound). Called at Town Hall to pay electricity bill, but was too late. Booked up at Ely’s for my removal Saturday: This was the lower of the two replies to my five letters to removers for an estimate. On duty 4 till midnight. Aircraft passing over, gunfire, no bombs.
22 Sun The hullabaloo stopped at 5 am “all clear”. Off duty at 8. Secured good travel facilities from Surrey Docks station home via Whitechapel, Monument, Bank, Clapham Common by bus to Morden. Slept well till 3 pm, which gave me until 6 pm before evening raid. Not severe, home at 9.30 pm.
23 Mon Spent an hour or more on Betty’s bicycle, her pedal having come off again. The bearings had seized causing pedal to unwind itself from crank — very dangerous. All family accompanied me to Tooting for shopping, Beryl toddling between Kay and Betty. Then went on to Clapham Common, and work, 4 pm.
24 Tue Weather conditions (intense cold, some snow) made flying difficult and the few bombers that did come over flew low and were subject to much AA fire. 5 bombs were dropped between Morden and Raynes Park causing consternation in shelter last night, Kay said she slept, prepared for evening raid which fortunately did not come. Filled kiddies stockings, alas, not much to put in.
25 Wed A happy time whilst children unpacked their stockings. Month’s rail and removal expenses restricted our pockets. There were more presents for them at Mums, however. I had my dinner at home, visiting Mum’s in forenoon. Quiet time on 4 — midnight watch.
26 Thu The quietness (see prec) refers to absence of air raid. Actually, evening of Christmas day was busy, ship visiting and Jergilg blue books until 11.30 pm! A jolly day at Mum’s in usual fashion. Present Lou, Albert and kiddies, George (Elsie and children evacuated). Absentee Sid in RAOC Leicester.
27 Fri Big parcel went from Mum’s to Sid today to which all present contributed: ourselves some chocolate. From Mum’s, Kay and I went home to pack up mat’s lino etc. I had to leave for 4 pm duty, at 2.30 pm, leaving Kay to “go to it”. We had an air raid, incendiaries and high explosives at New Cross 7 pm — midnight.
28 Sat Moving day! As soon as it was daylight, Ely’s van came and our things were soon packed therein. It was a busy time for Kay and I; fortunately, Mum kept the children. Stowing the furniture into Mum’s upstairs back room proved a difficult job, but finally all was in. Dad and Albert gave a very useful hand. Passed over Betty’s old three wheeler on loan, to Albert for Tony. Kay and I back to the house for clearing up and conveying to Mum, some more coal. No raid at all.
29 Sun On 8/4 Sunday duty at Surrey Dock. Was fortunate in getting conveyance to South Wimbledon Station and from thence, proceeded to work by usual route. Busy whole of watch. On arrival home, (now “home” is 1, Fairway) booked rail and pram tickets Raynes Park to Blackpool. Evening, did sundry jobs appertaining with Kay’s departure tomorrow.
30 Mon Travel Grand Drive — South Wimbledon, Tooting — Clapham, Tower Bridge — Surrey Docks, by bus, intermediately by tube, or walked. Last mentioned stage owing to air raid damage had to be walked, hose and fire engines everywhere. Saw Kay and children off at Euston, they missed train owing to travel difficulties. Reorganised house furniture.
31 Tue Slept well in top front room fitted up last night. No air raid, to and from work in reasonable time. Allowed to leave work early enough to be able to make 2 visits to 171 for coal. Then handed in key: Another chapter in life over! All away at Lou’s. Busy evening letter writing etc.
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