Bombs dropped in the ward of: New Cross
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in New Cross:
- Parachute Mine
- 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:
Memories in New Cross
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by Mike Hazell (BBC WW2 People's War)
Despite my months of experience I felt like a new girl at school reporting at New Cross. To begin with it was the second biggest tram depot in London - only very slightly smaller than Holloway in north London - and there were no trolleys but far more tram routes: 36, 38, 40, 46, 52, 54, 68, 70, 72 and 74 and several of these routes shed the plough and went on the overhead wires outside the central area and I hadn’t needed to do any pole swinging at all at Wandsworth. The duties started and finished at different times too - the first sign-on at New Cross was 03.19 and the last tram before the night service took over reached the depot about half an hour after midnight.
Although everyone was friendly and helpful the depot was so big that there were more crews on the spare list than on the entire rota at Wandsworth and the depot was older and seemed so vast I got lost several times in the first few days. There were all those new routes to learn, new fare tables with strange stage numbers to memorise and there was more bomb damage too, which meant that landmarks had been removed. Discovering where I was along the routes was so much more difficult. A study of any London Transport fare table will show that the stages are named after well known buildings - mainly public houses and churches, thus acknowledging God and Mammon in more or less equal proportions - and when these buildings were reduced to rubble by bombing I found myself having to ask the passengers where we were even in broad daylight.
Even when new fare tables were printed the same names were duly recorded in the firm belief that every one would be rebuilt. Of course, this did not always happen, a fact that was brought home to me in a very amusing way. While working on the 68 and 70 routes through Deptford High Street I looked in vain for a certain public house known as the White Swan, not only could I not find it but there was no bomb damaged area along the stretch of road where it ought to have been. So, when a passenger asked for the White Swan I kept an eye on him and watched where he alighted. Sure enough it was just where I thought it might be but no White Swan anywhere in sight. Next day I picked up several people at the stop and asked them to show me where the White Swan was, only to be told that it was burnt down at least ten years previously and a small block of flats had been built on the site! For all I know, there is still a White Swan fare stage somewhere in Deptford to this day! Of course, not all passengers referred to the stops by their official names and I noticed that women tended to ask for certain shops while men asked for the nearest pub!
In time, of course, I got to know them all and the names of most of the side streets adjacent to the shops too, but I admitted defeat to one dear old soul who, when approached for her fare, asked, “How much is it?” When I pointed out that I was unable to tell her until she told me where she was going, she promptly replied, “I’m going to the doctor’s, dear. My legs are something chronic.” I patiently listened to her tale of woe, covering several visits to her doctor, the clinic and finally Guys Hospital - and right through an operation, apparently for the removal of varicose veins “such as the surgeon said he’d never seen before in all his born days,” when she suddenly jumped up, thrust tu’pence into my waiting hand, and, soundly telling me off for keeping her talking and nearly making her miss her stop, she tripped off the tram and across the road on her “chronic” legs and away down the street at such a pace I could only assume the surgeon at Guys Hospital had performed a miracle. Occasionally through the years I’ve had several people ask, “How much?” or “Is it still tenpence?” and I think of that old lady every time.
Now that I was working locally and able to work out the duties, I used to tell Gran when I would be going past the house and she would sit at the upstairs window and give me a cheery wave as I went past - till one night a bomb dropped across the road and shattered all the windows for several yards in all directions. The glass was replaced by thick tarred paper boarding which solved our blackout problems for the rest of the war and meant living in artificial light except in the warm weather when we could open them for light and air. Luckily, though, that was the nearest we got to being bombed ourselves and did me one good turn. Of course, we had an Anderson Air Raid Shelter in the back garden but, as it was always two feet deep in water in anything but the height of summer, we all huddled under the stairs when the siren went and the raiders were overhead. The elderly lady who lived on the top floor was very deaf and I used to dash up and bang on her door till I woke her up, then down to tell Gran to hurry up. The family in the basement always used to come to the ground floor too, they were scared of being trapped should the rest of the house collapse. But my Gran was obstinate - she would insist on getting dressed, fully dressed, and when I remonstrated I always got the same reply, “If I’m going to meet my Maker it’s going to be properly dressed, with my stays on.” So I’d wait fuming outside her bedroom (she scorned all offers of help - did I think she was a child or something?) till she emerged, fully dressed, corsets and all. The bomb which demolished several houses across the road exploded within minutes of the alert siren and with no guns to herald its approach and from then on Gran decided her Maker would have to accept her in her night-dress and dressing gown like the rest of us.
Thousands of people spent years sleeping every night in the Underground stations but they had to go there, with bundles of bedding and flasks of tea, quite early in the evening to bag one of the metal bunks which lined every platform - late comers slept on the platform itself or on deck chairs which also had to be carried through the streets or heaved on to a bus or tram. Our nearest Underground was at the Elephant and Castle, about a mile away, and Gran wouldn’t go that far so it was under the stairs for us night after night while the shells went up and the bombs rained down till it seemed we had been spending our nights this way all our lives. We still managed to do our day’s work, spending hours queuing for meagre rations, making do with powdered milk (not too bad), powdered egg (ghastly stuff but we ate it when our one real egg and two ounces of meat a week had been eaten), saving our precious clothing coupons and buying clothing for warmth and durability rather than style and fashion. But we were all in the same boat, united against a common enemy and the kindness and generosity I received from complete strangers made it all worth while.
Of course, the air raids weren’t the only hazards we had to face while working on the trams, the weather could play some nasty tricks too - especially the fog. There was no Clean Air Act in those days and, with factories going full blast twenty four hours a day and people burning everything they could lay their hands on when coal became short, we used to get some awful fogs in London - real pea-soupers, they were. When the driver could no longer see the track in front of the tram he would slide open the door and walk through to the back platform to ask for assistance. Then we would light the flambeaux or torches provided by the Board for just such an emergency. These torches were stout pieces of wood, about three feet long, bound with rags that had been soaked in some flammable substance. The driver would light the rags with a match and the conductor would then walk in front of the tram (or bus) waving the torch to indicate that the track ahead was clear. The old tram would grind and creak along behind at a snail’s pace and the driver and conductor knew they were going to be several hours late finishing that day or night. At least we were free of the air raids in the heavy fogs and that was some small comfort but the cold got to your bones, and your eyes were red-rimmed, straining to see through a mixture of fog and the smoky fumes from the flambeau. It was an eerie sensation, feeling your way through the choking fog and hearing sixteen and a half tons of tram moving close behind.
I must have walked miles like this in the two winters I spent in New Cross and several times an incident would occur which would break the monotony. One night we were proceeding through Deptford, near Surrey Docks, not a very select neighbourhood at the best of times. I was a few paces in front of the tram and we had been gliding through the fog like this for about an hour, when suddenly I got a shout from the driver, “Come on back, mate - we’re stuck - dead line.” I turned to retrace my steps and saw - nothing! No tram, no pavement and no sign of people - just thick yellow smoke, the oily flame of the torch in my hand and silence so deep you could cut it with a knife. I feared I had wandered off the track and held the torch nearer the ground to check but no, the rails still gleamed faintly in the flickering flare. Then a rattling chain and the thump of the platform steps dropping reassured me and I knew the driver was descending from the platform and coming to join me. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and walked a couple of steps back, almost colliding with the driver, and now just able to see the faint outline of the tram looming over us - but all the lights were out. “Better light another flare and prop it up the back - we are more likely to be hit from behind than in front,” said my mate. So through the tram we went, torch aloft, and lit a second one which we wedged between tram and buffers, making sure it slanted away from the paintwork. Meanwhile, the driver told me that there was no juice and we would have to wait till the electricity supply came on again before we could continue. “The last time this happened to me was when some idiot driving a lorry mounted the pavement and crashed into a substation,” he said.
Damage to a roadside substation cuts the supply of power to only a small section of road and the usual procedure is to wait till the engineers come along to fix it and send us on our way. But at 10 p.m. and in the thickest fog for years, how long was that likely to be? A friendly shout and measured footsteps heralded the arrival of a policeman, his black mackintosh cape dripping with condensed fog but a wide smile under his helmet. He told us he had been warned to look out for us. The driver had guessed correctly - it was a bus that had crashed into the substation box and rendered our stretch of line dead. “Can’t stop, mate,” he said, “Got to keep the next tram from running too far - they’ve got through on the phone to your chaps so they will get here as soon as they can.” So with that much information we had to be content and returned to the tram.
It might be just slightly warmer inside, we thought, but if it was we hardly noticed. We carefully counted our cigarettes - only five between us to see us through what looked like being a long night but we lit up just the same. We talked about the war, the job and our families and stamped up and down the tram trying to bring the circulation back to frozen feet and numb fingers. Our last passenger got off several stops past and we were beginning to think we were the last people left on earth when a faint call sent us hurrying back to the platform. There stood a man I recognised as one of the regulars who used the tram to travel back and forth to his job in the docks. “The copper just told me you were stuck here,” he said, “I’ve brewed up a pot of tea and stirred the fire up - only live round the corner - come on round and have a warm up.” I felt I could have hugged him but we couldn’t both leave the tram. No vehicle may be left unattended, even in these dire circumstances, so, like a true hero, my driver insisted on me going first. “Don’t worry, love,” said our saviour, “You won’t be all alone with me. I’ve got the old woman up.” And so it was.
The entire family of mother, father and four children lived in one room under appalling conditions. The children curled up in both ends of a single bed and the parents in a camp bed in the opposite corner. What with a kitchen table and chairs, a dresser and wardrobe cupboard and lines of washing across the room there was hardly room to move but all I saw in that first glance was the glow of the fire piled with tarred wooden blocks with flames leaping up the chimney. “Bit of luck, that,” said my escort, “They’ve just finished mending the road outside. Those tar blocks burn a treat, don’t they?” I had to agree. I wouldn’t have cared if he were burning the wooden seats of the tram right then; I was so glad to sit there in the high backed wooden armchair and watch steam rising from my clothes. “Let me pour the girl a cup of tea, Bert,” said my hostess. “Do you fancy a bit of bread and dripping, ducks?” Would I? But what about the rest of the family? A glance around the room told its own story. There wasn’t much money to spare in this household. My four pounds a week wages was probably much more than the breadwinner was getting to keep his family of six and they were offering me what was probably part of their breakfast. But I had no real choice - it was quite obvious that an offer to pay would have deeply offended them and a refusal might have made them believe I thought myself too refined for such humble fare. So down went the doorstep of bread and dripping between sips of hot tea from a slightly chipped enamel mug and it was wonderful. I knew I would have to go soon - I couldn’t forget my driver, still out there in the fog while I was warm and fed, so I got the tea down as soon as I could, but it was hot and Bert and his miss's were chatting away, mostly about their children.
Contributed originally by Mike Hazell (BBC WW2 People's War)
They admitted they should have sent them away when most of their mates’ kids were evacuated but they just couldn’t bear to part with them. The schools were closed down and they weren’t getting any education but the three boys were expecting to work in the docks like their dad and you didn’t need much education for that - not the kind the schools provided, anyway. Neither of the parents could read or write very much and the family had been dockers for generations so who was I to suggest they might aspire to higher things. No one could have been kinder than those two and when someone offers all they have to a complete stranger that puts them in a class above any other, in my opinion. I asked Bert if he would see me back to the tram so I could allow my driver to return and he was glad to see the pair of us. Then Ada turned up, “Don’t like to think of you out here all alone, duck,” she said. She had muffled herself up against the cold and followed her husband out into the cold fog to keep me company while my driver had his tea and a warm by the fire.
In the next quarter of an hour I had heard all about the children and how they could pick up a few coppers helping out in the local shops, doing errands for the old people and tackling a morning paper round. It must have been a happy family for all their poverty and I managed to get her to accept a shilling each for the children “From their new Auntie Doris,” I said. Apparently counting oneself as a member of the family made it quite acceptable and I didn’t feel so guilty wolfing down the bread and dripping after that. We had a cigarette and chatted on till my driver came back. We thanked our new friends once more and watched them disappear into the fog. It was after 11.00 p.m. by then and we knew the repair gang hadn’t mended the substation for we were still in the dark. They finally arrived about twenty minutes later and ten minutes after that we were on our way.
I walked ahead for about twenty minutes longer, picking up one or two passengers as the pubs turned out. It takes more than a London pea-souper to keep some blokes from their favourite hobby, it would seem. My first contact with these few “rabbits” would be when I almost cannoned into them along the track. Of course, they heard the tram coming and simply walked into the road towards it, swinging on as it crawled past at a snail’s pace. After the first couple I ticked my ticket rack into my moneybag and issued tickets on the road to save myself the effort of climbing on the tram each time. A couple of chaps must have come straight off the pavement and on to the tram without passing me, still plodding away in front, and I found their few coppers fare on my locker top under the stairs. People were very honest in those days and the poorer people were the more honest they were, it seemed. I think it was a matter of pride more than anything else was. You had to prove you could manage without getting into debt or asking for charity. In fact, charity was a dirty word to most working people - much dirtier, in fact, than some four-letter words bandied about today.
Hire purchase was becoming available for some goods but most people, especially the older ones, considered it not quite respectable to possess goods before they were paid for. My Gran always held these views and would go without rather than buy things “on the never-never”. She made me save part of my pay every week till I had enough cash to refurnish my room and start a home of my own. When I had the magnificent sum of seventy pounds in the bank, she took me along to the dockside warehouse and for sixty nine pounds cash we chose all my furniture - bed, large wardrobe, man’s wardrobe and dressing table in walnut (veneer), dining table and four chairs in fumed oak, settee and two armchairs in imitation leather known as Rexene, a twelve foot by twelve foot carpet square and fender and fire-irons for the fireplace. They lasted for years and years, in fact, I still have the wardrobe and dressing table and I’ve been married thirty-six years now. Our sense of values has certainly changed in that time till now the use of credit is regarded as normal and fare dodging, especially by the younger generation, has become the subject of self-congratulation rather than shame. I wonder why?
Of course, children didn’t use Public Transport much in the War, those children still living in London only rode on buses and trams when they were taken out by their parents for a treat. When the authorities realised that thousands of children had either never been evacuated or had returned to London the schools began to open again but the children walked to and from school as they had always done. There were no special school journeys as there are now and bus crews weren’t bowled over by a screaming, fighting and even cursing horde of school children twice a day as they are now either. And the tricks those little darlings get up to in order to avoid paying their fare would certainly disgust their grandfathers who used to leave their fare on the tram because the conductor was walking in front with a torch!
By this time we had reached Greenwich and it was well after midnight, and the fog was clearing, thank goodness. Our last passenger swung off as I climbed wearily back onto the platform. There was quite a long line of trams gliding through to New Cross, some from Catford, Lewisham, Brockley and Woolwich and we all carried on in convoy to the Depot. Then, after queuing up to pay in we dispersed outside the Depot and went our different ways home to sleep through what was left of the night. Of course, the night trams were running but all well late so I started to walk down the Old Kent Road rather than wait at New Cross Gate till one arrived. I heard it coming as I approached Canal Bridge and rushed out in the road to swing aboard. The driver pulled up right outside 234, saving me walking round the corner, and I was straight up the steps and into the house like a rocket. Although the fog came up again several more nights, it never got quite bad enough to make me get out and walk and it was weeks later when I was working in fog again and I had another incident which always raises a laugh when I retell it (which is probably all too often).
Although the fog was pretty thick on the Embankment, the driver told me not to bother to walk in front. The fog always hung heaviest along the river and it would clear up once we left the water behind us. It was quite late at night and I knew I should have to leave the tram to pull the points over at the crossroad the other side of Westminster Bridge. At all main crossings a pointsman sat, pulling over the points so that each tram went off in its proper direction, but once the evening rush was over and the pointsman finished for the day, then all point pulling had to be done by the conductor. Each tram carried a points lever, four feet long and made of iron. It took a bit of lifting across to the pavement - there it was fitted into a slot and pulled across to send the tram around corner. The lever had to be held against the tension of a heavy spring while the tram passed over the turning points. Then the lever was released allowing the points to return the track to the straight ahead position and the conductor pulls the points-iron out of the slot and dashes round the track to re-board the waiting tram. I had repeated this manoeuvre at lots of crossroads without any mishap so what happened on this night was completely unexpected.
The driver pulled up at the usual spot and I alighted with the points bar and crossed to the pavement. The fog was rising from the river and swirling round my feet and it took me a little time to find the slot in the pavement and insert the iron bar. I strained to pull it across and felt the spring points engage. “Okay, mate - full ahead!” I yelled and the tram pulled away and I hung on to the bar. It was damp and threatened to slip from my grasp. I knew if I let go while the plough was slipping from one track to the other then the plough would buckle and the tram would be in a position with the front wheels on one track and the rear wheels on another. The mind boggles! I desperately hung on and breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the rear wheels crash against the points and continue round the corner. For some reason the points-bar seemed jammed and I tugged it first one way and then another till finally it jerked out of the slot, nearly throwing me off my feet. I looked to where I thought the tram should be waiting and saw nothing but fog so I started walking along the pavement, peering hopefully into the road, still looking for my tram - still nothing but fog. I began to hurry faster; surely I should have reached the crossroad by now?
Walking along the pavement and staring into the road I collided violently with a gentleman dressed in blue serge and found myself looking up into the bearded face of a tall policeman.
“Oh, good!” I exclaimed, “Have you seen a tram?”
“Hundreds,” was the unhelpful reply, albeit accompanied by a twinkle in his eye and a broad grin. “Now, what’s the trouble, young lady?”
“I think I’ve lost a tram,” I replied, plaintively and the grin melted into a chuckle and the chuckle into a roar of laughter. I began to see the funny side of it myself by then and we both laughed and I nearly choked trying to explain and stop laughing in one breath. Now, don’t ask me how I’d managed it, but I’d not only started walking in the wrong direction but even managed to cross the road without realising it and we were both standing just under Big Ben, a point emphasised when it boomed out the half hour chime right over my head.
So, held firmly by the elbow, I was marched across the road and over the bridge again to be met by a bewildered but very relieved driver who had broken the golden rule and left his vehicle unattended to look for his scatty conductor. The laughing policeman insisted on staying with us till I was safely back on my platform and when the passengers were told what had happened they rocked with laughter too. Was my face red! “Well I’m certainly glad we found you alright,” said my friend in blue, “I’ve never had to report a lost tram before.” We made up the time before we finished the duty so I didn’t have to fill in an official report - but the story soon got around and I wasn’t allowed to forget it for the rest of my stay at New Cross Depot.
The days of Winter eventually gave way to Spring and now it was lighter in the evenings and people went out more, the air raids slackened off for a while and the sale of sixpenny evening tickets went up by leaps and bounds, whole families would sally forth to visit relatives they hadn’t seen for months and many a romance blossomed on the top deck while we bowled along the country roads of Bromley, Grove Park or Abbey Wood. We were even busier all day Sundays and when the Easter Bank Holiday Monday arrived several extra trams had to be pressed into service to cope with the queues of passengers at almost every stop. Despite the long list of spare staff in the Depot, the call went out to all depots to ask for volunteers to do overtime and rest day working throughout the holiday weekend. People came out in their thousands to visit Greenwich Park where they spent the day picnicking on the grass or sitting round the bandstand listening to the brass band or walking through to Black Heath to the Fair.
It was, of course, traditional in those days to buy new clothes for Easter and very smart and happy they all looked too. Working people only had two changes of clothing then, one for best and the other clothes they wore to work. Every Easter out came the carefully saved up clothing coupons and a new best outfit chosen. Children’s clothes were usually purchased one or two sizes too large to allow for growing and mothers were busy just before Easter putting deep hems on dresses and trouser legs and taking in side seams with big stitches they could easily unpick the following year. Cotton wool would be stuffed into the toes of boots and shoes that were a couple of sizes too large and last years best brown shoes would be sent to the menders (or resoled and heeled at home) and dyed black to smarten them up for another year’s wear at work or school. When money and coupons ran out, linen hat-shapes would be purchased at the local draper’s and covered with pretty material costing about one and sixpence a yard, half a yard would be plenty for one hat, so two sisters or mother and daughter could have new hats at a cost of half a crown (twelve and a half pence) the pair.
Contributed originally by Mike Hazell (BBC WW2 People's War)
Now I was attached to New Cross Depot I had to work late Saturday and early Sunday duties, which meant walking from home to depot and back. I don’t know which I liked least. There were still quite a lot of drunks about after a late night Saturday duty and after at least eight hours on my feet I’d be dog tired but I hurried along as fast as I could - never having to put up with anything worse than a few whistles and occasional shouts of “Fares please” or “Look out lads or she’ll give you a fourpenny one.” For all that I was glad to close the front door behind me and practically fall into bed.
The rotas started at 6.00 a.m. on Sundays, so the walk to work would often be in the dark too. I remember one Sunday morning in particular. There was a full moon still and the streets were quite empty with only the sound of my own footsteps till I got about two thirds of the way then, just as I was passing the gasworks where the old asylum and workhouse building still stood I became aware of another sound of footsteps behind me. Thinking it might be a friendly copper who would be company to talk to while working, I turned round and found myself looking into the face of a big Negro. The moon was shining, lighting up the whites of his eyes and flashing teeth. I was terrified. It might seem rather odd now, but the fact remained that I had never seen more than on or two coloured people in my whole life before and this man was huge and very, very black. Poor man, he must have seen how scared I was - he called out, “Please don’t be frightened, miss. I’m only walking to work - same as you. Would you like me to stay behind you or shall I walk in front?” The kindness and understanding he showed me made me feel thoroughly ashamed of myself and I waited till he got a little closer and told him I would rather have company to talk to while I walked if he didn’t mind. So the friendly black giant and I walked down the road to New Cross where he - gallant to the last - saw me across the road to the gates of the depot before continuing on his way. I know a lot of people resent the influx of thousands of coloured people into our society in recent years but, at least, people are no longer scared just because they have darker skins than we do. That can’t be a bad thing surely?
The summer slowly passed - then the autumn and my second Christmas on the trams approached. Of course, we had to work but we were guaranteed one day off over the Christmas period - either Christmas Day or Boxing Day. All trams were back in the Depot by 4.30 p.m. on Christmas Day - early turn workers doing a full eight-hour shift and being paid for sixteen hours, the late crews only did half a duty and paid for the whole day. So for Christmas 1942 I struck lucky - my normal day off fell on Christmas Eve and I was scheduled for a day off on Christmas Day, so I was able to go over to Staines to deliver my presents to my own family and Bill’s family too. I thought my mother-in-law rather subdued, but I knew she was worried over her sons - Bill in the Navy and his elder brother, Stan, in the Army with young Frank still at school and longing to be old enough to join the RAF. I wanted to be back in London before dark if possible so I wished everyone a Happy Christmas and went back to Gran.
We had another addition to the family now, Uncle Harry — my father’s older brother — who had left his job in a hotel on the coast and now worked in London. The air raids had eased off in the last few weeks otherwise Harry would not have returned. Badly shocked in the trenches in 1917, he was still very nervous and apprehensive, unable to hold down any job calling for responsibility and initiative, he worked long hours as a kitchen porter, the butt of his work-mates who mistook his nerves for stupidity and were constantly taunting him, calling him “Dummy” and remarking he was “only ten to the dozen” or simple minded. It was a great shame, he was a very shrewd man really — and provided you had the time to listen and wait while he collected his thoughts between sentences — he was very interesting to talk to. The casualties of war are not only the dead and maimed and I prayed that Bill would get through without suffering like poor Uncle Harry.
Of course, I should have liked to have heard from Bill but there had been no letters for some days. Not that this was particularly unusual, we wrote to each other every single day but, of course, being constantly at sea his letters tended to arrive in bulk weeks apart. I kept all his letters for years after the War — they nearly filled a small suitcase — but finally destroyed them when several went missing in a very amusing way. My two eldest children decided to play postman. They must have seen me reading the letters from time to time and knew where they were kept, and the first time I knew anything was amiss was when several neighbours knocked on the door to return them — the children had delivered about a dozen all down the street! I didn’t have the nerve to knock on doors and ask for their return. We all sat up to see the New Year in and hoped that 1943 would see the War over, it had been raging for over three years by now and we seemed no nearer the Victory we all longed for.
A few days later in the early morning there were two knocks on the front door — thinking it was the postman, I rushed downstairs to open it and there was Bill. It was wonderful to see him again, but he looked very drawn and pale and I suddenly realised he was in a completely new uniform with no badges on his sleeve — even his collar and cap were brand new, and I suddenly realised he must have lost his ship. We hurried upstairs to tell Gran and Uncle Harry the good news that Bill was safely home again and sat listening to his explanation. It was awful — HMS Partridge had been torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean on my birthday, December 20th. After several hours swimming around in the oil-covered sea, Bill was picked up by another destroyer and taken into port. Clothed in whatever garments the crew could spare, he and a few other survivors were later transferred to a troop ship that finally delivered them safely to this country. Then followed a day of re-kitting from scratch — the only thing he owned when he arrived in this country was his identity disc around his neck — everything else was at the bottom of the sea, somewhere in the Mediterranean. His greatest loss was of his mates, though especially “Shady”, a boy who had gone through training school with Bill right from the time he had joined up. I suppose the one who understood most of all was Uncle Harry. He couldn’t say very much but he knew what it was like all right.
Of course, I dashed off to ring the Depot. When the Depot Inspector heard that Bill was on survivor’s leave he told me to ring again in a week’s time. I saw the sheet later — I had been covered for every day that week and had five crosses which meant I had lost only two day’s pay. Of course, Bill wanted to see his mum, and, as he had to wear his uniform, I spent that evening sewing on the new badges and hoped there would be no more raids while he was at home. He was very shaken and restless and could talk of nothing else but seeing the ship breaking in two and each half going down, taking so many men with it, the sea covered in burning oil and hearing his rescuers calling him to grab the rope and almost drowning in his panic because he couldn’t see it with his eyes covered in black oil.
Bill’s mother was overjoyed to see him and laughed and cried together — I had never seen her like this before — usually a very quiet, reserved woman — I had misjudged her, mistaking her calmness for a cold nature. Then I was told why she had been so subdued on my last visit on Christmas Eve. She had been listening to Lord Haw-Haw, the traitor who broadcast from Germany — and he had reported the loss of Bill’s ship. Of course, a great many of his reports were propaganda and had no truth in them, they were aimed at breaking our morale. His call sign was “Germany Calling” and thousands of people used to tune their wireless sets to listen and then pray that he was not telling the truth, especially if their loved ones were involved in the disasters he described. On this occasion he had been telling the truth and my dear mother-in-law had not mentioned it to me for fear of spoiling my Christmas. I’ve often wondered if I could have been so thoughtful for others under similar circumstances.
We spent that week visiting members of the family. Gran wondered if it was good for Bill to be constantly telling people about his experiences but I noticed he slowly began to grow calmer and less jumpy and decided it was probably helping — to be able to talk about it and get it off his mind: till the day we went to the cinema. I had carefully chosen a programme of comedy films but had forgotten the newsreels. We saw a convoy of ships crossing the Atlantic, suddenly one of them opened fire and Bill was out of his seat and several steps down the aisle before he remembered where he was. Survivor’s leave was always twenty-one days and now I know why. It wasn’t long enough but the men couldn’t be spared for longer than that. Of course, I had to go back to work and the weather was not particularly good but Bill was feeling better all the time and soon he began to laugh and joke again and I began to think of the future and what I would have done if he had not returned.
Then we had our first argument — not a row — but a real, definite difference of opinion. I wanted a child and Bill was totally opposed to the idea. Of course, I could see his point of view — he believed that, if he did not survive the War, I should find it very difficult to find another husband and eventual happiness again if I had a baby to bring up. I absolutely rejected the possibility of ever replacing Bill with another man and, if I lost him, I wanted more than just a framed photograph and a bunch of letters to keep his memory intact. We have relived this argument several times over the years when discussing the situation with friends and relations and almost invariably the men have agreed with Bill and the women have decided that their view would have agreed with mine. So it would seem that the difference between men and women isn’t merely physical after all.
After the first week I had to return to work and Bill would often spend the day on my tram. He found that he rather liked the job and the happy atmosphere in the Depot — several of the older drivers had served in the Navy in the last war and he enjoyed exchanging yarns with them, and I think he was a little surprised at the way I had blossomed out too. He was used to a rather timid and painfully shy girl and here she was — chatting merrily to passengers completely in her element. There was no doubt that I loved my job and would be sorry to have to leave when the War ended.
All too soon the day arrived when he had to report to Chatham again and we started the old routine of writing every day and looking forward to Bill’s next leave.
After a few weeks I was able to confirm my suspicions and write to tell him I had won the argument after all and he could expect to be a proud father in late September. He was thrilled — and so was I when he told me he was still not at sea but at Scarborough, with a proper civilian address. It was much more pleasant addressing my letters now, “c/o GPO London” was so impersonal. His landlady was very pleasant too. For the one and only time I cheated — I went to the doctor with a very mild sore throat and got a certificate for three days. It was a lovely weekend — but Bill had to tell me that his stay in Scarborough would not be a long one — he was just waiting for his new ship and would be off to sea very soon — North Atlantic Convoy Duty.
We were sure the baby would be a boy and decided he would be called Michael and always referred to him by name in all our letters from that weekend. I hadn’t told anyone at the Depot that I was expecting a baby and kept the secret as long as I could but, despite several alterations to my uniform, there came a day when I could no longer push my way past standing passengers in the rush hour and I had to give in my notice. I was persuaded to apply for Maternity Leave — just in case I felt like getting a relation to look after the baby and returning to my job. I’m very glad that it didn’t occur to me at the time that they were really making it easy for me to return in case anything should go wrong — such a thing never entered my mind. I used to sit at the open window waving at the trams as they went by all through August and September and on October 10th the baby arrived — our son, Michael.
Contributed originally by addeyed (BBC WW2 People's War)
Iwas born in 1930 in Dulwich,the youngest of four boys. My parents moved to a new house in Grove Park South London after I was born.My mother died there when I was 18 months old.I was sent to live with grandparents until I was four years old when my father remarried. When the war began in 1939 I was evacuated with Baring Road primary school to Folkestone. My eldest brother had joined the Army in 1938 and was in Palestine with the Royal Dragoon Guards cavalry. The other two boys stayed at home with my father and stepmother. My father had been gassed in France in the first world war but worked as a hairdresser in New Cross. When the owner retired in 1940 my father bought the shop and sold the house in Grove Park. The family moved into the flat above the shop in New Cross Road.In early 1941 with the occupation of France by Germany and frequent enemy air raids over the South Coast my school was sent on to the safety of South Wales. I found myself living with the local milkman and his mother in a tiny cottage in Tredegar, Monmouthshire.They were very kind to me and I enjoyed helping the milkman with his deliveries in his pony and trap at weekends.He took the milk round in large metal churns and the housewives would come out to the vehicle with jugs to be filled. I stayed with Bryn Jones until I passed the 11plus school examination and was given a grammar school place.Since my family now lived in New Cross I was sent to the local grammar school Addey and Stanhope which at that time was evacuated to Garnant, Carmarthenshire.I was very sad to leave my schoolfriends and my fosterparents and even more so when I arrived at the dingy mining village which was Garnant. I found myself billetted with an elderly spinster who taught piano in her front parlour on Sunday mornings after chapel. She was already looking after another young evacuee but he did not stay very long. The cottage had no electricity and lighting was by oil lamps which were carried from room to room. It was very eerie going upstairs to bed at night with shadows cast on the walls. Cooking and heating was by the use of a coal fire combined with a blackleaded iron oven range in the parlour.Since there was no indoor toilet or bathroom one had to use the privy at the bottom of the garden and wash in the scullery sink. Baths were taken in a tin bath placed in front of the open range with water heated in buckets. Friday nights were always embarrassing when my fostermotherinsisted on washing my back!
Meals were simple fare.Breakfast was porridge and toast (using a toasting fork and the open fire)and teas was bread and jam with a home made welsh cake. Ihad schooldinners except at weekends. On Sundays my fostermother boiled a sheep's head and made brawn eaten with boiled potatoes and cabbage.Tea was tinned paste sandwiches with a slice of cake.
I made friends at school and did quite well in lessons, but I felt very lonely in the little cottage with the elderly spinster as my only company.I read a great deal though the lamplight was never very bright. There was a crystal wireless set in the parlour but it was hardly ever switched on.Miss Williams never bought a newspaper so I did not learn much about how the war was progressing. I had only an occasional letter from my father in which Ilearned that my eldest brother's regiment had exchanged their horses for tanks and were fighting in the North Africa Desert campaign. My two other brother had been called up and were both in the Navy.I did not hear from them at all.
Ihad to attend chapel three times on a Sunday with Miss Williams and since the services was mostly in Welsh I found them long and tedious until I learned a little of the language.One thing could not be denied-the Welsh locals enjoyed singing and the choirs were extremely vocal!
On Saturdays I would run the odd errand for my fostermother,going to the small shops in the village for groceries. During the summer I would fish in the small brook that run past the village with the aid of a homemade rod and line made from a small branch, a piece of string and a bent safety pin which served as a hook. Worms or a piece of bread served as bait. I rarely caught anything in the stream but it helped pass the time.Other days I would climb up the waste coal tip that rose up behind the cottages and slide down it on a battered old tin tray. It was good fun but often I went back home with grazed knees and grimed clothing which did not please Miss Williams. She preferred that I went and picked whinberries from the bushes that grew on the slopes of the steep hills that surrounded the Welsh valley and I must admit I was very fond of the pies my fostermother made from this wild fruit!
My life continued in this fashion until early March 1943 when a fellow pupil approached me in the school playground and told me my father was dead. Shocked, I asked him what he meant. He said that he had heard Miss Williams tell his fostermother that she had received a letter from my stepmother saying so and that I would have to go back to London. When I returned to the cottage after school I asked Miss Williams if the news was true.
She denied having received any letter and knew nothing about my father. The next day I caught the informer in the playground and called him a liar. I was always a easy tempered boy and never got into fights but I was so angry I punched him in the eye and knocked him down. He still insisted that his story was true.
When I returned to my billet after school I again asked my foster mother if my father had died. "N0", she said, "But it is true that I have had a letter and your parents want you to go back to London." "Why?" I asked. "The war is not over yet". "I expect they just want to see you"Miss Williams said. "You have been away a long time.I am sure you want to see them. After tea I will help you pack.Tomorrow I have to put you on the bus to Neath to catch the train to London.Someone will meet you at Paddington station.
With my head in a whirl I watched Miss Williams pack the few things I possessed in the battered old suitcase I had carried from London five years before. She made me kneel on the floor beside the bed to say my prayers as she always did and gave me a hug as I climbed between the sheets.In the dim light of the lamp I thought her eyes shone quite wetly. "Sleep tight,"she said "You will have a long day tomorrow."
I could not sleep. Everything was happening too fast and despite Miss Williams reassurances I was beginning to doubt that she was telling me all she knew. She had refused to show me the letter she had received and I suspected it contained news that she wanted to keep from me.
Early the next morning, after breakfasting on a boiled egg which I found hard to swallow Miss Williams took me down to the bus stop and we waited for the Neath bus.
When it came my foster mother gave the conductor my fare and asked him to make sure I alighted at Neath railway station. Then she gave another hug. "Don't worry, Jimmy," she said "Everything will be alright". This time I could see the tears in her eyes. She stood there waving as the bus pulled away. It was to be my last sight of her.
I alighted at Neath without any trouble but I was shocked when the London train pulled in.It was packed to capacity. All the compartments were full and even the corridor was crowded with standing passengers, many in uniform with haversacks, gasmasks etc. I had to squeeze along until I found a tiny space where I could put down my case and sit on it.I had been told that the journey would take about four hours. Even surrounded by chattering people I suddenly felt very much alone.
The train seemed to stop at quite a few stations, disgorging military personnel and civilians, all seemingly in a haste to get to their destinations, but with their places taken by others so that that there was always someone standing above me. I was a very small thirteen year old and felt it.
This was a different world to the village life of Tredegar and Garnant where the war seemed far away. The uniforms of American, Free French and Polish military personnel
mingling with British uniforms, and the unfamiliar tongues I could hear in conversation were a stark reminder that this small island had become a gathering point for the impending invasion of Europe. I wondered where my three brothers were and if they would survive the conflict. The thought led me on to wondering about my father. The nearer I drew to London the more I became convinced that my quick dispatch from Wales meant that something dreadful had happened at home, and it seemed probable that the boy in the playground had not lied to me. I tried to dismiss the idea from my mind but my heart was a dead weight in my chest.
As the train pulled into Paddington I stood up and tried to glance through the grimy windows. I had no idea who would meet me. Surely it had to be someone I knew and who knew me and yet I had seen none of my family in five years. Slowly I alighted from the train and found myself pushed and prodded down the platform by hastening passengers. Through the barrier I stopped and looked around. There were several groups of people standing around and others standing alone. I did not recognise anyone.
I took a few more paces forward anxiously scanning every face. No-one seemed to be looking at me.Suddenly Iheard a voice behind me "Jimmy? Is that you Jimmy?"
I turned, startled. The man was tall and lean in an Army uniform, medal ribbons on his chest. My heart jumped. "Bill?" I stammered "Hello,old son" The soldier grinned down at me."I was afraid I'd missed you. Give me your case. We will catch the bus outside." With that he took the case from me and with the other hand lightly clutching my shoulder he led the way briskly out of the station. I kept glancing up at him,hardly believing my eyes. He was so smart,so handsome, so manly! I had not seen him since 1938.The last news I had of him was that he was in Italy fighting near Monte Cassino.What was he doing here? I was afraid to ask.
We boarded the bus for New Cross and on the journey my brother asked mundane questions about life in Wales and my school.He never mentioned our father and though the question was on my lips I dare not ask it. It was not until we we walking towards the hairdressing shop that I found the courage. "Bill. My dad. Is he,is he,dead?"
My brother stopped. Turned towards me, looked down at me. His hand tightened on my shoulder. Gravely he said "Yes, Jimmy. I am afraid he is."
My eyes filled with hot tears.I blinked, brushed them quickly away. I had known the answer before it was spoken but it still hit me like a kick in the stomach.My mind then froze over and I could think of nothing more to say.If Bill said anything further to me before we arrived at the shop doorway his words did not penetrate my brain.
My stepmother Winifred was waiting to greet me in the flat above the shop.In appearance she was much as I remembered, tall and slim with her black hair parted in the middle so that it resembled a pair of raven's wings. She was dressed all in black but she wore her customary bright red shade of lipstick that matched the colour of her impeccably varnished fingernails.As I appraised her I felt the same nervousness that had always gripped me in her presence. She had always been a strict disciplinarian in the home and exercised strict control over my brothers and myself. Any wayward behaviour from us was met with swift chastisement, often physical, with the use of any instument that lay to hand. We soon learned not to defy her wishes.There had been no point in complaining to Father. His contaminated lungs made him cough and wheeze and he did not possess the physical or mental strength to enter into arguments with his new wife.Our guess was that not only had he been attracted by Winnie's allure but because as a nursing sister she seemed an ideal candidate as a wife and carer of his children. He was not to know that she did not have an ounce of maternal instinct within her body.He was unaware of Winnie's cold dispassionate attitude towards us for she did not show it in his presence.We loved him enough not to add to his burden. Our stepmother was all sweetness and light when he was home,which was only on Sundays in daylight hours. During the week he left for work as we were preparing for school in the mornings and usually arrived home after we had been put to bed in the evenings.By that time he was physically exhausted and only had the energy to put his head round the door of our bedroom to see if we were asleep.
The commencement of war in 1939 put an end to our torment. Though I was sorry to say goodbye to my Father I was thrilled to escape from Winifred's clutches and not be at her continual beck and call. Bill was with his regiment but I am sure Len and Fred
were both anxious to reach the age of call up so that they too could get away.
Now I was back under the same roof as our stepmother and at 13 years of age still under her control. I did not look forward to the future with much confidence.
Sitting in the small lounge of the shop flat that evening i learned that my father's funeral had already taken place. My three brothers had all been given compassionate leave to attend but Len and Fred had returned to their ships some days before. Only Bill had been granted extended leave because his unit had just arrived from Italy and was at the South Coast-preparing.as I found out later, for the D-Day landings in June. Within a few days he too had gone and I was left alone with my stepmother.
The following weeks passed slowly and drearily.Winnie kept the shop open with the asistance of two female staff who attended to the hairdressing needs of lady customers.Astonishingly Winnie took upon herself to give haircuts to men and proved quite competent at it. My role was to keep the salon clean, sweeping the floor and washing the handbasins etc.
Contributed originally by Thanet_Libraries (BBC WW2 People's War)
It was Saturday, 7th September 1940, that my first experience of war came about. A scale of indescribable terror, fear for my life and later horror and shock. All in less than 24 hours.
Nearly 17 years of age, I was then working in the Head Office of City and West End Laundry, in New Kent Road (London), the works factory was on the opposite side of the road. My manageress was a Miss Forrest, a lovely natured lady, who lived well outside London at Ashtead.
The day was beautiful, warm and sunny. Miss Forrest asked me if I would go over to one of our offices and collect the takings and Account books. The office was at Bermondsey, SE london. So, having eaten my lunch. I set off. Out of the New Kent Road, into Old Kent Road, turning off then towrads Bermondsey and eventually into Ilderton Road (I belive that was the name, at least it has always stayed in my mind), at the bottom accorss was Rotherhithe new Road, across was Rotherhithe New road, accross the way lay the Great Surrey Commercial Docks, others were around e.g. West India Docks, Victoria and Albert etc.
I found our office, alongside it were several shops with flats above, occupied by families. The air raid sirens had already sent out the warnings and the vibration of heavy aircraft around. I had just got inside the door of the office when the young women in charge of it, grabbed me quickly to take shelter, this was down in the basement.
I could dimly see the other occupants, among them a couple with a young baby. We were all sat on flattened cardboard boxes. Bombs started to fall rapidly, explosion closer. Suddenly, a huge erruption shook our basement; small concrete pieces, dirt and dust enveloped us like a cloud. Once it settled I noticed that the young mum was feeding the baby and had a hankerchief to shiled the babys face. then one of the men detected the smell of gas, but could not find the source, it was a sickening smell. Two of the mentried to move the basement door, but that was splintered and jammed tight. Their efforts only made more dust. I cannot recall anyone mentioning the time at all; perhaps it meant nothing to us then.
Later, we could hear voices and movement, mens voices. we raised ours too, over and over again, no response. Some time after it went quiet. Nobody spoke a word, amybe we were all realising there was no way out. the baby became fidgety and started to cry. Nothing seemed to console it so it went on and on.
Then we heard voices, indistinct. We shouted again and again. More movement of something, then a voice clearer than bfore, nearer and we shouted again. the came questions. 'How many were we?' 12 and a baby. 'Anyone injured?' No. our message confirmed, we were told a rescue squad was on its way. Then one of our spokesmen called out that there was a gas leak in the basement too.
It seemed an age before anything happened, but help came eventually after mroe dirt and grit showered down, we were helped out.
It was dark by this time but everything glowed fiery red, flames sky high, it was indeed a terrible sight. Shops, flats gone, contents strewn everywhere.
There was nothing, except endless pieces of conctret, lumps of broken brickwork, glass, smashed huge pieces of timber, an endless mass of debris. it was a question of stumbling, feeling our way over it all, assisted by the men who cam to our rescue.
We were told that it was the baby crying that had saved our lives. A rescue worker on his own, amking his way across, heard it and nobody else around, realised someone was trapped beneath and bought back the rescue squad.
It was about midnight by this time. We were checked out at a sort of brick shelter somewhere around. names and flat numbers were taken also my name and address. it seemed a number had been rescued but no idea as to whether all of them were found.
The companions I had shared the basement with were taken to a shelter and I never heard any more of our laundry shop girl/woman. When my turn came I said I had to get home. A warden walked with me for a while, helping me to reach the main road, the I started on my way home.
Every where was lit up by these tremendous dock blazes. Firemen could be seen high up on fire escape type ladders, using hoses, silhouetted against the red glow in the sky. air raid wardens, rescue workers carrying ladders etc even civillians helping out where they could.
I got a far as the New Cross tram depot when a policeman stopped me, wanting to know where i was going and I told him 'home to Catford'. 'Not tonight my dear' he said, and promptly escorted me into another air raid shelter. This was a brick type shelter. I realised then that another air raid had started, planes, heavy sounding, seemed very near.
Inside the shelter were several people, a lady in a wheelchair was at the far end. Bombs were falling, the usual whish and explosion. Suddenly everything seemed to erupt. i saw the wheelchair lady thrown, as i too went likewise. A split second and that was it. I remember being carried away somewhere, I know it was sheltered, someone was talking and I couldnt answer. then i was propped up and given a cup of very sweet tea, at least thats what I think it was.
More questions, where did i live? Could i stand? Could I use my arms? I thought my Head was broken. i couldnt think properly. i noticed it was daylight, and oh! How I wanted to get home. Well, in the end someone decided to allow me to go.
I just walkedand reached home at about 7.00am. This was Sunday 8th September. My mum and dad came to the door. Mums first words were 'Wherever have you been?' Dad put his arms round me and led me indoors. Gradually it came out and it was then I cried and couldnt stop. I remeber dad holding me so tight. I was safe, alive and home.
They cleaned me up. Oh! How I hurt! My head and face covered in dust and ried blood. Later the bruising came out, arms and legs. Apparantly they had seen the Dockside areas blazing from where we lived. A good viewwas had across the London area.
Monday morning my mum helped me bathe, thenshe took me to our doctor. He examined me and i was given a note for me to be off work until I felt better. he prescribed some tablets too and abottle of medicine. However, I returned to work in a few days, travelling there by clambering onto lorries mostly. Drivers were very kind and helpful. Miss Forrest was so pleased to see me back again.
The second time I was caught out, happened after I had to cycle to work.The roads were damaged, tram lines twisted and some broken etc. Cycles were sued very much in those days, war or no war. From Catford I would travel through Lewisham then on down to New Cross Road and into New Cross Gate, where I had to turn into old kent Road. At that point I suppose there may have been about 40 or 50 cyclists waiting to cross the road.
We all shot over, but once across we had not gone many yards when with a 'whoomf!' an unexploded bomb went off. I don't know what happened to the others, a couple of policemen and civillians helped wherever they could.
I had gone through a shattered brick wall to by left. once helped up and asked if I was all right, it was my bike that concerned me. I found it many yards up the road on my right, the tyres had completely vanished, blown away by the blast. And the bike, that looked as if it has been wrapped round a lampost!
I went to work. Miss Forrest cleaned me up, my head hurt and my face was grazed and so sore. She sent me home early that day.
usually when unexploded bombs were discovers roads were cordoned off and a danger sign erected. However, many could go into a soft area and be undetected, as this one obviuosly was. On my way home, I noticed workers were at the spot on the job. There was a fairly large crater made by the explosion, and very near to the wall I had gone through.
My cycle? probably used in the war effort for scrap iron!
The last of all was on a day when I was busy making up books in our office. The sirens had gone and my Miss Forrest had called me to take cover. However, there didnt seem to be much going on, so i went on with my book. Suddenly, whoosh! then an explosion, all in a split second. Our heavy glasss roof had fallen in and a piece of shrapnel stuck in the wooden bench where I stood. Later I took the piece home with me and it was kept by my mum. I never saw it again as we moved to Brockley. I had changed my job. the laundry works were damaged and our shop closed. End of that chapter!
At 17 years of age I volunteered for the Women's Land Army. In moving, my uniform had been sent to my old address. Then when i made enquiries, another appointment was made and the opportunity to go to a new branch, the Women's Timber Corps, which I jumped at a really different and unusual type of job. It was a challenge!
At the time of these happenings, the Doctor who I had seen after the first inncident, suggested I wirte about it, perhaps to rid myself of part of the horror. Counselling myself?
I wrote endless foolscap pages for there were constant occurences, not all tragic, there was a great deal of humor too. Blimey! There neede to be!
An elderly Uncle of the family who had shared our shelter, a retired gentleman, who had worked part time in publishing, on reading my account, advised me to keep it, but like many other war time 'keepsakes' it disappeared.
Contributed originally by waafairforce (BBC WW2 People's War)
This is an extract from a life story that my mum wrote for my brother Richard and myself and ultimately grand and great-grand children to read. She charted her life from her early childhood through to the year 2000 when she lost her beloved husband Norman. The chapter entitled “The War Years” provided us with a fascinating and somewhat frightening view of her life alone in London at the beginning of the war to my parents meeting and the birth of my brother during the war. I was born in 1949 after the war had ended so was not featured in this part of their lives.
As the story begins my mum was just 23 years old. She had moved to London from her home town of Grimsby and was working in the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square………………………………………
I well remember listening to the radio all alone in my bedsit on that fateful day, 11 am on 3rd September 1939. Shortly afterwards the sirens sounded for the first time. I think most people in London thought it was their last hour. I know I did. I grabbed all my possessions including the photographs of my mother and brother and went into the air raid shelter thinking I would never see them again. Fortunately it was a false alarm and soon the all clear sounded. There was a lull for some time before we all began to return to normal routine.
At Peter Jones department store they formed a fire squad — most of us joined and as a result spent many nights on the roof on duty. The restaurant and lounge were on the floor below so it was not too bad, at least we had plenty to eat, which saved me buying an evening meal. I remember one of the directors was Scottish and he brought along a record player and some recordings of Scottish reels. He taught us the steps and we had great fun learning. At one of the annual balls we were able to give a demonstration. We were all dressed in long evening gowns. It was wonderful, the gowns were part of the show wardrobe and afterwards we were able to buy the gowns. Mine was to become my wedding dress.
However, it was not all fun in those days, but we made the most of it. The bombing had not started but I remember one night looking down from the railings of the roof and seeing the army from the Chelsea Barracks marching off to war. Later I was to see those lads returning from the disaster of Dunkirk. At one point someone got up a little concert party and we toured the sites of the barrage balloons cheering on all the troops.
Things weren’t too bad until the blitz started. I always remember coming home from a visit to my home town of Grimsby one Saturday night. The train was held up for a couple of hours outside Kings Cross Station. When we did eventually get off the train it looked as if the whole of London was ablaze. I was terrified as I made my way back to Victoria. Later my current boyfriend came to pick me up and take me out for a meal. We went to a restaurant where we often went. It was in a basement and I felt quite safe there even though there was an alert on — I could have stayed there all night. Eventually we decided to make a dash for it as I was only about 10 minutes walk away from my flat. As we were walking over the bridge there was a sound like a train on the line below. Suddenly we both realised what the sound was. It was coming from above not below. Fortunately there was a shelter on the bridge. We ran as fast as we could and threw ourselves into it. The bomb landed in front of the restaurant that we had just left. That was my first dice with death. I was to have many more near misses before I left London.
For several months it was not possible to get a good nights sleep in London. I passed more and more bombed areas on my way to work each day. Once I felt I must get some sleep, so I went into one of the tube stations with my blanket but I would have been better staying at home. It was awful, so many people laid on the floor all trying to sleep. Then I tried to shelter under one of the big London buildings but I could not sleep due to the awful smell of so many bodies so I picked up my blanket and walked through the black-out back to my flat. Then one night a friend suggested I go home with her for the night. She lived in Ealing — I went and as a result had a good nights sleep. However, a few nights later they were bombed, not a direct hit but it caused a lot of damage.
Another night I went my good friends Jack and Elsie. They had a ground floor flat in Maidavale. I felt quite safe there but even they were bombed a few nights after. The bombing was following me around! It was awful. The top flat was badly damaged and a family with a young girl who lived there was killed. They only found the little girls arm. Jack and Elsie moved out to the country after that.
One Saturday night I was getting ready to go out. I had just got in the bath and there was a terrible screaming noise. That was the start of the raids with screaming bombs. I soon got out of the bath and got dressed. I still went out though. We were getting used to the raids and not going into the shelters much.
Fortunately I missed the buzz bombs. I was fed up with the whole thing and decided to join up before I was called up. I chose the Womens Royal Air Force. For no particular reason — fate must have taken a hand in my destiny. I was on my way to meet my future husband. After nine years at Peter Jones, I handed in my notice, said goodbye to all my friends and was on my way.
FALLING IN LOVE
I went to Gloucester for five weeks training after which I was given a choice of two postings. I chose London and Lincoln. I was sent to Scampton in Linconshire and there at the gate to the base I met him — Norman Gray. I did not realise at the time but after a few days we had a date. He took me out to tea and to the picture house in Lincoln.
We now saw a lot of each other during the next two or three weeks. It was a warm September and in the evenings we would go for lovely country walks. Each week we went to the dance in the gym and danced to the RAF band. We had some great times there and I made two very good friends — Betty and Dorothy. Dorothy was the mothering type and looked after me. We had to sleep off camp in an old country house, which was said to be haunted. It was very cold there and Dorothy always used to go on the early transport from the camp to put the hot water bottle in my bed. Of course Betty and I were always on the late bus.
I think Norman and I both knew from the start that this was the real thing and we would marry. He had told me that he had already been married, that he got married young and that his wife had had a terminal illness and died soon after. So we were both free and we planned to get married as soon as possible.
We were marred on 8th November 1941. We had a nice wedding in Grimsby and my grandfather gave me away. Betty and Dorothy and another friend were there and three pals of Norman’s, his best man was Les Taylor his best friend.
We had a lovely reception at Blundell Park House and stayed the night in the Bridal Suite. We then spent a few days at Quarry Bank meeting Norman’s mother and sister Lily with her husband Jack and baby John. They made me very welcome and we had a pleasant stay. Our leave was soon over and we had to get back to camp.
EXPECTING OUR FIRST CHILD
It wasn’t long before I became pregnant and had to get my discharge from the WRAF. We went to live at my mother’s house in Grimsby. Norman got a living out permit and we found accommodation with a young couple sharing their house in Bealey Road in Old Clee, a little area between Cleethorpes and Grimsby. It was not far from the sea front and near to the Danesbury Nursing Home where my baby was due to be born. From there it was a very nice country walk to my mothers and grandmothers, passing the little Old Clee Church where my baby was later christened.
One morning early, when I was very pregnant suddenly without warning a German plane crossed the coast and started dropping bombs. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs, flinging myself in the air raid shelter. I was very concerned that my baby was all right however a week or so later on the 17th September 1942 my beautiful little boy (Richard) arrived safe and sound.
After I left Scampton, Norman managed to get a living away pass and we shared a house with a very old widower. Norman used to cycle the 12 miles to Grimsby from the RAF Base.
ANOTHER NEAR MISS
We had another near miss when Richard was about a year old. We were still living with the old widower, he was a keen gardener. He hadn’t got a shelter so we used to go across his garden to the next door neighbours Anderson shelter. The old man stayed at home under the table. He was angry with us for going across his garden and told us we should go round the front of the house but we took no notice which was just as well for one night the German bombers used anti personnel bombs. After the raid was over we had just returned to the house via the garden when there was a terrific explosion outside the front of the house. When we later went up to Richard’s room, we found the window had blown in and Richard’s cot was full of glass. Apparently one of the bombs had failed to go off and a man was walking in the street outside our house and must have kicked the unexploded bomb and it went off, blowing him to pieces. If we had returned by way of the front of the house, it could have been the three of us that was blown to pieces. So our dear little baby had two miracle escapes that night and that was not the end of it. A few days later Norman noticed a peculiar hole in the garden just outside the kitchen window. He got a stick and was poking it down the hole when he suddenly realised what it was — another unexploded bomb. What a shock — We had a to get the army in to detonate it — everyone was evacuated from the area.
Later Norman managed to find us accommodation at a farm house in Tetley which was not far from the aerodrome.
One night Norman was cycling home along a tree lined road where apparently a German airman had just parachuted down and been captured by the police. Another time one of the German planes started to shoot up the base. I was in bed while Norman was being shot at! The Germans favourite trick was to follow our planes back to their bases and then shoot up the runway. One of Norman’s jobs was to light up the runway with the Aldis lamps when our planes returned from their missions. That particular night he dropped the lamp and ran very quickly!!
We were very happy at the farmhouse, the villagers were very friendly and we were taken into their little community. We used to go to the local whist drives when we were able. Once, I remember, we won a huge home made pork pie, it was delicious, we halved it with the farmer and his family. We had plenty of good food there especially home cured bacon. When Norman came back after night duty, he gathered lovely big mushrooms in the fields so we had lovely breakfasts. Richard liked it too with all the animals, he learnt to walk and talk a lot there. I was sad to leave there. When we left we went to keep house for the widower who I had always thought of as a granddad. I had lived with him and his wife when I was very young, before being adopted.
MOVING TO THE MIDLANDS
After the bombing we went on a visit to Norman’s mother’s house in Quarry Bank. He felt I would be safer there. We went back and packed all our things and we stayed all the rest of the war years in Quarry Bank, Staffordshire. Mind you I did wonder one night when I lay in bed and heard all the German bombers going overhead on their way to bomb Coventry. I hated being parted from Norman, but he wrote to me every day to cheer me up. He would come and see us as often as he could usually unexpected. I could always hear his footsteps coming down the entry at the side of the house. He used to come in and grab Richard and throw him in the air. I was always frightened he was going to hit the low ceiling. I was always very unhappy after seeing him off at the station. It was an awfully long lonely walk back in the pitch dark, but I was never frightened.
It was very strange at first, living in the Midlands. I felt I was in a foreign country, but I soon got used to the way they talked and I made many friends especially at the clinic with Richard every week. Of course I got to know my new sister in law Lily with her little boy John. We always got on very well together and in later years became more like sisters.
During Norman’s time in the RAF he was sent on many courses. At one time I went down to London for a week when he was stationed at Uxbridge. Then another time he was in Loughborough and he got us temporary accommodation near by with a local gamekeeper and his wife — we had some lovely meals there too.
Another time he was sent to Blackpool and again he got us accommodation with an elderly lady in a cottage. We had a few visits into Blackpool — it was during May 1944 so even though we were still at war a few places remained open. We went into Blackpool Tower and listened to the organ but not played by Reginald Dixon at that time. Richard would play on the sands. He was about 18 months old then. On the day I returned with him to Quarry Bank, I got on the train and it was packed with American soldiers all celebrating the fact that we had invaded Normandy - it was ‘D’ Day. They all made a fuss of Richard — I expect many of them were missing their own families.
The next move for Norman was to London and he was stationed near the Albert Hall. He hated being there but it was not for long. The war with Germany ended and he was there outside Buckingham Palace celebrating with all the crowds. From there he was sent to Yorkshire and I was hoping he would soon be sent home, but the war with Japan was still on and one day he came home suddenly and he had to have inoculations ready to be sent out to India. I couldn’t believe it.
We enjoyed his embarkation leave as much as we could. Luckily however, he didn’t go to India and some time later he was demobbed and we had him home again. So for the first time we were able to start our normal married life.
We enjoyed almost 60 years of happy married life until my beloved Norman died aged 84 in October 2000
Contributed originally by hemlibrary (BBC WW2 People's War)
This story was submitted to the Peoples War web site by Hertfordshire Libraries working in partnership with the Dacorum Heritage Trust on behalf of the author, John Greener. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
Air Raid Precaution Units were made up of volunteers with various skills that could be used to recover people from the effects of aerial bombardment, and to give them emergency care until the rescue service could reach them. Such skills which they provided were for example; First Aid; Building and Demolition trades.
It was due to the skills of demolition workers that my Mother's life was saved when our house was demolished by a Rocket in 1944. My family home was at No. 90 Shardloes Road, New Cross. I was serving in the army in Burma at the time
and I remember my Commanding Officer asking me if I wanted to return home. I declined his offer because, having told me that my mother was safe and well, albeit in hospital, I realised that there was nothing I could do to improve her
circumstances if I were to return home. Thankfully, my Mother made a full recovery from her injuries.
Other important jobs to be done in the ARP control point were: Warden Control; Administration; Clerical and Typing work; and very important, Tea making.
There was always a welcoming cup of hot tea waiting for us when we returned to the control point. Each incident had to be recorded with Date, Time and Place. Every person rescued alive and those who were dead had to have their details recorded. Sometimes it was not easy to recognise the dead.
The control point I was attached to was set up in a local builders yard which belonged to Mick McManus, a well known middle weight wrestling champion,
Another important arm of the ARP were Cycle Messengers who with their detailed knowledge of the local district were able to deliver messages to other units. They were able to guide Rescue Services to those needing immediate aid. Their knowledge of the district and the quickest way to contact the Fire and Ambulance services; Hospitals and Doctors Surgeries, proved invaluable when telephone lines were destroyed.
Each London Borough had its own teams of ARP Control points who monitored the fall of bombs and the location of demolished properties so that they could direct the Rescue Services to places where people were known to have taken shelter when the Sirens sounded.
When war was declared at 11.00am on Sunday 3rd September 1939 I joined the ARP and became a Cycle Messenger, much to the consternation of my mother, who thought that I would be much safer at home taking shelter under the kitchen table. But I felt much safer out of the house where I could find my own shelter when the bombs were dropping.
My mother had a job with the local Money Lender as Receptionist, Clerk and Tea maker. She worked in a very pleasant office and enjoyed her work. My Step-Father worked for Southern Railway at Angerstein Works, Woolwich where he was a Semi-Skilled machine operator.
The pattern of my daily life soon fell into a regular routine. I would return home from work at 5.30. have my dinner then go to night school from seven until nine, and then be ready to set off to my local ARP control point to report for duty when the air raid Sirens sounded.
If it was a quiet night I would go off to meet my friends where we would spend the evening in the local Pub or some one's house. I remember with fondness my friends who were a pretty diverse bunch but we had a lot of fun together. Most of them are now dead, unfortunately. In particular I remember my two closest friends who were like me, an only child, so we had something in common. They were, George Nix and Ken Mullins both accomplished musicians. George played Piano and Ken played Saxophone and Clarinet. They formed the basis of a band which played at local functions, I
cannot play any instrument, much to my regret, so I became their agent, getting Gigs and buying their sheet music. We also recruited a Base Guitarist to our group, he had a hunch back due to deformity in his spine I cannot remember his name but I do remember him as an extrovert, a fine musician, with a great sense of humour,
When Harry Roy and his band visited the New Cross Empire he invited people from the audience to go on stage and conduct his band in a comedy sketch. Our friend took up the challenge, the result was hilarious with the musicians playing in different timing to the conductor. I never saw him after this, unfortunately, he was killed in a car accident while I was in the army. But, I shall never forget that night.
I became friendly with a Drummer, Eric Saunders, who had two sisters, Dorothy and Joyce. Their mother thought that Dorothy and I might develop a close relationship but I was not aware of her feelings toward me, and in any event, I would not consider a relationship during war time. The Saunders owned a Sweet and Tobacconist shop in Brockley and this became the focus for our social activities.
The shop had a large cellar, which we cleared out and decorated so we had premises for a club. Friday night was music night when we would join thousands of other listeners to the wireless for our weekly session of dancing to Victor Sylvester and his orchestra. Through the wireless he taught us the basic steps of Ballroom dancing. Each week there would be a different step in the dancing repertoire. He received many letters from people who wanted a particular dance, mostly Latin American, which was very popular at the time. He gave us many hours of pleasure.
Mr Saunders was a professional violinist and became a great help in setting up our club. He introduced us to the music of Stephane Grappelli, probably the greatest Swing and Jazz violinist of our time. It was here that we organised our activities and played out our parodies to mimic the times.
During the Spring, Summer and Autumn months, if the weather was fine, we would walk to Hilly Fields where we played cricket or football. We each had a bicycle and sometimes we would ride to another park for a change of scenery. One of our friends had a Tandem and on long rides such as a trip to Southend I would take the rear seat. Probably half a dozen of us would go off for the day, taking a picnic lunch to eat on Southend Pier, after a play on the beach and a swim in the sea we returned home. There was very little motorised traffic on the roads at that time and we felt no danger in cycling that far. It is not a journey I would fancy doing today. Unlike to-days youngsters we had very little money but we had tremendous fun.
As an alternative to the club we would go for a drink at our local pub 'The Wickham Arms'. Although we were under age for Pub drinking the son of the Publican was a member of our club so his mother, who was the Landlord, allowed us to sit in a corner out of the way of other drinkers and drink our half pint of beer, at that time the most popular drink for young lads was Brown Ale.
In spite of the war, in those early years, we spent many happy hours particularly in the winter, in the warm cosiness of the Wickham Arms planning our future activities.
During the years '40' and '41 at the height of the London Blitz my mother would make up a bed for me under the Dining Room table a large wooden structure which she thought would save me if the roof fell in but I wasn't so sure so when the air raid sirens sounded I would be off to the ARP centre ready for duty. At this time I had my job with TELCON from 9.00am until 5.00pm. Sometimes, if I had been busy during the night I found it difficult to stay awake during the following day so I used to spend my lunch hour in the office toilet where I could have almost an hour's uninterrupted sleep.
The weather played a great part in the level of ARP activity. If it was raining heavily or snowing the Germans stayed at home, which meant we had a night off. So, there was very little activity during the winter months. During the early years of the war, 1940 and 1941 London was heavily bombed day and night with High Explosive and Incendiary bombs, particularly, the docks area on the River Thames.
Fortunately, Greenwich was South East of the city centre where the main London Docks were so we did not suffer as much bombing as they did, but I watched the dog fights between the German and British aircraft as they were played out over southern England during the summer of 1940. This was the Battle of Britain.
As an ARP messenger I had my share of incidents the most common when I fell into a shell hole that I hadn't seen in the dark, sometimes there would be water in the hole and I would finish my duty soaking wet, apart from a few cuts and grazes I didn't suffer any major injury.
From my house or the factory I could see the fires from the blazing docks which cast a pall of smoke over the river. I remember the first day of the London blitz it was 7th of September 1940. A date ingrained in the memory of anyone who lived in London at that time. The closest and biggest single tragedy that I remember was when a High Explosive bomb dropped on Woolworth's store in New Cross Road, over a hundred people were killed, this became the largest single incidence locally, of the war.
I served in the ARP until I was sixteen years old when I realised there was a much bigger job for me. However, at such an impressionable age the sights and sounds of those far off days have made sure that I never forget what the people of London went through to ensure that Britain will never give in to tyranny.
THE HOME GUARD
I had reached the age where I felt that I should be doing more for the war effort, so I joined the Home Guard. A unit had been formed at the Telcon Works at Greenwich. Because, geographically, we were in the county of Kent our parent Regiment was The Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment. Our Commanding Officer was one of our own factory managers who had ended his service in the First World War with the rank of Major, so he was naturally, given command of our unit. Unfortunately, I cannot remember his name, but I do remember him to be a very kindly gentleman whether at work or on parade.
When the Home Guard was first formed it was known as the LDV(Local Defence Volunteers). The only defence we had at the time were wooden dummy rifles, we were taught basic military skills such as marching and rifle drill, self defence and fire drill. We paraded once a week for training. Our duties were guarding the rear of the Works because of its easy approach from the river, and the threat of invasion made us particularly vulnerable.
We also did our share of Fire Watching and putting out Incendiary Bombs. I remember the visit to the Works by HRH The Duke of Kent which took place the day following a night aerial attack on the factory in which a bomb destroyed the high frequency furnaces. Fortunately the night shift had been cancelled so nobody was injured. The Factory was working again within twenty four hours although the employees suffered considerable discomfort through exposure to the weather until the roof was repaired.
Production in the Works was often disrupted due to daylight air raids. When the Siren sounded we used to leave our offices and machines and gather in a part of the Works which was deemed safest for the employees. There were other parts of the Works that had been made as safe as possible so that we didn't all congregate in the same area.
Air raids offered an opportunity to take a break from our work, to rest and relax as much as possible. It was at such times that I learned to play Bridge, which I found to be an absorbing card game. Although the Works were on the German flight path to the London Docks I don't ever remember the Works being bombed during daylight hours. The German bombers made for the docks and the city a couple of miles up river from Greenwich. My service with Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company came to an end at the beginning of January 1942 when I left to join the Army.
Contributed originally by Henry Forrest (BBC WW2 People's War)
Few houses had electricity in those days so wireless sets had to be battery operated. These wireless sets, were cumbersome affairs, they were powered by a very heavy "High Tension", dry battery 90 volts or so. And by accumulators, which were lead acid batteries,even heavier These had to be recharged frequently by the local wireless shop. He charged tuppence for this service, which took all day. Your name was painted on the side of these accumulators in white paint, so that you could retain them, You had to be careful when transporting these devices, as the acid spilt easily, and you would suffer burns to your legs, but what was worse your trousers and socks disintegrated. Many of the children had trousers peppered with holes, as a result of carrying them home too fast. This experience was usually accompanied with a clip around the ear for alleged carelessness. Thanks indeed for an errand
We as children, had our own "wireless sets". We found out (and this defies physics) that if you connected a sensitive pair of headphones, one lead to an earth pipe and the other to a good aerial, you would hear local radio stations quietly but clearly. This was another subject we discussed. Who had got the best reception, or the farthest station, etc. One step down from a crystal set I believe. We would listen to Monday at Eight, or Appointment with Fear, (which very often terrified us).
The surrounding streets were lined with air raid shelters. These were constructed stoutly of 2 foot thick brick walls and reinforced concrete roofs. We spent many nights in these shelters, when the raids were "heavy". Inside our shelter was a large brass bed, an old settee, a few chairs and a piano. The bed housed about 6 or 7 children, who slept there, for the night, whilst the adults amused themselves by singing old tunes to this piano. One night, during the early hours, we were woken by a tremendous crash, the usual dust, screams and darkness. Eventually the ARP called through the door, and said we were safe but not to venture out until the morning. In the morning, we could see the cause of the mayhem. A bomb had landed just 20 feet away from the shelter, in the middle of the road, Furley Road, to be precise. There was a large crater, and houses on each side of the road had been flattened. The gap is still there to this day. The shelter, however. Apart from a few cracks, was intact, a testimony to their amazing strength. We owed our lives to the people who designed and built these havens.
Another shelter we used to frequent occasionally, was in the basement of a bus depot in Meeting House Lane. This was a very large shelter and housed many people. We had a piano ,a wireless set, someone had a silent cine projector, and numerous games for children to play with. We had some terrific parties here, fancy dress parties and even a Xmas Party, with a "real "Santa" who had a small gift for everyone. On one particular Christmas fancy dress party, I was dressed as a policeman, and my sister, Jean, was dressed as fairy. She won the competition, much to Mum,s delight.
We were oblivious to the nightly bangs and crashes above. The only problem with these shelters, were, that you had to get in there early to take up your position. Many people never bothered, and paid with their lives. It was a terrible, but commonplace fact, that nearly every day, news flooded in of nearby deaths. There was indeed very heavy bombing in this area. But as I said earlier, as children, we didn’t realise the full impact of it.
There was a consrant "blackout", at night, it was total darkness. Total darkness in the streets, is uncanny, and has to be seen to be believed. This you never see today. We had large black curtains or black frames in our windows, to prevent any light leaking out into the night. If you did allow any light out. This would invite a knock on your door by a policeman or air-raid warden, to rectify the matter, Or you would receive the loud and common invitation to "Put that light out!!". This was a very common sound in the streets at night. These small leaks of light, we were told would invite the Luftwaffe to bomb us. This miniscule of light, I wouldn,t have thought, would have made any difference. But nevertheless, it was an offence. An extra dose of darkness, would be experienced if there was a fog. However, foggy nights were welcome, as there no air raids on foggy nights. Cars would creep along the roads, showing dipped and diffused lights. There front bumpers were painted white. Pedestrians would be knocking into each other, or into lamp-posts. People could not find their way home, so did not venture out, if it was not necessary. White bands were painted around any obstacles. Lamp-posts had white bands painted around the bottoms. But these were not always obvious. Also the edges of the pavements, were lined with white stripes.
We were issued with gas masks, which reeked of rubber and made you feel sick. They had taped on fronts, for certain gasses, When new gas types came to light we had to have several other attachments fitted until we resembled elephants. Smaller children had unusual masks which resembled distorted Mickey Mouses, they were a sickly pink colour. Babies, like my small sister had to be inserted into rubber zip up case like device, On the out side was hand pump which you had pump up and fill up the interior and keep out harmful gasses, you could observe the occupant through a perspex window.
We were issued with brown cardboard boxes in which to carry our gas-masks around with us. These were soon in tatters, so you could buy rexine ones (plastic had not been invented yet) with press stud clips. These cases soon became an item of fashion, and you could get almost any shape and colour of gas-mask cases. We soon tired of carrying these cases around with us, and they were eventually discarded. The police and air raid wardens were the only persons who carried their masks with them. It was a blessing that gas was not used, as these devices seemed to be a little hit and miss in design.
It was at this time, that my Uncle Bert was enlisted, he had been in the T.A. and was therefore one of the first to be called up, into the Army. He was followed shortly by Uncle Bill, into the Army, and Uncle John, into the Airforce. My Dad was sent up north to work on munitions.
When Uncle Bert came home on leave, I was allowed to hold his rifle, (which they brought home in those days) and helped him to "bull" his boots to a brilliant shine. He treated me for this, which was an added bonus. He used to ask me to deliver his "date requests" to the young ladies in the neighbourhood, especially a girl named Sally, who worked in the corner bakers shop, he was quite a one for the ladies, was Uncle Bert. In return for these errands, I would ask him to take me the cinema with him, and his current girl friend.
I was quite small, and used to sit on the upturned cinema seat. I was obviously a burden, because one day, during an exciting part of the film, I flinched and fell between the seat and the chairback. I couldn,t move, I yelled out for help, but Uncle Bert was too obsessed with his girl friend to notice my predicament. I eventually managed to attract his attention. I must have been a nuisance, because he suddenly stopped taking me to the cinema. In fact when he eventually married Aunt Daisy, I was absent from the wedding photos, perhaps I "knew" too much. I know it was a splendid wedding. Uncle Bert was married in his Royal Artillery dress uniform, very smart it was too.
When we went to the "pictures", very often the film was disturbed by air raids, this warning of air-raids was flashed on the screen, and if it proved to be heavy, we were sent away and credited a return ticket, so cinemas in those days were a haphazard affair. Some of the cinemas we frequented as children, were awful. They were known as "bug-hutches". One in particular, at New Cross, was called the "Golden Domes" of all things. It was rotten, the seats were in tatters, and there were no toilets. Children would pee on the floor. In the summer you could imagine the smell. But it was only threepence to go in, and the films, George Formby or Old Mother Reilly etc. were hilarious. I can remember, on one occasion, it was a baking hot day. I was bursting to go to the loo. The film was good, and I left it a bit late. Halfway home, about an hours walk, disaster struck, and I crapped my pants. I could hold it no longer. I continued my journey home in the heat. The excrement, trickled down my legs and dried like plaster of Paris. When I arrived home, as usual, all my family were in the living-room playing cards. I sat and watched them. After a short while Uncle Bert, sniffed a couple of times, and asked of me "Have you shit yourself, Ging?" . "Yes I replied. There were no toilets and I could hold it no longer!!" I had a good hiding and a rough clean up. There were lots of these old cinemas around. The "Ideal" the "Grand" the "Palais" but the names were deceiving, they were really dirty and should have been closed down, really.
It was about this time that I really came to know my Grand-dad properly, he was, a kind and gentle man, he thought the world of me. He was almost blind, I used to lead him round to the local telephone box to dial Woolwich 2209 (funny how numbers stick in your mind), this was my Aunt Roses number. Uncle Jim, her husband, was a "Turncock" for the Water Board, in Woolwich. They had a phone in their house, for work purposes, A private telephone in a working class house, unheard of in those days.
I loved visiting my Aunt Rose. She was a very kind lady. She bought me a brand new bicycle from Willson,s in Peckham. I have never forgotten this.
My cousin Lenny also lived there, in Woolwich. It was a good fun place to be. You could ride on the Woolwich Free Ferry till your hearts content. We would wander up onto Woolwich Hill and see the Royal Artillery drilling and gunnery practice, in the Arsenal barracks. We would watch the large ships, sometimes warships, entering and leaving the Royal Docks on the opposite bank of the River Thames. Submarines sometimes moored in the river. There was always something interesting happening.
My cousin Lenny used to come and stay with us very often, in Peckham, he was a devil.
One one occaion, we got Uncle Berts, best trilby hat and passed it through the ringer, which was kept in the rear garden. The new shape it then assumed, we found hilarious.
Another time, outside our house , in Goldsmith Road, Uncle Bill, who was a milkman at the time, had parked his milk cart. It was a push cart. The road had a steep camber on it, we found that by both pushing together, we managed to topple the cart over, what a mess, we disappeared. Uncle Bill never knew what really happened.
On another occasion, we came across, in my Grand-dads room, a bottle of Sol Volatile. We thought that this was an alcoholic drink. Lenny thought that it was a good idea to have a swig. This we did, the taste was undescribable, our throats were on fire, we rushed down to the kitchen and rinsed or mouths out. We thought we had poisoned ourselves. Cousin Lenny was full of bright ideas. I bet he can remember more similar incidents.
My Grandad was blind and my Gran was deaf, we used to creep up on the staircase outside their room and start up our "humming top". We could, by undulating the speed , make it sound like an raid siren. My grandparents, thinking it was real, came out and ran downstairs for cover, we were in hysterics ouside their room, What horrors we were.
My Grandad was terrified of the air-raids, he died shortly after the war started. I remember that his coffin was laid to rest in our "front room", a regular occurence in those days. The coffin lid was laid partly back in order to see his face, which was kissed by most of the visitors, paying their last respects. My cousin Lenny induced me to play in this room chasing me round the coffin. I was about 7 years old at this time. He used to knock the lid of and say "He is coming to get you". I was terrified, what a horror my cousin was . I wonder if he remembers this?
It was in this house on a Saturday, night in 1941, a very heavy raid was in progress. It was the custom to huddle together in these circumstances. My mother, my Gran, my 2 year old sister,and myself, were all lying in a large bed in the downstairs front room. There was an almighty crash. And darkness, choking smoke and dust. My mother switched on the torch, saying that we ought to make our way to he nearest Air Raid Shelter, just down the road. She opened the door leading into the passage and was confronted with a pile of bricks, plaster and timber completely blocking the exit, we were trapped, Shortly after we heard voices outside the front window. It was The A,R.P. or air raid wardens, as they were called. We made ourselves heard and they broke what was left of the window or frame, carried us out, and took us to the shelter. On our return, in the morning, to get our possessions, we realised, that, the only room intact, was the one in which we were sleeping. A stick of bombs had fallen in Marmount Road, at the rear of our house, the whole back of the house was destroyed and was flattened except for this one room, downstairs in the front, What a lucky escape!
This was on Saturday night…….
Contributed originally by Henry Forrest (BBC WW2 People's War)
On Monday, The local housing authority, issued to us, another house, in Hollydale Road, New Cross, about 1 mile away. A lovely house with a nice big garden, I remember. You were issued with new furniture, from a local depot. This issue was based on your alleged loss, and was free of charge. Many people made "fairy tale" claims about their furniture losses, and wound up with a far better home than they would have had, under normal circumstances. This furniture, was called "Utility" furniture. This meant that it was built to a basic, economic standard, but adequate. This symbol was also present on all clothing, and other household items. It became a very popular word in our conversations.
At this time, our cat, thought that it would be a good idea to have her litter of kittens, in the ward-robe. My Aunt Doll discovered this by mistake. She was getting something out of the ward robe for my Mum. She said "I didn,t know that you had a fox-fur", (all the rage at the time). My Mum replied, "I haven,t." They all realized then, that the cat had taken up residence.
But on the following Wednesday night, disaster, another heavy raid was taking place, I think the raiders were after the Surrey Docks, which were nearby.
My baby sister and I were asleep in a downstairs bedroom in a small bed. My Mother and Gran were in the kitchen. The raid got heavier, and my mother decided to get me and my sister up and bring us into the kitchen.
( We found out later that this bed was completely destroyed and covered in debris, from a collapsed wall and the floor above, another lucky escape).
We had a Morrison shelter, in the kitchen, we were all sheltering under this, when there came an almighty crash, total darkness and smoke again. The coal fire, which was burning opposite, was blown across the room onto my Grans legs, she suffered nasty burns. We went to the front door, the road was in chaos, debris everywhere, fires burning and people screaming (I can hear them even now). We ran down the bottom of the street, dodging the bricks and rubble in the road, into Queens Road, Peckham. Here, on the corner, was Evans Cooks Depositories, a large furniture warehouse, which was being used as the local A.R.P. Centre. We were given hot drinks and first aid, and taken to East Dulwich Hospital, where we stayed for 3 to 4 days. Unfortunately we never saw our cat, or the kittens again.
Air raids used to vary in intensity, some times we had an undisturbed night, other times, we were kept awake all night. Day time raids were also becoming frequent. I can recall coming out of school one day when we heard a loud roar, we looked up and saw a German bomber it had a distinct yellow underside and prominent black crosses, it was being pursued by a R.A.F. fighter. We were usherred quickly back into the school shelter. This bomber jettisoned his load, apparently, to gain speed. Unfortunately, this bomb load fell on a school in Lewisham, killing many children. On another occasion, a Saturday afternoon, a large bomb fell on New Cross, Woolworths, killing many people. Also opposite Lewisham Clock, Tower fell another, very large bomb, causing equal havoc.
We were running out of vacant houses now, so we were allocated a portion of the local unused school hall, which we shared with many other families. We used this as a base, until we were found a house in Cator Street ,Peckham, which we accepted gratefully. This house had a large garden, in which we kept chickens and rabbits, a lot of people did this, for extra food. Although we became too attached to these "pets" to eat them. One of our chickens had to live in our dining-room. My Mother said that it had rheumatism and had to be kept warm. How could you eat this creature? But we had the eggs, when they laid them. I was afraid to get these eggs from the nest. We had a large cockerel on guard, and he would attack you. I would liked to have eaten him, but I can,t remember whether we did.
We spent the rest of the war years here, ( with the exception of another "bomb out" and partial destruction, in 1943 ).
We used to always have lovely Christmases, during these years. A big party in my Aunt Dolls house, was the high-light. This house was in East Surrey Grove, One of the grown-ups would dress up as Santa Clause, there was a present for all, and party games. One Xmas, my cousin Lenny, and I, took a precious half bottle of Cointreau off a shelf, and drank it. We were violently sick. I have not touched a drop since. But they were lovely parties, I shall always remember them.
Unfortunately East Surrey Grove was the scene of yet another tragedy. My Aunt,s neighbours, the Hughes family, just a few doors away, did not have an air-shelter. They asked their neighbours, the Wrights, if they could share their shelter. It was in their rear garden. The bombing was quite heavy at this time. But a couple of nights later, this shelter received a direct hit, and the occupants were all killed. It was a terrible incident, but unfortunately similar events were occurring, all over London, at the time. My Aunt Doll,s next door neighbour, was on her way to the dentists in Trafalger Avenue, one day. A land-mine, ( a large bomb device ), fell in this road, and she was never found. Her neighbour on the other side, Eva King, was also bombed but she survived, and she is still with us today. Aunt Doll must have had a charmed life. My Uncle Toms, pal, Bill Derby, who he was in the Army, with, lost his entire family in an air-raid. What a dreadful thing to happen, especially, when you were serving abroad. Tragedy seemed all around at that time.
I was always "running errands" in those days. Whilst the grown-ups were playing cards, (which they did night and day) I was either getting drinks from the off-licence, or queuing up for groceries, or getting food for the chickens which we kept. Food, of course was now strictly rationed, and we had to survive on ridiculously small amounts of it. Two ounces of cheese, and butter, one egg, four ounces of bacon etc. per week. Miniscule, but apparently, enough to live on. There seemed to be queues every where for all sorts of reasons, whether it be for food or cinema seats or newspapers, almost any thing that you bought, you had to queue for, especially, in the rare event of unrationed food items. This caused the largest queues of all. This constant shortage of food, was eased, slightly, by the installing of Government run restaurants. We had one in a mission hall in Meeting House Lane, the next street to ours. They also, occupied empty office blocks, elsewhere. In the City, there was a large one on London Bridge, and there were many more in other suitable venues. In these establishments, you could buy a ticket for six pence, which you surrendered, at the counter, in exchange for a substantial dinner and mug of tea. A fourpenny ticket would buy you a pudding. Often treacle, or jam. Good basic food. These places were very popular, and large queues would form for these meals. Often gas supplies were cut-off due to the bombing, so you often couldn,t cook, even if you had the food. Our daily diet was also supplemented by National Dried Milk, Orange Juice Concentrate and Cod Liver Oil, supplied from the local "Food Office". These items were free of charge on production of a suitable Ration Book.
At school, we would all take our own spoons, and just before break, our teacher would take from her cupboard, an enormous tin of "Malt". We would queue, and she would dip our spoons in it, twist it around, and quickly proffer it into our mouths, it was delicious, and we loved it. This was also rationed. When the tin was nearly empty, chosen children, were allowed to scrape the remains from the tin, an extra treat for some lucky ones. We were all given daily, small bottles of milk, a third of a pint, I believe they were. It was lovely in summertime, but in winter, it was very often frozen solid. We would thaw it out under our jumpers. Other less pleasant, services, the school provided, was periodic visits, by the school dentist. Ugh! They would poke about in our mouths, and I am sure cause more trouble than they ever cured. They would recommend treatment for us to have. But these notes they gave to us, for our parents, never arrived home. Also "Nitty-Nora" would arrive and proceed to comb our hair, with a very fine steel comb, onto a piece of tissue paper. Looking for nits or fleas. This comb would stick into our heads and it hurt. In all, a most unpleasant experience. What with this, and the bombing, it wasn,t good enough!. Innoculations, were also now, being introduced, too, The first was against Diptheria, which was rife at the time.
As children, we also spent a lot of our time outside pubs, waiting for our parents to emerge. An occasional treat was a glass of ginger wine or an arrow-root biscuit from a jar on the counter. We would peer into these pubs, Gloomy and smoke filled, full of laughter and swearing. What dens they seemed, but an escape, I suppose from the constant air-raids. We would wait for some time, get fed up and go off with our mates for hours. Nobody seemed to be bothered. Our parents didn,t seem to care where we were.
As children we would continue to explore fresh "bombed ruins". Halfway down Trafalger Avenue, there was an enormous crater. Half filled with water and smelling of gas from broken pipes. There was always the smell of escaping gas and brick dust and burst drains. It seemed to permeate the air everywhere. Next to this crater, on its side was number 63 'bus. Empty, we were told, when the bomb dropped. But then they would say that when you think about. Not good for morale, to admit to bus loads of people being injured. A lot of facts were kept dark at that time.
Anyway, opposite this house, in Cator Street, was a large school, which was partly destroyed by bombing. It also had a very large play-ground. This playground contained four surface air-raid shelters, we used to sometimes use these, but they were very damp and unpopular. This playground also featured strongly in our playdays. In the ground was a very large puddle, almost a small pond in size. To us it seemed like a lake. We used to sail our small home-made boats in this muddy water. Rescuing them , meant that our feet were nearly always soaking wet, and our socks and shoes, much to the annoyance of our long-suffering parents. We would skate pieces of slate across this pond and watch it spin up and across. One of these impaled into my leg, causing a nasty gash, and I spent the rest of the day in hospital having stitches. Raymond was the culprit, I wonder if he remembers?
We used to explore the fascinating interior of this very large old Victorian school, It had lots of dark corridors and small rooms. This is where we would set up our "camps" and store our little secret goodies. We used to climb up and out onto the roof, which was over 80 feet from the ground, perch fearlessly on the outside, on the rafters, (the roof slates had been blown off in the bombing), and admire the view of London. You could see St.Pauls, and Tower Bridge from here. Our parents would "call us down", but we would hide and ignore these requests. My Dad, would often call up, for us to come down. He was obviously very worried, about our predicament. But he was also ignored. How could I treat this lovely man in this manner. I must have been a "sod". Sometimes we were actually chased by the Police, but they couldn,t catch us, we were too agile. This was even greater fun, we thought.
We noticed that this roof was lined in part with lead flashing. We removed this over a period of some weeks, rolled it up and stored in one of the play-ground sheds. It was very hard and heavy work, and of course dangerous. We negotiated a price for this plunder from "Smales", the local scrap merchant. This was going to be our holiday spending money. We went to collect the rolled up lead from the shed one morning, and discovered to our horror, that it had disappeared. Somebody had discovered our "treasure" and sold it instead. What a dissapointment. We consoled ourselves , then by stripping all the brass gas fittings, from the school rooms and sold them instead. We only got a pittance for this metal. We had been exploited by this mean scrapmerchant.
Contributed originally by Bournemouth Libraries (BBC WW2 People's War)
I had been at the Brook 2 years by this time, and had taken and passed my first examination. The upset regarding the weekend refusal made me very unhappy so I started looking for another job. Another nurse in my set called Molly O'Shea had gone to work on the First Aid Post and told me the money and off duty were much better. She let me know as soon as there was a vacancy going and when I applied for it I got it. It was so much easier, because I was living at home and Bill could come to see me when he was free. Life in London was pretty grim. Night after night the air raid sirens went off to warn us that enemy aircraft had been sighted. These raiders used to scatter a lot of incendiary bombs. These bombs were about 10 inches long, and filled with inflammatory substances, which caused fires. They were held in the plane in baskets and thrown out. They used to go through rooftops setting houses alight. This lit the way for the bombers that followed. Hundreds of these bombs were scattered over the Docks and along the riverside warehouses. The A.R.P, Wardens spent many a night fighting these fires, many working right through the night. Outside our toilet in the garden was a sort of Pagoda with trelliswork where mother had trained a very pretty Virginia Creeper to cover it. This also gave us a bit of protection from the rain when running out to the toilet. One night we were all in the shelter and an incendiary bomb fell right onto the trellis, which was made of wood, and set it alight. Luckily Mr. Ford, who was a fireman and lived next door, sat it and put the fire out, but it had destroyed the framework and it all had to come down and was never replaced.
Bill was stationed at several gun sites around London, Clapham Common, Bostal Heath, and Dulwich Common. In December 1941 he came home one day and told me he was being posted overseas and asked me if I would wait for him. I said I would not promise, as one never knew in wartime what would happen. He then asked me to marry him, and the following week he got a special licence.
We were married at Greenwich Town Hall. Sid Doze, an army friend of Bill's was our best man. Bill's parents, sister Pat and brother Harry, my mother and my grandmother along with several friends from the First Aid Post were present. Being a Thursday and at such short notice, most friends and relations could not make it. As food was on ration, I made arrangements to have a pub lunch for us all at the Marquis of Granby, New Cross. We were able to get a tram outside the Town Hall. After the ceremony the publican said he would make it near to closing time so that we could stay longer. They put a long table in the saloon bar and laid on a very good meal, and Bill's sister Pat played the piano. Afterwards we made our way home on the No.53 bus calling at Woodha11s, a photographer in Wellington Street, to have photographs taken. On arriving home my mum had prepared a lovely tea. Incidentally the wedding cake was chocolate covered. In the evening when Bill's parents had gone home we went to New Cross Empire to see a show and Vera Lynn was top of the bill.
Later that week Bill was kitted out to go overseas, and at the last minute it was cancelled because Singapore had fallen. That was where he should have gone. My mum made us a nice bed-sitting room in her house. At this particular time Bill was able to get home quite often. Between army gun-sites and home he had to get up very early to be on parade in the morning. In May he was sent to Leeds, a by then I was expecting a baby. I went up to Round Hay, Leeds, for a weekend before he was sent overseas. I was still working at the First Aid Post and did so until two weeks before my baby was born.
The air raids continued so I had to go to Paddock Wood as the British Hospital for mothers and babies had bought a large country mansion there. All the~ mums having their first babies were sent there to get away from the London bombing. I was taken there a couple of days before my baby was due. It was a lovely place with beautiful grounds in the Kent countryside. Nearly all of us were young wives, and most of our husbands were soldiers serving overseas. We, therefore, had quite a lot in common with one another.
It was October, the weather was perfect, when I woke on the 14th I said "my baby's due today" but I had no pains or feeling that it would be on it's way. In the morning I went to pick blackberries, and in the afternoon a crowd of us all walked into the village. On the way back my pains started. There were six of us all very heavy with pregnancy, and they were all laughing and saying I wouldn't make it. We had to pass a fire station and all the firemen started calling out 'would we like a lift?' "Yes please" I said, so six of us arrived back on the fire engine. The time was now 4.30pm. I was hungry and had my tea. William Kenneth, my first baby was born at 7 pm after a good, straightforward delivery. My reason for choosing this name was because I had been friendly with a soldier who was killed at Dunkirk - this was before I met Bill - his name was Kenneth Williams. As William was Bill's name I thought I would give him Kenneth as his second Christian name in memory of this lad. After two weeks I returned home to my mother's house, who let me have two rooms. I was able to look after my baby myself with the help of Dorothy my young sister and my mum.
My brother Bill had met and roamed a North Country lass and had a son ill the July. They lived ill Coventry so we did not see each other very often.
My mother was working in Woolwich Arsenal at this time doing special war work. I used to help in the house and do the shopping etc. We used to have our meals together to save rations, as food was not very plentiful.
We still got a lot of air raids. Sometimes the siren would go m the evening and the all clear the next morning, which meant the whole night spent m the shelter. We made it very comfortable m there, and used to put baby Bill to bed ill there to save disturbing him.
Later the doodlebugs started coming over during the day, and when the baby was 18 months old, I was already an Officer in The British Red Cross at Blackheath. I did odd duties in the evenings so I asked Miss Priday, who was in charge, if there was a nursery anywhere that I could work and have. My son with me, and of course away from London. It was a Monday morning when I asked her, and by the Thursday I was in Bournemouth. "The Knole" was a huge house belonging to Major General Lord Croft. He had let the Red Cross use it for children, otherwise it would have been used for troops and no doubt they would have ruined the teak floors.
There were 48 children from Greenwich and Deptford who had been evacuated. The children were aged between two and seven years. I was to be in charge of the sick children, but most of the time they were all fit and well. Billy, my son, was the youngest at 18 months and there were three others of two years. Billy shared the nursery with them. We had two dormitories, one for the girls and one for the boys. A night nurse would always be on duty while they slept. During the day we had lots of helpers and 'live in' staff. Matron was a woman called Miss Braine; the other nurses were from the Red Cross and St. John's. Teachers came during the morning to teach the older children. The house had beautiful playrooms, and all day various people would call in to see the children.
I had a 6-bedded sick bay and if any of the children were poorly I would take them and look after them until they could return to the other children. I had no serious illnesses while working there, just coughs and colds, etc., and none of them had to be isolated for more than a couple of days. We had children come to us with chicken pox, but by the time more than six had got it, I suggested we didn't isolate them, but let them be treated naturally, unless of course there were complications and within three weeks we were completely clear with no complications what-so-ever. The doctor came in a couple of times a week just to keep a check on them. We had a lovely time in Bournemouth. The troops opened up a small part of the beach by Boscombe Pier, and we were able to take the children to play on the sand. The beach was barb wired and the public were not admitted on it. We would take the children down to the beach on a nice sunny day, also go for walks in Boscombe gardens. We had beautiful lawns in the grounds of the house where we would have picnics.
Most of the large houses and hotels had been taken over by the troops, and of course, when they knew there was a children's nursery nearby they would bring sweets. Most of these troops were American and they also gave u money, which would be put with other funds provided, so we were able to buy the children shoes, overcoats and other items of clothing, which they needed. Each child returned home with a new rig- out. The cooks in the U.S. base opposite the house also made the children large slabs of cake. One day they had a signal to pack up and leave for active service, but before leaving they gave us all their stores of butter, jam, large tins of fruit, tea and sugar. There was so much food given to us that we never wanted for anything, and when I went home for a few days I was given plenty of rations to take with me. I stated in Bournemouth until I heard from Bill. He told me he would be coming home soon as his name had been picked out for early leave, so I returned home before the end of the war to get a place ready for him.
The war was ending and my mother was finishing work in Woolwich Arsenal, so I got work as a district nurse with the Queens District Nurses. I was standing doing my ironing one Sunday evening about 6.30pm. I was alone as mum and George had gone to a whist drive (they had married by this time), when Bill walked in. He had sent me a telegram to say he was on his way, but it didn't come until a couple of hours after his arrival. He looked so well, with a lovely bronze tan. His telegram arrived while he was having a bath in the big bungalow bath in the kitchen (no bathrooms yet).
His war service had taken him to Cape town, India, Ceylon, Egypt, Middle East, Tobruk, Beirut, Lebanon, Damascus, Ismalia, Jordan, Jerusalem and Amman. He had a few weeks leave and did not have to return overseas again. He was stationed at Market Harborough and eventually demobbed.
We moved down the road to No. 18 to rent a large house but I agreed to look after two elderly gentlemen living there. On 9th June 1947 our second son was born and we named him Jack. The house was very large and had a beautiful garden. I gave up work for a while. I found that looking after three men, two children and a large house was as much as I could cope with. I used to entertain a great deal. When Jack was two years old I returned to work at the hospital. I did night work for two nights a week, and my sister Dorothy used to sleep at my house while I worked so that she was with the children until I got home. Bill had to go to work at 7am and did not return until 4.45pm. He worked for The Post Office as a telephone engineer. The pay was not high but the job was good security and it was interesting.
My friend Ursula from Hastings had a son and named him Roger and she eventually moved to Dover, and of course we still keep m touch.
Brother Jim married and had a daughter named Barbara. My sister Dorothy married John MacLean and also had a daughter named Esme. We all had lots of fun with our sons and daughters.
When my sons were older I returned to district nursing. I changed houses with a daughter of one of the elderly gentlemen, she had a council house. That meant that Bill and I were at last m our own home. Billy went to school opposite the house, and Jack went to a nursery while I did my district rounds. I had a cycle with a seat on the back for him to site on and after dropping him off at the nursery I went on my rounds. Eventually I took driving lessons, passed my test and bought a small Standard 8 car. Life was much easier driving to my patients. In wet weather the bicycle was a nightmare, I had a peak cap and the rain would drip off the peak onto my face. At least travelling by car you were warm and dry. I was allowed a petrol allowance, which also helped. Many of my patients were elderly and bed-ridden, and very alone at Christmas time. I would take Billy and Jack m the car with me and they would sing carols to the old folk. Billy had a very good voice, like his Dad, and sang m St. Lukes church choir. Jack's voice was not as good, but he had a cheeky race and the old folk loved him. Sometimes they would slip them a shilling when I wasn't looking and when they got back to the car they would say, "look what the lady gave me mum. "
While Billy was attending choir practice in St. Lukes church one Friday evening, he came home early and said the choirmaster had sent them all home, as they would not sing. They kept hearing a cat crying and told the choirmaster, who would not take any notice of the boys or go to investigate the noise. He swore at them and sent them all home. Billy was so worried that early on Saturday morning he and another boy went back to the church and found the cat trapped in the back of the organ. It was in a terrible state, starved and bedraggled. They took it to the Blue Cross Kennels, which was in Shooters Hill Road, where they were thanked for their efforts. Photographs were taken of them and there was an account of it in the local paper, and it even made the Sunday 'News of the World'. We were sent a small cheque, which we gave to the Blue Cross Kennels. The poor cat didn't survive its ordeal. Incidentally Bill took great delight in telling the choir master hat he thought of him for swearing at the boys in church.
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