Bombs dropped in the borough of: Merton

Explore statistics for the local area


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

High Explosive Bomb
Parachute Mine

Number of bombs dropped during the week of 7th October 1940 to 14th of October:

Number of bombs dropped during the first 24h of the Blitz:

No bombs were registered in this area

Memories in Merton

Read people's stories relating to this area:

Contributed originally by Geoffrey Hoad (BBC WW2 People's War)

During the war I worked as a lift boy at a large block of flats about 100 yards away from the sea and my boss was an ex army man, a quarter master sergeant in the rifle brigade.

He called me down to the flat on the Sunday when I was on duty and said ‘listen lad, this is very important’ and the message came through from Neville Chamberlain that we had started the war against the Germans. The first thing that happened was within the hour the sirens warning went off and there was an aircraft heard. We heard the aircraft around but obviously they were just flying around and I’m sure it was a German aircraft. It was seen over St Leonards, very close. It didn’t take long really, the all clear went and then he got on to explain what could happen. In this block of flats they were a very reserved type of people there and they were back to back. There was a boiler house there and they said ‘look the first thing we are going to do’ he said ‘is we are going to breed some rabbits, so if food is short, we’ve got rabbits’. I didn’t live here at the flats at that time but that was his first thoughts on how we were going to eat when the rationing would come.

It was very shortly afterwards, within a couple of months that we were invaded by young children from London, the evacuees. They arrived one morning by train, the residents were asked to take the children in and give them a home. So we, my mother and my grandfather who we were living with, decided that we had a spare room and that we would take two children. We had two girls who came along. They were about 13, they came from Greenwich in London and it was for me, the 16 year old, great fun to have someone share the house, and someone to play around. It was really good to have someone else in the house but it wasn’t for long because as there was no activity in London. There were no expected air raids, their parents decided — most of them did this — at Christmas instead of just going home for Christmas, they didn’t come back. But of course we all know it wasn’t that long after that things started to hot up all round.

The next major thing happened that I remember is the boats coming over from Dunkirk and landing our troops back in this country who’d been serving in France. That is the first time that really things showed that there was something going on. The troops after landing, were in Bexhill, where the regiment were stationed. They stayed in some of the big hotels. Also some of the RAF came to do their training as pilots and aircrew. By the autumn there were notices up in the town that, (I think it was in mid-summer) that people, if they would like, they were encouraged to be evacuated themselves. My mother and grandfather went up and finished up near Trowbridge, away from the coastline. I didn’t want to go, so my boss said you can stay in the flats. We’ll fix up a couple of rooms down in the cellar, which was quite clear, nothing much in it. So we (his wife who died shortly before), so we both stayed down in the cellar in case of air raids. Mr Thatcher being an ex army man, he decided that he would invite some of the army boys on their evenings out or what not to come down into the flat we made in the cellar and play darts and cards and he would give them tea and coffee. So we had plenty of company. Most of the tenants had then gone and they just moved away keeping the flat on but they moved away to various areas in which they thought were safe in the country. One morning there were four or five of us, the postman had called in, Mr Thatcher and one or two of these lads and we were standing in the main hall, the siren went off and before we had time to move there was a terrific bang. Well it was never discovered exactly what had happened. Obviously there was a bomb dropped but it hadn’t hit anything. It had exploded before it reached the ground or it might have landed in the sea, but no crater was ever found. But it broke many of the plate glass windows in the flats and most of them were on the seaside of the building, so it could have been a blast bomb. But it meant a lot of tidying up for us to do to clear the glass away. That was a very fortunate thing for us, because it could have been very near. We often had hit and run raiders come in. They would fly in and by the time the sirens had gone they’d circle in on their way out so it didn’t give our aircraft, the Spitfires, time to get down from their airfield to keep them away before that, bombs had been dropped across the town. We had quite a few on the coast, Eastbourne, Hove, Hastings and I remember one particular occasion Bexhill had two or three bombs, one hit a local chemist shop and also one of the cleaners that were in the town. One of my friends who were at school with us, he worked in this dry cleaners and it was a direct hit so he was killed on that occasion. Blackey Barker we called him, he was quite a dark lad and it was a great shame. There were several other times hit and run raiders came in. One afternoon we had a Messerschmitt, the warning was on and we were down in the cellar and this Messerschmitt came in, or came through, obviously escorting some bombers and they were shooting their machine guns and I know I went up from the cellar and looked out and I was really torn off a strip for going out and having a look because later on when the all clear had gone we found some of the spent bullet shells and holes in the wall so I was very lucky. But my boss didn’t appreciate what I’d done and he really gave me the dressing down.

Another occasion, a little later on, I had to be home, to see if everything was o.k. and stayed the night and on the way back, there was an aircraft, a warning and an aircraft. We saw it was a clear morning, a clear moon up in the sky, it was quite early and I stopped and spoke to the milkman as I was going to work. We saw this aircraft circle round the moon and as we thought it was going away we both said ‘oh well it’s not dropped anything…’ we can hear bombs coming down. Well the nearest landed, to us, landed about 400 yards away and they dropped 13 bombs across the town. So it did quite a bit of damage. It just missed the town hall, there was quite a bit of damage there. There was several occasions when we had working in the town and living by the sea in this building that stood out, it was right next to the De La Warr Pavilion so several occasions that we had near misses around there.

One day there was a big fire next to the De La Warr Pavilion, the other side of where our flats were and it was the Metropole Hotel, which the air force had taken over. I still have pictures (small photos) of the fire at the Metropole but no one ever knew how it caught light. Whether it was carelessness by the forces or some kind of bomb but we never found out what caused it.

Of course being 17 there were several of us young lads who used to get around the place and I remember one evening, there were two of us just walking along the sea front and we came to the end, past the clock tower and to where what was called the flag staff where they put a siren up on the scaffolding. So in devilment we decided to climb the scaffolding not realising the problems we could have caused. As we were coming down the air raid warden was waiting for us. It was a very good job he knew us because he said we cold be blamed for trying to sabotage the siren that was up there so we got a good dressing down for that. He went up and had a look to make sure everything was working all right and I imagined it was working. It went off a few days later but when you’re young you do silly things and not realise what you’ve just done.

As I was then 17 ½ and not available, or not possible to go into the army or the forces because my eyes were not so good, I decided I would go to London to an engineering course and work in munitions so my boss wrote a letter to the minister for labour saying that I’d tried and nothing happened so he wrote to Aneurin Bevin and said that I wanted to serve my king and country and so within a week I was called to the labour exchange and fixed up to go on this course. I would be highly qualified to go into engineering. Well this I did and by November I went to Waddon training centre near Croydon and spent the next 3 months at this centre earning very little, just enough to pay some lodgings money. A lady and man that had this big house, there were about 20 people there lodging and most of the money that we earnt went to pay out for our digs. After going through the course, I got a good job in the company Phillips which was a big electrical engineering company and I thing it’s still going now, Phillips. That was only 3 or 4 miles cycle away from Waddon to Hatbridge, near Mitcham. I managed to get a job as an improver in their tool room, which was something well worth doing because I spent the rest of my life in engineering and doing tool grinding and tool making. So for me it was very good to do that but I still had one or two near misses when I was staying in Croydon.

I remember one day going to the cinema. I was on nights and going to the cinema on a Monday afternoon and my friend who had to work asked me if I could take his girlfriend to the pictures because he’s promised her that she would see this film and it was at the Davis Theatre in Croydon. In the middle of the film there was a terrific explosion, the siren had gone but nobody used to worry because we were inside. We didn’t think we would be any safer outside, the terrific explosion was in the front and fortunately for me I was fairly well back in the stalls and a bomb had gone through the roof down into the stalls but it didn’t explode but several people were killed on that occasion and I fell that, that was another life that I had had. I’ve been well looked after by someone above. So when I went out afterwards I realised that one of my friends daughters worked there as an usherette, so I looked around for her and found her and I went afterwards to see her father, saying that she was alright. But by the time I got back to the lodgings there had been a call for me from the Home Guard, which I had to join a few months before. This was to call me up into town with the rest and to patrol because there had been other bombs dropped and a certain amount of looting. I had quite a busy day that day. I didn’t go to work that night; well we were called out all night so we didn’t get away until the following morning.

One or two things I remember about being at Phillips. The first thing was that there was no proper air raid shelter in the actual company and not enough for everybody. So there were quite a few, it was all men in the department I was in and we used to go into one part where we thought it was reasonably safe when the siren had gone off. I was amazed all the young lads, most of them fairly young or less than 30’s anyway and we used to go down to this place and all the time that there was a warning on they would sing and it was really great friendship. It was good to hear all these men singing the popular songs of the day and some of the older songs such as Roses Are Blooming In Piccaddy and that type of thing as well as the popular shows at that time and the Holy City is another one that I remember. Another thing that I recall of the men in the tool room, on a Saturday before Christmas we always had the day off and we would go to Morden station but we all had to wear bowler hats which was great fun and travel up to London where we would see a show. Well before that we would go and have a meal and see a show and all the way up in the tube we would sing carols and it’s something to hear at that time anyway. We might have been noisy but we weren’t a rousy crew and people used to listen and laugh with us, then after seeing the show we would have something else to eat then go back to Wimbledon. Wimbledon Palais to a dance and that was an annual event that happened every year but of course some of the boys they lost their bowler hats. I know coming back and spending the day and not being used to hats like that many of them had to buy a bowler hat for the person that lent them their bowler hat.

After working at Phillips I had to do quite a bit of night work. So I decided a couple of times to cycle back down to Bexhill. Well it was quite a long journey, especially on a cycle without any extra gears or anything but the worst thing, I got lost several times because all the road signs were taken down because of the threat of invasion so it was very difficult unless you got to know the roads. You could easily turn off especially over the Ashdown Forest or somewhere like that but I know I was lost twice. The second time coming back I went on a slightly different road it was the weekend which they called the Big Fire in London and quite a few fire engines had gone up from the coast to help. The London Fire Brigade and on my way back on the Monday morning I met quite a few of them coming back towards the coast and it took me quite a while to get back and of course I had to go back to work in the evening so I made an early start getting back early afternoon and then going onto work about 7 o’clock.

Another memory I have of Croydon and the war. My landlady woke us up one night and said the sirens had gone and there were several aircraft about. While we were talking about it there was the sound of an aircraft as we thought and it suddenly went quiet and I remember saying ‘it’s alright it’s landed at Croydon Airport’ and then there was an explosion. What it was, it was the first night we had discovered that it was the fly bomb or Doodlebugs as they were called so I remember that first night and the bomb had only just landed 2 or 3 roads away. Shortly after that I remember particularly cycling home from work after doing just a Saturday morning and watching this fly bomb come over and what they did, when they cut out, it normally did a half circle turn back and then drop onto the ground. I remember this one flying across and praying that it wouldn’t cut out until it got past. Of course someone else would have got it and I was terribly worried at that moment that it could have done exactly the same and it would have been very much nearer.

One other very important thing happened quite late in the war. I met a girl at Phillips when I was working and she was working there and she later became my wife in 1946 and we were married for over 30 years before she died. So that practically concludes my wartime experience and I would like to say that VE Day or rather the day war finished, I spent at Phillips social club jollying it up with some friends. I went up to London and waved my flag and there were thousands of other people at VE Day and also I saw the big victory parade which they had after and when the generals of all the regiments paraded through the streets of London which was quite an exciting thing but that was a couple of years after the war.

There is just one other thing I have just remembered. It was while I was a Bexhill, it was about two years after the war had started. The first big raid by Germans on Croydon. I was going to see my friends at Sidley and the warning went and we could see in the clear sky it was a beautiful summers evening we could see clearly squadrons of German aircraft. The bombers flying in formation through to London we thought, well that was the beginning of the big bombing raids in London. They went in formation, they came back in formation but the only things we saw and know afterwards there were one or two of the fighters shot down not far from the coast. One near Catsfield so we know at least two were shot down and they still came back in that formation flight as they went out. I just remembered that when I saw it and I think that’s about all I can remember about the war.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by John Clark (BBC WW2 People's War)

Born in 1930, I was not really conscious of the events leading up to the Second World War but my memories of the war itself are very vivid. However I do clearly remember my father making a crude air raid shelter in our garden in Wimbledon in 1938. The shelter consisted of a deep trench (I can still see the yellow clay my father had to dig out to get sufficient depth) lined with wooden planks and covered with corrugated iron and a pile of earth on top. He made a small ladder for access. We were all issued with gas masks in cardboard boxes with a string loop on them so that they could be hung round our necks.
My first real war memory was being piled into our 1927 Austin 7 on the evening of September 1st.1939 and driven down to my grandparents at Didlington in Norfolk where my grandfather was the butler at the Hall. The car had no luggage rack so the back seat was removed to make space for the luggage and my brother and I sat on a suitcase together with our dog.
On the day war was declared there was an air raid warning at Didlington and I can remember standing on the front step with my grandfather looking for aircraft and brandishing my toy pistol.
For a few days it was just like being on our usual summer holiday but after a short time an elementary school from the east end of London arrived and was billeted in the villages and farms around Didlington. Some of the children were allocated to local village schools but in addition a two class school was set up in the unused tack room and the grooms' room in the stableyard at Didlington. My brother and I were allowed to attend this Didlington school along with the grandson of the head gamekeeper who had also been privately evacuated. He and I were the eldest boys in the school and we had interesting jobs like fetching a large container of hot water each morning break from the Hall kitchen to be used for making chocolate Horlicks which appeared to be issued by the government. Whatever happened to chocolate Horlicks ?- it was delicious! We also had to fetch bundles of kindling wood and help get the fires going in the two rooms. Apart from missing our father we really had a wonderful time. School seemed easy and I loved the country life. As a reward for collecting barrels full of acorns for feeding the estate's pigs, the owner of the Hall, a Colonel Smith, had a couple of swings and a seesaw made for the school. The winter of 1939/40 was particularly hard and we had several feet of snow which was great for the children. The lake in the Hall grounds froze over and we were allowed in once or twice to slide on the ice -nobody had skates.
I made my first contribution to the war effort that winter. I think it was the Women's Institute in the area which encouraged people to knit mittens for the North Sea trawlermen. My Grandfather and I took this up with help from my Grandmother and Mother and I produced 8 or 9 pairs of mittens and eventually graduated to socks. My Grandfather established some sort of record with his knitting and received an official commendation.
A few weeks after the birth of our youngest brother, my Mother went back to Wimbledon as there had been no air raids and the war was very quiet. My other brother and I were left at Didlington to avoid another change of school especially as I had to take the so-called Scholarship exams that summer.
Despite the fall of France and the very real prospect of a German invasion, we returned to Wimbledon, sometime in late June. I imagine it was a relief for our grandparents as they were 72 and 64 and it can't have been easy for them to look after us for that length of time. A large number of children evacuated in September 1939 had drifted back to London by the summer of 1940 .Many of my school mates from Wimbledon Park had been evacuated to Arundel in Sussex and it was probably as well that they had returned as much of the Battle of Britain was fought over Kent and East Sussex.
Before the new school year started (around the beginning of September), my new secondary School (Rutlish, of later John Major fame) was hit by a German bomb but only a small area was damaged and school started on time. This was the time of the Battle of Britain and we were frequently in the air raid shelters. At school these were brick constructions with thick concrete roofs set in the school yards. At home we had an Anderson shelter named after the Home Secretary of the Chamberlain government. This was like an igloo made of heavy corrugated iron though the floor shape was rectangular. It was intended to be half sunk in the ground. My Father excavated where our rockery had been and replaced the rockery on top to provide extra protection to the roof. Many people covered the roof with sand bags. He also built a sort of porch on ours to stop the rain coming in when the door was opened. Soon night bombing started so he made bunks for us in the shelter and we just went to bed there. My parents were very strict about our being in the shelter during air raids but I remember the day Croydon aerodrome was attacked and my father took me up to the top balcony of the block of flats close to our house to watch the dogfights over Croydon. In fact all I saw were a few black and silver dots milling around as it was all happening 7 or 8 miles away .
We soon learned to judge how close the raids were to us from the sound of the anti- aircraft guns. A particularly noisy one was mounted on a railway truck and used to move along the line which ran about 80 metres from our house.
The intensity of the night bombing increased through September and October. Locally a public air raid shelter received a direct hit causing many casualties. In October the government organised another evacuation. Although my brother and I were now at different schools it was customary for siblings to be evacuated together so one morning we found ourselves on a railway platform (probably at Wimbledon but I'm not sure) with hundreds of other children. On our backs were small khaki-coloured rucksacks which my Mother had made for us and hung round our necks were our gas masks and a name tag. I can't remember whether we had any other luggage but later when travelling from our place of evacuation to my grandparents in Norfolk I certainly remember struggling with a (to me) large suitcase across Peterborough en route from one station to another.
Neither we nor our parents had any idea where we were going but my Mother had given me a stamped, addressed postcard to be sent as soon as we had our new address. Sometime that afternoon we arrived at a small station and were told to leave the train. There were probably 15 to 20 of us but only one other Rutlish cap to be seen. I didn't know the boy ,who was about three years older than I was. He also had a small brother in tow. A party of ladies, some in WVS uniforms, greeted us and gradually, one by one, the children disappeared. We and the other pair seemed to be the last to be selected but eventually someone said they would have us and we were taken off .
Our foster home was with a teacher and his wife in Glapthorn road, Oundle, Northants. The husband taught German and I think, French, at the Oundle public school. The house seemed quite large and we had a bedroom on the ground floor in a sort of extension which also contained a bathroom. The family had a small daughter about 2 years old who was looked after by a nanny. We and the daughter always ate in the kitchen supervised by the nanny and rarely saw the parents. We never ate with them and never went into their sitting room.It was very different from the loving family surroundings we were used to and I'm sure my 6 year old brother was pretty unhappy. We weren't treated badly by them apart from one occasion when the mother beat my brother with the handle of the bathroom brush because he hadn't cleaned the bath properly. Thereafter I had to make sure it was cleaned. It was during this period that the habit of writing home once a week was established and it remained with me until my mother died in1972.
My brother went to a local elementary school and I went to Laxton Grammar school which predated the public school but now shared some of the staff and facilities and had the same official headmaster . Having many of the advantages of the public school was a great plus in my parents' eyes and I think that was why they left me there for three years.
My Father came to visit us before Christmas (1940) and decided that my brother shouldn't stay. I can't remember whether he took him away there and then but he certainly didn't return after Christmas which we spent at Didlington. By this time my Mother and baby brother were living at Didlington again.
Whether it was just before or just after Christmas I can't be certain but the family I was billeted with were expecting another child and decided they couldn't cope with an evacuee as well. I was billeted temporarily with the manager of the local gasworks. This was a very kind and welcoming family and I was sorry the arrangement only lasted about three weeks. The house was lit with gas lamps which was a novelty for me. I remember being taught to play 'Bezique' by the family.
My next billet was in the centre of town with the manager of one of the main banks. The house was alongside and over the top of the bank with three stories so it was quite large. Close by was a large wooden ‘thermometer’ which recorded the town’s savings contributions towards paying for new Spitfires which I believe were reputed to cost £55,000 each.
This family treated me very well and despite a significant 'class' difference I was fairly happy with them. I was regarded as part of the family and received Christmas and birthday presents from them. They had three children, one already in the army, the second(17 in 1941) at the public school 'Blundell's' in Somerset and a daughter (about 13) who was at a boarding school a couple of hours journey from Oundle. I was given the 'boys' bedroom which had bunk beds and shared it with the second boy when he was at home. I got on well with him and looked up to him. I copied his habit of always washing in cold water in the morning and I still do. I can remember his scorn when he found that I wore my vest (woollen in winter) in bed and I immediately stopped ! He went into the RAF to train as a pilot whilst I was there and I can still see him flying over Oundle in a Tiger Moth and waggling the wings at the time he passed the first stage of training.
During the week I had my tea in the kitchen on my own or with the daughter if she was at home as the Laughtons had dinner in the evening but on Sundays we all ate together at midday. I only had two real complaints .One was that I had to use a bathroom on the top floor that was always freezing cold and the second was that I never had my butter ration and had to make do with margarine. For some reason it was decreed that the parents needed the butter - the children lost their ration too.
The bank manager was in charge of the local Observer Corps unit. These units were made up of civilians operating part-time who were trained in aircraft recognition. They manned posts all over the country and formed part of the air defence system. I was mad keen on aircraft and sometimes I was taken to the observer post. Eventually I passed the Air Spotter exam but was too young to join the corps.
I stayed with this family for two years except for school holidays when I went to my grandparents at Didlington. The journey there was an adventure for an 11/12 year old. Oundle station is some distance from the town and buses were few and far between so it was a struggle to get there with a largish suitcase. From there the train took me to Peterborough where there was another struggle with the suitcase as I had to change stations (about a mile apart) for the train to Brandon which is 9 miles from Didlington. The last bit was a great relief as I was driven in style by the Smiths' chauffeur.
During the Easter and summer holidays I worked on a farm on Didlington estate and received the special farmworker’s food ration which included extra cheese! Most of the work was pretty boring, singling sugar beet plants in the spring and hoeing out the weeds in the summer. However, harvesting the corn was much better. Mostly, it was stooking the sheaves dropped by the 'binder' but when a field was almost cut, there was the great fun of chasing the rabbits which had gathered in the centre. The farmer had a greyhound which caught most of them but I and the farmer's son usually got one or two. My weapon was one of my Grandfather’s walking sticks. Sometimes we were disappointed when men turned up with guns.
Sometime in 1941/42 the Army took over part of the Hall and estate as headquarters of Eastern Command and part of the 52nd (Lowland) division was stationed there in Nissen huts in the woods. My grandparents had a Major billeted with them. There was a Naafi hut and local people, including me occasionally, served chocolate and drinks in the evenings.
Overall, my time at Laxton school was fairly easy and enjoyable although in retrospect the education I received left much to be desired. For some reason the first form was called the third and I started there but after a couple of weeks I and another evacuee were promoted to the fourth form. This was good for the ego but bad because we were much younger than the rest of the form. The school was small with just four forms( 3rd., 4th., 5B, & 5A) and four or five 6th. formers who took all their lessons in the public school.The school plan was to get pupils to School Certificate (equivalent of "o" levels) in 8 subjects in 4 years and then for further subjects to be taken along with the chosen 'Higher Certificate' subjects in the public school. This was fine for pupils who stayed at Laxton but caused problems for those like me who changed schools .
Two of our teachers we understood to have been invalided out of the army with shell-shock. They were clearly disturbed , had no control of the classes and spent much of the time gazing out the window. I don't think it was coincidence that the two subjects (Physics & Applied Maths) I failed in my School Certificate were taught by one of these masters..
We had school six days a week and 'town ' boys had supervised 'prep' in the evenings except on Saturdays. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons were for compulsory games. Although we were associated with the public school we were very much second class citizens. We couldn't use their playing fields or games coaches and played soccer not rugger. We weren't part of the 'house' system and never played with or against them. As a consequence of this and the absence of most able-bodied teachers in the forces we had no coaching unless we were naturally good enough for the school team which the Laxton headmaster struggled manfully to help. The one concession we did have was one hour a week's use of the open air, unheated, swimming pool. Once the water temperature reached 52F we were expected to go swimming.
One exciting event for the small boys of Oundle was the arrival of the American Army setting up an air base near the village of Barnwell (I think). They seemed generous lot and for many years I cherished a baseball thrown to me from a passing truck.
Laxton school ran a small Scout troop which I joined and enjoyed very much. It was run by the English master who was quite young and had been invalided out of the forces but we never knew the reason. Under him a few of us became 'Firewatchers'. Once a month (I think) two of us plus the master spent the night in a room near the top of the highest building in Oundle and had there been an air raid warning we would have stood on the roof to watch out for fires. Of course there never was an air raid but it was fun for us to stay up late, play cards and drink cocoa. At the end of 1942 the bank manager and his wife decided they could no longer keep me (I never heard the reason) and I went back to the teacher and his wife.. There was a live in nanny to look after the two little girls and I resumed my life with them in the kitchen. To be fair I did have a reasonable bedroom to myself.I was well looked after but again saw almost nothing of the parents. I stayed with them until the summer of 1943 and then returned home to Wimbledon after taking the School certificate exams. I had failed Physics and Advanced Maths, the two subjects 'taught' by a shell-shocked teacher, but the remaining six subjects were enough to give me my 'Matriculation' which was essential for eventual entry to University.
I now went back to Rutlish school.I suppose I wasn't really happy with this first year back at Rutlish. I didn't know anyone there, all my class-mates were one to two years older than I and I was a small fish in a much bigger pond than at Laxton. Sport was a problem too because I'd missed the forms where one had general coaching and hadn't the natural talent to get into a school team without. Another problem for me was that my father refused to let me join the school Army Corps in which most of my class mates were active. My father’s expressed reason was that with Scouts and the Church Youth club which I Joined when I was 14, provided plenty to fill my time.
The consequence of all this was that I found my friends, recreation and sport largely through old Wimbledon Park contacts who either went to other schools or were two years behind me at Rutlish.
By the end of 1943 the tide of the war was gradually moving our way, at least in the west. There were very few air raids but on one occasion during that winter the Germans made a short but fierce night incendiary bomb raid on London during which a "stick" of bombs fell near us. Most of them fell harmlessly in the cemetery next door but one hit our wooden garage and set it on fire. We, apart from my father, were in our Anderson shelter in the garden and our main concern was for our dog who was in the garage with a litter of puppies. There was no car in it as petrol was only available for ‘essential purposes’ and my father had sold the Austin 7 for £11! My father was captain of the street 'fire-fighting team' and they held their practices in our garden because it was the largest in the street. This meant they knew where everything was and were able to tackle the blaze quickly and put it out without too much damage. My father had dived in at the beginning and thrown the box of puppies into the garden. I was very frustrated at being kept in the shelter and missing all the excitement. Apart from a hole in the garage roof the main damage was to our bikes. Father's was a write-off as it had a direct hit. My Mother and I lost our celluloid mudguards and saddle-bags and I had a jagged hole in the rim of my rear wheel caused by an anti-personnel bullet which fired out of the fin of that particular type of bomb. That was my trophy of war for several years - it didn't affect the running of the bike.
1944 was, of course, the year of the D-Day landings in Normandy and like many other boys I had a large map of the area on my bedroom wall and moved little flags on it as the battles progressed. However the more immediate event for us was the start of the 'Doodle -Bug' ( V1or Flying- bomb) attacks on London and the south-east of England early in the summer. I can remember the first day absolutely clearly as it was one of the two occasions during the war on which I was really frightened. It must have been a weekend as I was on Wimbledon Common with two friends when the sirens went . We didn't take much notice as there hadn't been a daylight raid for literally years and we thought it must be a false alarm. Then we heard a very odd aircraft engine noise and suddenly all hell was let loose. By this time London had enormous numbers of anti-aircraft gun and rocket batteries all over it, including a naval gun turret on the Common a few hundred yards from where we were. It seemed as though every gun and rocket in London was firing at this 'attacker' but the really frightening thing was the sound of the shrapnel from the spent anti-aircraft shells hissing through the air all round us. We dived into a ditch and lay there with our hands over our heads for what seemed ages. The strange engine noise became louder and then suddenly stopped. We looked up in time to see an odd looking plane dive into the ground a mile or so away with a huge explosion. We heard on the news that night that large numbers of people had been injured by shrapnel - many more than by the bomb. It was soon realised that it was no good trying to shoot the V1s down over London as they'd explode when they crashed anyway, so very rapidly all the moveable guns were taken to the south coast to try to catch them over the sea. The situation in London then seemed eerie when a V1 got through as we just had to listen for the engine to cut out and guess where it would crash and no-one could do anything about it. My second moment of terror was one evening when a friend and I were out on our bikes . We heard a doodle bug and set off towards the nearest public shelter. Just before we got there the engine cut and we were certain it was right overhead. We hurled ourselves through the door of the shelter on to the floor followed by a man with the same conviction. Fortunately for us the V1 fell about half a mile away and we were only shaken. Two V1s fell fairly near our house and both times we had cracked window panes and some roof tiles displaced.
Shortly after the second of these came my third evacuation and my brother Michael and I were once again shipped off to our grandparents who were now living at Abergavenny in Monmouthshire where the Smiths had rented a house following the total requisitioning of Didlington by the army in1943. (It had become the headquarters for the 2nd Army in the lead up to D-Day in Normandy). This gave us a three month summer holiday in idyllic surroundings and I was particularly pleased not to be with my class mates who were sitting in the school air raid shelters taking their School Certificate exams.
During the school summer holiday the Science block and junior form rooms at Rutlish were hit by a V1 and completely demolished and most of the windows in the rest of the school were blown out. There was no glass available to replace them and as a consequence we had to wear overcoats and gloves in the classrooms for much of the winter. We also had to share the science labs of the Technical School a few hundred yards away.
By this time the launching area for the V1s had been over run by our troops and the only danger to Londoners now was from the V2 rockets which arrived without warning and caused great devastation but were too few in number to have a serious effect on the population as a whole
The last wartime excitements were the VE day celebrations, especially the fireworks, though my personal memory of that day was dominated by a severe bicycle accident which nearly prevented my participation in any of the revelries.
My lasting impressions of the war are of exciting events. Even as fifteen year old in 1945, the horror of war didn’t strike home and none of our family or friends were bereaved or suffered serious injury.


Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Leicestershire Library Services - Countesthorpe Library (BBC WW2 People's War)

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Anne Tester. She fully understands the site's terms and conditions

Memories of the second world war through the eyes of an 8 -14 year old.

Southfields, London. 1939.

As an eight year old, growing up in London, I was first aware that something was threatening our serene life at home in Southfields, when our local park, Wimbledon Park, was suddenly dug up and an underground air raid shelter, complete with sandbags, was built in the middle of the grass. At the same time a battery of search lights was placed at the entrance to the drive to our school, Riversdale School in Southfields and barrage balloons appeared in the sky overhead. We were all issued with gas masks in brown cardboard boxes and I can remember the tinge of resentment because my sister was young enough to have a Micky Mouse one!
There was then real concern in the family (as carefully hidden from my sister and me as possible) when a letter from school informed my parents that we were to be evacuated to Guildford to live with a family there. With this letter came a list of requirements we had to take including a grey blanket (always a puzzle to me as I had never seen one) My sister was five years old and therefore my mother was allowed to accompany us to Guilford but of course leaving my father on his own in London. As he had served in the first world war he was just too old to be ‘called up’ for this war.
Unknown to me, and never really discovered because my mother never liked talking about those years, arrangements were made for my sister and me to go and stay with my aunt and uncle in Countesthorpe just until the threat of war had subsided (as was the common feeling at that time).

Countesthorpe, Leicestershire July 1939.

We were driven in another uncle’s car up to Countesthorpe, leaving my parents in London and I can well remember feeling very car sick and missing my teddybear which had been left behind in London. It was later sent to me by post after I had written a forlorn letter to my parents to say I wanted to come back to them. (I still have that letter which was saved by my mother and will stay in the family archives). It was also the first time I had seen a level crossing, probably the one in Station Road in Countesthorpe and also fields and cows other than from a train.
Apparently we were quite a curiosity in the village as we spoke with a London accent and because we had arrived before any of the real evacuees, very few people had met any strangers. A little girl, called Iris, came as an evacuee to the house next door some time afterwards and I expect other children were evacuated to the village later but I was not made aware of them.

The start of the war

The war did break out and we had to continue to stay with my aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparents in the house, called St Donats, in Willoughby Road, opposite Clark’s Farm. We had such a lot of freedom compared with our life in London and were able to walk around at will and enjoy such things as viewing the steam train as it left Countesthorpe station with its smoke billowing out. The trick was to wait until the engine disappeared under the bridge then rush to the other side in time to see it emerge. The fun was to be quick enough to be engulfed by all the smoke!
In the spring the embankment was covered with cowslips which we used to pick and on the lawns of some of the houses built along the line those cowslips still appear. Another event that occurred in the spring was the annual mass movement of frogs to and from the old brick quarry next to the railway line. I think they must have moved across to the farm pond in the Cottage Homes farm and in the process many were squashed on the road. It proved how many more frogs there were in those days.
As we were so near to the farm we were also given the freedom to wander round and look at the animals. We learnt to take the cows round to the fields in the lane, feed the calves and hens, milk the cows and join in the haymaking. Herbert Clark, the farmer, had an old white horse which was used for all the farm work including the haymaking when he pulled a mechanical rake to gather the hay. The rake was curved and operated with a long handled lever. We were allowed to ride on this piece of machinery and pull up the handle when instructed. Of special interest to us as children was the history of the horse, called Bob, because he had survived the first world war and still had shrapnel showing below his skin! He had previously worked at Western Park in Leicester, so we were told. Being close to animals with fields to roam in, muck heaps to slide down and dens to build I am sure helped to take away the pain of separation from our parents.
But I was very homesick and constantly worrying, as I picked up bits of news from the conversation around us but I did not know enough to be able to ask questions. Children accepted that adults had a world of their own and were not told too much for fear of upsetting them.
As well as the strain of being away from our parents there were some bewildering things happening around us which must have caused some anxiety too. We saw Spitfires fly low overhead and were told that the brother of our neighbour was the pilot of one of them which was a thrill but for a couple of children who had probably never seen a plane so close before also very strange.
Those same neighbours turned their tennis court into a chicken run (such was the need to produce food) and we were always having to apologise to them when our fox terrier, Buster, chased and sometimes caught one of their hens. We were on a constant state of alert to make sure he did not get out, not only for the sake of the hens but because he and the collie in the farm opposite were on deadly fighting terms. Such were the lengths to which they would go to establish their superiority that an arrangement was made for the farm dog to be out in the morning and for our dog to be out in the afternoon. How peaceful our dogs are these days, taken for walks and quite content to stay in their gardens. Maybe the owners are more responsible these days or was it part of the upheaval of the war?
Other strange activities included the strengthening the garage with extra wooden beams, the windows covered with strips of tape to prevent the shattering of glass and the curtains lined with blackout material. We had to be very strict about letting lights shine from the windows at night.
With the increasing threat of bombing my uncle set about building an air raid shelter inside the house and the dining room floor was dug up. The shelter was built with bricks and concrete with a reinforced roof and steps down into the inside. I think it was called a Morrison shelter. It was a great place to play both inside and on top as it was about 4ft. high and 2ft. deep but I don’t remember ever having to use it as an air raid shelter.
We had a game based around our doll’s house which had been made by my father from wooden boxes, decorated and furnished by my mother and carried by them both on the train up from London on the first Christmas of the war. It had lights powered by batteries (double ones with a 2 inch piece of connecting metal on the side) and curtains that could be drawn across the windows. With it we played out all the wartime activities that were part of our ordinary lives and the games always featured an irate warden(always played by my cousin), who would shout at us to ‘put those lights out!’
We also played with armies of tin soldiers and guns that fired match sticks, a game instigated by my cousin who was slightly older than us. He had a ready audience in the two of us and these games and the knowledge he had of the countryside (I learned the names of many birds, trees and flowers) added a lot of interest to our disrupted lives. I could point out to this day the spot along Banbury Lane where we used to set out the battle scenes in the ditch. These would be left there overnight and then we would return next day to continue our game.
I learned to climb trees and on achieving a certain height was allowed to carve my initials on the tree. A particular willow on the bend in the lane leading to Cheney’s farm proved too difficult for me to climb because it had no lower branches and was the sole province of my cousin and some of his friends.
All these exploits were, I think, only in the early days of the war because as the war progressed, there was greater threat of attack and we had to keep nearer to home. We were also restricted as to where we could walk and we were not allowed to go beyond the crossroads of the two lanes in Willoughby Road without a pass. At the junction of the lanes in the field to the left of Willoughby Road there was a searchlight station which may have been why Willoughby was ‘out of bounds’. The city of Leicester did receive some daytime bombing but I only remember hearing an air raid warning during the day on one occasion when we had to go into the garage. I still hate to hear that noise.

Going to school

Our school was a County school, on the corner of Foston Road, Countesthorpe. It had a large room for the 5-7 year olds and two other rooms divided by a wood and glass partition for the older children up to the age of 11 years. There was a tarmac playground in the front of the building and another at the back and brick lavatories outside near the neighbouring house. I have a recollection of them being cold and dark and wet!
I remember little of our lessons except using slate boards to write on and the horrible noise they made as you scraped away. We did have handwriting classes and my memory has been jogged by childhood feelings of embarrassment. The teacher would write on the blackboard a letter of the alphabet and to illustrate how your writing should ‘flow’, she would say ‘your writing should go on and on and on’. As my name at that time was Anne Donne, this always made the class giggle.
The desks were made for two children to sit at with the seat attached to the desk and it had ink wells which were not used and lift-up lids. I always liked to tidy out my desk, a task I seem to remember was left until Friday afternoon. I have vague memories, too of P.T. in the playground which consisted of very formal exercises involving the arms and legs all moving in a uniform fashion and I remember my difficulty in trying to keep up with all the others.
I remember, too, taking a contribution each Monday morning for my National Savings Certificates, of games in the playground such as Oranges and Lemons and hating to get caught and of funerals passing by on the way to the cemetery when we all had to stand still and the boys took off their caps.
Typical of childhood memories, always focussed on food, I remember having to walk home to Willoughby Road for lunch and then walk back again for afternoon school. When winter arrived and it was not suitable to walk all that way (we were probably further away than most children) we brought an egg and bread and our kind teacher cooked us scramble egg on the top of the tortoise stove in our classroom.(the only form of heat) Later a kitchen was built onto the school and I was very impressed with the chocolate pudding that was included in the introductory menu we had to take home! I never did have a meal from that kitchen as I was then old enough to go to the secondary school but my sister did.

Re-united with our parents

When my parents left London they came to live with us until they found a house to rent. Houses to rent were in short supply especially as my parents were looking for something in the area of Countesthorpe with a garden and it was only by luck that they spotted a house in Winchester Road as they went by on the bus. The house had been rented out before and was in good condition by the standards of those days. It had a bathroom and indoor toilet and three bedrooms and a lovely long garden backing onto open fields which stretched across to the village. There were open fields to the front too and still are.
I loved the garden and so did my father who set about growing all the vegetables he could to give us some variety in our diets. Everything that could not be eaten was composted and he saved his own seed. He only bought the odd plant from such places as Woolsworths as there were no garden centres and nurseries were expensive as well as being inaccessible unless within cycling distance. The government booklet ’Dig for Victory’ urged everyone to grow their own vegetables and flower borders were sacrificed to provide food. We did not, for some reason have hens, unlike many other people, and I can only think that neither parent would have been able to face killing them when the time came.
My father was so good at economising, using up any pieces of wood to make little cupboards, stools and toys or repairs to the house. He repaired our shoes and cut our hair, collected stones from the garden to make a terrace and path down the garden so that my mother could hang out the washing and saved all the spare pieces of grass to make a lawn.
My mother also liked gardening but the burden of coping with household tasks took up most of her time. Washing the clothes consisted of boiling them in a galvanised boiler in the corner of the kitchen which was heated by gas. They were then lifted into the sink for rinsing and put through a mangle which had to be anchored to the edge of the sink. It was exhausting and time consuming, filled the non-centrally heated house with steam and because there was a need to use everything to its utmost, was followed by extensive cleaning to use up the valuable hot, soapy water. Condensation in the house was always a problem and the airing of clothes and beds a constant priority with glazed pottery hot water bottles very much in use.
Coal fires created dust and had to be cleaned out, wooden and tiled floors had to be mopped or scrubbed and rugs shaken in the garden as there was no such thing in our household as a vacuum cleaner. I remember having to step onto newspaper when the floor had been scrubbed in order to keep it clean as long as possible and certainly until it was dry as so much energy had gone into the cleaning of it. Incidentally, coal fires created dirt everywhere and after visiting the town, our feet would be quite black with the dirt we had picked up.
Economising was a way of life for everyone and of course was entirely accepted by us, as children. There were not the goods in the shops to tempt us and we rarely visited Leicester although there was a regular bus service.
We made our own decorations for Christmas out of pieces of coloured paper, used up any fabric which we could find for rugs for the floor, unpicked knitted garments and re- knitted them. Except for school uniform, our clothes were all home made using a treadle sewing machine, very often from used material and nothing was wasted. This has had an everlasting influence on me and I still see possibilities for a use in all sorts of objects and materials. All this was widely accepted during the war and continued long afterwards as well when supplies of materials were almost nonexistent.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Leicestershire Library Services - Melton Mowbray Library (BBC WW2 People's War)


I was born in Melton Mowbray, a small market town now famous for pork pies and Stilton cheese, on the 19th August 1917. The Great War was in its last stages, leaving many families without fathers and sons. My father was an agricultural engineer and he spent his days going around the farms and great houses in the area mending farm machinery and servicing central heating installations in the large halls. Mother always stayed at home, she was a wonderful cook and as food was plentiful, we lived well. My brother was born two years later and a sister when I was ten. My father was always happy with his life but my mother was ambitious for us to improve our station.

The chance came in the form of my father’s sister, who had married a local builder and had two sons. Their business was doing well but in order to be really successful the expanding South was the place to be. By coincidence, as I was leaving school at the age of fifteen my Aunt was moving to London. Her condition for moving was that I became her companion and the daughter that she had always wanted.

In London I attended many social gatherings, tea dances and functions. To be seen in the right places meant contracts and they were coming in thick and fast.

We lived in Southfields and on a Saturday afternoon we would go to see the local team play football, Fulham. My best friend Betty, whom I’d met at a dance, invited me to her house and I was surprised to find that she lived next door to Joe Edelston who was a former Fulham player and was now in charge of the reserve team who seemed to be winning everything. He was one of the first coaches to gain qualifications and his methods were seen as too revolutionary in many quarters, but much more importantly he had three sons, all good looking and unattached!

I soon started going out with Joe, the eldest son. We had little money but when we did we would go to the local cinema to see the latest release. My favourite was Humphrey Bogart, “a real man”. At night we would listen to the radio to hear the latest play or short story. In summer we would go for long walks by the river and during the tennis tournament at Wimbledon we could always get in for free when the doors were opened in the afternoon. Life was always easy paced and gentle.

The big crisis pre-war was the abdication of the king. At the time everyone was confused as to what was really happening. When Edward finally gave up the throne, everyone was very sad and Mrs Simpson was the most hated woman around. The new king was seen as being weak and not groomed for the job, but everyone loved his wife. However, during the Blitz they really came into their own, touring the bombed out areas and talking to everyone they came into contact with.

I remember going past Croydon airport one day, on the runway were two large planes with black swastikas on them. The sight sent a shiver down my spine and made many of us fear for the future as we watched the growing emergence of the military power of Germany once again. It was no surprise to any of us when they marched into Poland, as no-one believed that Chamberlain and his piece of paper could halt the military machine that we had witnessed in action in Spain. On a brighter note just before the war started uncle bought a television, the first one in our road. Everyone came around to have a look at the new invention and the reception was really very good. However, when war started programmes finished, much to the annoyance of the family.


The winter of 1939-1940 was long, dark and very cold. Joe was one of the first to be called up as he worked for Shellmex and was an expert on petroleum. He was sent at once to France with the British Expeditionary Force and so began a long and anxious time. Prior to him going we had become engaged as so many of our friends had done. He wrote to say how cold it was and how ill prepared the troops were, not all of them had the proper equipment and some didn’t even have a gun, but they survived with the help of the local wine and goodwill.

Back home the criticism of the government had grown to alarming levels and it was a great relief to everyone when Winston Churchill took over as Prime Minister. At last we had someone to look up to as a leader, a fighter who would never give in. In June Dunkirk was turned from a disaster into a national triumph as the troops were evacuated. Joe came home on a barge and was taken to Aldershot. It was a great relief when I got a call from him to say he was Okay. I was desperate to see him and got the train to Aldershot as soon as I could. He looked so well but he had changed, he was much harder and more worldly wise but after witnessing so many tragedies, I couldn’t expect anything else.

In August the bombs started to fall. Joe was posted to Swindon and because women were not allowed to stay overnight with their boyfriends, we decided to get married. I had to make all the arrangements and we were married in Wandsworth shortly afterwards. Joe’s unit was moved to Yorkshire and the lovely couple whom he was billeted with said I could go back and stay with them to be near him. Soon afterwards he was moved to just outside London at Hadlow Down and after moving back to the capital I would see him every Sunday.

At that time the Blitz was on and from dusk until dawn we would spend our time in the underground shelters. We would do our shopping in the daylight and hope that there was no air raid. We did our shopping in Clapham and how I admired the stallholders who carried on as normal even though they had been up all night because of the raids. On the bus you could see the bombed out ruins of houses and flats but somehow we never thought that a bomb would actually hit us. At night the noise was terrific with the sound of ante aircraft guns and the mighty explosions of bombs landing. Many times we put out incendiary bombs that had landed in the garden.

My luck was in when Joe’s unit was moved again, this time to Hatfield. He had met a lovely lady in the village who had been evacuated from Cardiff. She had a lovely house and needed help in looking after eight little girls who had been evacuated from London. One of the girls was only three and was totally bewildered after leaving the city. She became my special charge.

The Blitz was still on and on many nights we heard the planes on their way to bomb London. The country was a refuge for the girls and we would go for long walks in the woods that surrounded us. One day as we were walking I found a pheasant’s nest with eight eggs in it. It was a great temptation to take the eggs as we had no such luxuries but I let the pheasant have her babies and upheld the law of the countryside.

On the whole we were a happy lot and I was able to see Joe frequently. He would bring his army friends to see us and they always brought gifts of sweets and eggs, which were considered luxuries and strictly rationed. It was a sad day for everyone when the unit was moved once again to Dene Park in Horsham, a lovely place with abundant wildlife and a herd of deer. It didn’t take Joe long to find me a new billet close to him, with a family who had been evacuated from Portsmouth. They lived in a cottage on top of a hill with no bathroom, no running water and an outside toilet. If we wanted a wash we had to draw water from the well and heat it on the copper boiler. To do this we had to light a fire under the copper, which, at times, was much easier said than done. Washing day was always a Monday, which was easy, compared to keeping the deer off the washing line as they continually tried to eat the wet laundry.

Joe had a friend who asked if I could find some accommodation for his wife in the village. The people in the village were only too willing to help and from then on many wives would come down and stay for short breaks. The only problem the men had in getting here was petrol for their bikes. I don’t know how they did it or where the petrol came from, but the local pond was soon full of submerged petrol cans. At the back of everyone’s mind was the fact that the men would soon be going overseas and some of them would not return. Life at Dene Park was much easier than elsewhere as we had a plentiful supply of eggs, milk and cheese from the farms and game from the abundant wildlife, duck and rabbit.

The air raids continued and several German planes were brought down close to us. The dog fights in the sky above us were breathtaking. The spitfires seemed to be more mobile and faster than their foes but our admiration for the pilots was unlimited, they were the true heroes of the hour.

The winter soon came and brought with it short frosty days and long cold nights but we were tucked up in our cottage with warm log fires and time to ourselves and time to entertain the children with a game of cards. At Christmas the cottage was cut off by snow and it seemed that the war could not touch us, but always at the back of our minds was the thought of how much time we had left together. The family we stayed with had two children with whom we have stayed in touch to this day, exchanging letters and cards throughout the years. Sadly, their parents died many years ago but we have treasured memories of their kindness and friendship in our time of need.


The war was going badly for Britain throughout the year with the Axis powers taking over most of Europe, Africa and the Far East. At home even Churchill was coming in for criticism. The Japanese took Hong Kong and Singapore, pushed into Burma and started to threaten India, my worst nightmare was coming true, Joe was going to fight in Burma.

At the start of the year I had wondered how long it would be before we would be separated and the thought of having a child and a bit of Joe forever had grown and grown. In the spring I knew that I was with child. The doctor advised me to move back to Melton Mowbray to be with my parents. Back at home I kept very well. My mother, who was still a young woman, was eligible for war work and had a job looking after the local doctor. This meant that I looked after the rest of the family. I was kept busy making clothes for the baby out of any piece of cloth I could get hold of. My father was kept very busy looking after all the farm machinery in the area. This of course meant many perks; a sack of potatoes, a sack of swedes, eggs, a rabbit, an old hen and if one of the farmers killed a pig, a bit of offal or even a roast. We had so little meat and many times the only ration was corned beef, so it was corned beef hash with plenty of vegetables. It is no surprise to anyone who lived through the war that nowadays they can’t abide the taste of corned beef.

At the end of 1941 there was a brief hint of better things as America came into the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbour and Germany invaded Russia, thus opening up another front.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Del Weeks (BBC WW2 People's War)

I was eight years old at the outbreak of WW2. My father worked as a driver for a laundry in Merton and was in the Auxiliary Fire Service part time. Mum started some homework from P.B Cow of Mitcham, cutting out rubber grommets which I used to help in the evenings. It wasn’t long before I was evacuated to Eastbourne with my mother and my one year old sister. I cannot remember too much about that event apart from us all living in one room and my father visiting us occasionally from our flat in Streatham, London. Dad turned up on one visit with a huge cod over his shoulder to help out with the rations.

It wasn’t a very happy time in Eastbourne though. I can remember my mother often being in tears at the conditions we were living in, the three of us huddled together in that one tiny room near the sea. This, together with the shortage of food and mum missing dad coming home in the evenings soon made us return to London.

I stayed with my family in London during what is now known as the Battle of Britain, and watched the daily contrails of the dogfights over Croydon. Days then seemed to be always clear, with warm sunshine and blue skies and with the sound of the planes and gunfire overhead and in the far distance. All very exciting to a lad of ten and his gang members.
I remember helping dad to build the Anderson bomb shelter in the garden. A corrugated iron shelter, half buried in the ground and covered with earth. Dad seeded ours with grass and grew flowers on it and fitted a strong wooden door. It had a concrete floor with a hole in one corner so that the condensation could run away. Also an electric light on a long lead was run from the house to the shelter. I nearly electrocuted myself playing with the lamp on one occasion, it was only my mum's quick reaction that saved me. Mattresses and blankets served as our beds over wooden slats. Later on we had an indoor ‘table’ shelter with wire grills around the sides called the Morrison shelter. Our beds were permanently made up and we slept under this shelter during the blitz.

I was evacuated again to a small picturesque village called Bishops Hull in Somerset just outside of Taunton. All the new evacuee arrivals were ushered into the local village hall to be fostered to local families. I was exceedingly lucky to be fostered together with Charlie G from Tooting in London, a friend I had made on the journey from Paddington. We were billeted with the local builder Mr A and his wife who had a wonderful covered side entrance full of ladders and all sorts of interesting things to explore for kids of our age. I will always remember the hand grenade that was used to keep the back door open and the war games we used to play with it - it was not live of course. We had the occasional rumble of German aircraft at night and once found a live incendiary bomb on the front doorstep which soon had the local Wardens arriving to cover it with sandbags. I believe some planes just dropped their bombs anywhere.

Our days in the village with its cobbled pavements and the smell of fresh bread from the local bakery were always new and exciting. There was so much to do, it was all so new to us as we had never been in the countryside before. Climbing the huge oak tree in the field next to the bakery (it’s still there), go fishing down at the river where there always seemed to be a whirlpool that we were so frightened to go near. Running away from the cows in the field and the local farmer giving us rides on old snowball - a huge, to us, white cow. We once sampled a jug of cider that we found buried in a haystack. Although we searched, we never found it again! Many a time Charlie and I were in trouble at night. We shared a bed and were always laughing and making a noise until we were scolded and told to sleep.
The letter writing was somewhat of a chore in those days as we were always told to write home at least one evening a week.
Our school was just around the corner by an alleyway at the rear of the house. An old fashioned hand pump was in the alleyway. A small school hall that, in retrospect, was possibly a disused chapel. I can’t remember much about the schooling, but I can remember helping to whitewash the walls inside. I am sure I never learned too much there. I was also friends with Jack and Jill, brother and sister who lived next door at the local butchers. The butchers shop is also still there.
Those happy days came to an end when Mrs A, our fostermother, broke her ankle while playing football with us in the street. I was then fostered with somebody new and very soon asked to return home as I was sharing a bedroom with one of the elder sons who I didn’t like.

I came home in time for the blitz on London that was pretty frightening, although really exciting to us youngsters who didn’t realise the dangers. My father was now permanently in the London Fire Brigade or maybe it was the National Fire Service, and I seem to remember he was on duty most nights. He told me of walls collapsing around him in the docklands and of going round with an enamel bucket picking up body parts.
My uncle lived in the flat above us and worked on the railway as a shunter at Clapham Junction. He kept his bike in the front garden. I was in the Life Boys (a junior sea cadets) at that time and wore the hat with a saucepan lid underneath as protection! One night we were both at the front door seeing all that was going on, he in his tin helmet and me with my saucepan lid. Suddenly among all the noise, there was a loud clang as a big piece of shrapnel went straight through the spokes of his bike. He had to catch a bus to work the next few days until his bike was repaired.
I will always remember that I was up the top of my road in a friends house during one of the daylight raids. It appeared pretty quiet so I decided to go the several hundred yards to my house. I was halfway there when aircraft were heard, so I started running as bombs were whistling down. I managed to get the key, that was hanging from inside of the letterbox on a piece of string, and opened the door, threw myself on the floor of the passageway as I had been told to do in such circumstances, and the front door fell on top of me with the blast. I was unhurt, but the bombs destroyed several houses in the next street.
After the ‘all clears’ had sounded during the daytimes, we used to go out on our scooters shrapnel hunting. You got to be leader of the gang if you found a shell cap, but that was a rarity. The scooters and barrows we made ourselves out of wood collected from bombed sites. The wheels of the scooters were large ball races with a lump of wood hammered through the centre for an axle. The noise they made going along the road and pavements wouldn’t be allowed today. The pram wheels of the barrow or trolleys were also collected from the bombed sites - a great source for what is nowadays called do-it-yourself. There were often big fights over the collected spoils. The barrows had four wheels, a box to sit in, and were steered with a bit of string tied to the front wheels that were on a swivel.

I was then again evacuated. To South Wales this time. A mining village called Pentrebach near Merthyr. It seemed as if the war was far away and over. Us kids had great fun sliding down the slag-heaps on trays and getting covered in coal dust. I used to help the local milkman -Jones the milk of course - on the weekends putting the cardboard caps on the bottles of milk in the dairy. I think I was given tuppence for doing this. I confess here, that I stole rolls of these caps to share with my friends for a game at school where we flicked them up to a wall. The nearest to the wall kept all the other caps. Needless to say I always had plenty of stock!
On Sundays it was a local ‘hobby’ of the men of the village to go ratting. Either down the disused coalmine or the river. The rats were either shot or put in a ‘tram’ (a small wagon for carrying coal from the mine) and dogs were introduced for, what was called sport in those days. If it wasn’t ratting, then it was going up in the hills with friends to pick blueberries for a pie.
Schooling is not a thing I remember while in Wales, I was having too much fun. I do remember coming home from school and sitting down to a plateful of runner beans for dinner several times a week. Probably the reason that I don’t like them now.

As the blitz appeared to be over, I once more returned home to Streatham. The doodlebug raids started soon after. We watched them from the back garden flying past toward the centre of London. On occasion the engine would stop early and it would dive down and black smoke would appear a mile or so away. We were always ready to make a rush for the shelter when they appeared, sometimes with a spitfire chasing it.
I was sitting on the front wall at a friends house a few streets away one late afternoon when there was an almighty bang followed by a rushing roaring sound, and we all looked at each other wondering what it was. We were all used to the bangs during a raid, but there was no raid on at that time. The warnings were getting fewer. It turned out that it was the V2 rocket for which no warning could be given. It was much more powerful than the V1 doodlebug (or flying bomb). The V2 came from the stratosphere and travelled faster than sound. The roaring noise after the explosion was the sound it made coming through the air, a frightening noise. Although many V1s and V2s fell on London and caused a great deal of death and damage, I feel that I was fortunate to live on the outskirts of the City and in the suburbs.

The war in Europe came to an end soon afterwards with much celebration and street parties. Lots of food was found for these in spite of the rationing that went on for several years afterwards. Flags and bunting was brought out, even pianos were on the streets with lots of music and dancing. Soon afterwards, small prefabricated houses began to appear on what we called the bomb-dumps. We used to listen to the interesting stories the nightwatchman could tell of his war, while we were sitting around the fire that he lit in the ‘prefabs’.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)

Arther deliberately did not included official details of his working life in his diary “in case this diary should fall into enemy hands”
Italic printing = I’m not absolutely sure I’ve deciphered Dad’s writing correctly.
Question marks indicate where I cannot decipher what Dad has written.
Super script notes = my notes where I feel a comment necessary.
PO = Preventive Officer
APO = Assistant PO
When the war started, Dad was married to Kay with 2 daughters, Betty , born 21st November 1931 and Beryl, born 8th March 1939.
He had his mother and step father ( his ‘real’ dad was killed in 1st world war).
He was the oldest son with five brothers, one Roy, a half brother many years his junior. The others were: Sidney, Fred, George & Jack, not necessarily in that order!
His wife, Kay was from Blackpool. She had a mother and father and three sisters. Vera, an actress and a Tiller Girl, Aurea, married to a professional footballer and Myrtle.
Kay herself had been on the stage until marriage.
They had further children, a boy in 1941 and twins — boy and girl — in 1943. Sadly, the baby boy of the twins, died on Christmas Eve 1943 at 8 months.
Kay and the family were evacuated to Blackpool for three periods during hostilities. They lived in Dagenham, in a rented house, when the war started, but on evacuation of his family to Blackpool, he soon gave up the house and moved back with his parents in Raynes Park. Then, as the family moved to and from Blackpool, so followed two other addresses in Raynes Park.

24 THU Up to the present, I have excluded “war” as a diary topic: now however, the situation is serious and news bulletins are being given continuously. The radio was giving them up to midnight, and though in bed, I could hear them through walls from next door.

25 FRI Being on holiday, decided to ignore war scare news. Merely looked at daily papers and did not listen in. Spent a pleasant “lazy” day, giving Kay a hand, mending Betty’s bike (front fork nuts). Spl listening interval to R. Normadic, 2.45 — 3.45 serials.

26 SAT Quite a fine day but with the prevailing threatened storm. At first, decided to walk into Barking, but on this account, shopped locally (Valance). Begin to see through Kay’s eye’s now, the dirt and squalor of this district. Really owe it to her to get away.

27 SUN War — scare even more serious than expected. Tremendous rush to buy things stated as “necessaries” for children rehearsing (it is hoped) evacuation tomorrow. Betty should go (if at all) with Kay and Beryl, Tuesday. A day of worry for thousands.

28 MON The little kids went off today with their rucksacks and haversacks and their gas mask boxes bobbing about as toddled along. But they didn’t go away. Waited about all day, and played, but no news. So they’re home again.

29 TUE Have we been busy at work! The returns of shipping required! So often does the telephone ring that the 4/11 and 8/11 APO’s have to stay in the office. Clerical needs tend to keep me at the office late. Don’t study, have to ease off at home!

30 WED Another busy day with orders and counter-orders from those “on high”. Keeping up with it though. Relaxing by gardening! Of all disliked occupations. A little a day’s not so bad. But oh! How much this is to do in my 120 feet back!

31 THU After watching political events closely and talking the matter over with Kay, decided to send her home to her mother again (although they only returned 18th). Spent evening packing up and finally saw them up to Euston. Thousands evacuating London.


1 FRI On this day, the government thought it a wise policy to evacuate all school children from London, Blind persons and cripples, and expectant mothers, and Mothers with children under school age to follow. Pleased my lot had got away.

2 SAT No half day today, even though I was to appear for duty again at 10.30 (11 officially). Kept myself busy though with Abstract. First experience in travelling in complete black — out. No train or bus lights hardly. Dangerous travelling.

3 SUN As all the world will know in the future, war was declared on Germany at 11 am. I had not long been in bed when the air raid sirens went — an unholy noise — so jumped up, conveyed all into kitchen and lay on floor out of way of broken glass.

4 MON Another false alarm at 3.40 this morning. Mr Bell and I did as above- we on floor of office. There was rent to pay in, shopping to do, laundry to sort and bundle and a bath to have (besides cooking).

5 TUE Things are getting a bit worrying. Relieve at 10.30, - ½ hour earlier; left at 8.45 = ¾ hour late. Additional business of shopping and cooking meals has led to little time for house cleaning, washing up (what an accumulation) and lawn mowing. How (and all last week) the Crown steal my time.

6 WED Grumbled at late relief yesterday, today left 10.15 am 2¼ hours late. This was due to an air raid warning 7 am — 9 am. Raiders only reached outskirts, radio reception evasive. Everyone doing defence arrangements.

7 THU A neighbour whose garden meets mine at right angles at the bottom has loaned his ARP shelter to Mr Higgs, in his own and families absence. Mr Higgs has invited me to “dig” in too, in the case of an air raid. Very pleased to agree! Second letter from Kay — worried.

8 FRI No news up to time I left home of whether O.K. to go to Mum’s for weekend. Want confirmation as she may have left London herself to a late neighbour’s at Eastbourne. Postal arrangements are upset just now. Busy day but achieved nothing extraordinary.

9 SAT Card from Mum on mat when I reached home, so cooked breakfast, shaved and left for Raynes Park. Arrived 12.30. great welcome. Lou and children living with Mum, Dad and Albert came in dinner-time. Also George after seeing Elsie and children off to Berks. George is now in British Red Cross. While Mum and Lou went shopping remainder of us took our ease. Jack and I practiced with good effect together on clarinet and piano. After tea, played radiogram.

10 SUN A very happy day after days of depression and loneliness. George came back again after being on Red Cross night duty, and F and M came in car with Pam and new baby Keith. We four boys went for walk (not forgetting our gas masks) over Wimbledon Common. With this war getting so serious, shall we all be together in the future?

11 MON Debated the question of Kay’s temporary return next ??? with Mum and our plans for the future. Finally sent a letter asking Kay to come home and arrange our future existence. Left Mum and Lou and children (now temporary living together) amid fond farewells 2 pm.

12 TUE Rather spoiled my day by getting up late. By the time I had seen to my toilet, and cleared up, shopped, cooked dinner, cut sandwiches, there was only time to get off an important letter. Cheap day tickets withdrawn! My fares now 1/2d a day!

16 SAT Had my first wash up for a week. Took me one hour. Not that there was a lot to do, but scouring pots and pans took half an hour. Mowed one back lawn, too. Neighbours previously self evacuated, returning. One next door neighbour back, “home-sick” I think. Much clearing up before Kay comes home.

19 TUE Well the telegram did not say “noon”, it said “morn”, and I was barely up when a ring on the bell came and Kay came flying in having travelled overnight. We had a joyous reunion and much to say, but I had to leave at 1 pm for 2/10 duty. Freed at 8 though, by CPO.

20 WED 6/2 watch. No vessels to board but visited Woolwich for GO’s etc. Left 11 am for half day. Kay and I talked (and argued) over future plans, visited Pickfords, Ilford, Barking Corp. re billets allowance, Betty’s education and baby’s gas mask, and finally reached home with a 36” trunk to send home any items she chose to take, as we have decided to close house and store furniture.

21 THU Kay was up with me at 5.30 am. and spent all day packing up things for store. At 2 pm, I made a round of removers for better storage terms than Pickfords (7/6 per week). Also, had a good turnout and found lots of junk. Took another suitcase to station for Blackpool.

22 FRI Said bye bye to Kay and left her waving to me out of the front window. 6/2 but spent a considerable time writing a memo to WS re working in district 2. Came home and wrote many letters, and did a little towards clearing out.

24 SUN To Mum’s to ask her if she’ll have me for a lodger. Glad she will and arranged terms. Had a fine carefree day, we four boys — Jack, Fred, George and I. Played “Monopoly” a very enthralling game. George and Fred were visiting like myself.

25 MON Up at 5.30 am and timed my travelling for future reference — 1½ hours door to door (North Woolwich). Very busy day. I did not leave till 4.30 pm again. (Very late last night, watch work). Left very little time before dark to work on clearance of rooms not blacked out.

26 TUE Went along to Ilford Lane, Pickfords to sign agreement for furniture storage, at £3/10s for removal and 7s/6d per week. Can’t be done till next Tuesday however. Hoped to get away Friday. No other removers available. Notice already given.

28 THU It seems that pressure of work will now depend on the arrival and sailings of convoys. Ships began coming up river at 2 pm. a convoy having safely arrived. Missed the rush fortunately. Still sorting out papers, evening.

29 FRI Continued sorting out and put all my books of instruction into a suitcase, for conveyance to Mum’s Sunday. Disposal of some old uniforms etc into willing hands. Wrote a couple of letters, one enclosing £7/9s/10p premium, and made out my registration form.

30 SAT Up to stores branch and to uniform contractors re bad fitting jacket. To be rectified. Dinner in the coffee shop opposite Woolwich police station, which I have patronised this last fortnight, as they sell excellent meals at a reasonable price. After resting for night watch, bathing, housework, letter to Kay and packing of carton holding electric fire by conveyance to East Ham Cloak Room tonight and thence to Mum’s tomorrow.


1 SUN The dear old launch broke down, so we had an uneventful first night watch. To mum’s for the day, taking gear previously mentioned. George in his Red Cross uniform was there, now reunited with Elsie and the children. Had to leave at 8.30 for 10.30 duty.

2 MON Running around the river in a tiny launch, borrowed from the “Harpy”. At home, substantially cleared out the largest bed and living room ready for removal. Received a visit from the national registration man, who gave me my identity card.

3 TUE Sugar ship from Cuba at Woolwich buoys kept us active during the night watch. Keeping up the schedule, today cleared front-room. Thus, almost half the house is now ready for Saturday. Disposed of about 1 cwt (I think) of reading matter.

12 THU Up 6 am. At Raynes Park station at 7.15 and there bought season ticket one month to London Bridge as I shall be stationed there or near it for the next month at least. Fare = £1/5/3d = 10d a day. In rummage crew for a few days. Companions good fellows.

13 FRI A river trip in the morning, and a rummage of a Yugoslavian in afternoon. Heard from crew of their hatred of Germans. Conditions on board their ship dirty and untidy. Evening doing some work in my room and to bed early. Jack Harris, Mum, Dad and Jack playing “pontoon”.

14 SAT Half day. Heard from Kay that she will be coming home on Tuesday. In consequence, down to Raynes Park station to make some enquiries re tickets and to Post Office for a withdrawal! Mum, Jack and I went to the Elite cinema, Wimbledon in evening and saw Lewis Stone and Mickey Rooney in “The Hardy’s Ride High” — a family story. It was so good that I deplore missing three others of the series previously. We were in good company and the seats were only 6d!

16 MON Proof of ARP in the pool. Two hospital ships, (late pleasure steamers), a fire float on which ?? constant jet playing and practice, many yachts and speed-craft. A (late) Polish vessel at the buoys still proudly flying her national flag.

20 FRI Half day spent with Kay and the baby. Beryl still queer but brightened up when we took her shopping. Mum had left on a visit to Roy (long evacuated to Barnstaple), so Kay took over culinary arrangements.

23 MON A night “on the march” with Mr Spencer PO but well enough at 11 the next morning to see Kay and Beryl to station. Beryl still teething. Parted at Euston without tears knowing she will be back next month. We “motherless” men managed well by ourselves in evening.

24 TUE Back to normal now Kay and the baby have gone. Hope to recommence studying Custom Regs. Exams postponed to March because of war, giving me extra opportunity. Mum returned home from Barnstaple at 8 pm, having had excellent time visiting Roy.

26 THU Full night and morning patrolling up and down our 5 mile (I think) station. Could not sleep very well at home. The intense cold of the night being carried into the day time. Up at 2.30, to hairdressers and post office. Wrote Kay. Did a very little study.

28 SAT The absence of shipping arriving or sailing somewhat alleviated our patrolling, half of which was quite unnecessary that we did so. Thankful when it came to 8 that the work was over. Home to bed till 1 pm. Pleasant afternoon, (quiet) and afterwards, Mum, Jack and I to Wimbledon, to visit cinema. I went off separately, but was unable to get into any cinema owing to popularity of the film, so came home and listened to “Band Wagon”

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)


2 THU Another day “on reserve”. Got rather bored and was glad when 4 o/c came. One of the regimental broadcasts irritated me so much that I left home for the cinema, only to see the same thing there!

7 TUE Very dull and miserable. I had a job standing by the radio room of the “Lech”, a vessel at the pier opposite the “Harpy”, still flying Poland’s flag in spite of Poland’s “conquest”. Put in a good evening’s work again at studying. Now doing “Firearms”.

8 WED Appointed to assist in the office and did fairly well. Recurrence of depression fit, leaving was an anathema to me, walked streets for an hour. Returned home, then went to cinema, which saved me. (Bette Davis in “DK Victory”)

9 THU 8/4. Undertook duties of “second hand” i.e. hailing passing vessels as to their destinations. This ensured my retention in the office and I was able to amend my Green Books. In the evening I wrote a couple of letters; long one to Kay.

10 FRI 8/4. Tragedy in the job today. One of our boys, Bill Pedder, fell down a ships hold and received multiple injuries and was taken to Guy’s. He was to be married soon, too. Everyone gloomy and upset. Dad’s radio programme coinciding with my studying. I had to give up.

11 SAT Obtained permission to leave the “Harpy” at 11.30 am and was thus just able to secure a gallery seat (9d only) for “Carmen” at Saddlers Wells Theatre, Islington, matinee performance. I was in top row, so did not hear perfectly at it’s best. However, it was my first experience of opera and I was mediumly impressed. Dad had fitted a proper blind to my room (at last!) so now I have a room of my own to retire to. Radio still a worry though.

18 SAT Asked permission to leave office for my half day at 11.30 as I wanted to be sure of a gallery seat for “Il Trovatore” at Saddlers Wells. Fortunately secured a pit seat and enjoyed the show much better than last week in gallery. Called in on Dad at Crown House on my way home. Had a little time before I was due out again, being on duty night watch at “Harpy”

19 SUN It almost blew a gale in the night and I was thankful “blackout” dangers minimised our patrolling the river. Spray shot completely over the boat as we went along. A good sleep, 10 — 3 and an easy evening. Poor Dad at work 9 — 8pm.

21 TUE My big girls birthday. Kay has promised her a tea party, I wish I were there to see her enjoyment. Mum and I sent cards and I a Bourneville chocolate playbox. Mum’s present, an aluminium tea set will be taken back by Kay.

22 WED No message arrived from Kay as to what time she would be at Euston, but Mum phoned from Dad’s workplace after she had met Roy at Waterloo, now back from evacuation. Just met Kay in time at 6.50, train on time. Betty fine.

23 THU Had quite a good night with Beryl, save that she fell off the ottoman on her head! Thereafter she slept with us! As well as ever afterwards. Kay and I made a first visit to the splendid new Odeon at Shannon Corner. Saw Wuthering Heights” Very Good.

27 MON Last evening with Kay. Mum kindly looked after Beryl whilst Kay and I went to Shannon Corner “Odeon” again as on Thursday. Not so good a film, however, but enjoyed each others company. Looking forward to when we’re together again, which may be about Easter.

28 TUE Took leave from work to meet Kay at Waterloo, Mum having seen her into train at Raynes Park. Travelled across London by bus and once again saw Kay and my baby slide from my sight as 1 pm train left Euston. Fred came on a visit in evening. Did some general clearing up.


1 FRI 8/4. Office John C. took half day, so I was left in sole charge. Managed OK. Spent evening trying to stretch my £17 salary to cover a budget of about £20. Kay not coming home during December so I save £2/2s/6d fares and 10/- keep.

2 SAT Bolted away from the office at 11.30 am to assure myself of a good place in the pit queue at Saddlers Wells Theatre for the performance of “Cavelleria Rusticana” and “Paglicaci”. Need not have rushed, however for there was a pit stool available. I filled in the time at the “Angel” Lyons. Found a wallet containing £3/3s/0d near theatre and gave to policeman, signing his notebook.

3 SUN 8/4 Second hand “Harpy”. This meant I did all the week-end returns, as well as hailed all ships to and from above London Bridge. Far from being a slack day, worked harder than a week-day! A quiet evening (thank heaven) and to bed early.

8 FRI Pouring with rain today- and one of my jobs was to walk from the “Harpy”, over Tower Bridge, and visit three vessels on the south side, to deliver documents to the PO. He was on the last one, of course. Spent evening compiling an address list for Kay (Christmas Cards) and writing a letter.

9 SAT Morning soon passed, I left “Harpy” at 11.30 am as last week. To Islington to see “La Boheme” at Saddlers Wells. Rather disappointed by comparison with last week’s performance and returned home hardly more elevated. Mum, Dad and Roy Christmas shopping at Kingston. “Black-out” spoiled usual Christmas jollity. Roy spent his few shillings on presents for us and was so excited as almost to give the game away.

11 MON Replacing a colleague on the north side between bridges, not very active, but had a look round a fresh Dutch vessel, which arrived with eggs, bacon and butter. Instruction amending getting behind-hand, against a background of noise, and interruptions (Roy with his homework etc) did a little.

13 WED Received letter from Kay, asking from where she is to get gas —protective helmet for baby. Wrote to her this evening telling her to get one at Blackpool, and made sundry other arrangements re Christmas. Wants to avoid continually parting between us, and thinks it best to return home. Have suggested after my examinations in March, but would like her home much sooner really.

14 THU Acquired fine leather gas mask case which Mum bought Jack, but with which he was not satisfied. Cow hide, with zip fastener. Wrote Kay, asking if she would buy it for me for Christmas. Also enclosed a surprise £ note, saying it is lent. Hope not to have to ask for it back.

15 FRI Only a small Dutchman at Brewers Quay on the north side, between bridges. But boarded a fresh vessel, and visited another on south side when the officers that side took a half-day. Received a small package in Christmas wrappings from Kay, “not to be opened till Christmas”.

16 SAT A very cold day, and when we took over the river station and went full speed against the wind, our faces were frozen. There was a “general alarm” (practice) which we took to be a genuine one. George came in evening and brought me 2 presents for Blackpool parcel.

17 SUN On duty 8/4 in river. Weather very cold, whipped like a knife as launch forged against it. Found Dad had spent his day putting up the Christmas decorations. Very good. Are to have a 5/- Christmas tree, bought between us, this year.

20 WED Great dearth of ships in the pool. About 5 in all. Consequently, work conditions easy. Helped Mum pack up Fred and Mabel’s parcel. She also decorated the tree with gifts. Pretty sight.

21 THU The great event of the day was my visit to Westminster Theatre, a cosy place near Buckingham Palace, where I saw G.B. Shaw’s “Major Barbara”, and enjoyed it immensely. Strolled across Green Park to Piccadilly and back. Christmas cards from all over, I had one from Betty.

22 FRI A 4/11 turn today. Mum left early to see Lou, and Lou came here! Missed each other by 10 minutes when Lou went. Mrs Close also came over for a chat (!). 4/11. In view of rush hour walked to Shadwell from “Harpy”, (!) and in black-out walked back. — A night-mare!

25 MON Joyful present exchange at bed-side as usual, but only one stocking being un-packed. Present — Mum, Dad, Arthur, Jack and Roy. Sid and Doll visited, Sid only to dinner. Albert and Lou and children as usual, and Mrs Salter’s 2 children. Walk over Wimbledon Common; sing-song.

26 TUE My one day of the holiday on duty — 8/4 “Harpy”. A miserable foggy day, and plenty to do both indoors and out. Felt very tired, having had disturbed night in a strange bed. Another evening of romping, noise and games with Fred and Pam, George, Elsie and children as well as those above. Bed 1am.

27 WED With one of “Harpy” rummage crews for 6 days. Did a fairly good day’s work on 2 of many vessels which have arrived on station. Spent an excellent evening making references to dictionaries, writing Kay etc.

28 THU Dark fog turned to mushy snow in London, whilst in Raynes Park, the snow was quite thick and remained crisp. Had a fairly good rummage round again on duty, found the stoke-hold and engine rooms the best places! Mum and Roy, Lou and children to panto in Kingston.

29 FRI My zeal for rummaging has proved my un-doing. From walking to a ship in bridge coat and uniform clothing, I went to walking about snowy decks in overalls. Result, illness. Spent a fearful night, unable to breath.

30 SAT Forced myself to my usual routine, although I should have reported “sick”, but under our ridiculous regulations, absence on Saturday debars one from working Sunday, and I am on Sunday overtime tomorrow, which would mean the loss of income on which I rely. Felt better for being about and active, indeed, put on a good rummage on an Italian at Butler’s. Nice quiet afternoon in warm, Mum and Lou, Dad, out, children good. Enjoyed Jack’s “rhythm” records.

31 SUN Foggy dark and cold. Hoped to clear up outstanding jobs to start new year afresh, but spoilt it by lying abed till 10 am (!) and after giving a hand re the taking down of beds etc, which had been put up for Christmas visitors, had about ¾ hour left to myself. This briefly is the whole position with regard to my spare time, by the time I had cut my next day’s sandwiches, given a hand somewhere with a household job, out of a sense of duty, I am left with no time to myself, or no energy left to enjoy it. Left the family with Lou, Albert and children, to enjoy New Year’s Eve, whilst I went, unwillingly, to work 4/11.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)


1 Mon Fog prevails, all shipping at standstill. Rummage that old standby, the Batavier. Finished Robt Hitchens “Bella Donna” — a powerful story. Cleaning up the bedroom prep to embark on standing course of study. Wrote Kay & others.

2 Tue Still v. cold. Snow which has not cleared away has frozen to ground. Was careful to wear jacket & overalls when rummaging as protection against cold. Put in a good evenings work clearing up almost all letters written, and other jobs.

3 Wed This morning, hand wash — bowl trap frozen, but luckily, other water services working. Getting used to cold now. Recommencement of study classes. Mr Burgess C.P.O. took us in “smuggling” from 5 — 8.15 pm. Wish I had his knowledge.

4 Thu I did not mention that Monday was change of station for P.O.’s, and that the new men are now installed. Having been absent from the upper end of the river for a number of years, I met many old friends. Thaw set in making study conditions better. (Warmer)

5 Fri The thing of paramount importance in my life now is study for impending P.O.’s exam. (March). Even between periods of rummaging I manage to do some study, and to do fairly well at home when the wireless wasn’t blaring downstairs.

6 Sat Half day. Went to Saddlers Wells theatre and saw “Marriage of Figaro”. I greatly enjoyed it. By appointment, went to Kings Cross Road police station and collected a wallet containing £3.2s.9d and a book of stamps, which I found and handed to the police a month ago. (Dec 2) I am still liable should a claimant appear. Heard that Mum had purchased a 6 guinea hearing aid, so gave her a guinea towards from my find. Elsie came (alone).

7 Sun Last day relieving in “Harpy” rummage crew. Tomorrow i.e. tonight, I start my minute as a “Harpy” boarding officer. Great activity amongst those changing stations, parcels packed etc. and although it was foggy, gear was delivered at Surrey Dock & Shadwell.

8 Mon Terribly dark at night time, bulk of work done in morning. 6.45 onwards.My companion is Stan. Moe?r (?), a likable fellow, we shall get on well together. Went shopping, visited library, and studied. Sent Kay half my “findings” (see 6/1)

11 Thu Intensely cold and frosty. The runways and decks of launches were treacherous. Of the 4 stained glass windows in side of house, 3 had caved in seriously; probably also due to differences in temperature in & outside of house. Afternoon & evening spent similar to last 3 days. Sent off 8th preliminary paper to tutor.

17 Wed Still very cold, many people roundabout frozen up. Dad worked for 1½ hours on bathroom waste pipe outside house, finally cleared it. Studied in my room although electric fire insufficient to properly heat it. River duty 4/11.

18 Thu Spent some time writing to Kay, having received a letter from her today. This curtailed my study time but I was able to put in an hour before leaving for 4/11 watch. Now fully frozen out save main tap. 4/11 watch: normal for home 11pm to find pipe burst in loft. Dad & Jack busy.

20 Sat Reverted again to bitter cold. Patrolling the river and keeping a lookout was a painful business, it seemed as though my cheeks froze. To add to the dangers, a newly arrived vessel had a cargo of Esparto Grass over which we had to clamber. It was all disarranged with thin slippery planks over the gaps. This work has been most busy on the 4/11 watch. Glad to have it and the weeks work behind me.

21 Sun After the thaw on Friday, we are all frozen up again. Some people locally have even their main taps frozen and obtain their water from special tap off street mains. Snow fell later, taking the sting out of the air. 4/11 watch not quite so busy.

28 Sun Snow 1 foot deep this morning. Up 6am but waited ¾ hour for train on Raynes Park station, ¼ hour on Waterloo Junction. Difficulty in getting them out of sheds due to snow. Sleet fell all evening and on my way to night watch at 9 pm, Southern Railways withdrew service.

1 Thu Before arriving home, call for my suit at Burtons, fitting seems OK, but finish to suit seems ‘cheap’. Thence to library to return book and to look out details of Saturday’s travelling. Slept part of day, wrote usual end of the month letters. Received Christmas gift @ uncle Harry something.

3 Sat Caught the 10.40 am from Euston to Preston — and what a journey. Snow lined the permanent way, sometimes 8 inches thick, often engulfed the signalling wires, and putting system out of action. Proceeded very slowly and arrived at Preston 5 pm. Nearly 6 before left, and arrived in North Station at 6.40 pm. No buses to Layton, so eventually walked, arrived Drummond 7 pm. Kay waiting at Central Station, so had to walk there to find her. Returned by taxi. Kay, Betty and Beryl all fine and overjoyed to see me.

6 Tue Thawing rapidly here although thawing began in London before I left. Am getting pretty good rest, but principally from getting up very late. Kay, Beryl and I went down to town shopping. Woolworths, etc but it was very slushy underfoot. RAF boys were assisting to clear snow piles.

11 Sun My last day in Blackpool. Spent it in close company with Kay and the children, only going out to get medicines (including whisky!) recommended by Dr on his visit. Beryl much better, but not properly well yet. Ken came over. We had a “reading circle” around fire. (Dead quiet for 2 hours)

12 Mon Left Blackpool with a memory of Kay’s tears, Betty’s smile and little Beryl’s pale sleepy face. 10.10 am from Central, change Preston. An excellent journey by comparison with the outward one. Home by 5.30 almost. Warmly welcomed, Jack still convalescent from measles.

14 Wed Exchanged half days with obliging colleague and saw “The Importance of being Ernest” at the Globe Theatre, Piccadilly. Cast including John Gielgud, Edith Evans, Gwen Ffrancgon Davis & Peggy Ashcroft. Good production, acting good.

18 Sun The cold snap now has almost lasted a month, snow is common place, Friday’s melted away to mud in the afternoon. 8/4 River, cold hands and feet in launch nothing arrived up. Yet another blind up against “black-out” = bathroom.

24 Sat A beautiful sunny day on the river such as I had hoped for on my holiday at the beginning of the month and provided for accordingly. (suit). Our launch broke down and caused us a little inconvenience, but I was away in time to get a seat for the matinee at Saddlers Wells “Don Giovanni”, which I much enjoyed. My only grouse was an obstructed view, but this is one of the known drawbacks to Saddlers. Left home 9 again for 11/8 duties.

26 Mon Give due thought and prayer to my precarious chances in this exam. Felt I had not been fair to Kay for all her past sacrifices and to my children, whose care and education God has entrusted me. At 8 pm began an 11th hour endeavour.

29 Thu Lemon and antiseptic gargle eased throat took more food. Became aware of my disgraceful unshaven condition and after sleeping best part of day, got up for toilet and decided to remain up and to go to work as usual tomorrow.

MARCH 1940
3 Sun Off duty. A beautiful sunny day but rather chilly. Had slept with Jack in his single bed giving him a terrible time with my constant coughing. He did not complain. Long walk over Wimbledon common to windmill, Very enjoyable. Looked up “health” in evening.

5 Tue The great day. Found my way to Burlington Gardens alright, and there met many old colleagues now in other ports. Did better at the first paper than at the second where I did not know all the duties. Estimate 50% marks. To film “Stars Look Down” in evening.

8 Fri Beryl’s birthday. Just one bless her. Letter from Kay says frock is lovely, also my sleeping bag (see Wed 6). Had my oral exam at 4.30 pm: as with written exam, didn’t feel so happy about it. The agony is waiting for the result (June). With Mum to “Beggar’s opera” at Haymarket. FG.

16 Sat Worked through the half day, and went to the opera — “Faust” at Saddlers Wells. Had a good view, (that is the important thing at SW. in the pit seats, hearing’s quite OK) and enjoyed the show. Received an agreeable surprise when I arrived home — 4 letters from people with houses for disposal: too late to investigate when I had had my tea. Letter from Kay too. I had begun to worry.

18 Mon Pouring with rain, house hunting a miserable job. Cleared up a little towards 11 am: did some telephoning, made enquiries at two agencies, visited houses in Somerset Avenue, and in Lambton Road. Later to one in Tennyson Avenue which seems to be the thing.

19 Tue Being unable to see the landlord of the Tennyson Avenue property because I am on evening duty, I arranged an interview with his wife at their Wimbledon home. Competition for the house has been keen she said, but I could have it on a one years agreement (Doing interior repairs) for 23/- a week.

20 Wed Rainy come sunny. When sunny it was brilliant and a long white yacht passed “Harpy” going down. Received written confirmation of tenancy of Tennyson Avenue. Rent now 24/-. Wrote Pickfords re removal, and advised Kay.

22 Good Fri Spent the morning in my room sorting out matters consequent on our setting up a new home. I estimate an expenditure of about £10 at least. Went with Mum and Roy to tea with Sid and Doll, met cousin Cicely and her new husband Jack.

23 East.Sat Met my landlord Mr Hopkins for the first time at his Wimbledon home and there signed the agreement respecting the occupation of our new home. Also did some Easter shopping whilst in Wimbledon. George, Elsie and children were spending day at Mum’s and George and I returned to Wimbledon later to see a cinema show at the Elite. Received a letter from Kay. Seems rather apprehensive about the house in view of its low rental.

25 EastMon A complete exodus by 3 pm: Dad and I to work, Mum again to Lou’s, where Roy has been staying overnight, and Jack out cycling with friends. (Only 2/3 of usual traffic this Easter owing to petrol rationing). Fred called over from Sid’s where he is staying. 4/11 watch uneventful.

26 Tue Out again on the 8/4. Only two ships on the south side but more expected. Learned by telephone of Pickfords inability to remove me Friday and wrote to Kay telling her of altered date = Tuesday Apr 2nd. Mum, Roy & Laurie playing monopoly.

27 Wed Final arrangements with removers and with Crown for moving in Tuesday Apr. 2nd. (Crown for necessary leave). Went down with Dad to look over interior decorations being done. Dad seemed impressed with the place — clean.

29 Fri Arranged for a half day’s holiday to show Kay house. Blithely set forth at 3 pm., Mum looking after Beryl for us. Kay not satisfied, determined to break agreement (see 23rd) and seek somewhere else. Saw a nice house nearby 29/-. Visited Hopkins & withdrew from agreement.

30 Sat Beautiful sunny day with rather a cold wind. Beryl was out in the front all morning watching passers by from her pram. Fine weather persisted and allowed Kay and I with Beryl in pram to view houses (exteriors) around Grand Drive. All of the 35/- & 32/6 variety. Phoned an agent regarding one in Greenway. Feel certain we shall find a house near enough 30/- a week somewhere in the locality. Off to work at 9 pm for the night watch.

31 Sun Our second day house hunting and it looks as though we have found something. After the night watch, I slept all morning, Kay and I with baby in pram viewed houses to north of Raynes Park station. An agent directed us to Elm Walk, later and we found a house which delighted Kay.

APRIL 1940
2 Tue Another busy day. Don’t know whether I’m sorry because of the tiring effect, or whether I’m glad because shipping is improving. Visited Hopkins (see Friday 29th) re a demand for two weeks rental in lieu of occupation of his house. Paid one week only.

4 Thu Typical April day of showers and sunshine and occasionally a strong wind. Fortunately was out on the launch during the latter weather. Mum offered to look after Beryl again and off Kay and I went to Raynes Park cinema. Splendid show, Dianna Durbin in “First Love”.

6 Sat Half day, and went to Saddlers Wells to see “Barber of Seville”. Had invited Kay to accompany me but she was not interested in opera. Show moderately good having seen better. All spent the evening in save Dad who went as usual to whist drive. After two late nights, Kay showed a preference for an early night in, for which I was profoundly thankful.

7 Sun Was given key of Elm Walk house by agent and went up with Kay to see it empty. Was a little less under Kay’s influence this Sunday and disputed on the score of excessive distance to the station. My side of the question wasn’t considered important.

9 Tue Today, Kay and I to Morden to local fuel office. Since deciding to take up a house have found out the effect of the war on the individual.- forms for food, forms for fuel etc. Explored the Morden shops with an eye on convenience for future shopping. Ordered coal. (3/6 a cwt).

11 Thu Kay and Mum went to Tooting Co-op in the morning for some blackout curtaining whilst I looked after the children. Betty, (under persuasion) was a great help in the house. Came home at 11 pm to find curtains ready made.

12 Fri Moving in day. Preparations in morning (window cleaning, paper laying) and van arrived noon. All furniture in by 3 pm. Only one breakage, Betty’s doll. (Which rather upset her). Spent remainder of day setting to rights.

13 Sat Great commotion, children bathing, feeding etc. but by 11.15, all dispersed, save Beryl whom Mum looked after until Kay, Betty and I had returned from shopping. Set off from Mum’s to take permanent possession of our house just like a colonising expedition, pram loaded up and each carrying packages. Once arrived, fixed up radio, de — vaselined Betty’s bicycle whilst Kay prepared meals. Mum came as I left. Work via Morden.

17 Wed Timed myself “Harpy” to home; bus, tube, bus and walk with good connections = just one hour. Fare 8/4 watch = 1d + 7d + 1d = 9d. Seems reasonable. Kay and I did a bit more ??? to ????. Would wish for similar opportunities this evening.

18 Thu Simple journey to Kingston to Dolland and Aicheson opticians, after work. Eyesight test and required glasses. Prescription to be £2/2s/6d, test 13s National Health and 4s HSA. Kay also requiring glasses. Called in on Mum, better. Turned to, and fixed front bedroom small.

30 Tue Shipping very slack in the pool; must be diverted elsewhere. Our work was confined to one ship. Increased rate of postage — 2½d for letters, 2d cards — takes place tomorrow, so did some letters writing. Called at Mum’s for sewing machine.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)

MAY 1940

1 Wed Beryl influenced Kay and I in the same manner as Monday — her charming little smile and ways brought us to play with her from after dinner till 8 pm. She and Betty had had first anti-diphtheria vaccination ??. May budget causes anxiety.

6 Mon Shipping on the river has altered from being abnormally slack to very busy. Was kept very active all day, clambering over barges, climbing rope ladders up ships sides, and walking up and down companions. Kay and Betty went to cinema, but I — to bed.

9 Thu The baby gave us such a disturbed night that Kay she was worn out when I got home. Went with her to the few shops in Martin Way, and after listened to Edith Coates on radio and then had an early night in bed.

10 Fri News of Holland Dutch invasion. Much talk and conjecture on the “Harpy”. Proclamation of military service up to age of 36. All warned to carry gas masks. Aggressive attitude correspondingly adopted by one of my colleagues to one, who will yet live to regret.

11 Sat Beautiful sunny day. In view of yesterdays political developments, there was very little traffic on the river, but enough to fill in the morning. Half day. First put Kay’s vacuum in working order and at 4 went with her to Wimbledon, (with pram), whole journey taking about ¾ hour. Kay not impressed with supposed cheaper cost of food in “market”, so visit was not entirely fruitful. Kay returned home by bus and reached the house only ten minutes before Beryl and I walking.

12 Sun Local AFS practicing on Cannon Hill Common and all barrage balloons up: it is thought a raid possible. Spent quite a good morning (after usual bad start — late). Among other things, wrote Brown again re defects to house.

13 Whit Mon This is not a bank holiday, cancelled because of political situation. Customs and a few others seemed the only people at work though, and the city was boarded up as on a Sunday. Net loss of income 26/-, serious blow to finances.

16 Thu Today threatened to become something like Tuesday, Kay was cross and worried about money matters, so withdrew still more from my meagre bank account leaving it at £4 with an annual insurance premium of £7/10/0d and an overcoat to pay for in September. Went out with Betty to ballet at Wimbledon.

20 Mon Additionally yesterday, rescued an old lawnmower from beneath coal and put it in working order. Finished second half of lawn today and applied mower. Works well but needs regrinding. Glad to have finished what a leg (!) aching job.

24 Fri After putting finishing touches to yesterdays clock-job, and sharpening up small tools on oilstone I dressed intending to collect O/T at “Harpy” and thence to “Old Vic”. Owing to one office mans absence, my O/T not drawn, so returned, visited Mum and spent evening at home.

25 Sat A “privilege ticket“ entitling two persons to admission to Lupino Lanes’s show “Me and My Girl” for the price of one, which had been given me by a colleague, was very useful today, when Kay and a neighbour went to second “house”. I relieved her of seeing to the children and doing various household jobs and had supper ready on her return (11.30). She thoroughly enjoyed the show. I would have taken her myself but find I prefer opera or ballet shows.

27 Mon End of summer leave; back on duty (Wharves) at 4 pm. In the morning, Kay was rather queer, so gave her a hand with the housework. Filled in all our identity cards and made labels for tying to the children for identification purposes. War situation now “very grave”.

28 Tue Kay somewhat better today, but helped her as much as possible. Made some preparations in case of an air raid — all respirators near front door and important papers collected in readiness to leave house. It is said even more serious news has been received.

JUNE 1940

1 Sat Betty very proud of her knitting ability. This morning proudly showed us her doll complete with knitted “pixie” hat, scarf, muff and imitation gas mask. She is growing up fine, well proportioned child with a happy nature. Doesn’t like soap and water though! My principal worry is concerned with the nations fighting reserves, is how aerial attack will affect our kiddies, at present so happy and innocent.

2 Sun Beautiful sunny day and I was able to get out into the garden before leaving home for 4/11 duty at 2.45 pm. On duty, wrote about an air raid shelter, we are warned bombings are real. Quick turn round. (Up at 6 tomorrow). Vera spending night now in London.

4 Tue The summer weather holds. Every body in summer frocks or light suits. The war is the bar to complete contentment for Kay and I. Met her with her friend (our neighbour), at shops. Children bonny. Neighbour’s husband does us many deeds of kindness.

5 Wed Neighbour erecting his air raid shelter. Offers protection to Kay and I also, should events prove necessary. So give him a hand with filling of sand-bags (with earth). Our wives joined us and made it a gay party.

6 Thu Today my neighbour and I got rid of our respective wives to the cinema in the evening and were thus able to do much more to the air raid shelter. I filled very nearly a dozen sand bags with earth. We husbands go out tomorrow.

7 Fri Half day today, been stiflingly hot, so spent an afternoon of complete relaxation. Mr Hersey took me down to the Odeon in his car and we saw a film “Of Mice and Men”. Not particularly struck. Prompt journey home again, by 10.30.

8 Sat Pretty full day for a change as we took over the river station additionally in afternoon. Very hot, Kay boiling when I reached home, looking after baby, sending Betty off for a picnic and preparing dinner for me. Relieved her of baby and of seeing to myself, and packed her off in Mr Hersey’s car to Tooting. Later again helped Mr Hersey with sand bag filling.

11 Tue Hurried home after work as Kay and Betty were to go to see “Gulliver’s Travels” (Technicolor), whilst I saw to Beryl. Filled in application for air raid shelter, wrote Mabel (birthday) and Roy (at camp) and attempted to stain part of back room floor. Kay not so pleased however.

13 Thu As Kay was especially presentable when I came home this evening and had had the house cleaned for yesterday’s visitors, I suggested she should go out to the cinema with Mrs Hersey. Mr Hersey took and fetched them in car. Meanwhile we carried on with ARP.

14 Fri Work in the open air proved tiring today. And as my neighbour was away from home and would therefore not require me for sandbag filling, Kay and I had an early night in bed. First we had a good romp with baby who really enjoys it.

15 Sat Received an impression today on reaching home from work which I shan’t forget for a while. My front garden was trimmed and neat, and Kay had edged the pathway with white paint to good effect. From out of the opened lattice windows came the happy laughter of Beryl and Betty playing, and of Kay singing. This most certainly is a happy time in all our lives — but for the war.

16 Sun Registered unpaid volunteers for munition work and forwarded my name today. Workshop training at K & S may be of use to me after all. Kay, with much unkindness said I volunteered to get out of the army, forgetting that I am already exempt from service.

17 Mon Grave news on the radio to the effect that we are the only country left at war with Germany and that the fighting would be henceforward in England. Considered the advisability of evacuating Kay and the Kiddies. At work they had much to say.

18 Tue An Anderson air raid shelter has been delivered, and it remains my job to erect it. Had however, got news of it from Kay, and when I got home from work, I found a good start had already been made. He really is a good old stick.

19 Wed Myself started to excavate site of shelter and removed about a spade’s depth of earth. When I got home however, the shelter was sunk 2’ 9” and erected. Dad and Albert had been operating. Was most thankful.

20 Thu Made a slight adjustment to the shelter and started to fill in sides with earth. Didn’t get far however, before I had to go. Mornings taken up with misfortunes (baby fidgety, bath taps not functioning, gas metre jambed etc.) and subsequent rectification.

21 Fri Meter now righted, cause of not functioning not ascertained. Betty came home from school excited and said children at her school could be evacuated to Canada, parents permitting; she wants to go. Kay going to talk to Mum about it. More progress with air raid shelter.

22 Sat Kay did not go down to discuss sending Betty to Canada with Mum, as we heard from Roy, who came up on a visit, that in any case, he wouldn’t be allowed to go, and that rather dashed Kay’s hopes of pairing Betty and Roy up in the venture. Gas company’s rep. Re resiting the meter in a more reasonable position of access and said the change would be £1 or so! That finished that. Earthed up back of shelter today.

23 Sun Work on the air paid shelter had to be postponed till evening as it was raining all morning and part afternoon. Kay rather poorly, found her in a lie-down after dinner, but Beryl made it a romp, she didn’t want to sleep! Succeeded in covering one side of shelter, Kay helping.

24 Mon Dull and rather cold. Didn’t like getting up at 6 in the morning, after a week of 10’s. Put in some more work at covering the shelter but will take a week yet! At 1 am had first air raid warning. Speedily dived into Mr H’s shelter. Sung songs and kept cheery. All clear 4 am.

25 Tue We were all very tired after our interrupted night (although many colleagues speak of sleeping through the raid) and the children were soon abed and asleep. Kay had a restful evening at the cinema with her neighbours, but I had to continue with shelter.

26 Wed Dry, good and bright. Mr Hersey being something of a carpenter, has undertaken to help me equip my air raid shelter and to that end he sawed up an unused table and my book-box. We hope to make a temporary bed too.

28 Fri Clay bottom of air raid shelter holding water; not the case with Mr Hersey’s. He advised me to loosen the clay and what a messy job it was! I slithered about chopping and levering at the sticky clay till dark set in and then emerged with shoes and trousers covered.

29 Sat Mr Hersey kindly helped with fittings for inside shelter. I levelled clay and perforated with hole for drainage. Then sunk in table top for floor and adapted rest of table to beam seats. Additional beams to be ordered for a temporary bed if we have to stay out again for 3 hours like am Tuesday. Mr Hersey promises more help for tomorrow when both he and I are, fortunately, not working.

30 Sun Another Sunday off duty. Very pleasant but the effect to my income is not so. Mr Hersey came over the fence and gave me his whole morning fitting up the seats and steps to the floor (table top) which I had prepared. Later, all to Mum’s. Uncle George and Aunt M. charmed with Beryl.

JULY 1940

1 Mon Went on covering my shelter with earth: a long job. Although I have had it two weeks, it will be another two before it is finally ready (I expect). Kay en route to Morden, walked with me to bus stop, Beryl in pram beaming up.

2 Tue Busy with pick (which I can wield expertly now) and shovel, still earthing shelter. Mum, Aunt Myn and Uncle George coming on Kay’s birthday (4th) so getting lawns etc in order. Mr Hersey in my absence preparing me a door for my shelter. Learned that Dad came for radio blueprint.

3 Wed Kay has given part of her vegetable garden for me, to provide more earth for the shelter — still piling it on. Kay toiled for the last time for rationed goods to RACS, Raynes Park. In future, Grand Drive branch.

4 Thu Kay’s birthday, Mum and Roy, Uncle George and Aunt Myn coming for evening and to tea. I worked hard to reach a certain stage in my shelter and after dinner, tackled front lawn. Left Kay toiling and polishing expecting the arrival of the guests.

5 Fri After working for days on the shelter, really tired of the job and instead, did some writing etc. Discussed the shelters colour scheme with Kay (who will undertake all the painting) and set off early to work, to buy paint beforehand. 6d white, now 8d.

6 Sat Rain kept me indoors today. Beryl is such a charmer that I was in her company most of the time. She can now be left to play on the front room floor, but knocks h..l out of the fireside implements, and throws Oswald the tortoise about the room so he has to be kept elsewhere. Kay was busy during my absence on 4/11. She had painted part of the shelter — a good helpmate.

7 Sun Mr Hersey continued his carpentry job in the shelter. I helped as “mate”. He also helped me dispose of accumulated rubbish from the loft. We had some fun getting K up and down from there. Hailstorm (!)spoilt mornings work, also having to leave for 4/11 watch.

9 Tue The box in which I have kept all my study books, etc. having been used for air raid shelter door and fittings, this evening whilst Kay was at the cinema, I sorted them with a view of disposing of them. Continuous domestic duties preclude their study at all.

19 Fri Children much better and beginning to frolic in bed, so lit fire in front room downstairs, retrieved the old fireguard from back of coal cellar and allowed kiddies up. Called at Wimbledon labour exchange regarding tomorrow’s registration for military service.

20 Sat Initial letter ‘P’ should register between 4 & 5 pm, my time of attendance for duty, but I was allowed to register 9.30 am. Afterwards spent an hour or so shopping in Wimbledon and a few household jobs. Children almost normal now. As the work passes out we are prepared to forget our troubles with it. Met Mum on 50 bus going Morden and wished her many “happies”. Kay takes a present up tonight (sideboard cover).

26 Fri Betty brought me home her school report, which was so bad that on being reproached, she wrote us a little note saying “I am ashamed of myself.” I gave her a talking to. We think she will do better after her week’s holiday and resumption in a different class.

29 Mon Betty has only one week’s holiday from school this year, and today, joined Roy and his friends on a fishing trip to Coombe Woods. Kay and I take Beryl in pram, on walk to food office, Merton, thence Wimbledon and quite enjoyed ourselves being fine.

30 Tue Betty’s fishing trip was a success; she caught 3 “tiddlers” and gloated over them all day. Joined Mr Hersey (on road) hedge clipping. Heard from room 11, my membership of Volunteer Munitions Brigade not approved. Stocking up with drift wood for threatened fuel shortage.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)


2 Fri Busied about the house today but seemed to achieve very little. A lengthy argument with plumber re necessity of creating trouble about the matter (see 1/8) he promised to fix on 17/5 ! Job fixed finally. Awaiting local councils decision re amending air raid shelter — constant 2” water.

5 Bank HolMon Of course, there was no bank holiday and work continued as usual, only they didn’t penalise us this time as on Whit Monday (13/5 — g v) of those profit making concerns, the shops, half closed as usual (including the co-op) national effort or no. Hunted town all over for bread e.g.

9 Fri Half day today. Clarice went to HQ of ARP at Merton to effect a replacement of Betty’s gas mask. (Window damaged) but was too late. I went in to play billiards with Mr Hersey. (I play a poor game though!) and he offered me a radiogram for £5.

10 Sat At work until 4 pm. Whatever I could say about work and shipping conditions I do not insert herein in case of loss of the diary might be to enemies advantage. Thus, notes are restricted to other than work hours. Kay and Betty left me in charge of Beryl in the evening whilst they went to Morden “Odeon” to see the film I saw Tuesday (evening). They greatly enjoyed the programme. I was in bed when they reached home.

15 Thu It was a fine day for the zoo outing. Kay and Betty went off at 10 am to Mum’s where they found Lee and Tony, Mum and Roy. I was left in charge of Beryl, who was handed to a near neighbour, (suitably decked up) on my departure for work. Short air raid warning at 8 over Croydon.

16 Fri An air raid warning at 12.30 whilst Kay was out shopping with Beryl in pram caused me some concern, but they sheltered in the Co-op employees place and were well treated. Betty ran home (from school homeward bound) quickly and joined me in the Anderson. To dentist in Morden and had teeth examined.

17 Sat Completed yesterdays entry somewhat prematurely. There was a second air raid at 5 pm and screaming bombs were dropped on South Wimbledon and New Morden Stations (with but little delay in service of trains) and on public house opposite Shannon Corner “Odeon” (meant for one of the factories on Bushey and bypass road) Kay and Mrs Hersey trembling in latter’s air raid shelter. Today, up to 9.30 pm, no raid so far. (front and back of house painting this week)

18 Sun Off duty. First air raid 1 pm. Kay, children and I in shelter with cross boards in place, but too crowded. Afterwards therefore, bailed out water from floor, removed clay, made side channels to receive water. Second raid 6 pm. Conditions in shelter more comfortable.

19 Mon Being off duty yesterday, I was not worn out after work today having had opportunity for a good sleep overnight. Called library, bought a bookcase for my books, visited Mum to see all well after nearness of Friday’s bombs, finally, Kay and I romped with kiddies.

21 Wed Kay and Mrs Hersey have decided to sleep in back room downstairs, and I arranged with Mr Hersey a mutual assistance pact. At same time enrolled in a “Neighbours Stirrup-pump Corps, remaining men in last 8 houses each side road belonging. Pump to be purchased by contributors.

22 Thu Air raids are concerning us not a little at present causing us all to look to our shelters, and, in the case of Mr Hersey and I, to move our bedroom furniture downstairs for use in room nearest shelter. Engaged ourselves on this but did not complete.

23 Fri Raid at 3.30 am. Whisked children out of bed, wrapped them up, and all in shelter, which thank goodness is dry after Sundays labours (evening). Both children slept, Betty on one at full length, and Beryl in Kay’s arms. Helped Mr Hersey with his furniture and collected radiogram from him.

24 Sat Air raids continue, one at 1.30 am. I was on duty and the whole “Harpy” staff filed quietly to basement of Custom House. The basement stretches the whole length of Custom House and is strongly reinforced with a network of steel girders. Kay and children were still in bed (as Betty had not to go to school). They took refuge in our own “Anderson”. Likewise, we sheltered at 3.30 pm when another raid took place. In both cases, heard no reports.

25 Sun On duty 11/8. An air raid at 11.30 pm lasting one hour. “Harpy” staff again in basement. On emerging, fires could be seen in dock district and in City itself. Slept most of day, getting up for dinner at 2. Couple of raids, one at 11 pm and about midnight.

26 Mon Regularising of getting up and mealtime determines success or failure in use of the day. Going to try to keep to a schedule this week. Air raid as I boarded tube at Morden 3.30, over by 4 pm, no delay in tube. Long raid commenced 9.30 continuing.

27 Tue Both 4/11 and 11/8 watches as well as other evening and night operatives, in Customs House basement shelter until 4 am. Dozed fitfully in a deckchair, others similar or on ARP beds. Resumption of transport and reached home 5 am. Up 11 am to Raynes Park shopping. Visited Mum.

28 Wed A raid started same time as before (9.30 am), lasted till midnight, recommencing 12.20 till 1 am. Walked home from Morden Station during the latter. Saw and heard nothing. Did a domestic job or two, during day. At 9 pm as I was homeward bound, siren again.

29 Thu This was a nuisance raid and aircraft flew around till 4 am, occasionally dropping bombs. Did not risk my 25 minute walk home under the circumstances in a Morden shelter, newly erected and unfinished. Not so comfortable. Had a morning supper with Kay at 4 am!

30 Fri The important events in our lives are now air raids. We expect them occasionally in the day, but almost for certain at dusk. Taking it in turns to leave duty on 4/11 earlier and tonight was my turn. There was a raid soon after I reached home.

31 Sat This raid finished at 4 am. Kay, Betty, Beryl and I tossed and turned, swapped places trying to get some sleep, but as the shelter is only 4’ 6” long, if Kay and I lay down, we had to stretch our legs up the “walls”. Further more, the air gets stale. “All clear” gave us 4 hours in our beds before the next round, and then another at 1 pm in which our “Harpy” ship keeper, at home, received a severe shaking. Allowed away from work early. Just joined Kay and kiddies before night raid.


1 Sun A day off duty. After experience of last night in shelter, this night was a great improvement after I had a reorganization. All clear about 4 am, thence sleep till 10. Other raids during day. Vera came and went out visiting in evening. I dug patch for grass sowing.

2 Mon Shortly, air raids will become so common-place that I shall cease to mention them, unless of course, the bombs dropped are unpleasantly near etc. Raids at 8.10 am, 4.15 pm (Whilst HB) and, of course, all night. Attended dentist at 6 for teeth-filling.

3 Tue Night raid finished 3 am. Thus had 3 hours undisturbed sleep only. Dead tired on reaching home, played with kiddies to radio before finally going up at 5 pm. It was literally a case of ‘head on pillow — then sleep’ — until 11.30 pm when the night raid began.

4 Wed The night raid was a short one and Kay and I questioned whether we should stay awhile in the shelter. She returned to bed with Beryl at 1 am; Betty and I at 3 am. During the day there were other raids in which we took cover in Customs House shelter. Pop brought valve re radiogram — OK.

5 Thu Apart from a short late raid last night, our night was undisturbed. Kay, Betty, Beryl and I do our best to settle ourselves in the shelter where we are forced to spend most nights but we are much cramped and seeping water makes it unhealthy.

6 Fri An air raid lost us an hour and a half of morning and led to my late departure from “Harpy” for my half day. Furthermore, at Morden I was caught again and lost a further hour in that uncomfortable shelter near station (see 29/8). Slept nicely in late afternoon, however, and only a short raid at night.

7 Sat It is now allowed for two 8 hour watches to run concurrently, providing each watch is on different days. Thus, being scheduled for night work at 11 pm. tonight, I may do the 4/11 watch also. Exchanged with a colleague to effect this. During the 4/11 watch, the firing of Surrey Docks and the Thames Wharf side took place presenting a terrible spectacle to us as we patrolled the river. Later, the Nazis returned and bombed fire and rescue squads. 400 dead, 1400 injured.

8 Sun Late relief owing to transport difficulties. I was soaked through with rain on my way home. Hardly had I laid down to recoup after night watch when alarm went. Later, earthed up shelter a bit more, night raid at 8 pm, in shelter and under stairs.

9 Mon Saw the tremendous amount of damage done to city as I walked from Bank (Station) to Customs House and later as I travelled from “Harpy” to Surrey docks to where I have been transferred 8/4. Almost whole dock in desolation, burnt out. (See 7/9).

10 Tue Arrived at Surrey Dock without difficulty today save for overcrowded tube trains. A lone raider put in an appearance at 1 pm and caused a rush for cover, but was engaged quickly by our fighters. Terrific rush on homeward journey owing to disorganisation of transport services.

11 Wed Narrowly missed death today when a bomb fell on shed alongside Surrey Dock office. Staff were in brick shelter, heard bomb coming and fell flat on ground. All luckily escaped injury but office wrecked and shed fired.

12 Thu Signed on at the “Harpy” today at 11 am Travelled to Surrey Dock with Mr Luwberg (APO) who went to view the wreckage. Met the remainder of the Staff with their belongings just evacuating. Thereafter went home and had my first undisturbed sleep in afternoon.

13 Fri Whist all night raids occasioned, no comment now, a 4 hour raid from 10 am till 2 pm was exceptional. The Water-guard (Which now includes “Harpy”, Shadwell and South Bank staffs) found a room of their own and played solo, talked or slept. (basement shelter). Called dentist at Morden.

14 Sat A couple of short raids, fortunately did not curtail my half day. In the course of it, I tried to install my small radio in the kitchenette but found a good aerial was necessary and difficult to arrange for. Made up a couple of hours lost sleep in the nightly “cramp” in the air raid shelter. Aired bedding and made general preparations for our “night out” and retired at the earliest siren. The “alerts” (as they are now called) were spasmodic, but after 9 we kept in.

15 Sun A very unsatisfactory day from the point of view of achieving anything. A series of raids interrupted any job I attempted and lack of an undisturbed period of sleep made me, (indeed, us all) “nervy”. Today bought bottle of sherry for Kay to stim. her. Nearby guns cause all the bother.

16 Mon Damp misty weather did not stop usual raids. We had one that lasted from 2 to 5.40 pm of course, we adjourned to Custom House basement shelter and at 5 pm, permission was given to those who wished to depart. Then followed a terrific scramble home. Called Mum and library.

17 Tue Avoided the 200 yard queuing up for the tube and the terrible congestion by leaving the Custom House shelter at 4 pm. during the afternoon raid. This gave me time to have a leisurely dinner and to put still more earth on the shelter (AA barrage intense) before the night raid.

18 Wed Successive air raids throughout the day, so much so that we seemed to be constantly in and out of the Customs House shelter. The big AA gun on the common is a worry. At 11 pm (or thereafter) a high explosive bomb, meant for it, landed Hillcross Ave.

19 Thu The sudden appearance in misty weather, of an aeroplane flying low below Tower Bridge caused AA fire and a state of alertness which meant congested travelling conditions homeward bound. 3rd of series, visit to dentist. Had fright when in shelter when an airplane shot down with a roar near the Nelson Hospital.

20 Fri Nightly sleeping in shelter being uncomfortable and disturbed (AA guns and cramp) Kay and I had a couple of hours in the afternoon. (Half day). Mum came for a visit with Roy (much to Betty’s delight, they have a fun game!) Our night in shelter was quiet, fear of colds though.

21 Sat Take over the river station in afternoon and was able to see additions to the destruction of river side premises since my last trip (7/9). Am unable to comment. (info useful to enemy) but it was sad and awful sight. The Jerries are trying some retaliation for loss of aircraft on 19/7 (sic) and at 6 pm, one explosive and one time dropped near Cannon Hill Common. Exactly same during night, rather disturbing.

22 Sun The bombs dropped last night were at the Southern Railway main line, Raynes Park; and at Ashridge way, off Hillside Avenue, about 10 minutes distance (two killed). No evidence of the time bombs I mentioned. “Alerts” took up considerable part of day. Hardly any time for home jobs.

23 Mon Restless night in shelter; pm, perspiring to saturation, am, very cold. A day divided between the “Harpy”, the river and the Customs House basement shelter. Final visit of series to dentist, who had done a good job. Baled out shelter and returned thereto at 8 pm warning.

24 Tue Worried about Kay and Kiddies catching pneumonia owing to variation of temperature within and without the shelter. Considered some structural alteration to approach, opportunity to do the job is wanted though: raids force us to bed at 7.45, and travel takes more time.

25 Wed Beryl (in particular) is in such wonderful health that my worry re the shelter (see 24/9) is continual. She is a source of great happiness just now. This evening, slept better in the shelter than ever before.

26 Thu Home from duty via Raynes Park calling at Mums homeward bound. Seems unwell, either a lack of sleep, or worry. Call home as often as possible, as increased number of bombs being dropped in locality. Dad busy helping Willoughby’s to run electric light to shelter.

27 Fri A “molotov bread basket” of about 30 bombs exploded during the night and spattered houses and gardens with incendiaries. One that came through roof to top front room was promptly dealt with by self and neighbours, with small damage to furniture, but much mess. Day off to clear up.

28 Sat Whilst patrolling river, lone raider dropped a stick of bombs, from Millwall Dock, across river to Surrey, within 200 yards of launch. Mass raids in afternoon (Saturday). Spent in shelter with Beryl. Mended radiogram lid hinge and fitted new dial light. All listened in and danced to music. Light raids commenced usual time (8 pm). Bomb in night only 100 yards away, in roadway. Gas main leakage and other bombs in the locality.

29 Sun Off duty. Helped Kay and did some work to a protecting fence to shelter. Damage done to the property on Friday 27th subject of meeting of Elm Walk residents. Top end of Walk independent organisation. System of 2 hourly night watches. I concurred. Notified Mum with news of fire (27/9)

30 Mon Set alarm for 4 am. Voluntary fire picket from then till 6 am with a neighbour. Most danger from shrapnel but had loan of steel helmet. No incendiaries in our watch. Part of free time at home (5.50 — 8) undercover owing to air raid. Remainder earthing shelter.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)

1 Tue Third occasion of sudden gunfire at planes over city area, but no general “alert”. Long delayed issue of steel helmets (Staff association has been asking for personal issue for a year). Air raids took up hours of time, barely time to write letter before night raids (7.40).
2 Wed In and out of the Customs House basement shelter a ridiculous number of times. At home, poor Kay was in despair, house in a pickle, time for meals only. Helped her with the shelter bed — damp!
3 Thu In the grey drizzle and cold, did not expect many raids. Nevertheless, had three, the last one keeping me at Customs House till nearly 5 pm. There was thus only time to have my tea and prepare for bed. Wretched night, was irritable and cramped. Short night raids.
4 Fri Took my turn as Elm Walk (Upper end) fire picket, from 4 am till 6, but except for a short alarm, there was no raid in progress. Replaced the upper Customs APO, and noted on our journey up river, damage to riverside buildings. Damaged room (see 27/8) being redecorated.
5 Sat Low lying cloud gave lone raiders much advantage and raids continued for long periods throughout day. The only way we found (Kay in particular) was to ignore them. Half day, called Worcester Park ?? as cleaners in Raynes Park branch have closed. Marvelled at development of it and of North Cheam. Called at Mum’s to, as clothes left for treatment had been left there. Happy sight as kiddies danced and sang to radiogram. Beryl toddles now.
6 Sun There were long drawn out raids all day as yesterday, and when I left for 4/11 “Harpy” a plane passed and re-passed in clouds ahead. Was kindly allowed home before night raids developed. Attended demonstration of putting out and incendiary bomb. Dug small patch of garden.
8 Tue Beryl bad again. Took her from shelter to the house at 3.30 am. The night raid then worsened from then onwards while I took my turn as fire picket (4am — 6) and caused anxiety lest house was struck. Room damaged by incendiary bomb now redecorated.
9 Wed Very busy afternoon and evening (up to siren time) for Kay and I returning and cleaning furniture to both upstairs and downstairs front rooms. The redecorated rooms look well and give Kay something to delight in. She herself is far from well though.
10 Thu Beryl’s cold a little better, but Kay bad. Andersons have their disadvantages in spite of all precautions. Night raid came at dusk = 7.30. In night time, bomb fell in playing field back of Betty’s school (Hillcross). Day off for her.
11 Fri In and out the Custom House basement shelter till at 12.30, I decided to ask for a half day. At home, many raids, Kay and Betty braved them, Beryl and I went to sleep in the Anderson. At 9, a time bomb fell nearby, searched garden but “not in our section” — warden.
12 Sat Foggy but raiders still came over. In the afternoon, at home, ignored them, but Kay and Betty were caught out shopping for two hours. They saw the effects of the high explosives which fell after the time bomb. They demolished three houses in Cannon Hill Lane about 150 yards distant: Kay knew the young mother in one of them and was most upset. In the evening again , there fell another bomb, which set me searching gardens in the moonlight again. The raids are confined to evenings now.
13 Sun After yesterdays tragedy and the night’s alarms, another fall of bombs at St Holier at 1 pm so upset Kay that we spoke of sending her home. I continued to bale out the shelter during the raid: it was 1” over the floorboards. 4/11 duty, but home to be of comfort to Kay before night raids.
14 Mon 8/4 upper coast: Up river by launch surveying all the damage done by bombs. Home: pleasant time playing with Beryl: gave Kay chance of shopping with Betty. Beryl’s cold (or cough rather) still bad. Kay similar, rather queer. More bombs in night.
15 Tue This time, passing up river, saw that the very place the PO had landed yesterday was in ruins. Had difficulty in getting to work too: bus to Clapham North, tube to Borough, bus to Monument. Visited Aunt Emma at Kew. Very pleased to see me again. Upset by raids though.
16 Wed Raids very intense at night. One bomb locally. Route still disorganised to work, but direct Clapham North to Bank this time. Up at 3.30 am for the 4 — 6 am fire patrol. Very tired by afternoon. Spent some time in Anderson shelter asleep.
17 Thu Misty on the river and chilly. Travel conditions to and from work improved. At work by 8.40 am. Few air raids by day, but terrific raids by night. Kay says she had five lots (salvoes) of bombs drop in the locality this (Thursday) evening and early Friday morning.
18 Fri Foggy morning. For a time it “wasn’t prudent” to go afloat. Patrolling the river and wharves up about London Bridge was a chilly job. Mr Hersey retuned home from Slough (his new workplace) to collect some gear. He and wife definitely removing from next door.
19 Sat On fire picket from 4 till 6 am with a new neighbour, Mr Jones. Things were quiet and time passed quickly. Last day up — river, Proper APO retiring Monday. Home by the devious route, but after dinner with Beryl whilst Kay and Betty shopped, and slept from 3 till 6 pm. (was up at 3.30 this morning). Little time left then but for tea and prepare shelter for raid, which commence regularly at 7 pm.
20 Sun 8/4 “Harpy”. A bomb near the diversion route caused yet a bigger detour and I revisited old scenes in Northcote Road. 5 “alerts” in all. Kay reported bombs having fallen locally and there were definitely some overnight.
21 Mon Grey and miserable morning. A tremendous rush to work, arrive “Harpy” 8.45 am. There were isolated raiders in the sky all day. One hovering about when Mr Haxman and I were visiting ships in London Dock. In the short time between arrival home and night raid, tried to fix baby a bunk in shelter. NG.
22 Tue Cold and foggy. Night bombing raids finish early in consequence, but there were a couple of day raids which we passed (miserably) in the Customs House shelter. Kay helped me put sandbags (be quested by Mr Hersey) on shelter. Kay queer and baby coughing. 6 bombs in evening.
23 Wed Quiet morning. Night bombing finished early. I was fire picket with Mr Walker (146) at usual time 4 — 6 am. Foggy on river. No improvement in travelling facilities. Kay and I working on fire claim damage done on 26/9. In shelter at 6.35 pm for night raid.
24 Thu Travel facilities worsened, no buses, the whole way from Morden to Kennington now. Arrived office 9 for 8 am! Went almost all round the London Dock. And saw the damage done thereto. (Comment on extent of damage unwise). Ordered for 3/11 Surrey Dock tomorrow. Means “lie in”)
25 Fri Had the morning at my disposal and by 1 pm, we were all ready to walk into Morden, I en route to work, Kay and kiddies to do shopping. Alas, “alert” stopped us and I left 1.30 pm alone. Arrived Surrey Dock 3.45 pm = 2¼ hours.
26 Sat Did a spell of fire picketing with Mr Morris. Things were very quiet (fortunately). Had until 1 pm at home with Kay and kiddies, which is a happiness I haven’t had for a while. (I usually get from 5.30 pm — 7 only on weekdays owing to time travelling, and early to bed because of night raiders). Travelling to Surrey Dock took 2 hours today, slight improvement on yesterday.
27 Sun Volunteered for another spell of fire picket again this morning (4 - 6) as they are short of men. Moved over some sandbags Mr Hersey gave me, but found very few which were not rotten. Air raids all day, Kay and children to Mum’s for tea. I on 4/11 duty.
29 Tue Had a grumble about the “blackout” in the house. Kay soon got busy and when I got home, found new pelmet and rearranged curtains in front (living) room. Neighbour “borrowed” me for a tap washer job, often am only man available.
31 Thu Miserable day. Rain. Travelling was difficult. (1¾ hours Surrey Dock to home) and shelter full of water. Betty bailed out. She is small and can get between seats. Often she is most obliging with small jobs and is a great help to Kay and I.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)


1 Fri Saw planes at tremendous height with exhausts condensing into vapour: trails so made interlacing as though “dog—fighting”. Received scare at 7.30 pm whilst in shelter. Raider released string (8) bombs, 2 were close to us made shelter rock.

2 Sat Damage caused by bombs apparent by daylight. 3 roads holed, one causing bus diversion, (now passes our door) and temporary stoppage of gas supply: house in Cannon Hill, 50 yards away (!) wrecked and others shattered: gave Kay a shock as she wheeled Beryl and took Betty to Morden. I met her there and wheeled Beryl home in on in low pram (from Mr Hersey): requires much renovation. Slept well in shelter: raid less intense.

3 Sun 8/4 duty Surrey Dock Building with Mr North. Met George Edney’s “son” (his second wife’s boy) a fine young airforce boy of 20. Steady rain almost all day, shelter making water as fast as it can be baled out; 6” deep! Unable to use as usual, slept in bed. Kiddies upstairs.

4 Mon Benefited from a night’s sleep in bed but had a worrying time in evening. A stick of bombs was dropped across further end of Elm Walk doing damage and causing casualties. They sounded as if on doorstep. Guns and planes zooming all night.

5 Tue Spent almost the whole day erecting an aerial for small Am set in kitchenette. Results good. Lesser gunfire this evening. Using either wireless drowned noise and took our minds off. Salvaged mattress in shelter. 18” water, shelter useless.

6 Wed Walked with Kay, baby in pram, to Morden for shopping. Wrote letter to George with thanks for his supply of night-lights, passed to me. Terrible evening, salvoes of bombs razed houses, one a score doors away. 5 trapped, some killed.

7 Thu The shock to Kay and the children as the house jumped ease not, I to myself as I went to the scene to help, determined us to leave the house. Mum will have me and store my furniture, if house agent will terminate agreement therefore wrote appropriate letter. Night in Common shelter.

8 Fri Left Cannon Hill Common shelter (scrambling over sleepers) at 1.15 am — was uncomfortable, cold and hungry. (“alert at 6 pm.). Enjoyed rest undisturbed in own bed. Kay very queer and heartbroken at thought of leaving house. Pleasant day “pottering” about house. Public shelter again at 6 pm.

9 Sat Had splendid night’s rest on duckboards of shelter, Betty and Beryl strapped to the seats — rectified all causes of last night’s discomfort. Helped Kay throughout day and went out on lone shopping expedition at noon. Lazy afternoon. There were one or two solitary raiding planes who flew low and caused discomfort. The night warning went as early as 5.45 pm. Stayed in Cannon Hill Common shelter till 10 pm when Kay and I decided to return home because baby fractious.

10 Sun From midnight to 2 am was fire picket, but as there was an “all clear” on, had only to keep “qui vivre” indoors. Returned at 2 am to bed with Clarice. Attended fire pickets meeting at noon in neighbour’s house. To shelter at 6 pm. Salvo of bombs fell near.

11 Mon Bombs (last mentioned) did much damage. All on housing properties ¼ mile distant. Some deaths and casualties. More than ever anxious to get Kay and kiddies away. Called Brown Raynes Park, re application to terminate agreement. No result yet. Common shelter dripping with water, returned home.

12 Tue Elderly lady and daughter, AFS man and wife spent night in front room. Pouring rain and gale, they were unable to go home or Common shelter. They left at 8.30 am. Kay and I had trips out shopping, separately; saw wrecked house, Merton Way. Common shelter, crowded, Kay and I (and others) now able to lie down.

13 Wed Glad to leave shelter at 2 am for picketing duties. Unable to wake my partner so watched alone. Took half hour to wake my successor, too. Thankful not to have to go on duty (= up at 5.45). Kay washing, I helped domestic duties. Shelter, all clear 8.30.

14 Thu Returned to work today appeared for duty at “Harpy” but was sent on to Surrey Dock. Was again on the “Harpy” when I came up with the documents. Our neighbour, Mr Hersey, removed today, storing his furniture at 12s/6d a week! (including insurance) . Now working at Slough.

15 Fri Sporadic gunfire during night, so remained in the Common shelter. Very uncomfortable and cold, also Kay was very queer: none of us had much sleep. Went next door for a couple of items bequeathed — in a very dirty condition there. Conditions at night seemed quieter, so returned home.

16 Sat Wrong in assuming raids less intense. All night and morning, blaze of gunfire. Children slept through it though. On fire picket duty with Mr Renwick from 4-6 am. Pouring with rain at the time and throughout morning, our Anderson shelter is almost full now. Usual messenger duties to room 11 and official half day. Dead tired owing to early rising — had afternoon nap. Kay and Betty went to Morden (raining again) whilst I looked after Beryl. To shelter at 6, risked back home again at 10.30 pm.

17 Sun There was gunfire during the night at passing planes, but no bombs (thank heaven). Arranged to be at Surrey Dock by 2 pm, so as to get benefit of leaving there early, so left home at noon. Common shelter uninhabitable (rain) so came home (with two others) to sleep.

18 Mon Gunfire during sleep time, but all safe in morning. Raining and cold, long journey to Surrey Dock. Queue for “Workman’s” 200 yards. Wet feet patrolling round dock, determined on change of shoes. In doors filling in ration cards until evening. Returned home midnight.

19 Tue Repetition of previous mornings circs and duties. Becoming more acquainted with Surrey Dock, it’s layout and it’s personnel. Incomplete rest at night necessitates nap after dinner. In shelter later, baby peevish and preventing sleep to others, took her home at 12.30.

20 Wed Had a bad night (cold) but baby slept well. Necessary to be up at 3.40, too, for fir picket (with Mr Reader). Work at Surrey with fresh arrival and long trek to Bellamy’s nearly exhausted me. Bed after dinner, and shelter.

21 Thu Strapped to a narrow seat, unable to turn, Baby became peevish again at 3.30 and I had to rush her home. Betty’s birthday. Mum and Roy came to tea. Gave her a ten shilling note (Kay and I) for a pair of slacks she requires. Small birthday cake with 9 candles. Played cards with her in shelter.

22 Fri Quite busy at work today, soaked and pumiced feet, quite sore with walking round dock. Also yesterday, learned Brown’s acquiescence to termination of agreement, provided one month’s notice on December 1st. Shall then send Kay home. In shelter, enjoyed “lexicon” with fellow shelterers.

23 Sat Took the documents from Surrey Dock up to the House in morning, and did various business there in Long Room, Pay Office, Room 11 and “Harpy”. The day, having commenced at 3.45 am (when I arose for fire picket) felt tired, and after dinner at home, had an hour’s nap. Whilst Kay and Betty shopped, I packed Betty’s toy pram with bedding, which she took to the Common shelter on her return. Later, we wheeled Beryl round in it, right into our positions in the shelter lobby — very convenient. Returned home at 10 pm.

24 Sun Hardly a plane passed over in the night and we all had a good sleep. It was a beautiful sunny day and I journeyed down to Mum’s to see Sid (visiting her with Doll and the dog) before he is called up. (Thursday, Army, to Leicester). They called here and I missed them but saw them afterwards. Kay went to Mum’s later.

25 Mon Although on duty, 3/11, was asked to be there earlier so that we might leave sooner in consequence, and miss night raid and it’s danger of shrapnel. There was no raid at all, however and after the usual spell in the public shelter (as a precaution) returned home to sleep soundly at 10.00 pm.

26 Tue Kay and Beryl accompanied me to Morden at noon by bus and left them waving to me as I journeyed on the rail bus to Clapham, both looking smart, Kay in a fur coat and Beryl in a new sky blue astrakhan(?). Learned at work of intention to recommence night watches.

27 Wed Slept at home again going to public shelter on Tuesday night but returning home in one of lulls between gunfire. 8/4 today, to assist reorganisation consequent upon recommencement of night watches. To House and back with documents. Allowed away early.

28 Thu We all slept at home again and derived the benefit of a good sleep, furthermore, recommencement of night watches, one PO and one APO on duty 4 pm one day — 8 am next continuously, so was able to “lie in” (noteworthy these days!) Visited Mum, being fine. On duty to Silley, Weir’s Shelter at siren time fire there — in.

29 Fri The fire in the shelter at one time nearly killed us, it smoked so, but as the temperature went down to freezing, we stuck it out. Poor Clarice and the children had a terrible night in the public shelter alone. I was able to get some sleep during the day, but not Clarice unfortunately.

30 Sat After her (Kay’s) experiences in the shelter on Thursday, nothing would induce her to stay Friday, Saturday, although gunfire was almost continuous. We got safely home and all slept without a break till Sunday morning. 8/4 today at Surrey, and cold, frosty and foggy. Visited shipping with my PO and was glad to get away, especially as there were one or two “alerts”. Before going to the shelter as usual, went shopping to Co-op with Kay. Also (previously) delivered month’s notice to Brown. Kay probably going home.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)

1 Sun The intense cold and fog lead to only one short “alert” during the night, and we all slept the night very soundly. A very thick frost and some ice. 8/4 duties at Surrey Dock — quite busy, barely home in time for dinner and night raid. Warning however somewhat later. Returned home to sleep at 9.30 pm.

2 Mon One short interruption by a passing raider, but otherwise serene night. Still cold but less so. 8/4 at Surrey, sufficient to keep us busy all day. Pursued same policy as yesterday with registered ARP — had all ready for an immediate departure from house on ”alert”. Had not to take shelter however.

3 Tue Grateful for undisturbed night’s rest. Needed energy for day’s labours. Full day at office till 4 pm — compiling shipping returns, conveying same to Custom House, visiting shipping and office duties. Evening raid commenced even as I sat at dinner table — 6 pm. One bomb near Cheam. Home at 10 to sleep.

4 Wed Very little disturbance during night, and slept well. Work a little less intense. Home a little earlier, in day light so was able to use bathroom (blackout not perfect). Very early “alert” — almost caught out. Spent evening in shelter. Wireless there now.

5 Thu Things seemed all wrong when I reached home this evening after a pretty hard day. Kay was queer, and domestic events had aggravated things. Gasman said meter was short registering and refused her usual rebate — said we owed them something. All smoothed out by shelter time however.

6 Fri A little less busy in Surrey Dock — not so hard on the feet. Never-the-less, had short rest after my dinner in which Kay and Beryl joined me. Received a shock when I received electric light bill for 29/-, September quarter, December quarter to come! The warning of night raid went at 6.30, but “all clear” 9.30.

7 Sat For the past fortnight, set off from home for work at 7 am, (to catch last workman’s 7.30). In the darkness which prevails until I reach Clapham Common by bus. Diversions on the road shorter, or else, now, not taken at all: my travelling time to Surrey Dock has become 1½ hours. Took official half day. Kay out on arrival home. Listened to a Beethoven concert by London Philharmonic Orchestra. Reclaimed “Valor” heating stove from under fuel in coal cellar and found it still works well. No raid at night.

8 Sun Commencement of my night-watch week. Pleasant morning spent at home in upstairs front room at my desk studying official papers, and with playing with Beryl as a diversion. (Betty, of course, out with her friend Rosemary.) Intense night “blitz”, many bombs near shelter in Dock.

9 Mon Bombing eased up at 3 am. In Green, Silley Weirs shelter near dock gate, which has a fire — our own small and unheated (also unlighted). Traffic dislocated but home by railway — bus at Elephant. Good sleep at home, gas meter changed. Evening in front room, reading and cards.

10 Tue The expected air raid did not come. Moonlight almost all night now for the next week or so. Oiled and cleaned perambulators and Kay and I took Beryl to Raynes Park for shopping. (Betty, of course, at school (9.15 — 2.15 now)). A ship to board at 4 pm, but a quiet night, played my PO a game of chess.

11 Wed Night quiet this time (cf Sunday night), save for an alert 6 am — 6.30. Travelled home almost all way in darkness. Kay queer with her current nervous complaint, but better after a dose of salts(!). Good sleep, listened in. Shelter 6 pm — 10 pm.

12 Thu The local AA guns now fire salvoes simultaneously, a terrific noise which makes baby jump in her sleep and Betty (sometimes) to cry out. Any thought to rev’t in our decision to leave here now entirely gone. Another pleasant walk with Kay and Beryl in pram, to Raynes Park. On duty: raid at 6 pm.

13 Fri Succession of planes passed overhead at Surrey Dock until 2 am. Did some amending of insurance. Kay had had a wretched night in Cannon Hill Shelter, even the valour stove did not fend off cold. Thick morning frost and treacherous underfoot. Morning in bed, leisurely afternoon. No warning till 8, all clear 9.

14 Sat Good night’s rest, did not hear a gun all night. Left Kay and children sleeping soundly. 8/4 Surrey Dock, a full day. Got home at dusk, had hardly finished dinner when siren went. Moonlight, but very cloudy and teeming with rain, before taking baby out in it waited for first sound of AA gun. Which fortunately never came, “all clear” sounding about half hour later. Rest of evening all together in front room, listening to radio (“In Town Tonight”) and playing with Beryl who toddles around to each of us with her toy dog, doll or her book.

15 Sun No lay in this Sunday! 8/4 at the “Harpy” so was up at the usual time = 5.45 am. Work not so busy as at my normal duty station — Surrey. Was glad to leave the “Harpy” at 4 although I met many old friends. Siren sounded early — evening in shelter, but returned home.

16 Mon Undisturbed night but a very busy day. Conditions underfoot muddy, shoes, socks and trousers smothered. After dinner at home, awaited siren, whilst Beryl played around in the front room in her “Pixie” hat, light blue coat and leggings — a pretty picture. Shelter “alert” 10 — 10.20.

17 Tue Went about our business today in a choking fog. It affected my nose and throat, and gave me the feeling of a cold. It had it’s advantages, however, for after preparing as usual for the evening bombing, settled down comfortably to radio, knowing a raid to be improbable — and it was!

18 Wed Weather conditions better and we were not so sure of there being no evening raid. Although we were at the “ready”, nothing happened. Beryl trotted around from chair to chair, Kay and Betty knitted. Radio and big log fire.

19 Thu Description of damage by heavy explosive and incendiary bombs in Surry Dock, and the condition of shipping, I am precluded from writing about. That is why I have very little to say about my time at work. In the evening, missed the “alert” due to having the radio on. “All clear” at 9 pm however.

20 Fri Over did it this morning and did not arrive at work until 9.10 am. However, as this is not a habit of mine, nothing much was said. For certain reasons, our half day didn’t start till 1 pm. Called in on “Kennards” Wimbledon on homeward journey re. Removal. Finally fixed up with Ely’s by phone for Saturday December 28th.

21 Sat Walked into Wimbledon with Kay, Betty and Beryl in pram and there did best part of Christmas shopping. Met Mum there, who aided us in choosing Roy’s present. Mum had secured a turkey — 25/- (current rate being nearly 3/- a pound). Called at Town Hall to pay electricity bill, but was too late. Booked up at Ely’s for my removal Saturday: This was the lower of the two replies to my five letters to removers for an estimate. On duty 4 till midnight. Aircraft passing over, gunfire, no bombs.

22 Sun The hullabaloo stopped at 5 am “all clear”. Off duty at 8. Secured good travel facilities from Surrey Docks station home via Whitechapel, Monument, Bank, Clapham Common by bus to Morden. Slept well till 3 pm, which gave me until 6 pm before evening raid. Not severe, home at 9.30 pm.

23 Mon Spent an hour or more on Betty’s bicycle, her pedal having come off again. The bearings had seized causing pedal to unwind itself from crank — very dangerous. All family accompanied me to Tooting for shopping, Beryl toddling between Kay and Betty. Then went on to Clapham Common, and work, 4 pm.

24 Tue Weather conditions (intense cold, some snow) made flying difficult and the few bombers that did come over flew low and were subject to much AA fire. 5 bombs were dropped between Morden and Raynes Park causing consternation in shelter last night, Kay said she slept, prepared for evening raid which fortunately did not come. Filled kiddies stockings, alas, not much to put in.

25 Wed A happy time whilst children unpacked their stockings. Month’s rail and removal expenses restricted our pockets. There were more presents for them at Mums, however. I had my dinner at home, visiting Mum’s in forenoon. Quiet time on 4 — midnight watch.

26 Thu The quietness (see prec) refers to absence of air raid. Actually, evening of Christmas day was busy, ship visiting and Jergilg blue books until 11.30 pm! A jolly day at Mum’s in usual fashion. Present Lou, Albert and kiddies, George (Elsie and children evacuated). Absentee Sid in RAOC Leicester.

27 Fri Big parcel went from Mum’s to Sid today to which all present contributed: ourselves some chocolate. From Mum’s, Kay and I went home to pack up mat’s lino etc. I had to leave for 4 pm duty, at 2.30 pm, leaving Kay to “go to it”. We had an air raid, incendiaries and high explosives at New Cross 7 pm — midnight.

28 Sat Moving day! As soon as it was daylight, Ely’s van came and our things were soon packed therein. It was a busy time for Kay and I; fortunately, Mum kept the children. Stowing the furniture into Mum’s upstairs back room proved a difficult job, but finally all was in. Dad and Albert gave a very useful hand. Passed over Betty’s old three wheeler on loan, to Albert for Tony. Kay and I back to the house for clearing up and conveying to Mum, some more coal. No raid at all.

29 Sun On 8/4 Sunday duty at Surrey Dock. Was fortunate in getting conveyance to South Wimbledon Station and from thence, proceeded to work by usual route. Busy whole of watch. On arrival home, (now “home” is 1, Fairway) booked rail and pram tickets Raynes Park to Blackpool. Evening, did sundry jobs appertaining with Kay’s departure tomorrow.

30 Mon Travel Grand Drive — South Wimbledon, Tooting — Clapham, Tower Bridge — Surrey Docks, by bus, intermediately by tube, or walked. Last mentioned stage owing to air raid damage had to be walked, hose and fire engines everywhere. Saw Kay and children off at Euston, they missed train owing to travel difficulties. Reorganised house furniture.

31 Tue Slept well in top front room fitted up last night. No air raid, to and from work in reasonable time. Allowed to leave work early enough to be able to make 2 visits to 171 for coal. Then handed in key: Another chapter in life over! All away at Lou’s. Busy evening letter writing etc.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

Contributed originally by Bryan Boniface (BBC WW2 People's War)


1 WED Mum and Dad spent New Year’s Eve (as usual) at Lou and Albert’s. I, on reaching home (after paying electricity bill at Wimbledon Town Hall) Found Dad ill in bed with attack of pleurisy, Jack in bed with general debility, Mum (waiting on both) with sore throat, George visiting with strained arm! Kay arrived safe.

2 THU Early morning, very cold as well as dark. Later, walking across desolate docks, face chilled to bone with blast of wind. On Kay’s behalf, called on a cleaner’s in Morden re skirt re-pleating, change disputed. Called Home Guard Headquarters for Dad.

3 FRI Weather still excessively cold — probably 40 deg F or thereabouts. Stayed in warm in evening. Found Dad better and did an odd job or two for him. George en-route to visit Elsie and children, here, picking up train at Wimbledon at 1 am.

4 SAT Dad being unable, I sent off his Income Tax for him, whether whole or part assessment, I don’t know - £3 — 11 — 4. Half day, spent it amongst our furniture looking for necessary articles. Used rummaging tactics, flat on stomach with mirror and lamp (!) at times. Found some borrowed records which owner has been worrying me for. Had some enjoyment with playing them over.

5 SUN Very cold. Helped Mum as much as possible, and straightened up furniture. Damage to date - one picture broken. To work for 4-8 duty, meeting PO en route. Usual air raid but all clear about 11 pm.

7 TUE Snow everywhere, steady fall, attempted to clear front path but soon re-covered. To food office where there were long queues, so deferred business, visiting cleaners re Kay’s skirt. AA shells blasting overhead at loan raider as I walked through streets.

8 WED Spent the night watch with Mr Blake, PO, my own PO on leave for 9 days. There were no night raids so perused last year’s official notebook, making a fresh start for 1941. Had a few hours sleep at home then went to see film version of “Pride and Prejudice”: much enjoyed.

9 THU First thing down to the food office at Merton to notify removal and to change retailer. Then called cleaners, Martin Way, and collected Kay’s skirt, sun-ray pleated and dispatched that to Blackpool. 4 pm duty: Air raid 7.12, all planes passing over.

10 FRI The violent AA explosions finished at 2 am and the comparative quiet was eerie. Left office at 8 am in moonlight and had what seemed a speedy journey home after the slower route taken over last few months. Bought Mum some flowers in return for her kindness the day Kay returned to Blackpool.

11 SAT One of the hardest day’s on duty in my official career. Mr Blake, my PO, one time athlete, walked me around Surrey Dock and it’s environs sight seeing. The afternoon was similar, walking to Pier Head to meet launch (change of stations) and hunting for a fresh arrival (small ship). Left office footsore and weary, not regretful at losing Mr Blake for a time. The change of minute places me on reserve air raid at night, finished early.

13 MON Change of station for PO’s , renewed acquaintance with a man I haven’t seen for some years, among whom was my own PO for the week, Mr Bishop. George brightened his solitary life by visiting us, and was immediately engaged by Roy, and later, Jack in chess playing. No night raid, read my book — Jane Austin’s “Northanger Abbey”.

15 WED Wintry conditions lead to a fall of snow today, making conditions mushy underfoot. As yesterday there was much to do in the dock, principally duty taking. The evening was quiet, Mum reading, Dad relaxing; Jack and Roy playing chess, whilst I amended.

16 THU Was awoken by distant and local AA guns and found a night air raid was in progress. The “all clear” went as I got up at 6 am. Damage was to be seen at a Bermondsey church, and at shops, on way to work. Half day, beautiful afternoon, sun shining on snow. Lou at Mum’s helping. Walked Merton returned records.

17 FRI Snow everywhere still but hard and rutty underfoot and still dangerous. Getting aboard vessels at buoys in dock by boat was a risky business. A Mr Rix called and examined Dad’s radio. He is a friend of a friend of Jack’s (!) Heard from Kay and replied.

18 SAT Still cold and during the morning, more snow fell, to about 4”. Not on duty till 4 pm today. Spent the morning parcelling up bedding to be put away in the furniture storeroom somewhere. I am gradually straightening things out there. The guns were booming as I reached Surrey Dock: bombs were dropped elsewhere. There was no night raid and I was able to peruse at length the second story in my Jane Austin book, “Persuasion” and find it very engrossing

20 MON My first day on the “reserve”. To the “Harpy” and before the day was out received my first commission, relieving a “Harpy” rummage officer from Wednesday — end of week. Saw the damage to the Custom House in which one man was killed and two injured a fortnight ago. Met my fellow “reserve” and other acquaintances.

21 TUE Snow having now completely melted and a grey drizzle adding to soggy ground, walking conditions require strong shoes, thankful for my brogues. Sky gave opportunities to sneak raiders and we had three “alerts”. Sent off parcel to Kay containing Betty’s shoes and tobacco for Kay’s Dad. No raid again.

22 WED Attached to rummage crew 8/4 today. In walking to and from wharves in region of Tower Bridge, saw the extensive damage done by the fire raiders about fortnight ago. Shells of buildings stand only. Mr Rix, the wireless serviceman repaired Dad’s radio: refused payment.

23 THU A dull misty day and very muddy under foot: consequently a walk to Free Trade Wharf and back to rummage a coaster was unpleasant. However, other air raid damage was to be seen and so lent a morbid interest to the week. Quiet evening around fire side. To read.

24 FRI Less congestion on the old 245 bus route (now 127), as double deckers are now employed, actually Manchester buses loaned to L.G.OC. Half day, went to Globe theatre, Piccadilly and saw Barrie’s “Dear Brutus”, an amusing and touching play. No bed-mate, I stayed at George’s.

26 SUN 8/4 Rummage. Set off in pitch darkness for South Wimbledon Station soon after 7 am. Fortunate in picking up a bus at Nelson Hospital. Dull and thick mist on the river, one or two ships got through. Quiet evening, contrast to yesterday, wrote part letter to Kay, Budget and helped Roy with homework.

28 TUE The rainy, misty day gave “sneak” raiders opportunities for doing their nasty work and four times we had warnings. Found supervisors in office rather trying, but harmonised satisfactorily. Very quiet evening, Mum, Jack, Roy and I all reading or writing. Dad — Home Guard.

29 WED Not quite so misty and only two air raid “alerts”, one early, one late.(5.40 pm). Heard from Kay, last letter was twelve days ago, Says she has not been well (pregnancy) and disinclined to write. All well otherwise. Completed letter to her started Sunday (gv) in order to send money tomorrow.

30 THU The feature of the war activity on the home front, on misty days, is the continuous “alerts” caused by low flying German aircraft with the accompanying vibrating “crumps” of bombs and AA gun explosions. We had another such day today. Staff do not shelter now.

31 FRI A morning in the “Harpy” office, spent in preparing the Sunday duty lists for the ensuing year. Half day, went to Shannon Corner Odeon and saw a delightful film “Hired Wife” Rosalind Russell and Brian Aherne, and a nasty one (war) “Pastor Hall”


1 SAT A few stray sunbeams in the early afternoon gave us a break from the grey misty weather. This observed from the “Harpy” office where I spent the time, the office PO having left for his half day. The great invasion is due to begin at the first sign of good weather — hence the interest in it. Having acquired a set of boxwood chessmen cheaply (ex previous staff sports club), spent evening repairing knights, cleaning and re — lacquering other men.

2 SUN Was awakened from deep sleep at 4 am by Mr Willoughby (neighbour No 2) knocking up Jack for his 4-6 turn firewatch. Awakened again when he returned (with frozen feet) to bed. Jack is a recent volunteer. George left at 2.30 to give first aid lecture in Croydon to women. Spent much time in spare room.

7 FRI Dad about before us all this morning having been on Home Guard duties all night. Sent off a 10 lb parcel of sheets and clothing to Kay. Hope she receives it before weekend. Again attached to London Dock officer. Spent over 30 shillings on linen etc. in Ely’s Wimbledon. Also paid electricity bill. £1/14s/6d.

9 SUN Another Sunday off duty — pleasant in itself but rather worrying with it’s financial implications. Last time Kay and the children received a billeting allowance of 11s from the government, but this time they went from a non-evacuable area. Had a pleasant walk and did a few odd jobs.

10 MON Standby on the “Harpy”. Called National Registration Office (Dorset Hall) and had my identity card altered. This should have been done when I first removed. Workmen commenced erecting brick shelter at side of house. (Concrete foundation was laid last December). George came and stayed overnight. Roy met Dad from pictures.

11 TUE Day of contrasts: thick fog in morning so that patrol launch cannot proceed much below Tower Bridge, and sunshine in the afternoon so inviting that the PO (whom I was assisting) went out onto a deck seat. and revelled in it for ½ hour. Letter from Kay, replied, enclosing 5s/5d postal order.

12 WED Very ordinary day: At “Harpy” assisted office PO with revised Sunday list for Shadwell and RC stations. In the evening, Dad went off to Home Guard Headquarters, (Grand Drive). Was deputed to 8/10 pm watch and spent rest of night there. I played chess with Roy; mended letter rack.

13 THU Sent off Sid a set of brass buttons, 9 numerals for which he had asked, and to which we had all contributed. On arrival home, found Lou had been, leaving me a suitcase of clothes she had washed for me. The complete wash-up of all dirty linen and bedding, etc. has cost me nearly 10 shillings.

15 SAT A dull day turned into a glorious bright one by 1 pm. Worked at the Sunday List (see prec.) and left for half day at noon. There was a raid on so I walked over to London Bridge Station where the underground terminate during raids due to the line running under the river when continuing northwards. Dad and I put in some Spartan work, replacing the furniture in the “furniture room”. Drawers and cupboards are more available and a much broader gangway made.

18 TUE Continued clerical work as prec. And completed second copy of list. There was an air raid after I had made entry in diary yesterday. Bombs at Garesfield and slight traffic dislocation. Dad “Home Guarding” all night. Helped Roy with homework, listened to Handel’s “Water Music”.

19 WED Upon reading in newspaper that Puccini’s opera “Madam Butterfly” was to be performed at 2.30 pm at New Theatre today, I decided to go and secured a half day, lined up at the head of the gallery queue and saw a splendid performance (to a half filled house!!). Madam Butterfly = Joan Cross. Fine view of orchestra = 28 performers.

20 THU A cold but clear day. Finished up my Sunday scheming job in office and was told my job for tomorrow would be rummage West India Docks. Saw Mr W in room 11 who said he had in mind my travelling difficulties but the job was unavoidable. Dad and I spent evening trying to mend cleaner hose — no good.

21 FRI In West India Docks today. A straight forward journey via South Wimbledon, London Bridge and Blackwall tunnel was accomplished in 1¾ hours. Total fares (workman’s ticket) 1s/9d! — far too much expense for my pocket. Met many old friends, saw part of dock damage. George came evening, Dad brought chess board home from his work — a fine job!

24 MON Had my half day very early and spent it with Fred and Mabel and children who had come on a birthday (Fred’s) visit. Doll also called in so we had a brt gathering. Keith, quite a big boy running about and talking: Pam quiet by contrast. All left at 6 pm. Dad to Home Guard.

26 WED Police dragging river this morning, it being suspected someone having fallen overboard, owing to our launch crew recovering a wallet (no money) floating on the water. “Wharves” officer reporting sick gave me a job for the day. Sent off month’s money to Kay. Quiet evening round fireside. Read evening.

27 THU Am reading the second book of A. Bennett’s works “Imperial palace”, the other one was “Riceyman’s Steps”. It is proving very engrossing. Had plenty of opportunity for making headway on the "Harpy" reserve during work, 2 “alerts”, sneak raiders owing to clouded sky. Roy returned school today — better now. Budget.

28 FRI During morning, learnt that I shall be required for duty at Surrey Dock on Sunday: Welcome news so far as my packet is concerned for I have been off duty four Sundays consecutively. Obtained time off to see “La Traviata” at the New Theatre: Liked the opera, but touring stage props only, and small chorus.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^

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


I was born on the 16th September 1918 and christened Eileen Alice Charlotte Jagelman. My parents were William George Jagelman and Cordelia Elsie Jagelman (née Penny).

My father was born in South London to John Jagelman and Alice (née Crockett). He was one of six boys. He excelled at school and on leaving was accepted for the Civil Service. He started as a boy clerk in the Home Office, rising to Assistant Secretary. At the time of his retirement he was Prison Commissioner in the Home Office. During his service he received the C.B.E.

My mother was born in Gravesend, Kent. Her parents were Thomas Penny, who worked in Chatham Dockyard, and Charlotte (née McLeod). My mother came to London to work and in 1917 married my father.

At the time of my birth we lived at 19 Malwood Road, Balham. I had a sister Elsie Florence born on the 25th October 1919 and a brother Kenneth William born on the 25th August 1922.

At approximately the age of four and a half years we moved to Leytonstone in East London. I attended the local council school named Kirdale and was fairly bright. At 12 years I went to Coborn School for Girls in Bow. Having started a year late for various reasons, one being time lost through ill health, I found keeping up was difficult in some subjects and began to lose interest in schooling. My one desire was to leave and work in a store. My father said if that is what you wish you are going to work in the best store in London!

I was apprenticed for three years at Debenham and Freebody in Wigmore Street, W.1. I enjoyed my time there very much as it was interesting meeting all sorts of famous and well known people.

Then in 1939 it all came to an end. War had been threatening for two or three years. In 1938 Neville Chamberlain met Hitler and came back promising peace. No one really believed it, but at least it gave us a year to make some preparation, for in 1938 we were totally unprepared.

Having been born at the end of the first World War and hearing the many stories, seeing films and knowing that it had lasted four years, we were quite frightened when on 3rd September 1939 we found we were at war with Germany. Almost immediately the sirens went. However this turned out to be a false alarm.

This was on a Sunday morning. We had just returned from a holiday in the Isle of Man and were all gathered together. Arthur's parents also being with us. Monday morning we went to work but were told to return home unless we lived near enough to walk or just a short bus ride.

However, after a week of idling, most people decided that life had to go on, despite war and so far we had not been attacked. Consequently I reported for work and life for a bit carried on as usual.

We were losing a lot of shipping and things were going badly on the continent. Finally Germany overran France, Belgium and Holland. The troops fell back to the French coast and we had to get them back to England. Every available ship was commandeered and the biggest rescue operation of all time took place. It filled us all with a great pride of country, but also we knew that we were now alone fighting the might of Germany. Quite frightening. We do not know why Hitler did not attack us at once, but thank God he didn't. Instead he declared war on Russia.

However, the daytime air-raids began and they were very frightening. We continued working and as soon as the sirens sounded we went to shelters, where we spent many hours. I remember one day we spent all day there. Damage was very heavy in some areas, certainly the docks were targeted, but the Germans were not too fussy if the bombs dropped on hospitals, churches, etc. Fortunately our RAF pilots were wonderful and gradually the daytime raids lessened.

Arthur during this time had gone into the RAF and was being trained to be a Wireless Operator. He was moved all over the country and when he came down to Wiltshire in a camp at Compton Bassett he was able to get leave. He arrived home on a Saturday in September and we were going to get engaged, the sirens went which meant all the shops closed, so we could not get out to buy the ring. Fortunately, late afternoon, the all clear sounded and we flew out of the house, caught the bus into Wembley High Road, selected the ring and got home just as the sirens went again. We were determined to celebrate and in the evening went to a dance hall just near to us and despite gunfire and plane noise, managed to enjoy ourselves.

It is now some months later that I open this book and carry on the story. I am afraid after so many years trying to think back becomes difficult and many things may be out of sequence.

Life carried on with day and night raids. We were losing ships, Rommel was winning all the battles in N. Africa - not much joy anywhere.

It was felt that Hitler might invade us, but this did not happen, then he made the fatal step of going to war with Russia which took the threat of invasion away.

My sister and I were called upon to fire watch. Elsie had returned from being evacuated with the firm she was working with. She went into the Air Ministry.

March 1941, Arthur was given leave prior to going overseas. We decided to get married before he went. It was a great rush around but it was all accomplished. Two days later Arthur left, finally ending in Iraq. He returned home three and a half years later in September 1944.

Women were being called up at this time for the forces and war work. As I was married I did not have to go in the forces. My friend Peggy Davies and myself were interviewed for a job in the Air Ministry, a section called A.I.D. (Aeronautical Inspection Department). We trained for three months at the Aeronautical College in Wimbledon. A very "condensed" engineering course! I ended up with Bush Radio at Chiswick and Peggy went to Handley Page at Cricklewood.

We lived through flying bombs, V2's and everything that Germany could throw at us. We lost friends but fortunately escaped in the family with no loss of life.

After the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour the Americans came into the war. We had stood quite alone for the period after Dunkirk which was a terrible period. However, the bravery of all the people at that period should never be forgotten. No one thought that Europe would fall so quickly to the German advance.

Gradually the tide turned and we pushed Rommel back into North Africa and then pushed on into Italy. Mussolini was defeated and we began to look forward to the prospect of peace, though still a long way to go.

Japan was busy on the Eastern front, taking Singapore and many other places. Our troops were then being sent there. My brother by this time was old enough to be called up and went into the Tank Corp; very soon he was in Burma. This was a terrible area of fighting and the cruelty of the Japanese was appalling. Prisoners suffered badly and those men on the Burma road, those that came home, were never the same again.

In Germany people were rounded up, especially Jewish people, and were herded into gas chambers. Millions died this way. How can humans treat each other this way?

Finally on 6th June 1944 we opened the second front and soldiers landed in France. It was a hard long struggle but advances were gradually made until May 1945 when Germany capitulated. Such joy for us all. We had parties in the streets, to be free at last was shattering but wonderful.

However for some the war was still going on in the East and the men were having a very hard time. They thought of themselves as the "forgotten army". Finally the Atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a terrible thing, but it ended the war in August 1945.

All that terrible time was to bring peace to a world which really never wants peace. Though we in Europe have been free since for 60 years, there have been other wars going on all over the world. Peace is a dream we all want but seem unable to find.

Eileen Atkins


Reading this through, so much is left out. One should keep a diary of events as they happen.
However I hope it gives a true picture of what it was like.

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

Back to Top ^


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

High Explosive Bomb
Parachute Mine

Number of bombs dropped during the week of 7th October 1940 to 14th of October:

Number of bombs dropped during the first 24h of the Blitz:

No bombs were registered in this area

Images in Merton

See historic images relating to this area:

Sorry, no images available.