Bombs dropped in the ward of: Valentines
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Valentines:
- Parachute Mine
- High Explosive Bomb
Number of bombs dropped during the week of 7th October 1940 to 14th of October:
Number of bombs dropped during the first 24h of the Blitz:
No bombs were registered in this area
Memories in Valentines
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by peter (BBC WW2 People's War)
Setting the scene:
My Dad was the headmaster of a Junior Boys School, Attley Road, in East London, just round the corner from Bryant and Mays Match Factory.
I went to the local Infants and Junior School, "Redbridge" in Ilford, Essex
The transmission of news and public information was by the BBC Wireless, the Cinema News Reels and the National Newspapers. The whole impression, looking back, was of an extremely formal (and, as it later turned out, easily manipulated) information system.
The news had swung from the optimism of Munich to an increasingly pessimistic view. I sensed, even at my age of nine, that most people thought that the war with Germany would come and come soon. My reaction to all this and that of most of my compatriots was one of excitement tinged with some trepidation.
Every school in the area of greater London (and Manchester, Liverpool etc. I now know) had made plans to evacuate all children whose parents had agreed for them to so go. As my father was an Head Teacher it was decided that I with my mother as a helper would go with his school if and when the call came.
We started to prepare ourselves for what to me and thousands more children was to be the start of a great adventure. We had been issued with rectangular cardboard boxes containing our gas masks and these were mostly put into leatherette cases with a shoulder strap. We also each were to have an Haversack to hold a basic change of clothes, pyjamas, wash bag and so on.
During that late August 1939 we had a rehearsal for evacuation and every school met up in the playgrounds and were marched off to the nearest Underground Station. The next stage to one of the Main Line Stations was for the real thing only.
We each had a label firmly attached to a button-hole with our name, address and school written on. Each child had to know its group and the responsible teacher. This tryout was to prove its worth very soon.
The news was getting worse by the day. Germany then invaded Poland and it was obvious that the declaration of war was imminent.
At 11 am on Sunday the 3rd of September the Wireless announced that despite all efforts we were at war with Germany. It was, in a funny kind of way, an anticlimax.
My memory fails me as to the precise date of our evacuation. It was, I believe, a day or so before the war started, probably the 1st of September, no matter, the excitements, traumas and all those myriad experiences affecting literally millions of children and adults were about to start.
The call came. We repeated our rehearsal drill, arriving, in our case, by bus and train to Bow Road station and walking down Old Ford road to Attley Road Junior School. All the children that were coming, the teachers and helpers assembled in the play ground. Rolls were called, labels checked, haversacks and gas masks shouldered. We were off on the great adventure!
We "marched" off with great aplomb to waves and tears from fond parents who did not know when they would see their kids again, if ever.
The long snake of children and teachers arrived at Bow Road Underground Station and were shepherded down onto the platform where trains were ready and waiting.
Looking back, the organisation was fantastic. Remember, this was in the days before computers and automation! It was made possible by shear hard work and attention to detail. Tens of thousands of children were moved through the Capital transport system to the Main Line Stations in a matter of a few hours.
Our train arrived at Paddington by a somewhat roundabout route and we all disembarked making sure to stick together. We walked up to the platforms where again the groups of children were counted by their teachers. Inspectors were busily marshalling the various school groups onto awaiting trains.
We boarded our train together with several other schools. It was a dark red carriage, not, as I remember, the GWR colours, and settled ourselves down. The teachers were busy checking that nobody was missing and we then got down to eating whatever packed food we had brought with us. Many of the smaller children were beginning to miss their Mum's and the teachers and helpers had their work cut out to calm them down. Remember that most of these children had never been far from the street where they lived.
Eventually, the train got steam up and slowly moved out of the station. This would be the last time some of us would see home and London for a long time but, we were only kids and had no idea of what the future would hold. To us it was the great adventure.
The train ride seemed to go for ever! In fact we did not go that far, by mid-afternoon we arrived at Didcot.We disembarked and assembled in our groups in a wide open space at the side of the station where literally dozens of dark red Oxford buses were waiting, presumably for us.
It was at this point, according to my father, that the hitherto brilliant organisation broke down. A gaggle of Oxford Corporation Bus Inspectors descended on the assembled masses of adults and children and proceeded to embus everyone with complete disregard to School Groupings.
The buses went off in various directions ending up at village halls and the like around Oxford and what was then North Berkshire.
My father was by this time frantic that he had lost most of the children in his care (and some of the staff) and no-one seemed at all worried!
The story gets somewhat disjointed now as a combination of excitement and tiredness was rapidly replacing the adrenaline hitherto keeping this nine year old going.
Anyway, what can't be precisely remembered can be imagined! We, as mentioned, went off in this red bus to a destination unknown to all but the driver (and the inspector who wouldn't tell my Dad out of principle) - I'm sure, in retrospect, that this is when the expression "Little Hitler" was coined!!
On our bus were about fifty odd children and six or seven teachers and helpers. Most, but not all, were my dad's, but where were the rest of the two hundred or so kids he'd started out with? It was to take several days before that question was to be answered.
After some hour or, so two buses drew up together in a village and parked by a triangular green. There was a large Chestnut tree at one corner and a wooden building to one side. There was also a large crowd of people looking somewhat apprehensive.
We all picked up our haversacks and gas masks and got off the buses, marshalled by the teachers into groups and waited.
Ages of the children varied between seven and fourteen and naturally enough there were signs of incipient tears as we all wondered where we were going to end up. For me it wasn't so bad because I had Mum and Dad with me - most of them had never been separated from their families before.
A large man in a tweed suit, he turned out to be the Billeting Officer, seemed to be organising things and he kept calling out names and people stepped out from the crowd and picked a child out from our bunch. It closely resembled a cattle market!
My Father, naturally, was closely involved, monitoring the situation and trying to keep track of his charges while all this was going on.
Eventually, when it was virtually dark, everyone had been found homes in and around the village. Some brothers had been split up but, most of the kids were just glad to have somewhere to lay their heads.
While all this was happening we found out where we were; not that it meant much to me then. We were in a village called Cumnor situated in what was then North Berkshire and about four miles from Oxford.
At long last, after what seemed to me to be for ever, I was introduced to our benefactors who we were to be billeted with.They were a pleasant seeming couple of about middle age & we stayed with them for about 6 months before finding a cottage to rent.
The Village at war
It is difficult to include everything that happened during that period of my life in any precise order. Therefore, I have included the remembered instances and effects relating to the war.
The first effect was, undoubtedly, the upheaval in agriculture. Suddenly fields that had lain fallow ever since the last war were being ploughed up to grow crops. Farmers who had been struggling to make ends meet for years were actually encouraged and helped to buy new equipment to improve efficiency.
The war didn't really touch the village until the invasion of France and Dunkirk. That is, of course, not to say that wives and girl-friends weren't worried about their men folk serving in the forces.
Then, all of a sudden, you heard that someone was missing or, a POW. The war was suddenly brought home with a vengeance to everyone. Also, the news on the wireless and in the newspapers was very bad, although usually less so than the reality.
One of the village girls had a boy-friend who was Canadian. He had come over to Britain to volunteer and was in the RAF. He was a rear gunner in a Wellington bomber and was shot down over Germany during 1942.
For a long time there was no news of him and then Zena, her name was, heard that he was a POW. At the end of the war he returned looking under-weight but, happy and there was a big party to celebrate his return and where they got engaged! a truly happy ending.
Another memory, this time not a happy one, was the son of some friends, who was a Pilot in the Fleet Air Arm was shot down during the early part of the war and killed in action.
There was a Polish Bomber Squadron based at Abingdon and they were a mad lot and frequented a pub near to Frilford golf club called "The Dog House".
As the war wore on so the aircraft changed. Whitley and Wellingtons were replaced by Stirling's and Halifax's. finally, the main heavy bomber was the Lancaster. These used to drone over us from Abingdon and other local airfields night after night.
We also started to see a lot of Dakota's often towing Horsa gliders. In fact, several gliders came down nearby during one training exercise and one hit some power cables, luckily without major injuries to the crew.
More and more of the adult male and female villagers had disappeared into the forces and more and more replacements were needed to work the farms.
The result of all this was to put at a premium such labour as was available. This meant Land Army girls, POW's and me and my friends!
Various Army units appeared from time to time on exercises and the like.
It sounds strange now but, remember that everyone was travelling around at night with the merest glimmer of a light. Army lorries just had a small light shining on the white painted differential casing as a guide to the one behind. Cars had covers over their head-lights with two or, three small slits to let out some light.
Then there was the arrival of the Americans - I believe it would have been during 1942 that they were first sighted. They were so different to our troops - their uniforms were so much smarter and their accents were very strange to us then.
They established a tented camp just up the road from the Greyhound at Besselsleigh and naturally it became their local. This was viewed with mixed feelings by the locals as beer was in short supply and the Yanks were drinking most of it!
Their tents were like nothing we had ever seen then - They were square and big enough to stand up in without hitting the roof. They were each fitted up with a stove. Nothing at all like the British Army "Bell tents".
We all got used to seeing Jeeps and other strange vehicles on our roads, they in turn, got used to our little winding lanes and driving on the wrong side.
The Americans were very keen to get on with the locals and when invited to someone's home would usually bring all sorts of goodies such as tinned food, Nylon's for the girls and sweets for the kids. They knew that the villagers didn't have much of anything to spare at that time.
A British Tank Squadron came into the village at one time. They were on the inevitable exercise and were parked down near Bablockhythe, in the fields. We boys went down to see them and found about four or, five Cromwell (I think that was their name) Tanks parked with their crews brewing up. Naturally, the sight of all that hardware was exciting to us and we were allowed up and into the cockpit of one.
During the build up for the D day landings there were convoys going through the village day and night. There was every sort of vehicle you could possibly think of - Lorries, Troop Carriers, Bren Gun Carriers, Tanks of all shapes and sizes, Self-propelled Guns, Despatch riders and MP's to control and direct the traffic.
This almost continuous stream continued for what must have been a fortnight before it gradually quietened down to something approaching normality.
Naturally, during this time and whenever I was home from school I would walk up to the corner just below the War Memorial and watch these convoys with great interest and excitement.
There were troops of every nationality including French, Polish, Czech, Dutch, Canadians, Anzacs, Americans and so on. Obviously, the build up for the second front was beginning and something big would happen before too long!
Just before all this activity we had seen dumps of what seemed to be ammunition along local country roads and this was further evidence that the big day was getting close.
People's morale was starting to improve by this time. It had never been broken but, for three years the news had been mostly bad or, at the very least, not good and people's resistance had begun to wane a little.
North Africa had been a great victory and this coupled with the nightly bombing raids over Germany and the day raids by the Americans as well, really cheered people up and convinced them that we had turned the corner.
Everyone, including us teenager's used to sit with our ears glued to the wireless when there was a news bulletin.
People, during that wartime period in their lives, were much closer to each other than they had ever been.
Back to 1944 - The build up of men and materials continued and there was a constant stream through the village. Then a period of calm followed for a week or, so. And then came the news of the D Day landings - we all sat with our ears glued to the wireless whenever we could. For the first few days the news was fairly sparse and we didn't really know if the invasion was going to work.
After a week or, so the news began to be more positive and our hopes were raised. There were set backs and of course, there were casualties but, we were getting closer to the end of the war.
Then one Autumn morning in very misty conditions we heard lots of aircraft overhead. Through the patches of hazy sky we could discern dozens of Dakota's and the like with Gliders in tow. A few hours later they were to return with their gliders still hooked on.
Wherever they had been going to drop their tows must have been covered in the fog that had persisted most of that day over us. The result of this was gliders being released all over the place as the Dakotas prepared for landing.
A day or, so later the same "exercise" was repeated and this time the planes returned without their gliders. The battle of Arnhem had begun.
So the war continued for several months but, one could sense that the end was drawing ever closer.
The war in the Far East was to continue for several more months but, at last, the main enemy had been defeated.
How did all this affect us? In all sorts of ways - there were preparations for a General Election. The soldiers began to come home and there were frequent welcome home parties.
Food was still on ration as was petrol and clothes. So, there wasn't any sudden improvement to the rather dreary existence we had all got used to. In fact, it was a bit of an anticlimax. One of the few nice things to happen in that immediate post-war time was the return of Oranges and Bananas to the shops. We hadn't seen these for six whole years!
Basically, The United Kingdom was worn-out and broke by the war's end and to a great extent so were it's people. Our former enemies were helped by the USA to rebuild their countries and industries as also were France and the Lowlands countries but, we had to try to help ourselves for no-one else was going to.
Peter Nurse 1994
Contributed originally by ActionBristol (BBC WW2 People's War)
I was 13 years old in 1939, a pupil of Ilford County High School for Girls and living at 26 ARDWELL AVENUE, ILFORD, ESSEX with my parents George Fenn (a nurse at Whipps Cross Hospital)and Gwen (Mother) and my two brothers Leslie aged 16 and Michael aged 6. We all went to different schools and had been rehearsing for evacuation for several weeks. On the 1st September we got the go-ahead and quite suddenly our family was fractured. Leslie went to Kettering, Michael to Hitchen and I went to Ipswich. It was to be many years before we were all together again.
Evacuation was quite traumatic for me at first, but what must it have been like for my baby brother? Only many many years afterwards did I learn that Leslie came home the first Christmas and never went back, preferring to get involved in War work and Michael was sent back because he was so unhappy. I was the only one who stayed evacuated and I wasn't to return home until I was 16. We were moved around Ipswich several times until we were deemed to be close to the school which we shared - one week morning school and one week afternoon school. I was very happy in my last billet with a Mr and Mrs Rumsey and their young family. They did their very best to ensure I was as happy as possible and made my friends welcome as well.
It therefore came as a great shock to be told we were to be moved right away from Ipswich (too close to the Germans!)but we weren't told where we were going. Back we went to London, to Paddington Station, and so began a long, cold journey which seemed to last for ever. Every so often the train would stop, perhaps to allow a troop train to go by, perhaps to take on water or fuel. Whatever, we got more and more weary until at last we arrived. We found ourselves in a village hall in a small place called BLAEN-GARW in South Wales. We were plied with cups of tea and buns while our teachers sorted out our billets. The whole of the village showed the greatest kindness to us over the next 2 weeks and we were fascinated by everything and everyone. The road petered out into the moutain, we were really in the "back of beyond" and sheep were everywhere - they would roam through the front door and out the back door with no-one raising an eyebrow, we thought it hilarious. Every house had a kettle permanently hot on the fire and we were given strong tea with spoonsful of condensed milk at the drop of a hat, these kind people were determined to make us welcome. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that a monumental mistake had been made. There was no senior school of any sort that we could go to, in fact we should have gone to Porthcawl and the infant school which had ended up there should have come to Blaen Garw. As by now the infants were settling in their new homes it was thought kinder to leave them there and look for somewhere else for us!
It was decided we would go to Aberdare and share with the Girls' High School there, so off we went again. I ended up in a very large flat in a big house called Mardy House in large grounds. There I stayed, with Lyn and Gwen Morris, until 1942. Our teachers must have wondered what to do with us when we weren't at school, but somehow there was always something of interest. Of great excitement to some of us was when we were taken down a coal mine. In small groups we descended in the cage to the first level. I can still see it in my mind's eye and smell the coal dust. There we were able to talk on the telephone to the foreman at the pit-face. I don't know what he thought of all these Essex girls asking him questions but we found to our embarassment that we couldn't understand him at all, his Welsh accent was beyond us. We all tried to say the correct thing and I sincerely hope he understood. Ever since that experience I have had the profoundest admiration for the miners. Just that short while underground gave me feelings of claustrophobia and panic. When we were told that the men went down much deeper, sometimes crawling on their bellies to get to the seam of coal, we all felt very humbled.
Schooling went on apace, but it became evident that we would not be able to study all our subjects for our School Certificate. We were given our core subjects which had to be taken and were allowed to drop three, giving us the minimum Six which had to be passed at one sitting (no retakes in those days). I willingly dropped German, and also History and Latin. I wish now I had been able to keep the two latter subjects but there was physically not the time to fit them all in. The war did not affect us where we were, it all seemed so far away, but we knew Ilford was receiving its fair share of bombs, also Bristol where my grandparents lived. Shortly before our exams, my friends and I decided we were going to return to Ilford and finish our schooling there. So many girls had gone home that they had had to open up the school again.
1942 saw me back home, with my new baby brother Roger (who was born in July) taking my exam which fortunately I passed. There was no chance I could go into the 6th form as I was expected to get a job and start earning.
As I loved books I became a Junior Library Assistant but when it became clear that I would have to take exams to make any progress, I decided to use my shorhand and typing skills and so obtained a job as junior clerk/typist in a firm in London called Kidditogs, making outdoor clothing for children. Things were hotting up in the area with high explosive bombs and incendiary bombs being dropped both in Ilford and near where I worked. At this time I also belonged to a Concert Party and we would travel, in an old ambulance to various localities all over London to entertain the troops. If we were visiting our Ack-Ack station, we knew we would be in for a noisy night often singing and dancing to the background noise of the guns blazing away at the enemy planes overhead. My Boss at Kidditogs, a Mr Bollom, had been invalided out of the Army with a leg injury and he was very frustrated as he wanted to be back fighting again. All the men at the factory and in the office would take turns at firewatch duty. After work they would stay there, on the lookout in particular for any incendiary bombs landing on or in the factory. I greatly admired them because they would then come back to work the next day as if they had had a full nights sleep. No-one complained, they just got on with it.
By this time, Leslie had joined the RAMC and was posted abroad and I thought I'd do my bit. I tried to enlist at 17 and 17-and-a-half years but was told to come back when I was older. Eventually I was able to sign up in 1944 and was sent to Guildford for my initial training with the ATS. Having been evacuated I did not mind leaving home, but many of my companions were very homesick and there were tears on the pillow for some time until they settled down. I found Army life exciting, I loved the lectures, which were all entertaining and I particularly liked Drill; perhaps because I was a dancer I enjoyed the precision of the movements. What I didn't like were the inocculations. We all lined up with our shirts off, arms on hips, and it would be 'bang, bang, bang' until the needle had to be changed! Some of the girs fainted clean away, some had bad reactions and some only minor discomfort. At least we had a day off to recover! We were warned that we would have a route march towards the end of our training and it would be awful! So when the day dawned we were all very fearful. However it turned out to be much better than expected and we were all relieved and proud to have succeeded. Our passing out parade went well, we were in 3rd Platoon Coy No 7 Training Centre Guildford, and we were given leave before being posted. I elected to visit my grandmother in Bristol and she came to Temple Meads station to see me off. I was standing in the entrance to the carriage saying goodbye when the guard came along slamming the doors shut. Unfortunately, my right thumb was caught in the door. I screamed, the door was re-opened, and I nursed a rapidly swelling, very painful digit on the journey to Guildford. Reporting to sick bay when I got there, I was sent to Aldershot where I was X-rayed, told I had a hair-line fracture and my hand was put in plaster. I was then told I would be unable to go with my friends to Camberley Driving School and would have to remain in Guildford in a holding unit for 6 weeks. In a holding unit, you get all the dead end jobs such as kitchen cleaning duties, etc but because I couldn't use my hand I was put in the Quartermasters Store where all the uniforms etc were kept. At least I was nice and warm (it was a very cold winter)but I was frustrated at the delay.
Eventually, my thumb healed and I went to Camberley in Surrey for my driving instruction. This seemed to be a very big camp but I found myself, with several other girls, taken to a private house outside the camp, which was to be our billet. This was fine, but there was no heating or hot water and we were told we mustn't attempt to light a fire. To make matters worse, we had to get to and from camp by crossing a golf course. Naturally, no lights anywhere, only the dimmest of torches as we stumbled our way across, aiming for the lights of the Camp. I cannot imagine what damage we must have done to the greens - we fell into enough bunkers anyway!
Once again we were back to lectures of all kinds. I don't think any of us knew how to drive and I had hardly even sat in a car, let alone understood how it worked. We had all walked, bicycled or used Public Transport pre war, so this was a very unknown world we were entering.
With the aid of an engine on a stand, a mock up of a car, illustrations etc, we gradually found out how things worked, until we were ready for our first drive. I can't remember, but I imagine our first tentative attempts would have been in the camp before we were sent out onto the road. We were trained on all sorts of vehicles from a tiny one we called a bug, up through Humber staff cars, to ambulances and trucks. To this day I can remember double-declutching and I can also remember having to start a vehicle using a starting handle. This was inserted at the front and it was an art to turn at just the right resistance before giving a big turn - if you didn't get it right then at best you had to try again and at worst you could break your wrist if it backfired! We were allocated a vehicle and would have an NCO sitting in the front and if appropriate there were two more girls sitting behind. This was all very nerve wracking as each day we would be assessed on everything - tests after lectures, understanding of the engine on the stand and latent driving ability. If you were thought to be not up to scratch, the next day when reading Standing Orders you would find your name and next to it 'RTU' (Return To Unit). Many a girl has been in floods of tears as there was no appeal. I realise now that the Army couldn't afford to keep on anyone who wouldn't make the grade, but at the time it seemed almost inhuman.
I had several 'close calls' but thankfully stayed the course. Once I was in a car in procession waiting to exit the drive when the door opened and the lance corporal was told to get out by an officer. She then told me to get in the driving seat while she sat in the passenger seat and told me to drive off. I had never been in this type of vehicle before and the controls were unfamiliar to me. The brake was in a shaft at an angle to the floor and I was struggling to release it and quietly panicking. I could see RTU beside my name in my mind's eye! "Push it down!" said the officer irritably. I'm afraid I took that literally and tried to do just that with no success. After what seemed like hours but could only have been a very few seconds, I cottoned on to the fact that it was not 'down' but 'forward' and I was able to get started and drive off. Fortunately I survived but I felt annoyed at the officer - down is down and forward is something entirely different! On another occasion, we were in a small copse, practising reversing, in a Jeep. I thought I was doing quite well until I was told to stop and turn right round and look behind me. To my horror I found I was about a foot from a tree. Again fate smiled on me and all was well. As we progressed, we were sent out on our own, two to a vehicle. One night we had to negotiate map references in order to rendezvous at an unspecified point at a certain time. With my friend Gillian Sweeting we went off in a truck, in total blackout, no headlamps only 'slits' of light coming from them. We had to go across Windsor Great Park and we managed this by Gillian leaning out of the passenger side guiding us as best she could, while I leant out of my side making sure I didn't stray off the single track road. Thankfully, we got to our rendezvous in time, which turned out to be a cafe where we all had tea and buns. On another occasion, in snowy, icy conditions, we were out in one of the small 'bugs'. Suddenly we skidded off the road into a ditch at the side. We weren't hurt and there didn't appear to be any damage to the bug, but how to get it back on the road? Just then a lorry full of soldiers drew up, and after many cracks about 'women drivers' several of them got in the ditch and literally heaved it out!
Came the time when we sat our final written exams and our driving test and I believe we all passed. Gillian and I were posted to London, to Chelsea to 920 WO Transport Company, RASC. Groups of us were billeted in large houses behind the Kings Road (worth a fortune these days)and our vehicles, Standard 8 Vans, were garaged at Chelsea barracks. Each morning we would go to one of the houses for breakfast, then collect our vans and drive to Northumberland House in Northumberland Avenue and report for duty. Each of us would have a civilan postman assigned to our van and he dictated where we had to go. For example, our first stop might be Downing Street, where sacks of mail would be taken in and more sacks brought out. These would then be taken , say, to the Admiralty and the process repeated. Sometimes I spent all day driving in and out of Whitehall, sometimes I had to go across London. Each day was different, we never knew where we would go. Once I went a long way out of London and when I returned I was told it was one of the places where Winston Churchill was having a meeting, but I never met the great man, more's the pity. Sometimes there would be Air Raids in the Capital during the day or night. We got quite blase about it, almost fatalistic. What would be, would be, seemed to be our feeling.
Being stationed in London gave us access to many of the Service Clubs, the Nuffield Centre, the Rainbow Rooms and others whose names I've forgotten. There were many pubs where we might go, in groups. We would buy a half pint of 'Mild and Bit' and make it last the whole evening, it was the company we wanted, not the drink. The blackout was quite rigorous, no light was to show at all, and we became quite clever at feeling our way around. I found the food very good, I was skinny and always hungry, so was grateful for whatever I could get! At one time, one of the houses further up the street was occupied by some Yanks. They were like some exotic creatures, their uniforms were beautifully cut and made of fine material while our poor soldiers were in thick khaki, not always well fitting!
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