Bombs dropped in the ward of: Bow East
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Bow East:
- 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:
Memories in Bow East
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Contributed originally by Billericay Library (BBC WW2 People's War)
We went to a school on Blackstock Hill while Mum continued to do her job at the Air Ministry. In the school holidays we were left completely to do whatever we like all day and having few toys and nothing creative to do, we inevitably got into mischief. Our main pastime was to go down the hill to Finsbury Park underground station, where for a small amount we bought a ticket and spent the day travelling around the London underground, finding out which stations hard the longest escalators to play on. The ticket inspector invariably saw us and chased us from station to station, while we nimbly jumped from carriage to carriage. The night air raid still continued and the sirens and guns firing made it very difficult to sleep. By summer, most of the children in school looked pale and tired. The schools country holiday find organisers did their best to send most of the children away for a short holiday and we were asked if we would like a week in Devon. Mum, glad to be relieved of us, was quick to accept. The week stretched to a fortnight and the to three weeks. Finally, Mum asked Mrs Clapp, the young naval wife with whom we were staying, if we could stay on a evacuees. Hilda Clapp was lonely living in her small cottage with only her one-year-old daughter for company. Not knowing when or if her husband would return, she agreed that we could stay.
Honiton is a pleasant little town famous for its lace making. It is surrounded by delightfully undulating country, where daffodils grow wild and profusely in the hedges every spring. I was glad to be in the country once again but hurt inside knowing full well that our mother no longer wanted us. Letters became less and less fequently and Hilda, after one prolonged spell without news, began to fear that she might have been killed in the bombing. All this worry was telling on me and my behaviour deteriorated greatly. Hilda began to find me more and more difficult to manage.
She had an auntie called Ivy who lived three miles away in the tiny hamlet of Coombe Raleigh and frequently sent me to stay with her at weekends just to give herself some relief. At least a letter arrived saying that Mum was all right but had moved to Bow.
By now I was ten and as the allied troops began to collect in preparation for the D-Day landings, large camps of American soldiers accumulated around the town. Back in London, Bill Daycott was recalled to his regiment, also in preparation for the landing in which he was subsequently to die. At Easter, Mum came, supposedly to see us. It was nine months since we had seen her and she had four whle days to spend with us but coming to Honiton on the train she met an American soldier called Steve, who was stationed near us and apart form meal times, in all those four days we hardly saw Mum at all. The town's tongue waggers had a field day discussing her behaviour and when she returned we were left to listen to it and feel ashamed.
This latest rejection resulted in a further deterioration in my behaviour and by mid-summer, Hilda could stand me no longer and home she said we would have to go. We sat on the tiny platform, waiting for the train to come in, while Aunt Ivy begged Hilda to keep us. ('You'll never forgive yourself if they get killed in the bombing,' she said). But Hilda was quite unmoved. So back to Bow.
Bow is what local planner call a twilight zone; I can't imagine why. The thoughts that twilight conjure up for me are of pleasant summer evenings, getting dusky, with a few stars just beginning to appear. Something beautiful, in fact, and there is absolutely nothing beautiful about Bow. Dirty streets made up of row after row of bay-fronted terraced houses, all identical and all with outside toilets and no bathrooms. If you wanted to keep yourself clean, it was a toss up between a quick wash down in the scullery, with the gas stove to keep warm, or a trip to the local public baths, where for seven pence second class or a shilling first class, after a two hour wait in the queue, you could have about eight inches of water and a half hour of privacy. We paid seven pence and took our place like second class citizens in the queue, while our more affluent friends paid a shilling to wash their supposedly first class body in the cubicle next door. Even this luxury was interrupted at intervals by the aged attendant calling out, 'Hurry up in there number three.'
We lived in one of these terraced houses without any electricity and went to school across the road in Olga Street. Few of the houses had any windows left in them by now and workmen were kept busy going round filling the window frames with brown paper-backed canvas. One enterprising schoolteacher obtained a roll of this material and, with the paper backing removed, the canvas was ideal for teaching us to do cross stitch embroidery as we sat in the air raid shelter.
School had practically come to s standstill due to lack of pencils and paper. One day, one of the boys in the school was blown to smithereens while fishing on the banks of the canal near Victoria Park. We took a collection for some flowers and the whole school stood outside to see the remaining pieces of Boy Franklin depart. But such is the resilience of youth that the very crater of left by the bomb that had killed our playmate now became our chief source of entertainment. We borrowed old bicycles and starting from the centre of the crater, we rode round and round, faster and faster, till we reached the perimeter at an angle of 90% like rider on the wall of death at the fair ground.
One night we went to bed surrounded by buckets and bowls and basin, to catch the drips from the far from leak-proof roof to be awakened by the most almighty BANG. The whole house seemed to rise in the air for a few seconds and come down again. There was a hole blown through the bedroom wall and from the window frame we could see flames coming from somewhere.
For a moment, we were too shocked to move. The slowly as the shock wore off, I heard Mum's voice trembling with fright say, 'Oh my gawd, we've bin hit.'
A few seconds more and then we began to move. We felt ourselves and found that miraculously we were all unharmed. We fumbled out way downstairs and out into the street. Other people were appearing from their houses too and we called to one another, 'Where's the hit?' Someone said, 'It's round the corner in Antill Road,' and we all began to run in that direction. The air was full of dust from the rubble.
As we turned the corner, an old man dressed only in his shirt, came wondering along the road, with his arms outstretched in front of him, like someone sleepwalking. He was completely dazed and was muttering to himself. Someone took him by the hand and said, 'Come on Dad, you're going to be all right.'
The railway bridge had completely disappeared. So had the chemist's shop next door to it; but in what remained of the stockroom behind it, a large carton of sanitary towels stood perched at a crazy angle, with it's contents slowly falling out like snowflakes down on the debris. The off licence shop on the opposite corner was also gone and when they found the body of Mr Rodgers the proprietor both his legs had been blown clean off.
The police arrived and immediately cordoned off the whole area. While rescue workers searched for more survivors, people stood around in little groups, questioning each other as to the cause of all this damage. Some thought it had been a landmine. Slowly, bits of information revealed that it was in fact the first of the V.I guided missiles. But with the humour born of hardness, which only cockneys possess, they had already nicknamed it the Doodlebug.
Doodlebugs arrived frequently and we got used to listening to all aeroplanes to see if their engines cut out. If it did, we ran for cover and counted to fifteen while waiting for the bang. If you heard the bang, we knew you were one of the lucky ones; you were still alive. But as if this was not enough, the Germans had more to offer; now the really big rockets began to arrive. In the early days of the blitz, people had got used to one or two houses being demolished and with the coming of Doodlebugs we got used to seeing whole streets disappear. But no one was prepared for the destruction of whole areas that these rockets caused.
The school authorities went on a positive campaign for the evacuation of all the children from the East End and, once again, off my sister and I went. No one knew how far the rockets would be able to reach so it was decided we must go as far away as possible. Our train went until it could go no further and stopped at the last station in Penzance in Cornwall.
Penzance is a charming little town which has a fine harbour and a beautiful botanical garden where tropical plants flourish in this area's mild climate. There are marvellous views of St. Michael's Mount, a small island in the bay. What a contrast from the London we had just left behind. All the houses actually had windows.
We were put into a bus and driven around the town, stopping at every street, while women came out of ther houses and looked us over and said, 'I'll have that one' or,'I'll take two,' as if we were inanimate objects. We went to a tiny old spinster called Miss Brett. Miss Brett had spent all her life as a governess in France and she was very strict with us. As we had been used to practically running wild in London, we did not appreciate this. She locked me in the bedroom for a whole day because I did not eact my greens. I wrote complaining to me mother but after I had gone to school, Miss Brett openend my letter and read it. Se was furious with me and that Saturday found us back at the billeting office. Evacuee was becoming almost a dirty word and not many people were willing to take them in. I knew it would be difficult to find somewhere else for us.
But somewhere was found and now we went to the home of Mr and Mrs Bear. They had two children of their own, a boy and a girl and one other boy called Jimmy who was the son of an officer in the army. This boy was an unmitigated snob, who considered himself to be superior to us in every way because, as he never ceased to tell us, he was a private evacuee and not a government sponsored one. We had not been here long before Mr Bear, a fat, lascivious man, began to take an interest in my sister, who was fourteen and fast developing into a young lady. Mrs Bear was quick to notice this and with the excuse that she was sick, took us back once again to the billeting office. I can’t think why they didn't put up a couple of camp beds for us there, it would have made life so much simpler for them.
Next we went to the home of Mrs Nesbitt. She lived in a small house in the centre of town, with her mother and son and daughter. Her husband was a prisoner of war in Germany and she worked as a newspaper roundswoman. Every day we had all the daily newspapers first and plotted the advances made by the Allied Forces in Europe to see whether Stalag 23 was liberated. At Christmas, Sis was fourteen and left school and returned to London to start work as the bombing had now ceased. So our family was broken down once again, my last emotional stabliser was gone and I was alone. I was very small and skinny for my age and without Sis to defend me, Robbie Nesbitt the fat, twelve stone son of the house took great delight in giving me a good thumping every time we were left alone in the house.
The bombing of London had now ceased altogether and many of the evacuees' parents sent for them to go home. Finally the war was declared over. Six weeks later U was still there; no one had sent for me. Mr Nesbitt arrived home looking white and thin. Then one day a rumour went round the school, we, the remaining refugees were going home next week. The excitement was terrific as the train pulled out of the station. Children ran up and down the corridors shouting joyfully, 'We're going home, we're going home.' But home is where you are loved and where you belong and where did I, the girl who five years earlier had left London plump and happy and now returned thin and bitter within belong? After attending eight different schools and having lived in thirteen different homes, with no father and a mother who no longer cared. The only truthful answer was nowhere. But like Scarlet O'Hara in 'Gone With The Wind', I learnt to say, 'Tomorrow is another day.' But that is another story.
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