Bombs dropped in the ward of: Hoe Street

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

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 Hoe Street

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

From WW2 I have hundreds of memories. In many cases the adults were distressed but growing up with war, many children accepted much of it as normal. People’s experiences depend so much upon where they were.
Born in February 1936 I have just a few pre-war memories from 1939. One is of a sunny lunchtime in our Walthamstow (London E.17) house, another is of our Anderson air-raid shelter being constructed at the end of the garden (most winters it needed baling as it would get several inches of water in it, being deeper than the adjacent sportsfield ditch).
A great trench was dug by steam shovel across the middle of that neighbouring sports field (and through our local Epping Forest) as defence works. Concrete blocks about a metre cube were prepared where the trenches met the main roads, ready to be moved into position and block the road if we were attacked. For the next 10 years us kids loved to play on/around the blocks and the spoil heaps lining the muddy trenches.

In 1940 my father’s employer moved from Smithfield to Brasted near Sevenoaks (Kent) where I started school. With the call-up of most male teachers, my huge class was for 4~7 and the other class was for 8~11.
While there, I knew of the rationing, so one day while my mother was shopping I picked, then boiled buttercups on the kitchen range hoping to make butter.
My mother went to First Aid classes and I was used as a child subject for bandaging. One spring day we walked up our lane to the top of Toy’s Hill to see the remains of a German plane shot down the previous night.
Our cottage was on a hillside so when the warehouses near to Tower Bridge were badly blitzed one night, we all stood in the garden to see the big red flickering glow.

Quite a few times in 1940 we travelled back to Walthamstow and I particularly remember several times walking from London Bridge station to Liverpool Street station after a previous night’s bombing. On one occasion we were allowed to walk along Gracechurch St. while the buildings on the other side of the street were on fire and the firemen using their hoses. Other times we had longer diversions to avoid fires or buildings in a dangerous state (some remained propped up till the 1950’s).
Platforms carrying pumps were built around the piers of some bridges so as to pump Thames-water into the city via cast iron mains in the gutter or on the pavement (or both). Where the mains were in parallel and pedestrians needed to cross them there were wooden boards across. Branching off the mains were lots of hoses.

When dad had been called-up, mum and I returned to our Walthamstow house There were about 45~50 in my class and my school held about 600 on three floors but the air-raid shelters weren’t ready. If the air-raid sirens went during school hours we would all squeeze into the cloakrooms and onto the staircases to avoid any flying glass from a blast as there were only tiny slit windows there.
My teacher’s mother had gone to the window in the middle of the night to look at the searchlights, but died from lacerations when a bomb fell nearby.
Many buses had blast netting on their windows and some had blackout curtains.
Some double-decker buses had a bag on top containing gas as fuel instead of petrol and others pulled a little trailer for their gas.

When paper became short at school, many of us took our 4 page (1 sheet) newspaper to school and wrote our sums and spelling tests in the margins. The papers were then gathered up and some went to the local fish shop for him to wrap his customers fish in, while the rest was torn into squares and issued by teacher from a cupboard if you needed to use the toilet.
Quite often while in the playground we saw fighter aircraft in dogfights at altitude weaving condensation trails. The alert seemed to go only if there was a risk of bombs.
By 1944 we often saw squadrons of 27 allied bombers heading for Europe. Sometimes 5, 10 or even 20+ squadrons would fly eastwards in succession presumably navigating by the white concrete of our local North Circular Road (A406) and then the Southend Road and the railway to Harwich much as the airliners heading for Heathrow still do (in reverse) in 2003.
(Not built with tarmac as concrete gave employment in the early 1930’s depression.)

There were about 6 phones in our street of 56 houses. One day in 1940 a neighbour came to say my dad had phoned her that he was moving camp and would be at Kings Cross station till 2 pm. Mum got us there in time and found the special train loading about a thousand men. She asked a corporal at the gate and the word was rapidly passed up the platform that AC2 Wakefield’s wife was at the gate and he was allowed to come and speak to us.
In early 1941 we got away from the bombing for a week to see dad in training at Bridlington. I remember Flamborough Head and the passing convoys of colliers and steamers hugging the coast.

In January 1942 the bombing got mum down again so we went for a break to Helston (Cornwall) and took the bus which was full of airmen to Mullion. Mum got plenty of attention as the only woman and I was passed from father to father to briefly sit on their knees as they were missing their own children. Mullion Cove and the Lizard Point featured in many of my school compositions thereafter.
A similar scare later in 1942 took us to Bath unannounced. While mum went to contact dad that we had come and to find overnight accommodation, she told a porter what was happening and left me for a couple of hours with our suitcase (and a luggage label on me) by the water crane on the platform where the London to Bristol trains would stop to refill. Most of the engine crews spoke to me. You wouldn’t leave a 6 year old like that now !

One winters night in 1942 the bombing was worse so mum and I went to the communal shelter at the end of our street. Only families without husbands were there. One lady realised that she had slammed her front door without her keys being in her handbag so, during a lull in the bombing at about 4 am, I ( as the oldest male) and the ladies 2 daughters (all of us under 10) were sent to see whether their back door was unlocked. It wasn’t, but a fanlight was open so the girls pushed me through to get the keys off the sideboard and bring them out via the front door.

As our Anderson shelter was so often wet we mostly sheltered in the small cupboard under our stairs. We could just squeeze in 4. (1930’s houses used substantial timber.)
On rare occasions with daylight raids, passers-by would shelter with us, e.g. our milkman, leaving his handcart outside (he had a struggle to push it up the local hill).
If we went by tube in the evening, then in some central London tube stations you would have perhaps only 3 feet of platform edge to walk on, the rest being occupied by scores of families in sleeping bags or blankets on the platform. Sometimes you had to step over a persons legs or belongings. Some stations had bunks 2 high lining the wall. It was very good-natured. Pushing would have been so dangerous !
If we were caught out in an air raid in the evening I would be fascinated by the searchlights scanning the sky as we walked through the blacked out streets. Even the cars had their headlights covered with only a 4x2 cm slit (and a 1.5 cm shield above).
Sometimes the searchlights would latch onto a German aircraft, then the guns in our neighbouring sports field would fire. One day I had to hand in my collection of shrapnel (supposedly to help the war effort by recycling, but perhaps because of my blisters from the phosphorous on the tracer bullet remnants).
Tilers were often needed in our street because so much shrapnel was falling, breaking the rooftiles and then the rain would get in and damage ceilings, etc..

Around town, bomb damage was common. Perhaps 2 houses in a terrace gone but bits of a bedroom hanging there on an adjoining wall. In one case an upright piano up there on a small piece of bedroom floor. Blast would blow out shop windows so they would be boarded up and they continued to trade, often by a single lamp bulb
Our nearest bomb obliterated the tennis court at the end of the street, so it was turned into an allotment garden. We dug up part of our garden so as to grow vegetables. Our fox terrier had to be put down in 1940 because there was insufficient food and he was upset by the noise of guns and bombs.

Letters from dad meant so much, especially with his sketches of his colleagues. Sometimes he sent a biscuit tin of blackberries, etc. picked from around his camp.

By 1944 convoys of troops and equipment mostly eastbound along our narrow North Circular Road passed almost hourly and some took a rest on the ground allocated for the second carriageway. Local ladies would offer up tea etc. to the lads. I remember seeing a convoy of tanks move off while the lads were pouring their tea, they handed the teapot to another lady up the road who brought it back to it’s owner. With rationing, I don’t know where they got so much tea from. There was so much goodwill, especially to those who were travelling.

The doodlebugs started in 1944, often coming without the air-raid siren sounding. Their chug-chug was alarming but while they chugged they were not falling. The terror was if their motor stopped before they had passed over you, then you waited what seemed ages for the bang. Again, the adults were more worried than us kids.
I only heard two V2’s. Falling from up to 70 miles above they were supersonic, so first you heard the bang and then you heard the approaching scream getting fainter, then you knew that you had survived ! Out one day, one fell a quarter mile away.

Late 1944 we moved to Bretforton in the Vale of Evesham (Worcestershire) and then Badsey village bakery before moving into the servants half of a 14th century manor house that hadn’t been occupied since it held German prisoners of war in 1919. The dark solitary confinement cell was upstairs with the regulations in german. The kitchen was stone flagged and some 40 x 15 feet while the door key was iron and weighed almost a kilo. It was unheated so we lived in the buttery (lined with copper to keep out the mice we were told). Sanitation was a bucket.
3 feet outside the back door was a wooden cover over a 4 foot diameter well.
The farmer in the main house once moved his large table to show dad’s colleagues a large slab that tilted and a tunnel below that went out under the orchard.
The villagers still talked about the one bomb that had fallen in fields 3 miles away a couple of years earlier.
The day we moved there, while my mother looked after my newly born handicapped sister, I was sent 3 miles to the butcher in the next village (past an airfield) with our ration books to sign on with him and bring back some meat to cook. Would you ask an 8 year old these days.

One day in 1944 while walking home from school, I met an American sergeant, the first negro that I had seen. He shared his packet of chips with me while showing me some pictures of his own wife and kids back home in the USA.
At Xmas 1944 many local children were taken by Air Force lorries to a party in Evesham Town Hall where we were given toys (mostly of wood and painted with aircraft dope) made by the servicemen at various local camps.

After D-day I learnt my geography of Europe by putting a map out of the Daily Mail onto the wall and inserting pins joined by wool to show the state of advance as it was reported on the radio. Pathe-News at the cinema supplemented newspaper reports.

I helped pick fruit in a market garden in 1945 and went with the horse and cart to the local single siding alongside the London to Worcester line and helped load the wagon.
On VE-day everybody celebrated, especially the Canadian airmen (who had a giant bonfire of unwanted aircraft bits).
By VJ-day we were back in London. I had attended 7 schools between 1940 and 1945.
Most classes I had been in had over 40 pupils (two had 70+ with the walls folded back) and some classes spanned several years. One school had a lady teacher for the beginners and a man for a huge class of up to school leaving age.
Teachers were mostly women and with the class sizes, were friendly but strict and were backed by parents. A slap, hands on head, stand outside, lines, ruler or cane depending upon the offence. Once I couldn’t hold a spoon at table for 2 days.
Teachers often selected the abler pupils to assist those finding a subject difficult. I was o.k. at reading and arithmetic but useless at crop rotation and recognising plants, i.e. what was taught to 8 year olds varied around the country.

In 1946 my father was demobbed. He found a way into the Mall for us for the Victory Parade. The crowd was thick, but as usual us children were passed to the front (some over peoples heads) and sat in front of the policemen. Afterwards the crowd helped us to rejoin our parents. It was a memorable view of the service contingents and those on the Reviewing Stand including King George VI, Winston Churchill and General Montgomery.
So, as I started out by saying, for a child it was a fascinating time if sometimes scary, but for the adults there was so much worry, fear, suffering and loss of possessions and loved ones. An uncle’s ammunition convoy blew to bits.

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

I was born in Prince Regent Lane, London E16 in 1933. My father, William Johns, managed a small grocery shop with my mother Olive assisting him and we lived over the premises. It was about half a mile from the Victoria and Albert docks and this was to have profound consequences when war was declared in 1939.

Things began to hot up in the autumn of 1940 when the Luftwaffe began their raids on London. The docks were a prime target and every night the family took refuge in the Anderson shelter in the garden behind the shop. Though only six-and-a-half at the time, I can clearly remember the nightly fall of bombs close by. One night in particular was different when a new explosive sound punctuated the crash of the bombs and the banging of the anti-aircraft guns sited in the recreation ground just up the road. An almighty barrage of a different nature made us wonder what was happening. The next day we learned that HMS Cossack had been moored in the docks and had contributed its gunfire to the assault on the enemy bombers. This was a tremendous morale booster to everyone.

As the Blitz reached its heights in September, it got too hot in West Ham and my father decided to move us to my aunt Rose's house in Aveling Park Road, Walthamstow. Even this got rather fraught after a while and the two families decided to pack suitcases and get out of London. They had no real idea of destination, but the men decided to get tickets from Euston and go to Bletchley. Why they decided this I do not know.

Suffice to say, we ended up at Bletchley railway station and my father, my Uncle Ernie Young and his teenage son Ken walked off down the road to find somewhere for us to stay. We were refugees in the truest sense. Finally, after a very long time, the men returned and told us they had found an old couple in Fenny Stratford who would give us lodging for a few days.

A long walk ensued and we finally reached the home of Bill Busler and his wife. The 'few days' extended to a couple of years for my family (my uncle and family returned to Walthamstow when the Blitz quietened down). My father commuted to the business in West Ham coming home at weekends, only to find one Monday morning that the shop had received a direct hit the night before.

My sisters were called up for war work. Marjorie, the eldest, ended up at the famous Bletchley Park working with the code-breakers whilst Eileen, my younger sister, joined the ATS and was stationed at the RAOC depot at Bicester.

Our war culminated in a most amazing coincidence. Marjorie's husband, George Alexander, was a Bombardier in the Royal Artillery serving for a time in Iceland. As D-Day approached his unit was billeted in the old West Ham speedway stadium just across the road from dad's shop.

One of George's officers, a Lieutenant Pepper, happened to say that he was short of cash and needed to cash a cheque. Although the stadium was sealed off, officers were allowed out at this time and George said to him 'I can help you there'.

He suggested he visit the shop at the top of the road and say to the shopkeeper (my father) that George had sent him. The cheque was duly cashed and dad told the glad tidings to Marjorie. Despite tight security George managed to wangle a pass out of the stadium for a brief but emotional reunion with Marjorie.

Not long after, the unit embarked at the docks for their journey to Normandy a few days after D-Day, landing at Arromanches Gold Beach.

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Contributed originally by Harrogate Theatre (BBC WW2 People's War)

This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Justine Warwick and has been added to the site with the full permission of the author. The author fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.

I was born on the 29th May 1930 and was brought up in North East London as an only child. On the First of September 1939, two days before war, I was evacuated to Bedfordshire. Our school was shut and parents had received a letter to say they had to send me away if they wanted me to get an education. So there I was with my suitcase and label! Off we went, through the recreation ground, and much to my surprise there were all the mothers, lined up to wave us goodbye. We went from the local train station to one of the London termii. I don’t know which one it was, but I do know we were on the train a long time! My parents had been told to provide us with food for journey, and I remember that one of the things they were told to give us was dried fruit — so we sat in the train eating raisons and sultans.

Round about tea-time we arrived at a station, which may have been Bedford, and were put on a bus. We were all very tired. We were taken to a small village called Farndish, and people were quickly dispersed, although not all in same village. Together with two girls in my class, we were taken into the care of a lovely childless couple. He was the village postman and they lived in a thatched cottage. There was an earth closest at the end of the garden — and because we were used to all the mod cons we thought it was dire! The lady gave us a postcard to write a message on to our parents and she wrote something to comfort them too.

They put the three of us in a huge bed in the attic. The first night though we just could not get to sleep — we were very over tired and excited. The lady of the house had pointed out that there was a wooden commode so we didn’t have to go out in the night. When we couldn’t get to sleep though she sent her husband in to talk to us. We eventually settled down. On the Saturday we wandered around the village and in the field across the road we watched the shepherd counting his sheep.

On the Sunday the man of the house had us all in the living room. He had the radio on told us to be quiet as we were going to hear about whether we were at war. We heard Neville Chamberlaine telling the nation about we were at war. I didn’t really know what it meant I suppose, I just knew it was something serious. For a few days we had lessons (our own teachers were with us) and they were given in the kitchen of the big house of the village. But then they told us we were going to a school and we had to walk. It seemed like miles and it probably was. It was September as well so it was starting to get cold and wet. I remember that that was the first time I realised that people in authority were capable of plane speaking. I came from Walthamstow, and one day before we went to the school, I heard someone say “That Education Officer from Walthamstow is a bloody fool”. I was nine.

I think for about three weeks we went to this school and then they realised it was too far for us to walk in winter. They couldn’t find another school nearby so they moved us to another village, not far away across the fields called Wymington. We were all assembled in the village hall and all the other children went off with somebody and was left sitting by myself — it was dreadful. I heard these two fellows saying “Oh she’ll make a nice companion for Mrs Rich”. Before long, Mr Rich came in with his bicycle. This couple had agreed to take an evacuee but the lady was not very well so we had to wait for her husband to come. I remember walking up the hill to their house with him pushing the bike. I discovered they were a lovely family and until earlier this year I got cards from their daughter. They had a daughter, Dorothy who was 23 and a son, Herbert who was 21. Dorothy had to share her bedroom with me. How kind. There were quite a lot of us in the village from my school.

Mr & Mrs Rich invited my parents for Christmas and gave up their room. Herbert had to give up his bed. Dorothy was a talented knitter and knitted me woollies.

At Easter nothing had been happening in London so more and more children had been going back. Because we had our own teacher with us and there were so few of us, we had a really good education and I did well in my 11+. But my mother was missing her only child, and not in good health so my father came for me in the Easter of 1940. Later that year that was when the blitz started.

We had an Anderson shelter and slept in it most nights. But when the two nearest bombs came we were in the house asleep — I think we were all unwell with flu.

The war just seems like a long succession of bombs, rationing, and bad news. A couple of lads from our street were killed in service.

I can remember going to school after air raids. Where the houses had been destroyed there was plaster in the road and we used to use it to mark out hopscotch grids. There were some very big bomb sites.

After I’d taken my 11+, I had to go to a school that was the other end of the borough called The William Morris School, for two years. The one I should have gone to, George Gascoigne, had been damaged. The little girl that sat next to me was killed in an air raid and I imagine her family too. I think her name would be in the book in West Minster Abbey.

Then they patched out school up and I was very releaved. While we were there we had the doodglebugs and eventually the B2’s. The B2’s were the most frightening of the lot — suddenly out of nowhere there would be this enormous explosion and then several seconds later a noise would come like an express train — it was very odd. You would wait for the next noise of an explosion but of cause it had already happened as they travelled faster than the speed of sound.

Whilst we were at school during air raids, if there was still an air raid by the time we were due to leave school we could only go home if our parents or someone else’s took responsibility for us and took us home.

I remember things about the campaigns, about AlAlemain and Italy and obviously D-Day — John Snag of the BBC who announced the opening of the Second Front. And then there was Arnham which was a tragedy. I remember Richard Dimbleby going into Belson and the accounts on the radio. There were two magazines at that time — Illustrated and Picture Post I think. One had the first pictures of Belson. I remember my mother saying to my father that she didn’t think I ought to see it, but he was happy for me to.

The two occasions when the house was most damaged and one was where it wasn’t a terribly big bomb, but just around the corner from us a whole row of terraced houses disappeared. The other was further away between my grandma’s and mine - and it contained 2000lb’s of explosive and the whole of the crossroads disappeared. And I can still remember the furniture moving.

For all those years I have exchanged Christmas cards with Dorothy and this year I sent a card and didn’t get one back. But not long after I had a card from her nephews and they said that she died last year. She was well into her 80’s. They said she had always spoken of me affectionately and was very pleased to get my cards. A few years ago I went to my Great Nephews wedding. His mother lives in Northamptonshire and she took me to the two villages I had stayed in. The first one with the house with thatch roof now had a slate roof. And where we had watched the shepherd was now a housing estate.

The other one was very much the same. We didn’t call, but we did visit the school.

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

As a child during the War i lived in Walthamstow, East London with my parents, George Wittamore and Marie Wittamore. In East London we suffered air raids all the time, we were never bombed out but we had our windows and doors blown in a few times. We were lucky that my Dad was good at D.I.Y and he could make repairs very quickly. There was a system where you made a claim for damages and have the council do the repairs but that took a long time.

There was also the Blackout, that meant covering the windows with black paper; no lights in the streets and vehicles had special lamps fitted that only gave a downward dim light. We also stuck strips of paper in a crisscross pattern on the windows so they wouldn't shatter so easily and cause injury. If you went out after dark, you had to feel your way along hedges and garden walls to guide you.

We had an air raid shelter in the garden. We were not asked if we wanted one, it just arrived one day with workmen, who dug a large hole at the end of the garden and erected it. Dad painted it and it had bunk beds on both sides, allowing four people to sleep in it. Just as Dad had finished painting it and put a small amount of furniture in it, workmen came and cemented the floor. Dad was not amused! There was no ventilation; only a small amount came through cracks in the door. It was always damp and had condensation running down the walls. There was also many spiders and other wrigglies.

I spent alot of time in the air raid shelters, both at home and at school. We all slept in the shelter at night for many weeks, which was very uncomfortable, but being a child, not much kept me awake!

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Contributed originally by Elizabeth Lister (BBC WW2 People's War)

This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from CSVBerkshire, Amy Williams, on behalf of Doug Bukin and has been added to the site with his permission and he fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

When the war was declared on 3rd September 1939 I was 10 years old. I lived with my parents in the northern part of the east end of London.

My grandfather, a lovely old man, took me to the shops in Walthamstow on a Saturday afternoon during the war. He gave me sixpence to buy a torch in Woolworths. The torch was made of green mottled Bakelite with a bullseye lens. I loved it. Everyone carried a torch in those days due to the blackout. We all had torches as it was the only way you could get about. The sale of batteries must have been terrific.

On the way home we called in to collect a pair of shoes my grandfather had left at a little cobbler's shop, a shoe repairer's. In those days you called a shoe repairer a 'snob'. A 'snob' was the name for a cobbler. I don't often hear it used now, but in those days they were snobs.

The shop's owner was a poor little stooped chap. We went in through the front door of his little cottage. His shop was the front room of his cottage where he did his repairs. He worked by a gaslight, not a very good one, because he couldn't afford electricity. I showed him my torch, and he'd never seen one before or such a bright light.

My very kind grandfather suggested that I gave it to the cobbler. The cobbler was delighted and kept on putting it on and off. My torch had gone, but I felt quite happy about this. It was a nice gesture and even at that age I appreciated it. Although I missed my torch my grandfather was right to give it to the poor old chap. It was a nice gesture.

This shows how different it was for people then. The cobbler was working away with his shoes, repairing them in the poor light, one little gaslight, and he sees this torch and it's like something amazing to him. That's just how we would react today if we saw a laser beam. I was so pleased to see the pleasure on this little stooped man's face to get hold of this torch. Whether he ever bought batteries for it I've no idea.

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

There is no humour in this memory of my Mother’s war as told to me, our neighbour was an elderly lady who was stone deaf and unable to hear the siren (air-raid warning) but she had worked out a system with my Mother that enabled my mother to warn her to take cover. When the alarm sounded my mother would lean over the fence, and with a stick especially kept for the purpose, tap repeatedly on her window, unable to hear the siren she nevertheless could feel the vibrations caused by this action, and would collect her things and come across to our shelter. On one occasion she arrived on our doorstep blanket and belongings in hand to the complete bafflement of my Mother who had not given the alarm, as no siren had been sounded. When she was informed of this she asked my Mother why she had tapped on the window if all was clear. Not having done so mother was at a loss to explain what had happened and could only conclude that someone else had sounded the alarm and decided to investigate. On going into the garden mother was horrified to see, hanging from the large tree near the window a parachute to which was attached a mine, gently swinging in the breeze and tapping against the window.

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

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

Images in Hoe Street

See historic images relating to this area:

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