Bombs dropped in the ward of: Bedford
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Bedford:
- High Explosive Bomb
Number of bombs dropped during the week of 7th October 1940 to 14th of October:
No bombs were registered in this area
Number of bombs dropped during the first 24h of the Blitz:
No bombs were registered in this area
Memories in Bedford
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by heather noble (BBC WW2 People's War)
7) THE SUMMARY OF MARLENE’S STORY — In London, she details her early memories of being shuttled down the steps of the Public Shelters, of family’s taking night refuge in the London Underground Stations, of gas masks, barrage balloons, sandbags and the daily ordeal of queuing with her Mother for their daily “Rations”. She also details the horror of the Balham Underground Bomb and the subsequent rescue operation in which her father, working as a fireman, was involved…
MARLENE’S STORY — I was born in South West London in 1942 — the same year that the first American G.I’S arrived in the capital city on their way to fight in Europe. My parents called me Marlene, which I always felt an odd choice of name, when Britain was in the middle of a war with Germany! But I have since concluded that their inspiration came from the English version of the wartime biggest song hit, “Lili Marlene” — “My Lilli of the Lamplight”!
Our home was a downstairs maisonette in Tooting Bec, South West London. From the front door a long entrance hall led to the kitchen. There were two main rooms to the left of the hall — one a bedroom and the other a large living room, which in those days, we called the “Front Room”. The right of the hallway led to a roomy square area, where there was a large cupboard and cellar, which was situated directly under the maisonette above. Here two elderly couples — who had already been bombed out of their previous homes — shared the upstairs accommodation between them. When the sirens sounded and the bombs started dropping, they came downstairs to join us. Together we all took cover to the right of our hall!
Sometimes we traipsed to the Public Air Raid Shelter at the top of the road or to the nearby Underground Station. As we lived so near to the Common, we could see the great barrage balloons rising up against the skyline, like huge silver saucers, which seemed to cover the whole of London. Their cables were designed to stop low flights.
Many of the operators were women who valiantly kept them afloat. Sometimes one of these balloons had to be cut free in bad weather and we would gleefully watch them crash into chimney pots or into the trolley bus cables overhead! As soon as we saw these operators getting ready for the launch, we knew that we had about twenty minutes before the raids started, giving us time to collect our possessions together.
One of my earliest memories was watching the frightened people hurrying down the steps of the shelters, clutching their flasks and sandwiches, which were often filled with little more than dripping. We all carried our gas masks, incase of an emergency. Some of the children’s were brightly coloured and known as Mickey Mouse masks, which they slung around their necks.
When the bombs began to rain down nightly, many decided that the London Undergrounds provided the safest shelters. At first the government were reluctant to allow their use as shelters. But once they realised passengers were buying one penny halfpenny tickets (cheapest available) to gain access — they realised they could not really prevent them!
Evening after evening, families started moving Tubewards, carrying their bedding to tuck their children in for the night. Gradually the platforms filled up and by the time of the 5-6 p.m rush hour alighting passengers had to step between the rows of people who had already “claimed their pitch”! The crowds ate, drank, chatted and laughed trying to keep up their spirits, pretending that nothing untoward was going on in the world above. One reporter said, “It was the most extraordinary mass picnic the world had ever known”!
But the conditions underground were appalling, with no proper sanitary facilities other than the overflowing “bucket variety” for MEN/WOMEN screened only by a curtain! However, as the raids worsened, for some people they had little other choice of shelters.
One night the road next to ours was badly hit and many families lost their entire home or worse still were killed outright. Another time a bomb landed on the Common at the top of our road, leaving a huge crater.
All through the war my father worked as a fireman in the London Fire Service and witnessed many harrowing scenes. It was especially grim when our local Northern Line at Balham Underground Station was bombed. He told me that it was absolute carnage. The bomb made a direct hit — fracturing both gas and water mains — flooding miles of tunnels. Tragically hundreds of people were drowned or buried in the rubble. And that night 680 shelterers lost their lives.
However, the British population gradually became used to the nights of bombing and in the mornings it was back to work as usual. And for the housewives, the daily ordeal of queuing, which was a wartime institution.
One of my enduring memories is lining up with my Mother, in all weathers, alongside shop windows sandbagged against bomb blast, carrying our ration books and old newspapers — because wrapping paper was in short supply. If you saw a queue, you automatically joined it! “What are we queuing for today Mummy?” I once enquired. “Wait until we get to the end of the queue and you will see.” She replied!
But there was one queue of which I needed little persuasion to join. And that was the one, which wound its way around the outside of our local sweet shop called “Fords”!
In pre-war days “Fords” were renowned for its wide range of high -class confectionary — especially chocolate Easter eggs and Christmas novelties. However during the war, when sugar was in short supply, all such luxury trading ceased. Instead, they were sadly reduced to accepting customer’s “Personal Points” — exchangeable only for confectionary and chocolates.
I remember all too well, my Mother handing over these precious “Points” and sometimes parting with the family’s modest sugar rations too - which “Fords” obligingly made into sweets on the premises.
Alas, we children had to wait until February 5th, 1953, before sweets eventually came off the ration!
Then for a while, “Fords” happily flourished once again. But later, I believe, it sadly suffered the fate of so many other little shops — finally closing its doors — and taking with it, the history of rationing, queues and my “sweet memories”.
8) THE SUMMARY OF SUSAN’S STORY — follows her family’s fortunes across the years, beginning with her parent’s first encounter whilst doing their war-time work at an electronics company in Surrey. How, her Father became involved in the development of radio receivers, which were used in bomber planes, notably those specifically fitted for the “Lancasters”, chosen for the famous “Dam Busters” mission in May 1943. And of her Mother’s “Interceptor Work” identifying enemy signals, and repairing and testing the radios that her Father had developed. Sue also writes of how she and a childhood friend survived the food shortages by paying their “last respects” at neighbouring houses where the ”Funeral Teas” were taking place! She concludes with an intriguing tale of how, over half-a-century- later, she traced the unknown benefactor of the food parcels which her family received from New Zealand throughout the war and discovered they had been sent by an unknown Kiwi Grandfather!...
Logging on to check for my emails one Spring morning in 2004, I found a message from an old school friend asking me if I would like to contribute to the collection of our “old” friend’s wartime stories. As it happened, this invitation coincided with another project, with which I had recently become involved. So sensing a familiarity between them, I readily agreed to participate.
Now living and working as a musician on the Isle of Man, we, in the community, are planning in 2005 an important event to mark those memorable years from 1939 — 1945 when thousands of stateless women came from all corners of Europe to live in internment camps amongst us.
It is hoped that the unique stories of these talented women — who included ballerinas, singers, patisseries and an entire order of Nuns — and the amazing lives they went onto create for themselves will be recorded, filmed and archived, before they have faded from living memory.
And so for the moment, I will switch my attention from this very interesting period of the Island’s past, to focus on my own personal history.
In a wholly different setting beginning in the suburbs of South West London during the year of 1939.
SUSAN’S STORY — As a young man my Father Gordon, was a “radio wizard” and first, encountered my Mother Frances, whilst they were both doing their war-work at “Marconi’s”, an electronic company in Hackbridge, Surrey.
Later they married in nearby Beddington Park Church followed by a wartime wedding breakfast in “Beddington Grange”.
Later still, I arrived to complete the scene and my parents called me Susan.
We lived with my paternal Grandmother, Violet Black, in a maisonette with a small garden at 114A Swaby Road, South West London. Our front windows looked across to Garrett Green, which at that time were still open fields. And it was there, during the early post war years, that one of the first comprehensive schools “Garrett Green“, was built.
Swaby Road ran from Earlsfield Station and the local cemetery at one end, to just behind Garrett Green at the other. I came to know it well.
When I first started school in Trinity Road, on Wandsworth Common my Mother and I either trudged there — mostly uphill — or I rode on the small pillion seat of her bicycle. In rain and shine, every morning and back again in the afternoon.
Unlike Grandma Black, who was a Londoner and sadly died in 1946, Grandma Long, my Mother’s Mother, was a country woman, born and bred from the Badminton area of Gloucestershire; and as a child she and her siblings attended the local village school.
I cannot be certain when or how she met my Grandfather, but I suspect it was whilst they were working “in service”, as at sometime in the early years of their marriage, he had worked as a gamekeeper to the Duke of Beaufort and they had lived in one of the pair of lodges at the gates of the ancient estate.
After a while they came to London and in due course they were followed by Grandpa’s five brothers who in turn, each joined the police force in the capital.
And for the main part of his working life, Grandpa Long served in “The Met” — Royal A division — the area around Buckingham Palace and Houses of Parliament.
Throughout the war years my Father became involved in the development of radio receivers, mainly those which were used in bomber planes, and notably those specifically fitted for the “Lancasters”, which flew in the famous ”R.A.F” 617 “Dam Busters” mission.
On May 17th, 1943, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the squadron completed their successful mission to destroy the two huge Mohne and Eder dams, using the new “bouncing bombs” developed by Dr. Barnes Wallis.
However, despite doing this essential radio work and in common with many young men back then, my Father tried twice to join up for active service. But when asked the question, “Where are you presently working”? His reply brought the same response. In no uncertain terms he was told, “To stop wasting the recruiting officer’s time and to return to the important work in which he was currently employed”!
He also trained in heavy rescue and first aid, but fortunately this never had to be put into practice at “Marconi’s”.
Meanwhile, my Mother, who was a talented musician, and her sister Enid, who also had a keen ear, were both employed testing and maintaining the radios that my Father had developed. My Aunt Enid told me that one particular radio which came in for repair was found to have a bullet from a German fighter lodged inside. So it was little wonder that it had given up working!
The two sisters also did “Interceptor Work”. Sitting alongside of one another, in their individual “mesh cages” — with earphones clamped to their heads, and atmospherics crackling away within them — they listened intently to identify those vital enemy signals.
After my Mother’s long shifts had ended, she replaced her earphones for her tin helmet and cycled home, in the blackouts, from Hackbridge to Earlsfield, down what was then locally nicknamed “Doodlebug Alley”! Constantly glancing over her shoulder, she peddled furiously and many a time she had to dive into a ditch to avoid the efforts of the “Luffwaffe, who were busy targeting nearby Clapham Junction!
I well remember being given a brightly coloured set of building bricks which had been created from old tuning knobs, salvaged from the front of radios that were beyond repair. They came in three different sizes and colours - red, yellow and blue — and made perfect building bricks for a small child. Then they delighted me, but I wonder now, about who might have been operating those radios when they were hit? A sobering thought.
During the war and for a long time afterwards, food supplies were extremely short, especially in London, and the oddities of our daily diet were among the most vivid of my early memories. However, one of my childhood friends Angela - who to me then, was “a big girl” - developed a unique way of surviving these shortages.
Living close to the local cemetery, she began to take note of the whereabouts of nearby funerals! Although at that time, it was still customary for the “dear departed” to be laid out in state in the “front room”, this knowledge did not seem to deter the pair of us from presenting ourselves at the homes of our newly bereaved neighbours. Two small mourners, paying their “last respects”, in the hopes that we would be included at their Funeral Teas! On the occasions when we were lucky enough to be invited inside, there, we greedily indulged our passion for egg sandwiches and red jelly!
Looking back now, I am appalled at our misguided initiative, although it did seem to be a very, good idea at the time!
Fortunately, my family did have a more reputable source of eking out our rations. These came in the form of wonderful food parcels, containing such unobtainable goodies as delicious dried fruit, which regularly arrived throughout the war.
They were sent by a mysterious benefactor, one — William Henry Boyce - from New Zealand. Alas, by 1946 all such parcels ceased.
But, the story did not end there…
In 1999, whilst visiting my daughter Sarah and my son-in-law Clive, in their New Zealand home, my sense of curiosity drew me to the idea of tracing the mysterious benefactor, who had so generously supported our family during those dreary years in 1940’s London.
Although some of the details must remain conjecture, it appeared that during the Great War, my Grandmother Violet, had worked as a Nursing Auxiliary at a Convalescent hospital in, I believe, the Carshalton area of Surrey. There, she nursed a soldier from Timaru, South Island in New Zealand. And it was to my amazement, that I discovered the soldier’s name was William Henry Boyce!
He had earlier been injured whilst fighting in Gallipoli. Evidently he must have rallied well, as my Father was the result!
During an era, when reputations mattered, it seems that this liaison was understandably kept a closely guarded secret. For then, the world was not yet ready to accept the state of single motherhood. And many a young woman such as Violet was generally “persuaded” to give away her new born child.
But it seems that MISS. BLACK refused to be convinced. Good for Grandma!
Instead, with commendable courage, and after William had been safely despatched, back home to New Zealand, she decided to set about raising her son alone. And with spirit and will she succeeded — under the guise of a respectable World War One WIDOW!
It was on the last day of my visit, when Sarah and I set out in search of the Auckland cemetery, where we believed my Grandfather was buried.
We seemed to have walked for miles between the endless rows of graves, which unlike the British, vertical memorials here the stones had been horizontally laid —making the names particularly difficult to identify. Then, at last I stumbled upon it! I was filled with a strange kind of excitement as I stooped to read my Grandfather’s inscription.
My daughter and I stood looking at it together. And in the silence between us, my thoughts naturally turned to the past. What I wondered, would have happened to my Grandparents, had they have met under different circumstances?
I should have liked to think that Violet would have married the one love of her life, and I pictured the pair of them living happily together, raising a family in a home of their own. When … at that moment, I was abruptly brought back to the present. As if on cue, the black clouds that had hovered above us suddenly burst! The heavens opened and the rain came down in torrents. Bedraggled, we made a swift exit as we squelched our way across the sodden ground to the cemetery gates.
We were glad to return to the shelter of the bus, glad that we had come and very glad that our search had been successful. Then through the downpour, we were driven away to Wellington Airport, much moved by all we had discovered.
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