Bombs dropped in the ward of: Earlsfield

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

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:

Memories in Earlsfield

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

In 1938, as Chamberlain flew to Munich I was evacuated to Wiltshire together with two of cousins. We were to stay with my auntie's sister. However, the crisis passed and I was back in Earlsfield a week later. But in 1939 as it became obvious that war was inevitable I was sent again to Wiltshire. This time I stayed for 3 months but I came home for Christmas and stayed home.

I can't remember whether it was just before my first or second evacuation that I witnessed the Irish navvies in Earlsfield digging the foundations for the shelters. However, a lot of the shelters including ours at home flooded and had to have a concrete wall built around the inside which made them smaller.

My cousin Ruth who had been evacuated with me returned to London a little later and she began work at Arding and Hobbs Department Store at Clapham Junction. She witnessed one of the early bombings at the back of the Store. It was terrible and very frightening.

The bomb which affected me most was probably a small one. It damaged a wall at the back of the former Workhouse in Swaffield Street in Earlsfield. The vibration knocked over a broom by the back door and the noise seemed to go on through my head.

Where there is now a block of flats, between Dingwall and Inman Roads in Earlsfield, a time-bomb fell and went off at about 2.00 a.m. This was in the middle of the Blitz on London. At one stage
a mysterious hole appeared in Inman Road near the junction with Wilna Road. The whole area was roped off as far as Dingwall Road. I think this turned out to be a shell.

One of the worst incidents was a direct hit on an Anderson Shelter at the corner of Bassingham Road, almost opposite the School. My father and our immediate neighbour, (one of the old-time railway guards), and his son who was home on leave from the Air Force went to help the local Air Raid Wardens to dig people out but alas - all dead. I don't think the Wardens got enough recognition for their work during the War.

After tbis incident my father insisted that my mother and myself be evacuated and my father telegraphed to my aunt's cousin and all the country-folk were on standby to receive us. As we left there was a time-bomb in Brocklebank Road, where the block of flats and modern houses now stand. While we were away yet another bomb wiped out houses in Earlsfield Road between Brocklebank and Dingwall Roads, (where the flats now back onto Dingwall Road.)

When I was back in London, one of the most terrifying nights was when a German plane was hit by our guns and we could hear it getting lower and lower. It came down in Merton Park. The younger generation now would no doubt think first of the pilot and crew but our first thoughts were that it was one less 'B' to bomb us. My father knew someone in that direction and we acquired a piece of metal from the plane. We kept this with a lump of jagged metal(shrapnel(?)), which fell with a thump in our garden one night. Both were kept for many years in our hall-stand until they smelled and went mouldy. Sometimes, I wish I had kept them to show my great-nephews or to give to the Wandsworth Museum in Garratt Lane.

At one stage during the War I was attending night-school on West Hill. As we left one evening the sirens sounded. My cousin Ed was going to Cadets nearby. With a barrage of guns sounding, Jerry appeared to be coming for us from the Richmond direction. I flew down Wandsworth High Street, followed by my cousin until I saw the Warden and asked where was the nearest shelter. We found it and tumbled in. Ed said: " I never knew you could run like that!" - but that is what fear does.

I belonged to the girl's club at my church, (Congregational), at the foot of Earlsfield Road. As we left one evening a Raid was hotting up and at first we ran to one of the girl's houses in Algarve Road. I think it was the grandmother who opened the door, but understandably, she did not want the responsibility of all of us, so several of us made for the main road and for a time took shelter in Earlsfield Station but with Jerry overhead this was not a good place to be, so we took our chances with the shrapnel and raced to one of the basement shelters below the shops in Garratt Lane.

My father worked in the Sorting Office,then at the High Street end of St. Anne's Hill. He cycled to work on his old bike. One evening he reached as far as Swaffield School and the frame of his bike split and he came off, shedding all his pens and pencils needed for his work. This in the middle of a Raid and in the Blackout!

Between short raids at night everyone used to go up and down the road looking for incendiaries. There was a contraption the Germans used, known as a 'Molotov Bread Basket'. This shed hundreds of incendiaries as opposed to High Explosive Incendiaries, (H.E.S.) The Church was damaged by one of these.

The German planes sometimes dropped Verey Lights earlier than the main night raids. They lit up the area. The Garratt Lane area towards King George's Park was a big factory area and therefore a target. There was a quieter period after I started work, between 1942-43. However, in one of Jeffrey Archer's books about a London Store one would think the war had ended as far as air raids were concerned but this was not the case.

Alas, there were even more terrifying times to come. In 1944 came the Flying Bombs, V.I.S. or Doodle Bugs, ( a nickname which stuck). I believe that Wandsworth together with Croydon, Lewisham, New Cross and Catford had the highest rate of V.I.S. No one could forget the terrible rattling sound and the engine cutting out. One counted to ten and if you were still alive you knew someone else had 'copped it'.

As the raids went on the piles of debris in the streets mounted higher and higher. One night, together with a friend I arrived at our stop - Brocklebank Road at Garratt Lane on the 77 bus. As we dismounted we could feel the silence that came after a bad attack. We feared the worst and asked someone: "Where did it fall?" The reply: Wilna Road. Our road. Fearing the very worst, my friend and I joined hands and turned the corner. Thank God! Our houses and folk were safe but at the bottom of the road all we could see was a mass of white helmets as the Wardens dug for any survivors. The windows in our house were all blown out but as I recall later replaced by the Royal Navy (?). My mother who had been at home at the time the bomb fell and who hated the Anderson Shelter had taken cover under the stairs. Her friend, Mrs Dell had just left the house when the raid started and only just made into her own home in Vanderbilt Road. I shall never forget that homecoming.

There was a big incident in Clapham Junction when a 77 bus was blown to bits. My father, then Assistant Head Postman at the West Central Post Office just missed catching this bus but caught the one behind and narrowly missed being killed himself. Apart from the bus and its passengers the bomb also destroyed Battersea Sorting Office at Lavender Hill and I believe, a gas main. My father said he would never forget it as long as he lived. He was asked to return to work - at the Lavender Hill Sorting Office and was back on duty even bfore they had finished clearing away the bodies - some of them no doubt his former colleagues.

Later during a lull and when I was working in the basement of the Music Shop in Holborn, I was about to go laden with the post to the Post Office further down High Holborn. I got as far as the foot of the stairs of the shop (all shop basements were shelters as well), when a V2 rocket landed further down the street. It blew in the windows of the shop. I was helping my manageress clear the window when my father came rushing along to see if I was safe, having heard where the incident was. I think it actually landed on an already bombed site. I remember going to the Post Office later that day,(life had to go on), and passing someone bleeding and in state of shock.

It was a good job that the Germans did not have those weapons at the time of Dunkirk, which the younger of my two brothers survived - just. He was missing for a few days. My elder brother, who had not passsed the forces medical tests acted as fire warden at the White Horse Whiskey premises underneath Waterloo Station, and Dad at Store Street Post Office, off Tottenham Court Road.

I feel my experiences of the War at Home are few compared to those of my sister-in-law and her sister. They used to travel from Peckham to Perivale,( a bomb alley), every day to the Hoover factory for war work all through the Blitz and the blackout. People talk about stress nowadays but I think those who worked in London or any big city during the War certainly had their fair share of it!

Before the bombing began the Council had been trying to move people if there was severe overcrowding in the house. A friend, one of a family of 10 was moved to then new Henry Prince Estate off Garratt Lane. He was killed in India on the last day of the War. He was training to be a fighter pilot.

Eileen Bicknell
Silver Circle Reading Group
Wandsworth Libraries

Copyright BBC WW2 People's War

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

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:

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