Bombs dropped in the ward of: Northcote
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Northcote:
- 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 Northcote
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by joanstyan (BBC WW2 People's War)
We were utterly exhausted most of the time as we were continually confined to a communal air raid shelter at night, especially during the Blitz in 1940 and 1941. Strangely enough my brother Ken, sister Margaret and I experienced a mixture of fear from the bombs, together with the excitement of being able to stay up each night in the shelter with other families. With our mother we used to take our cheese sandwiches (which always seemed scrumptious) and Smiths crisps containing little blue bags of salt, together with a bottle of Tizer in the shelter and have midnight feasts with the other children which was exciting and alleviated some of the fear. We got very little sleep on our hard bunk beds, but no one did as we were usually woken up by the screaming, wailing air raid siren. We only had candles in the shelter so it was dimly lit and also damp and musty. The boy on the bunk below me, Sidney, complained that I was always dropping lumps of cheese from my sandwiches on to his bunk which he strongly objected to as he loathed cheese. Later in the war, sometimes at night when the air raid siren sounded, neighbours came along and bedded down in our hall. There was one man who always wore his tin helmet and Ken and I could never stop giggling about it. All the poor man was trying to do was to be prepared and to protect himself in an emergency but it was a huge joke to us. One night there was a bomb which exploded very near to us, the blast of which shattered a number of our windows. The heavy fanlight over the hall door became dislodged and was hanging on its side only a few feet from where Ken was sleeping. He had a lucky escape and may well have been glad to wear the man's tin helmet after all!
When the dreaded air raid siren sounded suddenly wafting through the air, screeching out its deafening high and low wailing, warning sounds, we were full of fear and trepidation. Wherever we were, we immediately stopped what we were doing, snatched up our few belongings if they were nearby and dashed to the nearest air raid shelter, wondering if we would ever come out alive. It was a nightmare for my mother having 3 young children to worry about all the time. There were 3 types of air raid shelter. Those which were concrete or brick-built and were outside for the public, the corrugated, galvanised iron Anderson shelter which was partially sunk in people's gardens away from the house, and the Morrison which was like a steel box indoors.
We lived through the London Blitz in 1940 and 1941 and many nights we went through hell with fires blazing and bombs raining down. The sky was continually lit by the glare of the fires, some of which were caused by incendiary bombs which had been extinguished by stirrup pumps. Air raid wardens were equipped with these for such an emergency. Also searchlights illuminated the sky. The wail of the air raid sirens and the drone of enemy aircraft, the bang bang of the anti-aircraft batteries and the shrill whistles blown by the Air raid wardens were deafening. Many people were left homeless and exhausted and often experienced long term shock. They used to pick their way through debris after a raid and had nowhere to go. Dazed families were accommodated in rest centres, in school buildings and church halls all of which were staffed by volunteers. However, despite all the adversity, people relentlessly soldiered on. We were all in it together and helped each other whenever we could. We had one thing in common and that was the will to survive which was all that mattered. Although tea, like almost everything else, was rationed, there were endless cups of tea to soothe shattered nerves.
Bombs continued to rain down, criss-crossing searchlights lit up the sky at night and the anti-aircraft fire was fearsome. Firemen and air raid wardens did what they could to protect the city. Large balloons appeared in the sky which were called barrage balloons. They were elongated, grey shapes like inflated elephants attached to thick wire ropes to trap unwary, low flying enemy aircraft. In 1942, all railings in front of houses and surrounding parks were removed for their metal to be used for ships and tanks. There were strict blackout precautions and windows were taped against damage from splintered glass and, on the ground floor of large buildings, windows and doorways were protected by walls of sandbags. Also, there was no street lighting or friendly lights from windows and we were forced to use torches. There were blackout curfews after dark, which caused many accidents, but the blackout was an air raid precaution and saved many lives. During the long, dark ,winter nights it was an absolute nightmare. We lived very near to Clapham Junction station, a major railway system, which was bombed continuously but despite the desolation it was like a cat and had 9 lives and managed to continue limping along.
Nothing was like the onslaught on London when they repeatedly dropped their tonnage of destruction and bombs fell incessantly resulting in relentless nights and days of terror and hell.
We Londoners bravely responded to the onslaught of London with defiant good humour. 'Jerry' (one of our nicknames for the Germans), 'will never get the last laugh over us.' was our taut reply, and they definitely did not. We were not labelled the 'Bulldog Breed' for nothing. We were in a permanent state of alert and were constantly living under a cloud of violent death but despite the ferocity of the relentless raids we survived even though utter exhaustion clung to us day and night.
There were many horrifying experiences but the noise of the VI flying bombs will haunt me forever. This was one of Hitler's secret weapons and was first launched in 1944. It was called a flying bomb, a doodlebug or a buzz bomb. It was essentially a pilotless plane packed with explosives whose rocket engine cut out over the target area so it glided to the ground and exploded. The gliding and cut-out mechanisms used were crude, but a large number still fell on London despite the fact that the RAF bombed some of the launching sites and also shot many down over the English Channel. Their engines made a distinct roaring sound which I shall never forget. One could hear them approaching from a distance and as the droning became louder and louder we were more terrified by the second. It was even more devastating when the noise stopped and there was an uncanny stillness whilst we held our breath. This I can remember so well. We had no option but to sit there helplessly in the shelter and pray whilst waiting for the noise to stop and a deathly silence prevailed. Were we destined to die that night? We were terrified if the engine cut out before it was overhead since that meant the flying bomb would glide and probably hit us. If it stopped directly overhead, we knew we were relatively safe, because it would continue for a couple of miles before crashing to the ground. Finally when it landed with an immense explosion, we all felt a great relief that it wasn't us this time, but a tremendous sadness for the poor victims that were involved.
Eventually the all-clear siren sounded which was a steady tone and the sweetest sound on earth. We were free again and dashed out of the shelter to see who the unfortunate victims were and if we could help them. There was utter chaos verywhere. Houses were completely demolished, others had walls that had collapsed with furniture leaning at bizarre angles from upstairs rooms. Glass was missing from all the windows, and even houses half a mile away from the blast had lost chimneys and tiles. Pavements were littered with tiles, glass and bricks. The slaughter created maximum terror with massive explosions resulting in shrapnel and debris falling all around us. It was pitiful what we repeatedly saw which we will never forget as there were so many sad and sickening sights. We lived near to the mainline railway station of Clapham Junction, a major German target, which was constantly attacked to disrupt the rail transportation system of the country. Ken and his friends spent a lot of time collecting shrapnel from exploded bombs which many boys did including Peter my husband. Ken also gathered wood from bomb-sites to make stilts and carts (to which he added wheels and an orange-box) and chopped some of it up to make little bundles which he sold for firewood.
My brother managed to avoid being hit by a doodle-bug when he couldn't get to a shelter in time after the air raid siren had sounded. He and his friend, who were in the street, saw it coming towards them and suddenly a man grabbed them from behind and flung them down on the pavement behind a wall. There was a tremendous explosion as it landed in the nearby cemetery with debris everywhere, he was terrified. Another time, he was in a swimming pool when the siren sounded and all the swimmers dashed upstairs to safety. There was a terrific explosion and the glass roof shattered and fell directly on to the pool. It was a miracle that they were not still in the pool. The bomb had fallen at the nearby Clapham Junction railway station and one of Ken's friends, who was helping in a local butcher's shop was killed. Ken immediately dashed home as we lived near the station and he was very worried about my mother, but despite the fact that she was in shock, fortunately she wasn't hurt.
My father was serving in the Royal Navy on the guns of HMS Warspite on convoys to Iceland and Russia. He experienced some bitter battles but when he came home on leave to see us in London, he always said that he would sooner be fighting for his country in the Navy than be poor helpless civilians like us just praying that we would be safe and being unable to do little to defend ourselves. All we had was faith and hope.
Unlike the doodle-bugs, the V2 rockets which came afterwards streaked stealthily across the sky without warning. There were no wailing air raid sirens to terrify us and although we were completely unprepared, we were spared the dreaded anticipation of another bombing raid. However, on reflection, it was better to be prepared as we could at least find a nearby air raid shelter for protection. Also when the all-clear siren was sounded we knew that we could probably safely carry on with our lives until the next air raid.
One V2 rocket experience which I can remember vividly was sitting in the local cinema with my friend Rita and like everyone else were completely absorbed in the film. Quite suddenly, a massive V2 rocket fell just behind the cinema and there was a huge blue flash from the screen which collapsed and the entire cinema was shrouded in choking, blinding smoke and debris. As it was a V2 rocket we had no warning and if it had been a few yards nearer, the cinema would have got a direct hit. The noise was deafening and was coupled with the screams from the audience in their shock and panic to escape. We all crowded to the emergency exits which were flung open and we eventually staggered out into the clean, fresh air. We were breathless from the choking smoke and also from blinding fear. Did I hear a voice in the distance calling "Joan", or was I dreaming? Yes, it was my mother's desperate voice screaming "Joan, Joan, where's my Joan." She knew that I had gone to the local cinema, the Granada, and heard the massive explosion. She dashed out of her house immediately and, to her horror, saw the cinema shrouded in smoke. As we lived nearby she didn't have far to run and finally found me amongst the devastation and confusion. The sense of relief was utterly indescribable.
However, we did get used to continual reprisals including the V2 rockets, as a familiar scene which we saw, when we walked to school each morning, was distraught residents in utter turmoil clawing at the wreckage of their homes which were destroyed the previous night and clutching their pathetic belongings but at least they were still alive.
Our neighbour, Mrs Greenaway, a quiet lady who had a husband who was on a night-shift at the Tate and Lyle sugar factory at Wandsworth, had a very sad experience. One night when he was at the factory, it was hit by a V2 rocket and everyone was killed. As this was a V2 rocket there was no air raid warning and his wife knew absolutely nothing about this until the next morning when she heard some women talking about it in the queue at the local butchers. They said that Tate and Lyle had had a direct hit in the night and she immediately dashed over there on the bus, a distance of about 2 miles, only to find that it had been completely demolished. She staggered about desperately on the rubble until a policeman came over to her and asked her what she was doing. She explained that she was looking for her husband and was told that tragically there were no survivors. She was so helpless and, in utter shock, blindly found her way home. She must have been completely overwrought which resulted in her immediately gassing herself without even stopping to think about it. Her 12 year old daughter Joan discovered her body on returning home from school that day. Sadly when she left for school in the morning, she thought that both her parents were alive. Poor distraught Joan had no alternative but to go and live with her devastated grandparents. This was one of the many tragic statistics of the war. Another one was when I was at school and my art teacher, Mr Carpenter, went home for lunch one day which he did regularly, only to find that his house had been bombed and his wife and young son had been killed. Such was the misery of war.
Huge crowds sought safety and invaded the London Underground every night having claimed an early pitch in the afternoon. They slept with their clothes on, clutching family documents including their identity cards and personal treasures. The Underground at night was a massive picnic with rows of men, women and children all huddled together eating and drinking tea and soft drinks. The air was always stale and there was often a stench of smoke and brick dust in the air which was frequented by mosquitoes. Apart from this however, my mother strongly objected to sleeping in the Underground for fear of being trapped. In the Underground station at Balham which was a few miles from Clapham Junction, over 600 people were killed and maimed from a bomb and some were suffocated in their panic and struggle to get out.
Although London was continually bombed day and night and all we ever heard was people saying: "Poor old London copped it again last night. ", other large cities suffered too but not so relentlessly. Nevertheless I was a Londoner and was proud of the spirit that pervaded the city day and night. In those dark days people determinedly got on with life despite the continuous doom and gloom. Life was grim and heartbreaking and the hardship was extremely severe. Despite Hitler's obsession to ultimately invade Great Britain which was only 22 miles across the Channel, it didn't materialise. How different our lives would have been today if the Germans had succeeded in invading our island.
There were horrendous battles on land, sea and in the air and our losses were disastrous, but despite the terrible degradation, we triumphed against all the odds. I can remember us all anxiously crowding around our radios each night when we could, to listen to the news bulletins at 9.pm on the BBC Home Service which constantly kept us in touch although, most of the time, the news was unnervingly daunting. Sir Winston Churchill was our great inspiration and we all anxiously awaited his stirring broadcasts to the nation.
Contributed originally by heather noble (BBC WW2 People's War)
THE SUMMARY OF CAROL AND VIVIENNE’S STORY —
“TWINS” - differs from the other girls in so much, that whilst they grew up enjoying the company of a sister, they were sadly denied the company of a Father, as when they were just 3 weeks old, he was tragically killed in Anzio, Italy. Their Mother’s struggle to survive in the post —world war of scarcity on a widow’s pension, which also had to meet the needs of her two growing daughters, and how she overcame her difficulties to successfully create a happy home for them all, is movingly told by the twins. In those days, when Wandsworth and Clapham Common were — in parts — still countrified suburbs, they have also told of how, whilst growing up there, they roamed freely and safely over them, recalling their many “attractions”, from H.M Prison to the Boating Pond! They conclude with an account of their Mother’s pilgrimage to Anzio, over forty years later, to visit their Father’s grave, when at last she was able to say goodbye. . .
CAROL AND VIVIENNE’S STORY - Unlike the other girls, who did not have the pleasure of growing up in the company of a sister, we did have each other. But sadly, we were never to know the company of a Father. As when we were just 3 weeks old, he was tragically killed in Anzio, Italy.
Our Father William Budd, had been born in South West London, as had our Mother Rose Collins. So upon her marriage on August 5th, 1939, at “St Michael’s Church”, Wandsworth Common, she charmingly, became known as “Rose Budd”!
They set up home in the lower part of a house on Clapham Common, where they lived for most of the war.
Our Father was employed as an aircraft fitter at “British Aerospace” in Kingston, Surrey, whilst our Mother “did her bit” working as one of a chain of fire-watchers. Sitting aloft on roofs, balconies and such-like, which did duty as their “headquarters”, they kept a lookout for incendiary bombs and similar substances — reporting any incidents to the local fire service.
Then in September, 1943, our Father was called up for active service and was subsequently sent to Canterbury, Kent for four months training.
During this time, our Mother finding herself pregnant, decided to join him — living in “digs” in the city — so they could meet on his weekly days-off from the camp.
On completion of his training in January 1944, they parted — he to join his regiment “The Sherwood Foresters” as a Lance Corporal — and she, back to their Clapham home.
By the Spring of 1944, the worst of the London raids had eased off, and the new terrors of the “Doodlebugs” were yet to come, nevertheless, pregnant women were still routinely sent out of London to the peace of the countryside to give birth. And so it was, our Mother found herself safely installed in a Nursing Home in the Roman city of St. Albans, Hertfordshire, to await the arrival of her first child. But much to her surprise, in the event, she gave birth to two!
On March 18th 1944, as Germany entered Hungary — the pair of us entered the world. Carol led the way, followed three quarters of an hour later by Vivienne — each of us weighing in at four pounds exactly.
Immediately, a telegram was dispatched to Lance Corporal Budd’s regiment, informing him “That he was now the Father of TWIN daughters!” He replied saying, “That he couldn’t wait to get home to see us all”. But sadly, it was not to be. On April 6th, 1944, whilst fighting in hand-to-hand combat in Anzio, he — together with the entire battalion — was killed. He was 28 years old.
Although utterly devastated at the tragedy that had befallen her, it seems that — after three months convalescence in Hertfordshire - our Mother began to tackle her difficulties with commendable courage, as she tried to come to terms with her new, sad situation back in her Clapham home, where we grew up. .
On August 6th, 1945, the first Atomic bomb was cast upon Hiroshimahi by the U.S.A devastating the city and killing 75,000 Japanese citizens. Then on August 9th a second one was dropped on the city of Nagashi - codenamed “Big Boy” by an American Super Fortress aircraft - killing a further 65,000.
Thus it was that on August 14th at midnight, the new British Prime Minister Clement Atlee, announced to the Nation on the wireless, “That the Japanese has today surrendered and the last of our enemies is laid low”. So with the ghastly power of the atomic bomb, the 2nd World War finally came to an end.
Of course there was universal relief that soon the day would come when the men would be returning home and life for many families’ - after almost six long years of separation — would return to normal.
It can only be imagined the overwhelming sense of loss that our Mother must have felt, that for her, that day would never come. But despite her shattered dreams, with the help and support of our parents large, extended families’, she successfully went on to create a happy home for us all.
During our early years, she decided to be “a-stay-at-home-Mum”, and as she had to be both Mother and Father to “her twins”, the bond between the three of us was unusually strong. But it was not until much later, that we realised just how much we owed to her constant care, companionship and incessant love.
Looking back now, we realise what a terrible struggle she must have had as a young woman trying to make ends meet in a world of scarcity on the pittance of a widow’s pension, which also had to meet our own growing needs. As it was necessary for both of us to have clothes and shoes at the same time, nothing could be handed down. Although she did receive extra help in the form of a small bursary from “The Church of England Children’s Society”, she later told us that at one point, when our Father’s savings had been depleted, she was left with only one shilling in her purse. And she did not know whether to put this into the electric meter, or to buy a loaf of bread, until her pension was due the next day.
Nevertheless, despite her many anxieties and lack of money, we all managed to enjoy life in a quiet way.
As we were fortunate enough to live on Clapham Common and our Grandparents lived on neighbouring Wandsworth Common, daily, Mother wheeled us across them in our large twin pram and later, the pair of us spent many happy hours roaming freely and safely over these wide open spaces. Between us, on our expeditions to and fro, we made some interesting discoveries.
The area surrounding Wandsworth Common, which was originally developed in Victorian times, even by the 1940’s, in parts, still resembled a countrified suburb.
The top of the Common was generally considered to be the better part! Threaded with footpaths, over which we followed, secret gardens, belonging to the “big houses”, could be glimpsed in the roads in-between, where the two Commons — Wandsworth and Clapham — merged.
As well, we explored the little parade of shops, the cemetery, and the railway station — waving to the passengers on the passing trains further down the line - and of course, the ubitiquious bomb sites, which sadly abounded in those post-war days.
Hidden behind some large gates, there was what was then called ”Springfield”, known locally as the “Lunatic Asylum. Complete with its own farm, sometimes, the patients could be seen working here.
There was also Wandsworth Prison, which was as large as a village, originally built with streets of Wardens houses and gardens. And beyond its high walls, lay acres of open ground, which was leased for bowls and tennis courts, where many of us later played.
The façade of the prison was impressive, like a fortress with huge main gates resembling a medieval castle. These gates had a small door let into them and now and again, a notice was posted there notifying the public of when a murderer was to be hanged! Often, on the appointed day, a small crowd collected outside waiting for the dreadful deed to be done.
In contrast, the attractions on Clapham Common were of a very different kind!
As Spring unfolded, we looked out for the early catkins on the budding hazel trees and in Summer, we took our picnics of bread, jam, fairy cakes and a bottle of homemade lemonade and played such simple games as — “film stars”, hop-scotch and skipping.
On sunny, weekend afternoons, families’ flocked to the popular bandstand. Here, the grown-ups sat in deckchairs to listen to the music, whilst we children sailed our toy boats or fished for “tiddlers”in the nearby pond. Then there was the annual arrival of
“The Horse Shows” and the excitement of “The Circus” with its impressive Big Top, which dominated the common.
On misty Autumn days, we walked through the rustling leaves, collecting acorns and conkers and later when the common was covered with snow, the foggy smell of the winter’s coal fires, caught our throats.
Our diet, compared to children’s of today, would be considered very, plain. But we were lucky - that even when our Mother later began working part-time - there was always a well cooked meal awaiting us when we returned home from school. We well remember her savoury suet, roly-poly puddings, dumplings, casseroles and pastry —topped pies, prepared from our meagre meat allowance, which unlike other commodities, were rationed by price, not weight. From 1941, the weekly allowance for an adult, was one shilling and for a child sixpence, and fell into two categories. A= the more expensive joints and B= the cheaper cuts. These were mainly used for stews, or put through the kitchen mincer for rissoles and cottage pies.
Then of course, there were the American “Lend Lease” tins of “SPAM.” Used cold in sandwiches and hot in fritters, all these, became familiar fare to children of our generation.
Beside the usual seasonal fruit and vegetables, of a limited variety, found in the local greengrocers, there was also garden fruit, starting with the early rhubarb and gooseberries and continuing through the Summer months to the last late plums and apples. Blackberries too, were collected for bottling and jam making and were stored in our larders for use in the Winter months.
Alas, our home during those long, bitter Winter’s of the 1940’s were extremely chilly indeed. We could only afford one open coal fire in the living room and an oil heater in the hall, which made smuts when it smoked, and in the dark, made interesting patterns on the ceiling. And the pungency of the paraffin lingered on well into the Spring!
Our bedrooms, being totally unheated, all too frequently had icicles hanging from the INSIDE of the windows, when the temperature fell below zero!
Needless to say, there was little money left over for luxuries, so we did not have a telephone or a television set. But we all enjoyed listening to the wireless together, to such programmes as — “Listen With Mother”, with Daphne Oxenford, “Children’s Hour”, “Children’s Favourites”, Dick Barton” and later “Life With The Lyons”.
There was always a warm welcome awaiting us in both of our Grandparent’s homes and however busy they were, each of them could spare time and love for us.
As sometimes happened with twins back then, Carol had the misfortune to be born with Talipes, a distortion of the foot. So, frequent visits to “Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children” were necessary for treatment and for the fitting of special shoes. On those days when our Mother accompanied Carol to London, Vivienne looked forward to staying behind with our paternal Grandparents. Here, we remember Grandad Budd lifting the kettle onto the kitchen range to boil, whilst Granny Budd knelt in front of the fire with a toasting fork to make toast for our tea.
Equally memorable, were our weekend visits to the Collins household where we regularly joined our maternal relatives for family occasions.
And so surrounded by affection, the early years of our childhood slipped by.
In the Autumn of 1986, over forty years since our Father’s death, our Mother was at long last, able to visit the war graves on a pilgrimage to Anzio, where he was buried. Arranged by the “British Legion”, she travelled in the company of other war widows with whom she had much in common. None of them had enjoyed an easy life. All had known the tragedy of war and the numbing poverty of its aftermath. And yet, almost all had gone on to build successful lives and loving families.
Thus, it came about, that on a quiet September morning, our Mother finally found herself beside our Father’s last resting place. Alone, with head bowed, she stood motionless for a moment, before gently setting her wreath against his memorial cross. Later, she watched the “Union Jack Flag” being lowered upon it, whilst a solitary bugler sounded the Last Post. Who knows what she felt at that time … love, loss and a longing for what might have been?
Before turning to retrace her steps, she lingered to take a final look at the sea of graves around her and thought of all those thousands of young men — all missed and all mourned.
Then as the dying strains of the salute echoed across the cemetery, she reluctantly said her last goodbye and slowly walked away into the Autumnal stillness.