Bombs dropped in the ward of: Wandsworth Common
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Wandsworth Common:
- 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 Wandsworth Common
Read people's stories relating to this area:
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.
Silver Circle Reading Group
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.
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.
Contributed originally by heather noble (BBC WW2 People's War)
9) THE SUMMARY OF JUDY’S STORY — opens with her early thoughts of when she first moved from her Grandparent’s home in Bath, Somerset, to a Pre-Fab on Wandsworth Common, South West London in December 1946. She thinks back to her parent’s wartime roles — of her Father who joined the Army and was posted to South Africa but en route at Egypt, was seriously injured and of her Mother, who enlisted as a Fire-fighter in Bath. As well, she thinks about the paraphernalia of wartime Britain — the ration books, the tins of dried egg, dried milk, pig bins, pig clubs, and Lord Woolton’s British Restaurants. And on her Father’s return, she remembers her christening, her holidays with her Grandparents and a visit to Broadstairs, Kent, where they witnessed an absconding “P.O.W” being shot. She closes with her thoughts of the time she performed in an early post-war dancing display that took place in a “B.O.A.C” hanger — later to become part of Heathrow Airport...
JUDY’S STORY — On a snowy, December day in 1946, I moved with my parents to our new home in South West London, from the city of Bath in Somerset, where I had earlier been born. There, my Mother and I had lived with my maternal Grandparents for much of the war.
I had plenty to think about as I sat on a suitcase, munching a “Lord Woolton’s” mince pie in a freezing pre-fab in Bellvue Road on Wandsworth Common.
My Father had just found a job as a personnel officer with “B.O.A.C” in London, which was the main reason for our move.
Eight years before, my Mother, Audrie May Ford had married my Father, Harold Ash in her native city of Bath. However, as they were first cousins, they faced strong opposition to this union, from both branches of their family’s. Nevertheless, their marriage survived for over half-a-century.
In 1939 my Father was called up, joined the Army and was posted to South Africa. Unfortunately just a short time into his posting - whilst en route to Cape Town - he was involved in a jeep accident in Cairo, Egypt. As he was leaving the vehicle on his way to the barracks, he sustained serious injuries from a ricochet bullet. On his arrival at Cape Town he was immediately hospitalised where he stayed for a considerable length of time. He never recovered sufficiently for future active service and sadly he suffered from the effects of his wounds for the remainder of his life.
Meantime, my Mother had courageously enlisted as a fire fighter in Bath. Before the war, she had studied dance and it seems her training stood her in good stead as she adapted well to her new role. With her natural agility she soon learnt to slide down “The Pole” in double-quick time, giving her, I understand, quite an advantage over her wartime fellow fire fighters!
From 1942, the Luffwaffe launched a sustained offensive against Britain’s historic cities and Bath was a key target. So for a while my Mother was in the thick of the bombing and saw unimaginable horrors.
Later, she told me about one elderly couple who would wait for her at their gate after her shift was over and kindly give her a cup of tea. Then one day, as she was passing by, she was shocked to see that during the night their house had been hit and both were killed outright.
During my early years of living in the city and being in daily contact with Granny Ford, I have many memories of how she and my Mother struggled with all the paraphernalia of wartime Britain. I particularly remember my special child’s ration book for which the points were exchanged for such unforgettable wartime substitutes as tins of Dried Eggs, which made rubbery omelettes and “National Dried Milk”, which made lumpy puddings. And soon the homely blue and cream tins became familiar household objects.
I remember too, another wartime food scheme — “The Pig Bins” which were devised to collect vegetable waste for swill to feed the pigs. Granny Ford was a keen supporter of them! Daily we collected our potato peelings and scraps of left over vegetables and together we carefully stowed them in a bucket, which she kept by her back door. I believed it was emptied weekly.
Then later, when we moved to London, Pig Bins were to be seen on most corners of the suburban streets. “SAVE YOUR BACON, SAVE YOUR SCRAPS”, proclaimed the conspicuous posters!
As well as the Pig Bins, it was here in Wandsworth in 1940, that the first of the “A.R.P” Pig Clubs were opened and these soon became popular in other towns and cities. Pigs were bought, fattened up and when they were killed — usually in November — all members of the clubs were entitled to a prize, piece of pork for their Christmas dinners!
Also in 1940 London, the first of Lord Woolton’s British Restaurants were opened. Their original purpose was to cater for bombed out Londoners, but soon the idea spread countrywide. Many were accommodated in dingy church halls, run by the “W.I” and the “W.V.S” and became known locally under such names as “Maisie’s Menu’s and Dora’s Dinners”!
The meals they provided were cheap but rarely cheerful! 3 courses for a shilling — children ate for half-price.
After customers had collected their tickets from a pay desk at the door, they queued with their trays in front of a counter on a self-service basis. The food was served on plain white, utility crockery and a typical mid-week menu would be — soup, rabbit pie or braised liver and on Friday’s — pilchard pancakes or snoek — an unpalatable tinned Australian fish. These dishes would be accompanied by potatoes, parsnips and watery cabbage, followed by either sultana roll or a baked but burst suet apple dumpling with runny custard, all washed down with a penny cup of stewed tea!
On the wall a notice read - “PLEASE DO NOT ASK FOR BREAD UNLESS YOU REALLY NEED IT”!
These schemes continued for long after the war had ended.
My paternal Grandparents lived in an old cottage in the market town of Ringwood on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire. And my main memories of my visits there, was going to bed by candlelight and waking up in the mornings to see Granny Ash appearing in the doorway, carrying a tray upon which there was a jug of hot water — there was no bathroom here — a cup of tea and a slice of delicious home-made bread, spread with real, country butter. In those days this was a rare treat!
Thinking back now, I suppose it was due to my Father’s long absence abroad, but several years had elapsed from the time of my birth to the time of my baptism, which eventually took place at St. Mary’s Church, Bath.
As a young woman, Granny Ash had trained as a tailoress and so it was she, who naturally undertook to make my Christening dress — from white PARACHUTE SILK! It was beautiful. I have been told that I looked very fetching standing beside the font surrounded by my family and friends. I had looked forward eagerly to the ceremony -only to have my hopes dashed when unexpectedly I looked up to see the kindly Vicar depositing a full jug of water over my head. I was four years old!
Although Ringwood was our usual holiday place at that time, I particularly remember a Summer visit to Broadstairs, Kent. One day when we were sitting on the sand dunes, we saw a lone man running in the direction of the sea. Suddenly a shot rang out and we watched in horror as he fell down into the rock-pools before us! Later we learnt that the fleeing figure was that of a “P.O.W” making an ill-fated bid for his freedom.
The memory of that tragic incident has remained with me over the years.
Back in London, the aftermath of the war was felt everywhere. Food continued to be in short supply. But now and again there would be the occasional treat. I well remember the day I was taken out to lunch at a smart restaurant, where I was given some creamy, delicious soup. So unaccustomed was I to such richness, that before my bowl could be whisked away, I unashamedly lifted it up and licked it clean! I hardly need to say my parents were utterly shocked!
I also remember the day I tasted my first pineapple. A colleague of my Father’s at “B.O.A.C” had brought it back to England on a flight from South Africa. Until then the nearest we “War Babies” had ever come to this tropical fruit, was some wartime concoction called “ Pineapple Spread” made from parsnips, golden syrup and a dash of pineapple essence. There was no comparison!
It was during this early post-war period that my Mother decided to open her Dancing Classes — “The Ash School of Dancing” in Wiseton hall on Wandsworth Common. And later several of the girls from “Upper Tooting High” became her pupils. One was my special friend Susan, whose Mother Frances, became my Mother’s pianist.
One particular performance, which stands out in my mind, took place in a “B.O.A.C” hanger near a runway on the outskirts of London.
Every Christmas a wonderful party for the children of “B.O.A.C” employees was held there, and “we girls” were lucky enough to be invited to provide the entertainment. A coach was sent to collect us from Wiseton Hall and we were driven there in style.
After the performance came, in our eyes, the highlight of the afternoon - when superb refreshments, sweets and presents were distributed amongst us. We loved it all!
Then laden with our treasures, we were driven away through the flat fields of Middlesex, which over the succeeding years became Heathrow Airport — one of the busiest airports in the world!
Contributed originally by heather noble (BBC WW2 People's War)
10) THE SUMMARY OF FRANCES’S STORY — starts with her nostalgic recollections of the family’s suburban homes and those who shared them, in the 1940’s. The spacious Victorian Villa on Wandsworth Common, South West London, where she lived as a small child, her paternal family’s comfortable home in leafy Cheam, Surrey, which was a world apart from her maternal grandmother’s cramped council house in Lower Tooting. She also recalls visits to her parent’s hairdressing salon, the neighbouring undertakers, the cinema, The Locarno, the corner shop and the freedom to roam the streets of 1940’s London unaccompanied. She carries on her story with recollections of the Black Market and the impact of the “Doodlebugs”, which in 1944 prompted the 2nd mass evacuation of London’s children of which she was one — travelling with her mother to Wallasey, Liverpool, to stay with an elderly aunt. And on her post-war return, of being unhappily fostered whilst her mother was admitted to hospital...
FRANCES’S STORY — This is a nostalgic account of one of the most memorable periods of my life — living as a small child in the suburban surroundings of South West London during the 1940’s.
My Father Jack, was a successful businessman and although he suffered ill-health as a schoolboy- resulting in a disrupted education — by the time he was 21, he owned his own business as a Master Hairdresser and Beautician.
My Mother Janet, who had also trained as a Hair- Stylist, worked first for him then later married him in London on September 3rd, 1936, exactly 3 years before the outbreak of World War 2.
After a fairytale honeymoon on a cruise ship to Madeira, they returned to set up home on Wandsworth Common. The house of their choice was a spacious 3 storey Villa, I imagine built in late Victorian times. There was a small front garden and a larger one at the back, where in 1939, an Anderson shelter was erected.
Unlike most women of the 1930’s, my Mother - after her marriage — worked, alongside of my Father at their hairdressing salon, but more of this anon.
It was not until later in the war when I made my first appearance — in a private nursing home in Wimbledon. My Father was then 32 years old and had earlier served in the Army. But he had been invalided out, which meant that he returned to the salon and I believe, combined the business with working in the “A.R.P” (Air Raid Precaution)
At what stage my parents decided to employ a Housekeeper, I do not know, but from my earliest memory she was always there, running the home, whilst my Mother was absent.
We all enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle in that spacious house on Wandsworth Common and I now see as I look back, just what a privileged childhood I had, although of course, I did not appreciate it at the time! It was not until much later, that I realised that not everyone had shared my good fortune, especially during those long years of 1940’s austerity.
Outside of our house, on the tree lined road, stood our black “Austin” car and it seemed to be the only one in sight! I remember sitting in solitary splendour behind the wheel and frightening myself into quaking terror, as I pressed the ignition, starting the engine into life!
As well as being the proud owners of a black car, we had a black telephone and a big brown wireless set, which my parents crowded around to listen to the 9 o’clock news on the Home Service and Churchill’s stirring broadcasts, whilst I looked forward to “Children’s Hour” and the familiar voice of “Uncle Mac” (Derek McCulloch) and his much-loved character of “Larry the Lamb”.
We were also the proud owners of one of the earliest black and white television sets. I do not know exactly when my parents acquired this prized possession, but we certainly had one during the1940’s. And my Father generously bought a set apiece for both of my Grandparents too. One of my favourite early post- war programmes was singing along with Annette Mills and “Muffin the Mule”!
My paternal family consisted of my Grandfather Charles, my Grandmother Evelyn, my Aunt Alice, her cousin, my Uncle Gordon and a lodger, known to me as “my Uncle Jack”. They all lived together in a pleasant house in Cheam, Surrey, which my Father had helped them to buy.
Unfortunately, my maternal Grandmother Isabel, a proud lady, was not so lucky, and lived alone in very, straightened circumstances, in a cramped council house in Lower Tooting — a world apart from leafy Cheam - and within quite a long walking distance away from our own comfortable home.
Her husband, my Grandfather, Thomas Bell, had served in France in the Scots Guards as a Sergeant in the London Regiment during the First World War and was one of many young men who had shared the fate of thousands of others. They tragically died from gas poisoning, leaving their young wives to bring up their Fatherless children on their own.
The atmosphere surrounding the house in Cheam and the house in Lower Tooting was very different. And it is the latter- where my Mother and my Aunt Kit grew up - that I remember most vividly.
One of hundreds of identical dwellings, they had been built at the turn of the 20th century on land bordering the lavender fields of Mitcham. It was then very rural. But by the middle of the century, the estate had become a very depressing place indeed. Up until my Granny’s death in 1958, the black-out blinds were still in full use, making the atmosphere even more depressing!
The only redeeming feature in that gloomy home was a wonderful old dolls house that an Uncle had made for my Mother when she herself, was just a little girl.
I think it was made in the “Queen Anne” style and came complete with furniture, little figures and a toilet. I adored playing with it!
Outside of my Grandmother’s back door was a small scullery and a lavatory. Both had the fresh and unforgettable smell of coal tar which came from the big blocks of “Lifebuoy” soap, with which during my visits I washed my hands in the old stone sink.
Absurd as it may seem today, then, I felt quite sure that my Grandmother’s house was haunted!
My parent’s hairdressing business was called “Maurice Loader” the Permanent Waving House,” in Upper Tooting, and daily my Father left the house early, to work there. Sometimes my Mother accompanied him on the days when she helped in the salon.
Upstairs was a Barber’s shop, which my Father ran and downstairs was the Ladies Department. “Marcell Waving” was then a popular style amongst their female clientele. And in the privacy of separate cubicles, the lengthy process of creating continuous waves — tram lines — was achieved by special irons!
There were several local, theatrical residents and many of “The Stars” of the day, regularly frequented the shop. One name which comes to mind is Betty Box, the famous film producer, who with her brother Sydney, produced wartime documentaries.
When I was older I was occasionally taken along to the salon to watch my Mother at work — I suspect when there was no one available to look after me at home. But I cannot remember being particularly interested! I much preferred the busy atmosphere of the neighbouring Undertakers! This business was owned by a good friend of my parents and I often found my way into the back of these premises. Here, I was fascinated to see the coffins being made and stacked. I just loved the smell of all that wood!
One day I was given the most bizarre toy — a small, wooden coffin with a tiny “body” inside. It had some sort of magnet and when the lid was lifted, the body popped up! I do not know if it had been made especially for me. But I have never seen another!
Despite heavy penalties, being imposed, the Black-Market was rife and I believe a certain amount of this “unofficial trading” was carried out behind the scenes of both businesses. At this distance in time, I cannot say with any certainty, from whence this dubious merchandise came, but I suspect that much of it had” fallen off the back of lorries”, before finally finding its way under our counters and no doubt under the coffins too!
Across the road from our home lived a family of four children — two boys, two girls and their Mother. There was no sign of their Father. When anyone asked after his whereabouts, it was said “that he was serving in the British Army”. Years later I suspected that he was probably serving time in “H.M Prison” as that feckless family had a reputation for being light-fingered!
The youngest boy was called Christopher and despite my parent’s understandable disapproval — that he might lead me astray — Christopher soon became my special little friend. Tagging along behind him, together we’d climb over the locked railings of the deserted recreation ground to play on the slides, swings and roundabouts. For then it seemed perfectly safe for we children to venture out alone and it was quite taken for granted that help to cross the roads would be willingly given by a kindly passer-by.
Sometimes Christopher and I wandered down our road, hand-in-hand to the corner shop to buy iced lollies. Those brightly coloured lollies came in a variety of colours and tasted absolutely delicious. But alas, they were eventually banned, once it was discovered that they contained traces of lead!
Another memory I have, is going into Christopher’s bathroom. Here we licked the pink “Euythymol” toothpaste from the tin, pretending it was sweets!
It appeared that Christopher knew his way around the capital very well indeed — hopping on and off the red London buses — presumably” forgetting” to pay his fare! One of his scams was to “lift” produce displayed outside of Greengrocer’s shops, with the irate shopkeeper invariably giving chase!
And another was to ask Servicemen — of which then, there were very many — for money! He soon realised that he was more likely to be looked upon favourably, if he had a little female accomplice — ME!
So one memorable morning I was “persuaded” to accompany him! Fortunately, a concerned neighbour saw us setting off on our spree and alerted my parents. Needless to say, they were absolutely livid!
In common with millions of others, one of my Mother’s greatest pleasures, when not working, were regular visits to the cinema. These “Picture-Goers” queued for hours, in all weathers, for a seat in one of the many “Big Picture Houses”, which had been created as escapism away from the bombed-out and darkened streets of Wartime Britain .As well as the main picture, such as Hollywood’s offerings of
“Mrs. Miniver” and “Gone with the Wind”, there was a B- Movie, the ever important newsreel and an organ recital.
Film shows were even given to “tube- dwellers” in the London Undergrounds. I do not know if these unfortunates were enjoying such a show on that fateful night - when Balham Underground received a direct hit, killing hundreds- but in a local cinema, my Mother and my Aunt Alice certainly were. So engrossed in the films, they sat on until the end of the evening — completely oblivious to the tragedy that was unfolding nearby.
As soon as I was old enough, my Mother took me along with her to “The Matinees”, to see films which she thought would appeal, such as the spectacular musical comedies with their ravishing costumes, and Walt Disney’s “Dumbo the Elephant” and “The Wizard of Oz,” with which I was enchanted.
Sometimes we went to the glamorous “Granada” in Tooting Broadway. There, the usherettes wore gold blouses, blue slacks, cloaks and pill box hats!
Occasionally, as an extra treat, my Mother would take me upstairs to the gilded restaurant, and here, in their frilly white caps and aprons waitresses served us afternoon tea.
Later, there were the occasional outings to the “Locarno Ballroom” in nearby Streatham. Here, the popular “Tea Dances” of the 1940’s were then in full swing. From the Spectator’s Gallery, we watched a sea of young couples take to the floor. Suspended high above them was a huge glitter ball, which as it revolved, sprinkled the dancers with a rainbow of reflective lights. And to the accompaniment of the music of one of the big bands, the girls in the arms of their partners swayed to the evocative strains of such wartime songs as “In the Mood” and “Moonlight Seranade”.
In June, 1944, just a week after the D-day invasion of Europe, the first V1’S and V2’S arrived — nicknamed “Doodlebugs”. My Mother told me that the V1 engines emitted a buzzing noise, but once the engines stopped, there followed a sudden silence — when if time permitted — we took refuge in our Anderson Shelter. There, we waited for the ear splitting explosion!
On other occasions my Mother huddled in our sitting room under our “Baby Grand Piano” with my Father- when he was at home — shielding her with his body on top!
One day a bomb eventually hit but luckily missed the house, landing in our back garden.
In contrast, the V2’s rockets arrived without any warning whatsoever and their missiles fell with a supersonic bang! These last of Hitler’s revenge weapons — which killed and injured thousands - prompted a 2nd mass evacuation of children from London. And it was then, that my Mother and I evacuated to Wallasey, on the Mersey, Liverpool to stay for a brief respite, with an elderly Aunt. We travelled on a crowded train packed with other evacuees, whilst my Father stayed behind to look after the business.
Later in London, my Mother told me that one night, she was so afraid she purposely became a little tipsy. And on another, as a distraction from the exploding “Doodlebugs” we sat in bed together and one-by-one she took out the curlers from her hair, saying, “There, goes another one Bang!” — pretending they were bombs!
Even after the war officially ended, I distinctly remember the spine chilling sound of the Air Raid warning, followed by one long sustained note, which heralded the “All Clear”.
It transpired that these post-war wailing sirens were being tested. For what I wondered!?
It must have been about this time when my Mother was admitted to hospital to undergo surgery. As she stayed there for quite a while, and there was no one to look after me, it was arranged for me to be sent away to be fostered.
When I first arrived at my foster home, I was shown a special chair which I was told would be mine during my stay. But the reality was a little different. There were several other children in the family and so my chair was seldom vacant! Being an only child, I was not used to this and I became withdrawn and fretted that my parents had deserted me!
One day my Father came to visit and although he did not take me home with him, as I had hoped, he must have seen my distress. As shortly after, he came and collected me.
Just before we reached our house, he stopped the car, crossed over to the other side of the street and went into a toy shop. When he emerged, he was carrying the most beautiful large red trike! I assumed that this wonderful gift was my compensation for being so unhappily fostered. Oh, how I loved that trike!
Home at last and our housekeeper kindly agreed to care for me until my Mother’s return.
Although at that time, children were rarely allowed to visit patients in hospital, somehow it was arranged to make an exception in my case.
I can see my Mother now, propped up in bed against her pillows, in her frilly nightgown with such a loving expression upon her face. Everyday after that, I was taken for a walk to the hospital. There, in the grounds I waited expectantly for a glimpse of her at the ward window, through which we delightedly waved.
My Mother’s re-appearance had re-assured me. And it was not very long before I was back to my old self once again.
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