Bombs dropped in the ward of: Warwick
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Warwick:
- 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 Warwick
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by DOUGLAS ROTHERY (BBC WW2 People's War)
Chapter XI - A Proud Epitaph
Shelling had now become extremely intensive and have been warned to expect a counter attack. A tank to our front was a blazing inferno and was close to a stone built barn, two of my Section requested permission to go to the toilet and they ran to the stone barn, but no sooner had they disappeared inside, it was hit simultaneously by two shells and we couldn't see the barn for a cloud of dust. I was thinking well that's their lot, when out of the dust two figures emerged running like the clappers holding up their trousers, as you can imagine we roared with laughter especially when one them said, 'It was a sure cure for constipation'.
I am not exaggerating when I say that for every minute of the day and night the shelling and salvoes of rockets from the Moaning Minnies were terrifying, one continuous barrage, I have never known such a concentration before on such a comparatively small area. We could hear women and children screaming in terror in the houses to our rear many of which were ablaze, lighting up a moon-less sky. This barrage was still continuing in the morning with the same ferocity, no let up, it was most traumatic and horrifying witnessing this onslaught without any means of personal retaliation but just standing there awaiting the chance perhaps of a reciprocal respite when given the order to advance, these experiences cannot be expressed in words or films. Our exact map location at that very moment I hadn't the slightest idea mainly because Section leaders are not in possession of such, what I did know is that our presence was not at all entente cordial.
Regardless of this slaughter taking place around us, out comes Dad, God bless him, with our mess tins of precious sustenance, dumps it, then scurries back to where he has hidden our vehicle. No sooner had he done so, we sat down on the floor of the trench to partake of our meagre breakfast, leaving Gdsm: Bowse standing on guard and acting waiter. He was in the process of handing me my mess tin by reaching over two others when there was an almighty explosion. I was flung backwards by a terrific force and momentarily stunned. There was a few seconds silence ,then I called on the Mother of God for divine intervention and succour. I eventually could see out of one eye my hearing was naturally impaired, blood was pouring down my face, my arms felt stiff and numb, the front of my tunic was ripped away and both sleeves were in tatters. The poor unfortunate who was leaning over to me, Guardsman Bowse was killed, two others were injured no doubt his body protected us from more serious injuries. I was to learn some time later that a rocket shell had hit the perimeter of the trench so if it had happened a few seconds before we would have been all standing up. Someone put a bandage around my head and eyes and helped me and others into a vehicle which took us to the First aid post about a mile back. They cleaned me up a bit, re-bandaged my head and eyes, put both arms in slings then put me in an ambulance to be taken to the base hospital. No sooner had I laid down in the ambulance than I felt a joy of relief, everything seemed so peaceful, just the rumbling of shell fire in the distance as I gradually unwound from the tension and trauma of hell plus the fact I couldn't remember when I slept last, I was certainly going to make up for it as I went completely out.
Waking up as the cold air hit me, I was carried in on a stretcher into the Base hospital which was a very large marquee somewhere in France. After being put to bed a doctor along with a couple of others gave me a thorough examination and removed the slings from my arms. Apparently my chest arms and face were like a pepper pot caused, according to the doctor, by fragmented stones, these he said would eventually come to the surface and was nothing to worry about and were also in the muscles of my arms causing them to be stiff.
I remained in bed for about 3 weeks whilst they treated my ears and eyes and eventually allowed me to go to the washroom which was the first chance I had of seeing my face and it was a peculiar experience because I didn't recognise myself. Apart from it being peppered it was blown up like a balloon caused by the blast and my eyes were just slits, it was a bit of a shock. They seemed quite concerned about my eyes more so than my ears, which has left me with a steam train passing with its whistle blowing.
Whilst here I felt very proud when other patients on hearing that I was a Grenadier would come over to congratulate me on the achievements of the Guards Armoured Division. ( Div: sign:-- 'The Ever Open Eye'), a sign by looking at me, that must have seemed a contradiction.
This also gave me the opportunity to reflect on the trauma an infantry man uniquely experiences, yet at the end of his stint is not even given any more consideration to those who although not in earshot of enemy action are entitled to the same Campaign recognition which to me makes the medal significance less rewarding. (The powers that be I imagine would say 'You were only doing what was expected of you").. Shame.
After about six weeks I was informed that I along with others were to be flown back to Blighty, I was elated. One morning I along with about ten others, some on stretchers, found ourselves in the corner of a field where there was a lone Dakota, it wasn't long before we were up and away. Flying low over the channel to escape radar detection and on nearing the home coast we climbed, it was a wonderful feeling looking down on a peaceful countryside bathed in sunlight so much so I pointed this out to a fellow on a stretcher whom I expected to share my enthusiasm but he only gave me a scornful look. I then realised he was a Jerry.
We landed somewhere in West Bromwich because it was to a hospital there where I was to stay for a short while, thank goodness! It was very primitive. I was then transferred to a Birmingham hospital where I was eventually allowed out in regulation hospital blue and red tie thus giving me the opportunity to visit an Aunt. I was then transferred to Leamington Spa to the 'Home for the Incurables.' I hasten to add that service personnel were in a separate ward. Each evening a Victorian battle-axe of a matron would literally march through the ward with her entourage, who endeavoured to keep up with her, whilst the patients that were able, had to stand at the foot of their bed until she had passed through, you then had to go to bed. As there were no radio or headphones in the ward we naturally, being interested in the progress of the war sought permission to be allowed to hear the 9pm news in the Rest room, this was refused because it would upset the procedural practice carried on in the hospital for decades. It was decided that it was about time the rules were changed, so come 9pm we would sneak downstairs until one night we were reported. To cut a long story short I was appointed as spokesman and had to appear before the Head Administrator who threatened to report me to the army authorities, I likewise their draconian method of administration. We were granted permission to hear the 9pm news with a promise of headphones for each bed.
After a few months I was sent to Stoke-on-Trent convalescent army camp where after being issued with new clobber I was to meet up with many of my mates now patched up and eager to get back at the enemy. (If you believe that you will believe anything). I was very surprised to meet R.S.M Hufton who had certainly mellowed after his battle inoculation, I didn't know he had been wounded. He called me over and asked me what I was doing that afternoon. I nearly said 'I didn't know you cared'. Anyway he treated me to a football match between Stoke and Portsmouth and afterwards to a Cafe for a tea and a wad. 'There you are, they are human after all'.
After idling our time away here for a few weeks all Grenadiers were sent to Victoria barracks Windsor where I was to meet up with more patched up heroes straining on the leash, but before doing so there was much reminiscing over pints with old acquaintances, one of them being a Sergeant Twelftree who was a pall bearer at the funeral of HM King George V and was one of my buddies when we first went out to France so we had plenty to celebrate about. Unfortunately they were all to rejoin their units with the exception of Corporal Griffiths ex heavy and light heavy weight Brigade boxing champion who, like me was now downgraded to C2 and was to be my Corporal of the guard at the barracks one night. On reveille, Griffiths on dismounting the sentry, (who by the way was a recruit,) marched him into the guardroom and gave him the order to unload and in doing so the recruit inadvertently left a round up the breech and on pressing the trigger the bullet went into the ceiling scattering plaster all around the guardroom much to the amusement of Griff; who was curled up in muffled laughter behind him. The Picket officer a [Young Chicko] walked in immediately afterwards and I thought he had heard the report but apparently hadn't, which I imagined should have woken up all of Windsor, but he was just checking the Tattoo report as part of his duty by asking 'Everything all right Sergeant'. He didn't look anymore than 18yrs old and was at the same time walking around the guardroom tapping the plaster from side to side with his stick. When I explained what had happened he just said 'Oh, oh railly, oh, oh' and off he went. The recruit got off with a reprimand, I believe the shock it gave him was ample punishment.
Whilst here I received a Regimental Christmas and New Year card with the Divisional sign of the Guards Armour (the ever open eye) on the front cover, the card denoted the capture of Nijmegan among other battle honours and it was sent to me by L/Cpl Cox(Nobby) who was one of my Section before he got promoted. I was to learn later that he must have been killed whilst the card was in the post. 'God Bless'.
I was talking to a group of Americans who dressed in their army uniform were waiting at the main gate and had apparently arrived back from France the day before,and I asked them how much they enjoyed the luxurious accommodation of Victoria barracks, I am afraid their response wasn't at all complimentary. They said they were the Glen Miller band and were awaiting their leaders arrival. His disappearance to this day still remains a mystery.
Being downgraded, all that my duties comprised of here were Sergeant-In-Waiting and Sergeant of the barrack guard roles, so R.S.M. Snapper Robinson I should imagine decided that I might have some undiscovered talents which were not forthcoming here because he passed the Buck and me with it to 'Stobbs camp' near Hawick where I was to discover to my amazement, my mate of old standing Dennis Ward of No5 Section who told me that soon after my encounter he was shot receiving a bullet wound in the shoulder and was now pronounced fit enough to be shot at again and therefore was training with a contingent of Grenadiers for Far Eastern engagements.
I don't believe their gastronomic considerations were very high on their priority list because I was sent to H.Q Company to be in charge of their rations where each week I along with a driver in a 15cwt truck would have to proceed to Edinburgh to buy from the N.A.A.F.I. store, an amount determined by the manipulation of an allowance considered enough to sustain about fifty or so hungry warriors. One particular morning I was informed to report for Company Commanders Orders where I was expecting to be formally told that I had been recommended for promotion, unfortunately on meeting the Company Commander, he had just discovered at this late hour, that I was not A.1 and therefore was extremely sorry but it must be denied me. If the reason for not being upgraded was due to unsatisfactory ration distribution or whatever, I might have understood, but the lesson to be learnt is, when you go into battle, Its not only your life that is on the line but also your promotion so for goodness sake keep your head down. My ambition to join the Police when hostilities ceased was also shattered. Regardless of these adversities, I am proud to say my compensatory reward was having been in the company of wonderful comrades who also experienced the honour of being contributors to the historical glory of an equally glorious regiment
Whilst I was here peace was declared in May 1945 so my rationed superior recipients either seeking revenge or the alternatives to prunes and custard each Sunday lunch, decided to transfer my expertise to( Sefton Park) Slough where I was to remain until my demobilisation and in keeping with the usual Service administrative protocol, I was sent to the furthest point in the South of England, 'Penzance' Demobilisation Centre instead of the one close by namely Reading.
On arrival I was to be very disappointed with the few suits available and when I mentioned this they were very apologetic and came out with the old cliche, 'If sir would come back tomorrow when they were expecting a new consignment', Some hope! No homing instincts were to dominate my dress sense and I was to choose one I considered less conspicuous of the few remaining, a blue serge, which I am sure was made from a dyed army 'U' blanket in which I furtively crept away in, with the princely sum of 75 pounds for which I signed for. So after completing 8yrs with the colours because of the war, instead of the 4yrs in which I enlisted, I was to return home on the 2nd of March 1946 at the age of 26 years to the same establishment in which I left to join up.
That said, I reflect with sadness but with tremendous pride the heroic memories of those whose supreme sacrifice along with their past comrades, have contributed so generously and honourably to the proud epitaph of "THE BRITISH GRENADIERS".
2615652 EX L/SGT ROTHERY. D.. Arthur Baker survived the war after serving his time in the 3rd Batt:and we were never to meet up again until approx; 10yrs after joining the army together. He was married and lived in Guilford
Contributed originally by BBC LONDON CSV ACTION DESK (BBC WW2 People's War)
"I'm a cockney born in Kingsbury Road near the Ball's Pond Road in the East End in 1937, so I was like 4, 5 and 6 when all this happened. I went to a Catholic School and during the Blitz when the air-raid sirens went, we'd get under the table and our teacher would say 'now you've got to pray' so we all prayed until the all-clear went.
One morning at 3, my mum's sister cam in and said 'there's a big bomb dropped near the old lady's house - that's what we called my gran - but she said she's all right. We rushed down the road and saw that a bomb had dropped on a school. I'll never forget, there wasn't a window left in none of the houses around. We went into a schoolhouse, the door was wide open, and there was blind man upstairs which they got our early; the whole ceiling had come down on him. We went into the kitchen and there was only about three bits of plaster left. The plaster round the rose on the ceiling was about the only bit left. I asked the blind man if he was okay and he said 'yeah' so I made him a cup of tea. We was lucky because if that bomb had dropped at three o'clock in the afternoon it would have killed all the kids.
I'll never forget this, the front door swung open and a fireman stood there. He said 'Everyone all right?' and one of the women said, well, I can't say what she said, but to the effect of 'that xxxxx Hitler can't kill me!'
We lived off the Ridley Road at the time and during one of the air raids one night, everyone went down the shelters and my dad said to me "Want to watch the airplanes?' My mum said 'That's not a good idea', anyway, he put me on his shoulders and we stood in the doorway and watched the dog-fights overhead. And I tell you, when them German planes got caught in the headlights, they had a hell of a job to get out. Anyway, the morning after these raids, all us kids'd go out collecting shrapnel from the shells, I had a great big box of the stuff.
Was I scared? Only when I was in bed at night and the air-raid warning went. When you're asleep and you suddenly woke, you didn’t' know what was happening so it was pretty frightening. At that age, you didn't know what air raids were all about. Some of the time I slept in the cupboard under the stairs and it felt a bit safer there.
One day, I went round to the corner to my aunt's house and she was sitting by the window when there was an air-raid warning. Inside the window where she was sitting was a table with a statue on it. They told her to come in away from the window. I'll never forget this, there was a bomb blast, the window come in and the statue toppled off the table and onto the floor. If she hadn't have moved, she'd have been covered with flying glass.
My dad didn't go in the army, because he was wanted on the railways. He took me down the dog racing one day at Hackney Wick. This flying bomb - a doodle-bug it was - suddenly appeared over us. You could see every detail of it. We all ran. It went right across the track and dropped in a field somewhere.
One day a landmine dropped near us in Kingsbury Road and didn't go off. A fellow came down from the Bomb Disposal unit, to try to disconnect it and he got killed. Opposite us there was a block of flats and they named it after him - Ketteridge Court.
I was evacuated for a little time, to Kettering, but I don't remember much about it, only that I didn't like it. I'd have to ask my mum about it. She's 100 but still remembers everything.
Me and my family are Pearly Kings and Queens and we do a lot of charity work, entertaining with music and the old cockney songs and that (Phone 020 8556 5971). We are now the biggest 'Pearly' family, made up mostly of the Hitchins (my mum's family name) in Hoxton, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Clapton, Shoredich, Hommerton, Dalston, City of London, Westminster, Victoria, Islington and Stoke Newington. "
Contributed originally by Civic Centre, Bedford (BBC WW2 People's War)
Douglas Bader flew with two artificial legs, but I think I was the only servicewoman driver with one leg.
I joined the WAAF in 1942 and trained in Blackpool, my test being taken in a three ton lorry on a Saturday afternoon in August. After that experience I was based at Moon's Garage, Horseferry Road, London, where I worked as a driver.
On 24th February 1944 I was returning from the Queen's Ice Rink, Bayswater, on foot (Gloucester Street) when there was an air raid near Victoria Station. An enemy plane was caught in the search lights and jettisoned its bomb load. These blew up across the street, and I was hit by part of a bomb and lost my left leg. There was no pain - I can remember people asking me the phone number of my next of kin which I gave them. I did not lose consciousness. I nearly died, loss of blood, etc. I was taken to Westminster Hospital where I remained for four weeks. When I arrived I said that I had never had so many men around me at that time of night. After a while I was allowed to sit out on the first floor balcony. Then one day I received a letter addressed to "The lady in the green dressing gown on the first floor balcony". He said he was a civil servant and had noticed me, and would like to meet me. He said that the next day as he passed by he would raise his hat so I would know who he was. You can imagine that the nurses found this very amusing and looked out for the man lifting his hat from behind the curtains. We did meet but that was the end of the story.
After leaving hospital I went home to my parents at Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire. I went to Roehampton Limb Fitting Centre in south west London as an outpatient. It was several months before my artificial leg was ready for me. Then I had to relearn to cycle, ride a horse, drive, dance, swim, sail and canoe. Later I did rock climbing and abseiling. My parents were wonderful and encouraged me in my recovery, and never tried to stop me trying to do things.
When I was fit for service the WAAF offered me an office job, but I wanted to drive again. They took some convincing, but I was reinstated as a driver after I passed a further test. I drove VIPs all over England until the end of the war.
Contributed originally by archben (BBC WW2 People's War)
After the Easter holiday in 1938 I began my second year at Ensham Central School in Tooting in South London. The need for a bicycle to get to the school from Streatham had given me the opportunity to widen my little world. One of my expeditions the year before had been to find out where the great biplanes of Imperial Airways landed. So I found Croydon Aerodrome, there in front of me was a square brick building that was the terminal and control tower all in one. On top of the tower was a radio mast, which made it look really modern and up to date. I rode my bike up to the side of the building where there was an iron fire escape up to the flat roof, so I climbed up, there being no one about to say no. Once on the roof I could see the whole grass field. The huge biplanes Horatius and Scylla were parked right up to the building and I could see the people working in the control tower. I returned many times. So that when at the end of September I sat by the wireless in our kitchen, listening to the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain speaking on his return from talks with Hitler, I felt part of the event as he was standing just below my roof top position. His words are now history, ‘I believe it is peace in our time’ he said waving a piece of paper. Foolish people have ever since said that he was guilty of appeasing the Dictator, but it was quite clear, even to a thirteen year old schoolboy like me that he had bought us much needed time to prepare our forces. I explained to my Mother just what the scene was like after the broadcast, forgetting that my visits to the aerodrome had been part of my private life. She was not pleased, how dare I go to such a dangerous place. The PM’s message was forgotten.
I began my third year at Ensham after Easter in 1939, during the first term I was elected by my classmates to be their representative in the school elocution competition, they thought that I spoke BBC very well! Preparations for a war went on quietly all around us. At my school our parents were summoned to an ‘important’ meeting about evacuation in the event of war and were asked to say if they agreed that their child should go. My father said no. On his return home he gave no reason for the decision, but I was very grateful. A few weeks later there was a full scale dress rehearsal of the future evacuees. They had to bring all of the things that they would take with them including any smaller brothers and sisters. The inspection took hours with the school playgrounds covered with six hundred excited pupils. We no-goes looked on in amusement.
People busied themselves learning Civil Defence, First Aid, gas masks were distributed, future air raid wardens going from house to house fitting the strange devices. Another group of people went from door to door registering the occupants and issuing identity cards, my card was number AXGB/122/3.
At the end of the term we broke up for the summer holidays. I put away my green school blazer with its gold Viking ship badge and went off for the last golden summer of my childhood.
It was a blazing hot summer and I enjoyed making an outdoor model railway track in the garden of a friend. Near the end of August I was invited to stay with some of my cousins at the seaside bungalow that an Aunt and Uncle had taken for the last month of the summer holidays. I think that the bungalow was in Rustington, anyway it was right on the South sea coast in a lovely little sleepy town. There was a nice sandy beach, a stretch of grass, then a road and on the other side their bungalow. Off I went on the Southern Electric train and the next few days on the beach in the sun were idyllic, time stood still, we had no wireless, no newspapers, but the suddenly a week had passed and it was Friday and my Uncle would be arriving for the weekend. We went over to the beach as usual in the morning, it was to be the last ‘usual’ that we were to experience for many years.
Time for lunch said my cousin Joyce and we gathered up our things and walked back to the road. When we got there we just stood and stared. Parked all along the road were red London buses and they were full of children. We stared at them and they stared at us. We’re being evacuated they shouted. But, we said, evacuation was only supposed to happen if there was a war. There’s going to be a war they shouted back. We ran back to the bungalow to give the news to my Aunt, but of course she knew and had telephoned my Uncle, they had decided that I was to go home. So next morning, Saturday 2nd September 1939, I was put on the train back to Streatham. It was a nice green liveried train of three carriages which stopped at every station before reaching Victoria in London. I got off at Streatham Common station, 10 minutes walk from home. There were only a few people on the train and I was the only passenger that got off. I walked out of the station, it was quite eerie there were no children and the road was strangely quiet. I walked along carrying my small suitcase and didn’t see anyone. I went through the little tunnel under the railway and along the wide path next to the allotments where there would normally have been a dozen children playing, still no one. A few more solitary minutes and I was home to find my Mother rushing about in a state of excitement, this always set the dog rushing about. It may have been quiet outside but it wasn’t at home.
There had been a great deal of advice for householders from the government about air raid precautions or ARP as it soon became commonly known. One suggestion was to apply adhesive paper tape diagonally across all the panes of glass in the windows of your house. This was the basic task of the day in our house and in that of our neighbours. Everyone kept running out of the sticky paper and I was kept busy going up to the shop at the top of the road to keep them supplied. The idea behind taping the glass was to try to prevent pieces of broken glass flying about if a bomb should explode nearby. We also had advice on how to protect ourselves if there should be a poison gas attack. The men of our little group of houses were busy making blanket covered frames to fit the kitchen windows. The idea being that if gas was dropped, someone ran out and drenched the blanket with water, thus keeping the gas out! Looking back I wonder if some of the advice sent out was more to keep people occupied than useful.
Although there was plenty of information available from the events of the Spanish Civil War and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia it was either ignored or wrongly applied. All the advice given out was based on the havoc wrought by short range dive bombers attacking small towns in Spain from nearby bases. London all 400 square miles of it and a long way from Germany was thankfully rather different. But everyone was happily employed all day and we all went to bed exhausted.
Sunday the 3rd of September was a brilliant day, Mr.Yarnold our next door neighbour, who was a warden of my church, told me that as so many people had gone away and that all of the choir except me had been evacuated, our church had closed and I should now go to the Parish Church, but I didn't on that day as we all just stood around the wireless waiting for news. There had been an announcement by the BBC earlier that the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain would speak to the Nation at noon. When after what seemed like an age, we heard his voice, it was to say that Britain had delivered an ultimatum to Germany at 9am that morning, they were to cease the invasion of Poland by ll.00am, or a state of war would exist between us. His thin quavering voice went on "I have to tell you that no such undertaking has been received and that accordingly a state of war now exists between us." Just a year before I had stood in the same place before our wireless and heard him say on arriving back at Croydon Airport from his visit to Hitler, "I believe this is peace in our time." I believed then, and still do that he had worked so that we had the means to defend ourselves. Now here he was declaring war on Germany on behalf of a nation we could not possibly defend. With the knowledge of time it is interesting to note, that Poland was not restored to its pre-invasion boundaries at the end of the war. So the initial object of the hostilities was never achieved.
Within minutes of Chamberlain's words the air raid warning sirens started their stomach churning undulating wail, both our neighbouring families were in our kitchen, the men rushed about getting the antigas blanket screen up over the window and my mother rushed about all over the place blindly, with the other ladies trying to calm her down. Our dog Scamp, ran all over the place bumping into everyone and everything, thankfully the all clear sounded after a little while. We were told later it was a false alert. I walked up the road after all this for some peace and quiet and to get more tape, halfway along the way I stopped abruptly, suppose we loose, no we can not possibly loose I assured myself. I'm glad that I did not know just how close we were to come to loosing and how soon. Monday brought more turmoil, my Mother declared that so much upset had been caused by the dog the day before, that he had to be `put down'. It never occurred to her that it was she who stirred him up and she was adamant. So my poor Father had to take the dog off to the vets. I should write that I am sorry to say that I caused quite a scene. But I'm still not. In the way that young boys', do I loved my dog, I had seen him born, helping his mother when she was uncertain how to break the bag that he was in, we played for hours together once he was grown. I just stayed in my room rejecting all blandishments, doing nothing for several days, until I realised that I could not bring him back, but I made up my mind that `when I grew up' I would not use a pet as a possession.
Once we were at war a transformation took place in daily life. Everyone you met had a brown box hanging from a shoulder on a piece of cord. This held their gas mask. Such was the danger of a poison gas attack, we were told, we were never to be without our gas masks, as such an event, we were solemnly instructed, could happen at any time. The tops of pillar boxes had been coated with a greeny paint, which, so we were told, would turn red if there was poison gas about. Small comfort if you did not live near a post box and as we were used to seeing red tops on pillar boxes not likely to be noticed anyway. Soon the shops were filled with covers of all types and prices to embellish your gas mask box. Later as the boxes and their covers fell apart more sturdy containers were on sale. I acquired a metal cylinder, which was much more practical.
The mask itself was an unpleasant thing, a small metal cylinder that contained the material alleged to filter out the poison gas, to which was attached a thin sheet rubber face mask, within which was a celluloid sheet vision panel. The contraption was held onto your head by a rubber harness. As you breathed in air came through the filter but, when you breathed out it had to be with sufficient puff so as to move the rubber sheet next to your cheeks, away from your face. There was no other air exit. There were also Mickey Mouse gas masks for small children, all enveloping bags with a small air pump, to be worked by their mothers, for babies, ARP Wardens had a stronger version in a canvas sack and soldiers had a totally different arrangement that allegedly allowed running and jumping about. The gas mask industry really excelled itself, quite a feat really when no one was going to use the repulsive things
Cars at first took on a strange appearance, being required to have their front mudguards painted white and have light deflectors on their headlamp's and the reflector's within them painted black, which meant that they were useless. This did not matter because soon there was no petrol to be had. The papers carried long articles on how to lay up your car for the duration of the war. Little did owners know that it was to be at least Seven years before they could again use their cars. Traffic lights had masks that showed a semicircle of light during the day, by nightfall the beat policeman had flipped over the other part of the mask so that during darkness only a small cross of light showed. Very effective, I was amazed how brilliantly they shined out into the overall consuming blackness. A bit pointless really there wasn't any traffic.
Odd patches of ground all over London, almost overnight, became home to groups of earnest young ladies in WAAF uniforms. They had a Nissen hut to live in, beside which stood a trailer with about Thirty long gas cylinders with an octopus of tubes leading off to the object of their care, a barrage balloon. It sat within a circle of mooring points next to a firmly secured winch. The balloon itself was a smaller but plump version of the ill-fated airships of previous years. Made out of a silver coloured fabric it had built in fins at one end to keep it pointed into the wind. As they rode in place in the sky the wind blew in the rounded nose of the balloon giving the appearance of it having a face. There were hundreds of them over the whole built up area of the Capital and at an unheard command they all rose into the air, up and up until they looked like characterised children’s’ playthings. The object, of course, was to raise a barrier of wires and so force hostile aircraft to fly higher than they wanted to.
More secluded pieces of ground became home to a few anti-aircraft guns or a searchlight whose operators became very skilled at illuminating a marauding bomber. Later I often sneaked up into a freezing bedroom to view the night sky to see if the searchlights had found an aircraft. Their crews were in a very dangerous situation. They were the only people on the ground whose position was exactly defined to the bomb aimers. We were all keyed up for the promised air raids. Each night when I went to bed as I took off my clothes I laid them out carefully so that when the sirens howled I could dress quickly in the dark. I could not put the light on as we had no blackout screens or curtains in the bedrooms, my Mother declared that we could not afford them. We waited and waited but no air raids and everyone slowly fell back to their old routines. The ever vigilant ARP Wardens kept up their patrols of he streets and instead of the street traders cries there was a new one to be heard and obeyed `Put that light out'. The darkness was unbelievable, instead of a glowing sky over London there was just the moon. On moonless nights the blackness seemed to possess you. We soon learned the techniques that blind people use to protect us as we moved about.
Our cosy wireless programmes changed radically. There were no more broadcasts from France or Luxembourg and the BBC woke up from its slumber, no more National and Regional, but Home and Forces. Broadcasting now started at six in the morning and went on to eleven in the evening. Announcers and news readers were no longer anonymous, but named themselves at the start of each pronouncement. This, we were told, was so that the crafty Germans could be recognised if they broadcast imitation BBC programmes and as a great innovation, regional accents began to be heard coming from our loudspeakers.
The summer spread from September into October, I had no school to go to and no friends to play with. Although, fed up with my moaning my Mother had agreed that I could accept an offer from the greengrocers of a dog, a young black and tan terrier named Dusty. I busied myself model making and reading and in sign of a future life, I measured our house and made drawings of it. The middle of October was my fourteenth birthday and I became one of the last generation to be subjected to a strange ritual. Most schoolboys of my day wore a school blazer on top of a grey shirt, grey flannel short trousers, long wrinkled down grey socks and scrubby black shoes. Oh yes and a school tie, a stripy thing of basic colours. But, on your fourteenth birthday and thereafter you wore long grey flannel trousers.
During the first week of October I was taken by my Father to Gamages, a shop in High Holborn that seemed to sell everything. We went upstairs to the men's department, it was completely panelled in mahogany and the atmosphere was like being in church. I was put into and out of several pairs of trousers while my father and the tailor discussed the problem of fitting me, while allowing for my future growth, in sepulchral tones. At last they were satisfied and we carried off the carefully wrapped box containing the important garment. Once home, I had to go through the fitting process again for my Mothers benefit. This all successfully achieved I thought that was it. Not at all, you take those trousers off and hang them up, there are still 10 days before your birthday, on with the shorts! My 14th birthday came and went, I can't remember it at all, so I suppose the change into long trousers came as an anti-climax.
Contributed originally by katherinep (BBC WW2 People's War)
From Katherine Prentice
My husband, Derek Prentice, was a news reader for the BBC World Service during the Second World War. He was on duty when the time-bomb entered Broadcasting House.
Warned by the firemen to leave his studio on the fourth floor, he went down to the emergency studio in the basement. As he got out of the lift the bomb went off.
Bruce Belfrage was reading the nine o’clock Home Service news at the time, but he did not hesitate and went on broadcasting as if nothing had happened. When Derek went up to his studio later he could not get in the door. The room was a mass of concrete. Sadly the fireman and some of the monitors were killed.
Derek often had to walk from Victoria Station during a raid, as all the buses stopped running.
From 1940, millions of people all over the world listened to his voice, with the news good and bad, beginning with 'This is London Calling'. His fan mail was enormous and listeners sent food parcels (greatly appreciated by his family) from the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, India and Mauritius. These were shared with other members of the staff.
After Broadcasting House was bombed, the Overseas Service operated from Abbey Manor in Evesham and later from Aldenham.
News of the D-Day landings in 1944 was put out by the Overseas Service when the BBC was linked up to the USA network. Derek was told he must have had 100 million listeners - at the time the greatest radio audience in history.
Images in Warwick
See historic images relating to this area:
Sorry, no images available.