Archive for September, 2013

An Air raid shelter in a London Underground st...

An air-raid shelter in a London underground station in London during the Blitz.

The journey was a tiring one as we had to change trains, and there was a long wait between connections. When the train arrived there were a lot of soldiers on it, and all the seats were taken. A soldier offered his seat to my Mum which she was very grateful for. We were all getting hungry and thirsty, but Mum said she had nothing to spare for a drink as the train fare had taken all her money.

At last we reached Paddington Station, and from there we had to get a bus to Hackney Wick. London at that time was in the grip of the 1940 Blitz with continuous air raids. Our route took us through the badly bombed city. The four of us were very quiet as we looked at the bombed-out ruins.

Smoke and dust
Many of the shops had lost their doors and windows, leaving the stock open to the street. With everything in short supply, it must have been a temptation for the public to help themselves. There was glass and rubble everywhere, all mixed up with personal belongings. Buildings were left just blackened shells, all that remained after fires had swept through them. There was a smell of burning, and smoke and dust seemed to hang in the air.

Mum told us that a lot of people had been injured or lost their lives, and many of them had been made homeless. With all the changes in my own life I had not thought much about the war. Now, as the bus made its way through the London streets, the reality of what war meant to people began to sink in.

At last we arrived in Hackney Wick, but as we approached our house, Dad came rushing out. I thought he would be pleased to see us but when I saw his face I could see he was very angry. He shouted at my Mum: ”What do you think you’re bloody doing? They can’t stay in London, it’s too dangerous for them. You can take them back to Wales right now.”

In the Anderson shelter
My Mum started crying. What with the long journey and nothing to eat or drink we were all tired out, and seeing her so upset started us all crying. Dad had hardly finished shouting when the sirens sounded. We would not be returning to Wales that night or in the following days. Our first night in London was spent in the Anderson shelter our Dad had erected in the back yard. It was made of corrugated metal and the base was sunk into the earth. As you entered there were a few steps down, which in the dark was quite dangerous. Dad had made a bunk bed either side for Mum and my two young brothers, George and Brian, which was sufficient room for them, but with us four as well it became very crowded.

Mum had put in candles, a box of matches and some water. I thought it was all very exciting until the air raid actually started when I became very frightened and sat close to my sister, Lil. The noise was the worst. First there was the drone of the German planes as they flew over London, then the dreadful whine as the bombs rained down and exploded. The impact of the bombs striking the ground seemed to lift our small shelter into the air, making everything rattle and shake. Throughout all this our Dad would stand outside the shelter watching, while my Mother begged him to come inside. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the all-clear sounded.

When we emerged from the shelter and ventured into the street, we all stared in disbelief at the devastation everywhere. Some of the houses were just piles of rubble. The street next to ours had taken the worst of the bombing: a whole row of houses was flattened. Our house was one of the lucky ones and still standing, the only damage being some broken windows. Mum went indoors to make tea for our neighbours, who had lost everything in the raid. However, when Mum turned the tap on there was no water as the water supply had been damaged. It was some time before the Water Board supplied us with fresh water from a large container. They had to leave the container a few streets away from our homes, as it was impossible for any vehicle to get through the bombed streets. People were so pleased to have water, that no one minded having to carry it home. Mum said: ”At last we can all have a nice cup of tea.”

Back to Wales
When there appeared to be a lull in the air raids, Dad decided that it was time for the four of us to return to Wales. Although I was sad to leave my Dad and young brothers so soon, I was pleased to leave London and the raids behind. Mum packed our few belongings and once again we set off for Paddington Station. The railway station was packed with members of the armed forces, and our family seemed to be the only civilians travelling. We managed to get on a train, but once again it was standing room only.

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