Bombs dropped in the ward of: Osterley and Spring Grove
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Osterley and Spring Grove:
- 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 Osterley and Spring Grove
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by BoyFarthing (BBC WW2 People's War)
I didn’t like to admit it, because everyone was saying how terrible it was, but all the goings on were more exciting than I’d ever imagined. Everything was changing. Some men came along and cut down all the iron railings in front of the houses in Digby Road (to make tanks they said); Boy scouts collected old aluminium saucepans (to make Spitfires); Machines came and dug huge holes in the Common right where we used to play football (to make sandbags); Everyone was given a gas mask (which I hated) that had to be carried wherever you went; An air raid shelter made from sheets of corrugated iron, was put up at the end of our garden, where the chickens used to be; Our trains were full of soldiers, waving and cheering, all going one way — towards the seaside; Silver barrage balloons floated over the rooftops; Policemen wore tin hats painted blue, with the letter P on the front; Fire engines were painted grey; At night it was pitch dark outside because of the blackout; Dad dug up most of his flower beds to plant potatoes and runner beans; And, best of all, I watched it all happening, day by day, almost on my own. That is, without all my school chums getting in the way and having to have their say. For they’d all been evacuated into the country somewhere or other, but our family were still at number 69, just as usual. For when the letters first came from our schools — the girls to go to Wales, me to Norfolk — Mum would have none of it. “Your not going anywhere” she said “We’re all staying together”. So we did. But it was never again the same as it used to be. Even though, as the weeks went by, and nothing happened, it was easy enough to forget that there was a war on at all.
Which is why, when it got to the first week of June 1940, it seemed only natural that, as usual, we went on our weeks summer holiday to Bognor Regis on the South coast, as usual. The fact that only the week before, our army had escaped from the Germans by the skin of its teeth by being ferried across the Channel from Dunkirk by almost anything that floated, was hardly remarked about. We had of course watched the endless trains rumble their way back from the direction of the seaside, silent and with the carriage blinds drawn, but that didn’t interfere with our plans. Mum and Dad had worked hard, saved hard, for their holiday and they weren’t having them upset by other people’s problems.
But for my Dad it meant a great deal more than that. During the first world war, as a young man of eighteen, he’d fought in the mud and blood of the trenches at Ypres, Passhendel and Vimy Ridge. He came back with the certain knowledge that all war is wrong. It may mean glory, fame and fortune to the handful who relish it, but for the great majority of ordinary men and their families it brings only hardship, pain and tears. His way of expressing it was to ignore it. To show the strength of his feelings by refusing to take part. Our family holiday to the very centre of the conflict, in the darkest days of our darkest hour, was one man’s public demonstration of his private beliefs
It started off just like any other Saturday afternoon: Dad in the garden, Mum in the kitchen, the two girls gone to the pictures, me just mucking about. Warm sunshine, clear blue skies. The air raid siren had just been sounded, but even that was normal. We’d got used to it by now. Just had to wait for the wailing and moaning to go quiet and, before you knew it, the cheerful high-pitched note of the all clear started up. But this time it didn’t. Instead, there comes the drone of aeroplane engines. Lots of them. High up. And the boom, boom, boom of anti-aircraft guns. The sound gets louder and louder until the air seems to quiver. And only then, when it seems almost overhead, can you see the tiny black dots against the deep, empty blue of the sky. Dozens and dozens of them. Neatly arranged in V shaped patterns, so high, so slow, they hardly seem to move. Then other, single dots, dropping down through them from above. The faint chatter of machine guns. A thin, black thread of smoke unravelling towards the ground. Is it one of theirs or one of ours? Clusters of tiny puffs of white, drifting along together like dandelion seeds. Then one, larger than the rest, gently parachuting towards the ground. And another. And another. Everything happening in the slowest of slow motions. Seeming to hang there in the sky, too lazy to get a move on. But still the black dots go on and on.
Dad goes off to meet the girls. Mum makes the tea. I can’t take my eyes off what’s going on. Great clouds of white and grey smoke billowing up into the sky way over beyond the school. People come out into the street to watch. The word goes round that “The poor old Docks have copped it”. By the time the sun goes down the planes have gone, the all clear sounded, and the smoke towers right across the horizon. Then as the light fades, a red fiery glow shines brighter and brighter. Even from this far away we can see it flicker and flash on the clouds above like some gigantic furnace. Everyone seems remarkably calm. As though not quite believing what they see. Then one of our neighbours, a man who always kept to himself, runs up and down the street shouting “Isleworth! Isleworth! It’s alright at Isleworth! Come on, we’ve all got to go to Isleworth! That’s where I’m going — Isleworth!” But no one takes any notice of him. And we can’t all go to Isleworth — wherever that is. Then where can we go? What can we do? And by way of an ironic answer, the siren starts it’s wailing again.
We spend that night in the shelter at the end of the garden. Listening to the crump of bombs in the distance. Thinking about the poor devils underneath it all. Among them are probably one of Dad’s close friends from work, George Nesbitt, a driver, his wife Iris, and their twelve-year-old daughter, Eileen. They live at Stepney, right by the docks. We’d once been there for tea. A block of flats with narrow stone stairs and tiny little rooms. From an iron balcony you could see over the high dock’s wall at the forest of cranes and painted funnels of the ships. Mr Nesbitt knew all about them. “ The red one with the yellow and black bands and the letter W is The West Indies Company. Came in on Wednesday with bananas, sugar, and I daresay a few crates of rum. She’s due to be loaded with flour, apples and tinned vegetables — and that one next to it…” He also knows a lot about birds. Every corner of their flat with a birdcage of chirping, flashing, brightly coloured feathers and bright, winking eyes. In the kitchen a tame parrot that coos and squawks in private conversation with Mrs Nesbitt. Eileen is a quiet girl who reads a lot and, like her mother, is quick to see the funny side of things. We’d once spent a holiday with them at Bognor. One of the best we’d ever had. Sitting here, in the chilly dankness of our shelter, it’s best not to think what might have happened to them. But difficult not to.
The next night is the same. Only worse. And the next. Ditto. We seem to have hardly slept. And it’s getting closer. More widely spread. Mum and Dad seem to take it in their stride. Unruffled by it all. Almost as though it wasn’t really happening. Anxious only to see that we’re not going cold or hungry. Then one night, after about a week of this, it suddenly landed on our doorstep.
At the end of our garden is a brick wall. On the other side, a short row of terraced houses. Then another, much higher, wall. And on the other side of that, the Berger paint factory. One of the largest in London. A place so inflammable that even the smallest fire there had always bought out the fire engines like a swarm of bees. Now the whole place is alight. Tanks exploding. Flames shooting high up in the air. Bright enough to read a newspaper if anyone was so daft. Firemen come rushing up through the garden. Rolling out hoses to train over the wall. Flattening out Dad’s delphiniums on the way. They’re astonished to find us sitting quietly sitting in our hole in the ground. “Get out!” they urge
“It’s about to go up! Make a run for it!” So we all troop off, trying to look as if we’re not in a hurry, to the public shelters on Hackney Marshes. Underground trenches, dripping with moisture, crammed with people on hard wooden planks, crying, arguing, trying to doze off. It was the longest night of my life. And at first light, after the all-clear, we walk back along Homerton High Street. So sure am I that our house had been burnt to a cinder, I can hardly bear to turn the corner into Digby Road. But it’s still there! Untouched! Unbowed! Firemen and hoses all gone. Everything remarkably normal. I feel a pang of guilt at running away and leaving it to its fate all by itself. Make it a silent promise that I won’t do it again. A promise that lasts for just two more nights of the blitz.
I hear it coming from a long way off. Through the din of gunfire and the clanging of fire engine and ambulance bells, a small, piercing, screeching sound. Rapidly getting louder and louder. Rising to a shriek. Cramming itself into our tiny shelter where we crouch. Reaching a crescendo of screaming violence that vibrates inside my head. To be obliterated by something even worse. A gigantic explosion that lifts the whole shelter…the whole garden…the whole of Digby Road, a foot into the air. When the shuddering stops, and a blanket of silence comes down, Dad says, calm as you like, “That was close!”. He clambers out into the darkness. I join him. He thinks it must have been on the other side of the railway. The glue factory perhaps. Or the box factory at the end of the road. And then, in the faintest of twilights, I just make out a jagged black shape where our house used to be.
When dawn breaks, we pick our way silently over the rubble of bricks and splintered wood that once was our home. None of it means a thing. It could have been anybody’s home, anywhere. We walk away. Away from Digby Road. I never even look back. I can’t. The heavy lead weight inside of me sees to that.
Just a few days before, one of the van drivers where Dad works had handed him a piece of paper. On it was written the name and address of one of Dad’s distant cousins. Someone he hadn’t seen for years. May Pelling. She had spotted the driver delivering in her High Street and had asked if he happened to know George Houser. “Of course — everyone knows good old George!”. So she scribbles down her address, asks him to give it to him and tell him that if ever he needs help in these terrible times, to contact her. That piece of paper was in his wallet, in the shelter, the night before. One of the few things we still had to our name. The address is 102 Osidge Lane, Southgate.
What are we doing here? Why here? Where is here? It’s certainly not Isleworth - but might just as well be. The tube station we got off said ’Southgate’. Yet Dad said this is North London. Or should it be North of London? Because, going by the map of the tube line in the carriage, which I’ve been studying, Southgate is only two stops from the end of the line. It’s just about falling off the edge of London altogether! And why ‘Piccadilly Line’? This is about as far from Piccadilly as the North Pole. Perhaps that’s the reason why we’ve come. No signs of bombs here. Come to that, not much of the war at all. Not country, not town. Not a place to be evacuated to, or from. Everything new. And clean. And tidy. Ornamental trees, laden with red berries, their leaves turning gold, line the pavements. A garden in front of every house. With a gate, a path, a lawn, and flowers. Everything staked, labelled, trimmed. Nothing out of place. Except us. I’ve still got my pyjama trousers tucked into my socks. The girls are wearing raincoats and headscarves. Dad has a muffler where his clean white collar usually is. Mum’s got on her old winter coat, the one she never goes out in. And carries a tied up bundle of bits and pieces we had in the shelter. Now and again I notice people giving us a sideways glance, then looking quickly away in case you might catch their eye. Are they shocked? embarrassed? shy, even? No one seems at all interested in asking if they can help this gaggle of strangers in a strange land. Not even the road sweeper when Dad asks him the way to Osidge Lane.
The door opens. A woman’s face. Dark eyes, dark hair, rosy cheeks. Her smile checked in mid air at the sight of us on her doorstep. Intake of breath. Eyes widen with shock. Her simple words brimming with concern. “George! Nell! What’s the matter?” Mum says:” We’ve just lost everything we had” An answer hardly audible through the choking sob in her throat. Biting her lip to keep back the tears. It was the first time I’d ever seen my mother cry.
We are immediately swept inside on a wave of compassion. Kind words, helping hands, sympathy, hot food and cups of tea. Aunt May lives here with her husband, Uncle Ernie and their ten-year-old daughter, Pam. And two single ladies sheltering from the blitz. Five people in a small three-bedroom house. Now the five of us turn up, unannounced, out of the blue. With nothing but our ration books and what we are wearing. Taken in and cared for by people I’d never even seen before.
In every way Osidge Lane is different from Digby Road. Yet it is just like coming home. We are safe. They are family. For this is a Houser house.
Contributed originally by Silver Surfers (BBC WW2 People's War)
By Jaon Rhodes (née Tooley):
Early September 1944, I was in the Middlesex Hospital at Isleworth, awaiting the birth of my first child. During the air raids we were told NOT to get out of our beds, but to pull our meal trolleys up over our heads, then get under the bedclothes.
A flying bomb (buzz bomb) dropped in the hospital grounds and blew all the windows in! None of us were hurt. One lady had hysterics, but only three went into labour, which surprised the doctors.
By 10 September the V2 rockets were arriving. They travelled faster than sound and as they exploded, the sound arrived and the noise was terrifying.
Contributed originally by Derek Palmer (BBC WW2 People's War)
No doubt, for the majority of the contributors, it was our fathers, mothers even, who were in uniform during the 1939-45 war? Nevertheless, for many of us, taking place during our childhood, the Second World War formed an important memory in our formative years. Living close to London, my earliest memory is, when aged around 4-5, seeing the huge glow in the sky, as the London Docks, some 20 miles away, were aflame. However, allow me to relate a little happier memory of the WW2 - and my very first love affair . . .
Besides those unfortunate East Enders, my family had also experienced the Blitz when our former home, west of London, in Twickenham, was flattened in 1941. But moving on, it was now 1942 and the war was still raging. My father was with Monty on the Western Desert. Aged six, I now lived in Isleworth, Middlesex with my mother and, two years my junior, my sister Pam.
Opposite our home was one of the largest hospitals in the country, the West Middlesex, and, with a bedroom to spare; we were compelled to billet two nurses. One was a Scottish lass called Joan, and she was fairly plain. The other nurse was a London girl and her name was Jean. People described her as being petite. She was also dark-haired and extremely pretty.
Luftwaffe permitting, my mother put my sister and me to bed each night at around 7 p.m. Mum kissed us both goodnight - and so did the nurses, if they were not already out for the evening, or on night duty. Oh, how I loved being kissed by Jean. This was not like being kissed by my Mum, or by one of my aunts. This was a real kiss, on the lips, and me with my arms hugging tightly around her neck. Jean was probably about to go out on a date. There were plenty of British uniformed young men around and later the Canadians, with their attractive accents, arrived. The American GIs, with their bubble gum and smart gabardine uniforms, followed these. They were stationed not so far away from us, at General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Bushy Park.
Later my father was invalided out of the Army and it was not long before my two nurse friends had to leave us. Oh, how I cried! Fortunately for me they were only moving into nurses’ quarters within the hospital grounds, right opposite our home.
The war went into another year and, during the following one, the bombing resumed. It was 1944 and the incendiary and other bombs had failed to set London completely afire. Now, Hitler was sending us his latest little package of terror - the terrifying V1 flying bomb (or doodle bug as it was called). The V2 rocket bomb followed this and, of course, there was no warning at all with those. You heard a whoosh and then you were either dead or seriously injured! Samples of both types of weapon were delivered close to our home. A V1 landed three streets away causing considerable damage to the semi. Some weeks later, a V2 landed on a factory about a mile away, which, besides making a deafeningly loud bang, also caused death and devastating destruction.
Most of my school classmates were evacuated to the relative safety of the countryside, some for the second time. However, my father decided that Pam and I were to stay put in the London suburbs. I had no objection whatsoever. I knew my beautiful Jean was just across the road. Occasionally, she came to visit us. Sometimes, after school, I would peer through the hospital hedge, the railings having been removed to make guns or tanks, in the hopes I may catch a glimpse of her.
The following year the war ended. Imitating all the other little streets throughout the land, we had a street party on VE (Victory In Europe) Day. Lovely Jean came across helping the mums serve the kids with sandwiches filled with goodies we could not remember having tasted before. Cakes, jellies, blancmanges and something I did not recall having tasted previously nor, mercifully, since - junket followed these! Our biliousness passed within a day or two but, in any case, I had only feasted my eyes upon the very tasty Jean.
I loved my mother very much but Jean was definitely the first woman with whom, from the age of six and until nine, I was really in love. Or, was it just infatuation? I wonder how she looks now? If still alive, she would have to be approaching 80, but I bet she’s still a great beauty or, at the very least, a very pretty old lady!
Contributed originally by cambslibs (BBC WW2 People's War)
Not a lot happened during 1939 or Spring 1940, but as we moved into early summer the air raids were much more frequent and lasted much longer. By now rationing was introduced and for some goods was to last until the early 1950s. As we moved into September, the Battle of Britain was at its height. We lived almost entirely in our Anderson Air Raid Shelter. We'd all helped to build this: it was about 9ft by 5ft and we had dug down about 6ft to start building. We had steps down into it, a porch at the entrance, hooks for clothes and shelves for radio,a clock, thermos flasks and food tins,books and puzzles. We were issued with bunks, and had a light, running off a car battery. With blankets, pillows and hot water bottles we slept quite cosily.
My father joined the Home Guard and I learned how to put out incendiary bombs and use a stirrup pump. I became a fire watcher at the laundry where I still worked.
We longed for dull foggy days, but the skies were clear and the raiders came relentlessly. We watched fighters take off from Heston airport and counted them as they returned much later: so many missing.
We had our first taste of the bombing in October 1940. We no longer listened for air raid sirens and all clear signals. Sometimes raids lasted all day or all night. We automatically went straight to the shelter on returning home from work and stayed there until morning.
On October 21st we awakened about 4 a.m. hearing a terrible bang. The whole shelter shuddered. We realised that a bomb had been dropped close by. We couldn't see anything because it was too dark, so went back to sleep. Shortly afterwards, there was a banging on the shelter door and an air raid warden flashed his torch inside. He told us a large bomb had landed on a house opposite ours, bringing the house down and killing the old gentleman who lived there alone. It had not exploded and the whole area had to be evacuated. We were given 5 minutes to collect a case full of things and leave. The assembly point was the Mission Hall opposite the laundry where I worked. My brother and sister were so frightened. My father was making arrangements to get my grandfather moved;he was bedridden and slept in a downstairs room reinforced with iron girders. He was whisked away by ambulance and never returned home again. We were a sorry lot trailing down the road with our neighbours, some with coats over nightclothes, carrying young children, some with dogs and cats and birdcages. Old and young, we were a dejected lot until someone started to sing: "There's a long, long trail a-winding"
On arrival at the Church Hall, we had to sign in,giving name, address and number in family. We each got 2 blankets and a palliasse, found a space in the hall and made up our beds. We were all there for 4 days. The WVS were wonderful and provided us with breakfast of porridge, toast and marmalade at another church for anyone who wanted to go. We couldn't cook anything as the gas ring only had 2 burners, but we made endless tea and lived off fish and chips. We didn't get much sleep as people were coming and going day and night, working different shifts. We were also very conscious that we were in a wooden building with a tin roof-not much protection. We weren't allowed back into the house for anything but my father managed to sneak over the back fence, feed the chickens and bring us clean clothing. Eventually we were told that it was safe to return: the bomb was not set on a time fuse, so would not now explode. It was left till after the war when a huge crane lifted it out. Had it gone off,we were told, the whole street would have gone up as well.
The raids continued throught the winter and as water seeped into the shelter we returned to sleep in the house. Daytime raids were upsetting during working hours. A look out post linked to Hesto Airport was set up on the roof of our laundry. If the airport siren went, we knew to head for the deep shelter. Once there we knitted for the forces: gloves, mittens, scarves helmets and long sea boot stockings with wool etc provided by the WVS.
The autumn brought the first terrible onslaught on London and the surrounding areas and this continued well into 1942. Night after night: they were indescribable. We returned to shelter life. We concreted the floor to keep out the water.That winter was one of the worst for Southall and Heston as the bombers were aiming all the time at the airport. We spent the days clearing glass and broken items in the house. The safetymen inspected the damage and declared our house unsafe, but as we had nowhere else to go, we were allowed to stay, provided we slept in the shelter and did not use the upstairs at all. We had no electricity or gas and my father fixed up a camping stove and an open fire on bricks. We seemd to be the only family with even these facilities for cooking. There were no doors on the house, but my father nailed a tarpaulin over the roof and men came in the afternoon and nailed canvas over the open windows. A few days later, gas and electricity were on again. One thing that sickened all of us were the looters, stealing whatever they could from people who had lost so much.
Now there was a new threat- incendiary bombs. These were not very big but on landing they burst into flames. Fire watching became essential; buckets and flowerpots filled with wet earth or sand were best: as they landed we quickly turned the pots on top of them. The main danger was that they landed on roofs and caught fire before they could be reached.
Winter 1942 and through to summer 1943 there was not a lot of activity. The summer of 1944 brought the flying bombs, V1s or doodlebugs as they were known. They were small in comparison to an aeroplane and were pilotless, just an engine and a bomb. Some travelled further than others but not many reached further than North London. Kent bore the brunt, but a lot of the country there is open and they fell in open fields. They could be heard and seen so clearly. We watched and listened for the engine stopping, then just lay flat wherever we were. Most evenings were spent in the shelter.
My fiance stationed overseas sent me a parcel for my 21st birthday which arrived on August 29th. I decided to leave opening it until after work. I was never to know what was in that parcel: during the day we knew that a V1 had come down near to my home and my foreman sent me home to see if everything was o.k.. The nearer I got to home, the worse the damage. There were ambulances and fire engines and I was really frightened. I knew my mother was at home as well as my brother, who was on school holidays. I can remember saying over and over as I got nearer: "Be in the shelter! Be in the shelter!" I arrived to find a heap of rubble: 12 houses were down in all. I checked the shelters and they were not there. I helped our next door neighbour out of her shelter, with her little nephew. Her husband, who worked nights had been in the house in bed. There was nothing I could do but stand, watch and wait.
The warden came and told me my brother was safe but injured. He'd climbed out himself and was on the way to hospital. My mother and the dog were still buried in the rubble and the teams were waitng for lifting gear to get the beams off of her. They lifted the beam clear and found our puppy lying across her legs whimpering. My sister and father arrived home not knowing that there had been a bomb and collapsed in a state of shock. By the time they got her out, she was unconscious as the doctor had given her an injection. She and my father were whisked away in the ambulance,leaving me and my sister, who was still weeping.
I clambered over the rubble and rescued family documents and dad's Home Guard rifle and ammunition. Friends took us in and found out where Mum and my brother were. Wally was in Southall and Mum and Dad in Hillingdon, which was six miles away. Wally was not badly hurt but very shocked and worried about Mum. To this day he still has a piece of glass in his chest. Mum was a different story: the doctor asked to see me and told me she was desperately ill. Her body was a mass of glass splinters and she had a deep wound to her lower body. He didn't think she would last the night.
In the meantime friends and neighbours had worked hard to slavage what they could, but already looters had broken into the garden shed and all dad's tools had gone and all the chickens had been taken. The oddest things survived: the mantle clock, a bottle of milk, mum and dad's wedding china, but so much had already been taken.
The house was definitely unsafe and a fire had started. 2 of our neighbours had been killed and more injured. I couldn't sleep for worrying about the future.
My mum became known as the human pincushion, she was so pitted with glass. She survived against all the odds, but to the end of her life in 1967 she still had glass working towards the surface. I made an appointment to see the Air Raid Distress Officer for I needed new ration books and clothing coupons for all the family. They were very helpful and local friends and neighbours did what they could. I also started badgering the housing department to find us somewhere to live. I didn't have much luck as raids were continuing and more people were made homeless. Houses were in short supply and I saw one or 2 unlikely flats. Eventually I was offered the ground floor of a large detached house which I accepted. We had no curtains, bedding, very little furniture and only a few household items we had salvaged. Once again I visited the Air Raid Distress Organisation asking for help. I was given coupons for curtains bedding and blankets and dockets for furniture and lino. They also had a large warehouse of utility household goods for people in our situation: crockery and cutlery and some furniture for the sum of £25. It was not much but a start. The American red Cross were also very helpful giving us kitchen equipment, rugs and quilts. We also got a cheque for £150 from the Lord Mayor of London's distress fund as dad had paid into this regularly, never thinking he would need it. We also got a box of linens from the Kings Hall Sisterhood friends. I made curtains and we scrubbed out the flat all ready to move in and for Mum to come home from hospital.
It was a horrible house really despite our best efforts. Rats were a constant pest and we had to have the pest control officer. We were also plagued by ants, spiders and crickets.
The flying bomb terror had subsided but we did get a few V2s. The nearest one landed on the Smiths Crisp factory at Osterley killing hundreds.
So into 1945. Mum needed more operations and I heard that my fiance was missing believed killed in Burma. Whatever else could happen to us?
The war ended in May. We pulled down the blackout and turned on all the lights!!Dad was looking into the possibility of getting our house rebuilt and we spent many evenings making an inventory of all we had lost for the insurance company. That June we paid the final instalment on the original mortgage, but there was nothing there! My fiance was pronounced officially dead in November. Our house in Regina Road was rebuilt in 1946 and we moved back in November of that year. We as a family considered ourselves fortunate compared with many. We were together again in our own home and although Mum was to carry the scars and weakness to the end, she was able to resume family life.
Contributed originally by Dorothy Rumbles (nee Bradbury) (BBC WW2 People's War)
Like many other girls my teenage years were spent during World War 2, working in factories, on munitions. Most teenage boys were in the Armed Forces.
I started work when I was 14 yrs 1938. The only work in our village was Horticultural, growing carnations and tulips, but when there was talk of war we had to turn some of the greenhouses over to planting tomatoes that was our contribution to the war effort.
I was working on a Sunday morning packing carnations ready for Monday morning market,it was 3rd September 1939, the radio was on, when the announcement was made, War had been declared, silence in the packing shed, our Boss came in to give us our instructions, should the air raid sirens go, He had installed an Anderson shelter in the grounds ,all prepared. He told us Gas masks and Identity cards must be carried at all times etc. He was about to show where the shelter was when the air raid siren sounded,so he took us to the shelter, inside he had put provisions should it be a long stay, and also an old gramophone and some Flanagan and Allan records, one of them he played was Underneath the Arches, so whenever I hear that hear that tune it reminds me of the start of WW2 Fortunately it was a short raid, I can't remember if any damage was done then but it was the start of things to come.
After awhile I had to leave for health reasons, so I had to look further away from home for work, which took me to the Great West Road ,Isleworth, which was about half to three quarters hour cycle ride from home to Gillettes. They also had to convert some space to install large machines , Capstanes, drilling and tapping ets. to make aircraft components, but they still had to produce razors and blades to supply the men in the Forces and civilians. I then became a machine operator, us girls had to were Brown Dungarees. Wooden Clogs, and Snoods on our hair, which was handy if we wanted to keep our curlers in, if we had a date, or was going dancing that evening, not a pretty sight, but we all had to dress the same so it didn't matter too much..
We worked from 8a.m till 7p.m when on days, 8a.m till 1p.m on Saturdays, 7p.m till8a.m when on night shift which was every two weeks, not very pleasant eating dinner at 1a.m. and trying to keep awake around 2a.m. Working at Gillettes we were very vulnerable because their clock was a landmark for aircraft, but of course like every where it wasn't lit up during the war, but somehow, we managed to escape any bombing
Cycling to and fro work in the winter was weird ,no street lamps, our cycle lamps had to be half covered to prevent the light from shining upwards I remember some very foggy nights I had to walk home it took me about an hour and a half, but a least there was no raids those nights, but it was still a bit scary.
I found two diaries 1943 and 1944 looking at the they read "Worked till 7 came home wrote some letters" ( I used to write to various lads that I knew who were in the forces), did some sewing, trying to make do and mend , because clothes were rationed by coupons, my friend's mother was a dressmaker, and lace was not rationed, but expensive, we bought some and she made us a blouse each, we thought we were the cat's whiskers. I think we wore them every time we went to a dance, we always looked smart even though we couldn't buy many clothes.
Any way getting back to my diaries, they consisted mostly of writing letters, or going dancing may be skating on Monday afternoons before going on night shift, where did we get our energy from. Dating was always with members of the Armed forces stationed nearby, but it was hard not to get too involved, because they would be moved on very shortly and it was sad having to say goodbye, not knowing if we would ever meet again. Although some girls did get too involved and found they were pregnant, the chaps were already married but hadn't told the girls. He moved on with no forwarding address the girls were left to fend for themselves with no government help those days, and parents weren't so lenient then, most babies were put up for adoption.
I have an entry for early 1944,letter from Jock, answered it, he was a lad to who my sister had given my address because he wanted a pen pal, this was in March, he was hoping to meet me if he was posted to the south, he even sent me a piece of tartan which he had carried around with him, he said it was for luck. We corresponded a few times , but in May I received a brown H.M.S card with a new address, I wrote, but never received a reply, he was in the 8th Parachute Regiment, D day was in June, I suspect he was in the D day landings, which was in June 1944.
I also read that in November 1944, my friend and I decided to go to a dance hall that we had not visited before, a Sailor and a chap in the R A F both on leave had done the same thing, we were asked to dance by them, and met up afterwards while they were on leave, my Sailor was posted to the far east, we wrote numerous letters, while he was out there, the Japanese surrendered it was on 15th August 1945 my 21st birthday, what a relief, hopefully he was not in anymore danger. He managed to send me an airmail for my birthday also I received a some what battered key card, he came home safely, we were married in 1946 and have a daughter and son and three lovely grandchildren, and he is still my dancing partner, and the one person in the Armed Forces I did get truly involved with.
Looking back I was a very lucky teenager I never really thought about the danger of war, I think we knew that we just had to get on with it, fortunately our village wasn't so vulnerable as those in the southeast of England those people had so much to contend with, and I admire their spirit.
I don't feel that I did anything to be proud of. My only restrictions were having to be home by 10p.m or 11.30 if I went to a dance, or I would be grounded for a week. I can understand that now I am a parent, in fact my or any parent had a lot of worries during the war, how our Mothers managed to cope with the food and coal rationing they were they were the hero's always a meal on the table and a warm fire to come home to We took our Mothers very much for granted, they did a grand job during World War II.
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