- Contributed by
- People in story:
- R T A Northrop
- Location of story:
- Tattenham Corner, Epsom Downs
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 November 2005
Diary extracts Nov 1940 Part 1
Mr B R Northrop has given his permission for these extracts from his father’s diary to be added to this BBC website
These are extracts from the diary of my father, Mr. R.T.A.Northrop, who lived at 118 Tattenham Grove. The house number used to be 50 but was changed to 118 when more houses were built. I have not included some of the wider story they contain, especially some of my father’s strong political comments.
Sadly, although my father was only a quarter of the way through a good quality notebook, the rest of it is blank.
As he worked in London on weekdays, any raid and aircraft activity that occurred in the Tattenham Corner area while he was at work, would not be mentioned.
Quite often at weekends we went to my grandparents. All four lived in Walthamstow
My comments in the extracts are in italics
4.11.40 Monday Last night was the first time for 57 nights when no air raid warning sounded. It seemed unreal. Bad weather seems to have caused this happy happening. Going to Epsom Downs station everything seemed peaceful and beautiful except for the bomb craters and heaps of chalk. I still arrive in London about 11.00 a.m. and leave about 3.30 p.m.. The service is much better now and I arrive home about 5.30 p.m. in time to put up the black out a and have tea before the air raid warning sounded. The weather was still bad but plenty of planes seemed to go towards London. One dropped 6 bombs nearby. We heard them whistle down.
5.11.40 Tuesday May (my mother) said a bomb exploded nearby at 3.30 a.m. but didn’t waken anyone else (my cousin was with us). The walk to Epsom Downs in the sun was delightful and the sky clear except for 9 Hurricanes looking for the enemy. Today USA votes for a new president - Roosevelt wins. After tea the warning sounded. A bomb dropped somewhere - perhaps on the Downs. It did not explode being delayed action. I was on fire patrol tonight. I have just discovered that the six bombs last night fell about 100 yards away from us: one house was damaged - no casualties - and five craters in the fields (diary doesn’t say where!) Now at 10.30 p.m. planes coming over in large numbers and guns putting up a loud barrage. I see two fires started - one Epsom way and the other Sutton way - both are soon extinguished. At 12.00 the next patrolmen come on. Planes still coming over continuously. Got to bed at 12.30 and the guns are booming away. Large numbers of shells go up at a time. During th e night we are awoken several times by either exploding bombs or shells, we are too sleepy to distinguish. At 4.30 a.m. a loud explosion rocks the very foundations of our house but afterwards discover that it was an AA (anti-aircraft I believe) shell which struck the road and exploded less than 100 yards away. The damage was inconsiderable. A dent of about 4 to 5 inches in the road and few holes in windows, walls and roofs. Yet the 6 bombs which exploded 100 yards away last night caused almost no sound. In fact we thought they were delayed action and had not exploded.
6.11.40 Wednesday The all clear sounded at 7.10 a.m. but we heard the Metropolitan Area all clear sounded at 8.20. a.m. This was London’s longest raid.
Tonight I was home early but before I had finished tea the German planes were overhead. By 9 p.m. they had been flying over continuously for three hours. Went to bed at 12.15 and planes have been going over continuously and are still doing so. We are tired and fall asleep.
7.11.40 Roosevelt re-elected US president. The Home Guard is to have army ranks and commissions. This voluntary organisation, an amateur army, although controlled by the war office has been a purely civilian army. Last night was London’s longest and heaviest night raid yet. Now at 10 p.m. the planes are still going overhead regularly. They commenced at 6.45, later and fewer than last night. We have just heard a plane drop over 20 bombs one after another in the Banstead direction. At midnight the raids still seem lighter than usual and I have to go on fire patrol. The moon sets and immediately a plane goes over and drops three bombs in the direction of Epsom. About 2 more planes go over and drop a delayed action
bomb about a mile or more away. At 2 a.m. we are relieved by two more fellows.
8.11.40 At one time we had 8 or 9 warnings in daylight and all were serious - now down to 2 or 3. Sometimes like today only one. I asked for an increase in my salary today. At present it is £312 per annum. (I believe my father was an unqualified accountant.) The air raids started at 6.30 p.m. but were again lighter than usual.
9.11.40 Whilst in Epsom during a warning at 2 p.m. but had heard German planes for about an hour before the warning. A plane went over and dropped 2 bombs in Ewell. All clear at 5.15 but another warning at 5.45. Hardly any planes came over and the all clear was before 10 p.m.
10.11.40 Chamberlain died yesterday. The Munich air raid last night wads a deliberate attempt on Hitler’s life but failed. Raiders flying over continuously from 5.30 to 9.30 p.m. One or two bombs fell somewhere near. I fell asleep in the armchair in front of the log fire frequently.
11.11.40 I went to Epsom Downs station for a train but the station had been bombed (This was a Monday so the bombing was since Friday 8th). I went to Epsom town by bus and waited a long time there. At Tattenham Corner the all clear sounded at 5.30 p.m. and there were no further raids during the night. Italy made its first attempt to bomb England and it cost them 13 planes to none of ours.
12.11.40 I arrived home at 5 p.m. Fixed the black out (black out time 5.45), and brought in the coal and logs. Then hurried to eat dinner before the raids started. Raiders going over from 6.35 till 9.15 p.m. fewer than usual and they met with such a barrage that shakes our gas cooker up and down.
13.11.40 On the way home saw guns fire at planes over Wandsworth - saw about a dozen shells burst above. May (my wife) saw a German bomber fly over the downs. No raiders today (air raid warning from 6.30 to 8.10 p.m.). Supposed to be on patrol 10 to midnight but no warning was given and I was thankful to remains indoors during heavy rain.
14.11.40 Surprised to see thin covering of snow today. Molotov had more talks with Hitler today. One raider came over this evening. Twice for a few minutes each, distant gun fire sounded. Still no further raiders about up to bedtime - very mysterious but good.
15.11.40 Friday Only one warning today. During daylight now the R.A.F. seem supreme. We fear the nights. Londoners flock to the tubes for shelter about midday. The majority of these Londoners who await the time for admission are East End Jews. Tonight I am on patrol from midnight until 2 a.m. The warning sounded at 6 p.m. and a few planes came over then long intervals of quiet until 10.30 p.m. when the sky is alive with German planes. They are coming over in their hundreds. When I go on patrol I am watching continuously. Five big fires towards Sutton way blazing furiously. We saw another incendiary bomb fall but it does not light up. Heard a bomb falling rather close but think it fell on the Downs. My companion fell flat on his face but no harm befalls us. Go to bed at 2.30 a.m. but sky still full of planes and bursting shells. Pandemonium let loose but when I crawl under the dining room table I fall asleep.
16.11.40 Went to Sutton this afternoon to the cinema. “Saloon Bar” with Gordon Harder plus a Laurel and Hardy. Saw a woman aimlessly crossing the road and a motorcyclist knock her down. Got home at 5.30 just on black out time. No raid warning at all today. Warning at 6 p.m. but by 8.45 only 3 or 4 planes. Suppose a big raid somewhere else, as on Thursday when Coventry was mass attacked. Air Ministry and Home Security admit 1,000 casualties in this raid. These few days have seen about 20 German planes destroyed each day with loss of sometimes none but not more than two British pilots. Raiders still scarce when we went to bed.
17.11.40 Sunday - Short raid in the afternoon. Friday night’s raid on London was the worst yet. It was also Hamburg’s worst at the hands of the R.A.F. The raid there lasted 12 hours and 2,000 incendiaries and score’s of High Explosives were dropped.
In safe country areas cottages are being let to rich evacuees for 15 guineas a week.
Warning at 6.40 p.m. and all clear at 7.20 - no raiders heard. A second warning this evening at 8 p.m. Few planes because of heavy rain. But one approached unloaded his load and we heard about ten bombs whistle down very near to us and then it turned back home. Generally quiet. Bed at 11.15 and up for patrol at 2 a.m.. Nothing till 3 and then the odd one. Back to bed at 4. No need to patrol much, so played chess.
18.11.40 Caught 9.49 train from Epsom Downs to Victoria. Left George Street, W.1 at 3.15 for home. Churchill continues to replace our military chiefs with younger men. We want younger more vigorous men in these top places. Two warnings but only two planes went over by 11.20 p.m. - neither met by gunfire.
19.11.40 Noticed in the city a bomb fell in Lombard Street and one in Eastcheap. Bill discovered two more craters in field at end of the garden (Near Headley Drive) No warnings at all today. The usual at 6.10 p.m. and planes have been coming over at long intervals. Now 9.25 still very few. A gun has been moved nearer to us and we can hear the shells whine overhead.
There was quite a lot of political comment and opinion in the diary for 19th and 20th November as well as elsewhere in the diary that I have not included. There is also some news of bombs and planes in Walthamstow in the diary.
20.11.40 On duty 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. Sat in font of oak log fire fell asleep until 7.30 a.m. Nice hot both - raining in torrents. No raid warnings today. Last night there was a mass air attack on Birmingham - much material damages but little loss of life. Nothing to report - only 4 or 5 planes went over here this evening.
21.11.40 R.A.F. dropped extra heavy calibre bombs on Berlin. Must have been effective as Goebbals threatened us with all sorts of horrors. Warning at 7.10 p.m. and all clear 10 p.m. heard only two or three planes.
22.11.40 No warnings today. It is reported that Hitler is making more preparations for invasion about 21st November. Many more guns laid down opposite Dover.
We shall get more tea and sugar allowed to us for Christmas festivities. Sun from a cloudless sky all afternoon and now tonight the sky is like black velvet with all the stars shining like bits of silver and it is cold. The warning went at 6.50 p.m. and the all clear at 10.35. Very planes went over and few guns heard.
23.11.40 Three raid warnings during the day. .Many aeroplanes - British patrolling most of the day. Tonight in spite of clear dark velvet sky with silvery glittering stars the warning was not sounded until 8.30 p.m. No plane has been heard at Tattenham Corner at 10.40 p.m. Distant guns at 10.15 p.m. On duty 12 till 2 - all quiet.
(There is much political news at this period of the diary - Bulgaria, Roumania, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Greece)
24.11.40 Sunday We went for a walk over the downs towards Headley Church - past Nohome Farm and almost to Walton Hurst Farm - found ten bomb craters around these two farms - some very near misses and one crater very big. Three daylight warnings but no German planes. No warnings at all during the night although three planes went over & were fired at. Germans say Bristol was heavily bombed last night.
25.11.40 Milk will cost four & half pence a pint on 1st Dec. Germans claim Southampton was heavily bombed last night. 20,000 miners unemployed although we in London and the South East are almost without any coal. (my father frequently mentions he spends time sawing up logs) Arrived home long after black out but no warning all night.
26.11.40 (My mother took myself and my cousin staying with us to the West End to see Father Christmas at Selfridges.) No warning till 7.15 p.m. but no planes heard - all clear 11 p.m.
27.11.40 Two short warnings in day but no planes seen or heard. Warning at 7.30 to 10.30 but only 3 or 4 planes heard. On duty 4 - 6 a.m. - all quiet.
28.11.40 Tonight very busy, planes going over continuously but no bombs were heard exploding.
29.11.40 Last night raiders went over London to Liverpool which was heavily bombed. The last day or two London has had a few daylight warnings each day. Tonight’s warning went about 6 p.m. and raiders came over in large numbers. About 9.30 p.m. I went along the Spinney to borrow a tin hat to wear on patrol (home guard) when 2 or more incendiaries fell. These bombs consist of hundreds of small bombs which scatter over a large area. These scattered over the Downs up to Tattenham Corner Station including the fields adjoining the rear of our garden (Headley Drive area). One fell in a garden four houses away. They are small magnesium and carbide bombs about 2 feet long and 2 or 3 inches wide. A small fin of alloy one end enables them to fall straight down when the basket containing them explodes in the air. There must be hundreds or even thousands of these small bombs alight around us tonight. The place was like fairyland. Luckily no material damage was done. At the time we could have read a newspaper so bright was everywhere and above the German plane was circling looking for a good place to drop his H.E. bombs. Luckily he realised that nothing was important here and flew away. Some of the small bombs exploded within 30 seconds or more of burning. The visible result from a distance was a shower of fireworks, but anyone trying to put out a bomb like this would get hurt. Later on I heard of a fellow with severe head injuries by one of these explosive fire bombs. Shrapnel was falling everywhere and aeroplanes were passing over continuously. Saw many flares over direction of Epsom, Ewell, Sutton, Banstead and Croydon, most of which were shot down.
30.11.40 Saturday - Cold and frosty, sunshine and deep blue sky. Took Bill (me at five years old) out at 8.30 a.m. through the heavily frosted fields searching for fire bomb fins. Boys out before us had arms loaded with them. We found a dozen or so and came home because of the cold. Where an explosive one had exploded the turf was blown away and a small crater about 10 to 12 inches was formed. Tonight no warning was sounded at all. Twice we heard a plane go over and it was fired upon but that was all we heard.
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