BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

It Took Me Three and a Half Hours to get Home

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Colin Wickenden, Pat Hyams
Location of story: 
London/Hither Green, Lewisham
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 May 2005

Colin Wickenden wearing his BBC badge

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Amanda Wilkins on behalf of Colin Wickenden with his permission. Colin fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I joined the BBC in 1937 when I was 14 and worked at Broadcasting House in Portland Place.

I worked both on reception and as a messenger and I preferred the outdoor work because I went to places like Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

In 1939 there were runours about a war and we were told if war broke out not to come in. I went home on a Friday and on Sunday war broke out so I didn't go in. Nothing much happened so I got a letter telling me to go back to work.

On Saturday September 7 1940 I was working 9-5 on the reception desk with another lad from London, I think his name was Pat Hyams. At 4.55 the air raid went and we left the building to go home. Oxford Circus Station was closed due to the raids so we walked down through Trafalgar Square to Charing Cross Station where I had to catch my train back to Lee, near Lewisham.

Pat went down the side of the station to catch his train and that was the lastI saw of him. My train was in and I got into a compartment where there was one man and two girls - I couldn't see their faces very well because it was dark but I can still remember them now.

We sat there for ages and all the time I could hear the raids, boom, boom, which had been going on all the time we walked to the station.

We went about a mile then I saw the gas works on the right going up in flames and I could smell the gas coming through the windows of the train. On the leftthey were bombing Surrey Docks.

We got to New Cross Station where the trains were being stopped because of the raids. There were no loudspeakers in those days, just guards on the platform.I saw a subway but it was very crowded so I decided not to go down there.

Smoke was billowing through the station, sometimes you couldn't see anything. I leant against a wall and just stood there. I suppose I must have been scared but there was so much going on I don't remember being frightened.

I stood there for an hour before the all clear sounded and I got back on my train. We got to Lewisham Station where we were told the train couldn't go on as there was a girder on the line. I had about an hour's walk to Lee so I thought I would get a tram.

I went out into the High Street and there were no trams going my way at all. They were all lined up the other side of the road as they were being recalled to the depot. I also saw the fire engines from Guildford heading for London.

I started walking home and got to Hither Green where a friend of mine lived. He invited me in but I said I was an only child and my mother would be worried sick. He offered to come with me but I decided to head on alone and he would come after me.
I got home about 8.15pm having left the BBC at 4.55pm. My mother had a plate with two hot sausages on, I can see and smell them today. I had just eaten one when the aire raid siren went again. By then my friend had arrived and he told me to go home with him as they had an Anderson shelter. So I went back to Hither Green and spent the night there. The next night I slept under the kitchen table at home.

On the Monday I went back to work at the BBC but Pat never appeared. I have often wondered what happened to him, was he killed? I would love to know.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

The Blitz Category
Working Through War Category
London Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy