- Contributed by
- Mark E
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 17 July 2003
The Battle of Britain became The Blitz as Germany's Luftwaffe began to target Britain's major cities, rather than military targets such as airfields.
For the first time, the population of urban centres had to endure sustained air bombing campaigns, all in the pitch darkness of the blackout...
If you lived near a major military installation, or a city picked as a target, you could be in for a tough time:
There was an ammunition works down on the marshes next to the Thames. I can remember people working down there even well after the war finished. To fill cartridges with explosives in Woolwich Arsenal would have been too dangerous so it was done at Slade Green. A hut blew up after the war killing women carrying out the work.
When the Germans were looking to find and destroy this works, Slade Green was said to look like a 'fairyland'. This was due to the incendiaries [fire bombs] dropped. Someone said one lodged in our roof at No. 58 but did not ignite - Phew!
German fighters and bombers etc. used the Thames as a guide to London. Also if they got into trouble they dropped their bombs wherever they were. I believe that I can remember a dogfight between fighters over Slade Green. I can also remember a 'doodle bug'. These were unmanned guided missiles that were aimed at us [from 1944]. Crude rockets. When the engine stopped they would drop and explode. Many were sent into Kent.
Also landmines, these I believe were sea-mines dropped from aircraft by parachute, exploding on impact. Bombs usually made a hole and then exploded back-upwards whereas the landmine exploded when touching the ground. The blast went sideways causing a great deal of damage.
One dropped in a field along Thames Road, the blast went along the ground over the railway embankment, immediately along back gardens to break windows and do other damage to houses in Lincoln Road. Thank goodness for the railway embankment.
Collecting shrapnel was also a pastime. All houses had air raid shelters in the back garden, ours was partially buried in the back garden.
Whilst air raids were very destructive, causing many civilian casualties, there could be lighter moments:
During a daylight raid in 1941 a 'stick' of incediary bombs fell on the grass centre dividing strip of Queens Drive, West Derby. A few others found more serious targets.
One of these latter went straight through the slate roof and the ceiling of a house on Queens Drive and incredibly landed in the toilet bowl of the dwelling. The man of the house had visited the toilet a few minutes earlier and yes, you guessed it, he left the lid up!
Smoke could be seen coming through the broken roof and before long many volunteers carrying buckets of sand and strirrup pumps converged on the house. A large number of people then crowded into the toilet and witnessed the incendiary bomb sitting in the toilet bowl burning furiously but harmlessly. It was left to eventually burn itself out and the prized tail section was added to my shrapnel collection.
The toilet bowl sustained fatal heat damage and was replaced by the local council depot.
Letters can be a key primary source for historians, as they provide an insight into the day to day lives of those who lived through the Blitz. These letters were written by a wealthy woman to her niece. She had been able to move to another house in Maidenhead, to escape the worst of the Blitz in London. Her husband and sons were all in military uniform.
110 Aldermans Hill
Sunday, Dec 8th 
I am hoping this will reach you to wish you all a Happy Christmas, & trust the New Year will bring us all happier times? I have no news from you, so am not sure that our letters reach these terrible times.
I have tried to send you 2 [pounds] this week as a little help toward a little X-mas happiness & I do hope it will reach you. Hope you are all keeping well. I am fairly well but not too happy. I have already told you, I have sold Redcliffe & all its contents & am staying here at Twynford with Stella [her daughter].
London is not very happy place. Most of my windows have been blown in, & I am having them boarded up, it is an awful time for me without Uncle. No one can do as he did, this is three hours from 110. One cannot get away from the horror, but it is a little more peaceful here & most of the bombs drop in fields.
I have also ordered a weekly paper to be sent you which gives you some London news but not much. It would break your heart to see some of the places, & how the poor people stand it I do not know without a roof or "stick" left. I shall only be too grateful if my house suffers no worse. I can write you more about it later. Reg [her youngest son] has had windows broken, and Will [another son] roof damaged. Your Dad will remember Ruby, Aunt Nell's daughter. Her house has caught it badly but ok. I think has been able to save her furniture.
I expect you are getting some of the news your side & radio or own papers, no one seems to think it will soon end. Am not looking a bit forward to Xmas. Shall be glad when it is over, hoping for Peace to look forward to after.
At any rate we can do that & wish each other happier times.
Which I am wishing for all
110 Alderman's Hill
Wednesday March 19th 
My Dear Helen
A letter from you to hand this morning dated Feb 1st. You just mention the 9 [pounds]. I have already written you I have put it in bank with other & hope you may one day receive it tho' God knows if and when that will be. I am glad you get the little papers, it gives you some news of this side.
Pleasant to know you are all well, the same here in health, only wish could say the same in mind. The worry is dreadful. Glad to hear like us you are busy knitting. We do our best but have an idea your Mother is a much more proficient knitter than either Stella or myself. This is what we do, socks for Army & Navy, helmets, scarves, mittens, gloves, caps for tin helmets, & sea boot stockings & hospital stockings, but not pull overs or jackets. Bedroom slippers & bed socks we do for ourselves & Stella does ankle socks for herself.
If it was only a reasonable time we could send you a sample of each but have not yet seen the ones you mention with a leather sole. At any rate I can try & send you slips of how to make some. I do not like the heelless socks. The sea boot stockings are very huge, very thick oiled wool & makes your hands quite sore to knit them. Wool has become very expensive here & scarce, except only the service colours. Most of that is now very poor. We reinforce the heels & toes with 'Star Silko' for strength. Sorry to say the new office [Uncle Phil's second law office] has suffered a little, but thank God not like the first. I am sure you cannot imagine not even a pen left.[Uncle Phil's first office was bombed to oblivion].
By the way we have been knitting the gloves on two needles, they are quite practical. I found the four needles much too "fiddling". Have you tried them yet? We got the instructions from the War Comforts Fund depot here. Very thick harsh wool, but fairly quickly done.
Well once again all the best to all
& Best love from
110 Aldermans Hill
Wednesday April 30th 
No news from you but if this should reach you it will let you know we are all well thro' this horrible time. I sent you some knitting papers, hope they reached you & that you found them useful.
I went up to London yesterday & found the sight most depressing. Regie's house has suffered a bit, windows & doors blown in, but thank God nothing worse. Suppose will tell you all about it one day, when the Beasts are got under.
Until then wishing you all, all the best
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