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WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
CSV Actiondesk at BBC Oxford
People in story: 
Lady Hilda (Nibby) Bullock
Location of story: 
London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4149010
Contributed on: 
03 June 2005

(This story has been submitted to the People's War site by Ceri Walker of Oxford on behalf of Lady Hilda Bullock and has been added to the site with her permission. Lady Bullock fully understands the site's terms and conditions.)

Lady Bullock married Alan Bullock, the distinguished historian later to become Lord Bullock of Leafield), on June 1st 1940. After a one-day honeymoon they arrived in London during an air raid and took up temporary residence in Cambridge House in Camberwell. As Camberwell suffered 'terrific bombing raids', the entire first month of her married life seemed to be spent in an air-raid shelter with ten other people, sleeping either on or under the sturdy dining tables placed there for that purpose.

Hilda became an accredited visitor for some nearby Alms Houses, and one day a land mine drifted slowly down towards those Alms Houses, but became caught up and did not explode. Hilda helped the residents to safety, but she remembers that 'One lovely old lady was most reluctant to go. "I don't want to leave here," she said, "I've just got my bacon!". She had been to collect her bacon ration and that seemed more immediate to her than any unexploded land mine.

As a matter of course, all the residents of Cambridge House handed in their ration books to the kitchen where the catering was superbly organised by a wonderful lady who, allthough she had had no training as a cook 'could make one potato do the work of six!'.

The Bullocks moved on to a spacious house in Wimbledon, and Hilda's mother came down from Bradford to help her, but after one particularly dreadful raid they decided they must leave, and they picked their way across broken glass and debris towards King's Cross station to take the train to Yorkshire. Hilda must still have been in shock, because she recalls looking at a fly on the window of the railway carriage and thinking 'Oh dear, it's another bomber', before her eyes adjusted themselves to her infinite relief. Alan Bullock remained in London and Hilda remembers how alarming it was to hear his voice coming down the telephone to the accompaniment of ack-ack guns and air raids.

Back once more in London, the Bullocks went to Bracknell one evening where Alan Bullock was to lecture at the WEA. News came that there was another bad raid on London, and a kind couple who had attended the lecture, invited the Bullocks to stay the night rather than returning into the fray. For the first time in months they 'had a real bed and could sleep the whole night through without disturbance. It was such a gift', recalled Hilda.

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