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The Beginning of the Blitz on London

by jollywhatsit

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Lillian Smith (formerly Collins) and Sydney Smith
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15 December 2004

I was born and grew up with my Mum, Dad, sister and brother, in East London — Bow E.3 and Bethnal Green E.2. I was 23 years old when War was declared on 3rd September 1939.

During the first year of the War there were air-raids both during the daytime and night-time. I worked in the City of London near Cheapside and the Bank of England. The company, A J Holladay and Co, imported toys made in Germany, Austria and Japan, which were distributed to Hamleys and other toy shops all over the UK. The dolls from Germany and musical instruments from Austria were top sellers at the time! The company also made the first model aeroplanes.

One Saturday afternoon (8th September 1940) there was an air raid and German planes came over and dropped bombs along the warehouses and workshops bordering onto the Thames. They left about 4.00 p.m. My sister and I were in Mile End Road to book tickets for an Opera that evening at the People’s Palace at 7.30 p.m. We attended the concert and at about 8.30 p.m. during the performance, there was a huge bang - the Germans had come back for a second attack. The whole building shook, but to our utter amazement no one on the stage missed a note! When we left the theatre we had to walk home in spite of a terrific air raid going on. It was chaotic. Smoke hung in the air, fires crackled and raged all around us and people were hurrying about their business. We too ran all the way to our home in Chisenhale Road.

This was the first night-time bombing on London and the beginning of the Blitz.

We got home at about 10.30 p.m. and spent our first night in the garden Air Raid Shelter. All was quiet until 4.00 a.m. on the Sunday morning when a bomb fell outside our house in the middle of the road. Fortunately for us a main water sewer ran parallel with our road and took most of the blast. Manhole covers were blown into the air just yards away from us. My Dad was an Air Raid Warden. He was literally blown off his feet at the front door of our house, right down the hallway into the kitchen. We lost the roof of our house, windows were blown in and splinters of glass were blown across the bedroom sticking like daggers into the doors of the wardrobe that was standing by the opposite window. Had we been indoors we would have been badly hurt. The next day we had to move house temporarily to Tottenham - my cousin moved back to live with his parents, which enabled us to move into his house for a while.

The bombardment on London carried on day and night until Christmas. There were times when I had to walk to and from work because the tram and trolley bus stations had been hit. From Tottenham this was an hour and a half walk to and from work. On the 29th December 1940 the City of London was bombed and the firm I worked for went as well.

My boy-friend at this time worked for Howard Wall in Hackney Road — we had first met at A J Holladay and Co. Howard Wall had been bombed in October 1940 and he was sent to work at Short and Mason (working on aeroplane instruments) in Walthamstow. In November 1940 his family lost their home completely — house, furniture, everything — in Longnor Road E.1.

Short and Mason took on an empty garage/workshop ‘in the country’ at Biggleswade, Bedfordshire and moved their tool room, assembly line and quality/testing section to a safer place. We got married on 14th December 1940 and lived in Leyton for a month before evacuating to Biggleswade in January 1941. I worked at Short and Mason on the 1.30 p.m. to 8.00 p.m, shift with a team of girls, for £1. 8s. 0d. per week.

It was like heaven to be able to go to bed at night and hardly know that there was a War going on. It was also an idyllic place to raise our own family. We moved with our three children to Letchworth in 1952.

14th December 2004

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