- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Eileen Ruth Blanchenay
- Location of story:
- Wood Green London N22
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 February 2004
My name is Eileen Blancenay aged 14 years, I lived with my mother and sister Joyce in an old fashioned, gas-lit three roomed flat at 106 Bury Road, Wood Green, London N.22. We had been given this flat in February 1941 after being bombed out of our house in September 1940 in which father was killed.
I left school at Easter and worked as an office junior for a firm in Holborn Hall, Gray's Inn Road, London WC1 treavelling to the City every day by tube from Turnpike Lane.
The first time I heard a "Doodlebug" was one night during early June. I was in bed when I heard what I thought was an aeroplane. It woke me up but the siren hadn't gone. It seemed very loud and then the engine stopped and a short time after there was an explosion and I just thought the plance ahd been dameged and just come down. I heard nothing else and went back to sleep.
This then st the pattern. I still went up to London every day. We were on the top floor of our building and when we hear a "Doodlebug" coming we all used to go out in the corridor, we never had time to go down to the basement. When I used to come out of the tube station at night on my way home, you could be sure that the siren would go on the corner opposite andthen it was a toss-up whether I stayed in the station or went home. I sued to run the gauntlett along the High Road, Wood Green passed the shops, downa samll road and then down my road which was at the back of the High Roadshops and our flat was the last one at the end of the road. Opposite our flat, under some trees, was a brick-built surface shelter. One night the siren was just going as I came out toe the tube but I decided to chance the run. I ran along the High Road just as the siren was dying away and I could hear the "Doodlebug" coming, m y heart was thumping, nobody else was around. I turned into my road, the 'thing' was overhead but I couldn't look up at it. The silence was terrible all I could hear were my footsteps and as it exploded I went straight into the shelter wall instead of the doorway but at lease I was in one piece.
The shelter was our home for about three months. It was full every night. My married sisster Ivy and her three children came to stay with us as her husband was in the Army. The "Doodlebug" never stopped me going to the pictures, which I did about threee nights a week with my friedn Pam. We'd rather have died watching our favourite film stars than stay at home. They used to put up a notice in the cinema to say the the siren had gone but nobody ever left.
Pam, my friend, lived in Westbeech Road the next road to where I lived. When we left each other on the corner after the pictures we used to say see you later in the shelter. First of all when I got home I would change into my shelter clothes, these were old clothes kept especially for this purpose because we couldn't undress into night clothes, except for the small children, because of all the people who slept in the shlter and anyway it kept us warmer also we had differenct clothes to wear during the day. We used to put our hair in curlers and then put on a "snood" (it was a crocheted hair net made with wool) which al the girls wore, especially in the factories.
The shelter had three tiered wooden bunks and Pam and I had the op ones next to each other. We brought our blankets and pillows and we really enjoyed it and we talked and laughted until we were told to go to sleep by everybody else. The light was kept on all night but we got used to sleeping like that but the bunks were hard and often we longed for our own beds. One night when we'd been sleeping like this for some time, much to my mother's horror, I decided to stay home and sleep in my own bed and although it was a bad night, I let through it but I ached so much the next morning I could harley get out of bed, so back to the shelter.
There was a "ddoodlebug" dropped in Hornsey which wasn't far away and Pam and I were jokingly saying it would be our turn next. A few nights later early in the evening, a beautiful sunny evening, I was standing outside our flat with Ivy my sister just looking down the road and I remarked to her that the road looked so nice with not a window broken and all the houses intact.
That night we were al asleep in the shelter, the siren had gone and it must have gone 12am when all of a sudden this "doodlebug" was coming and it was so loud and very near and when it seemed overheadthe engine cut-out and that long silence whcih always made me hold by breath. The explosion was very near, the shelfter shook and a pebble fell of f the ceiling. Nobody moved for quite a few minutes, we all seemed frighttened to go outside. One of the women in the shelter accused Pam and I of making it happen buecause of our joiking a few days before but I suppose she was shocked and it couldn't possibly have been true. Anyway I said to my Mum give me the key and I'll go over to see if the flat was alreight. She had a jot to find the key but eventually I went outside. The whole street was covered in broken glass and grey slats off the roofs. I got to the flat and went throught the gateway which was covered in glass and found the font door was laying in the passage so I din't need the key. I wondered where our cat Tibby was. He usually slept on my bed but the wardrobe was lying across the bed and Tibby was nowhere to be seen. The only windows not broken were in my bedroom at the back of the flat as they had been open a bit. I left the flat and walked down the road and by then two great big lights had been erected on the roof of Marks and Spencers to shin on the appalling mess of the houses opposite. The Manager's of Marks and Spencers and Woolworths were soon down as they had there back doors blown off and were frightened their goods would have disappeared. People were too busy for that. It was the most eerie sight you could imagine, the centres of tow roads had been lasted. The "ddodlebug" had fallen in the back gardens between Bury Road and Westbeech Road and blasted ouwards on both sides of each road. The two spot lights lit up a scene of terrible devistation. There was a little boy of three killed. Hed had fair curly hair and I used to watch him ride his three-wheeled bike around the block. Other people were killeed and injured and two girls I knew had black eyes and bruises and also their mother was injured as their house was next to the demolished ones adn eventually had to be taken down because it was beyond repair. They were taken to a rest centre.
When the morning came at last we were so busy clearing up that we forgot about my sister's children who we'd left in the shelter and it wasn't until they came toddling out that we remebered them. My old grandad, agaed 89 years, lived in Westbeech Road and his house was very badly damaged and they had to take him to a rest centre but he protested so much because he didn't want to leave his house and within a week he died. We don't know whether it was shock or fear of not being allowed to go home again because of his age.
I was coming home from work three days later when I found my road cordoned off again and a policeman on duty there. He asked me where I was going and I said I lived there and he told me to hurry pass the demolished house as they had just found another two bodies in the wreckage and were just going to get them out. Nobody knew they were there. It was a widow and her son og about twelve, I'd seen them about and I always felt sorry for them as they seemed alone just the two of them and thats how they were found clasped in each others arms. They han't lived in our road long so nobody knew them.
At the end of the first day all the damaged houses in the two roads had temporary repairs. Our house has a tarpaulin on the roof and we had black carboard material in the bottom half of the window and sort of white muslin at the top but is didn't give us much light unless we opened our windows.
The cat came back after a couple of days, he must have been hiding somewhere, he wan't injured nor were his paws cut by glass.
One of the last "doodlebugs" to fall in Wood Green was on a Saturday afternoon in the Autumn. I fell in Farrant Aveneu, where my Aunt Flo and Uncle Andrew lived. Theire daughter Joan managed to dive in the table shelter which saved her from serious injury as they lived a few doors along from the devastated houses. My Aunt was in the little corner sub-Post Office in Salisbury Road when the "doodlebug" was coming and the postmaster invited her the other side of the counter so they could shelter underneath it. Good job he did as the windows got blasted. We gave shelter to Aunt and Unclea and Joan in our flat for a few months while there house was extensively repaired.
A V." rocket fell in Gladstone Avenue in the Autumn of 1944 a few streets away and I think if we'd had a lot more of these things, I think our morale would have broken. We got used to the "doodlebugs" which at least you could hear and take appropriate action but the rockets were silent and this made them more terrifying. The rockets seemed to cause more devistation and windows were broken over a wider area.
Fortunately, the victory in Europe came before too many of these things were launched.
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