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Around Plymouth Docks

by Kingsmoor

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Les Philp
Location of story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
02 April 2004

Les Philp in Devon

LES PHILP was asked whether he was happy to talk about memories from the war and his life in general to which he gave his permission. Information obtained by Joan Lovegrove – volunteer helper with Age Concern Oxfordshire, 23.02.04.

Les was born 3 September 1930 which made him 9 years old when war broke out. He was the third child of six with 2 older brothers. The eldest was in the navy and worked on destroyers. A large part of the work of destroyers was hunting U-boats. His brother survived the war but was never very happy to recall memories of his experiences. Les lived in Tavistock, Devon and the family were able to see down into Plymouth Docks. There were many destroyers in the port and lots of enemy attack around the area because of this. Like many families at this time they had an Anderson shelter in the garden. Although this provided fair protection the children did not like to go into it as it was smelly and damp. His father’s trade was a painter and decorator and he was part of a unit which gave help to families who had been bombed and their houses needed to be patched up and mended. ‘War damage unit’?

He has two very interesting memories:

An anti-aircraft shell which had not exploded came through the tiled roof of his house, through the bedroom where he was sleeping with his brother and out through the window to bounce into the front garden of the house opposite. The family were immediately moved and the bomb disposal squad came within a few hours. The shell was disarmed but the family could not return home for several days. This incident was probably Autumn 1940/41.

Although the next story could not be told until after the war because of the official secrets act it showed his mother acting in a really brave way. Apparently there was a knock at the door which when opened showed 6 men who wanted to know how to get to somewhere over the river. She gave false directions sending them to a railway bridge, not the pedestrian one. She then informed the police who were waiting for them when they arrived. They were found to be Germans who had probably been dropped by parachute. They were arrested and taken to a prisoner of war camp.

Les is able to remember the street parties in 1945 with bunting and cakes etc. Many German and Italian prisoners of war remained in his area after the war. They had been farm workers and filled the gap left by the local men. Some married local girls.

Huge British mines were left after the war on the beaches etc. which had to be disarmed by the bomb disposal squad. Everyone was evacuated to the village hall at these times until everything was declared safe.

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