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Bryan's War

by Bryan Blow

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Bryan Blow
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Bryan Blow
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07 May 2005

The war started in 1939 when I was eight. We had to carry gas masks to school and if the siren sounded we had to run like mad to the nearest shelter. We had an Anderson air raid shelter in the rear garden, the shelter was set between two large apple trees, when it was first put in, it used to get half full of water, workmen came and concreted the inside bottom half; this cured the water problem, there were four bunks inside, throughout late 1940 and early 1941 we slept in the Anderson shelter every night.
After Leicester’s worst air raid on the night of 19/20 November 1940, I am reputed to have asked my dad “had there been many bombs” I had in fact slept all through it.
The air raid siren was just one hundred yards away from our house; it was on the top of the pork pie library, it was very loud. On my tenth birthday the siren sounded ten times, five alerts and five all clears.
The worst bomb damage that I saw was in Cavendish Road, on August 21st 1940. I was with my dad in his lorry on the coal wharf at Danvers Road. The air raid siren sounded, it was just after ten o'clock. Dad made me go into an air raid shelter near by, when the all clear sounded, I came out of the shelter and we could see the smoke rising. Dad was worried as it looked to be in the direction of where we lived. He said “come on son we had better go and see if mum is OK”. As we came up the Saffron Lane past the end of Cavendish Road the gas main was blazing and I could see lots of bomb damage, many buildings were in ruins, people were just being rescued with ambulance’s and fire engines all around. This was less than half an hour after the raid. Six people were killed; Cavendish Road was only one mile from our house. In broad daylight the German Dornier Do.17 bomber flying very low curved round the gas works after dropping its bombs (it missed), straight towards our house. Mother had the pram with Graham in it just approaching our front gates. My brothers Arthur and Tony had been debating what sort of plane it was, when they decided it was German, they made a dash for our shelter. Mum had heard reports of German planes machine gunning civilians; she snatched Graham up out of his pram and made a dash for the shelter just as the plane roared over, my mother fell into the Anderson shelter; mum was black and blue for weeks. We had another stick of bombs less than one mile away at a different time on Saffron Road our side of the barracks. They fell in a line over the front of the row of houses, the blast going away from the houses towards the road knocking down several trees. Very little damage was done to the houses; the gaps in the trees are still there.
Not long after the war started mum had to billet two war workers, they were Charles Cooper and Fred Sawyer, and their works had been bombed out at Woolwich, London. They were directed to Leicester to work at a factory on Aylestone Road, commandeered for the Standard Telephone & Cables Co. for war work. They were with us for nearly four years. During that time we three boys had to sleep in a Put-you-up bed (this was a fold up bed settee) in the down stairs front room. Later in the war in 1944 I went to stay with Fred's mum and dad for a week at their house in Oakridge Road, Bromley, Kent. This was the week when a Flying Bomb hit a school in Lewisham, when about thirty children were killed. This was just five miles from where I was staying. At that time we had thought the bombing was over. Towards the end of the war I used to cycle to Bruntingthorpe airfield with a couple of friends to watch the planes, on the 15th October 1944, I was watching two Wellington bombers circuit round to land, the first one flew over us and landed, I turned to look for the other and it was not there, I then saw it over the hedge in the next field skimming along just before it crash landed, it had run out of fuel just short of the runway, we ran over and saw that the aircraft had broken its back, only one of the crew was injured he had gashed his legs just below the knees on the navigators table, the crash rescue truck came and cleared me off.

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Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Leicestershire and Rutland Category
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