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Contributed by 
Devon Library Service
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Ronald Hawkins
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Contributed on: 
09 June 2005

I was born in 1929 and at the outbreak of war was ten years old living in Exeter. My first recollection was the troops coming back from Dunkirk. Lots of boats came back full of troops, most of them were wrapped in blankets. The first bombs that were dropped were in Exeter. Maybe the bomber was damaged and needed to get the rid of the bombs. The bombs killed two children while they were holding their mothers’ hands and their house fell around the mother who suffered minor injuries. My father was working at the mortuary and had to pick the dead children up. When he returned home he was extremely emotional. Two bombers came up the River Exe very low and dropped bombs in the centre of Exeter. Fortunately nobody was injured.

In April 1942 on a Friday night the first major bombing raid took place. My family was hiding under the stairs because we could hear the bomber coming. A bomb landed to the left of the house blowing a side of it away. The family were buried up to their necks. It was very frightening for the family. The house was uninhabitable so we stayed at a friend’s house. The city council had to arrange new permanent accommodation. The next raid was a Sunday night in May. The middle of Exeter was bombed and lots of shops and houses were totally destroyed. Another raid hit the cathedral on a Friday night. It took one of the cathedral’s wings. The following Sunday my father left the house to report for duty and he was away for ten days and didn’t come home because of the amount of deaths in the raids. My mother and I walked from Fore Street to St Sidwell's fountain and the streets were full of rubble. All of the buildings were destroyed. Four cinemas were destroyed. Quite a lot of people had moved out to more rural areas.

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