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War time reminiscence: In a Bristol Hospital

by epsomandewelllhc

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Alan Hughes
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Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 December 2003


In 1940,the early part of the war, I was in hospital in Bristol having had an appendicitis operation and was 9 years old at the time and had been seriously ill, as the operation had been just in time. As a consequence I was in hospital for about 3 weeks. At that time the German blitz on Bristol was increasing in severity. Bristol was an important target for the Luftwaffe as it had large wartime factories including the Bristol Aeroplane Co. etc.
One evening when my father was visiting me, a severe raid commenced. We could hear the waves of bombers approaching, the noise of the anti-aircraft fire and the whistle of the bombs coming down. Outside the windows we could see the searchlights. This went on for sometime After a while there were signs of action in the corridor outside the ward and we discovered that there were incendiary bombs on the hospital roof. Fortunately they were put out. At this point the patients in my ward were moved to a safer part of the hospital.
My father had to stay all night. My mother and my sister were at our house which was some miles away on the other side of the side of the city. In the morning my father had to walk home. He only managed it because he had his police tin hat with him [he was a special constable] Movement around the city was restricted due to fires, unexploded bombs and other sundry hazards. The school I had attended was destroyed while I was in hospital.
Around this time the road where we lived was bombed. Our houses were built on a bill and as a result the houses on the opposite side of the road had large cellars and people slept in them for safety. One night a bomb landed on one of these houses almost opposite our house. It went through the roof into the house demolishing a piano on the way and finished up in the cellar not hitting any of the people there! It did not explode and the bomb disposal people later found that its’ mechanism had been sabotaged, probably by some slave labourer in a German arms factory.
As a result of the situation in Bristol my parents decided that my mother, my sister and I should go and stay at my grandfather’s house in South Petherton in Somerset. My grandfather had died just before the war started but my mother and her sister had kept the house in case the situation in Bristol and London [where my aunt, uncle and family lived) became too dangerous.
The hospital decided that I was well enough to leave, so we all.except my father ended up in Somerset. We had a house full there because in addition to us and my aunt and her two children, there was another family who had evacuated from London. Fortunately it was a fair-sized house.
One night a few days after we came to live in South Petherton. my mother was looking out of the bedroom window only to see a German bomber flying low over the village illuminated by the searchlights of the Naval Air Station at Yeovilton which was nearby .1 expect she wondered whether the move to the country was wise .However while we were there we suffered nothing worse than a bomb dropped in a field by a plane in trouble .We all visited the big crater the next day.
When I had recovered from my operation I went to the village school for a term and after that to llminster Grammar School for a year. There was a school bus which took us from the village square to Ilminster [about 7.5 miles) and back each day .One day on the last day of term we finished school at midday and the bus did not leave for the return journey until about 4 pm. [There were children from several schools using the bus I decided to walk accompanied part of the way by one of my fellow pupils. .Of course I made it safely, though I don’t know what my mother thought about it. I remember too that in the village square near the bus stop I used to get my hair cut for 4d [Old pence.]
My father stayed in Bristol all this time .He worked in his bank job during the day, including Saturday mornings .Every other night he was on duty as a special constable as night raids were frequent .He must have been exhausted much of the time. However, he found enough energy [every fortnight to cycle from Bristol to South Petherton - around 40 miles] to see us .He set off after work on Saturday morning and returned on Sunday evening .Part of the journey included climbing the Mendip hills .So it was quite a tough ride. He said he preferred it to the train because it was quicker ! There was no direct line between Bristol and Yeovil [the nearest station to South Petherton j So it was a circuitous route and, of course, services were unreliable during the war especially on Sundays [not a lot has changed!] Petrol was only available for essential use, so my father’s car remained in the garage.
Around 1942 when things were quieter in Bristol we returned to our house which thankfully had survived almost intact, though a number of houses nearby had disappeared.


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The Blitz Category
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