- Contributed by
- Billericay Library
- People in story:
- Joan Reason (forerly Purkiss )
- Location of story:
- West Ham London
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 06 July 2004
When the second world war was started on 3rd September 1939 it was
1 month after my 13th Birthday.
It was to last for 5 years.
I was in London during the blitz and survived many air raids.
We lived in West Ham, not far from the London docks and the river Thames which lead to the centre of the city.
One memory of the blitz which sticks in my mind was the night of September 7th 1940 when the German planes came over, dropping hundreds of incendiary bombs to set the city on London ablaze.
The air raids had been getting worse for some time.
We had an Anderson air raid shelter in the garden just bib enough for Mum , Dad and I (and the dog Peter).
Our house backed on to Newman timber yard and sawmills, so that the fear of fire bombs (incendiaries) was great.
My sister Hilda, Husband Steve and their baby Tony lived in the next road, but they decided that night to come around with us.
We were all scared and guessed something bib was about to happen.
When the warning siren went we all got into the shelter but there was hardly any room to move, trying to sit on the bunks and make do chairs, with onlt candles for a light and with something to block the doorway it became stifling. Dad couldn’t stand it . so decided to take me and go to the large public shelter underneath St Andrews Church in Barking Rd, giving those at home more space.
He said we would be back when the raid was over.
Unfortunately we didn’t think to take a bottle of water with us.
The public shelter was getting full when we arrived and we were lucky to get a seat.
I think people felt safer in shelters under the Church than in their garden ones.
More and more people were coming in.
Two air raid wardens were on duty at the door and I suppose in the end had to refuse to take any more and directed them elsewhere.
We could hear anti aircraft guns and felt the thump of bombs dropping.
People tried to doze off but there wasn’t any fresh air and it was getting very hot and stuffy.
I was so very thirsty and longed for a drink.
Dad went around asking people if they had a small amount of water for me, but there wasn’t any.
It was a long,long night and the all clear sound until it was almost day light.
When the wardens said it as safe to come out , it was marvellous to breath in some fresh air.
The Church was on a slight hill and as we stood and looked around there was an orange glow coming from the city of London in the distance.
I remember Dad saying “my God !, look at that !”
It looked just like Golden Sunrise, but in fact everywhere hundreds of buildings were on fire and the smell of the burning was so strong it was unbelievable !.
We walked home and Mum was so thankful to see us.
I was 14 years old.
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