- Contributed by
- Wymondham Learning Centre
- People in story:
- Jack Gentle, Frank and Ralph Land
- Location of story:
- Bedmond, Hertfordshire
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 13 April 2005
This story was submitted to the BBC People’s War site by Wymondham Learning Centre on behalf of the author who fully understand the site's terms and conditions.
I was 9 years old when the war started and I remember listening with my parents to the now
famous broadcast given by Chamberlain and hearing the first air raid warning sirens shortly after.
We lived in an isolated group of houses in between the villages of Abbots Langley and Bedmond
My father a resourceful countryman and veteran of the first world war insisted that our first priority was
to make, as he called it, a dugout. We all laboured through gravel and clay until we had made a hole
about seven feet deep. This was then covered with heavy timbers and earth. It was very damp and as far
as I can recall we never used it in earnest. When the sirens sounded we gathered in a little
cubby-hole under the stairs.
Two North London schools were evacuated to Abbots Langley, and my father suggested that my mother to accept ‘a nice quiet girl’ evacuee. When he returned from work she had taken pity on twin Jewish refugees, Frank and Ralph Land, who had escaped from Berlin with their parents.
We were very lucky living in the country. We grew our own vegetables and my father and we three
children spent much of tour time with 12 bore and 4/10 guns shooting rabbits, pigeons and the
occasional pheasant on the farm at the bottom of the garden which we accessed through a hole in the hedge. He trained us to respect the guns and we all became good shots. An unthinkable responsibility for 10/12 year olds by today’s over protective standards!
For us children air raids provided some amusement although it was always tempered with an element of fear. On the sound of the siren we were woken and we sat in the cubby-hole under the stairs - with the exception of my father. With the front door open he would stand facing London and would give a running commentary on the progress of the raid.
German aircraft would be chased out of London and would dump their bombs indiscriminately across the fields. My father would give us his estimate of the position of each bomb and would only join us at the last minute when the line of bombing seemed to be heading our way.
The day after a raid we would search any local craters for shrapnel. This could always be traded at
school for cordite, old incendiary bombs or any else that the Home Guard might have left lying around
after their exercises.
A 550lb British bomb, captured at Dunkirk, fell in a neighbour’s garden, fortunately without casualties or really serious structural damage to the houses. However it did provide an opportunity for us to buy our first car! A 1936 Ford 8 in the neighbour’s garage suffered shrapnel damage. My father bought it for £10 and we all pushed it home. He spent the rest of the war patching it up and it was still in regular use twenty five years later.
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