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A school boy in London blitz part three

by nottinghamcsv

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Archive List > The Blitz

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Sidney Rising
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09 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by CSV/BBC Radio Nottingham on behalf of Sidney Rising with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

We were unable to live in our house due to the very close landing bomb and my father set about arranging somewhere else for us to live. Some relatives of Doris’s, who also lived in East Ham, decided to move out of London into the country so they agreed to us living in their house in East Ham.
This allowed me to attend the same school I had been attending. However whilst my parents were arranging to move house I went to stay with my maternal grandparents in a village called Hartfield in Yorkshire.
It was whilst I was staying there that I attended the local grammar school for boys which I enjoyed although my cockney accent was often ridiculed by the Yorkshire boys.
It was during this time I was living in Yorkshire that my parents moved into the new house bad shortly after moving they received another shock.
It happened one morning after an all night raid during which they had sheltered in a communal shelter at the end of the street.
They were not allowed to enter the street again because there was an unexploded bomb in the street outside their house so the street was sealed off.
My father was allowed to go to the back of the house to retrieve his bicycle, his only transport to work, but on going to the rear of the house he found a large hole in the garden where he had planned to erect and Anderson type air raid shelter.
He immediately reported this to the authorities who examined the hole and found another unexploded bomb within the hole. Both bombs were eventually removed without any further damage.
After a few months in Yorkshire I returned to East Ham and lived with my parents and resumed my education at the East Ham Grammar School for girls.
After a short tune we had to move house again to temporary accommodation until out original house had been repaired.
The house we moved into was still in the same area but it was a slightly larger house and it had an Anderson type shelter in the back garden. My father pained the inside of this shelter and built a wooden extension on the front of it.
This was to be the family bedroom for future months with my parents sleeping on the floor of the shelter and me on the wooden bunk above them.
Several families lived like this during the London blitz because the frequency of air raids made it impractical to go to bed in the house each night.
Every night was guaranteed that the air raid siren would go so families would go to bed in their air raid shelters to save getting up in the warm house and moving out into the shelter.
We followed this pattern every night for several months until one night when we were all in the shelter sitting up in bed and talking, suddenly the loud screaming of a falling bomb was heard for several seconds followed by a loud explosion. The earth and the shelter vibrated as if a large hand had picked it up and shook it, the wooden extension at the front of the shelter shattered into several pieces and large chunks of wood were blown into the shelter.
Fortunately none of us were injured although we were surrounded by wooden debris in our beds. Somebody said “phew that was a close one”.
Mother was a little tearful and we tried to cheer each other up, but this was the third time our home had received a close call and it was taking its effect on all of us. When the ‘all clear’ had sounded we all emerged from the shelter to examine where the bomb had fallen and what damage it had done.
At the bottom of the garden and near the front of the air raid shelter was a wall about ten feet from our shelter.
No doubt the wall had saved us from most of the blast. This wall surrounded an East London Jewish cemetery and the only damage appeared to be to several of the gravestones.
However, things were different on our side of the wall. In addition to the damage to the air raid shelter, the roof of our house was missing and the back of the house was blown in, all the windows including the French windows were completely shattered.
Once more I went searching the neighbourhood looking for shrapnel for souvenirs.
The whole area was devastated. One particular block of house I knew well which were surrounded by four streets. There wasn’t one house left standing. The whole block was just a pile of bricks
The smell of plaster and brick dust was in the air and it was difficult to avoid the smell of it.
Rescue workers were climbing and calling out all over the piles of bricks.
One of the bombs being dropped by the enemy were land mines, which were dropped on a parachute and timed to explode just above ground level for a maximum effect.
I was told that one such landmine had caused the damage to the block of house that were now a pile of bricks.
My parents were again looking for somewhere for us to live. Nowhere could be found because of the extensive damage in East Ham so we were temporarily accommodated by my father’s brother Charlie and his family in another district of East London called Leytonstone.
My cousin Doris went to live with her husband near to where he was stationed and I was living with my other cousins Brenda and Joan.
Brenda was older than I and Joan was younger. I was still able to attend the same school and in East Ham but it did mean a cycle ride of about five miles to get there each morning.
The arrangements were the same each might for the two families but this time we did not all go into the air raid shelter until the siren was sounded.
So we all went to our beds as normal then when an air raid was imminent we all went into the shelter which had been made comfortable with electric light and many other comforts.
My uncle Charlie, being a handyman and a professional painter and decorator. We would all stay in the shelter until the ‘all clear’ was sounded, which was often the next morning.
After several months of the two families living together in Leytonstone. The first house we had been bombed out on in East Ham was now fully repaired for us to move back into. This meant that I was within walking distance of my school and I was now 13 years old and giving thought to what I would like to do when I eventually left school. I was tall for my 13 years and I was thinking that I would like to be a policeman.

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