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When the Sirens Sounded

by joyfuljoanch

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Joan Chapman
Location of story: 
South East London
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 June 2005

Dear Sirs,
Among the various V.E. Day commemoration programmes I believe I caught the end of a suggestion that the producers of the programme would like any little memories of everyday experiences of members of the public to be sent to you — am I right? In case I am, and in case it is of any interest — here is one of the fairly regular occurrences which were part of my life when I worked in an aluminium foundry’s laboratory where the material was checked and tested in many ways before being released to be part of aircraft bombers or fighters.

I was working in the testing laboratories and heat treatment department of an aluminium foundry in South East London. I was an assistant to the metallurgist in charge of the quality testing. Before any part was dispatched for construction this testing was regulatory in bombers, fighters and spitfires, I remember particularly.

I remember the many times during the buzz bomb era when I was busy with the tensile testing machine and a batch of test bars, while my boss, the metallurgist, was perhaps in the dark room checking X-rays of similar and varied parts, when the sirens sounded. Those of us who could leave their posts downed tools rapidly and ran for the shelters as we could hear the dreaded drone of a doodle bug coming our way, and we tumbled down the steps falling over one another.

The drone continued, getting louder and it seemed certainly heading our way. Then came the ominous sudden silence and we all held our breath, not knowing if it was indeed heading over us. Then the almighty loud explosion — seeming so close to us - but we were still all in one piece, crammed like sardines in the shelters. And when all had gone silent we warily emerged — thankfully to find that the damage was usually perhaps up to half a mile away. It was all very scary, but we never had a direct hit. So back we went to carry on where we left off thanking our lucky stars!

As soon as the war was over I married my boss!

If this is of any interest - fine. If not, no harm done - it has been a nostalgic exercise for me,thank you.

Yours faithfully,
Joan Chapman (nee Touge)

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