- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Betty Cooney (Boon)
- Location of story:
- Plymouth Blitz
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 May 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Lynn Hughes on behalf of Betty Cooney (Boon), the author and has been added to the site his/her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
Whenever the air raid sirens sounded, the Dockyard gates were locked and nobody was allowed to go out or come in until the “all clear” sounded. We would have to stay in our “dungeon” shelter and it was very often late at night before we could carry back our records etc to our office and leave to make our ways to our homes as best we could. There was a strict “black out” everywhere, there was one advantage to this as there were no shadows to fear. If we were lucky a suitable bus would come along, and the conductor would shout our it’s number and we would travel in “luxury”. Otherwise we would walk. It was a very long walk from Devonport to Plymstock, but home was like a magnet and drew us on.
One evening I cannot remember the exact time but it was very dark we had finished work and I hurried to my bus stop to get home before a possible raid. I remember that were a lot of “Dockyardies” going out of the gates with me, and many of them were gathered at the bus stops. The Dockyard gates were just a stone’s throw away from the bus stops. To my horror the sirens suddenly started, I made a quick dash t get back inside but I was too late. The policeman at the gate told me to hurry and get into the underground shelter just opposite. I was swept down the steps with a great crowd of the men all my office friends were already on their way home.
I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be the only girl in such a crowd of men. I knew they were all part of our “dockyard family” and that they would die rather than offend any of “their girls”, but I had lost all sense of reason and I was praying “Please god, don’t let me be killed with all these men”. I gabbled this to myself over and over. The sound of planes and aircraft fire and bombs exploding seemed to be the least of my troubles. Then, unbelievably came the smell of hot pasties, it seemed that our shelter was deep under or near the baker’s shop. This shop was famous for those savory pasties and they were always in great demand by our people in their meals breaks. They worked so many different shifts that were absolutely necessary, that the bakers must have been making pasties almost continuously.
In the gloom of the shelter I could dimly see people carrying trays of pasties, which were eagerly snatched up and hungrily devoured. But for once (it had never been known before not since, and I am now 84!) the thought of eating pasties was nauseating. At long last the all clear sounded and we climbed up the steps thankfully, into the fresh air. The prospect of a long lonely walk home in the blackout was not intimidating after my ordeal, but like a blessing a bus came along and the conductor shouted out that it was going to Plymouth. It was like climbing into Heaven as I scrambled up the bus steps. It took me as far as Derry’s Cross and I walked from there to the nearest Plymstock bus stop in Basket Street.
There were many people there waiting and hoping for buses. Among the voices I recognised that of my friend Kath. She had been sheltering in South yard while I was sheltering outside North yard. We were overjoyed to find each other. We were deciding whether we should continue waiting or whether we should start walking, when a Plymstock bus appeared. We were driven through sidestreets and lanes, twisting and turning. There were fires all over the place, but at last we arrive in our village. It was good to be home again with my parents and to drink a hot cup of tea by candlelight. By this time I was normal enough to think wistfully of the hot savory pasty I had rejected.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.