- Contributed by
- Leicestershire Library Services - Birstall library
- People in story:
- Ken Leech
- Location of story:
- Redruth, Cornwall
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 February 2005
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Ken Leech. He fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
It happened during the Second World War and it is the truth — honestly!
I was evacuated from London in 1939 and arrived in Redruth, a small town in Cornwall. The area is a relic of the time of tin mining having the ground burrowed with passages leading to the tin source, accessed by shafts and signposted with tall chimneys providing visible landmarks for all who needed them. As evacuees we had found the landscape so different, yet strangely comforting in its calmness. Small communities sheltered among dark craggy outcropping carns and natural water areas. Our hideaways were small caves cut into the rock where we surreptitiously rubbed, hand rolled and smoked our herbal cigarettes out of sight of teachers and “foster” parents!
My brother joined the school two years later and sadly we were billeted separately, he with an elderly lady about ten minutes walk away from where I was living. He knew no other lads at school and subsequently we spent lots of time together.
That night we had been together at his billet passing time as boys do, swapping cigarette cards and telling tales about teachers with uncivilised ideas about discipline and how much more we knew about things than they did! We had just successfully swapped cards, one of my motor bikes for one of his Arsenal team which made me a full set! Then — the dreadful wailing of an air raid siren filled the air — we glanced apprehensively at each other and feigned bravery, cursing the enemy with great gusto. Roy’s lady came into the room wondering, with grave concern, whether I should hurry home in case Mrs Johnson was worrying about me.
Reluctantly I got my satchel together and left them. No sooner had their front door closed than the shrill, piercing, almost never ending whine of a falling bomb shrieked into the night.
“Gosh!” I thought “they must be aiming at the tall chimney at the top of the road — what shall I do?”. Muddled memories of civil defence talks at school flashed through my mind and I picked one of them as I was hurrying to the next house in the row of terraced homes — my legs trembling and blood running very coldly.
I faced onto the door, pushed my head onto the wood and covered my face with hands and arms. I searched the dregs of scripture lessons and mouthed a silent prayer.
Then came the crushing, chaotic roar of the exploding bomb. My head filled with sound and my ears went numb. I looked down and the door was below me! Next, the passage came into sight and I flew along its length, seeing the floor below. I fell with a thump to the floor, winded, frightened and confused. I lay there quietly and waited for the world to start again. Slowly, I came to my senses and very gently got my feet back to the floor and raised myself to a standing position. My breath came to me in stuttering shudders. I looked forward in front of me and prepared myself for whatever was to come!
A door opened in front of me and a bright, smiling rosy-red face appeared. Its owner helped me to my feet and spoke in a voice as full and tasty as the Cornish pasties I had come to enjoy so much.
“Hullo!” she said “You must be Ken!”
I had never seen her before — and never did again.
I hurried fearfully back out of the house and scurried back up the hill passing people who had left their homes to see if any evidence of the bomb could be seen — ignoring all well meant air raid precaution advice. The bomb was far from my mind at that moment. I arrived back at my own billet and gabbled my story to Mrs Johnson. She looked curiously at me while I told it to her, comforting me with a warm drink and love we’d come to share. “Off to bed, Ken boy” she said “a good night’s sleep is what you need”.
When I returned to Redruth, many years later, we talked of that happeningand assuming that I would be able to take in her information, now I was an adult, she told me more.
“Funny thing is Ken — that the house you talked of had not been lived in since the tin mine closed down”.
“The house had been lived in by a widow lady — Mrs Trevithick her name — with her only son. Just a lad he was. He worked in the mine and died in a pit accident in 1928. She mourned for him and gradually isolated herself until she died, alone and a recluse in 1934. There were no other relatives and somehow the house stayed empty all those years aftwerwards”.
“The strangest thing, Ken boy, is that her son was called Ken also”.
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