- Contributed by
- People in story:
- John Dowman
- Location of story:
- Wickford, Essex
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 June 2004
My mother died when I was five and half, so I lived with my aunt and uncle. I remember well Chamberlain's statement on the radio, and for the first few months, it was quite quiet.
When the Battle of Britain started it was quite a traumatic time, and we could look across to the Thames and see the huge numbers of aircraft heading up the river.
I remember one time, the German planes were flying up in a geese like formation, and they were heading towards North Weald runway, I remember three RAF Hurricane fighters climbing into their formation, heard the machine guns going, and we ran for cover.
I lived with my aunt and uncle and we went for a walk to about 1 mile outside of Wickford and we could tell a raid was coming. There used to be a bus service run through Wickford, so we got on board and it stopped in the High Street. The bombs came down, the bus was bouncing like a rubber ball, and everyone was very scared. When we got out there was devastation and my Aunt said that our house was on fire. Wickford Broadway was one mass of incendiary bombs. The local butcher came out with buckets of sand. We eventually got home and a bomb had landed on the house next door and had burned the wall next to my bedroom, so I was very lucky.
In 1940, my two cousins and I were sleeping downstairs on the floor in the front room of my Aunt's house, in Elm Road, Wickford. Then a parachute mine dropped 300 metres from us. We were all covered with glass, but not one of us received any cuts.
The night time raids were even worse, in particular on the 10th and 11th of May 1941 when 1450 people died.
There was a period of quiet for a few years after that and when D-Day came people almost thought the war was over, but for my mind the most terrible thing happened on 13th June 1944 when flying bombs came over, which were terrible. I was gripping the air raid shelter seat and was saying to myself 'Please let the bombs keep going'. Lots fell in this area, where many of the planes that had come over London came our way.
The V2 planes with long range rockets were next at this time, which came along silently. One of the V1's killed 3 people, and destroyed the local cafe.
In March 1945, there was an Airborne Assault across the Rhine. Whilst I was on my paper round in South Hanningfield Road, a sergeant (in the glider pilot regiment) came running down the road and said 'Give me your bike son, where's the phone box?'. He went and used the phone and came back and gave me back my bike.
My thoughts on the war was that we didn’t have much money, our primary interest was the cinema, where I had to get an adult to get me in. There were lots of soldiers billeted in Wickford and things that happened to me I will never forget.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.