- Contributed by
- Keith Oxley
- People in story:
- Keith Oxley, David Oxley, Captain Walter Oxley and Mrs Winifred Oxley
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 May 2005
VJ Night in Folkestone
My father, being a Salvation Army Officer was considered to be in a “Reserved Occupation” and therefore was not called up for service. Instead, he took on various responsibilities, such as fire watching. At the beginning of the war we lived in Hackney, North East London, but the Salvation Army was considerate to families with young children and posted us to Yeovil. This proved to be far from a safe location as the road in which we lived, Home Drive, was just on the edge of the airdrome where the P49 (I think that is what it was termed) fighter plane was being developed and the Nazis had found out. The result being that the area was constantly bombarded at night. For safety each night we got dressed in our night clothes and dressing gowns and drove out into the countryside to sleep the night away, not knowing whether our house would be standing when we returned in the morning. I can distinctly remember watching the enemy planes being illuminated and the shells going up the searchlight beam. We called them “Flaming Onions”. During daytime air raids we huddled in the cupboard under the stairs.
Recognising that Yeovil was not such a suitable venue for a safe haven we moved to digs in Bridgewater for a while. However, as if the Nazis were following us around, one evening a wounded German bomber retreating home decided to drop its cargo on land mines in the field next to the house we were staying in. Again, I have distinct memories of my mum rushing up to the bedroom to see if my brother and I were OK only to have to switch off the light immediately as the blast had blown all the windows out and the curtains down. On going down stairs I saw the rest of the family trying to rescue cups of cocoa that had been blown all over the dining room table.
During this time we had news that the flat in which we had been living in Hackney, No. 9 Northumberland Mansions had received a direct hit and been raised to the ground. The site was later turned into a static water tank before being re-built after the war.
A further posting for my father was to Wolverhampton. First of all to 28 Marchant Street and later to a more modern house on the Cannock Road. We called the house “Rosehill” It was still relatively early in the war and we suffered a few raids of incendiary devices. My father, again in his role as fire warden, was called to the Salvation Army Hall where a bomb had penetrated the roof and set fire to the church. With the help of others they managed to extinguish the fire and save the building. During this time we witnessed a most peculiar event. One evening we were all awakened by a strange droning noise getting slowly near to us. We looked out of the windows to witness a red glow moving across the sky and eventually disappearing into the distance. We later were informed that this was one of the first flying bombs being experimented on by the Nazis. Obviously they had not perfected the range or direction of the devices, which we know eventually enabled them to devastate London.
In 1944 my father was posted to Blackburn and my war time recollections are mainly confined to the declaration of peace. My brother recalls being out at night with our father during his fire watching rota. On hearing loud rumbling noises he looked up into the sky to see several aeroplanes, all with black crosses on the underside of their wings. "Don't worry", said dad, "They're ours!" - and we believed him! I was now eleven years old and living at 127 Montague Street, a steet long since bulldozed and re-built. At our first address in Blackburn we had a Morrison shelter in the living room. My father acting very bravely refused to go into it until one almighty bang caused everything to shake and he made a very hasty retreat into the shelter. Some time later, after the declaration of peace, I remember seeing street lights for the first time. I also remember Winston Churchill touring the area and remember standing on a bank to watch him pass by. I let out as loud as could, "Good old Winnie" and was grateful to have his acknowledgement in his familiar wave.
On the actual day of the declaration of peace, VJ Day we were again on holiday in Folkestone. My recollections of that day are vivid. My uncle, aunt and two cousins set out in his car and my mother, father, brother and I in ours and we travelled into the town to view the celebration. Neither car was in terribly good condition as they had been driven throughout the war and spares were not available. Our car, a 1937 Morris ten, had no working starter motor and therefore had to be started by the starting handle. The crowds in the town were massive and very excitable. As we drove from the sea front up the hill going home to Cheriton our car stalled right outside the Town Hall. Dad got out with the starting handle, but didn’t stand a chance as Canadian Soldiers trampled all over the car. They eventually started the car for us and let us go on our way. The following morning a picture of our car appeared on the front page of the newspaper with my father clearly seen trying to get back inside and the registration number, DYF 826 easily defined.
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