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15 October 2014
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Memories of the War Years at Hellfire Corner 1938-1945*; *pictures included

by A7431347

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15 July 2005

In September 1938, Hitler signed the Munich Agreement with the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Neville Chamberlain; Mussolini and the French Prime Minister, Edouard Daladier, to settle the German claims to Czechoslovakia. Hitler secured the signatories permission to invade Sudetenland; the rest of Czechoslovakia was guaranteed against attack by Hitler. It was welcomed as giving peace in our time agreeing not to invade Czechoslovakia. The politicians in power in Britain and France believed that Germany should be appease; they also thought communism was a far greater threat than Nazism. In March 1939, the Nazis occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia and as a result “war” was declared.

The Council provided every household in the country with the “Anderson Shelter”; the men dug huge holes in our garden and the shelters were buried. Mattresses were taken off our beds and taken down to the shelter, only just fitting, depending on the size of the family, we slept top to tail (like sardines). The flask, a kettle full of water ready to boil, the teapot tea caddy, sugar and milk were always ready to take down to the Shelter (the “Dugout” as we called it” — no teabags or coffee then. I was 17 years old.

A few minutes from where I lived, up a little lane called Abbots Hall Chase was the Army Camp where on e of the biggest guns and heaviest artillery were based and just a few miles from the Thames Haven Oil Refinery where all the large oil storage tankers sited, making it a prime target for the German bombers. The Germans bombers would fly up the Thames and bomb the oil storage tanks on their way to drop bombs on London,. If the British fighters managed to intercept the bombers before they reached London, the German bombers would drop their bombs anywhere over land on the way back. When we got the “All Clear” siren, we would come out of the dugout to find the devastation.

On 6th/7th September 1940, the Germans bombed Shell Haven. It was a terrible raid. My Grandparents lived in 74 Corringham Road, Stanford-le-Hope, my brother and I lived in 36 Burgess Road (Burgess Avenue, as it was then), during the raid, the Germans dropped a parachute mine, which fell and hung suspended from the telephone wires in Corringham Road at the junction with Burgess Road, it was 8th April, 1940, nine people perished, four of them were my school friends and their parents. Our house and my Grandparents home were close by and suffered a lot of damage, as a result my Grandparents were put into Prefab (a quick way of re-housing bombed out families) and my family was housed in a vacant council house in Conrad Road.

After the “Anderson Shelter” came the “Morrison Shelter”, it was like a cage and set up in the house, our double bed was put inside and just fitted. I was now married with a baby boy, so we slept quite comfortably in the “Cage”, we didn’t have to run down the garden in the dead of night in the cold and rain.

When we had the Doodle Bugs and Flying Bombs, they made a dreadful noise, but then the noise would suddenly stop and we would wait for the explosion, very frightening, daylight would come and we would go ou to see the dreadful damaged and those who had lost their lives.

During the war, we were rationed for food and all had food coupons for sweets and clothes, we didn’t see bananas or oranges until after the war ended. Fish wasn’t rationed but you had to queue for it and sometimes by the time we had got to the shop counter the best had gone or there was none left.

There are so many memories I could tell, but we did have some lovely happy ones too, only I would go on forever. I hope my memory of Hell Fire Corner has been useful to you on your research, it had given me great pleasure to recall those memories even through the danger and sadness.

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