- Contributed by
- michael delaney
- People in story:
- Michael Delaney
- Location of story:
- Orpington Kent
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 September 2003
It was the morning of the 27th March 1945, Mum had gone to clean the library in Orpington High Street, it was one of the many jobs she did to feed her family of seven children which included a cousin who lived with us since her Mother died four years previously. We lived in Walnuts Road which ran parallel to the valley of Orpington High Street, and this particular morning we were getting ready for school while Dad was dressing the younger members of the family. Paddy was the eldest, he was ten, I was eight, then came my cousin Mary, seven, my two sisters Marion and Margaret five and four respectively,followed by two brothers, Desmond, two and Jack, one.
I was passing the window at the rear of the living room when I felt a rush of wind, almost warm and then it was as though some giant had picked the house up and shook it like a matchbox, the windows trembled before cascading across the living room, showering Demond with tiny splinters, an almighty roar followed instantaneously and the house shook again before a silence descended followed by cries and shouts of fear and terror.My ears rang as though a thousand bells had entered my head and everything became slow motion.
Dad clasped the girls and tried to brush the particles of glass away from their hair, astonishingly none of us was hurt but the cold morning entered the house with nothing to bar its way. Dad calmed us, then in an even calmer voice he said to me and Paddy, "Go down to the library and look for Mum." We were only too glad to go, it meant that we might be able to see where the bomb had landed, so instead of making for the library at the top end of the High Street, we made for the centre where a scene of devastation met our eyes, every shop window in the centre of the high street lay in smithereens across the pavement and gutter, ragged garments hung from some open spaces where jagged frames hung crazily into the thoroughfare. A policeman wearing a black steel helmet was blowing a whistle and the A.R.P vehicles and ambulances were moving slowly up the street. Broken tiles were scattered in pieces having been blown from the roofs of the shops, two shop assistants were standing crying together outside what remained of their workplace. We picked our way up the high street towards the library and found it minus windows and door, of Mum there was no sign, we were nearer the scene of the explosion now, and only for the large Commodore cinema, the casualties would have been much higher, The explosion was caused by a V.2 and it had landed fifty yards or so behind the cinema which absorbed most of the blast. The V.2 was a rocket filled with high explosives and targeted to land in the areas in and around London, these were so sophisticated that you never heard them coming, the first you knew was the explosion, their predecessor, the V.1 had an unmistakeable sound, like a motor-bike without a silencer and you could hear the engine cut out and try to seek shelter. The V.2 was silent,deadly and dreaded. Assuming that Mum had been killed or wounded, we didn't bother to hurry home, but continued to survey the devestated high street.
Eventually we strolled home looking for shrapnel on the way, we found Mum at home, she had been cleaning the part of the library below ground level and was there when the rocket landed. We were delighted, not about Mum but about the fact that we didn't have to go to school that day. It seemed ironical that only nine months' earlier, we had been evacuated to Wales to escape the V1s only to be hit by a V2. This was in fact, the last V2 to land on England. One person was killed whom I believe is buried in Orpington graveyard, around thirty or so were injured, and just two months later, the war was over. Even today if you stand near the was memorial in Orpington and look up to the sloping roofs above the street, you will be able to see the 'new' tiles that replaced the old ones blasted away in that last V.2 attack.
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