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Football Matches and Raids

by Peoples War Team in the East Midlands

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Peoples War Team in the East Midlands
People in story: 
Bill Millward
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
06 June 2005

"This story was submitted to the site by the BBC's Peoples War Team in the East Midlands with Bill Millwards permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions"

For the boys, Tuesday morning was the peak of the week. Our city-centre school had no playing fields and in 1942 we were allowed to play on the hallowed turf of a League football club, temporarily out of action. On that particular Tuesday we were being shepherded through the town, talking tactics and arguing about who should play where, and why, when the plane appeared. It flew the length of the main street then disappeared. It was so low and so slow that every detail was clear - the downward-pointing machine guns in the forward turret, exhaust flames from the twin engines, stark black crosses on the wings and the sinister swastika on the tail. As it went laboriously over our heads we could see right inside the its belly, like looking into the skeleton of a beached whale. It was the bomb bay. Its doors gaped wide and it was empty.

"What was that." Said the teacher.

"Heinkel 111." Came the chorus. We were all experts at aircraft recognition.

The evening paper reported that a German bomber had been shot down by fighters south of the town. There were no reports of air-raids the previous night so what it was doing over our town we never knew. Surprisingly, there was some sympathy for it. Caught in broad daylight in the middle of England, separated from the coast by a hundred miles of country packed with hostile airfields, presumably lost, that gaping bomb bay presumably a sign of damage. It was a sitting duck.

It might have been different story however, or perhaps no story at all, if that bomb bay had not been empty.

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