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An Early Case of “Friendly Fire”

by derbycsv

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Peter Tolson (age then about 10), Marion Tolson, Harry Tolson
Location of story: 
Chaddesden, Derby
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
20 June 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Odilia Roberts from the CSV Action Desk on behalf of Peter Tolson and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

We had moved into our house in Rupert Road, Chaddesden, Derby in 1938.
My mother, her young brother and myself were visiting one of her other brothers who was living in St. Albans when war was declared. After a lot of trouble we managed to get a train back to Derby — most of the trains were full of children being evacuated from the London area — as the train was full, we were sitting in the guards van and I can remember the light bulb was blue, when the guard had to write something down he would change the bulb for a normal white one, then change it back to blue “air-raid regulations” he said. I can still remember all the factories we passed were ablaze with light!

As the neighbours who had put Anderson shelters in their back gardens found several inches of water in them, my father managed to get several railway sleepers and made a shelter in the alcove in the back room — perhaps not so safe but much more comfortable. During air raids we would spend the night playing cards and sleeping in the “shelter”.

One night, 1942 or thereabouts, during an air raid (I must admit to being asleep) there was a loud thud. My father went to investigate and found he was walking on broken tiles and rubble. Soon neighbours and a warden appeared and when someone shone a torch on next-door’s roof (to cries of PUT THAT LIGHT OUT) they saw a swathe of tiles had been ripped off. They also found a hole about 3 feet wide that went under the wall into the foundations. A policeman insisted that we move out for the night, so we went about ten houses up the road and spent the rest of the night with some friends.

Next morning we returned and found a policeman on guard. He had looked in the hole and had seen what he thought was the back end of a bomb. “Have you got a pick-axe?” he asked, to which my father hurriedly said no.

I don’t know what he was supposed to be guarding as there was a stream of folk climbing over the garden wall to have a look.

That afternoon a bomb disposal crew arrived, the officer i/c got down on his knees, poked around in the hole, wiggled the pointed end of the object and pulled it out.

“There you are, ”he said, “its one of ours.” The bomb wasn’t a bomb but an anti-aircraft shell. He said it probably came from the battery at Dale Abbey and that we were lucky it had come down at the same angle as the next doors roof, as that had caused it to spin. If it had gone in the right way it would probably have exploded.

All very exciting for a young lad.

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Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
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