- Contributed by
- CSV Action Desk Leicester
- People in story:
- Rose McNamara-Wright
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 December 2005
When we went to school and a raid started, we had to sit in the corridor away from the windows, or dive under our desks. I would be terrified for my mum and worried all the time till I saw her again. I hated saying goodbye to mum in the mornings in-case we never saw each other again. I felt I was carrying the whole world on my shoulders.
Bill and I went to the same school. At school all the windows and doors were sand-bagged in case the glass shattered. Sands bags were used for anything that could smash and cause injury.
People were using the underground stations as deep shelters. They were sleeping down the tubes which in it’s self was dangerous as if a bomb hit a water — main you could be drowned or buried in slurry. Many people fell on the lines while they slept and got killed. Even though the electric was shut off at night, it was turned on again at 5.30am for the trains to start running again.
We had fog in those days, it was thick and black and smelt like coal, or, it was thick and yellow and called “smog” and it made you cough and splutter and it made you choke, but we loved it, because on foggy nights we had no air-raids: the bombers couldn’t see us. Not like on bright moon — lit nights they could follow the water-line of the Thames you can’t hide water, that’s how they got such accurate bombing on the docks and the City.
After the bombers had passed over us in North London, we would come out of our shelters. We would hear the bombs dropping on the docks and see the pillars of smoke rising.
We felt sorry for them we knew what they were going through. It was a most horrible time. London was an inferno. Doctors and nurses worked day and night, the Police helped ferry the injured to hospital when the ambulances couldn’t get through
There was death and destruction everywhere. It was a sight no child should see and definitely not to be involved iin.
Then one night, after weeks and weeks of the “Blitz” and months of bombing there was no air-raid warning over London, it just didn’t come. We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what Hitler was up to, but we were soon to find out. Hitler had turned his evil attention on Coventry. Hitler blitzed Coventry with over 600 tons of bombs and thousands of incendiaries. He smashed Coventry to bits. There were so many people dead they had to be buried in a common grave. Next he bombed cities and towns in the provinces. Then he bombed places like Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Glasgow, he was trying to knockout British Industry. After that it was the ports.
I am now going to 1944 not long before the war ended. We had been hearing a lot about Hitler’s secret weapons the first one was called the “V1” it was a pilotless plane, we called it the “Buzz Bomb” or the “Doodle Bug”. You could watch this flying bomb come over and you were safe until it’s orange tail light went out and it’s engine stopped, then you dived into the nearest shelter..
There was no accuracy with this weapon, it could change it’s course and turn back upon it-self before it crashed. The short time these weapons were in use they killed 6000 people and injured 18,000 and made thousands homeless.
After that came Hitler’s Ultimate weapon the V2. The V2 was a long range rocket which travelled faster than sound carrying a ton of high explosives in it’s war head and it came without warning. It made a sound like an express train a terrible tearing sound ( do you remember Scud Missiles in the Falklands).
Christmas night 1944. I had popped out to see my friends who were sitting on the Albion pubs doorstep and eating Arrowroot Biscuits ( the size of a plate) and drinking lemonade which their mum and dad had just given them. Their mum and dad were inside celebrating Christmas with the rest of their family.
My family were at home, they were teetotal and I was not allowed to sit on pub doorsteps. My brother saw me there and went home and told my dad. Dad ran round to the pub and gave me a clip round the head and a kick up the bottom and grounded me for a week. I thought my family were very miserable and unsociable.
The next day, Boxing Day one day after Christmas, 1944. I was not allowed to go out with my friends. But Bill and I had been allowed to stay up late with mum. We were listening to the wireless, we were not expecting any trouble from Hitler as it was still the Christmas holiday. Wrong!
The V2 rocket came without warning as they did. It was 10.30 pm almost closing time at the Albion, the rocket had a direct hit on the pub. My friends were sitting on the door-step, waiting for their parents and eating Arrow-root biscuits and drinking lemonade as they always did. Their mum and dad were still inside celebrating Christmas with neighbours and friends.
They were all killed, the whole lot, mother, father, children. Whole families were killed in the pub that night. It was classed as one of Islington’s worst tragedies. Children sat on the pub door steps in those days. It’s what you did.
Our house was knocked down that night to, the same bomb that hit the pub knocked our house down as well. I was thrown across the room with Rex my dog. We were both thrown against the far wall and knocked unconscious. The next thing I remember is coming to, and my hair stuck to my face with blood. I knew it was blood because I could taste it.
There was windows, wood and bricks on top of me. I somehow got to my feet and made my way to where the door should have been. There was no front to our house. I saw a light in the street, it was the torch of the ARP warden who was looking for survivors. I called for help and they got me down from the top floor of the house. I called my dog but he didn’t come, I knew he was dead. He was only a little mongrel. Mum, dad and Bill had been got out earlier and been taken somewhere I had been left behind presumed dead. You had to move quick and get the living out first in case of fire.
The ARP wardens took me to the nearest police station on a stretcher as the ambulances couldn’t get through the rubble and debris. ( When an ambulance couldn’t get near the injured they drove to the nearest police station to pick up the casualties). Then transported them to the hospital, I was taken to the Royal Northern Hospital , Upper Holloway Road where I was registered as an orphan. I said I wasn’t as I had been told my mum, dad and brother had got out of the house without injury. I was taken down immediately for surgery on my left eye and my head.. I was in hospital for six weeks in the children’s ward and the nurses gave me a present from it.
We bombed out children were given Red Cross parcels. I had one from a lady in Australia, I wrote to her for a long time. None of my family knew where I was I thought I would never see them again.
I didn’t know it at the time but people were looking for me. My aunties, uncles, cousins, mum, dad, Bill, they had been informed I was still alive. Eventually I was found and taken home to a rehabilitation centre. We had one bedroom and a shared kitchen which I didn’t like because some people had dirty habits and made my nerves bad and I started to have blackouts.
The outcome of this was that I was sent to live with my nan in Liverpool Road near Highbury Corner. Guess what? My nans house was blasted out when a rocket dropped on Highbury Corner. Once again my head took the punishment and I was once again rendered unconscious.
My mum and brother who were still living at Highbury Barn rehabilitation centre, realised Highbury Corner had been hit and got to us as fast as possible. When mum saw me she again collapsed as my head was like a pumpkin my eyes were just slits and it was back to the Royal Northern again.
I was nearly 12 years old now and I had been bomb dodging since I was six, then in the last year I had been injured twice, I hoped this war would soon be over, Hitler was getting too near. Shortly after this incident I became very unwell and had to visit my G.P. who examined me and said I was suffering from “German Measles” I could not believe what I was hearing. It was a big joke with my family for a long time. I can’t remember how many more rockets, bombs, incendiaries and other things Hitler hurled at us, I was sure I was going to die, I was resigned.
Tears didn’t come easily any more. We were all mentally worn out with the bombing night after night all our emotions seemed paralysed. We had become almost brutalised. I mourned my friends when they were buried with hardly a tear. Just utter disbelief I would never play with them again. Never knock the dollies out of bed anymore or trip the drunks up as they came out of the pub. Never to see them eating their arrowroot biscuits or drinking their lemonade on the Albion pub doorstep anymore. I was too shocked to cry.
Children played a big part in this most horrible war. We were put through the most mind numbing misery and deep soul destroying heartbreak.
The war still rumbled on but not with the ferocity it had done over the last 5 years. Hitler had thrown everything he had at us, but we still held on, he could not crush our spirit or our determination to survive. He could kill us but not defeat us. So the war gradually ground on to the end. All Hitler’s atrocities were coming to light and when he knew that he had most definitely lost the war, The “Fuhrer” shot himself. He and Eva Braun his wife committed suicide. Some people said good job while others felt cheated. What a mix up everything was.
The King sent a letter to all the school children in England thanking them for their bravery, their endurance in the way they shared in the hardships and danger of total war, he told us we should be proud of ourselves as he was proud of us and that as we grew up would strive always for peace.
Peace, peace was worse than the war. At first everything seemed all right as there was still a lot of excitement in the air. Children were coming home from evacuation and the men were being demobbed from the forces. The ammunition factories were closing down and the women were now out of work. The men who came home to a land fit for heroes soon found there was no work for them to do, therefore no money which caused trouble between husband and wife and the children suffered.
These men were traumatised from what they had seen and experienced at war. But so were we, from what we had experienced at home. We were in no condition to comfort them and they were in no condition to comfort us. This coming home of our fathers which we had so looked forward to, was now a nightmare, our dads had changed.
Worst still the babies who were born during the war. “The War Babies” didn’t even know who there fathers were and they resented him sharing their mum and home. Family life had changed forever. As the months passed I started to suffer with my nerves. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t stand the silence. I would lie in bed at night and my ears would pop and hiss because it was so quiet. I would cough just to hear a sound. Sometimes the trolley bus antennas would slip off their over-head wires and make a flash. I would duck under the bed clothes with my eyes tightly closed and wait for the explosion, which never came. I was always saying “did you hear that”? Was that the siren? But it was only the tram wheels wining on the tram-lines. My nerves were just shot to pieces. I started to behave badly and got into lots of trouble at school, which in the long run got me expelled.
( Authors Note; Generally at this time period getting into trouble meant a different measure to 2005 . For instance; not sitting up straight with arms folded, motionless would have been deemed lack of discipline and “Trouble”. A lot different to now and also this tolerance factor was throughout society. “Low Tolerance” of 2005 interpretation was having a very liberal easy day during 1940’s and 50’s ). The following account describes how cruel we were to our own children and in ignorance.
When I was eventually told to return to school after a governors meeting: I refused. I had to go to court. The judge ruled for me to go back to school, I refused, I got lippy to the judge and told him he could not make me go back to school. I asked him who did he think he was Hitler? NOT the right thing to say so shortly after the war. So the judge said I was beyond parental control and sentenced me to three years detention in KHS Warwickshire.
I was sent away to this approved school, from which I promptly absconded, only to be brought back in a couple of hours and stuck in detention for seven days. ( a little cell. )
I spent a lot of time in detention over the next few months and I was seen by social workers, doctors and psychiatrist’s, who all eventually decided I was not a wicked girl but I had been affected by the war. I told them to buzz off and leave me alone, which they didn’t. And in their wisdom they worked on me. The more naughty I was the better they treated me. I could not understand it. I flew into rages and crying tempers. Eventually I co-operated and learned how the war had affected me. It was because I had worried so much about my mum and brother, how my dog had been killed, how I had been hurt, how I lost my friends and our house and belongings.
It was all about the noise, the dirt, the diseases. Seeing sights no child should see and lots more. Eventually I came home after two years and settled into a way of life. I started my own business and got married. I had five daughters, we moved out of London 30 years ago. My daughters all got married and I now have 10 grandchildren. When I see films of the war and the bombing of London I can’t believe we lived through it. It seems
This story was submitted to the Peoples war site by Rod Aldwinckle of the CSV Action Desk on behalf of Rose McNamara - Wright, and has been added to the site with her permission.. The author fully understands the sites terms and conditions’ The factual statistics and types of weapons, SCUDS, V1, V2 etc. Are part of the story submitted by Rose and for this reason were transcribed as she viewed the situation. For example SCUDS were mainly used in the GULF WAR Predominantly.
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