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15 October 2014
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Trapped in the Coal Cellar

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Pat Stanley
Location of story: 
Penge, Elmers End, South London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4387962
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Stuart Marshall from Crawley Library and has been added to the website on behalf of Pat Stanley, (nèe Fley), with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

In June 1940 I was living in Penge, South East London. We shared a house with my aunt and uncle, and my father and uncle had joined the Auxiliary Fire Service at the beginning of the war.
One Sunday afternoon they were both on duty when the sirens went and my mother, my aunt and I went down into the coal cellar where we had made a shelter. There was a bed, blankets, candles etc. We heard the bombers coming over and the whine of bombs one of which grew louder and louder. We lay down on the bed and my aunt lay on top of me to shelter me. As the bomb exploded there was a great noise, everything shook, the air was filled with dust, there was a strange, musty smell; the bomb had actually landed in our back garden and the whole of the back of the house had collapsed, trapping us in the cellar.
My mother was able to get to the other end of the cellar, climb up on the coal and shout for help through the grating. Our neighbours eventually came and somehow got a message to my father and uncle who quickly returned home.
My father and uncle managed to pull away the debris from the cellar door and get us out and our neighbours took us in. They made me lie on their settee and gave me a glass of ‘sal volatile’ which was a sort of medicinal tonic. I was quite upset because I had to stay there and was not allowed to go with the family to look at the damage and the bomb crater. We then went to my other aunt’s house in Elmers End nearby. The next week I was evacuated to relatives in Kirby Stephen, Westmoreland, together with my aunt and my two cousins. We stayed here for a year.
I had had a dog called Jack who was not allowed in the cellar but had to stay in the kitchen during air raids. When I asked what had happened to him my mother said he had run away but I’m sure he had been killed by the bomb.

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