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15 October 2014
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Dad's Near Miss

by cambsaction

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Victor Braybrook and his father, George.
Location of story: 
Ilford, Essex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War website by Steven Turner, a Peoples War Story Gatherer with the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Action Desk. It was submitted at Duxford Museum during their VE celebrations, on behalf of Mr Victor Braybrook and has been added to the site with his permission.
He fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

"I was seven at the beginning of the war and one of my earliest memories was the Battle of Britain. I remember seeing an aeroplane coming down and everyone cheering because we thought it was German. It turned out to be RAF, possibly a Spitfire. The pilot baled out.

There always seemed to be an air raid just as Dad got his dinner. My Dad, George Braybrook, worked for a record company, Oriole Records, who were based in New Bond Street. Because this was essential work for morale he got a petrol allocation for his Austin Seven. Dad was also an A.R.P warden.

We had an Anderson shelter in the back garden. We got fed-up going into it so we used to sit on the stairs, looking out the front door with shrapnel hitting the road! One night when Dad was out on A.R.P duty he came rushing into the house saying; “I’ve been hit, I’ve been hit”. We thought he was joking. Dad went into the kitchen and switched on the light and we followed him. He’d got blood pouring down his face. He had been standing in a neighbour’s doorway when the shrapnel had hit his helmet. When he took it off the piece of metal had lodged in the helmet and pierced his head. If it had hit him with anymore force he’d have had it. He didn’t need a stitch or anything in the end. This was the second war in which Dad has been hit in the head. He was hit by mortar shrapnel during World War One at Ypres. He also got hit in the leg by a bullet, which we still have at home. They said it might have been a misfired AA shell that got him this time. I remember the terrific noise of those guns, I think they were in Valentine’s park not far away from where we lived.

Virtually every ceiling in our house was broken at some stage by the bombing. The explosions buffeted the house. The only ceiling that never fell in was the one in the toilet due to its size!

When the Doodlebugs started to come I would sometimes sit on the Anderson and blow a whistle for the neighbours if I heard one. I have a photo at home of me sitting on the shelter wearing an old pith helmet given to me by my cousin. I was standing by the door one day when one came over. They flew over at about 2000ft I think, they used to run out of fuel and then glide for a bit so you were normally okay if you were under it when the engine stopped. Unfortunately this one had had its gyro tipped so it just flipped over and started coming down with the engine running. I ran toward the shelter and it came down in Eastern Avenue a few blocks away. I saw the debris go up but momentum carried me into the shelter. The V1 hit a removal van, killing all the removal people and those that were moving away.

I remember a V2 coming down one night as well, I was in bed and there was a bang. The ceiling fell in. It was dark so I didn’t see what had happened till next day. It had demolished six houses not far away. The story went round the neighbourhood that someone had been standing in the road where it hit and somehow they weren’t hurt by the explosion.

For a stupid young boy we found the whole thing exciting. As for food I never remember being starved, I was probably quite healthy. I used to get Sherbet in a bag, which you would dip your finger in, making it go yellow.

On V.E day we had parties in the road. We went to see the V.E day parade and because we couldn’t get home we slept the night at the Record Company offices, I was in the famous band leader Geraldo’s office!"

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Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Essex Category
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