- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Chris Bright, my brother Alan and my mother
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- Contributed on:
- 18 November 2004
And so when I was 2 years old the War started.
Obviously, this meant considerable changes to our lives, but at that age I did not really notice it. Gradually things became less easily or impossible to obtain, as they either disappeared completely or were rationed.
One was required to register with certain suppliers such as the Butcher, the Grocer and Confectioner, and for all I know, the Baker and Milkman and others. Children had special green Ration Books entitling them to additional supplies such as Eggs, but not many. I recall my Mother pickling these in Isinglass and kept in a bucket in a cupboard under the stairs. This cupboard also served as an emergency bomb shelter in the event of us not being able to make the Anderson Shelter in the garden in time.
Dad and Bill Stephens excavated this Anderson Shelter at the top of our very small garden, the Shelter comprised of curved corrugated iron sheets bolted together. Inside were four bunks, but as there was only an earth floor these quickly rusted and it was only used in the direst of emergencies.
Of course, Dad then helped Bill prepare his, and this working together applied to many people and thus fostered that wartime spirit which is not always prevalent today.
The first recollection I have of enemy action came at the time the Germans bombed Vauxhall Motors. Vauxhall were of course by this time turning out considerable numbers of Army vehicles and Churchill Tanks, and was an obvious target.
The day was a glorious summer day, and Mum, my Brother and I had been round to a corner shop in Seymour Road for an Ice Cream. We would not get many more before the War ended.
We walked back to my Grandparents home, where my Grandmother was sat in a chair by her back door, and as I recall she was sorting various pieces of wool. My Mother remarked that there were some planes in the sky and suddenly realised that they were enemy. We were scooped up and rushed into my Grandmother’s under stairs cupboard (she had no bomb shelter) and the bombs began to fall as the bombers shed their loads in a desperate attempt to escape our fighter planes.
We knew from the noise that the bombs were very close, but did not know until later just how close. However, we could later see the pattern emerging, as the first had dropped right on top of the paper shop opposite to where we had been just previously, killing the occupants and making the Confectioner we had visited completely deaf for the rest of his life.
The wave continued up Strathmore Avenue, with a direct hit about 200 yards from our house and further hits in Baker Street and adjacent to Tennyson Road School. I do believe that it was the School holidays, for I am sure that none of the school children were harmed.
One brief thing worth mentioning. I have always believed that I looked out from the cupboard and saw a man in a Straw Hat come from the front of the house and go out of the back. My Mother has always denied this and says that I was seeing things, but I have never forgotten. Perhaps it was a ghost or perhaps the bombs had blasted open the front door and someone was desperately seeking cover. I do know that Mother was sweeping up the shattered glass from our front windows when Dad arrived home on his bike, and they clung together in tearful joyful relief right in the middle of the street.
Luton was bombed at other times during the War, but none of these attacks affected us as this one did.
As the War rolled on we would hear our Bombers going off to Germany, and we would also hear the enemy planes going over to bomb cities further north of us. Later there would be the V1 and V2 rocket bombs, recognisable by the engine note. If it stopped it meant that it was descending, but fortunately we never experienced that fatal stop.
I well remember the end of the European War and possibly my parents knew that it was imminent but feared to tell us. On the morning of that final day on 8th May 1945, my Father came upstairs before going to work to tell my Mother that the cessation had been announced on the Radio and we knew that this meant a day’s holiday from school.
That night was the only time I ever saw my Father the worse for drink. We all, together with the Stephens family, went to a Pub in Park Street, the White Lion, and we were left outside with the Stephens son. Drinks were brought out to us from time to time. No children were allowed in the Pubs in those days. At closing time we wended our way towards home, but a large bonfire had been built in the middle of the lower end of Cambridge Street. This led to euphoric people jumping through the flames from one side to the other and unfortunately Bill Stephens met a girl coming from the opposite side. She received a quite nasty burn that brought the evening to a sad end and my Father then had to be helped to bed by my Mother
I have extracted this from "Life Story" which I have been compiling since 2001.
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