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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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The Smallest Firefighter

by cambsaction

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Wyndham Bell Williams
Location of story: 
Banstead, Surrey
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by a BBC Cambridgeshire Story gatherer on behalf of Wyndham Bell Williams and has been added to the site with her permission. He fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I was born in 1928 so by 1939 I was 11.

The first time I realised something was going on regarding the war was when my father who was a chairman of the local authority went to Cologne in 1938. Whilst there he saw what was being planned for the war. In Cologne he saw Hitler Youth marching and in the crypt of the Cathedral he saw people filling ammunition in the crypt. When he came home he built an air raid shelter, that’s how frightened he was. With that background at the age of 11 I was a messenger for the ARP. When the Blitz really arrived my head master at my school in Wallington said “When the air raid siren sounds I don’t want you coming to school”. As there were 500 pupils and he didn’t want a bomb to land on the school and kill them. “If you hear the siren” he said “if you are on the train get off it and go home.”

I did as I was told and started helping the ARP. I use to ride around on my bike with a box of clap nails and a hammer and I went round helping the ARP repairing the houses that were damaged. The first thing we did was put roofing felt on the windows. On one occasion I was going to school and I saw a doodlebug explode a short distance away. Some glass showered around me missing my head so on the way home I brought a tin helmet. When I got home there was an air raid and a bomb landed adjacent to our house. I went to repair the house and later that day whilst working on the windows a piece of brickwork fell off the house and hit my helmet. Thank goodness I had that helmet! I would have been very seriously injured without it!

Coming home from school I also did some fire fighting. I used to help the firemen aiming the hose at the fire. I rescued a couple from an adjacent house that had collapsed. I went in as I was the smallest fire fighter (all the other men were too big) and got them out of their Morrison shelter in which they were trapped in their front room. My school awarded me with a book for services rendered. My school knew what I was doing so I never got told off for being off school when I was working.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Childhood and Evacuation Category
Air Raid Precautions Category
Surrey Category
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