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A Wartime Diary 1940-41 (Part 1)

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

Florrie Collinge

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Florrie Collinge
Location of story: 
Devon, Accrington, Middleton, et al
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 August 2005

This story was added to the website by a CSV volunteer on behalf of Florrie Collinge, who has given her permission for her story to appear on the site, and understands the terms and conditions of the website.

A Wartime Diary
1940 - 41

We got our first aid raid warning at 3.30 a.m., Thursday morning, 20th June 1940. I tumbled out of bed, pulled on my stockings and sat on the edge of the bed, wondering what to do next. I sat there for about half an hour, then I heard the “all clear” so I got back into bed. The nearest place to us which was bombed was Accrington. The total casualties in this raid were sixteen killed and seventeen injured. One hundred Nazi bombers took part in it; they lost at least seven.

Our next warning was about 1.15 a.m., Tuesday morning, 25th June 1940. These sirens make a weird din. We got out of bed, dressed, and went downstairs. We could hear the people outside running to the shelters, but we stayed in our own home. We got the “all clear” in just over an hour. Five people were killed and fourteen injured in one town.

The Germans are over England every night but we only get the warning when they are coming in our direction. A lot of our men have joined the Parashots, a body of men on the look out for Germans who may land by parachute. All our Parashots are armed. We have taken all our signposts down and blotted out all names of places. We are expecting an invasion any day. We have put barriers across the main roads, also concrete pill boxes on block houses with soldiers guarding them.

After we had the first air raid warning, I had become afraid of the nights coming. The German bombers are coming over night and day now, but so far we have been lucky, as no bombs have been dropped in our district. Considering the amount of planes coming over, the damage has been very slight up to now.

The Germans made a big blunder this week when they torpedoed the Andora Star, which happened to be full of Germans and Italians, when they drowned nearly one thousand of their own people. I suppose they thought the ship was full of children being evacuated.

Now we have received a bit of good news. Our Navy has just captured some of the French Fleet.

We are arresting aliens, fascists, and Fifth Columnists every day, but I think we have a lot of traitors amongst our people, who might prove dangerous to ourselves if we are invaded. We are quite ready for the Germans, and I don’t think they will find it so easy to enter our country. We have just been told to get in a fortnight’s supply of foodstuffs in case of the roads being blocked any time.

It is now 17th July and we are still waiting for Hitler’s invasion. The Germans now tell us that it begins next Friday night, the 19th, but none of us feels afraid because we feel so confident that he can’t get past. Our airmen have been splendid this last week in shooting down the German airplanes round our coast.
We are now collecting aluminium. I have just taken 5 ¼ pounds.

It is now 10th August, and as we have had it fairly quiet here up to now we have decided to have a holiday, but of all the places we have picked the south coast.
Well, here we are in Devon. We have had two air raid warnings this week, but no bombs dropped. We spent half an hour in an air raid shelter at Paignton. Every place in the south is full of airmen and soldiers, and all the way home the planes are circling above our heads. These are our own, so everything is okay.
We are home again now, and things are getting hot here. We have had air raids round here six nights this week, five in succession. On Wednesday night, 28th August, shrapnel was falling over our houses like hail stones. Next morning the people were out collecting it for souvenirs. Next door but one to our house had a window broken by it.
We are now getting raids day and night over Britain, with hundreds of German planes at a time, but I am only writing of what we experience locally

On Friday night, 30th August, the Germans bombed two mills which were burnt out, one at Royton and the other at Delph. The fires could be seen from our house.
We had a hectic night on Saturday, 31st August. They came over at about 11 o’clock and we could hear them over our house. We watched at the back door, the flashes and the verey lights dropping for half an hour before we got the siren. As soon as we came into the house we heard bombs dropping somewhere behind the house, then we heard a screaming bomb which ended in a dull thud. I went into the pantry (my aid raid shelter) for a little while, then came out and sat in the big chair, while Harry lay on the couch. We couldn’t go to bed until we got the “all clear”. We were both dozing when a loud knock came at the door; it was the wardens. They told us to get out of the house at once and go into the shelters, as we were in a danger zone which had to be evacuated. Sixteen bombs had dropped nearby without exploding. The shelters were packed with people, and we stayed there until 2.45 a.m. when we got the “all clear”, but they wouldn’t let us go home as they said bombs had dropped behind our houses. From Mills Hill Bridge to Bay Tree Avenue, and part of Middleton Junction was a prohibited area. Engineers were already on the job looking for the bombs. Some of the people were in night attire with just a coat round them and carpet slippers on their feet, but they wouldn’t allow them to go home for anything. We were fortunate enough to be fully dressed as we stay up late every night waiting for the bombers. They brought a motor coach for us, right up to the shelter, and took us to Cowhill School. When we got there the place was full — about 200 of us. They brought us hot tea, Oxo, and two kinds of biscuits. Also, at 8.00 a.m. we were given tea, bread, butter and biscuits. We were in the school all night. At 9.00 a.m. on Sunday, they came to tell us we could go home as they thought the danger was over behind our houses, then they took us all home in motors and ambulances. They didn’t find any bombs in the field behind our house, but three were found a little further away. They have found more since, buried deep in gardens, back yards and streets. These are roped off and the houses evacuated until the bombs have been removed. I was worried to death all the Saturday night because I had left Tiny and Joey (the two budgies) in the house, and Tony, the cat, shut up in the kitchen. We were informed that there was no telling when we would be allowed to go home. I never missed my home so much in all my life.
On the following night, they bombed Market Street, Manchester. We have an aeroplane works near the back of our house — A.V.Roe’s (AVRO’S), which I suppose is what they are after round here.
On Saturday night we had Spitfires over here chasing the Jerrys, and when we were in the coach, an ARP man came in and told us to put a smile on our faces for he had something good to tell us. We had brought a German plane down in Chadderton. Chadderton of all places, and I thought the Germans didn’t know where we lived.
We had a quiet night here on Sunday, but they were over again last night (Monday) from 10.30 to 12.30, when we got the “All Clear”. We had just got into bed when the sirens started again and we had to get up once more, but it didn’t last very long. Tuesday night we got the sirens about 11.00 and it lasted until about 1.15 a.m., when we got the “All Clear” and went to bed; but not for long, as we were awakened again at about 3.00 a.m. and had to get up again for a short time.
Today (Wednesday) we have had the sirens this morning. This is the first time during the day. They only lasted for quarter of an hour, so as I was alone at the time I went out into the public shelter, otherwise I would go into the pantry under my stairs.
As I write this, the siren is going again at 3 o’clock. I am off to the shelter.
I have just got back and it is going again. Off I go again. The shelter is packed worse than ever, as two buses have brought their passengers here. Home again. How long for this time?
Thursday, 4.30 a.m. when we went to bed this morning.
Friday, 4.00 a.m. when we went to bed.
Saturday, 4.00 a.m. I decided not to go to bed, but have a sleep on two chairs. Siren again at 10.00 a.m., again at 12.00.
We got the siren at 6.00 p.m. Friday for one plane which was brought down soon after it passed over here, at Ringway Aerodrome. We brought down 45 yesterday.
It is Saturday and we have had two warnings this morning, and two tonight. This ends a week of sleepless nights for us.
London was heavily bombed last night (Saturday), 304 killed and 1400 seriously injured, with heavy damage to property.
London again bombed on Sunday, 283 killed and 1400 injured. We have had a quiet night here.
Siren again on Monday night — up again part of the night.
London was bombed again on Tuesday night. Sirens again at 12.30 a.m., planes overhead but no bombs dropped near us.
It is Wednesday and sirens again at 11.15 p.m. Liverpool and Buckingham Palace are bombed, 90 German planes are down.
Thursday, and sirens at 11.00 a.m. This lasted for half an hour. Again at 7.30 p.m. which lasted until 4.30 a.m. next morning. I stayed downstairs all night.
Friday night — quiet — got a good sleep.
Saturday night — siren at 9.30 p.m. and again at 5.00 a.m.
Sunday — siren at 11.00 a.m. and 11.45 p.m. after we had heard planes go over. Buckingham Palace bombed twice today. 185 German planes brought down, 25 of ours lost — 12 of our pilots safe.
Monday — siren at 9.00 a.m. for an hour.
For the rest of the week we have had the sirens about three times each day.

Today, 23rd September, we hear the Germans have torpedoed one of our ships with evacuee children on board. 80 odd children were lost besides a lot of adults.
Monday — siren 8.30 p.m., 11.00 p.m., 1.00 a.m. lasting to 4.00 a.m., when German bomber was brought down at Bowden.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we got the sirens twice each day.
Thursday night it lasted 4 hours, twice on Friday, and Saturday morning for a quarter of an hour.
On Friday we brought 133 German planes down. We lost 34 but 16 of our pilots are safe.
Saturday night we got a good night’s sleep.
Sunday night — siren at 10.45 p.m. until 1.15 a.m.
6 German planes down Friday, 10 Saturday, 11 Sunday, 47 Monday — 22 of ours but 12 of our pilots safe.
Two air raid warnings on Monday night from 10.30 p.m. to 1.15 a.m. Tuesday two warnings. Bombs dropped at Whitefield, Withington and Rusholme.
Wednesday night, siren 10.45 p.m. to 1.15 a.m. Heard bombs dropping. Saw fire in the distance. Irwell Rubber Works at Salford set on fire. Salford Town Hall bombed.
Siren twice Thursday and Friday. Good nights on Saturday and Sunday but siren for a half hour on Sunday Morning.
Monday night of October 7th we had a bad night. The Germans came over in relays from 8.55 until 12.30. Bombs dropped continuously and AA guns were in action. We got a lot of shrapnel, but nothing worse here. A few broken windows. Manchester and district got it heavy. Bombs dropped at Bury and Heywood, cinema at Manchester and a block of flats. We could see one of the fires.
Siren Tuesday, 9 until 10 and 2 p.m. We brought down 27 German planes yesterday and we lost 14, but 7 of our pilots are safe.
On Monday night several bombs were dropped on Salford. Two houses were demolished, a church and a public house struck. The Town Hall, which was struck last week, was again hit by incendiaries that went through the roof, burned through a tabletop but were put out underneath the table.

Air raid casualties up to last Saturday, October 6th 1940 in England were 8,500 killed, 13,000 wounded.
Last night (Tuesday) siren sounded here at 9 o’clock till 10. Heard bombs drop and AA guns, after which we had a quiet night.
Wednesday night siren 8.30 lasted 2 hours. Several bombs dropped. Thursday was another bad night. Bombs began to drop at 9.45 p.m. and dropped continuously until 4.30 the next morning. Heavy gunfire. Bombs dropped in every area in England. Friday, siren 9.00 until 11.30 p.m., heard bombs drop but a quiet night afterwards. Saturday morning, siren 11.30 for a short time.
Things are now looking bad in Rumania. Hitler “protects” another country!
Saturday night we had a good night’s sleep in the North West, although there were raids in other parts of England.
Siren on Sunday at 3 o’clock, again at 8.30 and 10.30. Bombs dropped and heavy gunfire. We can’t resist looking out to see the fireworks, although we know it is dangerous.
Monday, siren at 7.00 p.m., again at 9.30. but no bomb or gunfire. London’s worst air raid with a continuous hail of bombs — glad we don’t live near London.

Last night, Tuesday October 15th was the first night for a long time that we didn’t get the sirens here, but London and other parts of the country suffered severely. It’s marvellous how the people are standing up to it. A bit of good news today — we have sunk three Italian destroyers.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday planes over as usual. Lasted three hours on Friday, saw fireworks and heard bombs crash.
Saturday, bad night. Warning lasted 4 ¾ hours. Bombs dropping, heavy gunfire and fireworks.
Sunday, plane overhead before dinner. Siren again after dinner. Bad night, planes overhead soon after tea and lasted all night until 4.30 next morning. Heavy gunfire all night.

Monday morning, siren 10.30 to 12.00 o’clock, gunfire. Trafalgar Day today, October 21st. Bombs dropped at Rhodes last night. One made a big crater in the main road, broke the water main and smashed the windows of a row of houses at Irk View. Siren again at 2.00 and 5.00 o’clock. Heavy gunfire and shrapnel falling all over the streets. Siren again at 8.30 p.m. which lasted 4 hours but no bombs dropped here.
Siren Tuesday 7.30 to 8.45 p.m. We had a quiet night afterwards.
Wednesday, siren at 10.45 p.m. to 1.10 a.m. Heard planes overhead, heavy gunfire here but no bombs dropped. Lily saw where the bombs dropped at Rhodes. It was a terrible mess on the main road but no casualties as it happened at 3.00 a.m. when there was no traffic on the road.
Thursday and Friday we had two quiet nights, but Saturday night the siren lasted for 6 hours.
Sunday, siren three times during the day, and again at 11.30 p.m. to 2.00 a.m. Planes overhead and heavy gunfire.
Monday, siren three times between 7.30 p.m. and 4.30 a.m.
Tuesday, siren 7.45 to 10.00 p.m.
Since then we have had a quiet week, siren once each night but no gunfire.
Italy has now started war on Greece. We have promised all the help we can give them. Good old Greece.
We brought down 26 German planes yesterday; we lost 6 but only 3 pilots. Our Fleet Air Arm visited the Italian Navy at Taranto and smashed some of their ships.
We are still getting the alerts every night, but no damage around here.

On Thursday night, 14th November, the Germans made a big attack on Coventry with 500 planes. There was heavy damage and the cathedral was destroyed, along with hundreds of houses and shops. Two hundred people were killed and eight hundred wounded.
Greece is still holding out and doing very well.


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