- Contributed by
- British Schools Museum
- People in story:
- Eileen Ruby Smith (nee Tibbatts), Mary Warren, Iris Enlever, Vera Neat
- Location of story:
- Catford, S E London
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 November 2005
This story is submitted by The British Schools Museum, on behalf of Mrs Smith, with her permission.
I was one of several girl prefects, 14 to 15 year olds, having our sandwich lunches on the fourth floor at Catford Central School, when we heard a ‘burr burr’ of a plane nearby. Looking out of the window we noticed a black cross on it, and to our horror we saw that a bomb had been released. There were no barrage balloons up, or sirens sounding at the time.
Along with friends Mary Warren, Vera Neat, Iris Enlever and others I rushed down the middle staircase. Mary was my “twin” — we were born on the same day at least, 23rd April 1928.
We had chosen the middle staircase. Usually we would have gone down the right hand staircase — and that is where the bomb fell. Mary called out to me “Eileen, we are dead”. But we picked ourselves up from the debris and rushed across the road to a house, where people took us in and gave us a cup of tea and a brush-down.
We went home on a bus to Lee Green. We had no bus passes or money, but the conductor could see the plight we were in. I was staying with my Dad at my Grandma’s (Grandma Tibbatts) at the time. When I arrived she said “Where on earth have you been? Go and get washed and tidy”. No comfort at all — until my Dad arrived. Dad cycled home from his work in Charlton. His first words were “A school has been bombed at dinner time, with all those dear children and teachers killed”. “Yes, Dad” I said, “I know, I was in it”. Then I did get a big hug.
38 children, 6 teachers were killed; 54 children and 6 teachers were injured. The date was 20th January 1943.
Two months afterwards, Frances Brett Young opened up his house “Craycombe” at Hadbury near Evesham, Worcestershire for the girls who were in the school at the time of the bombing to recuperate for three weeks. We had Red Cross nurses to look after us.
This story has been submitted by The British Schools Museum on behalf of Mrs Eileen Smith (nee Tibbatts), and with her permission. Mrs Smith provided a copy of a 1960’s newspaper that recalled the bombing. A policeman at the time reported seeing nine M E 109 bombers, each with a High Explosive (H E) bomb under its belly. Three headed for Catford Central School in Sandhurst Road and began strafing the South London streets. Then came the explosion......
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