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Remebering Bristol

by smw1925

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24 June 2005

I had my 14th Birthday in July 1939, just before the outbreak of WW2. In September 1939 I started working for Ellams Duplicator Co. in offices on Bristol Bridge overlooking St. Nicolas' Church, the River Avon and the market along the edges of Welsh Back. We were eventually bombed out during one of the air raids on Bristol, when the whole corner of Victoria St. and Redcliffe St. was reduced to ashes. We walked to work the day after the raid and everything looked intact, although we weren't allowed on Bristol Bridge. The second visit had a shock in store! Only the stone shell remained, the inside of the building was completely burnt out - the fire hoses had frozen and there was no water to douse the flames. We moved to an office over a pub in High St. on the corner of St. Nicholas St. That too was bombed with the loss of life.

After using temporary accommodation Ellams moved into Whiteladies Road where I worked until 1941. To the best of my knowledge, they were still there until photocopying arrived.

In 1940 my father became the owner of a Menswear Retail Shop on the Gloucester Road, where he had worked since WW1. After some nasty experiences with incendiary bombs on the roof, we moved in as a family and lived "over the shop". As young men were called up my Father needed help running the business and I worked with him until 1948. We were exceedingly busy as the shopping centre of Bristol was bombed out, and local shopping centres were used more so than today. My father was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service and helped fight the Blitzes on Bristol, Bath, and Exeter.

We had many hair-raising experiences living on the main road. One such event was when a gas main caught fire at the junction of Gloucester Road and Somerfield Road and burned day and night for several days. What a target for the Luftwaft !! One night I lay in bed too tired to shelter under the stairs! and listened to a string of bombs dropping across St. Andrews and Bishopston, ending with one on the County Cricket Ground.

I joined the National Fire Service, as it was renamed, when I was old enough, but thankfully missed most of the worst activity of the Blitz years.

My mother and I helped with the Forces Canteen, opened up by St. Michael's (Pig Sty Hill) our local Church. The Naval Services stationed on the County Cricket Ground (HMS Cabot) and the Home Guard who had taken over the Parish Hall as their H.Q. came every evening for food and entertainment (billiards, table tennis, cards, piano, etc). We had some well-known American musicians play the piano when the USA Army arrived.

During the build up for D-Day, the vehicles of war drove through Gloucester Road most nights. I can well remember dodging into shop doorways to avoid being hit by aeroplanes on transporters taking up the whole of the width of the road.

My boyfriend (fiancée and husband of 56 years) helped at the Canteen and also attended St. Michael's Church. He was called up and served 5 years in the Army. He landed on Sword Beach in the early hours of D-Day to help set up the Beach Group Headquarters before the main Army of Invasion arrived. He was involved in the Battle of Caen and went right through to Germany. However he contracted TB in 1945 and had to return to England. Too much food given to the hungry Dutch and too many practice landings from the North Sea in the middle of the frosty, snowy winter off the shores near Inverness, took their toll. He had 2 years in Hospital and lost his left lung. However we were married in 1948, a month after he left Hospital and we are still happily together.

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