- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Jacqueline Wilde
- Location of story:
- Birmingham, Wales, Fleet in Hampshire
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 06 September 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Maggie Smith from WM CSV Action Desk on behalf of Jacqueline Wilde and has been added to the site with her permission. Jacqueline Wilde fully understands the sites terms and conditions.
During the early part of the war, the first time the sirens went off we put out gas masks at the ready thinking that the bombers would be overhead because we were told that they were going to drop gas and we’d had all our instructions what to do and the different types of gas bombs that would drop down but fortunately gas was never used to my knowledge during the war on the civilian population, so we never really had to use our respirators but they were great things, not like the civilian ones, they were large they had two round glasses where the eyes, where you could see through, and a long nozzle which went from the nose into the respirator part which you had strapped in front of you. Normally, you just had a brown bag like a case which you hung over your shoulder and carried it over the shoulder, but when it was in use you’d been trained to have it in the front of us so that the tube, which was very much like a hoover tube, went from the case to your nose and so therefore you could breath safely through this. The mask completely covered your face and you were able to breathe quite normally.
One time when I was travelling to my job, it would be about seven in the evening the sirens went and stopped all the buses we had to get off the buses and walked from then on and I walked with two soldiers because the soldiers if they couldn’t get back to the barracks they had to notify the nearest police station so that the police station could notify the barracks that they were unable to return either because the trains had stopped or the public transport had stopped. We were walking along Great Hampton Street when we heard this enormous rattling sound and the two soldiers pushed me into a doorway and flung themselves on top of me and down came a large fire bomb, which we called a Molotov Cocktail because when it reached the floor it exploded and went in all directions and also they used to send these down and then send high explosives down afterwards when the fires were going merrily and they could see what was happening down below. This came down and we stayed put for a while and we saw lots of figures coming out extinguishing the fire there would be the different air raid wardens with their stirrup pumps because they were all trained to put out the fire bombs as well as deal with explosives. When everything was clear we went on our way again. Hearing the high explosives which dropped down a few minutes after we’d passed this place and blew up the road in front of Lucas’ and it pitted the whole building. I think to this day you can probably see the marks on the brick work where the explosive went off so we were lucky. It was a very bad raid this particular day and instead of going to the end of Colmore Row I decided to go up Great Charles Street I had difficulty in getting up because it was so heavy what with the noise and the shrapnel falling and I had to more or less crawl up there and the people of my fire station were worried because they knew I normally came up along Colmore Row which had been hit with high explosive bombs and most of the building were down, The Grand Hotel was hit and all along St. Phillips Churchyard.
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