- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ivor Puleston and family
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 December 2005
This story has been written to the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer Coralie, on behalf of Ivor Puleston. The story has been added to the site with his permission and Ivor fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.
I was born in 1930 and in 1939 we were living at 8 North Hill Terrace, Tavistock Road and I was attending Hyde Park School. I lived with Mum, Dad, my brother and two sisters - I was the youngest. In 1940 Hyde Park School was burnt out with incendiary bombs, so I moved to Montpelier, one week mornings and the next afternoons.
In April 1941, a bomb dropped on the back of our house damaging it, so we had to move next door into no. 10, which was lent to us by the Vigers family, who had moved out to relatives in the country. They had had an air-raid shelter built in the basement, and on the night of April 21st, which was the first of 5 nights of really heavy bombing, the siren sounded and my Mum and Dad, my Gran, my brother, my two sisters and myself went down to shelter in it. After a while down there, there was a direct hit on the house, the shelter collapsed and we were buried. The bomb killed my mother and sister, and the rest of us were injured, myself seriously. I was unconscious so I don't know how long it was before I came round, but my first memory was of being pulled from the debris by my feet.
I was taken to the children's ward at Greenbank Hopital and was operated on for the head injuries I had sustained in the raid. I was on the top floor of the children's ward and during the next few nights there was much more bombing. Mines were dropped by parachutes (paramines) and one fell, with a huge bang, just below the hospital. Everything shook and I remember a nurse bending over me, to shelter me from falling debris. On the 28th or 29th I was put on an ambulance-train and taken to St Lawrence Hospital in Bodmin. After about 10 days there, I was transferred by another ambulance-train to Birmingham, to a second mental asylum which had also been cleared for casualties of bombs.
After about 2 weeks in Birmingham, my Uncle Ivor, who taught at Devonport High School for Boys, visited me, bringing me the devastating news that my mother, and sister
Audrey who was 19, had been killed in the air-raid and that the rest of my family had all been injured but were alright. They had moved to Wilton Street in Millbridge to my father's sister, Elsie. Beat, his other sister lived upstairs, so they had some support there.
I think I was in Birmingham about a month and I was taken home for only about a week and was then evacuated to Hayle in Cornwall. I was billeted with a family in St John Street, with another lad from Plymouth. We were sent to school at the Church Hall, with teachers from London, so none of us could understand each others
at first, but we gradually got used to the accents. About 9 months later, I was moved to another billet in Hayle, with a boy and girl from London.
Once a fortnight, on a Saturday, one of my family would travel by train to visit me. One summer Saturday in 1942, my sister Iris came and we decided to go on the little train to St Ives for the day, taking my fellow evacuees from London with us. While we were sitting on the beach below the station, two planes flew over, which the London boy identified as Mustangs with square wing-tips, however he was wrong! They were Messerschmitt 110’s and the first one opened fire on us. We dived against the wall and lay prone as we had been instructed, and when I looked up I saw the pilot of the second plane as he dropped a bomb on the Gasworks and machine-gunned us again. I later found out that one plane had been shot down, but the other got away. This was a common occurrence in Cornwall, where the Germans flew across to cause chaos and then left hurriedly.
I returned to Wilton Street in 1943 and went to Stuart Road School, which was then also bombed, so I had to move again, this time to Woolsdon Street School. When Stuart Road School was repaired we returned there.
My family and I lived with my aunts in Wilton Street until the end of the war, and in 1950 I joined the Royal Air Force to do my National Service.
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