- Contributed by
- BBC LONDON CSV ACTION DESK
- People in story:
- Arthur Hutton
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 September 2005
Just before the outbreak of war when I was 11, I was sent on a trip to a little village in East Anglia, as part of what was supposed to be a ‘trial run’ of the arrangements for evacuating children from London. We were only going for three days, but war was declared while we there so we knew we weren’t going back, and I ended up staying for three years. We children had each been given a bag with enough food for the three days, including great bars of chocolate which we scoffed right away, little realising that we would not see chocolate again for many years.
When I was 14, my mother decided it was time for me to come back to London and go out to work. A couple of years later I had a job as part of a glass-blowing team making bottles, in an abandoned church in Hackney Road. Ernie, our leader, only had one arm. How he still managed to make bottles — tucking the rod under his good arm to collect the right amount, and drop it into the mould — came to the attention of the Daily Mirror. They gave Ernie a full run-down in the paper, including what he got paid: £9 a week. This was news to his wife who was furious, and followed him to work to demand a much bigger share of his wage than he had been giving over to her before.
One of my tasks there was making the tea. To get to the tap to fill the kettle you had to reach over and step on a pile of broken glass rejects. On this particular day as I stood on the glass pile it started shaking under my feet, and the back of my neck suddenly felt hot. Then there was a huge explosion as the gas works opposite the glass factory was bombed out by a V2 rocket.
Those V2 rockets were launched towards London from across the Channel, so hitting the gasworks was just a lucky strike. But the gasometer exploding was the saving of so many people, because it took all the blast damage — it was absolutely flattened.
A friend of mine now remembers a V2 landing in Deptford Creek. His ship was in drydock nearby undergoing repairs, and was suddenly completely splattered all over in mud from the creek. The sound of the rocket was only heard a few seconds after the explosion, so the ship’s crew was for a moment quite mystified about where the mud had come from.
Luckily I was unhurt by the V2 which blew up the gasworks opposite my workshop, and when I went back inside — not a soul. Someone had previously opened a gateway in the fence between the church where we worked and a row of houses next to it, and all my workmates, about twenty of them, had escaped through it. Nobody said, “Where’s Arthur?”!
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