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A Boy From the Blitz

by CSV Action Desk Leicester

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
CSV Action Desk Leicester
People in story: 
Mr Jack Relph, Mr G.T. Relph, Mrs G.R. Relph, Mr G.T.Relph, Mr A.J. Relph, Mr D.L. Relph and Mr R. Ruddle.
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Contributed on: 
29 September 2005

In the summer of 1944 London was under attack from German V11 Rockets, my father George T Relph was serving with the RAF overseas in Italy. As a boy aged 7-8 I lived with my mother Gladys and three brothers George, Alec, and David at No 9 Bentons Lane, West Norwood, Lambeth, South London.
One evening we were sitting in the living room (George my eldest brother was out at the time) when suddenly the air raid warning alarm began to sound.
Mum quickly went upstairs to fetch brother David from his cot, came down stairs and took us all to the Air Raid Shelter, which was located in the back garden next door to us, Mum then returned to the house for some reason.
Whilst I lay quietly with my brothers in the shelter we could hear the sound of a Buzz Bomb (V11) Rocket over head.
Suddenly the sound of the rocket stopped, a neighbour in the shelter next to ours called to my Mother to come into the shelter, my Mum quickly came into the shelter and laid herself over us for protection, our pet dog Don followed behind her. I could feel the pounding of my mothers heart as we laid there waiting for the impact of the bomb. Suddenly the bomb struck the ground close by, the ground shook the shelter around us but it stayed in tact.
Next we could hear the sound of falling debris outside the shelter. After a while bits stopped dropping on our shelter so we ventured out into the open, the scene was one of complete destruction. Half the rear of our house had collapsed leaving a clear view of what was left of the inside of the house. My brother David’s cot was hanging from the damaged open floor above with a collapsed ceiling perched on top of it, a woman was stumbling with head injuries and a look of bewilderment.
I looked down at my brothers and thought how lucky we were to still be alive. I turned to my Mother and said “Has our house had it Mum?” she replied “Yes I’m afraid so Jack” and I fell silent with sadness immersed in my own thoughts aware that we faced an uncertain future and that our lives would never be the same again.
As we stood there amongst the rubble an ARP Warden appeared, he called us to come with him to safety then he lead us through our house climbing over and under collapsed walls to the street beyond.
I can remember sorting through our belongings on the street outside our house with the help of our uncle Bob Ruddle. My brother George had the sad duty of taking our dog away. We were taken to the local school for shelter that evening. Next day the authorities processed us all together for evacuation to Birmingham. Our stay in Birmingham was an unhappy experience; eventually we left our temporary accommodation and returned to London before the end of the war.
As we were unable to be housed immediately Mum and George sought out some temporary accommodation at Gypsy Road, West Norwood, back in our old neighbourhood.
My brother George made two rooms of a bomb damaged house barely habitable for our family to live in, the windows had to be boarded up, we cooked our meals over a coal fire, we all slept in a double bed and lived in these conditions through the winter months until the Authorities were able to re-house us in suitable accommodation.

This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Sarah Tack of the CSV Action Desk on behalf of Mr Jack Relph and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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