- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Doris Robson, Ron Calnon
- Location of story:
- Stoke Newington, North London
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 July 2005
Doris is helped over a style by her fiance, Len (Royal Artillery) 1942, Meldreth in Cambridgeshire
People were friendly in those days and if the siren warned us of an air raid when we were out of doors, they would open their door and call us in. I have taken shelter in stranger’s homes on many occasions and given shelter in return. Our flat was open house for anyone passing or for residents of the top flats who didn’t feel safe during a raid. We had as many as twelve people sleeping as best they could on the floor of our little flat. The comradeship in those days was wonderful! One of the most horrifying sounds was that of the whistling or screaming bombs. These were meant to put fear into us and lower our morale. They really terrified me and lots of other people as well. As they came down, they made such an awful piercing, screaming whistle that I could not stand up. I had to sit on a chair before my legs gave way as they completely turned to jelly. My heart seemed to stop beating and I couldn’t get my breath until the explosion came. It certainly was one of Hitler’s most effective terror weapons. It broke my moral every time and left me with a terrible fear so that, even now, I am nervous when a low aeroplane flies overhead. Often I cried when one came down, only to hear more falling from the sky. This was the time that I looked forward to hearing Winston Churchill give one of his morale boosting speeches, as we all felt better after one of those. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think that we would have won the war. He was staunch, strong, stirring and comforting. Good old Winnie!
The V1, buzz bomb or doodlebug was another horror. When the first one came over the newspapers said that our artillery had shot down a new type of aeroplane, but when they went to examine the wreckage, there was no pilot and no parachute to be seen. On closer examination, they found that there was an engine at the back and flames came out of it. More came over and we realised that when the engine cut out, the unmanned ‘plane would dip and fall to the ground. They fell anywhere and everywhere and Hitler could not claim that he was trying to avoid killing innocent civilians. When you were at home and heard these things coming, your heart would be in your mouth, especially when the engine cut out. It would fall and explode killing and maiming some poor devils and we breathed a sigh of relief until the next one came our way. Peter was a baby when these things were on the go and many is the time I’ve thrown myself across his pram, as I couldn’t get him out quick enough. If you were outside, you could see them coming and if they were pretty near, the best thing was to run towards them so they passed over you. Dad was often delivering letters when they came over and he would go towards them and then crouch behind a garden wall to escape the blast when they fell and exploded. Next came the V2 rockets that you couldn’t hear at all. There was no warning, just the explosion so there was nothing that you could do to protect yourself. You couldn’t stay in the shelters all the time just in case a V2 came over, so we just carried on with things and hoped for the best.
During the war years, it was not all horror and fear. We had some happy times and laughed at all sorts of things. I remember one old girl called Mrs Thompson used to come out and put up her umbrella during an air raid as she was afraid of the shrapnel. She thought that the umbrella would save her — poor old girl! We used to go out and watch the dogfights and shout “Hooray” when a German plane came down and boo and hiss when a German was the victor. At the beginning of the war, I went out with a boy called Ron Calnon. Sometimes during the bombing, you’d lose your water supply. One evening, Ron and I were carrying a galvanised tin bath full of water back home from his parent’s house near Manor House, which was a long way. Then the air raid siren howled its warning! We emptied the water, put the bath over our heads and ran like anything through the dark streets! The shrapnel whizzed all around and one piece struck the bath with a great clang that sounded right through our heads. Then we had to go back and get another bath full.
Doris Robson wrote this as part of her memoirs in "Gaslight on the Cobbles" She married Leonard Herring in 1943 and died on New Years Day, 2001
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