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The Blitz and Air Raids in Coventry

by stdavidssaltney

Contributed by 
stdavidssaltney
People in story: 
Ted Cook
Location of story: 
Coventry
Article ID: 
A3927594
Contributed on: 
21 April 2005

This story was told to Katy Parkinson and Kelly Nash from St. David's High School with Ted Cooks full permission.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Ted Cook was 13 years old. At the time Ted lived in Coventry and was a Boy Scout.
The air raids started in Coventry in 1940. It was one of the first cities to experience the bombing. People would be going about their everyday lives but when they heard the sirens they had to rush to a shelter. Ted remembers the community shelters that could hold 500 people. If there was a direct hit on the shelter they couldn’t get out. He also remembers the Anderson shelters. These were small shelters in people’s gardens that were built out of metal and sandbags. The raids were mainly at night. In the winter months the raids eased off.
During the nights when there were air raids, people couldn’t sleep. Because of this they were always tired. They also found it very frightening.
The Germans dropped bombs on the city that caused fires, destroyed buildings and injured and killed hundreds of people. Landmines on parachutes were dropped on the city. Ted remembers seeing a landmine just hanging there on its parachute that had got tangled up on something.
After the air raids, the scouts were sent out with sealed messages, to ambulance posts. They carried these in pockets on leather belts. He remembers that it was hard to become accustomed to the horrible sights that he saw while he was running through the city with messages. They received badges after the war for what they’d done.
Ted was one of the first people to be confirmed at Coventry Cathedral after a bomb had hit it. The rubble had to be cleared away first.
The rubble was a mixture of broken bricks, mortar, furniture, joists, broken glass and bent pipes. Then there was leaking water or gas along with broken cutlery, crockery, pots and pans and other household equipment. All this was enveloped in thick plaster dust and the smell of wet plaster and gas. Ted remembers seeing injured and dead people being pulled out from rubble after air raids.
There was complete devastation in the city. They never had chance to clear it up so there was rubble everywhere. After the war they had to rebuild a lot of the buildings.
Ted remembers when he and his brother went to look at the sky. They were in the garden and he remembers seeing the flying glass. This could be dangerous. It would fly through the air and injure people.
The Home Guard were there in case of invasion. They were mostly concentrated on the coast. It was made of people who were too old or too young to fight.
Later in the war there became daylight raids. Ted’s best friend who lived next door to him was killed in a direct hit.
In school Ted had to practise putting on his gas mask. He and his friends formed a band. Ted played the mouth organ.
Ted remembers that entertainment was very important to people throughout the war. In Coventry there were 42 cinemas. Cinemas changed programmes often. This was so that you could go to the cinema more often. During the intervals at the cinemas they would sing songs along to an organ. He remembers singing, “Praise the lord and pass the ammunition”. While they were singing they had fun and forgot about what was going on outside. They also sang while they were in the shelters.
On November 14th 1940, the heaviest raid happened. There were thousands of bombers. The Rex cinema received a direct hit and everyone inside was killed. Ted remembers that the film that was showing was “Gone with the Wind”.
In the scouts they had concerts called “gang shows”.
Ted remembers the rationing. He was only allowed 2 or 3 ounces of chocolate or sweets a week. There was no tinned fruit. Clothes were also rationed. Parents had to make their children clothes out of pieces of material like old curtains and things. When people got married they had to save up a lot first.
He remembers the Americans. When they came to Britain they were always generous and friendly. Everyone liked them because they always had sweets and things. There was no rationing in America.
Children had to be evacuated. Some went to different countries like America and Australia. Ted was evacuated to his Gran’s house. There were lots of land girls around because of the farms.
When Ted was 14 he joined the A.T.C. They had a dance every month. They invited landgirls. He remembers the Jitterbug and In The Mood. Dance music became very popular during the War. He remembers the Glenn Miller music.
Once, when Ted was 16, he met a filmstar. He got an autograph, sweets and cigarettes from the filmstar. People said that smoking relaxed them during the war.
He remembers the blackouts. People bought black material and put it in their windows. A famous saying in the war was “ Oi, put that light out!” This didn’t always work because the Germans dropped flares that lit up the city.
Towards the end of the war there were flying bombs which the Americans called “Doodlebugs”.
Ted went to a camp in Hawarden where he met his wife and had a family with her. He ran scouts in the 1960s and went on to run a youth club with his friend who is now our teacher, Mr Gough. He no longer runs the Youth club.

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The Blitz Category
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Coventry and Warwickshire Category
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