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A Night in Greenwich - May 10th 1941

by derbycsv

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Archive List > The Blitz

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs Gladys Crisp, Rev George Lawton
Location of story: 
Greenwich, London
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

May 10th 1941 – the worst night of bombing in London. I was working in Greenwich at the time as a Methodist Deaconess with the Rev George Lawton who was the minister of the church. The basement of Greenwich Town Hall had been turned into a large air-raid shelter and George and I were on duty there 3or 4 nights a week trying to sort out people’s problems. (The other nights I spent in a shelter with my landlady and twice we had to be dug out as the entrance had been blocked with rubble.)

George lived in a house on Blackheath, and he’d taken in an old lady who had been bombed out and had no family.

On this particular night people were coming into the shelter saying how bad it was and George was upset and worried about the old lady who he’d left all on her own in his house. So I offered to go and be with her. As I was going up the stairs of the shelter people were rushing down saying that all hell had been let loose and that I shouldn’t go out. How right they were. I thought at first they were dropping balloons - but they were flares, the sky was full of them and there were fires everywhere and explosions; anti-aircraft guns were going round the streets and wardens were shouting ‘Get down, get down’.

I went up the hill to Blackheath, at the top everywhere was brilliantly lit by searchlights and a full moon. I looked up and could see the swastikas on the planes and the bombs dropping from them. I was frozen stiff with fear and my heart was in my mouth. I felt if I could see them then they could see me and they would get me. Once there was a terrific explosion and flash of light as one of the aircraft was brought down.

When I got to George’s house the lady was in hysterics and I spent the rest of the night with her in the cellar. Later I discovered I had been out in the worst night of bombing in London.


PS A Couple of Anecdotes (there were lighter moments)

1. One old lady I went to visit whose house had been bombed said ‘I was so scared I thought I was being sent from here to maternity’.

2. I was with a group on another bad night and one of our number suggested we should all say a little prayer –
‘I don’t know any, I’ve never been to church’, said one.
‘Well just think of something.’
‘I did hear one once ---- for what we are about to receive may we be truly thankful.’

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