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15 October 2014
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“Yee didna ring the bell, laddie!”

by Elizabeth Lister

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Contributed by 
Elizabeth Lister
People in story: 
Raymond Ackary, Herbert Ackary, Michael Cremin
Location of story: 
Hounslow, Middlesex; City of London
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 August 2005

This story was added to the People's War website by Eleanor Fell, at Bracknell Library, on behalf of Raymond Ackary. He has given his permission to have his story on the website and understands the terms and conditions.

I grew up in Hounslow in Middlesex, West London, and I was 11 when the war started. I was at Spring Grove Grammar School in Isleworth. My father, Herbert Ackary, worked in City of London and lived in a flat in the centre. I used to go and see him at weekends and to save money I would cycle up on the Friday evening and return straight to school on the Monday morning. It was about an hour and a half journey, but it was cheaper than getting the tube!

My father was bombed out in 1941 and lost all his possessions and only had left what he was standing up in! He was a staff controller with a property company, so luckily he was able to commandeer another flat fairly quickly and wasn’t homeless for too long.

When I was about 13 I joined the Army cadets with a friend, Michael Cremin. Our Commanding Officer, Mr Corby, was a 1st World War veteran and also a teacher at my secondary school. He was a very nice man and very funny, and as I knew him from school and got on well with him, I think that helped. We learnt basic military drills, map reading and other skills. Michael became a sergeant but I didn’t get promoted.

I passed all the exams to join the Royal Navy training ship at Hamble when I was 14. Unfortunately I failed the seaman’s eyesight test and I cried all the way home — I was so disappointed.

When I was 16 I got a job as an office boy in the City and I lived with my father, in Birchin Lane, near Bank tube station. I joined the Home Guard, and I was stationed at the Honourable Artillery Company (H.A.C) in City Road.

The only time I remember being frightened during the whole war, was one night when I was on duty at the H.A.C. I was supposed to tug on a rope attached to a bell, when a flying bomb was close by, to warn all the military personnel stationed in the barracks. One this particular night I saw a doodlebug flying towards us, I could clearly see the flames billowing out of the tail. It was heading straight for the spot where I was standing, and instead of ringing the bell, I ran like the clappers to the playing field nearby. I rammed my tin hat on my head and threw myself on the ground.

As soon as I heard the big bang just up the road I picked myself up and made my way sheepishly back to the guard post. A Scottish Sergeant who was in the Army saw me coming back and said “Yee didna ring the bell, laddie!” and then he went off and brought me back a mug of tea with rum in it!

After several years of being in the Home Guard and also being a firewatcher in the City, I joined the Army right at the end of the war. I’ve lots of experiences since then but I’ve never been as frightened as I was that night.

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