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15 October 2014
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Bristol Blitz

by joan rimell

Contributed by 
joan rimell
People in story: 
Joan Gladwin
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Contributed on: 
04 December 2004

I was born at 10 Algiers Street, Bedminster Bristol. The fifth child of Mr and Mrs Gladwin April 7th 1923. 4 Girls 3 boys. Our childhood was a happy one attending Windmill Hill School situated in the 52 ½ acre Victoria Park which was 10 mins at most from home or 5 mins if we were late.

All of our neighbours and children were our friends each one helping each other, adults sometimes turning the rope which stretched from one side of the street to the other and us children skipping in and out until we were all tired. But that is another story. In the meantime we were all growing up working and going to our various jobs. 1938 came and we were all worried about the threat of war. Prime Minister more or less assured us that there was a peace plan. Us younger generation almost believed it and then September 3rd World War II was declared on Germany. My mum cried she must have been thinking of what would be the outcome of World War II my mum had been working filling shells in Wales in the first war and was burned later with mustard gas but fortunately didn't lose her eyesight. Shortly after the declaration of war the whole country was literally a beehive of preparation and for to us teenagers was the unknown. Reservists were called up, there were many volunteers for all the services. It was a job to take in all the instructions to all the civilians young and old. The sirens certainly scared everyone. Anderson shelters were issued and were built in gardens that would hold them. We all had them in Algiers Street. The blackout was frightening, many having bumps colliding with lamp posts and other sorts of posts etc. until they were painted white six feet up. Torches should be held pointing downwards. Cigarettes were mainly lit in doorways or with hands cupped that they weren't seen from the air. ARP Volunteers were about and would shout "Put out that light". I guess many threw away both cigarette and match guiltily. When the first sirens went after the shelters were built and Andersons, some rushed to their gardens and jumped into the shelter without realising there could be water in it, but when the all clear sounded the relief feeling of no bombs. We were all laughing at ourselves and the funny things we did, with sheer shock of the Air raid sirens. Everyone then worked hard to prepare ourselves to cope with what may come. Plenty of advice came over the radio mainly how to protect yourselves outside your home and inside, blackout curtains, brown paper gummed strips criss crossing windows to stop them shattering by blast. From then on we mean civilians were all alerted to the part we had to play to survive the war. Bombings took place, lives lost and a lot of destruction of homes and buildings. All this time there was a terrible war going on, on the continent. Then came the first blitz on Bristol November 24th 1940, my sister Grace's 21st Birthday, it was on a Sunday. My friend Joyce and I got ourselves dressed in our Sunday best, said cheerio at home and set out for an evening walk. Then on the spur of the moment we went to town. To be quite honest it was the first time we had ventured to town on a Sunday to look at displays in shop windows. That was forbidden by both our parents even in peace time. We just didn't think, we just thought we were doing something different. Just as we turned from Wine Street into Castle Street I asked Joyce my friend "Did you hear Lord Hawhall. On the radio, he said the germans would widen Castle Street" we both laughed about that. Actually we thought it was another propaganda broadcast. There were plenty of people about including service men with their girlfriends or families. We just walked on past the co-op. Café's were open but other shops were closed. We were approaching Boots Chemist when the place was lit up by a lot of flares. Sailors walking behind us shouted to everyone to take cover and the sirens sounded. We watched the flares at first until the sailors shouted, we took to our heels and ran to a surface shelter. Bombs were falling, the noise was horrendous, both Joyce and I were scared stiff. We or rather all the people in the shelter were offered ear plugs, Joyce had them but I refused I needed to know if we were told to do anything else. As the bombs were dropping the shelter was vibrating and sort of rocking. We were all silent in the shelter. I know we were wondering how our folks at home were. We were very frightened people and when they shouted "If any of you would like to go in a cellar shelter follow me. We, along with others went along and climbed down some steps to the cellar under a tall building. I think we felt safer. An elderly lady was brought in injured with her little grandson. Bless him, he said "don't cry granny I'll make your legs better and began to bathe her legs with his lemonade". A brave little lad. The noise was horrendous and soon after there was a sort of heavy smack on the building and we were all told to get out of the building that was ablaze. Joyce and I got out and ran as fast as we could away from the blazing building toward the end of the road when a man shouted so loud behind us "come back you girls the building in front is falling, as we turned to run it began to fall, we ran and ran covered in dust. What a nightmare it was but thank god for the shouting man. After that we kept running and didn't know where, we just couldn't think. Bombing seemed less. We came to some houses with railings, someone asked if we were alright, we said "no" and they took us down steps where there were many more people. They gave us some tea we had a job to hold the cup. I could never remember if we had anything to eat. We were so weary but thankful to be alive. Now to find our way home, thank goodness the "all clear" had gone, but half walking and half running we passed the brewery yard I heard the horses I asked a man if he could know whom to ask to help them. Joyce and I then passed a showroom of new cars all ablaze. We ran on and eventually reached St Lukes Road, Bedminster. We knew then that we could cross Victoria Park. Windmill Hill School we hoped was not bombed. When we saw a huge crater in the bowling green was we remembered seeing ladies in their cream and green outfits playing bowls. The eagle had been blown off the fountain, we used to drink water from the copper cups when we were playing in the park or on our way from school. After seeing the damage we were scared for our own homes and ran fast along Somerset Terrace to Algiers Street. We were so thankful to see our mum's and they were very pleased we were safe and sound. It was good to hear our homes were okay.

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