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15 October 2014
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My WW2 memories

by Mo Dendle

Contributed by 
Mo Dendle
People in story: 
Mo Dendle
Location of story: 
Leicester
Article ID: 
A2426294
Contributed on: 
15 March 2004

When the declaration of war with Germany was announced I was 7 years of age but remember nothing of the event, it wasn’t until the fighting in France was over and the The Battle of Britain was in full swing that I began to realise what was going on in particularly the high point when it was announced over the radio that in that battle over southern England 182 enemy aircraft had been shot down by the RAF, as we now know it was only half that number with the loss of some 30 by the RAF.

One event which is indelibly fixed in my memory was when bombs fell very close to our home unfortunately I don’t know the date, the actual episode I slept through and in part is my late mothers story. One night I realised I was being carried down stairs and taken into the shelter were I must have gone back to sleep. Next morning my mother said she’d taken me into the shelter as bombs had fallen nearby and then with a rueful smile said that after getting me into the shelter went back into house and on reaching the stairs looked up to see what appeared to be the sky and thought the roof had been blown off, then realised it was a bed sheet she had drag with me in her arms from the bed and now trailed down the stairs, my mother always had a laugh when recalling the event.
As to the actual bombing, at school one of my friends was the son of the Bailey’s who had a farm off Stonesby Avenue and had a great story to tell about bombs that had fallen on their farm, in fact two farms, the Forryan’s and the Bailey’s, on Forryan’s they landed in a field by the south side of Aylestone Lane about 100 yards from their house and shop and the railway bridge, one of the them was a small oil bomb which containing an explosive charge and quantity of crude oil, this had only partly exploded and covered one side of what I think was a donkey leaving it black one side and grey the other, I don’t think the animal was injured as was quietly eating the grass, we were then chased off by the army bomb disposal, I’d already been up on Bailey’s farm and looked into the crater left by a larger bomb and commenting that one could get a double decker bus into it. Sadly the rest of the bombs landed further on and demolishing houses on Saffron Road in Glen Parva killing and injuring a number of civilians. It was said that a light showing from Lady Rollesten’s house attracted the bomber, but considering the track of the bombs where only a hundred yards or so from the Royal Leicestershire Regimental HQ in Glen Parva, and also straddled the Midland main railway line south of Leicester with it’s major railway junction at Wigston with lines to London, Nuneaton, Birmingham and Rugby leading off I personally think one or both where the intended target. I’ve would be very grateful if anyone can add information to that night time raid in particularly the date.

On the 21st August 1940 Cavendish Road was bombed by a single bomber in a daylight raid, (See Geoff Phillips story), being the summer holiday’s I was not at school my father and brother where at work, and I was gesticulating to a neighbour friend through his front room window to come out an join me to play, whilst doing this I heard the sound of an aircraft and looking up saw a single aircraft with black crosses on the wings directly above me flying towards Leicester from the south east, it was the first enemy aircraft I’d seen, and thankfully the one only one, I made a bee line for our Anderson shelter in the back garden, then I heard the explosion of bombs and remembered my mother was out shopping on Southfields Drive this galvanised me into action to go look for her in case she needed help, and went racing off down Windley Road with women trying to get me to take cover in their shelters which I ignored, as the sirens had only then been let off. I found my mother walking up towards me, I also remember seeing the smoke rising from the area where the bombs had fallen, of course my mother was furious with me for leaving the shelter but later excepted my reason.
Obviously the bombs that hit Cavendish Road where intended for the Aylestone gas works or Raw Dykes power station therefore logically Wigston junction and or the RLR HQ were the intended targets of the night time raid as donkey's were never high on the Luftwaffe target list.

The Anderson air raid shelter as many will know and may be remember was made of corrugated galvanised sheet steel curved at one end in the form of the letter J where they were bolted together to form the shelter then straight sheets where bolted to each end to enclose the structure, one end was large enough for entry the other end had a sort of escape hatch the whole thing was then half buried in the ground, most had a concrete lining inside and could be quite dry, although our neighbours either side were not, our immediate neighbours were the Burniston’s and they joined us when necessary as ours was nice and dry almost a home from home.
It had bunks and my farther had made a wooden door to fit in the entrance with a heavy curtain across, lighting was of course by candle with small paraffin stove or heater but I don’t think it was used much because of the confined space so as a means of taking the chill off the air two large earthenware plant pots were used, one upright with a candle in it the other inverted and place on top, and after about half an hour it was surprising how much heat was given off and with a second one set up the situation could become quite cosy. Even now the smell of damp concrete such as one gets in the RAF’s deep underground bunkers together a burning candle still remind me of those days.

During Leicester’s only major air raid on the 19th November 1942, the Burniston’s, mother her two daughters Jean and Maureen and son Ken with me and my mother, my father and bother were on fire watch duty in Leicester and in the thick of it, were in the shelter and someone produced a wrist watch with a faulty escapement, one would wind it up a few turns then releasing the winder the hands would fly round the dial when it stop we would guess the time it had stop at. As the saying goes time flies when your having fun! well it kept our minds of what was going on outside, as a neighbour in an adjoining back garden was giving a running commentary of the scene in Leicester from the top of his Anderson.

There are a number of other war time incidents near my home I can recall like the large canister of incendiaries that landed unopened on Oadby race course at the Wigston end, which I heard descending and thought it was a train passing along the main rail line the other side of the park we lived opposite, also the night when one of the searchlights on the race course was hit by the gunner of an enemy bomber, and seeing through the perimeter hedge at Bruntingthorp airfield with a school friend by the name of Fox the Wellington bomber that had been fitted out with in an experimental jet engine in it’s tail, he lived in The Newry but his christian name I’ve long since forgotten.

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Message 1 - wartime memories

Posted on: 04 October 2005 by Imazad

for details of Leicester bombs check www.wartimeleicestershire.com/

Dennis Neal

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