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15 October 2014
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One Child's War Part 3 Blitzes and Bombshells by Elizabeth Chapman (nee Goodwin)

by Stockport Libraries

Contributed by 
Stockport Libraries
People in story: 
Elizabeth Goodwin
Location of story: 
Brinnington, Stockport
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 July 2004

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Elizabeth Perez of Stockport Libraries on behalf of Elizabeth Chapman and has been added to the site with her permission. She fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

London, Coventry and Liverpool certainly got the worst of the air-raids. Manchester assuredly suffered and we, on the periphery of that city, also lived through some frightening events.

On one occasion during the evening, the air- raid sirens had sounded and we duly descended into our Anderson shelter. All remained quiet. We could hear no sound of enemy aircraft, nor any "ack-ack" (anti-aircraft) noise: a couple of hours passed in this way. We all became tired of waiting for the" All-Clear" siren. Should we risk going back into the house? Yes, we decided to risk it. We were all very "fed-up" and cold. So we cautiously made our way back through the darkness to the house. Moments later I had gone upstairs and I was walking along the landing when suddenly I heard the descending "whine" of a missile followed immediately by a gigantic "WHUMF-F-P'! The house rocked and I was flung off my feet For a few seconds there was absolute silence. Then, from outside, we heard sounds of running feet and excited voices. What had happened? We peered through the black-out curtains. There were several tin- helmeted air-raid wardens racing towards the field at the back of the houses across the road. An A.R.P. (Air-Raid Precaution) van sped into view and several service personnel got out and followed the wardens. We soon knew what had happened. We were lucky to be alive! By a pure miracle nobody had been killed or hurt; nor had any property been damaged. A land mine had come down in the field not a hundred yards away from our house! The whole road had to be evacuated for twenty-four hours until the bomb disposal squad had been in to deal with it. What a "near thing" it had been for us all! The "crater" became quite a venue for sight-seers for weeks afterwards!

There were many air-raids, but luckily none that were seriously damaging in our particular area; but we were always finding bits of shrapnel in the garden and in the road outside the house. It was generally assumed that the Germans were attempting to bomb the Stockport railway viaduct, which was such an important link between the north and south of the country, and of course we had many prominent aircraft and engineering factories such as the Fairey Aviation plant at Heaton Chapel.

The new house in which we were living was situated in a then rural area and almost at the summit of a fairly steep hill, lined with tall trees and hawthorn bushes. One night, my parents and myself were returning home very late from a night out. The last ‘bus had gone hours ago – bus services were very curtailed during the war – and it was a case of using “Shanks’ Pony”. Very few people possessed cars in those days, and if one did there was very little petrol to spare for private motoring. So there we were, returning home in the black-out walking up this hill. The air-raid warning siren had sounded so we were very anxious to get home to shelter. To our right, the land fell away to a deep valley with the River Goyt meandering through its trough. Suddenly the darkness was pierced by search-lights criss-crossing the skies. We could hear the throbbing tones of enemy aircraft overhead and suddenly the valley became illuminated by brightly coloured flares dropped by the German planes . The whole of the valley was lit up. You could see for miles! Then came the Staccato chatter of the ack-ack guns. Incendiary bombs began to rain down all around us. We started to run for our lives. Just as we reached the corner of our road we heard the whine of a descending bomb. We flung ourselves down on to the pavement to escape the blast. There was a terrific explosion a couple of seconds later. We lay there too terrified to move. Finally we picked ourselves up. Fortunately for us, the bomb had landed not a quarter of a mile away, although it had sounded as if it was almost on top of us. By this time there were quite a few Local Defence Volunteers and A.R.P. personnel racing about with stirrup pumps and sandbags to extinguish the dozens of incendiary bombs which were now burning and flaming up in the roads and neighbouring gardens. Luckily our house remained undamaged. We were very glad to get home that night, I can tell you!

Half-way up the hill, the Home Guard Headquarters were located in a big old house. This was 74, Brinnington Road, only very recently demolished to make way for the Manchester Outer Ring Road motorway. Saturday and Sunday mornings saw them holding regular drill parades and they were an enthusiastic and keen bunch of men. Since our semi-rural areas was located on the edge of Stockport, the Home Guard had instituted a security black-out, you would hear, somewhat unnervingly, a deep masculine voice issuing a challenge:- "Halt, who goes there? Friend or foe?" In the light of your downward- pointing torch you would be aware of two hefty-looking Home Guards with rifles at the ready. The answer you were supposed to give was "Friend"! Then came the next summons:-" Advance friend and be recognised!" You advanced nervously, identity card in hand. Your card carefully inspected and approved, you were allowed on your way with the words: "Pass, friend!" and you went on your way into the darkness!

I wonder whether they ever did catch any spies! All about us on the hoardings were slogans: "Careless talk costs lives". You did not talk of the whereabouts or movements of your soldier or sailor brother or boyfriend or husband. That was all, as the saying went, very "Hush-hush"!, - and another slogan ran: "Keep Mum, -like Dad!" You had to be very, very careful!

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Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Home Guard Category
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