At 14 years of age, I left school in July and shortly after went to work at Gresham Transformers in Hanworth, making these huge things for fitting in our Bombers. Raids were a nightly occurrence and during one night, we received a near miss from a 500 lb bomb doing a little damage to our factory. The last piece of repairs was done and off we went for the weekend.
What a shock Monday morning, coming into work to find a direct hit had been made on the winding shop were I worked. I used to make up sleeving along with two lovely ladies and dear old Alf who used to sweep up and tidy in general.
It was Dot’s turn, with Alf, that night, to stay on after work to take their turn in fire watching. Lucky for Dot, she had gone to the other end of the factory, when the bomb had hit! Poor Alf did get blown into pieces! Can you imagine? At 14 years old, I went round with Dot and Marge, picking up pieces of Alf and putting them in a bucket.
We lived at 69 Swan Road, Hanworth; Dad had been picked for Post Warden, he was in charge of the warden’s post at the junction between Main Street and Swan Road. Being near to Feltham we had a lot of the fall out from raids made on the General Aircraft and the marshalling yards in Feltham.
As a general rule, dad used to go to the post. We stayed in bed when the sirens went, but this night, police came into the house and insisted we should go round the shelter. Flares over head lit the area like day light, and then the incendiary bombs came next! The raid was local. Our small estate received many high explosives. Going round to the shelter was so dangerous, what with shrapnel coming down like rain, and as we went round the corner of Swan Close a huge mobile (anti-aircraft gun) was pumping-up shells at the bombers. The brass cases were a danger themselves, flying out as we squeezed by. Shortly after entering our shelter there was a huge explosion! The house at the end of the shelter had a direct hit.
Two bodies were put in the other side of the shelter, in full view of us. We could see them through the square hole cut between the two halves of the shelter, for escape purposes.
It hardly seems possible but we did get a laugh a little later. One of the dads, who was a warden, called in to see if we were alright in the shelter. In the confusion he had forgotten the soil he had placed in his tin helmet, to put on to fire bombs, and he put his helmet on, with the resulting cascade of earth all over him!
One morning after a local raid, while walking to school, eyes open for shrapnel. I found an unexploded bomb in the ditch opposite our house. I found the fin a foot or two away. It looked like an incendiary bomb, but much larger. The fuse holes were just blackened.
What a find! Off came my coat and I wrapped it round the bomb. I sneaked off back home to hide it from Mum, till Dad came home. I was surprised I did not get told off, but he took it to the post to get it emptied for me. (They actually did this in those days.) He brought it back in the morning! This time I did get told off! The bomb had contained high explosives; later one of the wardens, Sid Weston, gave me £10.00 for it! (This was a lot of money in those days.)
The V1 hitting the shelter actually came very close to taking our roof off.
We were all in the front room and we could hear it getting closer, and when it went over the noise was terrible; and the pressure; we all thought the windows buckled in. I ran out, up to the cross roads just across the street from us and it had been a direct hit on this shelter! Dead bodies lay about, a woman lay screaming with the masonry on her head and every time they tried to move it, it bore more and heavier on her. A large piece of the V1 lay there smouldering, the actual cone containing the engine was still intact.
‘War or no war’ cycling still went on and regular trips to the coast! What a lovely site going through the Oxshott Woods, past Box Hill onto Leatherhead and Dorking, and for miles along the roadside there were amphibian craft waiting for the invasion. No one was about and what fun it was it to go into the shelters and look at equipment ready for the big push.
I spent the past of my time in the West Middlesex Hospital having my appendix out. There was local raid, the nurses’ quarters got bombed and one of the nurses (who got into lot of trouble for doing so) took me outside to see the Spitfires shooting at the Bombers in the glow of the search lights.
A few more thought attached - More Random Thoughts…
*Danger of unexploded shells on the roads.
*Tuck box at school (when raids on)
*Friend and I found stack of monster bombs on Field
*All that shrapnel in the streets
*5th of Bath water only
*Night in police cell for pinching warden’s roller
*First jet plane tipping wings of V1 Bomb.
*Horse meat every week!