Friday, 31 December 2010

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt January 1st 1941

1.1.1941

My Dear Mary,

What do you think of Jerry's latest efforts to set London ablaze? The fires were something like those of early September & it was a case of London's burning, look yonder, and when we looked we had no doubts. Within ten minutes of the warning we looked out & saw the first fires start. In a short time the sky over London was red with the glare of fires & as the night progressed instead of getting fainter the glow spread. It was terrific but not so huge as those in September when the docks & that district went.
I haven't been to see the damage but from all accounts it is extensive & looks a shocking mess; even today the firemen are still pouring water on smoldering wreckage. The district affected is Moorgate St & to the West of that place, what has always been known as the danger spot as regards fires because of the very narrow streets, streets of the old London such as Wood St, Bread St etc. The chief sufferers are the haberdashery firms such as Marley & Rylands, it was the centre of that trade, so if you are likely to want such things in the near future, get them while the going is good. Rylands warehouse at Manchester has gone as well as their London house, Our old place at Paul Street has escaped but buildings all round it have been burned out.
Our  next door neighbour, the one next door but one on the other side & a man living directly opposite are all without a sign of their London place of business – burned to the ground. One of them has been with Rylands for 50 years & he says they had 20 fire fighters on the premises, but the bombs came so thick they couldn't cope with them & then the water supply failed. Another said his firm had 7 men on the premises & they tackled other folks fires but the flames from these leapt across the road & engulfed their place.
One thing is certain, it hasn't done much to help on Jerry's war effort. London can still take it. Can Glasgow? The rude remarks I have been hearing this week about Glasgow bus and tram drivers decided by such a huge majority not to carry on during an alert!  When our men are whistled to cover because of planes overhead most of them don't go – give them a tin hat & they feel quite safe (most of them have been so provided by the firm). I remember an occasion, when, after the whistles had gone, hearing shrapnel falling on the roofs: it sounded like very heavy hail. Knowing the men, I went into the Copper Sulphate shed & saw a great hole in the roof. One man had picked up a chunk of shell about half a pound in weight, said it was hot when he picked it up. I told him he had no right to be in the building when the whistle had gone. His reply was "Damn Jerry I have my work to do."
I cannot understand how those drivers could come to such a decision. Perhaps a few bombs on their homes would encourage them – make them want, in their own peculiar way to get their own back. After all, everybody by carrying on is doing that.
The tummy is at last better, but I stayed in for Christmas & treated it with great respect just as if it had been Lent instead of a festive season.
The sirens have sounded tonight the first time since Sunday, but although it is an hour ago, we have heard & seen nothing & the wireless is nice & loud so goodness knows if anything is happening.

Thursday
We had three alerts last night, the first very quiet, the second medium & the third in the early hours or rather between 5 & 8 plenty of noise, but not a great deal of stuff dropped.
Today it is horribly cold & trying to snow, some of your weather I expect. Does anything good come out of Scotland? except shortbread? You are lucky to have the 16 eggs, we get three a week but whilst I was seedy, a friend gave us 6 & another one 3
Bye bye, Love to all of you from us both

Tom

Friday, 24 December 2010

Tom Critchley to his niece Molly Platt December 25th 1940

25.12.1940

My Dear Mollie,

People have obeyed instructions and posted their cards early this year; this morning, Christmas – the postwoman (it's a she now) brought only two things to our house, one was the receipt for the coal bill & the other was your delightful calendar. I think you have done it beautifully & I hope you will be able to come and see it adorning our dining room and recalling pleasant memories of happy holidays.
So low has our opinion of the huns sunk, we quite expected they would come and see us, but evidently they still regard world opinion to some very slight degree & have left us in peace.
What sort of books do you like these days? I gave Tom the "Herries Chronicles" by Walpole, I should think it is still a bit old for you, it is of particular interest to those who know the Lake District. There are 4 books bound in one volume.
Talking of books, tell you mother & father to bed borrow or steal "Jonathan North" by Hudson. It's a book about a goodly Lancashire Lad and truly depicts life in the Manchester district. It's Good!!
What sort of a Christmas have you had? Quieter, I expect, than when you were taught how not to behave by my offspring, that Christmas we all met at St Helens; perhaps we will all meet again when this spot of bother is over & Ronald can drape himself in his arab dress for our benefit & tell us about all the exciting things he has seen.
We have been exceptionally quiet, bad tummies & Christmas should never be mixed, it's the height of foolishness to try. I speak from experience.
By the way, have you read Morton's "In the Steps of the Master", if you haven't, you ought to, I'm sure you would enjoy it. Ronald has it with him in Palestine and finds it most helpful. All Morton's travel books are good & well worth reading, there are no dry facts and he puts information into the pleasantest manner.
When I got to that part of your letter about the nativity play in which you said you were an angel, I got a shock until I remembered there were two sorts of angels, heavenly and .......
& that heavenly angels don't have such vulgar things as human parts on which to sit requiring a soft seat, lest they should feel discomfort. A long winded way of stating a simple fact of anatomy.
On Sunday night we had visitors for tea & we had hardly finished when the sirens went. I told these folks that when the guns started it wasn't our raid, but I don't think they believed me. By now we can tell fairly well by the sound of the gun fire, whose turn it is to be entertained. Of course they have to drop a bomb or two around London no matter where else they go, but that is nothing like a proper do. Anyhow, these folks decided to go home about 8.00 pm; just as they opened the front door they got a shock, the place lit up and a good hefty banging started. So they came back to wait for things to calm down a bit. If you aren't used to it, it does come as a shock in a pitch dark night, if you happen to be near the guns and it so happened that night there was a mobile gun about 50 yards from our front door. It's a pity they come over this way on their way to Lancashire, Birmingham and Bristol, but as I say, we can usually tell if they are trying to bomb us or somebody else & if we think they are entertaining somewhere else, we don't worry at all now. Tom took them home in the car. He stayed with us that night and a good job too, as the next morning he found the place where he usually sleeps full of broken glass due to a bomb dropped near.
Saturday
I'm afraid this letter hasn't got posted, so I'll see what I can do today. Jerry called on us last night and set up a few fires, but they were quickly got under. It was a half-hearted effort on his part & was all over by 11.
I am enclosing some of Ronald's letters, will you please return them after reading.
Love to you & your Mater and Pater
Uncle Tom and Auntie Annie
For you information Kevin and Forest are blokes who went out to Palestine with Ronald.
Skipper is an army captain, a particular chum of R's. August is their car driver.
A Happy New Year to you all & may it bring Peace. 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt November 21st 1940

My dear Mary and Harry,

In these days you should not have sent the hankies. Annie, nevertheless is very pleased with them & thanks you very much indeed for them.
We had a letter from Gertie Boardman at Birmingham, the other day. My word, she has got the wind up. Judging by her letter you would think no-one else had heard a gun or bomb & nowhere but Birmingham had been damaged. It's a good job for England, London bore the brunt for so long. One hears of far more windy people outside London than in it. In a war somebody's got to be killed and I suppose it's better to kill the old and middle aged than the young folks as happened last time. (Two of Tom Critchley's brothers, George and William, were killed in action in WW 1)
Quite pleasant thoughts for Christmas – what!
Jerry doesn't unduly trouble us these days, not like he used to. I believe if I had charge of the Luftwaffe I could make a lot better job of it than Goering does.
Don't get a chill on the stomach in wartime. That's what I did and find it awkward with a shortage of this and that. It's just getting back to normal now and with a bit of luck will be ready for Christmas.
We hope you all have a pleasant Christmas and continue to discuss holidays next year. If you go to Blackpool then I'll be convinced there is a streak of insanity in the family.

Love to all 3 of you,

Annie and Tom


PS  firm started making luminous paints and other luminous articles & approached us about supplying them with the baisc materials as they were stuck. We undertook the job & when I went to see them to give them some advice about the troubles they encountered & brought away a piece of rubber, a strip of which may interest Mollie (enclosed).
This rubber has Strontium Sulphide incorporated in the material & if exposed to light (daylight or electric) & then put in a dark place it will glow quite nicely. Expose in a room to the light then switch off the light. They have incorporated it in plastics. I should think it would be a success in switch covers and so save fumbling in the dark.
(This letter is slightly stained with its former enclosure, which Mollie assures me was put smartly in the bin by her mother)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Tom Critchley to Mollie Platt 17.12.1940

My dear Mollie,
I hope you will be able to find something entertaining to swop for the enlcosed, something as amusing as some of Ronald's letters.
We had two letters this week from that hair-brained cousin of yours, posted while on holiday in Transjordan. He certainly seems to have been in the less civilised parts & to have thoroughly enjoyed it too.
Three of them went together & hired a car & driver for the journey across the desert; they took with them provisions, mineral waters, spades & letters of introduction to various sheiks. Meeting these sheiks seems to have been not the least thrilling part of their trip. He told us of one, dressed in whilte silk, who invited them to his house, gave them coffee, invited them to stay for 2 or 3 days & was most disappointed when they told him they had to hasten off. Anyhow, he mounted a lovely Arab horse & escorted them on part of the way amidst the cheering villagers.
If you have a good Atlas perhaps you can find some of the places he visited. Amman, Kerak, Ma'an, Petra, Agaba (at the head of the Gulf on the Red Sea) Jerash and Samak.
The most noted place of all is Petra, a relic of an unknown civilisation only rediscovered in fairly modern times & even now rarely visited. They had to hire horses & an armed escort to get to it & found it a most wonderful place with magnificent buildings hewn out of the sold rock (if you can call such by the name of buildings) who built them & when nodbody seems to be certain of, although the ubiquitous Romans seem to have been there & known about them. Apparently the road leads down a steep gorge, so steep that the sun doesn't penetrate & then opens out among steep red mountain cliffs, into the sides of which have been cut most wonderful high termples & you can find a book in your library which will tell you something about it.
Another thing he found a kick in, was scudding in the car over miles & miles of desert & seeing the darkness come suddenly while they were miles from any sign of habitation.
Agaba, he found most fascinating & like the pictures one sees of the South Sea Islands with palms growing down to the deep blue sea. There they went bathing & fishing & caught fish of all sorts of brilliant colours.
When the seasonal postal rush is over I must send these letters for you to read, they are full of superlatives, but he seems to have had a superlative holiday.
I hear you are getting quite expert with your camera & doing enlargements. Your other cousin Tom made his own enlarger, but it is't the sort I can recommend as now there are pieces of it strewn about the house. It can hardly be described as compact. Ronald, you know, had a very good camera which he dropped to the bottom of the Dead Sea to his great sorrow. since then he has purchased one of the very posh Lica cameras which take very small photos, but as they are of perfect definition they enlarge like contact prints. He is taking photos to illustrate the Bible, so, when he comes back his pictures should be well worth seeing.
By the way, Ronald & Tom have a cousin, a photographer in the Air Force, Harold Collett.
At last we come to the real reason of this letter, we wish you a very Happy Christmas & hope we shall be seeing you in the coming year when the Blitz is past history.
Love from Auntie Annie & Uncle Tom
(Annie writes)
Mollie, many aplogies for calling the (Glasgow) buses dirty. I expect it was the dark colours which made them look so funny among our bright red ones.
Anyhow, we ought to be thankful to all the places which have lent the the buses to "poor old London", as I have seen quite enough at poor old Enfield and Barnet. Do you remember coming to Somaford Grove? They had seven delayed action bombs round that district. We heard that all the people round there have been temporarily evacuated... that was last week. I am going down to East Barnet this afternoon, so may hear more.
What do you think about your young cousin going away to school?
The enlcosed are stamps from Ronald's last letter, which I don't expect you have, as they are "Trans Jordan". Uncle Tom didn't tell you that they (Ronald and his two pals) each bought a dagger, & that there were hyenas, leopards & wolves & cheetahs in the desert. Also the spades they took with them were in case they had to dig the car out of the sand. What a thrill!!
Well! We hope you will have a nice Christmas in spite of old Hitler & perhaps next year we may all meet again... I hope so.
PS (from Uncle Tom.) We have a 1936 Whitfield King Stamp Catalogue, is it any good to you? The Palestine stamps depict:- 3m, Rachel's Tomb, 50m Sea of Gallilee, 13m Mosque of Moer,  5m Citadel of Jerusalem.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 13.12.1940

My dear Mary,

We'll tackle Mollie's question about sulphuric Acid first. As a matter of fact we don't make sulphuric acid & the firm who supplied us with that acid & nitric acid as well was wiped out of existence, their works are in such a state that they are now looking for a new site to start again; sometimes Jerry does do some real damage.
Sulphuric acid is made, either direct from sulphur or pyrite or as a by-product in the coal gas industry. In either case, it is made by oxidising sulphur-dioxide to the trioxide, dissolving the latter in water & concentrating by evaporation.
S + O2 = SO2
2SO2  + O2 = SO2 =  2SO3
SO+ H2O = H2 SO4
4 Fes2 + 2202  = 2Fc O + 8SO2 

The difficulty is the oxidation of the SO2 . In the old days this was done in lead chambers (as they did at Hardshaw Brook in the chambers along the Warrington New Road). A little nitrogen per oxide was added to the mixture of SO2  & air, leached with water & so it went on slowly oxidising. Of course SO2  is slightly soluble in water, but nothing like to the extent that SO3 is. The modern process does away with the old bulky lead chambers and speeds up the process of passing the air & SO2  mixture through the platinised asbestos (platinum in a very fine state of division mixed with an asbestos pad) The platinum acts as a catalyst & without taking any final part in the reaction accelerates it.
I'm afraid I can't go into the details of the processm you'll find it in any decent chemistry book. If the query was how could Mollie make it? she can't with any hopes of success. It's easy enough to make the sulphurous acid, but the snag is oxidising it to sulphuric though I suppose it could be done in the lab with hydrogen peroxide. Anyhow SO2  isn't nice stuff for chesty folks, it invariably stops my chest up.
Talking of Sulphuric acid our tank in the works is 14 ft up on a gantry & holds 7 tons. A bomb fell alongside it, blew the tank up in the air & dropped it back onto its own base, but twisted the girders into fantastic shapes.
You wouldn't believe it, but now Jerry gives us some nights off, we feel his visitations more than when he came every night. Looking back it seems surprising how we stuck it, perhaps the feeling that it was inevitable or the excitement helped us.
Anyhow, he has come back to his old love & even last night when he went to Sheffield, had to go via this place. He was roaring about all night, but as we are used to his tricks by now, we soon realised it wasn't our raid, so could treat it like we would a bad thunderstorm.
Sunday night wasn't too bad, except we tried in vain to get to sleep. As I lay in bed half asleep it sounded at times as if the ceiling was coming in. All around the works he dropped large numbers of incendiaries, 30 in one factory and 36 in another. The Cosmos lamp works got badly singed, our place escaped with one which was very quickly dealt with, but there were fires all around.
Wednesday night or rather about 6.00am on Thursday morning (the raid was on for 14 hours) 6 bombs dropped on East Barnet all around our old house in Somaford Grove & lots of folk here have had to evacuate as several haven't gone off. It's a mad world. You would have thought so looking out the other night with a beautiful clear sky & bright moon & gun flashes all around & the devil up above wondering when to press the button & blow somebody to blazes.
One only hopes the other places hold the front line as well as London has held their section.
It's no good jawing Seth, he will please himself, but I think it is a great pity & both he and Biddy will regret it later. I wonder if Ada has had anything to do with it.
We've just had a letter from Ronald written just before he went on his Trans Jordan holiday. They hired a big car, and as they had to travel over the desert, took food and spades with them. No you are wrong, the spades weren't to eat the food with, they were in case the car got stuck in the sand. He is having a good time.
That's all this week, unless I've something to add tomorrow, which I doubt, as the weather is foggy & the roads are icy & bad for poor motorists. It all helps to make the war more pleasant!!!
Love to you all from us both,

Tom

PS don't swank, we got a pound of onions one day & sometimes we get eggs. Between ourselves I can scrounge enough butter to just keep us going.
PPS Somaford Grove is now roped off as there is a time bomb near. Good job we moved.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Letter from Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 6.12.1940

Letter to Mary Platt 6.12.40

My Dear Mary,
I had a letter from Seth this week; he is still playing with the thoughts of sending Biddy to that school & seems more than half inclined to do it.
He says he is breaking new ground for once in a way. I reminded him that we too broke new ground when we send out son to the 4 corners of the earth, to be a guide & father to those less fortunate bretheren in the wider open spaces.
Tom is now at Chelsea barracks among the guards & seems to have settled down quite comfortably. On the whole he is pretty fortunate being so near home & can get off now for most weekends. He went to Cambridge last weekend to see Jones. Ronald's school pal, & took, in the car with him, the 3 Robinson girls.
When you say you couldn't get a word in edgeways the other day, it seemed hardly believable; but on consideration, there are one or two folks round here who could beat any gramophone records.
I remember the night the ceiling fell & remember too when you didn't believe us when we assured you we hadn't been bombed. If we had ceilings like that in this house, they would have been down long ago. I guess a good many houses will be in a bad state before it is all over. I hear of folks on our estate who are complaining about their window frames coming away from the brickwork as a result of gunfire.
The other evening when Tom rang us up & the guns were doing their stuff, I thought then if only you could ring us up you no doubt would enjoy listening to our front door shivering as the fireworks went off. Our telephone is in the hall near the front door, the gun battery is opposite the front door & when they fire overhead, there is an incredible clatter if you haven't heard it before.
(I am touching wood) We have lately been let off very lightly. Last Thursday and Friday weren't too good, but since then, apart from a nasty few minutes one day, there has been little that's been really annoying.
It looks as if the battle of London is going to be an ignominious defeat for Adolf.
By the way, have you heard that friend Musso assured his pal Adolf that he has every reason to believe the Italian Army was still in good running order?
Tonight is very windy, but fine, but so far our guns here only burst into song once, so it doesn't look as if anything much is in the air. Usually, Friday night is a bad night for us.
Saturday
Nothing happened last night. This week has been the quietest week since August, so perhaps our bad time is coming to an end.

Love to you all 3 from us both,

Tom

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 28.11.1940

37 Lonsdale Drive,
Enfield, Middlesex

28.11.40

My Dear Mary,
Seth will think we have all formed a league against him (or should it be an axis?).We all seem to think the same about his proposal to send Biddy to  Boarding School.
I agree with Harry, it doesn't take skill to win at a Whist Drive, I expect it was your lucky day. We used to play cards a great deal in Ronald's day, but have only played about once since he went away. Our favourite game then was Contract Bridge and a jolly good game too.
The trouble is folks don't like to be out after dusk, because of the Blitz and the difficulty getting home; besides it isn't nice to be out when the Blitz is in full swing, there are too many guns about, scattering bits all over the place.
Jerry has been kind to us lately, but London to him is like a candle flame to a moth; he will keep buzzing around singeing his wings & can't keep away from it. Some day, lets hope he gets more than singed, & may it be shortly.
Sunday night he never came at all, the second time since August 29th, the other was on November 3rd or 4th. We went from August 29 to Novemebr 4 with one or more raids every night & ditto every day as well.
We occasionally see him going West, literally, he passes fairly close to us, & we can watch the progesss of the waves by the shell bursts & the searchlights beams.
Last night he returned to his old love & his affections were at times hard to repulse. He left some of his visiting cards close by, but as I was asleep & only woke as they fell I have only a vague knowledge of them. Strange how one wakes to a feeling of danger. That was about 1.00 o'clock.
Tonight his overtures are positively embarrassing, or should I say embracing. He seems to be very thick skinned and quite unable to take a hint, far too persistent for our liking.
Tom has got moved to the Guards Barracks at Chelsea, as he has only been there a couple of days it's too early to say what sort of a place it is though his first impression seems to be favourable.
We were very fortunate this week, we had two letters from Ronald. He seems to be enjoying life, thought I think the raids on London worry him. He asked what London was like these days, so I chanced the censorhsip, I gave him a few particulars. Hitherto, we have told him very little because of, perhaps, having the letter destroyed if we said too much. He has been making Christmas Puddings!! The maid had had a week's holiday, so they did their own cooking, invited a friend for the week end & got him to wash up & tidy the palce.
Occasionally we send him a cable just to say we are all still smiling, we sent one this week.

Friday 29th November
So it was Liverpool and district had Jerry's favours last night! I wonder if St Helens had any share in it? As far as one can judge they ought to be fairly safe where they are, but he is such a beggar for wasting his stuff by scattering his seed on stoney ground... may the thorns spring up and choke him.
My experience is, the danger spots are near main roads, railways and gun sights. We are only near the latter & of course not far from the tube where it comes in the open.
We certainly thought we were for it last night, the planes passed over us in wave after wave & it isn't our fault they got beyond here. Everytime I went to have a see, we were surrounded by searchlights, gun flashes & shell bursts. This place shook times without number as the guns fired salvos & its cost us at least two more roof tiles from falling shrapnel. They have added another gun to our battery, now there are 5 - 4.5's & they reckon it good shooting if they all go off as one. Isn't it any wonder we like the doors & windows get jumpy?
Tonight we are having another do like last night, but the direction seems to me more like Birminhgam though we cannot tell, anyhow we'll be more sensible tonight & not think it's meant for us like we did last night.
I think the posting we got a fortnight ago must have made us a wee bit nervous, as we don't seem to relish a repetition. I'll post this tomorrow and let you know if owt happens.
Saturday 30th November
Nowt much happened last night of any major importance. We had the planes buzzing about for over two hours & terrific gun fire, the worst we have ever had, but no bombs dropped near & as far as I can gather nobody seems to have had very many. He flew at a tremendous height, so perhaps he got lost of wouldn't face the shell fire & dumped his loads on the outlying country districts & dug holes in a few more fields. Anyway we went to bed as usual & only woke then things were a bit noisier than they ought to be.
There is a dense fog today & he has been over again for nearly an hour... silly ass. He must have an illegal source of petrol coupons, the way he wastes the stuff.
That's all from the battle front this week, except to say I was asked to contribute towards a fund for comforts for the army this morning. One of my blokes who joined up came to see us at the works during the week & says his army hours are 9-4. He likes it a lot better than working for a living. Our blokes work 12 hours a day & every other weekend & do a night a week on Home Guard as well & rarely get home without having to pass through the barrages. It's comforts for the civilians we want.
Cheerio & love to you all from us both,


Tom

Monday, 22 November 2010

Letter from Tom Critchley to Mary Platt Friday 22.11.1940

My dear Mary,
We have just got your letter so as the Blitz is as ususal in progress I will answer it.
Much as we would like to get away at Christmas for a week, we jibe at the traveling & I doubt if you folks know if there is a war on or not, or you would realise what a journey to Glasgow meams, especially at Christmas. I hope we will be able to stick it out until early in the year when we hope to get out of it for a week.
We aren't nervous wrecks, far from it or we wouldn't take things as calmly as we do. I won't say it has no effect especially after last Friday night's affair, but all things considered we are doing quite well.
Last Friday night was bad, it was bad everywhere around London & Enfield had, for once a bit more than its fair share. There were not 2 land mines, but 6. That accounts for the wide spread damage. As a result of that one night 5,032 claims were sent in for property more or less damaged. the local paper says it was as bad as Coventry, but that is a silly statement. We probably had more planes over in the night, but they scattered their presents more that at Coventry.
Annie was shopping in Enfield yesterday, when the sirens went, she says there was a marked difference in the reaction of the people to them to what they used to be. Formerly they took no notice, but yesterday folks looked a bit scared & hurried off home.
The trouble with a land mine is you cannot hear it coming, so now folks are a bit more apprehensive when planes are overhead & more liable to attribute loud bangs to bombs & not guns. That's our reaction, last week, we kidded oursleves these terrific thumps were due to a new gun, but we a bit more than doubted it. The damage to property in Enfield is fairly bad, but might be a lot worse.
Part of the banging we heard was from Winchmore Hill & Southgate, where 2 mines fell in each place. It was one of the Southgate ones pushed our back door open. When we went shopping to this district last Saturday afternoon we found the windows nearly as bad as those at Enfield.
High Barnet also got a nasty dose, & the big hospital there was damaged, but then what district didn't get something.
Tell Harry it's time they had a rota for A R P, if raids start like they treat London, nobody could go out to every raid, night after night & usually all night long... dusk to dawn.
Annie went to the pictures this afternoon, the first time for ages, the afternoon performances get a moderate number, but the night shows are hardly worth opening for.
We have had no nasty incidents this week... touch wood; either Jerry exhausted himself or the weather kept most of his pests away; or perhaps it was a bit of both. What there has been has been fairly early in the evening & during those hours in the early morning when one seems to want to sleep most.
As if we hadn't enough troubles some bounder didn't set his fuse properly, so an AA shell of moderate size, crashed through one of the store sheds at the works on Tuesday night & made a mess of some of my war stores when it exploded. Now why, oh why, didn't it hit a Jerry?
Seth told us about wanting to send Biddy to a Boarding school, we had a letter from him on Tuesday. I cannot understand how he has come to seriously consider such a project unless his next door neighbour has been talking him round. I think it would be a big mistake as I have the poorest opinion of such establishments except as a factory for turning out imitation drawing-room ornaments. You don't say what you think about the scheme?
Your raids differ from ours, we rarely see search lights now, the guns have got so hot for Jerry he has taken to flying so high he is out of their range, except in bad weather then he comes down low, but the searchlights are no use when it's pouring with rain. Also he rarely hovers about now, not like he used to do. He drops his bombs as soon as he can & scoots for home, probably the Italians have been instructing them.
We went for a rare car ride on Sunday afternoon as it was a really nice day & in all the country districts saw bomb craters. it makes one think that there must be a lot of pilots who won't face the guns, so drop their load any old where & go home & report another target hit.
Did I tell you that Ronald said the only casualty in an Italian raid on Haifa was one sheik killed as a result of a bale of pamphlets falling on him? 
Saturday 23rd November 1940
So Birmingham district got the main attack last nigh! Our share was very intermittent, with fairly long spells with little about. As it was a lovely clear night we expected much more than we got, but can bear the disappointments like that with equanimity.
I was talking to a bloke to-day who said the number of houses destroyed in Enfield amounts to about 500 from the one proper Blitz.
Except for being a bit jumpy at strange noises such as a banged door, I don't think the war has adversely affected us. A few more grey hairs perhaps, or should I say a few less dark brown ones, as the grey predominates, but in general health we are quite good  & for once in a way I have had no time off for ages & ages. Annie says when she gets fed up with it, she is going to Cumberland, as she is still here presumably she isn't yet fed up. It's surprising what you get used to.
Love to you all from us both,
Tom

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tom Critchley to Mary Platt Thursday November 14th 1940


My Dear Mary,
I wonder if you really know how lucky you are! Can't Harry get a transfer to somewhere nearer to us then we could come & spend Christmas with you; by then I expect we will be pretty well fed up with Blitzes & such things & ready for a change. We are already discussing a week's holiday before Easter came along; the trouble with Bank holidays is the extra rush on the railways & goodness knows they are already upset enough. It's pretty rotten traveling in & around London, you never know where the latest bombs may have dropped & what roads or lines are closed.
One night last week Tom came home & had an awful job getting back. Of course the night's performance had started before he did and & knowing the tube was out of order at Bowes Park (they had a bomb down on the platform there) he went for the High Barnet line. On arrival at Whetstone he was informed... no trains... the line had been bombed a quarter of an hour earlier. He got a bus to Wood Green then tube to Finsbury Park (Thurs bomb trouble between Finsbury Park & Kings Cross on the tube). At Finsbury Park the bus inspector told him he thought one driver would be going to King's Cross, but most of them were objecting to venturing out in the thick of it, as so many had been hit. This brave bloke eventually turned up & went as far as King's Cross. There Tom found the tube station was one of those which is shut, as a safeguard against flooding during a raid. That meant a walk to Russell Square & then tube & walk from Leicester Square to Millbank. He sported a taxi at the reasonable fee of 3/6d.
I didn't know this sheet had a scrawl on... the boys old exercise books are getting exhausted now. We support the save paper and win the war campaign. I reckon if bombs had names on then our lot were delivered by a chump of a bloke last Saturday night about 7.30. The bladderbrains must have flown straight along our road & dropped all his packet just about 2 seconds too late. 10 bombs fell in rapid succession, so fast you couldn't count them & now there are 10 craters in a straight line with Lonsdale Drive, all in a field by the poultry farm. Result, one chicken killed & hen coops knocked about a bit. The nearest crater is about 150 yards from us. If they had been released about 2 seconds earlier Lonsdale Drive would have been a mess. At the time it was pouring with rain but there were lots of planes about, flying very low. I thought I would go and see what the noise was all about so went to the back door although the gunfire was particularly heavy & a plane was very near & low, I could see nought. Just as I was about to shut the door I heard the well known swish, so banged it to, & made a dash through the kitchen to tell Annie to get down. It was all over before I got through the kitchen, & Annie met me at the dining room door, she was coming to tell me to come in.
That lot gave us a good shaking up, the floor seemed to wobble & I'd a job to keep on my feet... or so it seemed to me... doors & windows flapped but no harm was done & we very quickly got over it.
As If that wasn't enough for one night some bounder came about 3.00 am, during a period of all clear & put down near enough to wake us up and give us a shaking.
On Monday afternoon, the house got another bit of a shake when a Jerry dived out of the clouds & dropped a couple. From what Annie said, they must have been two pretty big ones as they fell quite half a mile away.
Things seem to happen when I write to you I think I will have to stop writing. We've both just had the wind up. The raid has been for us fairly quiet until a short while ago and the guns got busy at a chap nearby, when suddenly he dived right down, it sounded as if he was coming on top of us.
I've been out, but although it's a lovely moonlight night, nought could I see but I heard him zooming loudly near by. Perhaps it's one in trouble & his troubles are now over... let's hope so. it sounded to me as if he was coming down to crash.
Have you heard about the Italian Admiral who was ill?
The doctor advised a sea voyage.
Also, have you heard that the British navy drink rum but the Italians stick to port?
Friday
the noise that put the wind up us last night was heard at Enfield & East Barnet, but there's no news of any bits of aeroplane about worse luck. I think what happened was the bloke was in trouble from AA fire, so shut his engine off & dived down, then when very low, opened up again. He must have been mighty near to us when he opened up judging by the whistle & the roar. We must be getting nervous, having wind up for that.
Coventry caught it hot last night from all accounts. Everybody one talks to seems sorry for the poor folks of Coventry & nowhere here have I heard anyone say it's time somebody else had a turn. London seems to be getting so used to it, they seem to think they can bear it better than others. Not that they let us off scot free, it was fairly quiet till about 9.00 pm & then was intermittent till morning.
Today we've had a real hefty thick fog but it lifted in time for the 6.00 o'clock Blitz. Whether Jerry was waiting for it to lift or not, but he was over within 10 minutes of the sun coming out, the usual very high stunt which one can see as specks with white tails behind.
That's all this time,
Love to you all 3 from us both,
Tom
Saturday November 16th 1940
I remember Harry saying during the last war that he had a very nasty experience of an air raid on London. What he would have thought of last night I don't know, it was the worst we have had & that's saying something. Practically all night long planes were over-head in a seemingly never ending stream & guns were blazing at them. We thought we knew what AA fire was like but last night reached a new peak. They seemed to bring into action more & more guns & some of them sounded bigger than the ones we have grown used to. They made sleep impossible. We couldn't tell bombs from guns though once or twice we each half-jumped out of our chair with a start as an extra loud crash came, but consoled or cajoled each other that it was a big gun firing.
The only damage was the back door blown open in the early hours of the morning, I found it wide open when I got up. Enfield has not been lucky this time; 2 land mines & an uncertain number of bombs have made a shocking mess for about one and a half miles along my route. I saw scarcely a sound window & the gutters are piled high with broken glass, looking like snow piled at the road side. Lots & lots of roofs here suffered & the shop fronts in most cases are in a mess with contents leaning outwards. It's strange to see, in all this chaos, the market opening up as usual.
The warning went at 6.10 pm & until about 7.00 was below normal, but then things began to happen & except for a short break at 9, when the gunfire was distant. Then we had a continuous row until about 5.00 am & only spasmodic outbursts till 7.00 am.
We debated about retiring to the shelter but, as it was raining pretty hard most of the time, stayed in the house.
We sat by the fire pretending to read till half past eleven, then went to bed but didn't undress till 1.30. The only sleep we got was in short snatches broken by extra lound crashes. Several times I feared for our windows but once more we've come out smiling.
This afternoon when going shopping we found the Southgate shop windows nearly as bad as Enfield, they too had had 2 landmines & when we saw Tom he said he thought he knew what a raid was like but last night was worse than any he had experienced.
We didn't hear the Lancashire broadcast; one of the minor horrors of war is we can rarely get the wireless programmes cause of the raids at night, it is on exceptional occasions that it is audible without interference.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Tom Critchley to Mary Platt posted Saturday November 9th 1940

37, Lonsdale Drive,
Enfield,

7th November 1940

My dear Mary,
I wonder how your neighbours would be here in London. I'll bet they wouldn't sing through an air raid. Jerry  let us off on Sunday Night, the first clear night for about 2 months, but he is making up for it now. Tuesday night's raid was 6.15 pm to 8.20 am & the gun fire practically all the time. Raiders overhead when I got home & ditto while we were having our breakfast.
11 bombs came down on our estate, but the only danger was to houses which had already been bombed, the others plough up the fields. I heard them coming, sat up in bed & didn't wake Annie as they didn't sound dangerously near. She slept on & didn't hear them.
Last night we had visitors from 6.10 pm to 7.45 pm & they were a rowdy lot. Even St Lukes old choir couldn't have drowned them. Let's see, Monday was 6.30 pm - 7.00 am & tonight's kick off was a bit later 6.50 pm.
Wouldn't it be a scream to hear your neighbours after 12 or 13 hours singing... a scream in more sense than one perhaps!
Annie has just remarked "wouldn't it be nice if they could shoot them down & give us a night off." The one we had seems to have spoiled us cause we want some more now. If folks are a nervous wreck after 2 hours, what would they be after all night, night after night. I'm, afraid we go to bed whether he is overhead or not, anyhow he comes when we get into bed so it makes no odds where he is when we go. We haven't been in the shelter for over a fortnight, thinking it better to risk the bombs that might come rather than the colds, and perhaps worse, that would be sure to come.
Tonight things are most lively.
I must say the Londoners do take it wonderfully well. On a morning I go round & see my men & ask how things were with them. The tales they tell of crouching by walls & lying down in the road, on their way from work, as bombs drop near. As far as we are concerned, our lot is light compared with many of them. I've come home in the dark, with the roads lit by gun flashes, but I'm on the outskirts where some of the men have to get to the real danger zones.
Yesterday I had to go to Sutton Surrey for the firm. The folks I went to see used to have an acid works at Silvertown & supplied us. I said used to, it's been totally wiped out as has much of that district. Annie went with me for an outing & it poured nearly the whole time. Everywhere we went houses were down & in several places the road blocked & we had to make a detour.
We saw a strange decrepit looking dirty old bus in South London & Annie said" Look at that old thing," when we passed it, we read on the side "Glasgow Corporation!!"
I was surprised at the amount of damage I saw, even Kew and Richmond showed plenty of scars. Jerry certainly spreads his attentions well.
Friday 8th November
Yes I was right, it was a ghastly night last night. The worst for a long time. Round about mid-night things began to drop, when I don't know, but once more we had no water today. It was pretty hectic for 6 or 7 hours, then cooled off somewhat.
Now they are at it again to-night as if they mean business, I think we have better start singing. If anything would chase them away I think my voice would, don't you agree?
We were talking about raids this afternoon & what a fool Jerry is to keep on at London, when in came one of my men, a chap of 65 who said that Jerry would never break the moral of London, when he goes home at night, between 7 & 8, he meets lots of folks, women as well as men, walking home as if the bombs & gunfire were miles away. He added "you get so used to it you don't care"
On the other hand, there was another old fellow there at the time, a sampler from an outside firm; now he is badly shaken. The firm he works for has been badly bombed, his own home has been destroyed & his son, daughter-in-law & their children killed. He says he crouches under the table at night straining his ears to see if one is coming for him. But he carries on.
The first man I mentioned hasn't escaped scot free. He had to evacuate his home for a time bomb once, once again for a land mine that didn't go off & has had windows broken from some that did. It's all a matter of use I suppose, still some things take a lot of getting used to.
Saturday
Another lousy night last night, especially early & round about midnight, but nothing dropped in our district so far as I know... not large lumps.
The Smethhursts send their kind regards to the Wilsons & thank them for their kind inquiries. He (Smethurst) goes up to the Finsbury Park district every night, he is something connected with L.P.Transport, trams & buses, I think.
One of our directors is connected in an official capacity with the cloth workers company. You know the old London Livery Companies. This lot own 1,200 houses in Islington district & of them 800 have been destroyed or made unfit for use.
Pretty awful isn't it, but what's much more awful is that we've put Krupps out of commission, & visited Adolf in his own beloved Munich.
The destruction in London is enormous, but it's doing Germany no good, the moral is still high & as long at it is Germany wasting time & effort which could be spent on much more important things.
they daren't leave London alone now, it would be an admission of defeat so they are tied down to destroying houses instead of factories. Not a bright outlook for London, but if it helps to win the war, London can go to ruin.
Cheerio,
Love to you all
Tom 

Monday, 1 November 2010

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt 1.11.1940

37 Lonsdale Drive,

My dear Mary & Harry,
So Jerry is paying Scotland a few visits too, we aren't envious. I reckon the bombing of London is a bigger mistake than any we have made, in fact I think it's almost a deciding factor. To think what would have happened if all those bombs had fallen on industrial plant instead of houses etc... why he could have well nigh crippled our munitions output. I guess he thought he could treat London as he did Rotterdam, but overestimated his own air force & forgot how big is London. There is no doubt a lot of his pilots will not face the barrage, so a goodly proportion of his bombs are sheer waste. In Trent Park alone he has dropped over 50 HE's (heavy explosives) & goodness knows how many incendiaries and, except to trees and cattle, has done nowt. (I'd forgotten he sure put the wind up our district now and then).
Perhaps now he is beginning to realise what a vindictive ass he is since the raids have decreased in intensity.
If your raids were as frequent & as long as ours I doubt if you would patronise your shelter. With us it is one of two things, either you sleep every night in the shelter, or you take a chance & sleep in bed. Most of the men at work have not slept in a bed for 2 months. They arrive home at night after the warning has sounded & oftener than not, leave again while it is still on. How they stick it I don't know, but they do and don't grouse about it either; it has become part and parcel of their normal life. I think one can get a shelter complex. After all, how much safer is a shelter than a house? Simply the relative area. A direct hit will do in either.
We have had very few incidents this week; a weird noise woke us up last night , also our neighbours, but we haven't found out yet what it could be... perhaps a nose cap.
On Monday evening, shortly after the sirens sounded, an old gent from next door but one called to see me. He hadn't been in more than a few inutes, when the guns got really busy, so thought he had better go home as his wife was alone. I went to the door with him and the whole place was lit up nearly like day. Jerry had dropped the usual basket of incendiaries at the end of the road, but most were in the Trent Park fields. A plane was flying around very low & the guns giving it to him, hot and strong. Our poor old visitor made several attemps to get away, but each time he got on the door stop the sky opposite lit up with gun flashes & crashes overhead drove him back.
Eventually he ran for it & it just seemed as if the gun flashes and crashes had been waiting, the way they sped him on his way. There's one thing to remember about gun fire, shrapnel doesn't fall until an interval of, may be, two minutes after the shell burst. Anyhow, it doesn't fall as quickly as one might expect & I am sure there is less danger while the shells are bursting than for some time after they stop. Another thing, if Jerry is overhead there is no danger. If he drops a bomb, he arrives over the place where it drops as it hits the ground, or near enough, a consoling thought.
Sunday
Last night was our best night for two months... all clear at 11.20 & nothing until 6.00 am. We were surprised he came at all as it was blowing a gale & raining cats and dogs & I am mighty sure he couldn't see anything. I suppose they make the poor blighters come just to show there is a war on.
anyhow things would seem odd without visitors these days.
I've got to go to Sutton, Surrey tomorrow & am not looking forward to the journey, if it's fine I guess I'll go by car as transport across London is pretty foul. Tom used to take half an hour to get home, but yesterday he took one and a half hours & had to change from bus to tube to bus several times to avoid the sections that had been bombed. I have to go & see some folks about citric acid supplies, the firm who used to supply us has been wiped out, one of the miliary obejctives Jerry did hit with a vengeance .
Don't get the shelter complex, stay in bed and keep sane.
Love to all from us,
Tom

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt 25.10.1940/incendiaries

My dear Mary,
As I have written to Molliy there is little to tell you. 
I hear the Jerries have a new devilment. An incendiary with a small explosive charge in it, which charge only goes off after the magnesium has started to burn & so scattering it.
One is now advised to tackle incendiaries with a blanket held in front of one, lest it should start to pop.
Oh, by the way, the bomb I saw was dropped near the works on Sunday night & was stamped 1936!!!
A basket of incendiaries fell in Trent Park last night, the folks who saw them said they made a lovely sight. Trent Park is where Sassoon's place was and is now an interrogation centre for captured Jerries. It's a short mile from here.
By the way Harry, yes I'm writing to you too, the whole blinking family, here is a tip for a light in your day out. As you know the ordinary electric light of high voltage is unsafe unless properly earthed. Well, I bought a bell transformer for 5/6 & fitted that onto the wires from an electric light, then ran from the 8 volt tappings on the transformer through a switch to a 5 watt car side light bulb. You will find 3 tappings on the transformer 3, 5, or 8 volts so if you can't get a holder for a side light bulb, get a flash lamp, bulb & holder from Woollies & use that. If in doubt write & I'll go into full details. The flash lamp bulb will want the 3 volt tapping.
Sunday
Jerry isn't a stayer these days, last night he came with a rush, then fizzled out again; the raid lasted for over 12 hours, but during the last 9 there were few planes about so we had a good night's sleep.
I've been working hard today, putting that curtain stuff on the windows "Nuart". It wouldn't be so bad, but we had rubber stuff to scrape off first.
Our next door neighbour had a French window smashed & this nuart stuff held every piece of glass & still holds it. If our windows go after all this trouble, won't I call Jerry names!
Love from us both,
Tom

Tom Critchley to his niece Molly Platt 25.10.1940

My dear Mollie,
It's such a rare occurrence to get a letter from you, as we did to-day, I must answer it.
There is nobody I know in London who likes air raids & I am sure if you could have a trip around any district you would feel the same. The guns and noise are not so bad, except now and then, say when four big ones not very far from us all go off together & the four shells burst overhead, although this is a regular & frequent happening, it still makes us jump. You see a plane passes over the guns & the guns are silent so as not to give their position away, then, when the plane has passed them & reached us, there comes a sudden terrific crash like thunder (only more so) that always gives us a start; the noise of the plane is drowned, &, I always hope, won't be resumed, but sad to say it usually goes on as if nothing had happened.
When there is heavy gunfire, then one cannot pick out the bombs, these one can only be sure of when one hears them coming down & believe me that is a most unpleasant sound, especially when one has had a near one. One is never certain how near it will be that's why we take cover under beds or table when we hear one. If they are reasonably loud then they are not more than a quarter of a mile away... we have had at least 30 like that.
In day time we get bombs without gunfire now & then, & strange to say more frequently when the warning hasn't sounded than when it has. Today, at home, when Auntie Annie went to the door to attend to a caller there was a chatter of machine guns overhead.
Last Sunday night we had another bad do, it has to be bad to drive us into the shelter, & that night we didn't get to bed until 12 mid-night and then there wasn't much sleep. While in the shelter we heard 2 bombs falling, one on each side of us, & each fell with a thud; we weren't sure if they were oil bombs or delayed action bombs, so as a precaution opened all our windows. As we guessed, they fell in fields, by the thud, & we heard later that they were large oil bombs.
About 1.15 on Monday morning I woke with a start to the tail end of an explosion & a feeling that somebody or something was trying to push the house over. As I sat up in bed a voice from under the bed said "What was that!"
Auntie Annie had heard, while half asleep, something come down & had rolled out of bed & under it. I put on some clothes in a great hurry, had a look out, but as the house was all right, and I went back to bed.
Since Sunday we have had comparative peace, but a few planes each night & not lots of them like we sometimes get. About half past eight last night we heard two bombs coming down, but didn't dive under the table although we were ready so to do if the sound had increased in volume.
Tonight the kick off is fairly lively, the doors have just been shaking, & planes sound low consequently the gunfire is louder than when they fly high.
Auntie Annie has been to High Barnet today, she says there is quite a lot of damage there as a result of Sunday & Monday night's raids. Lots of the shop windows are smashed & most of the church windows. A son of Ronald and Tom's former French master was killed.
Now I'll tell you how not to deal with an incendiary bomb. We had one through our electrolytic refinery the other night & the fire brigade chief was on it at once with a stirrup pump & bucket of water. He called to one man to bring more water; in the dark, he picked up a bucket of glue & poured that into the bucket, at least he poured half, the rest was congealed. The chief swore at him, so the bloke rushed off, grabbed another bucket & poured that in. This time it was sand & what with glue and sand the pump gave a weirdly fine spray. Meanwhile, another man was assisting, he had a bucket without a bottom, which he was trying to fill. Needless to say the bomb burned itself out, fortunately without doing any damage.
Finally... just like a sermon isn't it?... take my tip & if you get many raids, so long a they are not intense, go to bed and forget them. It's about 1,000 to one any bangs you hear are from gunfire, & noise doesn't hurt. There is plenty of noise going on at the present time & we are comfortably seated by the fire (let me whisper there's a clear way ready for a quick dash under the table if we have to, & when a plane sounds near I have one ear cocked listening for anything dropped).
Now lastly we would love to come & see you at Christmas, but I seriously doubt if we can. I am afraid we must wait for happier days.
May you never hear the rush of a bomb
Love from Auntie Annie & Uncle Tom.
P S Somewhere in our garden is the nose cap of a shell. We heard it come down with a noise like a humming top, but haven't yet located it.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

To Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 20.10.194.. written in an air raid

37, Lonsdale Drive,
Enfield

My dear Mary & Co,
Thanks for the letter received today & for Mollie's postscript to the news; we didn't know the Queen Mary had been to the Clyde with soldiers, such things are kept pretty close & perhaps rightly so.
I didn't get a stirrup pump because I think it takes a strong person to work one & I knew it would be too much for Annie. They really need three people. One to direct the nozzle, one to pump the water & one to carry pails of water to keep the pail full from which water is being pumped. It's the pumping that is hard work, worse than pumping up the tyres of a car & a somewhat similar job. Each night I bring indoors our hose pipe loosely coiled & make sure the nozzle will give a fine spray, not that it would have been much good the last few nights, as since Tuesday night, we like, thousands of others, had no water until this morning. On that awful night either a big main or pumping station was hit & a huge district lost their water supply. At present there are 12 auxiliary fire engines pumping water in Enfield to allow us to get some in the pipes.
For ordinary incendiaries get a plentiful supply of dry sand & put a mop handle into the boiler shovel & keep both handy. A small bomb can be smothered with dry sand & then sprayed with water, or if it's in the house carted away into the garden. They kick up a bit of a fume so its advisable to keep low down, but there is little danger if one keeps cool. Neither you Mary, nor Molly, would work a pump for long, though it's surprising what one can do if put to it. Every house in our road has a bucket of water permanently left at the front for collective action. Out nightly precautions are ... fit the mop handle into the shovel & stand by the bucket of sand: see that a bucket of water is handy indoors as well as the one outside: fill all kettles with water: fill the flask with hot water and see that the bath has plenty of water in; turn off the gas. Besides all these  we each have a suit case packed, keep a ladder upstairs ready for the roof, leave doors unfastened at night & when a raid is on, keep the bedroom light ( a 4 watt) & hall light on, so that if we must, we can get out in a hurry. Tell Molly her Auntie Annie is feeling very generous tonight & would send her the raid that is now on if she could. Incidentally, last night's raid started at 6.50 pm & carried on all night until 6.45 next morning. Tonight kick-off was at 7.10 pm but as the all clear only went at 5.40 pm for the matinee, we can't grumble.
Although nearly 12 hours long, last night's raid wasn't a really bad one, anyhow, not to be compared with Tuesday which was a real beast & well summed up by one man at the works, who, when I was approaching a group of 4 or 5 said "Here comes another to tell us how close bombs fell to him." Everybody got a dose that n (notice how I started to write night & stopped. A Jerry was overhead guns blazing when I heard a bomb swishsing down. The usual cry "Look out Annie", drop pen and paper and dive under the table: so now I am resuming in the shelter. As we came out, a woman at the back called out "Did you hear a time bomb come down?" I said, "It went off in the fields," So I believe it did & not very far away either going off in the wet fields the report would not be very loud and there would be no debris to fall, though of course we may have heard the thud. Anyhow it's within a quarter of a mile by the noise it made coming down.
It's hardly fair to drop them so early (7.30 pm) our usual time is just before 9. At that hour, they dropped around here Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Sunday they blew up some bungalows on this estate, we heard them from under the table. Monday they ruined 13 houses nearby, we heard that lot from the shelter, & Tuesday, well, I must tell you in detail about that as it was a really good do, a goodly do in fact.
Jerry says he sent 1,000 bombers to London on Tuesday night & they dropped 1,000 tons of bombs; for once I believe him. We had 31 bombs in the Enfield area & all night long there was one incessant drone of planes & roar of guns or bombs. Sleep was impossible except in the shortest of snatches.
As It started off, right from the kick-off in a very hectic fashion we early went into the shelter & after a while Annie asked the time, I looked at my watch & said "8.55, he's about due" & then immediately after "Here he is" as 3 bombs came swishing down. (I believe they fell in Trent Park) then very soon after I added "Here comes another" This one started like many others, a swish gradually increasing until it made a noise something like a near by motor rushing along the road, but instead of ending with a crash this one kept on getting louder & louder & louder & louder till it sounded like an express train rushing down on us from above (it had a weird tremolo in the noise) & then came a terrific crash & the noise of all sorts of stuff falling about. As soon as this subsided Annie quite calmly said "Is that our house gone?" & after a wee pause, "We are safe anyhow". I said I'd go and look & wasn't I relieved to find the house upright and apparently undamaged. There was plenty of noise at the back, some woman shouting for her baby and a boy very much frightened.
The bomb fell in the road at our back ( 50 yards or so from us) making a bit of a mess and seriously injuring two people (one of whom has since died) from different houses. Houses on each side of us have broken windows & one nearly opposite at the front, but we escaped. The shelter and garage may have protected us. Our back door and larder doors were burst open & a few things disarranged, stuff in the garage was knocked about & odd chunks of cement & stuff dropped on the car & most strange, the car heater when I picked it up next morning was hot, the switch had been knocked on.
I think we had a lucky escape, as we have been none the worse for it. anyhow, about 12, although things were still pretty lively, we went indoors & only modified our usual habits by lying in the beds partly dressed. Before 1, we got undressed perhaps rather foolishly, for about 1.15 I heard another swishing and called out to Annie who woke with a start & at once dropped out of and under the bed. We both just got there as three loud bangs went off, Back we went to bed, if not to sleep, & then about 3 am came a tremendous explosion followed by the tinkling of glass from the already-fractured windows.
The guns were blazing as I've never heard them before & what I think happened is that they hit a land mine in the air, since lots & lots of folks heard the explosion, over a wide area, but no one knows where it was. Anyhow we jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes & dodged into the shelter, to stop there for an hour ere we tried bed again.
Thank goodness we don't get many does (or should it be do's) like that one. I suppose (another pause here as two bombs at short intervals fall & now another... the only way one can tell bombs from guns is when one hears them come down, these three were progressively nearer but stopped at a reasonable distance) Now where was I , I've forgotten what I was saying. I suppose if Jerry could, he would come in great force everynight, it's a sure sign that he cannot for Wed & Thurs were much quieter though up to now, 8.15, he is putting up a pretty good show. It's pitch dark out, with low clouds and a spot of scotch mist & the planes are very low with scarce a break in between one & another.
Where the bomb dropped on Tuesday night, several houses were wrecked & lots had smashed doors, roofs & windows, we are thankful ours was not one of them. What they can see to bomb here except the guns half a mile away goodness only knows. We had two tiles broken, that's all.
By the way, here is an original quip Harry can pass on as his own.
Lloyd George promised us a land fit for heroes to live in. It's taken 22 years to obtain!
Saturday
The bombs last night all fell into fields & after 10, things calmed down & let us get to bed & to sleep.
I didn't tell you that when we went out last night the silly chumps at the back thought a time bomb had fallen in their garden & were looking for it with a torch.
The Smethursts are all right but he has a rotten time as he does night duty with the Passenger Transport Board near Finsbury Park & usually gets something around the office.
You might tell the Wilsons, that nomination whist which they taught us at Newquay has proved to be very popular amongst our acquaintances.
When I was going back to Brimsdown this afternoon, I gave a lift to an RAF bloke who was making his way from Henlow to Southend, skirting London, he said "There might be an air raid" Is it true the army is knitting comforts for civilians? There go the sirens 7.10 pm so I'll close and have a read; yes, the table is clear of chairs.
Sunday
Up to 10 last night things were very lively, but cooled down, so we went to bed & except for a spasm at mid-night had a good night.
Love to you 3
From us two
Tom
PS One of the men at the works has a big chink of shell marked 20 cwt. If they are firing ton shells is it any wonder there is a lot of a noise at night?