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?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

To Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 12.10.1940

37, Lonsdale Drive,

12.10.40

My dear Mary & Co,
If that daughter of yours (Molly) craves air raid excitements send her along to us, we can put her in Tom's occasional bed... a mattress under the dining room table. All that we can guarantee is an air raid & most probably lots & lots of noise plenty of shell bursts & flashes & the far from exciting drone of Jerry overhead. If she had been here on Thursday night I guess she would have been cured. They came at 7.15 pm and for four hours never gave us a minutes peace; at least half a dozen at a time somewhere not too far off. At 8 o'clock we heard the swish of bombs & made a most undignified rush under the table. Three or four fell in fields close by & did an enormous amount of damage, most severely killing one cow. Shortly after that we decided to patronise the shelter. About 10 I heard the quick firing guns blazing away & as it was a lovely clear night guessed it must be flares they are shooting at so went out to look. I had a cap on and poised my tin hat on top of it. Unfortunately the hat caught the edge of the shelter & came down with a terrific clatter onto some bricks and then rolled onto the concrete path. Next door folks rushed out and seeing me in the garden called out in very agitated tones "What was that!" Pointing towards Palmers Green I said "They dropped two flares". It didn't calm their fears, but I didn't tell them what it was. We laughed about it and laughed still more when the missus next door told Annie their house shook. Now I simply daren't tell them.
We have now found another amusement other than popping under tables. Last night things were not quite to bad, so we went to bed about 10 pm. At about half past I was three parts asleep, when a bomb and its subsequent vibrations roused me, then immediately after came the angry-sounding swish. Annie was asleep, I yelled to her & she rolled between the two beds, & did it so gracefully too, just as the next bump came.
Is that the sort of excitement Molly wants?!
I certainly didn't think it exciting yesterday morning in a very thick fog I was held up at Brimsdown level crossing with the guns banging at planes overhead.
Johnson Matthey at Hatton Garden got a direct hit on Thursday night, I believe it has made a nasty mess & upset part of their work. We are still trying to get straight after our do at the works last week. Judging by the way three ton stuff has been thrown about it must have been a heavy bomb.
I like your suggestion about transferring to Scotland, but if we all did that we would lose our position in the league and might drop into the second division. One of my men has already acted on your suggestion, he is the only one to do a bunk and as he is Scottish by birth, perhaps one can understand it. He has gone to relatives somewhere in Ayrshire.
The character of the daylight raids have changed very considerably since we knocked the stuffing out of the big bombers. These still come in odd ones if the weather is bad, but if it is fine, then they send chiefly fighters with probably one-bomb each, most difficult for our blokes to intercept as we have seen for ourselves, there is so little difference in the relative speeds. We had such a raid at Brimsdown this morning. The warning had gone out for about half an hour when suddenly whistles sounded. By the time one had grabbed a tin hat, guns were blazing & before we could get into shelters, planes were overhead & by the time we had reached shelters it was all over. That was a raid that was. No bombs dropped near us. So back we trooped to our jobs.
Liverpool and St Helens are getting it pretty bad aren't they? What you folks have done to dodge it I don't know, still, their air force can't be as great as all that or they would be doing far more than they are doing. I certainly expected to see them keeping it up for days on end, but don't think I am disappointed, far from it.
Tom (Tom and Annie's youngest son) is still all right and not having quite such a tough time as formerly, they have improved the Central London gun barrage, so the suburbs get a few more instead.
That's all about the war news for this time from your special correspondent at Enfield.
We had two letters from Ronald (Tom and Annie's oldest son) this week, he is as usual having a nice enjoyable time & in one he speaks of purchasing a cocktail shaker!!
Cheerio and love to you three,

Annie and Tom

P S the bombs last night must have dropped near the tube (it runs in the open here) as there are no trains from Enfield West to Cockfosters, the terminus.
Annie adds a post script: 'Talk about going under beds. I was fast asleep when T. said "Get under the bed quick;" I simply rolled out of mine & under his. He stayed in, there I was under and he in!! All I felt was the floor bump. Then says he politely "You can get back now, it's all over."'
Sunday
Nothing to report except they put a bomb in Trafalgar Squar last night in front of Nelson, but didn't injure him.

To Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 12.10.1940

37, Lonsdale Drive,

12.10.40

My dear Mary & Co,
If that daughter of yours (Molly Platt) craves air raid excitements send her along to us, we can put her in Tom's occasional bed... a mattress under the dining room table. All that we can guarantee is an air raid & most probably lots & lots of noise plenty of shell bursts & flashes & the far from exciting drone of Jerry overhead. If she had been here on Thursday night I guess she would have been cured. They came at 7.15 pm and for four hours never gave us a minutes peace; at least half a dozen at a time somewhere not too far off. At 8 o'clock we heard the swish of bombs & made a most undignified rush under the table. Three or four fell in fields close by & did an enormous amount of damage, most severely killing one cow. Shortly after that we decided to patronise the shelter. About 10 I heard the quick firing guns blazing away & as it was a lovely clear night guessed it must be flares they are shooting at so went out to look. I had a cap on and poised my tin hat on top of it. Unfortunately the hat caught the edge of the shelter & came down with a terrific clatter onto some bricks and then rolled onto the concrete path. Next door folks rushed out and seeing me in the garden called out in very agitated tones "What was that!" Pointing towards Palmers Green I said "They dropped two flares". It didn't calm their fears, but I didn't tell them what it was. We laughed about it and laughed still more when the missus next door told Annie their house shook. Now I simply daren't tell them.
We have now found another amusement other than popping under tables. Last night things were not quite to bad, so we went to bed about 10 pm. At about half past I was three parts asleep, when a bomb and its subsequent vibrations roused me, then immediately after came the angry-sounding swish. Annie was asleep, I yelled to her & she rolled between the two beds, & did it so gracefully too, just as the next bump came.
Is that the sort of excitement Molly wants?!
I certainly didn't think it exciting yesterday morning in a very thick fog I was held up at Brimsdown level crossing with the guns banging at planes overhead.
Johnson Matthey at Hatton Garden got a direct hit on Thursday night, I believe it has made a nasty mess & upset part of their work. We are still trying to get straight after our do at the works last week. Judging by the way three ton stuff has been thrown about it must have been a heavy bomb.
I like your suggestion about transferring to Scotland, but if we all did that we would lose our position in the league and might drop into the second division. One of my men has already acted on your suggestion, he is the only one to do a bunk and as he is Scottish by birth, perhaps one can understand it. He has gone to relatives somewhere in Ayrshire.
The character of the daylight raids have changed very considerably since we knocked the stuffing out of the big bombers. These still come in odd ones if the weather is bad, but if it is fine, then they send chiefly fighters with probably one-bomb each, most difficult for our blokes to intercept as we have seen for ourselves, there is so little difference in the relative speeds. We had such a raid at Brimsdown this morning. The warning had gone out for about half an hour when suddenly whistles sounded. By the time one had grabbed a tin hat, guns were blazing & before we could get into shelters, planes were overhead & by the time we had reached shelters it was all over. That was a raid that was. No bombs dropped near us. So back we trooped to our jobs.
Liverpool and St Helens are getting it pretty bad aren't they? What you folks have done to dodge it I don't know, still, their air force can't be as great as all that or they would be doing far more than they are doing. I certainly expected to see them keeping it up for days on end, but don't think I am disappointed, far from it.
Tom (Tom and Annie's youngest son) is still all right and not having quite such a tough time as formerly, they have improved the Central London gun barrage, so the suburbs get a few more instead.
That's all about the war news for this time from your special correspondent at Enfield.
We had two letters from Ronald (Tom and Annie's oldest son) this week, he is as usual having a nice enjoyable time & in one he speaks of purchasing a cocktail shaker!!
Cheerio and love to you three,

Annie and Tom

P S the bombs last night must have dropped near the tube (it runs in the open here) as there are no trains from Enfield West to Cockfosters, the terminus.
Annie adds a post script: 'Talk about going under beds. I was fast asleep when T. said "Get under the bed quick;" I simply rolled out of mine & under his. He stayed in, there I was under and he in!! All I felt was the floor bump. Then says he politely "You can get back now, it's all over."'
Sunday
Nothing to report except they put a bomb in Trafalgar Squar last night in front of Nelson, but didn't injure him.