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?

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