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