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

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