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?
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,
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.

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