Friday, 31 December 2010

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt January 1st 1941


My Dear Mary,

What do you think of Jerry's latest efforts to set London ablaze? The fires were something like those of early September & it was a case of London's burning, look yonder, and when we looked we had no doubts. Within ten minutes of the warning we looked out & saw the first fires start. In a short time the sky over London was red with the glare of fires & as the night progressed instead of getting fainter the glow spread. It was terrific but not so huge as those in September when the docks & that district went.
I haven't been to see the damage but from all accounts it is extensive & looks a shocking mess; even today the firemen are still pouring water on smoldering wreckage. The district affected is Moorgate St & to the West of that place, what has always been known as the danger spot as regards fires because of the very narrow streets, streets of the old London such as Wood St, Bread St etc. The chief sufferers are the haberdashery firms such as Marley & Rylands, it was the centre of that trade, so if you are likely to want such things in the near future, get them while the going is good. Rylands warehouse at Manchester has gone as well as their London house, Our old place at Paul Street has escaped but buildings all round it have been burned out.
Our  next door neighbour, the one next door but one on the other side & a man living directly opposite are all without a sign of their London place of business – burned to the ground. One of them has been with Rylands for 50 years & he says they had 20 fire fighters on the premises, but the bombs came so thick they couldn't cope with them & then the water supply failed. Another said his firm had 7 men on the premises & they tackled other folks fires but the flames from these leapt across the road & engulfed their place.
One thing is certain, it hasn't done much to help on Jerry's war effort. London can still take it. Can Glasgow? The rude remarks I have been hearing this week about Glasgow bus and tram drivers decided by such a huge majority not to carry on during an alert!  When our men are whistled to cover because of planes overhead most of them don't go – give them a tin hat & they feel quite safe (most of them have been so provided by the firm). I remember an occasion, when, after the whistles had gone, hearing shrapnel falling on the roofs: it sounded like very heavy hail. Knowing the men, I went into the Copper Sulphate shed & saw a great hole in the roof. One man had picked up a chunk of shell about half a pound in weight, said it was hot when he picked it up. I told him he had no right to be in the building when the whistle had gone. His reply was "Damn Jerry I have my work to do."
I cannot understand how those drivers could come to such a decision. Perhaps a few bombs on their homes would encourage them – make them want, in their own peculiar way to get their own back. After all, everybody by carrying on is doing that.
The tummy is at last better, but I stayed in for Christmas & treated it with great respect just as if it had been Lent instead of a festive season.
The sirens have sounded tonight the first time since Sunday, but although it is an hour ago, we have heard & seen nothing & the wireless is nice & loud so goodness knows if anything is happening.

We had three alerts last night, the first very quiet, the second medium & the third in the early hours or rather between 5 & 8 plenty of noise, but not a great deal of stuff dropped.
Today it is horribly cold & trying to snow, some of your weather I expect. Does anything good come out of Scotland? except shortbread? You are lucky to have the 16 eggs, we get three a week but whilst I was seedy, a friend gave us 6 & another one 3
Bye bye, Love to all of you from us both


Friday, 24 December 2010

Tom Critchley to his niece Molly Platt December 25th 1940


My Dear Mollie,

People have obeyed instructions and posted their cards early this year; this morning, Christmas – the postwoman (it's a she now) brought only two things to our house, one was the receipt for the coal bill & the other was your delightful calendar. I think you have done it beautifully & I hope you will be able to come and see it adorning our dining room and recalling pleasant memories of happy holidays.
So low has our opinion of the huns sunk, we quite expected they would come and see us, but evidently they still regard world opinion to some very slight degree & have left us in peace.
What sort of books do you like these days? I gave Tom the "Herries Chronicles" by Walpole, I should think it is still a bit old for you, it is of particular interest to those who know the Lake District. There are 4 books bound in one volume.
Talking of books, tell you mother & father to bed borrow or steal "Jonathan North" by Hudson. It's a book about a goodly Lancashire Lad and truly depicts life in the Manchester district. It's Good!!
What sort of a Christmas have you had? Quieter, I expect, than when you were taught how not to behave by my offspring, that Christmas we all met at St Helens; perhaps we will all meet again when this spot of bother is over & Ronald can drape himself in his arab dress for our benefit & tell us about all the exciting things he has seen.
We have been exceptionally quiet, bad tummies & Christmas should never be mixed, it's the height of foolishness to try. I speak from experience.
By the way, have you read Morton's "In the Steps of the Master", if you haven't, you ought to, I'm sure you would enjoy it. Ronald has it with him in Palestine and finds it most helpful. All Morton's travel books are good & well worth reading, there are no dry facts and he puts information into the pleasantest manner.
When I got to that part of your letter about the nativity play in which you said you were an angel, I got a shock until I remembered there were two sorts of angels, heavenly and .......
& that heavenly angels don't have such vulgar things as human parts on which to sit requiring a soft seat, lest they should feel discomfort. A long winded way of stating a simple fact of anatomy.
On Sunday night we had visitors for tea & we had hardly finished when the sirens went. I told these folks that when the guns started it wasn't our raid, but I don't think they believed me. By now we can tell fairly well by the sound of the gun fire, whose turn it is to be entertained. Of course they have to drop a bomb or two around London no matter where else they go, but that is nothing like a proper do. Anyhow, these folks decided to go home about 8.00 pm; just as they opened the front door they got a shock, the place lit up and a good hefty banging started. So they came back to wait for things to calm down a bit. If you aren't used to it, it does come as a shock in a pitch dark night, if you happen to be near the guns and it so happened that night there was a mobile gun about 50 yards from our front door. It's a pity they come over this way on their way to Lancashire, Birmingham and Bristol, but as I say, we can usually tell if they are trying to bomb us or somebody else & if we think they are entertaining somewhere else, we don't worry at all now. Tom took them home in the car. He stayed with us that night and a good job too, as the next morning he found the place where he usually sleeps full of broken glass due to a bomb dropped near.
I'm afraid this letter hasn't got posted, so I'll see what I can do today. Jerry called on us last night and set up a few fires, but they were quickly got under. It was a half-hearted effort on his part & was all over by 11.
I am enclosing some of Ronald's letters, will you please return them after reading.
Love to you & your Mater and Pater
Uncle Tom and Auntie Annie
For you information Kevin and Forest are blokes who went out to Palestine with Ronald.
Skipper is an army captain, a particular chum of R's. August is their car driver.
A Happy New Year to you all & may it bring Peace. 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt November 21st 1940

My dear Mary and Harry,

In these days you should not have sent the hankies. Annie, nevertheless is very pleased with them & thanks you very much indeed for them.
We had a letter from Gertie Boardman at Birmingham, the other day. My word, she has got the wind up. Judging by her letter you would think no-one else had heard a gun or bomb & nowhere but Birmingham had been damaged. It's a good job for England, London bore the brunt for so long. One hears of far more windy people outside London than in it. In a war somebody's got to be killed and I suppose it's better to kill the old and middle aged than the young folks as happened last time. (Two of Tom Critchley's brothers, George and William, were killed in action in WW 1)
Quite pleasant thoughts for Christmas – what!
Jerry doesn't unduly trouble us these days, not like he used to. I believe if I had charge of the Luftwaffe I could make a lot better job of it than Goering does.
Don't get a chill on the stomach in wartime. That's what I did and find it awkward with a shortage of this and that. It's just getting back to normal now and with a bit of luck will be ready for Christmas.
We hope you all have a pleasant Christmas and continue to discuss holidays next year. If you go to Blackpool then I'll be convinced there is a streak of insanity in the family.

Love to all 3 of you,

Annie and Tom

PS  firm started making luminous paints and other luminous articles & approached us about supplying them with the baisc materials as they were stuck. We undertook the job & when I went to see them to give them some advice about the troubles they encountered & brought away a piece of rubber, a strip of which may interest Mollie (enclosed).
This rubber has Strontium Sulphide incorporated in the material & if exposed to light (daylight or electric) & then put in a dark place it will glow quite nicely. Expose in a room to the light then switch off the light. They have incorporated it in plastics. I should think it would be a success in switch covers and so save fumbling in the dark.
(This letter is slightly stained with its former enclosure, which Mollie assures me was put smartly in the bin by her mother)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Tom Critchley to Mollie Platt 17.12.1940

My dear Mollie,
I hope you will be able to find something entertaining to swop for the enlcosed, something as amusing as some of Ronald's letters.
We had two letters this week from that hair-brained cousin of yours, posted while on holiday in Transjordan. He certainly seems to have been in the less civilised parts & to have thoroughly enjoyed it too.
Three of them went together & hired a car & driver for the journey across the desert; they took with them provisions, mineral waters, spades & letters of introduction to various sheiks. Meeting these sheiks seems to have been not the least thrilling part of their trip. He told us of one, dressed in whilte silk, who invited them to his house, gave them coffee, invited them to stay for 2 or 3 days & was most disappointed when they told him they had to hasten off. Anyhow, he mounted a lovely Arab horse & escorted them on part of the way amidst the cheering villagers.
If you have a good Atlas perhaps you can find some of the places he visited. Amman, Kerak, Ma'an, Petra, Agaba (at the head of the Gulf on the Red Sea) Jerash and Samak.
The most noted place of all is Petra, a relic of an unknown civilisation only rediscovered in fairly modern times & even now rarely visited. They had to hire horses & an armed escort to get to it & found it a most wonderful place with magnificent buildings hewn out of the sold rock (if you can call such by the name of buildings) who built them & when nodbody seems to be certain of, although the ubiquitous Romans seem to have been there & known about them. Apparently the road leads down a steep gorge, so steep that the sun doesn't penetrate & then opens out among steep red mountain cliffs, into the sides of which have been cut most wonderful high termples & you can find a book in your library which will tell you something about it.
Another thing he found a kick in, was scudding in the car over miles & miles of desert & seeing the darkness come suddenly while they were miles from any sign of habitation.
Agaba, he found most fascinating & like the pictures one sees of the South Sea Islands with palms growing down to the deep blue sea. There they went bathing & fishing & caught fish of all sorts of brilliant colours.
When the seasonal postal rush is over I must send these letters for you to read, they are full of superlatives, but he seems to have had a superlative holiday.
I hear you are getting quite expert with your camera & doing enlargements. Your other cousin Tom made his own enlarger, but it is't the sort I can recommend as now there are pieces of it strewn about the house. It can hardly be described as compact. Ronald, you know, had a very good camera which he dropped to the bottom of the Dead Sea to his great sorrow. since then he has purchased one of the very posh Lica cameras which take very small photos, but as they are of perfect definition they enlarge like contact prints. He is taking photos to illustrate the Bible, so, when he comes back his pictures should be well worth seeing.
By the way, Ronald & Tom have a cousin, a photographer in the Air Force, Harold Collett.
At last we come to the real reason of this letter, we wish you a very Happy Christmas & hope we shall be seeing you in the coming year when the Blitz is past history.
Love from Auntie Annie & Uncle Tom
(Annie writes)
Mollie, many aplogies for calling the (Glasgow) buses dirty. I expect it was the dark colours which made them look so funny among our bright red ones.
Anyhow, we ought to be thankful to all the places which have lent the the buses to "poor old London", as I have seen quite enough at poor old Enfield and Barnet. Do you remember coming to Somaford Grove? They had seven delayed action bombs round that district. We heard that all the people round there have been temporarily evacuated... that was last week. I am going down to East Barnet this afternoon, so may hear more.
What do you think about your young cousin going away to school?
The enlcosed are stamps from Ronald's last letter, which I don't expect you have, as they are "Trans Jordan". Uncle Tom didn't tell you that they (Ronald and his two pals) each bought a dagger, & that there were hyenas, leopards & wolves & cheetahs in the desert. Also the spades they took with them were in case they had to dig the car out of the sand. What a thrill!!
Well! We hope you will have a nice Christmas in spite of old Hitler & perhaps next year we may all meet again... I hope so.
PS (from Uncle Tom.) We have a 1936 Whitfield King Stamp Catalogue, is it any good to you? The Palestine stamps depict:- 3m, Rachel's Tomb, 50m Sea of Gallilee, 13m Mosque of Moer,  5m Citadel of Jerusalem.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 13.12.1940

My dear Mary,

We'll tackle Mollie's question about sulphuric Acid first. As a matter of fact we don't make sulphuric acid & the firm who supplied us with that acid & nitric acid as well was wiped out of existence, their works are in such a state that they are now looking for a new site to start again; sometimes Jerry does do some real damage.
Sulphuric acid is made, either direct from sulphur or pyrite or as a by-product in the coal gas industry. In either case, it is made by oxidising sulphur-dioxide to the trioxide, dissolving the latter in water & concentrating by evaporation.
S + O2 = SO2
2SO2  + O2 = SO2 =  2SO3
SO+ H2O = H2 SO4
4 Fes2 + 2202  = 2Fc O + 8SO2 

The difficulty is the oxidation of the SO2 . In the old days this was done in lead chambers (as they did at Hardshaw Brook in the chambers along the Warrington New Road). A little nitrogen per oxide was added to the mixture of SO2  & air, leached with water & so it went on slowly oxidising. Of course SO2  is slightly soluble in water, but nothing like to the extent that SO3 is. The modern process does away with the old bulky lead chambers and speeds up the process of passing the air & SO2  mixture through the platinised asbestos (platinum in a very fine state of division mixed with an asbestos pad) The platinum acts as a catalyst & without taking any final part in the reaction accelerates it.
I'm afraid I can't go into the details of the processm you'll find it in any decent chemistry book. If the query was how could Mollie make it? she can't with any hopes of success. It's easy enough to make the sulphurous acid, but the snag is oxidising it to sulphuric though I suppose it could be done in the lab with hydrogen peroxide. Anyhow SO2  isn't nice stuff for chesty folks, it invariably stops my chest up.
Talking of Sulphuric acid our tank in the works is 14 ft up on a gantry & holds 7 tons. A bomb fell alongside it, blew the tank up in the air & dropped it back onto its own base, but twisted the girders into fantastic shapes.
You wouldn't believe it, but now Jerry gives us some nights off, we feel his visitations more than when he came every night. Looking back it seems surprising how we stuck it, perhaps the feeling that it was inevitable or the excitement helped us.
Anyhow, he has come back to his old love & even last night when he went to Sheffield, had to go via this place. He was roaring about all night, but as we are used to his tricks by now, we soon realised it wasn't our raid, so could treat it like we would a bad thunderstorm.
Sunday night wasn't too bad, except we tried in vain to get to sleep. As I lay in bed half asleep it sounded at times as if the ceiling was coming in. All around the works he dropped large numbers of incendiaries, 30 in one factory and 36 in another. The Cosmos lamp works got badly singed, our place escaped with one which was very quickly dealt with, but there were fires all around.
Wednesday night or rather about 6.00am on Thursday morning (the raid was on for 14 hours) 6 bombs dropped on East Barnet all around our old house in Somaford Grove & lots of folk here have had to evacuate as several haven't gone off. It's a mad world. You would have thought so looking out the other night with a beautiful clear sky & bright moon & gun flashes all around & the devil up above wondering when to press the button & blow somebody to blazes.
One only hopes the other places hold the front line as well as London has held their section.
It's no good jawing Seth, he will please himself, but I think it is a great pity & both he and Biddy will regret it later. I wonder if Ada has had anything to do with it.
We've just had a letter from Ronald written just before he went on his Trans Jordan holiday. They hired a big car, and as they had to travel over the desert, took food and spades with them. No you are wrong, the spades weren't to eat the food with, they were in case the car got stuck in the sand. He is having a good time.
That's all this week, unless I've something to add tomorrow, which I doubt, as the weather is foggy & the roads are icy & bad for poor motorists. It all helps to make the war more pleasant!!!
Love to you all from us both,


PS don't swank, we got a pound of onions one day & sometimes we get eggs. Between ourselves I can scrounge enough butter to just keep us going.
PPS Somaford Grove is now roped off as there is a time bomb near. Good job we moved.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Letter from Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 6.12.1940

Letter to Mary Platt 6.12.40

My Dear Mary,
I had a letter from Seth this week; he is still playing with the thoughts of sending Biddy to that school & seems more than half inclined to do it.
He says he is breaking new ground for once in a way. I reminded him that we too broke new ground when we send out son to the 4 corners of the earth, to be a guide & father to those less fortunate bretheren in the wider open spaces.
Tom is now at Chelsea barracks among the guards & seems to have settled down quite comfortably. On the whole he is pretty fortunate being so near home & can get off now for most weekends. He went to Cambridge last weekend to see Jones. Ronald's school pal, & took, in the car with him, the 3 Robinson girls.
When you say you couldn't get a word in edgeways the other day, it seemed hardly believable; but on consideration, there are one or two folks round here who could beat any gramophone records.
I remember the night the ceiling fell & remember too when you didn't believe us when we assured you we hadn't been bombed. If we had ceilings like that in this house, they would have been down long ago. I guess a good many houses will be in a bad state before it is all over. I hear of folks on our estate who are complaining about their window frames coming away from the brickwork as a result of gunfire.
The other evening when Tom rang us up & the guns were doing their stuff, I thought then if only you could ring us up you no doubt would enjoy listening to our front door shivering as the fireworks went off. Our telephone is in the hall near the front door, the gun battery is opposite the front door & when they fire overhead, there is an incredible clatter if you haven't heard it before.
(I am touching wood) We have lately been let off very lightly. Last Thursday and Friday weren't too good, but since then, apart from a nasty few minutes one day, there has been little that's been really annoying.
It looks as if the battle of London is going to be an ignominious defeat for Adolf.
By the way, have you heard that friend Musso assured his pal Adolf that he has every reason to believe the Italian Army was still in good running order?
Tonight is very windy, but fine, but so far our guns here only burst into song once, so it doesn't look as if anything much is in the air. Usually, Friday night is a bad night for us.
Nothing happened last night. This week has been the quietest week since August, so perhaps our bad time is coming to an end.

Love to you all 3 from us both,