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


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