Saturday, 26 February 2011

Letter from Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 26.2.41


My dear Mary,

I think you asked about what arrangements we make for fire watching. We do 2 – 2 hour spells every 3 days. Thus I am on Monday & Thursday this week, next week I am Tuesday & Friday.
The time of duty goes in rotation, in 4 successive turns we each do one of the periods 10 – 12. 12 – 2. 2 – 4. 4 – 5. Three come together & if there is no warning out, only one of the three is up & dressed, if the warning does go then he knocks up the other two.
Last Thursday night I had 4 – 6 but the bloke next door had to be up & about: the dirty dog came & knocked me up just after 4 & my, wasn't it cold. I got up looked at the gun fire, then put the kettle on for a new hot water bottle, had a cup of hot milk & crouched over the electric fire until I heard one plane near, when I shooed him away, I came in again. And so it went on till 6 am when I went to bed though there were still planes about.
The next night, explosions and very viscous gun fire woke us up, but we soon went to sleep again & didn't know till next day they dropped about 400 yards away. Tom heard them coming down but we were well away in slumberland. Somebody is having a fair-sized raid tonight by the sound of things – probably Birmingham or Liverpool as the planes are passing fairly regularly overhead & the guns are trying in vain to knock the stuffing out of Jerry. It doesn't sound like a real proper raid, only a sort of flying visit.
Annie & I went to see the Great Dictator yesterday. It's worth worth seeing but isn't nearly as funny as Chaplin usually is.
Like you, we are having very cold frosty weather, but dry – try getting up at 4 am if you want to know how cold it really is.
Can you hear the guns now – course you can, the doors & windows are rattling!
The primula we brought from St Helens had a most unfortunate end. When the men were building our shelter (4 of them) there was a very thrilling matinee one day & our garden provided front seats. A tremendous air battle was fought overhead. German bombers & fighters & our fighters. Four Huns were shot down in the near vicinity & these chaps got so excited rushing about the garden to try & get better views they tramped on some of the plants. The primula was one. I know where I can buy another, but have never seen the darker shade, so if you think one would carry I will be very glad to have it. It's a pity you aren't here, I have just been to see what all the row is about, opened the front door, then called Annie to come & look. It was worth seeing. Jerry put down two big flares & our blokes sent up hundreds of tracer shells to try & put them out – the flares not Jerry. The sky to the East seemed full of red balls rushing towards the two white lights.
An expensive sort of fireworks display & as there was no heating in our part of open air stand, it was too cold to stop there for long.
It looked to be over Brimsdown or Waltham direction – near the latter place they put some heavy stuff down last night , but then there was no warning.
I have found a few more stamps kicking about. I hear Biddy has become a collector so I am sending her an album for her Birthday, also what few stamps I can lay my hands on  not many I fear – the better ones I found, I enclose for Molly as at this stage I don't suppose Biddy has the least idea of their merits.
She is unfortunate isn't she? It looks as if her first term is going to be an absolute waste & I am sure Seth would prefer her to be at home while unwell.

Apparently we only saw part of the show last night, we had a view from the popular side only, those in the stands saw all sorts of colour tracers & a lot more flares than we did. Shame!
Anyhow we had one good big walloper when something big bent the Potters Bar district, so perhaps that makes things all square.
It's pelting with rain today & Jerry is taking advantage of it.
love to all of you from us both


Will you come in for tea today? We are having potato cakes? (potato cakes are a delicious Critchley speciality)

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt 12th February 1941


37 Lonsdale Drive

My dear Mary,

Perhaps you know, or perhaps you don't know that we can get lots of things in the chemical line at discount prices. Whether "Supervitts" is amongst them I don't know, but I have put an order through for a 5/7(+ha'penny)
I know I forgot to send the Adexoline last week so I am sending them now – if I don't forget again.
At last we have got letters from Ronald. The latest are dated December 29th and Jan 3rd, which came together yesterday.
He tells us about going to a party, which was rather flat until he started to wake them up. They had rather tame forfeits, so he introduced them to "making ones will to the company." You know, the one where everybody claims their own peice of the poor blighter who's made his will! Then, next, he got the gentlemen to try threading a needle with one eye closed – the old stunt of having a sooty hand and clapping it over the bloke's eye to make sure he keep one eye shut. He says that he & his pal Cyril then took charge & things went in a grand style. It all hardly seems in keeping with the dignity of the Critchley family. I don't know where he can get his low tastes from, unless its from his mother.
Now he & his pal are going to throw a party at their flat. I'll bet it's some party.
They had a good Christmas from what he says, with good things of all kinds.
One thing makes ones mouth water is when he speaks of squeezing 4 oranges to make one glass of juice for one drink. At present it doesn't pay to pick the oranges from the trees & we pay 9d a lb – he gets about a dozen Jaffas for 2d.
Jerry still leaves us pretty well alone, but that I think, is simply because of the weather; yesterday was thick fog. The breathing space is very welcome & it does give time for our folks to prepare.
We have had your "smelling" game, as a matter of fact there are few games we haven't had at one time or other.
One game we used to play a lot at one time was a writing game in which somebody gave a letter & or a subject – say flowers or towns in England or abroad & you had to write down as many as you could in a given time. a variation of this which is rather entertaining is towns which incorporate in their name:-
a) an animal like Mullion  Ramsgate  etc
b) an article used in furnishing a house Dunstable, Rugby, Basinstoke etc
c) Vegetable matter Oakhampton Stockport Elstree etc
d) The Roman castle ending – Chester Lancaster etc
Things in the room which begin with a certain letter. Any number can play.
We have had fire watchers at the works ever since war broke out & now the Home Guard as well. I have been freed from both, but do my turn twice a week at home, to night I am on the 2 am– 4 am shift, unless Tom does it for me.
I am sorry your cold is still troublesome, try these things I am sending, but don't expect wonderful results, stuff of this kind is meant to build up rather than cure,
Love to you al from us both,


Friday, 4 February 2011

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt 4th February 1941

My Dear Mary,

Your cold seems to be of the same type as mine was, a constantly unwiped & unpleasant nose. I suppose it's a mild type of flu that is knocking about, most folks seem to have it, more or less.
How did the party go off?
We have one of those "Thousands will never die" people at the works here. Once he tried to convert me, but he gave me up as a bad job (is this Tom's name for the sect or was there a sect called "Thousands will never die" does anyone know? BC.
We are in luck's way with meat now Tom is billeted out, his ration is 49 ozs per week!! It's a scandal isn't it?
Our firm like many others is supplying the men with "adexoline" capsules, one per day free. They contain vitamins A & D & are supposed to be wonderful.Our boss bought 100 for his daughter & paid 8/6 for them, whereas the works are buying them for 25/- for a thousand. If you would like some I'll get them for you nice and cheap. I expect they would do both you and Mollie a lot of good, you simply swallow them,  and wash down with a cup of tea.
Thanks for the photos, Ronald's earlier letters are at Birmingham, when I get them back I'll pick out those of interest and send them along.
Jerry has been pretty quiet lately, thank goodness, though he gave us one or two shocks during the day time last week, swooping down out of nowhere when it was snowing or raining. The nearest he got to us was Southgate where he dropped a packet, though he sounded on the roof tops several times.
Everything seems to point to gas in the near future, so I think it's up to everybody to get "gas minded" otherwise there will be a risk of panic. After all gas isn't so bad as his other stuff & I suppose we will soon get used to it, like we have the bombing: though Annie says she wouldn't like another spell like we had before – weeks on end & not a night off.

I kept a record of air raids.

September 113 warnings totaling  301 hours (10 hours a day)

October 144 warnings totaling 387 hours (over 12 hours a day)

November 95 warnings totaling 309 hours (10 hours a day)

Then December fell off to 36 warnings 118 hours

While January was better still with 4 warnings for 90 hours.

Isn't it any wonder that during Sept/Nov folks got to ignore warnings & everything else. The other day when I passed through Enfield a plane was very low & the gunfire particularly heavy & yet I saw no one hurry for shelter. Folks went on with their shopping: & the men at the works now ignore the spotters' whistles.
The snow has come back to us worst luck. & now lies about 6 inches deep. After a heavy fall this morning it's lovely & clear now, so there is no activity in the air – too clear.
What do you think of Biddy's school? Making them take medicines with them & charging £2.12.6 a term for stationery and then the poor kids have to buy their own paper to write home!
That's all this time,

Love to you all from us both,


We haven't heard from Ronald since he sent the photos. I guess some of his letters are in the sea somewhere.
I am trying to get a copy of Jonathan North, if I can I will send it.