Saturday, 26 February 2011

Letter from Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 26.2.41

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.

Thursday
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

Tom

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

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