Sunday, 27 March 2011

Tom Critchley to his niece Molly Platt March 27th 1941

37 Lonsdale Drive,


My dear Molly,

We wish you many happy returns of your Birthday & by the time the next one comes round we hope Hitler & his gang will have ceased to trouble you. Perhaps by that time he will be disputing supremacey in his natural home, with the present ruler – old nick.
Isn't it nice to have a few peaceful nights after violently disturbed ones?
You have a funny cousin in Tom, he is at present trying to get in the Air Force as a fighter pilot, he thinks it a good thing to shoot down German bombers – so do I.
I don't think they will take him as he has to wear glasses for seeing a distance, but I can quite understand him wanting to have a smack back, since he saw so much of the bombing of London last year. Night after night he was in the thick of it, with bombs dropping all around the hospital in which he was, until finally the hospital was destroyed. One night he counted 40 in an hour.
We haven't had a letter from Ronald for a month, perhaps father neptune is reading them – I hope he enjoys them. We haven't forgotten you like his letters & still intend sending some of them for you to read. We lent them to a friend who in turn passed them on (most foolishly) to a number of other people. After over 6 months we have at last got back most of them & since they are all mixed up, we are sorting them out & copying them. A long job!
I hope you will be able to get something amusing with the enclosed P.O.

Love from Auntie Annie and Uncle Tom.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Letter from Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 23.3.41

37 Lonsdale Drive


My dear Mary,

Mea culpa! If Annie didn't object I would pour ashes over my head. I did receive the P.O. & I did forget to thank you for it & Harry did post it in Dumfries for that was the post mark on the letter. I'll bet he has done things for which he hasn't got the blame so now that's one off the score.
I am glad you didn't get too scared over the Clydeside raids. You, like we, are out of the danger zone, that is real great danger. Where there are lots of open spaces around the danger is not nearly so bad as in enclosed property, especially with fire bombs, as witness those we have had all around us and the little damage done. The worst one near us, when the roof was on fire, the inhabtiants were sat in front of the fireplace & didn't know their house was ablaze until neighbours told them.
We had your lot of raiders over our way on their journey to you & gave them a good pasting, then, when they went to Hull on Tuesday, they came here again & some didn't get to Hull, but left their loads in East Barnet, once again near where we used to live. The next night , Wednesday, was our real turn, & a good & proper old fashioned do it was too, Fortunately they left Enfield alone and concentrated on East London. There was one big fire we could see at Edmonton & at one time I thought Brimsdown was involved, but they didn't get quite as far as that. Tom was out, as usual & rang up to say it was too hot to come home as a piece of shrapnel had already hit his car. We went to bed but only slept by fits and starts. It needs a sound sleeper not to rouse when the house rocks & it feels as if somebody was trying to push you out of bed. Besides we are not as used to it as we were & somehow don't take it as calmly. It now seems astounding how we managed during all those 15 weeks without a night off & averaging 10 – 13 hours a night. It's surprising what you can get used to. I have kept a record of raids, someday I must show you & point out the records 17.5 hours in one day out of 24 & the days the raids started I was coming home from work & the same raid was still on when we had our breakfast next morning.
Tom hasn't had his photo taken in uniform. He isn't at all proud of it, the first thing he does when he gets home is to change into civvies. He is very restless young man & has now come to the conclusion that his work in the Dental Corps is not enough & he thinks he ought to do more. He wondered about volunteering as an ARP worker in the East End, but being in the army I don't see how that could be wangled. Today he has the bright idea of volunteerring for the air force as a fighter pilot. He seems to think it would be humane to shoot bombers down in flames. The only objection is his eyes; he wonders if they take fighter pilots with glasses. He doesn't want a bomber, I think for that one needs to be a bit cold blooded, but I can understand anybody being willing & eager to have a go at Jerry  bombers. They are a lot of dirty tykes.
You are lucky to get 2 glasses of tongue, neither glasses nor tins are available here, but we have quite a nice stock of iron rations for use if an emergency should arise.
We haven't had a letter from Ronald for about a month; I suppose some must be lying at the bottom of the sea, but as Tom had the cable, we know Ronald is all right, so aren't worried. Neverthless letters are always welcome.
We still haven't yet made up our minds about St Helens, it's full moon then & anything might happen; we think they are safer than we, but there is always a sort of feeling that one would rather be bombed in one's own home. Like a place I pass everyday where they sell seats for dug outs, advertise "Be bombed in Comfort"
Now, we both wish you many returns of the 26th may they be much better than this one.

Love from us both Tom

P S Do you fill all your kettles at night? It's a wise precaution twice we have been without water

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt 7th March 1941


My dear Mary,

I have just had the bill for your capsules or whatever they are 8/9 so there is quite a respectable saving – 7.6 + 1/3 tax. If you want any more, give me plenty of time because we only order periodically & sometimes it takes some days before we get the goods. We get most things like that at discount rates, for instance we get Bovril for 5/6 a 1lb bottle.
Last Sunday Annie and I took advantage of a fine day & went for a trip round London. It's far worse than I imagined & gave me quite a shock.
Tottenham Court Rd is not so bad except where it meets Oxford Street, there there is quite a bit of damage,  Charing Cross Rd, opposite is shut to traffic.
Hoborn shows quite a lot of damage, but doesn't look too bad now it has been cleared up and patched. We couldn't go along Newgate St, so had to go round Smithfield into Aldersgate St. That end of Aldersgate is a mess with half-demolished buildings & twisted girders on both sides. Then we made for St Pauls. What a mess! Paternoster Row is – in fact it's gone with all its book shops, so you won't be able to take Mollie there to gaze longingly at the books. Cheapside is bad – I should say over half the buildings are in ruins, but the north side of Cheapside is awful. Viewed from Moorgate Street from either London Wall or Fore Street one gazes across a wide expense of waste with not even a wall standing up. Perhaps it looked worse to me as I used to know this district so well with it's narrow streets of the days of old London & congested area. Gazing down London wall is like looking at a picture of ruined Ypres.
We went to have a look at Johnson's place in Paul St. By some strange chance it escaped the worst & stands up like a lighthouse amongst a sea of ruins. It has been chipped and seared but other places are flat or burned out.
That busy crossing ar the Bank, where stand the mansion House & Exchange is one huge crater with temporary wood bridges across. A big bomb dropped there and tore through the subways.
I should say that the real bad destruction is well nigh a mile square, really bad that is, not just a house or building here & there, flat.
The one bright spot in it all, is that the damage is not the kind that hampers the war effort. It's a good job the Germans are Hunnish minded & try to frighten folks instead of concentrating on works that matter.
I sent you a book early in the week. "Jonathan North", as you will see it is second hand but well worth, reading, at least we think so. I sent a copy to our Jim at Christmas & Phoebe and Jim M, I hear both think it not nice in parts. It didn't strike us so, we thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope you both do too.I don't want it back as I have a copy at home.
Goodness knows what we are doing at Easter. I would like very much to go to St Helens and may manage it, but it is early days to make arrangements at present.
Last week when I was writing to you I think I mentioned doors & windows rattling. It wasn't guns only that caused it, it was bomb s between us & Potter's Bar. You never can tell one from t'other properly, so the only sensible thing to do, is to pretend it's always guns. Annie said she looked at me & as I took no notice she thought it was all right. We have had comparative little raiding this year & what there has been has been mild & nothing to trouble about. February was the slackest month since August, it has been as good a s holiday & judging by the present weather, with its pouring rain the aerodromes will be waterlogged for some days yet.

Love to you three from us both