Tuesday, 5 July 2011

From the Hogg family memories of Salmon Lane, East London, May 1941

Whilst the raid was at its height a parachute mine, dropped from a German plane, plummeted down towards Stepney East railway station. It struck the country end of the platforms and burst through the arch below. Broken bricks, twisted metal and general rubble fell from above, killing many of the shelterers outright. The air was thick with dust, choking, blinding, dust, which made everything appear as if it was in a yellow-grey fog. Those who could, began to move, but lots more lay still and lifeless. Rescuers were soon on the site, throwing aside heaps of broken masonry in the hopes of finding someone alive underneath. Lizzie Hogg, her sweetheart Ernie and his sister Lil, had been on the Chaseley Street side which was least affected and managed to stagger out into the street. Once the initial shock has passed however, Lizzie forced her way back in and to her horror, saw her sisters and mother partially buried in the rubble. She fought through the clouds of brick dust, but was pushed aside by one of the rescuers, who said that she could serve no purpose by being there. Just then she saw a man pick up Daisy's limp body and take her towards the growing number of fatalities, she thought she saw a movement and called out "That's my sister... Don't take her... She's still alive!". Lizzie was right. At that time, 21 people had been killed including her sisters Emily, Annie and her Mother.
As day broke, passers-by could see the parachute mine still hanging from the top of the arch. Fortunately it hadn't exploded, but if it had, the death toll would have been even higher.
Hilda and Daisy were rushed off to Bancroft Road hospital, both suffering extensive injuries. Lizzie arrived soon after and saw Daisy lying unconscious. She was badly cut around the face and her head had been shaven in readiness for emergency surgery. She was therefore almost unrecognisable and when she was led towards her, Lizzie said "That's not Daisy! That's a man!" Although she saw Daisy, there was no mention of Hilda, whose injuries must have been more severe. The wards at Bancroft Road were overwhelmed with numerous victims from eslewhere in the area, so later in the day, Daisy was transferred to Winchmore Hill in north London. But on the Monday, little Hilda, always referred to as 'The Baby', died.
Having arrived at Winchmore HIll, Daisy remained unconscious, but could call out "take those children off my legs!" every so often, presumably re-living the horrific experience which had overtaken her and her family. One day, she opened her eyes to see the bleary shape of her Dad and his brother Arthur standing beside the bed, but then she passed out again and returned to oblivion.
Daisy remained in that condition for exactly a week. On Sunday 18th May she finally came round. She had her eyes fully open and in the early process of regaining her senses, she looked up and saw her distraught father standing over her. This time he was on his own, and was wearing an ominous black suit. From this she immediately knew that someone in her family had been killed and instinctively guessed it was her Mother. With tears welling in her eyes she asked "How are the others? How's Hilda?" Her father said "she's alright, she's in another hospital."  and for a while at least, Daisy felt a little better. Her father Bill Hogg knew how close Daisy and Hilda had been, and felt for the time it was best she didn't know the complete truth, although, of course, she soon found out. Her Mother had gone, together with three of her sisters.
The happy morning of Saturday 10th May, when the pair ran carelessly laughing from Jack Spiro's shop, eating their chocolate, proved to be their last together.
Why Hilda? Why Annie?, Why Emily?, And why their Mother? The same sort of questions must have hung upon the lips of numerous East Enders during that unspeakably awful period.
Little was said of the funerals, although Daisy was subsequently told that they had all been buried at Woodgrange Cemetary.
Daisy's recovery was slow, she was 14 years old. She was moved to Chase Farm Hospital and had two weeks convalecsence with her Uncle and Aunt in Sutton Valance, Kent. She survived to grow up, marry and have a son. She lived until she was 84.

Monday, 4 July 2011

From the Hogg family memories of Salmon Lane, East London, May 1941

Reproduced here by permission of a member of the Hogg family.BC

Like so many of their contemporaries, the Hoggs somehow managed to cope with the unbelievable terrors of the Blitz and tried to live as normal as life as possible. In the spring of 1941, little Hilda Hogg was taken to a local photographic studio to have a portrait taken and the print was collected on Saturday 10th May. Hilda was always inclined to look rather serious when photographed, but this time her expression displayed an odd element of uncertainly. This was perhgaps not surprising, as life for a seven year old East End child at the height of the Second World War must have been horrific beyond belief. This day, however, she was happy, and together with her sister Daisy, she went across the road to buy some chocolate at Jack Spiro's shop. The two girls came out laughing. It was a bright spring day and they were teasing each other. At times like this the war seemed unimportant and, in some ways, unreal. The only thing that mattered was the joy of the two sisters being together and, with the aid of a chocolate bar, momentarily forgetting their nightly ordeals. That was not easy, despite the cheerful sunshine, the distinctive smell of burning hung in the air, as an ever present reminder of the previous air raid.
As the family feared being buried alive in their Anderson Shelter in their garden they went that night, Annie, Emily, Daisy, Hilda with their mum to shelter under the York Road railway arch. Sister Lizzie was there as well, but she was seeing a young man, so she was with him and his recently widowed sister on a bench opposite.
As usual, everyone tried to settle down for a night's sleep, but, of course, this would be difficult. Almost as if on cue, the sirens began to sound and the heavy droning of aero engines announced the regular murderous onslaught by Hitler's Luftwaffe.
The small hours of Sunday 11th May brought the worst raid for some time, and Tom Critchley, a chemist from Enfield, gave a chilling eye-witness account:
"We had just got into bed when at 11 wailing willie started and as it was a cloudless moonlight night, I guessed it was our turn. We didn't have to wait for long before we knew for certain. We slept on and off as the row permitted, but after some extra  big noises at about 1.30 I got up to see what was going on. There was a long row of fires from the East End to Westminster and one could see bombs bursting in amongst them and planes galore above..."
If that was scene as viewed from suburbia, the reality for those unfortunate enought to live closer to central London could only be described as a holocaust. The bombers continued to drone overhead, as anti-aircraft guns pounded aimlessly into the night sky, with little or no chance of reaching a target.