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.

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