Friday, 16 September 2011

From Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 11.9.1940 continued....

37 Lonsdale Drive, Enfield,

...All that night banging went on & the glow of the fires lit up the sky. We are fairly high up & look over London not altogether an advantage when one sees these fires. They make me feel sad & depressed – a horrible sight & we have had a goodish number now. There's no doubt the effect is exaggerated, but it's not a nice sight.
 (8.45 pm  there go the sirens for tonight's do!)
Sunday night was my worst night. I couldn't sleep & Annie slept practically all night. (we lie partly dressed on beds downstairs) she woke once and said. "That was loud,  the biggest we have had so far, shall we go into the shelter?" "Too late," said I, "he's passed over us", I'll go and see where he is." I went out to look at the search lights & when I got back she was fast asleep with her head under the clothes. As for me I lay listening to planes and bombs & guns all night & now & then went to the door to see more & brighter fires.
I've not slept so badly except for Sunday night. It's only the louder bangs woke me up, but one gets so sleepy only sleep matters. We have slept through 'all clears' & wake in a morning not knowing if the raid was still on. I'll bet Mrs Wilson has had an awful time of it. She little knew what she was in for or she wouldn't have come. London is no place for visitors these days unless they want a thrill.
I am having a week's holiday, if you had been nearer I guess we would have paid you a visit. Today we went out to Berkhamstead Common & got 8 lbs of blackberries & missed two raids on London, but got one directly we got back. While picking we saw a big plane near & then came 3 sickening thuds. Yes, you've guessed, it was Jerry & he started a fire in the district.

8.45 pm
Guns blazing away and bigger bangs of bombs... we can see the shells bursting over the East End district... poor East End! Supper ready & it will be news then bed... we go early these days 'cause it's about midnight & 2 am the heaviest attacks seem to take place.

8.55 pm
More and more guns going in to action we can see the flashes & shell bursts both at the front & the back now. May they shoot the blighters down.

Tom (Tom and Annie Critchley's youngest son) arrived home at 10 pm last night to sleep here as he has had a very bad time for several nights... their hospital (at Milbank central London) has had a number of very near misses & they have a rotten shelter to go to... he says they hear bombs & falling masonry all night long. He was a bit upset when he got here thinking bombs were falling all round us: I reassured him & explained it was only our local battery of 4 4.5's opening up. Do they make a row? They shake the house when a salvo goes off as  they are only about half a mile away.
At about 11 last night we had a thrill... our battery sent up a salvo & an explosion was heard to follow high in the sky, then a loud shriek & a cheer. One shot down. I was outdoors like a shot but saw nothing. The grocer's boy this morning confirms it was one shot down.
Those guns, until last night had done very little shooting, as had many of London's defenses, but last night every gun fired on every possible occasion, so we had far more row than usual. We tried our shelter, but, as you could hear far more from there than in the house, we went indoors. What a funny gurgling noise incendiary bombs make?
I'm afraid this is full of air raids, but then so is life at present, we seem to have the warning out for about 11 hours out of the 24.
We now and then get a letter from Ronald (Tom and Annie's oldest son was in Palestine), but they are very irregular, although he writes every week by air mail, lots seem to go astray, when he does write it seems to come from a world that knows no war, but is filled by the daily round, the common task. Life for him at the moment seems to run very smoothly & comfortably.
From all accounts we missed a good show yesterday afternoon & weren't exactly sorry. If you haven't heard a mass air battle you cannot imagine the noise in the sky specially the shrieking of fast diving planes.
Well bye bye our love to you all, 

P S It's now confirmed one shot down near us last night, a piece of wing found in Southgate. About mid-day today came a terrific bang, all the old dames came to their doors & I had to go and tell them that during the night I heard a whistler come down which didn't explode at first. I suppose it went off then. Folks are more cheerful today. The excessive gun fire seems to have acted like a tonic.

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