Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Letter to Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 20.9.1940

37 Lonsdale Drive,

My dear Mary & Co,

As the nightly wail has just gone forth (7.50 pm) I will get your letter off my chest. This week has been quite an eventful one in some ways.  To begin with, Tom's hospital got a knock-out blow at 2.30 am on Monday morning, but fortunately he was sleeping here & got a nasty shock when he saw it next morning. A half-ton bomb caught the building in a glancing blow, demolishing two wards in its fall &, exploding in the road, made a nasty mess of the rest of the structure. The Tate Gallery next door suffered somewhat from the same bomb. Most fortunately nobody except one M.O. was injured. The patients had been evacuated to the basement and were safe, though some had to be dug out the next day.
Tuesday night, Tom's girlfriend's family (Margaret Robinson and her sisters, Joyce and Nancy and their parents, Gertrude and Harold. They lived at 53, Buckingham Avenue, Whetstone, London N 20) had a nasty few minutes with a bomb about 50 yards away.
Wednesday night we had a thrill. A number of bombs were dropped in Enfield, not that we heard them, the gunfire was too loud, but it seemed to me unpleasantly lively in our district, so we patronised the shelter. Despite the noise we were both half asleep about 10.15 pm when both heard a noise like a rushing mighty wind & then slight poppings all over the place. I said to Annie "Incendiaries" & dashed out. Fires seemed all over the place, but fortunately in our gardens mainly. After making sure that we & our neighbours had none & connecting the hose to the tap etc, I had time to look round.
There was one next door but two, & one about five gardens away in our row, & at the back, the next door but one gardens on each side of us had one, & at one of these houses a small boy yelled for "Help!". One, the furthest from us, was left to burn & my word it did give a light, the others were soon put under, one byone with the help of the A.R.P. who came along in a surprisingly short time. Near the back of us a couple of more serious fires got going & the fire brigade was some time getting rid of those. Three houses got messed up. At the same time a whole packet dropped in East Barnet, they had some H. E as well. After we had quietened down a bit, we went to bed. Small incendiaries are not too bad if one can dose them liberally with sand as soon as they fall.
It was estimated that about 400 dropped on that occasion, it sounded like it when they fell.
Perhaps you wonder how folks are sticking it & what they really say... not newspaper talk. We have a typist , a widow with two children, living at Edmonton where there has been an undue number of bombs dropped. I gave her a lift in the car tonight and this is what she told me.
She said she was in her shelter last night with her mother, her young daughter & a neighbour & her neighbour's daughter. They heard a bomb dropping & sat holding tight to each other as they felt sure it would hit them. It dropped in the next garden but one & threw earth and mud (it was raining hard at the time) all over them. Then they heard folks talking, so she went out & saw a "funny" sight & called her neighbour to see it... they both laughed it looked so funny. The house next to hers & the next to that had got no backs & a bit further along the road the shop was on fire from an oil bomb. The A.R.P. came along & told them to clear out to a public shelter as the garden adjoining had a bomb in it. She said the people in the shelter were expecting them & lent them blankets & gave them tea. Later they were allowed to go home as the hole where the bomb was supposed to be was found to be a lump of concrete which had been blown into the air & buried itself in the soil. Altogether they had 11 bombs fairly near that night & it's by no means their only experience & yet that woman talks about it quite calmly & even jokes too. Her road is roped off now for a real time bomb.
Earlier in the week in that same district the folks on a quarter mile radius were evacuated because a land mine had been dropped there. These are Jerry's latest & apparently are huge things dropped by parachute so as not to go deep into the ground. The parachute of this one caught on a house gable most fortunately & was later rendered harmless. Tottenham was not so fortunate, one there caused great havoc laying flat rows of houses, but I hear, with no great loss of life.
Our typist has gone home quite cheerful, she says her house is not so bad, but the stairs are a bit of a mess & one ceiling is down, but there must have been a week spot there! She was in to time this morning too. The only grumbling I hear is that we ought to give back what we are getting instead of bombing only military objectives. There is not the shadow of doubt bombs are being tossed about with one aim & one aim only to terrify the civilians & at present they aren't terrified. (the writing here may be jumpy. When you have a mobile gun at the end of the road & it suddenly starts banging it makes one jump).
... to be continued....

No comments:

Post a Comment