Wednesday, 5 October 2011

To Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 5.10.1940

My dear Mary & Co,

Whatever else life is as the moment, it is not monotonous, we certainly get a variety of experiences, all more or less unpleasant it seems. Even the all-night raids here had a break at last, ere they got too monotonous & the last two nights we have had the all clear by 3 am. But on the other hand the two preceding afternoons have been raids all the time. In our foolish optimism we thought rain would mean a cessation, nothing of the kind, it only means more haphazard bombing, which is a bad thing.
Last Monday night we had a rare good do, the best yet. Guns were at it all night & on one occasion as several bombs dropped together we had what one can only describe as an earth tremor; the beds shook for quite a time. Then that same night there was a crash which I thought meant tiles gone; it wasn't ours after all but next door had a large size shell nose complete through their roof & ceiling. The ARP collared it as they said it was unexploded.
Further to give a bit of variety, the chumps have eased up on the sirens so that now bombs may fall & no warning be out. Friday I was on my way home when there was a good old crump & when I arrived home folks all at their doors. The plane was fairly low overhead & had dropped two eggs at Cockfosters about three quarters of a mile away.
We have had two lots of incendiaries fairly near this week, but no damage of note was done. We heard each lot coming down and were out of bed and at the door in record time.
Occasionally we get a real good thrill, such a one was yesterday when in the rain & low clouds a Junkers 88 was spotted near the works flying low. I was on spotting duty at the time & had a good view. He flew slightly to the north of us & perhaps saw our chimneys, anyhow, he turned and made a dive for the works. The nearby quick-firing gun (2" Beaufort-Swedish-120 shots a minute) got him immediately with red tracer shells. We saw the shells... at first just short & then immediately underneath, he banked steeply, almost horizontal, & dodged in and out as every gun in the district got going. The air was thick with shell bursts and much too hot for him. Then he began to lose height and we saw two bombs drop. They dropped about a mile away completely demolishing some houses. The soldiers said their HQ told them they scored two hits & he came down.
I never saw folks as excited as some of our fellows were. At the top of their voices they were giving a running commentary in far from choice language & dancing about without a thought of cover. I'll bet Harry has never got in such a state at a football match.
As a further bit of experience a bomb was dropped on the towpath across the river from the works & one of big calibre in the works last night. The first only smashed one side of a building & brought down about 100 telephone wires, but the latter has made a lovely mess. It's in my side of the works & I have an office with broken windows & no ceiling and a lab next door that's little more than a rubbish heap. On the whole we were lucky it has done as little damage as it has done. The bomb went in soft earth and penetrated deep before exploding so that the blast was blanketed & the force exploded upwards. We have a crater you could put a house into, about twenty feet deep and fifty feet wide. All that earth went up in the air and came down on nearby roofs, bringing some of those to the ground. The garage where I keep my car in day time had a morris van inside. One of the garage doors was blown to bits, the girders hurled in all directions & the concrete floor lifted in chunks all over the show. The van body is a wreck but the engine etc is all right. The remarkable thing is the silver nitrate building escaped except for some broken joists in the roof. The copper sulphate building has no roof & one side is missing, but the plant inside is OK & most of the main staunchions and beams are sound. Taken by and large, I reckon we got off very lightly indeed & except for copper sulphate, can carry on as usual in a day or so.
All the vital things here escaped & furthermore nobody was injured, although men were working in the vicinity & some of the Home Guard were in a pill box between the two bombs.
The most wierd thing is the suplhuric acid tank, fortunately it only has about a ton in at present; the bomb fell about 10 feet from one end of it (by the way it is on girders 14 ft in the air) & it is still up in the air with most of the girders twisted into impossible shapes, two of them with their concrete bases suspended over the crater. Well that's the war news today from our small window. We had three letters from Ronald (Tom and Annie's oldest son) on Friday, all posted in August on different days & all via America. They cost him from 3/9d to 10/- to send & have come nearly all round the world... Palestine to Singapore, to Australia, to America & then on by American Clipper.
I doubt if he knows if there is a war on. Life goes on in the old peaceful way, perhaps we might say it's monotonous way.
Perhaps I told you he and a friend took a flat. He speaks glowingly of a trip to Jaffa and bathing in the warm sea and entertainment at Government House. Lucky Ronald, may his luck continue.
Tom (Tom and Annie's youngest son) is getting a little less attention at night now. I think that's why we are getting a bit more.
I don't blame Mrs Wilson's folks for leaving London. I think those who have no real reason for staying ought to get away, it isn't too pleasant a district these days & yet it might be a lot worse. It's surprising what one can get used to & put up with. Believe me, London folks stick it wonderfully well.

Bye bye, love to you three,

From Annie & Tom

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