A CLOSE ENCOUNTER.

It was a clear night, I was asleep in my cot, my sister was also asleep in her cot, mum was in the big bed. Dad was away in the army learning to be a soldier, mum was lonely sometimes I heard her crying. The last few months she had been trying to get used to the fact that Dad did not come home at night the way he used to, there was always plenty of washing and cooking to do but she had never felt so lonely before.  Her parents lived in the three rooms upstairs with their six younger children, three boys and three girls. Her two eldest sisters worked in a dry cleaning firm called the Sixty Minutes and her eldest brother worked in the ship-yard. 

Our house was in a short terrace, at one end was a railway line going down to the docks and at the other a road leading down to Hendon Road, the main shopping road through the district. Coxon street was a well-kept street, houses which had once been for the skilled engineers and ship-yard workers were gradually being subdivided to house more  unskilled workers. My father rented two rooms and an outhouse on the ground floor, there was a toilet at the bottom of the back yard: beyond the back-door was a back lane.  On the opposite side of the street lived grandmother’s sister and her family. The streets were tidy and up the bank a short walk away was the park with a duck pond, grassy banks and tall trees, space to run about safely.

    The time was May 1943, in the early hours of a clear moonlit night, the bombers were heard overhead and searchlights lit up the sky, the peculiar whine of the air raid warning sounded.  At that dreadful sound  grandparents and Mum got up and roused the children, putting coats and shoes on, we all made our way to the air-raid shelter in the back-yard. There were wooden benches to sit on and grandfather stood by the door. Death and destruction fell out of that moonlit sky, the noise swamped everything.  We waited in the shelter until everything went quiet and soon we heard the reassuring sound of the All Clear.

The house two doors down was completely demolished and the family killed. An air-raid warden quickly appeared and looked around carefully, tiles had come off the roof and the chimney looked distinctly wobbly. It would be dangerous for you to stay here, the warden said firmly.

“Please can I pop in for my purse and some clothes?” Mum and grandmother begged him.

“Well you’ll have to be very quick, just a couple of minutes.”

We waited in the yard. Mum came back holding the pushchair and a bag full of clothes. My sister got into the pushchair and everyone went into the back lane. My uncle Joe took hold of the handles and pushed Jean along the pavement. The adults were worried were on earth were we going to stay? Grandfather had a married sister who had a couple of spare rooms, he decided we would try there just for a day or two. By this time it was getting light and all together we set off to walk there, with the youngest in the pram. I didn’t feel anxious, I didn’t understand what the destruction of home meant, the people I trusted were all around me, everything would be alright.

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7 thoughts on “A CLOSE ENCOUNTER.

  1. I felt as if I were there myself during that terrifying time. Part of the group taking hands, and others holding their babies close to each other. Will they hit us or will all those going overhead not bother to drop those heavy loads, for they are for the large towns nearby? So sad that the house two doors up was ruined and the family completely gone. Yourself a very young girl, and yet so amazing how young people can remember all this and yet not become terrified for a long time, if ever. Thank you silverliz for writing all this down, and I do hope you will be able to send this, as well as all the other wonderful stories that really happened during WW2, to the Archive List re : Air Raids and Other Bombing.

    1. Thank you jollyweez, I don’t think I understood what was happening, aunts and uncles and grandparents were all around me. I’ve had a look at ‘Air Raids and Other Bombing’ its very interesting. It surprises me how clear those memories are. We did see the house some years later and it was fine.
      They are not accepting any more accounts.

    1. I was too young to fully understand what was happening, my Mum, grandparents and uncles and aunts were there, so I suppose I felt safe with them. Much later I came to realise how lucky we were.

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