Drink Up, Mum – The Next One’s On the House!

I was stationed just outside Ashford, Kent, and was due for a weekend pass. On the Friday afternoon the Sergeant said: “There’s not much on – you can get away now.”

I needed no second telling and was soon on the train to London. I found out later that the train after mine had been machine-gunned by hit-and-run raiders and several passengers had been injured, including some chaps from the unit. I duly arrived home in North London to a depleted family – many were serving away, but it was always nice to be home. During the evening we made our way to the local: someone was on the piano and a sing-song was under way. The sirens had gone and we could hear the drone of the planes and the guns doing their best.

Suddenly there was a mighty crash and flying glass. It turned out to be an anti-aircraft shell landing in someone’s greenhouse over the road. The piano started up again and things settled down, then there was another crash. This time a shell had landed outside
the guest house a bit further along the road, this time killing an old lady who was staying there.

Someone said they were using proximity fuses. I suggested that they land in some other proximity! Hardly had I got the words out when another landed on top of a wall just down the street. I was beginning to wonder whose side they were on!

The landlady of the pub, not known for her generosity, was getting a bit jittery and I said to my Mother: “Drink up – the next one’s on the house.”

‘You’ll say that once too often, my lad,” she said.

We made our way home hopping into doorways to dodge the hail of shrapnel – at least some were going off where they were supposed to. My mother and two younger sisters said they’d sleep in the Morrison shelter, but I had no intention of missing the luxury of sleeping between nice white sheets. The room was blacked out and in no time I was asleep and out to the world.
There was a banging on the door and the agitated voices of my sisters. The room seemed to be moving – I thought it was a dream. The door opened, the light went on and I came to into a hurry. My bed was covered in plaster, a hole in the ceiling above my head and a hole in the wall saying it all.

I was up and dressed and with a torch had a look in the garden – and sure enough there was a neat hole. We knocked up the neighbours, cleared the houses on each side and called the warden, who said it was a bomb.

We had to stay with friends for the night, and next morning the bomb squad started to dig it out. Later that morning I was in the High Street with my mother when the local bobby rode by. He had a sack under his arm, and called to my Mother and said: “Would you like to see your bomb?” It was another AA shell, and he was off to the marshes where it would be blown up.

“No, I don’t want to see the bloody thing!” was her reply.

E. E. Cox