Bombs, Sirens…and a Brand New Brother
Hampden Road in Harrow Weald holds special memories for me, for it all started there – the laughter, the sadness and my wartime childhood.
Peering along the road from the junction of Long Elmes during a recent return visit there, I saw the house where my parents, two brothers and I once lived, but it seemed so small!
When the air raids began during the early part of the Second World War, the shelters were still being built, so we were thankful that a community shelter in harrow Weald recreation ground had been completed.
Along with our neighbours we used to tramp down to the shelter, a good half mile away, with a large cart loaded with bedding, and we’d spend the night there. Despite the awful circumstances we all shared, spirits were high, with sing-songs in the shelter every night. There was always a comedian to keep our chins up, and we youngsters enjoyed every minute. It was an adventure.
A shelter was built in the street, saving us the regular trek to the recreation ground. I missed all the friends we’d made but we soon made more. We then progressed to the luxury of an Anderson shelter built in our back garden.
Ironically, when bombs fell nearby we were in the
house. I remember a huge thud which seemed to last for ever, and for the first time in my life I was really frightened, but Dad kept reassuring us that if would soon be over. A direct hit had destroyed two houses in Hampden Road. Our windows were blown in, but we came out of it without a scratch.
During the bombing my mother, expecting her third child, went into premature labour. While my elder brother rushed to the telephone box to call the midwife, my father frantically cleared fragments of glass from the bedroom.
God was watching over us that night, for the bombing stopped, the all-clear sounded and I was presented with a new brother.
Hampden Road suffered no further hits during the war. A land mine parachuted into the grounds of the nearby Kodak works one night when my father was on night watch, but fortunately it didn’t explode.
We collected bits of shrapnel and compared our finds before storing them in biscuit tins. Without a sense of humour, life would have been unbearable. There was always someone to help a less fortunate neighbour, and unsung heroes were two a penny.
Later in the war hitler turned his secret weapons on us. In broadcasts from Germany, ‘Lord haw-haw’ warned us of the destruction the weapons would bring.
One of these, a V1, came down on a steep hill on Harrow Weald Common. My pals and I were playing nearby and fearlessly ran to the spot. Its nose was buried deep into the ground, but it hadn’t exploded. We ventured nearer, but were soon sent packing by the Civil Defence, who erected a barrier around it.
A prisoner-of-war camp for Italian prisoners was sited in the field to the back of our house, and having heard about the German camps I couldn’t understand why the prisoners seemed to have so much freedom.
I suppose we were brought up to believe that our enemies were like creatures from another planet, but I soon discovered that they were like us. They couldn’t understand why they were at war with Britain and blamed Mussolini.
Although the war was horrible, I’ll always cherish the great spirit shown by the people of Hampden Road. Peace was grand, but a certain spirit of companionship and selflessness had gone for ever.