War Time Memories in Shire
Extract from The Bristol Blitz by John Rogers. Complete account including a chronological listing of dates of the bombings is available on our HISTORY page.
I was 10 years old when the first air raid warnings sounded and the bombs began to fall on Avonmouth. I was playing in the street as most of the kids my age did at that time. We heard the roar of aircraft and looked up to see the sky black with aircraft, the date was 25th of September and the planes were on their way to bomb Filton Aircraft Factory.
…this time we knew they were the enemy.
I also saw the German planes two days later moving in the same direction, this time we knew they were the enemy.
We watched as the RAF fighters engaged the bombers and fighter escorts, for a kid of 10 it was quite a sight. As the attack progressed we were ushered off the street by air raid wardens including a smack around the ears for not following their orders fast enough.
I remember well the cold nights we spent in the Anderson Shelter, double layering of clothes to keep warm, taping over the window panes to stop the glass from flying around in case of a bomb blast, covering the windows at night with a blanket to stop the light shining out or you would get a knock on your door from the warden. I remember the small stubby candles we would buy, they were called 8-hour candles and would last the night when you were huddled in the shelter. Then there were the Blackouts, no street lamps to guide us; they were out for the duration.
…at times it was the only good meal some of the kids got
Who could forget the fitting for your gas mask, I see the little kids now, crying because they were scared to death of the ugly masks, and it got worse when they tried to put them on. Then there was the school lunch programs, another government idea, not a bad one, for at times it was the only good meal some of the kids got in those times. One dessert they could of kept from me and that was the Semolina Pudding, I swear it was made out of sawdust and milk, you could stick wallpaper up with it.
I cannot forget the school nurse who would make her rounds with that darn Nit Comb looking for those little animals in your head, then she would spoon feed you a large dollop of Cod-liver oil and malt to make sure you were not suffering from malnutrition.
On 16 January 1941 my relatives lost their home in Avonmouth, they lived across the street from the park. They lost everything, but felt very lucky because two doors away people lost their lives.
…where once lived one of our playmates
A hundred yards away a large bomb reported to be a land mine had dropped by parachute behind the homes on Priory Rd. The explosion blew down 10 Row houses. The blast was so tremendous it blew a piano in one house clear across the street, through the front wall and landed in the back room of the house. Five people were killed in their homes, one of them a little boy I knew and played with on the street. For months afterwards we would play on the rubble where once lived one of our playmates. It was years later before they re-built the homes back to as they were originally.
I believe one day in the future they will find many more bombs still buried in the mud of the Avon River and in the fields around the smelting works, that land was once covered with water and it is very soft.