Kathleen's story

Bombed out in the London Blitz

My name is Kathleen Brockington. I married my husband in June 1939 at the age of 23 and can remember clearly that day in September hearing the Prime Minister tell us on the wireless that war had started.

For the first few days a lot of people were very frightened. I can remember my Mother-in-Law bursting into tears and putting her gas mask on that first day; she wore it for about an hour but nothing happened and she took it off again when we gave her a cup of tea and she realised she couldn't drink it with the gas mask on!

In1940 the air raids started up proper. Like lots of others down our street we had an Anderson Shelter in our garden, but it was dreadfully damp so in the end we used to sleep under our big oak table. If the air raid sirens went off in the evening we would just ignore them and carry on eating our tea or playing cards until we heard bombs getting a bit close and then we would dive under the table for cover. (Maybe I should explain that we lived in Acton near where the Rolls Royce factory made the armoured cars and the bombers were always trying to get it).

Photograph of people sleeping in the tube The night I was bombed out my husband was away fire fighting around St Paul's Cathedral and the East End of London which was getting a proper pasting. Lots of people were sleeping in the tube (underground railway) after the last train had gone.

When the bomb dropped I wasn't even under the table! I heard the plane and recognised it was a Jerry (that's what we called them) because I'd heard so many. There was a tremendous BANG! and I ducked. All the windows came in and the ceiling and a couple of walls came in and there was incredible smoke everywhere. I was shaking like a leaf but I wasn't hurt.

I tried to get out but the door was stuck and I had to climb through where one of the windows had been. I could see there were lots of houses affected, glass everywhere in the street so I knew it was a big'un.

I ran to the Air Raid Post but the Warden said "look missus, we're gonna be busy digging bodies out, if you've got a roof you're better off where you are. There's lots worse off than you". Funnily enough he was wrong; about 50 houses were badly damaged and a couple of them just turned into heaps of rubble, but nobody was actually killed.

I went home and climbed back through the window. There was dust and glass and bricks everywhere but I slept on my bed in my clothes until 6am, then went to stay with my mother. I was very shocked of course, and worried that when my husband got back from working day and night putting out fires he would go home and assume the worst. One of my mum's neighbours had a telephone and I tried to find out where he was but around the East End of London it was a proper mess and nobody knew anything.

After a few months the house was patched up by a local firm (the government paid for that) so I could live in it. A right shoddy job they made of it too. When they finished there were still big cracks in the walls, bare pipes, dust and dirt everywhere for weeks on end; but like the wardens said, there were lots worse off and at least I was still alive.

Kath Brockington
August 1994
Transcribed from a tape-recorded conversation by Harvinder Jauhal

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