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Mary's story

A nurse under the bombs

I worked in London and I can remember one particularly bad 24 hours. I was at County Hall, right opposite the Houses of Parliament and had just been delivering some disabled children to the coast. I lived in Earl's Court in a flat. There was no air raid shelter in the house and we usually just sat under the kitchen table when the bombers were close.

During the day we took no notice of sirens but when they blew whistles it meant 'imminent danger' and then we would take cover. One evening we had an air raid warning and later that night I heard whistles - that meant pulling on some clothes and getting under the kitchen table again - but we were quite jolly and well used to that. We heard all the ack-ack guns going off in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and when I looked out I saw that search-lights had picked up some bombers just above the barrage balloons that covered all of London during those years.

Suddenly a warden knocked on our door and told us to get out quick - we took this sort of thing all in our stride, since I was still partly dressed anyway I ran, still with my slippers on, to the deep shelter under Earls Court Exhibition Hall. This was 40 feet down and fairly safe unless it got a direct hit, so I joined the 200 or so people already there. There was lots of talking and the usual singing (real cockneys always loved to sing during the air raids - they could always be relied upon to keep cheerful).

I had insisted on getting into my Nurses Uniform so I would be able to help if needed but still had my slippers on. In the morning we were told not to go back because some 'Oil Bombs' had dropped in the area so I borrowed my landlady's shoes - they were a tight fit but at least I looked respectable.

That day there no less than seven 'Imminent Dangers' each of which meant I had to run down 3 flights of stairs and into the basement shelter every time, still in these shoes that were far too small. By the end of the day my feet were killing me!

Fortunately I was prepared for this sort of thing and always had a fiver safety-pinned into my vest, so I rushed out and bought a pair of shoes.

We were never allowed back to live in the Warwick Road flat because of the Oil Bombs which had gone off that afternoon. I was allowed back to get a few things.

Mary Langley
Royal Leamington Spa
April 1995

Mary has written other stories about this period :


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