Alan Stanley

  1937 -
  City of Birth:
Romford. Essex. Great Britain.

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Alan's Story > Chapters > 5. Alan's War. Five.

"Alan's War. Five." 


Date Range: 01/01/1940 To 05/08/1945   Comments: 2   Views: 6,645
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The blast smashed it's way across the gardens to the north of where we crouched in our shelter in the ground in the garden of our house in Carlton Road, Romford in the county of Essex, flattening fences, including ours, and removing windows and roofs, including ours. We felt the impact and sensed the vacuum as the air screamed past the below ground entrance to our shelter. Dust and debris rattled against the corrugated iron blast wall, and brick pieces and tiles fell to the trampled earth in the doorway.
"My God!"
My dad got up off of the bottom bunk bed where he had been lying trying to write his diary by the light of a flickering pariffin lamp, which the blast had snuffed out. He turned on a torch and relit it with the third match, then picked it up and turned for the doorway.
"Where do you think that you are going?"
My mother spoke from the other bunk bed on the opposite wall of the shelter.
The floor space was about ten feet by six feet. With a home made bunk bed on either side that only left about eighteen inches for the center aisle. I lay in the bed over the top of dad's and my brother Christopher was in the bed over mum's. He was still asleep. I would have said from mum trying to get him up in the morning that it would take a bomb to wake him up but that was now obviously not the case.
"I was going to go see if the house was hit" Dad replied, sitting back down on the edge of the bed. I knew that the blast had come from behind us in Stanley Avenue, but I stayed silent.
"And if it was, what then? What would you be able to do in the dark except possibly get your head blown off."
"People must be injured."
"Yes, I'm sure and as soon as the 'All Clear' sounds we will be the first out there trying to see if we can help but there are still Wardens who will do their job and who I am sure are already on their way and until we hear the siren, we will wait."
She was right of course, but mum's usually are, have you noticed?  Evan at that tender age I had already, although it was not a thing that one would admit and anyway in the distance we could hear the bells of the fire engine coming up the road.
We had come down when the siren had started wailing, just as it started to get dark. The bombers usually came over earlier, but this one was later for some reason that we would never know. We were not supposed to show lights, but as we carried our blankets down the garden we saw that there were lights on everywhere. We were able to get from the Council a roll of black painted paper that we could fix over the windows to stop the lights shining through, and most houses had put it over the windows, but when nothing very much happened after the war started, the paper got torn or in some cases even taken down.
We had been down for only a short time when the bomb; the papers described it as the first 'Landmine' dropped on London, made the crater behind us.We wer not actually London even, being a good fifteen miles from the outskirts.
We were in an 'Anderson Shelter' waiting for the 'All Clear' to sound. Dad said that it would be soon, but we knew that he was only saying that for something to say, as the day before we had been down there all night and most of the morning.
The iron shelter, in about twelve pieces, had been delivered to our house by the Council about nine months before. A builders merchant from South Street, delivered a heap of shingle and sand and some bags of cement and some bags for sand, which I think dad had paid for but you had to do the rest. Dropped it right in the middle of the entry. Saw my dad muttering but could not hear what he said.
Dad and Mr Witham, the man who lived next door, dug a hole in the ground at the end of the garden about twelve feet long by nine feet wide. The soil was very sandy once you got down past the first foot, which was lucky for us as the hole did not fill up with water as happened to some people. Still took the two of them three weekends, with more breaks than work to dig down about four feet. There was an empty piece of land at the end of our garden with a row of about twelve or thirteen elm trees growing down the center. It was triangular shaped and was enclosed by the back garden fences of three roads; Carlton Road, on which we lived, Stanley Avenue to the left and rear, and Woodfield Drive to the right. They enclosed about a quarter of an acre. All the soil out of the hole went out into the back so that dad's vegetables didn't get buried.
Mr Witham worked in the docks at Dagenham, and always seemed to wear a blue on white striped shirt without a collar, brown shiny work trousers, a wide black leather belt and *bracers. His sleeves were usually rolled up past the elbows and he seemed to wear the same clothing all the time, even on Sunday. On his round pink face he had lumps on either side of his nose and on his chin that I believe were called carbuncles and they had hairs sprouting out of them that matched the ones on his nose. He had hardly any teeth and what were seen were black. He had a few hairs on the top of his head in the center which never moved in a wind because he put something on them that he had got in the docks from India. I think that he was about fifty.
Mrs Witham was a little old lady, I suppose about the same age, who always wore a flowered dress and a 'pinny', and a hairnet over her white hair. She was always smiling but did not talk much, at least not to me and Chris, but always to our mum. I only saw her out in the back garden if she was using the scrubbing board on the sheets she was washing in the tin bath that usually hung from a hook on the fence, or using the mangle before hanging the washing from the line that ran the length of the garden. She did washing for people.
The soil in the hole was allowed to settle for a few weeks, or perhaps dad and Mr Witham were worn out, or that's what my mom said, but it also rained a lot, and then one sunny weekend they erected the corrugated iron sheets and bolted them together and placed them in the pit.
It stood about eight feet high. The left hand side sheets went up straight for about six feet and then bent over at the top to the right. The right sheets worked the same but were bent to the left if the intention was to have the door facing the house, but if the door was to be at the back then the directions could be reversed as long as there was an 'R' in the month. That's what my dad said.
Bolted together at the top, it made a hut that they placed in the pit and fixed on the end pieces and the door blast sheet then mixed up cement and laid a floor inside and what was left over went outside around the base. The next day they barrowed the soil that had come out of the hole to cover the shelter and mound over the top. It made a mound about two feet high. The steps down to the entrance were made from the sand bags and supported the wall on either side.
Finished, dad had to go next door and do the same again for Mr and Mrs Witham, but they were quicker because I don't think that they used the cement.
Now, nine months later, the concrete had hardened and grass covered the mound and wall. Two bikes leaned against wood bunk beds in the shelter that dad had made from scraps of wood that Mr Witham brought home from the docks. A small Union Jack on a stick over the door completed the picture.




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Member Since
Aug 2008
Tamika Anderson said:
posted on Mar 11, 2010

These terrible stories of war timings make me very sad. But I liked that you write them.

Member Since
Feb 2010
Alan Stanley said:
posted on Mar 13, 2010

Hi Tamika. Thank you for your kind words.  I am at the beginning of another book of a girl from Jamaica who goes to England in the 60's and gets to work for Enoch Powell, the 'rivers of blood' politician who recommended repatriating all people of colour. My wife is Jamaican.