War Memories

By D. Timms

I was 6½ years old when my home was bombed during a very bad raid over Birmingham. Mother always said that it was during the night of the longest raid over the city, but there might be a little doubt on this date, anyway it was at the end of November/early December 1940.

My sister and I had not been taken to the air raid shelter on that particular night as we were both suffering from whooping cough and mother did not want us in the night air. However, the raid worsened and she became increasingly uneasy. Just about 8.30 she heard a man’s voice, “Madge, take those children to the shelter NOW!” Mother thought it was our father; he was an ARP, who would call in when he was patrolling the road. After investigating, no one else was found in the house, but we were wrapped up warm and taken to the shelter.

Towards 9.30 Dad, come back to the house with Jack James, his partner that night. They had come to the shelter to check if we were alright, but Mr James became uneasy by the force of the raid and checked to see if his wife was safe in the shelter. He had got in the right of way when a gun, which was located on the Tennal School playing field, together with a barrage balloon, hit a plane. Four bombs dropped, one on Brunner’s sweet shop, killing Mrs Brunner and her son who were in the shelter, the second at the back of our house on the allotments, the third bomb dropped directly on our house leaving a 30 foot crater, the final one fell on the grass verge in front of our house.

I can remember the woman in the shelter, next door, screaming and also recall the terrible smell of gas, however, we were all remarkably calm in our shelter. I expect our parents knew what had happened but tried to protect us. The next thing I knew was a fireman coming through the door with an axe and carried my sister and I out. Quite a time must have elapsed between getting us out of the shelter and the bomb hitting the house because there were such a lot of people about, the doctor, the vicar and some boys from Tennal School who had been escorted up by a master to see if they could help.

Everyone was so kind, there was a Rest Centre at Woodhouse Road School and we were asked to go there, but my mother refused. However, a neighbour took us in for a week or two until we could be sorted out. Clothes, curtains etc. were strung about the trees but virtually nothing remained of our lovely home. All we had were the clothes we stood up in. Dad rang his works the next morning and said he couldn’t- come in as he had to find accommodation and clothes for us, but he was actually asked if he could get in by lunchtime! (I never knew what my father’s reply was).

Mr Salt, a gentleman from St Faith’s church, who had a car (almost unknown in those days) took my sister and I down to Harper’s in Albany Road, Harborne and told Miss Harper to clothe us in whatever we needed. Such a Christian and kind gentlemen, who I have never forgotten. Mr Salt had a surgical appliance shop in Broad Street.

Dad also caught a man sorting through the debris, when he was challenged he claimed to be one of the helpers, but when searched my mother’s engagement ring, which had somehow survived, was found in his pocket.

I never discovered what happened to him but to steal from us when we had nothing left, was a bit sad to say the least. Everyone else was good to us, a lady in Fitzroy Avenue gave us a Christmas tree, another lady from Wolverhampton Road South gave us the trimmings and the Baptist Church in Harborne sent us a children’s tea service to play with. I remember it had red handles.

Later on, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham gave a party for the children of the City who had been bombed or those whose fathers were prisoners of war. I thought it was very grand and we came away with a large bag of sweets, so I thought it was almost worth it.

©QLHS 2001 - D. Timms

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