Tanks, the British army and American soldiers
My school, Silver Street Juniors,
was in Silver Street, Edmonton, which in those days of WW2 was the A 406, The North
Circular Road. It was the main road around north London and the main route from
the northern Home Counties to the London docks and Dover. On some days during
1944 there would be convoys of army lorries passing the school when we went
in during the morning and they continuing all day. At lunchtime we would spill
out onto the pavement, cheering, clapping and shouting (to the trucks with white
stars on them), "Got any Gum, Chum?". Sometimes stick packs of American chewing
gum would be thrown to us - rare plunder, especially for the older boys!
Shrapnel. photographed in Brooklands Museum.
Another prize was collecting shrapnel - splinters of shell or bomb fragments.
A piece passed through our roof at home while we were
on holiday in 1943 and then through the landing ceiling, and to a small boy
it looked huge. It was probably about 8 inches long.
Collecting chaff, nicknamed 'window'
Also there was 'chaff', nicknamed 'window'. This was black paper or cotton tape about half an inch wide with two metal strips,
one along each edge. I don't know the origin of the name. It was scattered by
bombers to confuse the ground radar and caused the radar screen to look like
snow rather than giving a clear blip. It probably also gave a false indication
of the aircraft height as it fell. It was a much prized find and very valuable
in exchange and bartering!
I had plenty of experience of the blitz, cycling to and from Cheam to my school in Ashtead.
As soon as my friends and I saw a plane come down,
we cycled off towards it - but by the time we reached the crash site, the Home Guard were usually there to keep us all at bay.
If the wreck was unguarded, though, the description of piranha at a joint of beef comes to mind.
Crashed Nazi plane, a screen shot from a film, so possibly a mock-up.
Sadly we were not fussy which country the plane came from, although there was greater value to
shrapnel and other souvenirs from a Nazi plane.
How could we children be so heartless and uncaring?
It is quite shameful. But we did care, most deeply, as many of us had
our fathers, brothers, sister, and even some mothers away in the war -
and fortunately, in my experience, the pilots always managed to parachute from the planes before they crashed.
As 'Winnie' [Winston Churchill] said, "Never was so much owed by so many to so few".
Playing on the bomb sites
The bomb sites were children's
playgrounds. We children would find all manner of things in the rubble from
toy soldiers to knives. Bulbs and other plants would appear in the Spring,
which were collected and taken home to parents' gardens. Then, later in
the year there would be apples and other fruits for the taking.
My family used to live in Alpha Road, Edmonton, which is off Fore
Street. The cottages opposite had been pulled down for a large tower block called High Mead (now,
in 2012, itself awaiting demolition), and my sisters and I, along with all the other kids in the street used to play on the site. One day we found a large object which we sat on and banged on, using it as a drum, In a moment, we were being dragged indoors after a man passing started shouting that it was an unexploded
World War Twp bomb. It was! A bomb disposal squad arrived and took it away.
This was as late as the 1960s! Apparently it was in the local paper, The Weekly Herald.
Pauline Bradford(formerly Pauline Mcginlay)
knowing about the seamier side
There was also the seamier side of life, which I was not supposed to know
about, but couldn't help noticing or overhearing. One of our neighbours had
a sister who came to live with her for a time. There were American soldiers
stationed nearby, and the sister stayed out late, spoke with a drawl, had lots
of cigarettes, and an endless supply of stockings. It was the talk of the neighbourhood!
This website Join me in the 1900s is also known as
Join me in the 1900's.