A child's memory of the war from Leicester Forest East.

    I was four years old at the time of the main raid (November 19th 1940) but I do remember the bombs falling with a sound like thunder in the middle distance. I do have a memory of sheltering with my mother and younger sister, plus a London evacuee called Alan and his grandmother in the space under the stairs of our house, which was a detached house at the end of Kirloe Avenue, a cul-de-sac opposite the 'Red Cow' pub in Leicester Forest East. At some point in the night my father appeared having walked from Leicester where he had been fire watching at, I think, the Gateway School. It seems that he was told, at a Home guard checkpoint somewhere on the Hinckley Road, that Kirby Muxloe had been badly hit. It was the village itself that had been bombed - not Leicester Forest East. I recall that there was much consternation in the town when the Freeman Hardy & Willis factory (Rutland Street), was bombed. It was a major employer in Leicester. Conversely, there was satisfaction that the Lockheed Aero Factory works (Narborough Road South) - that was really of military importance - escaped unscathed. We had both a Morrison and an Anderson shelter later on in the war. One was a steel cage that was placed in the house and the other was a corrugated iron soil/concrete bunker housed at the bottom of the garden.

    The Anderson shelter must have somewhat resembled the dugouts that my father would have experienced during the first world war, on the western front. He had served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion of the Leicester Regiment. He was wounded at Polygon Wood, near Ypres, in October 1917 on the same day as Colonel Philip Bent won the VC with a counter attack. That probably saved my father's life as it was then made possible to get the wounded out - Colonel Bent was killed.

    Back in the Second World War, I recall visiting Coventry some weeks after the big raid of November 14th 1940 and looked at the shattered factories - some with machinery still running or at least still in place. We still had Saturday afternoon family outings to Nottingham, Derby or Coventry. The Coventry buses continued to run, past the 'Red Cow' pub. Life was very normal during the war in some ways, at least it was for a well looked after child. However, occasionally we were told quietly in school that some other child's father had been reported missing or killed in action. A remote cousin whose parents lived next door to my grandparents in Holt Road, Birstall, was a Typhoon pilot, and was shot down over France not long after D-Day. As I recall, he was found by the French Resistance before German's got him and he was returned to the allied lines. His name was Clifford Pole. If he is still alive, and I've not got the story straight, I apologize - but we were all impressed at the time!

    During the war an Italian prisoner was billeted at a nearby farm, 'Boyers Lodge'. He used to take us to school in the farm cart, along with the farm kids: Johnson and Hobill. We also got to know some airmen from RAF Desford, some of them were regular visitors to the area. Much later in the war I remember sitting on the kerb on the main road watching the armoured columns rolling south in preparation for D-Day.

    On V.E. Day, we burned an effigy of Hitler in Kirloe Avenue. On V.J. Day we did the same to Hirohito on the prom in Skegness, Lincolnshire (our Leicester-on-Sea). The emperor survived the experience.

By N. Agar

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