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