Schoolboy's prayers almost answered.

    During the war I think every schoolchild went to bed and pray that they would wake the next morning to find their school had been bombed! I certainly would place myself at the top of this list and my prayer was very nearly answered on the nights of 19th/20th November 1940.

    November 20th 1940.

    The sirens sounded again - after the previous nights raid, fear and apprehension reigned. I remember my mother being called to help a next-door neighbour whose daughter became hysterical. I walked into the hallway to find my father standing in the open doorway to see if there was any immediate danger when suddenly he was blown back into the hallway. We both fell into our back sitting room. Then came the sound of an enormous Boom! I recall that suddenly the house filled with fine mist (this proved to be plaster dust from the ceilings which were all cracked like crazy paving.)

     We regained our feet, and looking through the doorway saw the glow of a fire about a quarter of a mile away over the Crown Hills area, so my father decided to bike over to the scene. He later reported it would appear that a German bomber had crashed on Steels & Busks Engineering factory, with a full bomb load. We now know that it was of course a parachute mine.

     This mine caused widespread damage to the area for almost a mile radius. All properties in surrounding roads, Crown Hills Avenue, Elizabeth Street, Broad Avenue, Copdale Road, Clumber Road, St. Saviours Road, Lang Hill and Coleman Road, suffered damage to various degrees. Almost every house in the immediate area had roofs lifted six inches out of line, chimneys damaged, tiles and slates blown off. Front doors were found halfway up stairways and many hundreds of houses had all windows blown in. Even plate glass windows in Uppingham Road (1 mile away) were blown in. (I heard estimates of 700 properties damaged.) Even houses damaged on the previous nights raid, (Saville Street. etc,) which had been temporally boarded up, had these boards blown in again.

     My prayers were partly answered when we turned up at school, (Coleman Road.) to find it had damage to the roof and windows and we were given two days off whilst repairs were undertaken. When we eventually returned to school we found almost sixty pupils were missing. Childhood rumours suggested they had all been killed, but we later found that many of them were evacuees who had returned to London and the rest were pupils whose families had had to move to other districts having been made homeless.

     My prayers were not answered! But I think I can claim "a nod and a wink"?

By T. Cartwright

Hits since 22/8/2001