Recollections of the bombing of Latimer Street, evacuees, German POW’s and the arrival of the Americans.
Having read the story of Mrs D. Brookman, I would like to add the following: I was born in 1938, and have vivid memories of living through the war. My Dad was an ARP warden, so witnessed the aftermath of the bomb dropped on the 14th November 1940 in Latimer Street, where he lived with his wife and 6 children. There were 2 air raid shelters in the street, plus those under the Shaftesbury Road Primary school playground.
I well remember the sirens, and the relief when the "all clear" sounded. With such a large family, it must have been a burden for my Mum to keep traipsing up to the air raid shelter, and we often risked staying indoors, hiding under the bed, with me and my younger brother placed on shelves in a cupboard underneath the stairs. I also remeber the frightening sound of the planes flying overhead at night and my mother comforting us by saying the planes were ours!
Some of our neighbours had cellars, and would go there while the sirens were wailing. I do believe this happened to some of the residents in the houses that were bombed and they were killed. The devastated area became a playground for local children, for the rest of the war.
I remember American tanks arriving and one came up our street. The soldiers were very friendly and threw chocolates and sweets for us children to fight over.
Evacuees were not only sent to the country, Leicester had its fair share of evacuees and I met and played with may of them at school and in the street. Our family was too large to accommodate an evacuee. I do not know how our house accommodated 8 people. There was an evacuee next door to us who was about 13 or 14 called George Gladwish. He told me his dad was in Belgium. At this time I did not really understand what an evacuee was. I thought they came from ‘Evacuee Land’ and was surprised to hear his broad cockney accent!
There was a party in the street to celebrate VJ day. Tables stretched from one end of the street to the other, and were lined with flags and bunting. I had never seen such food and in such quantities, and was sick as a dog agter having gorged myself disgracefully.
On one occasion I walked up to Western Park with a friend to find German POW’s demolishing some buildings. We got talking to them through a fence and they asked us to get them some cigarettes and gave us money. We walked all the way back to a Mrs Beaston who had a shop just round the corner from where we lived, on Hinckley Road and obviously, she refused to serve us! We walked all the way back to Western Park to return the money to the POWs who were very grateful.
The lorry collecting the Land Army girls later was a regular visitor to our street, picking up a girl called Ruth, resplendent in wellies and appropriate attire! They were all always very cheerful.
By J. Richardson