Anne, Carol and the Doodlebugs

Interview with   Anne and Carol

 

Anne:   We lived in Montalt Road Woodford Green, which backed onto Highams Park and we had a wonderful childhood because we had the freedom of roaming around Highams Park.  In 1947 they built prefabs at the back of us, obviously to house people that had been bombed out in the East End.  They remained until about 1955 and then they were knocked down and it reverted back to park land.

I went to the Catholic school, part of St Mary’s convent, it was called St Theresa’s.   Then I was evacuated to Dumfries during the first part of the war.

Deborah: How old were you when you were evacuated? 

I must have been about 3 or 4.  I came back before the war ended.  I went back to school and I always remember there was an air raid and bombs were coming over and there was an air raid warning and we were told to go and stand in the chapel so if we were killed at least we were in the right place.  I remember thinking at least we got some time off school, out of class.  My most striking memory though is that my mother and I were going round from our home to Fairlawn Drive, to my aunt’s and my mother hadn’t heard the air raid warning.  We were outside the post office when this doodlebug, I can see it today, came over.  It was above, I think they called it, the Congregational Church.  My mother threw me down on the grass and covered me with her body and all the bricks were coming off the post office.  Then it stopped and she stood up and said “We’ve got to go home” and another one came over and she did the same thing again.  We weren’t hurt at all but I wouldn’t move and she said “We’re going to the air raid shelter” which was by the pond.  We went into there but I still wouldn’t come out so she said “If I promise to buy you some Horlicks tablets will you come home?”  So I said “Oh all right then”.

So Carol, tell me about Woodford at the time of the doodlebug raid.   

Well the butchers’ was Chapman’s, an old established family business.  Next door to them was Burrell’s, which was a newsagents, cum sweetshop cum general factotum.  Then next door to them was Mavis, the hairdressers.  There was a gentleman’s section and then there was a ladies’ department.  My mother was in there, when about 1944?…..

Anne:   Yes probably.

Carol:   … when you (Anne) were outside the post office was  when that doodlebug came down.  I could tell you the exact date of that at home I’ve got a book.  My mother had been in the women’s hospital in Clapham, she’d had a hysterectomy, which was three major operations in those days.

My mother had her hair permed.  Margaret (Anne) was down the road outside the post office.  After Mavis the hairdresser there was a fishmonger, then after that on the corner there was Chalkley’s the bakers.

What happened?

 Anne (to Carol):  Well you were there when it came down weren’t you?

Carol:  Well yes there was a bang wasn’t there ?  Margaret (Anne) was outside the post office and we just carried on, you know, one did, it was a regular occurrence.

Was it a regular occurrence? 

Carol:  Well yes what happened was …….

Anne:  They were new though those doodlebugs weren’t they?

Carol:  Yes, what they were doing was  coming across from Germany and obviously one of the doodle bugs  hit the church ?  Well the other pilots  must have been on the same arc because within minutes,  they came over again and they dropped another doodlebug hitting the church which had to be demolished.  I think the German pilots were making their way to the xylonite works in Highams Park, that’s where it was all happening.  But they dropped 2 or 3 bombs in Woodford that day.

Carol:  Something else rather extraordinary  happened during that time, my husband’s family at that stage lived in Manor Road in Chigwell.   One of their friends a  Mr Smith came home that night to his wife in Chigwell, “Oh he said I feel tired tonight” or something like that.  She said  ” I can’t help that Percy we’ve got to go to Hadham.”  They were living in Much Hadham in Hertfordshire at the time, they had a rented apartment and she said “The chickens want feeding”.   So poor Mr Smith had to get in the car and drive to Much Hadham in the dark    The thing was, a doodlebug came down in the night and landed on their bed, which they would have been sleeping in if they had stayed there that night and a tree was blown up in their garden and went up and down through the roof of the next door neighbour’s house and the neighbour came to Mr Smith and said “The tree in your garden has gone through my roof and landed on my bed!”

He wasn’t worried about the bombing?

Carol:  Oh no,  You know  that’s the way it was.  The house in Chigwell is still standing.  It’s not called Redcroft anymore it’s Called Redcroft Manor.

Oh very nice too.

Carol:  Well it is very posh.

Anne:  That’s the most vivid memory of the war, and also walking across to school, because I used to walk across the golf course, there used to be balloons on what was parallel to Chingford Lane, to stop the planes landing.  That’s all I can remember about the war really.

 As I told you, I think we only went once, to the Memorial Hall, going down for the lunch where they served Pom Potato.   I was speaking to my sister in Germany and she said “Do you remember we only went once because it was so awful?” and I said “Yes I do remember”.  The food was terrible.

Deborah: And this was a British restaurant that they opened?

 Yes.   We were very fortunate because we had a large garden with loads of fruit trees and I remember my mother, she dug up all her best flower beds because we were told to put in potatoes and things.  We’d got all our fruit and everything else but she tried to put these potatoes in but they never grew so that was a waste of time.  I also remember you had to collect metal things, she did some of that. We  had an Anderson shelter and we were all issued with a gas mask, not that we ever had to use them.

How did you find school, because you’re the only person I’ve come across so far who went to a different school to Churchfields.  How did you find school?  It was a convent school wasn’t it?

It was a Catholic school.  I wasn’t a Catholic but my cousin, who I was very close to, she was a Catholic.  It was a very nice school to go to.

They weren’t very strict?

Oh it was very strict.

What about your Mum and Dad had they always lived in Woodford?

 Yes, well my father had come down originally from Drumfries.  My mother lived in the East End, from Hackney.  I can tell you something about her, she was the first ever secretary at Barclays Bank.  Her account number, right up until we went digital was all the zeros and 3.  She’s the one that used to work for one of the Pankhursts.

She went on to work as a secretary in the bank after she worked for them? You think it’s Christabel don’t you?

I really don’t know.  I should’ve written all this down but I didn’t.

But she did work for one of the Pankhursts?  I think that’s an amazing history.   Can I ask you one more question.  As a young woman you would have been on the cusp of the sixties just before you got married.  I know you lived in Woodford but were you involved in any way ,shape or form in the heyday of the sixties? 

No, not really, I mean when I left school I went to Waltham Forest College, the one at Walthamstow and did a secretarial course.  Then I worked up at Schweppes at Marble Arch.  I can remember wearing, in the late 50s and early sixties I suppose, those very short straight down skirts and the big petticoats and those sorts of things, like Mary Quant.

So you followed the fashion?

Yes I did to a certain extent.

Thank you for sharing your memories with me.

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