Tuesday, 7 September 2010

70th anniverasry of the London blitz

Looking at Docklands today, with its monstrous corporate buildings and yuppie residences it's hard to imagine it as a teaming industrial and commercial area with dense working class communities - and a battleground where 60,000 were killed.

Like many elderly people my parents are increasingly prone to reminiscing vividly about their childhood. We saw them this weekend - and my daughters' gripes about going back to school for the new term brought on some memories of them being at school during the blitz - and occasionally having  lessons in air raid shelters. 

It's often in the trivia - and humour -  of these reminiscences that the full and shocking gravity of the daily situation that so many  ordinary Londoners faced:

Living at that time in Brockley in South London, the family were right in the bombers' flight path to the  docks. Mum remembers how they found their Anderson shelter damp and claustrophobic so they tended to stay in their house during the raids. But as a river-policeman my granddad had observed that in bombed-out houses the stairs were often left standing -  so my mum was made to sleep in the relative security of the cupboard under the stairs. 

His job meant that, like my firefighter uncle, he would often be on duty in the docks and out in the middle of the bombing - during one raid he would jokingly tell how he  found himself, along with a couple of other burly coppers  taking  instinctive but purely psychological cover when he dived under a flimsy table-tennis table at an aid post.  

Strangely though on the other hand  no family stories have been passed down of the horrors they must have witnessed on a nightly basis...this was the stiff-upper lip generation.

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