Posts Tagged 'air-raid'

Boyhood recalled

A nostalgia piece today – something I wrote to try and re-create the feelings of a nine-year-old boy during the Blitz. Just history to many, but very real to those of us who lived through it.

From my bedroom window (1941)
There was a raid last night. As soon as the siren started to wail, Dad called out: “Come on, children – downstairs!” I put on my dressing gown, without turning on the light, and peep out between the bedroom curtains. Searchlights are fingering the sky. I hurry downstairs, with my sister Joan close behind.
The bed on the larder floor is already made up. Joan and I snuggle under the eiderdown – like sardines, with our heads at opposite ends. Dad says this is the best place for us, because the larder window has no glass (it’s made of that metal with little holes in it) and the ceiling is the smallest in the house, if it should fall.
Mum and Dad have a sort of mattress thing under the kitchen table. Dad keeps his special air-raid tray close by. It has a torch, in case all the lights go out; a candle and some matches, in case the torch doesn’t work; four corks, for us to bite on so that we don’t bite our tongues off when the bangs come; four little brown envelopes with our ear-plugs in, so that our ear-drums won’t burst; and a little bottle of brandy – “just in case”, says Dad. Mum says he’s a very methodical man.
Soon we hear the throbbing of the bombers overhead. Some of the boys at school reckon they can tell the difference between a Junkers and a Dornier. I just pretend that I can. Now there comes the crack of ack-ack guns, and the deeper crump of distant bombs. When the raids first started Joan and I thought it was all rather exciting, but now we just want it to be over so that we can go back to sleep.
Eventually the all-clear sounds and, after a bit, Dad says: “Well, I think that’s it for tonight. Might as well all get back to bed.” We trail upstairs again, and Dad comes into my bedroom with me. After checking that the door is closed, so that no light would show, he opens the curtains and we look across the Downs to the north. There is a reddish glow in the sky. “Looks like the City caught it again,” says Dad. “Right, lad – back to bed!”
Now it’s morning, the sun is shining and I’m looking out across the back garden. I hardly notice the barrage balloons hovering in the distance. My thoughts are all on the big walnut tree that stands in the corner of the lawn. Its trunk forks near the ground. I’ve been climbing the right-hand side for ages; I know every branch and twig. But the left-hand trunk is different: it’s smooth and bare for several feet and quite unclimbable. The only way to get into that side of the tree is to leap, like Tarzan, from a crotch on the other side, catch hold of a horizontal branch and swing yourself up so that you can hook your legs over. I’ve been thinking about this for days. I wonder if, today, I’ll have the courage to do it…..


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