Burnt Oak In The Second World War And After

A Memory of Burnt Oak

I moved to Burnt Oak in May 1940, to 84 Fortescue Road. I was 4. My memories are like a batch of video clips, as follows:
Moving in. Removal men trying to get a wardrobe into the front bedroom by hauling it up from the outside.
Workmen deposited a load of bricks and planks on the green outside our house, to build a blast shelter. We kids built a den out of these materials, with loose brick walls and planks for a roof.
Sleeping for a short while on Hampstead tube station platform.
Lying in bed after the sirens went off. First the thud of anti-aircraft guns, then the crump of bombs and the pulsating drone of enemy aircraft.
The German bomber on the patch of waste ground where the library now stands. A notice said "See the Heinkel, 6d". I wanted to see it but Mum said "I'm not paying a tanner for that!".
Coming out of the Savoy cinema one evening during an air raid (we didn't leave when the sirens went as we were not going to let Hitler cheat us out of the money we'd payed to get in). Looking to the south-west we saw that the sky was lit up by lurid shades of red, orange and yellow, with searchlights criss-crossing the sky.
Waking up in our Morrison shelter to cold and daylight streaming in through the glassless window, and Dad saying "Did you hear the bang last night? It was a terrific bang". I'd slept through it. A V1 had hit our school. I went round and saw the houses around the site had been destroyed. A house had collapsed on a Morrison shelter, bending the steel top down to within about a foot of the sleeper. No-one was killed.
The sirens went; we crossed the road, up a neighbour's garden path, through their garden, through a gap in the hedge into Watling Park, and across to a large, square air-raid shelter dug half into the ground, with a concrete roof covered with earth and turf. We descended a ramp, passed through steel doors and entered. The shelter had a central corridor flanked with 3 side corridors, each lined with 2-tier bunks. We stood waiting, chatting. Then someone said "It's coming". I would have been 9 by then, well able to read the papers, and I knew how a doodlebug worked, ie, that it was propelled by a ram-jet engine, guided by a gyroscope and with just enough fuel to get it to London. When the fuel ran out it would go into a steep dive and the warhead would explode on impact. Everyone went quiet and the tension rose. It appeared to be heading straight for us. When it was directly overhead the engine cut out. Dead silence; you could have heard a pin drop. Then a young girl started screaming hysterically; a woman yelled "Shut up, you silly cow" followed by a slap. It was the first time I can remember experiencing real fear; I clung to the steel upright of a bunk with a tightly clenched hand, more frightened than anything else of soiling myself. Suddenly there was a terrific thud, followed by a relieved babble of voices. The V1 had fallen on a patch of ground at the top of Watling Avenue, next to the railway line.
Tanks driving down Burnt Oak Broadway, heading towards London.
VE Day. A feast at a trestle table on the green, followed by a bonfire built half in the road and half on the pavement.
VJ Day. A bonfire in Watling Park, on the old bandstande site.

I went to Goldbeaters School. I remember Mr Howell, Miss Henderson ( a dragon but a brilliant teacher) and Mrs Savage, the dinner supervisor. Her name suited her: she made sure you ate every scrap, and woe betide anyone caught  passing their dinner to another pupil. The food was horrible, especially the stew. It was prepared, I believe, at Hendon Technical College, and by the time it got to us it was half-cold. The smell was disgusting and remains with me to this day: something like extra-rank BO. It was bulked out with pearl barley and I have never since been able to stomach pearl barley.
Some names of friends: Barry Williams, Peter Packer, Ronnie Gurney and Lennie Bridgewater.
Shops: Toni's, Genner's, Ford's, Blacke & Cooke, Lipton's, Pegley's and The London Lending Library ('Borrow a Book and Banish Boredom').

A memory shared by David Brusselen , on Sep 6th, 2009.

Comments & feedback

Fri Feb 13th 2015, at 5:04 am

derbar commented:

hello i am derek smith and lived on argyll gardens,burnt oak,i refused to leave b.oak during the blitz and stayed to the end of the war went to the annunciation school and st davids,mother died in 1947 and dad in 1950,the pootxs took me in and we moved to new malden,living in vancouver will be eighty on feb 14th any one remember me?

Fri Feb 13th 2015, at 5:06 am

derbar commented:

hello i am derek smith and lived on argyll gardens,burnt oak,i refused to leave b.oak during the blitz and stayed to the end of the war went to the annunciation school and st davids,mother died in 1947 and dad in 1950,the poots took me in and we moved to new malden,living in vancouver will be eighty on feb 14th any one remember me?

Thu Sep 15th 2016, at 3:37 am

ccrev commented:

I went to Goldbeaters School and remember Mrs. Savage! I remember her saying "I may be cabbage looking, but I'm not green!" I lived in Silkstream Road and used to go to Goldbeaters when I was a teenager until I was 14, which would have been 1944

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