Wartime Memories Of Lewisham And New Cross - a Memory of Lewisham.
My mother, then called Billie Gwilliam, was living in New Cross in South London with her parents Bill and Connie Gwilliam during the Blitz of the Second World War, and has many memories of what it was like to be a young child living through this terrifying time.
‘I remember a group of us coming up the hill from our school, which was at the bottom of the road, and the air-raid siren going. Before we could get home a German plane flew low overhead, and the pilot machine-gunned us - we could even see him laughing. One of the bigger boys had the presence of mind to push us down some basement steps, where we cowered until it got quiet. My distraught mother had heard the siren and seen us being fired on. She chased down the road to us but lost sight of us when we ran down the steps, and she thought we were dead! When we popped up from the basement she burst into tears of relief.
My father worked by day as an army vehicle maintenance instructor at Lewisham Technical College and at night on voluntary fire-watching duties; he had to spend part of the night posted on high buildings, such as the top of church towers, looking out for fires caused by incendiary bombs, which he would fight with a stirrup-pump to prevent them spreading. The bombing was so bad in 1940 that the sky was blood red with the reflection of so many fires. We had an Anderson shelter in the garden where we went when the siren sounded, and we stayed there until we heard the ‘All Clear’. One morning, after a particularly noisy night, we emerged to find the back of our house had been badly damaged by incendiary fire, and all my mother’s kitchen saucepans, plates and so on had been ransacked by looters – and also many of my toys! It was strange to see houses with baths, doors and hanging curtains flapping in the space where adjoining homes had been hit."
Contributed by Julia Skinner on behalf of her mother, now Billie Willcocks
A memory shared by on Nov 2nd, 2012. Send Julia Skinner a message
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