Family Letter kindly contributed by Vicki Rogers
Dear Uncle Ted and Cousin, Hec, Beryl and Children
This is a hurried note to say that we are all O.K. after the worst night London has had. We have been through some very trying experiences indeed and, but for miracles, might not have been here to tell the tale. We though the heavens had burst when our gunners caught in mid-air a bomber lowing a 1,000 lb. landmine. I saw the red glare for a second or two. The machine and crew were, of course, blown to smitherines [sic]. Another night to my horror I heard a landmine leave a plane before the parachute opened. I tried hard to think that I was wrong, but the morning disclosed the fact that one had been dropped at Cuffley* and one at Botany Bay**. Had the one at Potters Bar not been caught in mid-air we should surely have gone up instead. The house with the ducks in B.L.L. had one in the duck-pond, which wrecked the house, but did not kill the old lady and gentleman. The Avenue had one, a bungalow in Clive Close near the boys bungalow had one & Baker Street; Stagg Hill is covered with bomb craters both on & off the [crest?]. We pray for them to fall in the fields, and so far our prayers have been answered. Siddie had an Oil bomb just over the fence in the park – another few years and it would have been his. Our poor old houses are shken [sic] to pieces with gunfire – we just dread the guns going off. We have all shapes and sizes, but the naval guns nearly bring the bricks down and the doors off. Well, we are sticking it. The London people are grand. They just make the best of all their trials. It is not an uncommon sight to see nailed across a windowless shop “BLAST!” almost as soon as the bomb has dropped, or boards with a notice “OPEN” where the windows should be and next door a notice “More So!” – no windows at all!
We smile and feel grateful when we see buses of all hues plying to help us to and from business – some Hull Corporation “The Pier” or “The Fishmarket” – Glasgow Corporation – Leeds Corporation – Manchester Corporation, etc. It seems we have had help from all quarters. The drone of planes very low over the housetops and terrific gunfire was our lot for twelve hours, but everyone turned up this morning, tired but determined to find the windows blown in owing to a bomb on the hotel opposite, debris all over the place, telephone and lights out of order, but repair work starts immediately and soon only the scars remain – it is the deathroll which hurts, and those we know to be very high.
I had to ask the girls the other day whether they would volunteer to be evacuated and not one would, the reply invariably was “No thanks, not after what we have been through – we’ll see the job to the end now”. We heard one coming down during business a few days ago and to our utter amazement we instinctively flew under our desks – I felt ashamed – I had not moved so quickly in my life – it fell on the opposite bank of the river. Winnie had a similar experience and dived under her desk, but she had it drop outside her building. Some of her girls were rooted to the spot and just waited – we all act differently.
Well I have written identical letters to you both to save time.
We shall have no Christmas this year, but continue at our work, trusting and praying that some means will be found soon to combat night bombing. We just live a day at a time now – we thank God for another day and for another night. We often think of you, and hope that you think of us. The Londoners will never give in, come what may – we feel that our luck has changed and that Victory is not far off, only we’ll stick it out. Men just hate it. They often say they would rather have two years of the life they experienced in the last war, than a week of this. We are so helpless – we can do nothing but sit, or lie on the floor, and wait for the devils to drop on us. Grandpa and Grandma are jolly good and stick it like young ‘uns. Grandpa just stays upstairs and creeps down when it gets too hot. The majority of people have not seen a bed for months. Pat and I continue to lie under the dining room table on a mattress. Pat sleeps though a great deal, even when two bombs dropped last night, half woke and had no recollection of it next morning. What it is to be young!! My imagination is too vivid for me these days!
Well, we shall be so pleased to hear from you all, and meantime send you all our best love.
18th Novr. Must tell you this – we had a fairly quiet night last night till 3. a.m. then the guns started hell for leather and my Patricia complained this morning that it was too quiet for her she could not sleep well – she must have more gun-fire!!! It is very funny though, we all get very nervous again after a quiet night. We can stand several bad night together much better than having a quiet one in between – we have to be broken in again. It is absolutely astonishing what we sleep through.
Sometimes the devils drone over us for about 15 minutes, preparatory to lowing a 1,000 lb landmine, and while we lay in fear of our lives we drop off to sleep. Our Research people here had an emptied German 500 lb bomb case and I tried to lift it and could not. When you think that we drop these on each other in the dead of night – it makes one feel sick. They cross right over us (called the Dornier ‘Bus route’ single file for twelve hours on end. Grey hairs and aged looks are not in it, but that is modern warfare and what Mr. Chamberlain tried so hard to save us from. However, now its come its got to be borne – there’l [sic] be no giving in to people like Hitler.
Best love to you all
* Cuffley is a village in the Welwyn Hatfield district of south-east Hertfordshire located between Cheshunt and Potters Bar.
**Botany Bay is the northernmost of seven bays in Broadstairs, Kent on the south-east coast of England.
This family letter was contributed to Remembering the Past Australia by Vicki Rogers. Please contact this site to seek permission if you wish to re-use this material.