Compiled by Lorna Chudasama
Extract from the story told by Lorna Chudasama (now Wilkinson)
in Volume 1 of Common Folk.
In 1944 the occupants of 144 Eglinton Road were Margaret Anderson
Wilson, her son-in-law Vic Hinds, her three youngest daughters,
Winnie Hind (nee Wilson), Leonora Riches (nee Wilson) and Nancy
Wilson. Also in the house were her infant grandchildren, Lorna
Riches aged 3 and Jack Riches Jnr aged 3 months. The under mentioned
extract is a child’s memory. The destruction in the early
hours of 1st November was caused by a V2 rocket (not a doodle
bug) that fell that night in Eglinton Road..
“Our home at 144 Eglinton Road was destroyed by a doodle
bug late one night in October 1944. I woke up to a loud rumbling
and crashing sound. I was coughing and struggling to get my
breath. There was thick dust and debris. My brother was only
a few weeks old, something had fallen across his cot but fortunately
not on him. I was barely three and remember being carried outside
by a fireman. I kept asking what has happened to my Nana’s
house. The gas main was alight and there was a lot of activity.
The fireman holding me was handed a tin mug of tea from which
I took several sips before being placed in an ambulance with
my mother and brother. The ambulance was driven by a woman who
took us to a hospital. My ears were syringed and my brothers
eyes were bathed. His eyelids were swollen. We were relatively
unscathed and discharged a few hours later. We were taken to
a Rest Centre where we spent a couple of nights. The Rest Centre
was at Slade School. Here the Salvation Army gave us soup and
distributed items from parcels sent from America. We were given
scented soap and talcum powder as well as clothing and bedding.
The clothing was new and my baby brother had a beautiful blue
knitted suit. My grandmother joined us at the Rest Centre and
was given several beautiful sewn quilts which had tickets on
them indicating they were gifts from the Ladies Guild of Ohio.
My grandmother had not been at home when it was hit, she had
gone as usual to the shelter where she slept each night. I had
been repeatedly asking what happened to my Nana’s house
but no one told me until at last my grandmother said it had
been knocked down by the apples and pears. Strangely enough,
that explanation satisfied me for a few years”.
Extract From Mike Hume’s email to Lorna Wilkinson dated
20th August 2009.
My wife Chris & I were just amazed to read about your family
history on Colin's web site, and discover that you and your
family lived just two doors away from my family who lived at
140 Eglinton Road during the war years.
It was so interesting to read about your life history, and
that of your family.
Sadly my Mum, Dad, Grandmother, Brother & Aunt were all
killed when the rocket struck at about 2 am on 1st Nov. 1944.
My older sister Mary & brother Geoffrey & I had been
evacuated to Devon a few months previously, I was 5 years old
at the time.
After the war, we returned to Plumstead to live with an elderly
Aunt & Uncle at 67 Vernon Road, and after attending Plum
Lane School, I then attended Conway Rd. School where having
passed the 11+ I then went to St. Olave's & St. Saviour's
Grammar School in London.
Sadly the trauma of the loss of my family blanked out most
of my childhood memories, and my Aunt never talked about our
family or any of the circumstances of that fateful day on 1st
of Nov. 1944.
Following the death of my Aunt in 1951, I was put into the
care of the LCC, and lived with a number of families. After
leaving school I joined the Merchant Navy & then
We would love to hear from you & your mother, and wonder
whether she may remember my family at all. The picture you posted
on Colin's Web site sitting on the front steps of No. 144 Eglinton
Rd. brought the memories flooding back as I do remember similar
entrance steps at No. 140.
Interestingly we have a copy of the Polling District Returns
for the Herbert Road Ward, area of Plumstead dated 1938/39,
which shows the people eligible to vote at No. 144 as :
Margaret Anderson Wilson.
Dennis Ingram White.
Lawrence Alan White.
My family were not living there at that time as I believe
they were living at 83 Barnfield Road, having previously
been bombed out of their home at No. 4 Brookhill Row. We believe
they may have possibly moved into No. 140 Eglinton Road in 1941/2.
Extract from a letter Nancy Martindale nee Wilson wrote to
Lorna Wilkinson 26 August 2009 regarding the rocket attack 1
The only people I remember from Eglinton Road were the elderly
couple next door who had Winnie and I rocking with laughter
as they walked from the basement of their bombed house wearing
long white nightgowns complete with a tasselled hat –
something out of a Dickens character!! We were told off by the
Home Guard for laughing.
I personally with never forget that rocket. I woke up to a
bright light (I still slept in the back bedroom) and then I
was hit by bricks falling all over me which stopped after a
while. I tried to get out of bed but something was stopping
me. I eventually crawled out to discover it was the bath from
upstairs suspended on wires across my bed. I then discovered
all the walls to my room had disappear together with my wardrobe
and sink. I called out to Nora (Leonora ) down the stairs who
said you were all okay. Obviously I was in the garden and heard
Mother and Winnie calling my name (they had come from the shelter)
but because of the thick smoke had lost their way. We eventually
caught up with each other and as you know were taken to Slade
School where we were allocated bunks.
The next morning we were interviewed and given coupons for
a few clothes as we were still in our night clothes (or rather
I was!). How much mother was compensated I do not know –
after all she lost an awful lot.
After that we were offered accommodation in North London where
there was no bombing, but neither mum or Win would accept and
wanted to stick to what they knew, so we went to 74 Shrewsbury
Lane. Win didn’t, I never saw Win again until after the
Mum and I went to 74 and the first night we were there a bomb
fell across the road and took all our windows out. That finished
mother and she never slept at 74 again until the war ended.
(Mum went to the Town Hall catacombs) I slept in the cupboard
under the stairs for the remainder of the War.
Unfortunately I had to have lumps removed from my breast as
a result of the bricks hitting me. When I came out of hospital
I went to the catacombs under the Town Hall with mother but
only stayed two nights. The smell was overpowering – hundreds
of human bodies crammed in a small space. The office was very
good and gave me indefinite leave.
Incidentally the stay in the hospital was a nightmare. The
warnings kept going and the walking wounded had to make their
way to the basement. How the Surgeons coped with all that happening
I do not know and what the Nurses did with the seriously ill
I do not know but they all deserved medals. Counselling was
unheard of then - we all coped.
I hope I haven’t bored you, but my intake of the war
is different to anybody else because I was the only one in the
family on my own until the end of the War. Also, no one else
was buried by bricks like I was. Alan* did go back with me to
Eglinton Road as I had left some dance shoes under the bed.
When I saw in daylight what was left of the house, especially
my room, I realized how lucky I was to be alive. Soon after
that Lyn came back from the War in Burma and thereby hangs another
*A half brother Alan White in a reserved occupation lived close
Following receipt of Nancy’s letter a discussion took
place on 30 October 2009 between Leonora Riches nee Wilson and
Lorna Wilkinson nee Riches. regarding the night the rockets
fell resulting in a tragic loss of life and widespread destruction.
Leonora (known to her family as Nora) related her story as follows:-
As usual Mum and Winnie left for the air raid shelter. Vic
was home on leave but that night (31 October – 1 November
1944) was attending an engagement party a few doors across the
road. The engagement was between Sam Pearce and Enid. Sam Pearce
was a long time friend of Vic’s. They had been schoolhood
friends. I settled Lorna and baby Jack down to sleep and went
to bed myself – fully clothed as was usual during those
very disturbing times. A few hours later I awoke hearing a loud
crashing noise, bricks and plaster falling around me. The room
appeared to be lit up by flames, the air was thick with smoke.
The baby was crying but appeared unhurt and Lorna answered me
when I called her. I called out to Nancy who slept upstairs.
Nancy answered she was alright and asked if we were okay. We
were helped outside and waited to be taken to hospital.
We were checked over at the hospital and then taken to Slade
School where we were given soup and bedding. Winnie and Mum
joined us. Winnie said the neighbouring houses and some of those
across the road had been destroyed including the one where the
engagement party was being held. Vic was unhurt and had come
looking for Win. His friend, Sam Pearce had been killed. In
the house next door to the party, a man and his baby had been
killed. The mother had survived.
We must have been at the Slade School for a week. Jack who
was in France was to be given compassionate leave but it was
some time before he was located and returned to Woolwich. Jack
said he was horrified at the devastation and couldn’t
believe anyone could have escaped alive. He leaned on a wall
and smoked a cigarette to steady his nerves when a man approached
and told him all the survivors had been taken to the Slade School.
We later learned our neighbours, an older couple with two sons
by the name of Stutts had survived but an entire family a few
doors away (at 140) had perished.
Accompanied by Jack we travelled to his parents home in Gosport
and stayed with them a few weeks until a married quarter was
made available to us. My sister Margaret Powley had been widowed.
Stan had been killed in France. Margaret and Judith stayed with
us for a few weeks before leaving to join Mum and Nancy in Plumstead.