Woolwich & Districts
IN THE 1940s
was aged 7 when the war started and lived with my parents in
Barnfield Road Plumstead. I was attending Bloomfield
Road School and I think my teacher was a Miss Kenny.
Road was a long stretch of road with terraced two storied houses,
streetlights were gas and every evening a man would ride his
bicycle down the road lighting the gas mantle.
first indication of war came just after Christmas 1939. My mother
had taken me shopping in Plumstead High street to grocery shop
called "Perks" (I think) when the air raid sirens
sounded. I remember my mother crying as did a number of other
women. It did not mean much to me at the time.
the end of Barnfield Road there lived the local greengrocer
man. He would make a daily round of the various streets on his
horse and cart selling vegetables. He was I recall a likeable
man and he would let me ride on the cart with him for the last
hundred yards or so of his round. His name was Mr. Alf Maskell.
It was from him that I learned the meaning of war and its implications.
the first months of 1940 a lone German bomber flew low over
the area and dropped a land mine on Barnfield Road. The explosion
destroyed more than a dozen houses killing many people and damaging
many houses that became uninhabitable.
Dad managed to salvage some household furniture but most of
our belongings were lost in the rubble. The AFS (Auxiliary Fire
Service) covered most of the salvaged goods with tarpaulins
for collection later.
you can imagine schools were closed during air raids and children's
education was greatly disrupted.
moved to a house in Burrage Road right next to a Church and
opposite a Petrol Station. A month or so after moving in were
again bombed this time the house caught fire and was destroyed
taking our salvaged furniture from Barnfield Road with it.
we moved to Combeside No 6 a nice new house with a big garden
and a nice ornamental iron fence at the front of the house.
This was later taken by the council along with mothers aluminium
saucepans for the war effort.
this time I was attending Timbercroft
School. My teacher was a Mr Rosewarne and I remember a Mr
and Mrs Stanley and a Miss Nunn.
immediate friends at school were, Douggie Hewlett, Jimmie Crabbe,
George Gray, Billy Benfield and two delightful girls Violet
Bishop and Barbara Potts.
Combeside my friends were Douggie Brown, Arthur Elsdon, Kenny
Tribe, Joan Bowman, Dorothy MacDonald and John Spray whose dad
was the local barber with a shop in Swingate Lane next to the
fish and chip shop
her pamphlet The Ascension, Plumstead from Roman Times, Edith
war broke out in 1939 preparations were made to evacuate the
children, so when raids started these plans were put into practice.
All schools were closed. Timbercroft School became a First Aid
Post in one school, Auxiliary Fire Station in another, the third
was equipped with mattresses to accommodate those folk who were
was about this time that I ran foul of the school authorities.
The roof of Timbercroft School was criss crossed with cat walks
for fire watching and fire control. It was too exciting to resist
and a group of us climbed onto the roof just to explore. We
were apprehended and each received 6 of the best on the seat
of our pants.
the school was closed and a number of children were not evacuated
Father Cox of the Ascension Church, adjacent to the school,
took these into the vicarage where he and his wife Nora ran
a temporary school for the under 11s.
is difficult to explain the emotional strain that these events
imposed on both children and parents and indeed our teachers.
All suffered some loss which affected their relationsship with
us children. Mr Rosewarne lost a son in the Battle of Britain
and we were asked to be particularly good and kind to him.
the lulls in the bombing we attended school and teachers endeavoured
to make our daily attendance as normal as possible. We would
have our daily bottle of milk and in the afternoon we would
be given a large dose of malt and codliver oil. Some of us would
have a cooked lunch supplied by the kitchen at the Slade School.
suffered daily visits from the Germans and at night also which
made for very tired children at school the next day. Some of
us were in the choir at the Ascension Church and during one
week in the spring of 1941 we had 90 funerals. This sounds impossible
but you must realise that because whole families were killed
together, they were buried together. The Billinghurst were one
family of 4 children, parents and grand parents who were killed.
The Taylor family were holding a 21st birthday party with about
24 guests, all died in a bombing raid.
missing from school, empty desks it was sad not knowing if a
friend had died or had been evacuated.
one school closed due to damage we were often moved with our
teacher to another school. I attended Plum
Lane School for several weeks and also the Slade.
the bombing was so bad that I was evacuated to Builth Wells
in Wales. I attended the village school until late 1944 and
returned to Plumstead and Timbercroft.
completed my education at Ancona
Road Secondary School.
there were lulls in the bombing and life went on. Pupils of
Timbercroft did their bit for the war effort in a number of
ways. Mr and Mrs Stanley organised the paper salvage effort.
We were tasked with collecting from our community, waste paper
and old pots and pans. The incentive to do well was a red label
issued by our teachers which bore a military rank. We boys strived
to advance our rank by pestering neighbours for paper and pans.
Most of the class became brigadiers but the girls were not so
much involved in this activity. We were told that our tin cans
and pots would go to making a spitfire or a hurricane which
impressed us boys greatly.
other contribution was the school allotment. Go out of the main
gate, turn left and walk down Thornhill Avenue to Swingate Lane.
Directly opposite was the sports ground. A section of this had
been dug up and the pupils planted a variety of vegetables.
What became of the fruits of our labour I cannot remember?
the war progressed the school, apart from the sandbags at all
the windows, and the catwalks on the roof, returned to almost
a normal routine. There were still raids and by now we were
being bothered by V1s, the doodlebugs. These soon became V2s
and were frightening because there was no warning of their coming.
late as 1945 a V2 devastated a dozen or more homes and families
in Landstead Road.