Woolwich & Districts
7th - 15th 1940 Plumstead.
Once the Blitz had begun people had to
seek the safety of the public shelters during an air raid and
there were several raids each day. Lives were greatly disrupted,
so a scheme was started by the Daily Sketch to use the children,
who weren't at school, to look out for approaching enemy aircraft.
Children of varying ages took part. I was nine years old. (School
was cancelled in London). We were issued with leaflets which
contained silhouettes of the enemy aircraft and I became good
at identifying the German planes.
house was a two-story house with a skylight looking over the
rooftops. I could see all the way down the Thames from Plumstead
to the Ford Motor plant with its big chimneys.
dad worked at Woolwich
Arsenal in the 'Danger Buildings', which were full of explosives.
It was dangerous even in peacetime.
had a ladder leading up to the skylight where I kept watch.
The enemy planes always came up the river from east to west.
Granddad lent me his old binoculars and my father, who was a
sergeant in the Home Guard, lent me a tin hat. Granddad also
found me a 4.7 inch anti-aircraft shell case and dad made me
a wooden tripod to hang it on.
then had a long metal rod which I placed inside the shell case
and when I spotted enemy aircraft I rang it like a bell. It
made a very loud noise which made me quite deaf!
the people in the street would seek refuge in their Anderson
shelters in their gardens. This meant they didn't have to
stay in their garden shelters for the whole of the raid or go
to the public shelters.
felt very important in my tin hat, binoculars and bell. Once
I had rung the bell I had to rush down to the Anderson shelter
from three flights up. I was allowed to slide down the banisters
of two flights then jump the last six steps. Mum put a mat at
the bottom of the stairs and a mattress from one of the camp
beds on the floor in front of the open Anderson door so I could
throw myself onto it. Once in, she shut the door with a bang.The
neighbours fully approved of what I did.
Parliament, Winston Churchill (our revered Prime Minister) said,
"Our country will not be bowed by these terror raids. My
young 'Jim Crows' are looking out for enemy aircraft so that
the population can carry on working and they will be known as
'Winnie's Jim Crows'."
Daily Sketch encouraged mums to make armbands with the initials
W.J.C. on them for the participating children. The paper also
did an article every week about the W.J.C.s. My friend Johnny
and I had our photos taken in the roof.
only did this for two weeks as I was then evacuated to Cornwall,
but that's another story related in my book, "One Boy's
War", by Peter Walder. IBSN 1900511673
War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by
members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can
be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'