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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 the Army.(REME)

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 :

Thomas Wilson.
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 November 1944

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 war.

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 tale!

*A half brother Alan White in a reserved occupation lived close by.

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.

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