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The Blitz Kid That Stayed Behind.

I was not evacuated during the war and was in Plumstead right through. Not much happened until September 7th 1940. This was a Saturday, if my memory serves me correctly, and I was visiting my Grandparents with my mother. My Grandparents lived in Villas Road which was very near to Woolwich Arsenal.

The large air raid started that day and we heard and saw large numbers of enemy bombers coming towards London and obviously following the river. Woolwich Arsenal was virtually opposite to the Royal group of docks and both were presumably a target. We heard many bombs being dropped and could hear the sounds of aerial combat above. The thing I remember particularly, was the sound of shell splinters or shrapnel hitting the road outside. There was no air raid shelter in the house and we simply stood in the hallway alongside the staircase. My cousin Freddy, who was in the navy, was also there. (He was shortly afterwards killed at sea).

Charles Boswell and eldest son during WW1. Charles Boswell was my grandfather, a qualified wheelwright and coach builder, in charge of Royal Artillery workshops, training apprentices at Woolwich Artillery Barracks.

I had several relatives (Uncles) working in the Arsenal and one of these came home sometime during the afternoon saying that the conditions in the Arsenal were chaotic and very frightening, with people sheltering under railway trucks etc.

About 5pm there was a lull in the raids and my mother said we should hurry home to our house, which was at that time in Ingledew Road. My most vivid memory of that day is the red glow in the sky from the fires that had started in the Arsenal and the Docks.

That night was the start of the London blitz. Later on, the Council constructed an Anderson air raid shelter in our back garden and we spent that night and many others there during the winter of 1940/41.

Schools were closed during this time but some attempt was made to give us some sort of lessons in the school staff room, for those of us children who were not evacuated, but this soon petered out.

One time during the daytime, sometime during September it must have been, my mother and my brother and me were in our shelter when we heard sounds of an aerial dog fight going on above us. Suddenly, it sounded as if something was going to land on us. It turned out that a German 109 fighter had been shot down and had landed on an Anderson shelter in Robert Street. I believe that the occupants were killed. The Red cross, I think it was, charged everyone a penny (*) to go though the house and view the wreckage on top of the shelter.

During the blitz, I recall many premises being bombed throughout Plumstead, and I particularly remember Tower House in Heavitree Road. I believe this had been a Doctors residence . Such properties were invariably left empty and open, despite the possibility that to go in them could be dangerous. This however, did not deter us boys from investigating where we found huge numbers of stamps (mainly British Victorian). Evidently, the occupier had been an avid stamp collector. We investigated many such bombed buildings with varying degrees of interesting finds.

Derek and Ken Boswell with parents (dad in RAF uniform). Ingledew Road. 1941.

One property I particularly remember was Bulgin’s the Butchers shop, on the corner of Glyndon and Southport Roads . We heard about it through the grapevine the very next morning and investigated straightaway. We found the emergency services on site going through the debris. Nobody was injured in this bombing and in fact Mr. Bulgin carried on his business in another shop on the opposite corner.
Every morning after a night raid we would comb the streets looking for shrapnel, and I amassed a fair collection of shell splinters which I kept in a shoe box.

Richard Dodd had a spent bullet that he told me he found on his window sill.

Some of the boys and girls that I remember at Earl Rise School during the war years were: Richard and Tommy Dodd, twins Kenneth and Ronald Clark. Robin Shreeve, John Pennell, Derek Doye, Denis Bassett (later mixed up with villains, and his body was fished out of the channel), Bill Wakeman, Jack Pearce and Jim Pearce (my cousins), Stanley Colgate, Peter Dominy and Melvin Daws.

The girls I remember (these were mixed classes), were Doreen Wall, Doreen Duggan, Sheila Bartlett, Jean and Pam Rolfe and Audrey Barthorpe.

At Conway Road where I spent some time during these topsy turvy years, were, Denis Cherry. Bill Long, Bill Green, the Meekums brothers, Derek Gale and Derek Driver. Head Master was Cyril Bull who was a J.P.

Derek Boswell.

*This money was often collected at such plane crash scenes. It was a means of raising funds for such things as the Spitfire Fund to help towards the costs of production etc.

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