CHAPTER 1

I put out my arms instinctively to steady myself as I was rolling around. It was dark and I didn't know where I was, the ground was all soft and there was a lot of noise. I woke up in Hospital thinking I had had a bad dream. I was in hospital for quite some time recovering from burns to the legs, I was nearly four years old. It wasn't until I was eleven that I found out that my mother and sister had been killed by the incendiary bomb that had destroyed our home. In fact it was an upstairs flat in Kingsbury near to the underground station, I found out later. Over the years since then I have had small flashes of memory of that night. We went to bed in the bathroom, my sister and myself on the floor next to the bath, I don't remember who slept in the bath, but I assume it was my mother. My Dad being out all night on home-guard duty. This is what one did during the blitz, you slept in the safest place in the house, some slept under tables some in the cellars. This is probably what saved my life that night, being under the overhang of the bath. My mother and sister were killed on the 25th of September 1940. Aged 31 and 7 respectively.

I passed my scholarship when I was 11 years old at Salesbury Junior School near Blackburn, I had to return to the school a completed questionnaire concerning which Grammar school I wished to attend and all the other attendant questions regarding parentage etc., it was while sneaking a peek at the completed form that I found the word 'Deceased' against 'Mother'. This was the first I had heard of this and immediately queried the answer. It was then that I was told that my Mother and Sister had been killed in the war, and that Daisy was my step-mother, my father having married again 9 months later.

My Mother's name was Maud Beatrice and my Sisters name was Barbara Ann aged 7yrs.

I don't remember much of those early years. I have been told since that I spent some time being looked after by some of Daisy's sisters. One thing I do remember was walking home from the Edgware General Hospital to number 10 Moorcroft Mansions, The Highlands, Burnt Oak.

The following recollections are not necessarily in chronological order. I visited the Edgware general a couple of times, the first time I had got out of bed in the dark and banged my forehead on the top of the bedpost. This resulted in a large lump on my forehead that would not go away. It had to be removed at the hospital. I also remember having my left thumbnail removed, which subsequently grew back.

My new Mother's family name was Platt, the eldest of 10 children, 8 girls and 2 boys. The girls were predominantly named after flowers:- Daisy, Violet, Lily, Iris, Ivy, Rose, the exceptions being Marjory and Charlotte, then Tommy and John. Uncle John was just a few months younger than me, and we used to play together when I was living with the Platts. I remember we had our first puffs of a cigarette behind some bushes, I was very very sick.

The Platt's lived at 67 The Meads in Mill Hill and I spent various periods of time there, probably during the times when my mother was confined with my 2 half-brothers Tony and Neil. Elizabeth was born later in 1948. I can only remember one day at the school at the end of 'The Meads', it was the end of term results, and it was I who was top of the class 'as usual' so the teacher said, I must have spent some time there. The school at the other end of 'The Highlands', which I also attended, had a big grassy area in front where we used to kick a ball around, I once did this in some new shoes for which I was severely chastised. I always seemed to be in trouble. Whilst living at The Meads, each morning, I was sent round to the Air Raid Post to find out if there was an air raid on, we had learned to sleep through the sirens at night, the ARP station was just at the end of the row of local shops. One morning I had been to the ARP post and also had an errand to buy some cigarettes (10 Players Weights) at the newsagents there. Returning home with the cigarettes and the change from a one pound note, money in one hand and picking up stones and throwing them on to the allotments with the other. Arriving home the 10 shilling note was missing, thrown over the fence somewhere I guess or just dropped, but as much as we looked, it was never found, it’s possible that I wasn’t given it at the shop. One birthday, whilst living at Moorcroft Mansions, I went with my mother to the local butcher round the corner on the Edgware Road, he gave me half a crown when I told him that it was my birthday, which it was. On returning home I got a clip round the ear and the half-crown confiscated. Another time I found some coins along a grass verge behind the shops that front on to the Edgware road at Burnt Oak where the barrow boy used to stand and within view of our flat windows, I was accused of throwing the coins from the window so that I could go and 'find' them, but where could I have obtained them from, they were also confiscated.

Every night during the early years of the war the sky was lit up with search lights and the tracer shells from the Anti-Aircraft guns, I remember hiding under the bedclothes one night to block out the light and the noise, I got myself trapped, I panicked and it was a few minutes before I eventually punched myself out, I had been lying on the ends of the blankets folded around me, a very frightening experience, much more frightening than watching the doodle bugs fly over. One day, one of them had it's engine stop overhead I stood pointing at the sky, suddenly I was picked up bodily and rushed into the underground shelter, an Anderson type in the back garden of the house in the Meads. We heard the bang and later found where the doodle bug had struck, the house that was destroyed was detached and in it's own grounds, about a quarter of a mile from The Meads, there were a couple of apple trees in the grounds and this was where I first tasted the English Russet apple. I am aware that at sometime during the war that I was evacuated, to where and for how long I don't know, It could just have been with one of Daisy’s Sisters. I remember walking up and down Mill Hill high street crying once or twice when I was about 6 or 7 years old, this was a ruse to acquire money, begging. It wasn't usually very successful but one nice lady asked me what the matter was and was I lost? My answer was no, but that I had lost a 2 shilling piece, and I dare not go home or I would be smacked very hard. She took me to her home which was up some outside stairs to a flat where she gave me some seed cake to eat, I didn't like it then and have never liked it since. She also gave me some empty bottles that I was to take to a shop to get the deposit back which might help to ease the pain. I suspect she saw through my act.

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