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28 February 2014

26th February 1944: Labour Exchange, garage & houses "gone"

26 Sat. Very cold, dismal; rain at night. Cycled to Morden; bought something at the Chemist's also fish for Dinky and a very nice smoked cod fillet which we enjoyed for tea very much.  Aunt Hannah and Uncle Ben called - Cousin Frank is home on leave from Egypt. On way back from Morden saw the dreadful damage in Merton Rd. The Labour Exchange, the Garage and nearby houses gone, with severe blast effects over many roads; must have been heavy bombs. Saw a house down in Kingswood Rd, Merton Park, also Sherwood Road; the later is closed owing to an unexploded bomb so also is Fairlawn Road; am continually finding more damage. Monkleigh Rd where Cousin Harold lives was hit on Thursday; must go and have a look.

27 February 2014

25th February 1944: burnt out train blocks railway

25 Fri. Very cold, very dull but less wind. Did all the usual Friday morning shopping. The trains are stopped between Clapham Junction and Waterloo. There are delayed action bombs on or near the line. Cycled to Merton and Morden in afternoon. On fire guard duty; no incident.

24th February 1944: Wimbledon Stadium fire. Time-bomb. Curate & wife killed in Fairlawn Road.

24 Thur. Severe morning frost but the clear sunshine dispelled it by the afternoon; bitter east wind. Warning at 8.45 a.m. Two machines from south to north; the guns almost ignored them. They did not drop anything and they returned safely. All clear at 9.0 a.m. In afternoon along rail path to Wimbledon to buy fish. Returned along Merton Hall Rd and saw a crater in the garden of the Girls' County School; this bomb was dropped on 19th Sat. Also the Chase and contiguous roads are closed because a time bomb dropped in the same raid has been discovered. Last night's great fire was Wimbledon Stadium where dog races are held. Do not know where the others were. Warning at 9.36 p.m. Many machines circling about as usual for the biggest part of an hour amid a hurricane of shells. Heard two objects swish down, the first sounded like a dud shell, but the second was a bomb right enough and it was not far away; heard several other bombs. The fire-engines were out but saw no signs of a blaze. All clear at 10.47 p.m. The first missile heard was a dud A.A. shell, it fell in the back garden of Mr. Johnson, our butcher*. The second swish was three H.E. bombs, two in Lower Morden Lane, the other in Hillcross Avenue. The near bomb I heard come down on Wed night killed a curate and his wife in Fairlawn Road. Also a dud shell wrecked the upper storey of a house in Haynt Walk.
* He lives in Burstow Road.

26 February 2014

23rd Feb 1944: girls' school on fire, Merton & Morden bombed

23 Wed. Hard frost, very dull. Did miscellaneous shopping locally in morning. Mr. Luccock the minister held a little service here in the evening. Mrs Martin and "Aunt Sarah" also came and Mrs. Akroyd. Warning at 10.5 p.m. The machines mostly came from the south, about a dozen I should say. Searchlights and gunfire were used. The Wimbledon guns were first to fire at a machine flying very high in the searchlights coming from the south and shooting was quite accurate to what I have seen lately. There was less gunfire but I was pleased to see that it was much more accurate. The Raynes Park battery was well in evidence. I heard two missiles swish down, the second being very loud: I do not know what it was. Incendiaries were dropped to eastward, to the south and west leaving the glow of fires in the sky. I think the Girls County School in Merton Hall Rd had been on fire. There seems to be a blaze in Wimbledon and Morden but particulars are lacking. Four machines are known to be destroyed so far. All clear at 11.15 p.m.

25 February 2014

22nd February 1944: snow, bombs, in Wimbledon & Merton

Local guns fire hundreds of thousands of shells...
 the Germans went on with their little game

22 Tues. Very cold, very dull, bitter east wind, snow in evening. Warning at 2.55 a.m. Being a clear sky, night fighters and searchlights were used instead of the guns. A few machines approached from the south. Some yellow parachute flares were dropped, also two very distant bombs, which I have heard fell the other side of Wallington; a quiet raid. All clear at 3.35 a.m. Cycled to Wimbledon. Saw where a bomb fell on a railway siding beside Alexandra Road. There was a large crater and goods trucks scattered and overturned. Continued to Wandsworth and Tooting where damage was done. Blast effects were notable in Merton High Street off which is an unexploded bomb. Merton Road is closed the damage is so severe. I bought sprats at Tooting. The bombs I heard to northward last Sunday evening were on a block of flats o n Putney Hill. Also the great red glare in the sky to north-east was a Home Guard depot at Putney College. Their ammunition and petrol store was set on fire. Warning at 11.56 p.m. Many machines came and circled round, diving and climbing, twisting and turning in all directions for over 3/4 of an hour; a few bombs swished down but not near. All the while the guns, includingthe local were blazing away, firing hundreds of thousands of shells but still the Germans went on with their little game. The gunfire must be extremely inaccurate. Slight signs of a fire over London way. All clear at 1.23 a.m. on 23 Wed.

Home Guard petrol and ammunition store bombed and on fire at Putney College 

21 February 2014

21st February 1944: Wimbledon High Street bombed

21 Mon. Very cold, very dull, driving bitter east wind. Warning from 3.25 to 3.55 a.m. The Wimbledon Common guns fired a few rounds at very long range in an easterly direction. An enemy planer came down in last night's raid at Selhurst Station. Bombs fell in Wimbledon High Street last night. I cycled to Wimbledon to buy fish, haricot beans and window fasteners, the latter have been missing since the bombing. While there, I saw signs of blast but did not see where the bombs actually dropped. Mr. Luccock called to make arrangements for a prayer meeting here on Wed. evening.

Click for map of sites where bombs fell in Wimbledon

20 February 2014

20th Feb 1944: bombed Wimbledon; Germans ignore gunfire

20 Sun. Very cold, very dull, bitter wind. The children called, they are amused by the organ, I let them play it in their manner. Took a walk up The Downs. Downs Lodge is a heap of debris and there are still bodies under it. The Lodge fire station beside it and Wimbledon Close, a large block of flats are badly blasted. Oakholme facing the common is down and buildings are badly blasted for some distance around; I saw the blasted "Priory" and the damaged lodge by the gates. Ridgelands College is badly damaged. . . .
    Warning at 9.30 p.m. Several machines came from the east and hung leisurely about for a long time, selecting their targets; I heard more H.E. bombs than for a long time, but I don't think any nearer than a mile. The gunfire was not quite so continuous but was sufficient to shoot a thousand planes down if it was accurate, but the Germans seem to ignore it. Several red flags floated down to southward. There was a great red glow in the N.E. sky as if a serious conflagration had been started. All clear at 10.35 p.m. It is announced that three enemy planes were destroyed.

19 February 2014

19th February 1944. Raynes Park & Wimbledon bombed. Half of Nelson Hospital gutted, King's College, shops & homes hit

19 Sat. Raw cold, very dull, bitter N. wind. Warning at 12.23 a.m. Several machines came from the north and east and flew about for a very long time. They came under very heavy fire; the local guns firing in this direction made a terrible din; it was almost beyond endurance. A great number of incendiary bombs were dropped; a fee, which did not go off, fell in this road. Merton hall Rd, Quinton (?), Richmond, Chatsworth and other nearby roads got great numbers and many houses were burnt out in Quintin Av. Half the Nelson Hospital was gutted, there being only one death from shock. The upper storey of the Leather Bottle was burnt out. Shops opposite were damaged, Hills cycle shop being burnt out and I think damaged with a small explosive bomb. I went to see the blaze in the early hours also to see if the Childs were safe in Chatsworth Avenue. Incendiaries fell in that Road, one next door to Mrs. Child was put out with Sandbags, Arthur child helping. Several explosive bombs whistled down, one being very loud. All clear at 1.50 a.m. Next afternoon I went to Morden top buy a few things and saw the damage on my way back. A delayed action bomb is in Henfield Rd. A house at the Chase end of Quintin Av. had an He.E. at the back which brought most of it down. At the local warden's post all the dud incendiary bombs were laid out on the grass for public inspection - 190 of them and all failed to go off; there were about half a dozen explosive incendiaries. When Ciss went to work she found H.E.s had fallen on houses at the upper end of the Downs, at King's College School and a house in South Side facing Wimbledon Common was destroyed. Messrs Holloway's offices where Ciss works ere badly blasted and she had to come home again while the place is cleaned up and made serviceable again. A very bad raid and none of the raiders were brought down, but it is claimed three were destroyed by our intruder aircraft as the raiders were about to land on their own airfield. About sixty enemy planes took part and dropped bombs on the eastern counties, the S.E. counties and the greater London area. Immediately after the raid I picked up a piece of shrapnel - it was still warm. 

18th February 1944: first beef for weeks... roses & snow

18 Fri. Raw cold, dismal, fitful skies, snow all day, but did did not lay till evening. Miss Brewer still does the house cleaning on Friday mornings. Did all the usual hopping locally, and the butcher let us have beef this week - first time for many weeks. Dug up the Betty Upwick and (?) rose, pruned the roots and re-planted it in a deeply dug bed with garden refuse placed deeply below it. This bush has never done well, so I shall be interested to see the result of the change.

17 February 2014

17th February 1944: friends for 33 years

17 Thur. Very cold, dismal, bitter east wind, showers of snow and hail. Dear Connie* is 44 today and I first knew her when she was eleven. Walked to Wimbledon along rail-path; saw loco Stroudley. Bought sprats.

*Note: Connie Bradley. Children: Christine and John.

16th February 1944: cat on roof

16 Wed. Cold, dismal, almost dark during afternoon; rain all day. Got the groceries and some sausage meat in morning. Took a paper to Mrs. Collins in afternoon and pointed out to her a cat right on top of a roof opposite. It stayed there for some hours, but I did not see how it got down.

16 February 2014

15th February 1944: John. "I admired his courage."

John Hodgkins
15 Tues. Cold, clear, bright sunny day. Am trying the experiment of gradually pruning the roses instead of cutting them back in one operation in April as is orthodox practice. The latter method gives them such a severe set-back that some of them never recover. Cycled to buy fish at Morden. Took a book to Mrs. Child. Took accumulator. On fire duty to-night; no incident. Heard to-day that information has been received from the International Red Cross to the effect that dear John of Basingstoke, Lily's nephew whose bomber failed to return from a raid on Cassel in October last, lies in a grave fifteen miles from that German town. And so the worst fears have been realised. He had taken part in about ten raids. I  mourn his loss deeply. He used to like to come here to listen to  my poor playing on the piano; he was fond of Mozart. He came to tea here only a week before he was posted as missing and I am glad I told him how much I admired his courage and applauded his exploits. R.I.P.

(Note: as a result of this diary and brief research, the 21st century blogger now numbers John's sister among his friends. There is a poem dedicated to John on the Facebook page PoemsPleaseMe

14th February 1944: fifty raiders

14 Mon. Cold, very dull, drizzle. Repair to black-out blinds. It is now said that six enemy planes were destroyed in last night's raid of the fifty that were sent.: fifteen reached the London area. Paid the club; met Len Garrod there. 

14 February 2014

13th February 1944: happy evening cut short by raid

13 Sun. Cold, very dull; not much wind. The children called as usual. Cousin Len & Doris his sweetheart came to tea and stayed the evening. Showed them the family albums and other things which interested them. Played the organ which Doris seemed to enjoy; a happy evening cut short by a warning at 8.35 p.m. Several machines hung about in a s.E. and E. direction for what seemed ages. The firing was heavy and continuous, the local guns firing heavily on two occasions, but Jerry does not seem, at all in a hurry to clear off, they seem to ignore the heavy A.A. fire; it cannot be accurate. However it is just announced that four were destroyed. There were signs of incendiaries having been dropped but many miles away. I don't think any bombs were dropped anywhere near here. All clear at 9.50 p.m. Doris stayed the night.

12th February 1944: only a little gunfire!

12 Sat. Very cold, dull, cutting N. wind. Cycled to Morden to buy fish. Also got accumulator at Whitbourn's. Warning at 8.57 p.m. Only a little very distant gunfire; all clear at 9.23 p.m. Doris stayed the night.

13 February 2014

11th February 1944: new meat shop inside Wimbledon station

11 Fri. Very cold, fitful skies, a few sunny periods and showers; bitter N. wind. Did all the usual shopping locally, thence along rail path to Wimbledon. Bought sweets at Woolworth's. I have missed the chubby faced girl who used to serve in the animal meat shop at Morden since the beginning of the year. A new meat shop has been opened inside Wimbledon station where I bought some meat this morning and was surprised to see the girl serving there; she recognised me, God bless her. Bought new batteries for Mrs. Child's radio which I took to her and she was very pleased. Mrs. Snedden was there. Warning at 7.45 p.m. About two machines approached from the S.E. and came under a moderate amount of fire but they turned back without coming very near. All clear at 8.36 p.m.

Note: a far earlier image of Wimbledon Station with a dog begging, bowler hats and hansom cabs, from our friends at 'Postcards Then and Now'

12 February 2014

10th February 1944: time-bomb & a new broom

10 Thur. Very cold, dull; wind of hurricane force, blizzard in evening but not quite cold enough to lay. Did not go out. Very heavy report and ground shock at 12.15 p.m. causing the house and windows to shake; probably a time bomb left over from a recent raid. Mr Norris showed me a large fragment having the appearance of a piece of bomb weighing many pounds; I do not know particulars. Fitted a new broom-head to existing stick.

11 February 2014

9th February 1944: Duff's Depositories on fire

9 Wed. White morning frost, very cold day. Bright sunny morning; dull, rain later. Got the groceries, thence to Morden to get some food for Dinky but there was nothing, so continued to Merton High Street and bought some fish. Coming back, noticed very many fire engines by the Chase Station. It was part of Duff's Depositories on fire but it was then all over. In afternoon went along Chase to get a close view, and the whole of one block of buildings is burnt out. It started before seven this morning but I missed the excitement as I knew nothing of it till just before 1.0 p.m. At one time I did fire-watch duty there. In afternoon to see how Mrs. Hippel was faring and the neighbour told me she was in Kingston Hospital with congestion but was coming out this week.

8 February 2014

8th February 1944: sweetheart

8 Tues. Cold, very clear, some bright sunshine; dreadful S.W. wind. Did all local shopping by cycle; bought batteries for Mrs. Child's torch. Met Alf's Lily who said Alan and his sweetheart Vera were home from Skegness, returning on Sunday. 

7th February 1944: Merton pub's rear blown out by bomb

7 Mon. Very cool, cloudy but a few periods of sunshine in afternoon. To Morden on cycle to buy fish; from thence to Merton to buy aspirins for Ciss. While there I saw another part of De Burgh Road (sic) and found some damage which I missed yesterday. The Sultan public house had had its back blown out and several houses adjoining were completely destroyed.  The feature of this raid was the number of direct hits which is unusual. The only bombs to miss houses were the time bombs in the back gardens of Victory Road; but these damaged four houses seriously. Succeeded in repairing Mrs. Child's torch; she will be pleased as it belonged to Mr. Child who was killed in the Chestnut Road bombing in Nov. 1940

6 February 2014

6th February 1944: dog rescued from bombsite after 2 days

6 Sun. Very cold day after hard frost. Very dull, and a cutting W.wind. The children called as usual. Len Garrod called in morning and invited me to tea next Saturday. In afternoon to see last Fri. morning's damage at S. Wimbledon and Merton. There were several house down in De Burgh (sic) road Rd and men were digging in the great pile of ruins; a dog was got out alive and well only this morning. There may still be bodies buried there. Also some houses down in Quicks Road and the backs of houses in Ridley Road were badly blasted. There appeared to be three craters in the back gardens of Victory Road, and two Anderson shelters were blown out of the ground. The blast must have run through the houses and blown the fronts clean out into the road. I don't know how many people were killed but the numbers of seven and ten have been mentioned. Heard that Mrs. Chandler* was dead and was buried last Monday.

*Possibly mother to Barbara Chandler (and her sister Rhoda?), Barbara in later years moving in with Fred's brother and sister-in-law to help look after them. Believed to have lived in Dorking area.

5 February 2014

5th February 1944: our 1907 bicycles

Coventry Transport Museum
via Wikpedia
5 Sat. Very cold, clear, bright; cold wind less severe. Did all shopping by cycle. Got Dinky's meat at Morden also many things locally. Got Ciss's shoes from Essam's. Noticed he had got a 1907 Rudge-Whitworth* cycle in his shop, same year as mine.; he said it was his father's; showed him mine. Met Uncle Dick. To Mrs Child's. Fitted new aerial lead-in wire, also new battery leads and loud-speaker leads and left it going splendidly; had tea with her and little Jenefer. On fire duty; no incident. Doris stayed the night.

*Note: their motto was, 'Rudge it, do not trudge it.'

4 February 2014

4th February 1944: bombs swish down on Wimbledon & Merton

4 Fri. Very cold. The day started with a heavy snow shower but quickly cleared to a sunny day, but the north wind was terrible. Warning at 4.50 a.m. About 20 machines came to London and about six came near here, all coming under heavy fire. I heard two lots of bombs swish down and houses were demolished in Quicks Rd., Deburgh Rd and Victory Road, Wimbledon and Merton; some people were killed. There were signs in the sky that three lots of incendiaries had fallen and a glow in the N.E. indicated a fire had been started. A total of 70 machines took part in the raid; five were destroyed. All clear at 6.15 a.m. Did the Friday morning shopping, including a walk through the biting wind to buy fish at Morden. Gave Miss Brewer a bottle of ginger wine essence. There are some beds of yellow wallflowers in bloom in Mostyn Gardens.
The modern Quicks Road, Wimbledon, bombed on 4th February 1944
Photo: Google Street View

3rd February 1944: Mrs Child's radio... again!

3 Thur. Rather cold, dull, very windy. To Mrs. Child to see her wireless and found the high-tension battery is right out. Brought a torch of hers away for repair and spent three fruitless hours on it; must try again. Warning at 8.50 p.m. One machine came from the south came overhead then went east over London. It received a moderate amount of fire but was there was, was fired from heavy guns; the shrapnel whizzed about much more than usual. All clear at 9.36 p.m.

2 February 2014

2nd Feb 1944: cycle sorted

2 Wed. Cool, dull, windy. Got the groceries in the morning; also to the butchers. Took my three-speed hub down again and this time found the cause of the trouble - a free-wheel pawl would not depress low enough to clear the internally toothed ring owing to an accumulation of dirt; this was soon put right, so that is a weight off my mind.

1st Feb 1944: radio times

1 Feb. Rather cold and dull; stiff breeze. Bought brake-blocks for cycle at Whitbourne's; also liver at the butchers. To Mrs. Child's to see her wireless, found the accumulator right out, but when a fresh one was put on still the set would not go, so I shall have to go again when I have more time. Fitted brake-blocks to cycle.

1 February 2014

31st January 1944: shall have to think harder

31 Mon. Rather cold, cloudy and dull, not much wind. The three-speed gear of my cycle is not free-wheeling properly on high gear. Took the hub down, but could not find anything wrong with it. Put it together again and it was just the same; shall have to think harder. This trouble has only occurred since oiling the hub with a lighter oil. Cycled to Morden, Merton and finally bought fish in Wimbledon. Mr. Morris topped the lime tree in the front garden also the ash tree at end of back garden.