My brother, aged 3, and I, 7 years old, lived at Brook Green Terrace, St James. Exeter and we were awakened by our parents after the sirens went at about 11.30 pm on the night of 3/4th May 1942. When there had been air raid warnings in the past we had gone to our Morrison shelter in the dining room; that night, for some reason they decided we should go to our neighbours, probably because their Morrison was in the basement of their house.
My dad and the next door neighbour were fire watching outside in the terrace. Mum and the neighbour's wife were singing songs and telling us stories to distract us from the sound of falling bombs, some of which seemed very near.
Suddenly my father and his friend came rushing down the outside stairs and threw themselves in the shelter. There was a very loud bang, the house seemed to shake and bits of plaster fell from the ceiling, my dad said "That was b...y close". They then went out to see what damage had been done. When they returned they said houses in Well Street and Clarence Plaçe, at the back of our terrace, had been destroyed. Later in the night we heard and felt another he explosion, a large bomb had fallen in St Sidwells Avenue about 100 yards from us, and a number of people were killed.
After the "All Clear" sounded we went back to our house. What a mess, soot everywhere all the windows at the back of the house and the glass roof of the kitchen extension had been smashed. When we went into my bedroom the wooden window frame had been blown across the room onto my bed, the next morning my vest was found hanging on the crossbar of a gas street lamp about 50 yards away in Well Street.
In the morning an ARP Warden told my parents that a lot of bombs had been dropped in the Newtown area where my Grandmother lived, causing a lot of damage. As my Mum was worried about her family Dad went to see if he could find out what had happened to them. My gran's house in Albert Street had been destroyed by an incendiary. Luckily he found my gran, aunt and two cousins sheltering in the house of a friend.
As our house was uninhabitable after the raid we went to stay at the house of my mother's aunt on the outskirts of Exeter until our house was repaired. One of the men who lived near her was a bus driver for Exeter Corporation Transport and each night be brought home a double decker bus as the Bus Depot had been damaged in the blitz. In the evenings he drove the bus filled with local residents to Stoke Woods where we sheltered until the raids were over.
One morning after the night of the blitz my mother sent me on an errand to get some meat at her butchers, Eastmans in Blackboy Road. I had just entered the shop when we heard a low flying aircraft and a machine gun firing, the butcher grabbed me and put me in the walk-in fridge, I think that saved my life as machine gun bullets shattered the shop window and sprayed all over the sawdust floor of the shop. After the the plane had flown off they took me out of the fridge and gave me a hot cup of cocoa to warm me up. Whilst I was drinking it my mum arrived and was very relieved to find that I had not been injured.
© 2011 Trevor A Brown
This memory of the night of the May 1942 blitz first appeared on the BBC's website, People at War. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author.
│ Top of Page │