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Michael's Story

At the time of the blitz I was 10 years old and living with my family at number 13 Lansdown View, Twerton.  On the day of the first raid, April 25th 1942, I was at home alone with my mother.  My father was the Civil Defence deputy warden for the Twerton area, and was on duty at the local control centre, aptly named "HMS Duckyernut" built alongside the GWR railway embankment.  My sister was on duty as a telephonist at the Civil Defence Control Centre at Apsley House and my elder brother was away on work of national importance.

When the sirens went, my mother and I decided to take shelter under the dining room table, with a tin bath pulled up alongside to give added protection.  We stayed there throughout the first wave of bombing, only moving across the road to one of a pair of brick built surface shelters when it was realised that a second wave was coming, with the sirens sounding off at about 4.30 in the morning.  This time, the bombing was much nearer with the Luftwaffe obviously aiming for the railway line, which ran parallel to that part of Lansdown View and was only about 200 yards away.

The shelter was quite full with people sitting on the wooden bunks or on the floor.  I remember a whooshing noise, as if all the air was being sucked out of the shelter and we all ended up on the floor as the bunks collapsed, all coughing and choking on the thick dust.  Strangely, I donít remember hearing the sound of an explosion.  As we sat there, covered in dust and waking up to the reality of the situation, I clearly remember saying to my mother "Are we dead mum?"  I was quickly reassured that we still in the land of the living.  We remained in the shelter until the all clear went when my father arrived, very relieved to find that we were alright if a little bruised and covered in dust.

When we finally left the shelter in the grey light of dawn it was to see that the centre of the terrace opposite the shelter had disappeared with several of the houses completely destroyed [see "Comment" below].  There was the smell of dust and escaping gas in the air and a twisted gas pipe aflame in the centre of the demolished buildings.  The reinforced brick wall of the shelter opposite the blast had more than half of itís depth blown away.  We had had a very lucky escape.

Our house, number thirteen, still stood but was too badly damaged to be habitable, so it was decided that we should gather what little belongings we had with us and go the nearest rest centre, which happened to be West Twerton school, just a little up the hill from where we lived.  The main problem with that as I recall was that, having left home in a hurry, I had simply pulled on my short trousers over my pyjama bottoms and was most upset when my rolled up pyjama trousers kept falling down and I was almost in tears and worried that school friends might see me.

Morrison ShelterOn arrival at the rest centre we were given tea and something to eat and were able to have a bit of a wash and clean up.  It was arranged that we would spend the night there before deciding what we should do and where we should go.  However, my aunt Marie arrived and insisted we should go back with her to her home in Englishcombe Park.

Sunday night the 26th/27th April the German planess returned for further bombing and incendiary attacks.  My aunt Marie had a Morrison table shelter and we spent the best part of the night sheltering in that.

West Twerton SchoolAt that time, my mother owned a house in Ivy Avenue, which was rented to two maiden ladies, sisters.  Although the house wasnít damaged, the ladies decided to go to the rest centre at West Twerton school and spend the night there, for company and to help out.  Tragically, the school suffered a direct hit that night [see picture] and both ladies were killed.  Were it not for my aunt coming to take us to her home, we would still have been there in the school.

I donít recall how long we stayed with my aunt but shortly after the blitz, along with a bus load of other children, I was evacuated to Paulton.  I remember the meeting point to pick up the bus was outside the Moravian church in Coronation Avenue.  I was billeted with a wonderful Welsh family, the Parkes and spent an idyllic summer with the children roaming the countryside around Paulton.

At the end of the summer and before returning to school I moved back to Bath to join my family now living in my motherís house in Ivy Avenue, left vacant by the tragic death of the two dear ladies in the bombing of West Twerton school.  We were there for just a few months before returning to Twerton.

Comment

The modern address list shows that Number 13 has since been renumbered.  That part of the street now shows the numbering as 11, 12, 12a 14 ...

The council's damage survey just after the bombing shows that Numbers 11, 12 and 13 were badly damaged and needed to be made safe before they could be occupied.  In all three cases the rear outbuildings were so badly damaged that they needed to be demolished.  Numbers 14, 15 and 16 were so badly damaged that they needed to be demolished for public safety.  Numbers 22, 23 and 24 were similarly badly damaged.  Between these sets of addresses were Numbers 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 which were totally destroyed.

West Twerton SchoolThere was also a bomb which didn't go off at the junction of Lansdown View and Albany Road, adjacent to the railway.

West Twerton School was in The Hollow.  There had already been some damage to the school by a bomb in January 1941 and it was further damaged by another bomb in the early hours of 27 April 1942.  The main part of the school was badly damaged but was assessed as possible to repair, whereas the Centre Block was partly destroyed and partly made dangerous and needing urgent demolition [see picture].

The house in Ivy Avenue owned by Michael's mother was Number 42, which only suffered minor, non-structural damage in the blitz.  The two sisters who lived there and died in West Twerton School were Gladys and Evelyn Bird.


 


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