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Martyn Pressnell's Story

Reproduced from the BBC's WW2 archives (see below)

The BBC permits archived stories to be reproduced provided it is not for profit, but copyright remains with the original contributor.  I have added photographs to illustrate his story.

My father worked for the G.P.O. He was an expert in telephony. He was transferred to Bath in 1940, which is why my father Stanley, my mother Vera and I were living in Ďdigsí with a kind family called ĎJonesí. My first school was on the Wellsway when I became 5 years old.

Beechen Cliff PlaceOn the night of Saturday April 25th 1942, we took shelter in the cupboard under the stairs. The first raid of the night saw incendiary bombs set the city ablaze. The second raid that night brought high explosive bombs. The screech of bombs was terrifying. We covered under blankets as each stick of bombs came down, grateful to survive each time.  The streets were machine gunned. Holes appeared in the front door. Then bombs straddled our house, demolishing properties and killing our neighbours, including a new baby. The roof, doors and windows were blown in - the dust was frightful.

I remember being carried along the bear-flat. My father suffered broken ribs. Friends in the St. Johnís ambulance bandaged his chest. I could not understand at the time why the pavements were on fire - the gas pipes were destroyed. Ambulances and fire appliances were working - bells clanging.

Now 60 years on I am pleased to learn about the extent of the Bombings. I love Bath - and my family often come to enjoy itís peace and tranquillity.

Comment

There were high explosive bombs as well as incendiaries dropped in the first raid, but they did not fall in the Bear Flat area.

Wellsway Preparatory School was at Number 5 Elm Place (Where Bloomfield Road joins Wellsway)

Hayes PlaceUnfortunately, "Jones" is a common name (there are over 150 of them in the street directory) but one lived at Number 9 Hayes Place (where Holloway joins Wells Road and Wellsway, and pictured right. Number 9 would be one of the bay fronted houses to the right of the photograph). I would guess that this is the most likely Jones residence, because a young baby was killed in the house on the corner of Beechen Cliff Road and Wellsway, which is almost opposite Number 9 Hayes Place (the ruins of Numbers 1 and 2 Beechen Cliff Road are pictured above), and that address could also be consistent with the memory of being carried along Bear Flat. There was a First Aid point in Devonshire Cottage, Wellsway and the Methodist Church had facilities for more serious injuries.

After I published this on the website, I received an e-mail from Bob Millard. It said:

You are correct in assuming that a Jones family lived here. I went to the CBBS [City of Bath Boys School] with the son, J.M.G.(Mike) Jones, and when they were bombed out he stayed with me in Rockliffe Avenue until new accommodation was found. His mother and father stayed with his mother's brother. I am afraid his name escapes me at the moment but he was a cabinet maker and undertaker and lived in the Walcot/Kensinton area.  I was in the Bath Resistance Organisation, and Mike was one of our patrol members. Sadly Mike died last summer.

(Bob also sent me his memories of being in the Bath Resistance Organisation.)

In 2018 I received an e-mail from Martyn Pressnell who gave me some additional information:

I visited Bath frequently with my father and on most occasions we would make a point of driving past the house where he was "bombed out". He could not recall the precise property but knew it was at one end of the terrace or the other.

He added:

Your may like to augment the record with the recollection of my fatherís mother, Vera Orrin. She wrote a letter published in a St. Albans newspaper in 1979 which I attach below.

He attached a picture of a newspaper page which wasn't laid out conveniently to reproduce here, but the text read:

The first siren of war brought fear mixed with defiance strengthened by the words of our beloved Winston Churchill. He was forceful, inspiring. The nation felt capable of doing everything he believed of us.

We saw the barrage balloons go up and the ARP people appear, and we grew in confidence.

My husband was a GPO rep at Southend-on-Sea. Then he was seconded to the Admiralty in Bath and we moved there - to learn a few weeks later that our avenue at Southend had been bombed, our house damaged.

We lay in bed at nights listening to the German bombers on their way to Bristol. Then Bath was the target, first incendiaries, then high explosives.

We hid in the cupboard under the stairs until the 'all clear' sounded, but then another warning and down we went again, and I had to drag the son of the house-owner from his sleep.

The bombs were very close and there were big fires. My husband and the owner went out into the hall but came back when I begged them, seconds before a terrific explosion, a direct hit on a house opposite in which the grandfather and a baby girl were killed.

The top of the house went this time; we felt the blast through the house. My husband suffered contusions and three badly cracked ribs. Then we were machine gunned, but the stairs protected us.

When the raid ended we went to friends nearby who took us in and lent us £10 to go to my parents in Colchester.

Later, back at Southend, we watched a doodlebug in flight over the pier, and it exploded inland. And I remember VE Day and the joy of hearing the church bells again. We all rushed to our front gates to greet each other.

Then two neighbours reminded us it wasn't over yet. One had a son, the other a husband, fighting the Japanese war. The son returned. The husband was killed on the last day of the war.

Credits

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.

In the BBC archive, this memory was credited to "assembly_rooms_bath" on behalf of Martyn Pressnell (though on the BBC website the name is wrongly spelled with only one "S".  Martyn asked for it to be corrected on the Bath Blitz Memorial Project website).

 


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