Martyn Presnell'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 ‘digs’ with a kind family called ‘Jones’. My first school was on the Wellsway when I became 5 years old.
On 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. John’s 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 it’s peace and tranquillity.
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)
Unfortunately, "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.)
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 Presnell.
If you are reading this Martyn, and can add anything to this story, I would be delighted if you would get in touch. The Contacts page explains how to do this.
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