Chertsey Tales Part Nineteen.
I love sitting in our back garden on the kitchen steps, mum has sent me to buy a couple of pints of winkles from the man who sells seafood from his old pram, it has a lump of ice to keep them fresh. I not sure about hooking the winkle out of its shell with a pin and eating it, they look too much like snails. I prefer the orange ones that have no shell they taste of vinegar and have bits of sand in them that make them crunchy.
We see the searchlights every night sweeping the skies for Gerry bombers, one is caught and other searchlights criss-cross on it and we see flashes of ack-ack, but there is no sound, the plane vanishes. Our neighbours who are also watching the show give a loud cheer. Then there is a dull rumble like distant thunder. Bernard says.
‘That was the bomb load exploding miles away, let’s hope it crashed in a field like the ones we had last week, and not in a town.’
We did have a couple of bombs falling next to the railway in Lyne fields, kids from all around Chertsey began the new hobby…shrapnel collecting, a bit like stamp collecting I suppose.
One boy at school was a bit of a boffin and was very keen on facts and figures. He seemed to know more than any other boy about what was going on anywhere that you could name, and some places that you couldn’t even say. His father was in the Merchant Navy and when he came home, he would tell his boy what was happening in other parts of the world.
Everyone in the country listened to the same news on the wireless, but he knew far more than we were aware of. I suppose if your father was in and out of the ports, he would have a lot to talk about, I wonder how much of this should have been secret though. We were being told ‘Careless talk costs lives’. He told us never to repeat any of it, but this is what he was doing all the time.
One of his stories was more like one of my ‘fanciable’ tales that my mum complained of. He said that up in the north of the country the Germans had dropped bags of white powder, and people were told to keep clear of them in case they were some sort of chemical. We never heard anything like that on the wireless, except for some silver paper ribbons that were being dropped. We were told these were to confuse our searchlights and anti-aircraft gunners, which was more believable.
I think he knew more than the grown-ups; he kept it all written down in a book, he said the first bomb to fall in Surrey was a few weeks ago but did no damage. His pride and joy though, was a leaflet that the Germans were dropping, he kept it in an envelope because he said it was very rare and that he should not really have kept it.
The leaflets had to be collected by the Air Raid Wardens before they could be read by the civilians. They were German propaganda, telling the British people to listen to reason and surrender before they were all bombed out. He said that he kept the leaflet in a plain envelope because if a policeman found out that he had one, he would get into a lot of trouble.
On the other hand, he told us the fire wardens sold them as souvenirs, but he said they were allowed to do this as they used the money to pay for treats for London children. These leaflets, that are asking for the British to surrender ended up buying sweets for lots of children who would have some toffees to chew! This is a story I want to believe, but I still wonder.