Chertsey Tales Part Twenty-four.
It’s been an exciting day, with the firework display of ack-ack shells bursting and search-light beams…The Blitz is in full swing.
Now there is the faintest glow of dawn lightening the sky in the east. To the north the crimson glow of London burning still warms the horizon. A black velvet blanket of quiet lies over this huddle of homes…Chertsey is fast asleep.
Except, that is, for me and my brother Donald, he is crouching under the Morrison shelter in the kitchen. The family are there sleeping cramped together for safety. He is listening for the familiar sound of an aeroplane’s engine; he does this every night. Chobham aerodrome is nearby, seven Beaufighter night bombers passed over Chertsey earlier in the evening. Six have safely returned, one is late. He looks over at me under the dresser just as the tiny flame of the night-light sitting a saucer of water on the dresser splutters its last, the kitchen is in darkness.
The quiet of the night is broken by Mr. Hyde’s greyhounds, they sound restless, whimpering. Above the dog’s uneasiness there is the sound the boy is waiting for, the welcome sound of engines. They sound different though, laboured, the reason maybe for the plane’s late return. Now, a shiver of fear goes through him. We heard this sound earlier today, the uneven drone of an enemy plane.
He crouches lower into the shelter, we hear a strange whooshing noise then see the blackout curtain billow like the sails of a boat, now the noise is deafening. The kitchen is lit up, the window frame buckles, and the front wall breaks up into a pile of bricks. For a moment we can see the houses outside as if it is daylight.
Someone is pushing Don out of the shelter, everyone is screaming and making for the scullery door. In the back garden our neighbours are running about, shocked, not knowing where to go. Iris, and Mrs O’Keefe, our evacuees, have managed to climb over the front door that has been blown off its hinges and is jammed halfway up the stairs. Everyone pushes forward to run away and over the fence into Mrs Phillips back garden then into Cowley Avenue. I have lots of bricks on my legs and can’t move, I hear Iris calling.
‘Anyone seen Litlun?’
For a moment I can’t say anything, my mouth is full of blood. I hear lots of shouting then our neighbours are here. they are feeling around for the dresser. It is almost buried under the front wall; bricks were pulled away. The old army greatcoat that I like to use as a blanket is found. I feel them carefully removing the bricks away.
I am carried round to Mrs Salmon’s and laid on someone’s coat in the front garden. I look up for mum, she is holding my head in her lap, the deep cut on my lip is bleeding heavily. For a moment I can see all the people crowded around me, I hear Mrs Salmon.
‘Can you hear me; can you hear me luvvie’. Careful Effie don’t wipe that blood away, there’s still some glass splinters in his face’. Quickly! Someone get some cold water, we must keep him with us. Alan, hold on love, your mummy’s here’.
‘Now, just let the water trickle down his face Effie, then we can see where the cuts are, that’s a nasty gash on his mouth’.
The voices fade, a cloud is rolling in from all around me, I’m sliding down a deep hole.