World War Two

Ronald Leedham: The Glow over London

Ronald Leedham was born in 1929 in India. His family moved back to England in 1931after Ronald contracted Polio. Ronald spent some years in Hospital as a young child after contracting Diptheria. When he was six he returned home to Catford for a short while to live with his father, eventually ending up living in ‘homes for crippled children’ run by the Shaftesbury Society, until he was sixteen.

Here Ronald describes sheltering in the church hall during an air raid.

  • Ronald Leedham
  • Ronald Leedham

Transcript

I can remember when we all used to congregate in the downstairs playroom during the day and I can remember that because it was so sandbagged down there, when the Battle of Britain started and the Blitz that followed it, during the battle I can remember us all being in this playroom, and we had the last three or four feet of the windows that went from floor to ceiling was open, and I can remember when Biggin Hill was being attacked and all us kids down there with the staff all crowded into this one room and I can remember the staff frightened out of their lives.

Well us kids, the boys, particularly, you know, we loved it, you know, this terrific noise everywhere and the machine guns banging away. Dear oh dear, I can always remember an aircraft roaring past shooting at each other. Erm, and then we – that room was used as a shelter ‘cause we didn’t have a cellar, and I can remember one night, I can remember being woken up first of all with a blinding flash and a terrific bang when this bomb went off, about a hundred yards on the other side of our playground, terrific explosion.

And for some reason or other, which I’ll never understand in my life, they got us all dressed and they took us all down to the church hall which was the other side of the wood. We had to go out of the playground, through the wood in the dark, along the footpath at the bottom of the wood, all the trees and into this bloomin’ church hall, and on the way down of course the air raid was still going on, wasn’t it? The sky was full of searchlights, shells exploding and the anti aircraft shells exploding, fires all over the place. You could see the glow over London as if – it was all lit up.

And they took us into this church hall, and where they got the mattresses from I don’t know but the floor was covered in mattresses. And we all had to lie down on the mattresses and they gave us some hot drinks and this, that and the other, and there were more adults crying down there than I’ve ever seen in my life, it was weird. And I never found out why we went down there, it was strange, it really was.