Landing a Scoop – Episode 4, A day of tragedy; the Children’s View
It does however take us back to that tragic day by publishing the recollections of some of the children as recorded in that edition. We have previous published the memories of Eunice Hall, Neil Dean and Don Winfield 80 years later and it is interesting to compare the two.
The SCOOP contributors below are six children whose ages range from ten to thirteen. We have to bear in mind that these were written fifteen months after the event and may not be perfect recollections but you get the impression that, for them, it was a day they still remembered clearly and will never forget. It is the little details that are so compelling and the matter of fact way in which they recount their experiences; the highlights are shown below to provide a flavour of their feelings on the day.
Winnie Thompson, age 13
- Winnie remembers the exact time, 5.30pm (confirmed by Don Winfield 80 years later)
- After the bomb fell she decided to lie in the nearest ditch until all was quiet
- There was so much water on the road that they had to have stepping stones to cross
- Winnie describes how, the following Sunday, cars were queuing up to see the damage (so rubbernecking was rife even in the 1940s!)
Donald Winfield, age 11 (yes, him again!)
- Don’s father heard a plane just before the bomb fell and said ‘that’s a Jerry’
- The blast caused a tile from their roof to fall and hit the family dog called Judy (who seems to have survived OK)
- Their home had no light or water after the bomb fell
- Don went out with his sister the same evening, found a ‘big piece of bomb’, then went home to ‘read some comics’
B Bignell, age 12
- A friend Peggy heard a plane and said, just before the bomb fell, ‘This is the sort of day the Germans dive bomb’.
- He/she was only twelve yards from the school when the bomb fell
- Soon after, people gathered round the crater ‘like flies’
- The Local Fire Brigade worked all night, ‘digging out people’ (see comment below)
A Plumeridge, age 10
- The title of his contribution was ‘How we carried on’
- After the bombing ‘we had a long holiday’ (referring to the enforced school closure of 2/3 months)
- He/she helped in the salvage operation; ‘we saved the good bricks and some wood’
Zena Jeffs and Ronald Watt, both age 13
- ‘After the bomb dropped we did not go to school because there was nowhere to go’
- Some boys helped to look for things such as books, pens and pencils from the wreckage and the girls sorted them out
Some Insights and Analysis
Several of the children mention the date, all as 30th January 1941. This is 17 days later than the date of 13th January that our previous research has suggested and Wikipedia confirms. This later date ties in with the recollections of Don Winfield in his interview in 2021; he specifically mentioned it being a Thursday which ties in with the later date.
Several of the children mention that two people were rescued from the wreckage of the School House where the Infant Headmistress, Ruth Whelan, was killed. There has previously been conflicting evidence on this; Eunice Hall thought that they were adult evacuees staying at Mrs Whelan’s house and that they had been killed; others suggested that they had already gone back to London. The evidence from the children seems to be that they were there but were rescued, taken to hospital and survived.
The children’s contributions show that they were moved around a lot after the bombing and that this was difficult for them. At first they were split into three groups; Seniors to LM Parish Hall, Juniors to Puttenham and Infants to the LM Baptist Chapel. Then the Juniors were brought into the Parish Hall and one senior pupil complained about being ‘crowded together in one school with the Juniors’. Clearly the move to Puttenham did not work out; maybe it has something to do with the memory of Don Winfield during his interview; ‘we had some fun at Puttenham, we had a teacher from London and we didn’t half lead him a life’. Maybe Mr Savage realised what was going on!
The other insight is the extent of the damage beyond the school, in particular the Boot public House and the shop run by the Dean family. Two children mention the Boot having its front blown out and the way in which the shop was damaged; ‘windows broken, bricks down the chimney, ceiling coming down, sauce spilt all over the floor, broken bottles and glass everywhere’.
In the SCOOP magazine, there is an interesting contrast between these descriptions of that awful day and the last two pages that follow. The Editors decided to follow these tragic memories with a ‘Puzzle Corner’ full of puns and some rather corny jokes. I thought this was a rather nice touch and perhaps indicative of the children’s desire to move on. I wonder if Mr Savage felt the same.