David Branchett's Story























































































































































































































































































































































































 updated 5/9/01
















I am currently living in the County of Northamton; England (The Rose of the Shires)

I live with my wife of 40+ years not far from where she was evacuated to as

a baby in 1940.

Very little memories from her side I am afraid.


At the end of June 1944 I, aged 7 years old, with my older brother Peter and my

mother were evacuated to the Cinder Hill area of Nottingham shortly after the V2

('Doodle Bugs,' Buzz Bombs) began to fall on London and also shortly after the invasion

of Europe by the Allies (D Day, 6th June 1944). At that time we were living about midway

between the large munitions factory at Woolwich, London and the wartime airfield of Biggin

Hill. After a journey lasting for several hours we were eventually taken in by a Mrs. G. Cutler

and her daughter Cecily of 101 Amesbury Crescent, Cinders Hill, Nottingham.

Whilst there I was taught to swim in a Lido just outside Nottingham and also used to play on

the railway tracks which could be found at the bottom of their garden. This railway line led to

the nearby Cinder Hill colliery and with my new found friends we would have games

of hide and seek and cowboy and Indians around the tracks.

Today at my venerable age I would be appalled if I heard of my grandchildren doing

such a thing!

In October 1944 my father, who was too old to serve in the armed services, suffered a serious

accident at his place of work which necessitated my mother and brother being rushed back to

London, to be by his side, leaving me on my own in Nottingham with 'Auntie Gladys.' I spent

Christmas, 1944, in Nottingham and shortly after became ill with whooping cough,

the consequence of which was that although I loved Auntie Gladys I missed my

mum very much and to my great joy at the end of January 1945 I was delighted

to see not only my mum but my dad as well, who came to take me home.

Once again a journey of several hours in trains packed with troops and then finally back in

my own home. Within a few minutes of arriving there was a loud explosion, which I thought

, was a door slamming but which turned out to be a V2 rocket. About 4 months later my

sisters came rushing in one evening, and telling me to get my outdoor clothes on took me

on a tour of our housing estate. This was VE (Victory in Europe) day and everyone was in

the streets celebrating because the war (for us) was over. My one abiding memory of

that evening was of seeing all the house lights shining into the street. You see all

my remembered life until then had been spent in the 'blackout.'

David Branchett



Is it me? Or have I just blocked out the bad times? but I cannot remember

anything really bad during the war. All right so I was only three when the war

started, but I still have vivid memories of some of it, and they appear to be

rather tame compared to the ones that have been related lately. Mara's tale

for instance. So here below I set forth some of those memories which mainly

took place during the early war years and hope you find them of interest.


Dad's landmine :

One day my dad was standing at the back door looking over the estate to

his right during a small raid when he suddenly exclaimed „look there is a

landmine on a parachute‰ at that moment the landmine explode and although

some distance away caused dad to walk around with his head twisted to one

side for two or three days.


The un-exploded bomb:

I suddenly discovered that our house was full of other people and it

turned out that a bomb had fallen into the back garden of a house opposite

and had not exploded. Frantic digging was now taking place to locate the

bomb and the family effected had moved in with us for a couple of days. The

bomb was never found, and the family moved back. (Just recently a WW2 bomb

was dug up in London and the 'Authorities' cleared and evacuated a square

mile until it was defused!)


Battle of Britain:

Playing in the swing park one morning with one of my sisters, I think it

was Sheila; I lay on my back on the grass watching aircraft in the sky.

This, I believe, was the big day in September 1940 when the decisive battles

took place as I distinctly remember all the vapour trails in the sky. .


Mum's soap:

Soap like most things was hard to come by and on this occasion my father

had returned from work with some Goodies‚ in his bicycle carrier bag which

he asked mum to get whilst he was having his tea.

This she did and was pleased to find a large bar of washing soap among

them. Never being one to waste a moment she promptly put it to good use in

scrubbing the kitchen floor.

The soap however did not lather and did not clean as she would wish. On

complaining to my father she was informed in no uncertain terms "that's not

soap...its a piece of cheese".


Dad's bomb:

My father had just finished repairing the clothesline post at the bottom

of the garden when yet another air raid started. We all went into the

shelter and waited until the raid had finished. My father left the shelter

shortly before the all clear sounded and soon was heard cursing from the

vicinity of the line post. He reappeared at the shelter door holding a bucket

in which reposed an evil smelling incendiary bomb that had hit the newly

repaired post. He always maintained that the German pilots had dropped it

there deliberately!!


Mollie's visitor:

The air raid had been in progress for some time and as it was a heavy one

we were all in the shelter.

After a while my sister Mollie said that something was in her pyjamas and

was told to be quiet. However, every so often she complained again and my

mother was beginning to be annoyed but eventually all became silent as we

slowly drifted off to sleep.

The next morning my mother, as was the practice, began to shake out and

hang on the clothes line all the night clothes and bedding from the shelter.

On shaking Mollies pyjamas she was surprised to see a large stag beetle

fall out which had been there all night!!


Peter's revenge:

One day my brother Peter decided to make a see-saw in the front room out of

a piece of wood and a pile of books, and we were both soon seeing and sawing

Suddenly, whilst I was high in the air my brother rolled off the plank, and

I came crashing down hurting both my arms. My mother took me to the First

Aid Post, and they put both my arms in a sling "because he may have sprained

them slightly." By the next day I was out of the slings and thought nothing

more about it. However, years later during a medical at school the doctor

wanted to know "when did this child break his arms." My mother could only

assume that this had happened during the see-saw incident.


Our Gun:

During the 'Blitz' we had on our council estate one Bofors gun which during

a nighttime raid would trundle around the estate and fire off two or three

shots at various points. One of these was near our house, and I well remember

listening for the sound of the lorry and then the two or three loud cracks

before it was on its way again.


These are just a few of my memories together with queues at the shops, no

sweets or toys, powdered egg and nightly air raids. However, I cannot

remember ever being hungry or cold or tired and never frightened no matter

what happened around me. What I can remember is my family always being there

and food always being provided at meal times.


By the way. I do not remember crumpets but do any of you remember any of the

following :


Cod Liver Oil and Malt....One teaspoonful every evening.

Condensed milk sandwiches.... as a special treat.

Dripping sandwiches with salt and pepper.

School milk in the winter... warmed by the classroom stove to melt the ice..


David Branchett.



Back in the summer of 1940 I was as a small three-year old

playing just outside our front garden when aircraft engines could be heard

coming up the road. Looking up I saw several large aeroplanes flying just

above roof top height and with the other kids started to wave at them. They

were so low we could see the airmen in the cockpits waving back. Suddenly

they started to fire their machine guns at us, and we realized that these

were German planes. The next thing I remember is being under the kitchen

sink (it was one of those old fashioned stone ones) with my sister Sheila

laying on top of me. How I got there is still a mystery to me but my sister

tells me that the planes went on to bomb a school at Catford (South London)

and killed about 250 children. From what I have heard since it was given out

that this was in retaliation for the RAF bombing a school in Germany. I have

not been able to verify this, but it does seem plausible. We were also told

that five of the German planes had been shot down. Again not verified. I do

know that we used to go and look at the bullet wholes in the wall of our

local school where the planes had a go at the milkman on his horse and cart.


Re the Blackwall Tunnel. My late father had the distinction of closing this

for several hours back in the 1930's when it was a single tunnel, and not the

dual one it is today. Seems he was driving a large horse and cart loaded

with train wheels when a wheel came of the cart resulting in a spilled load.



 Jan 2nd 1956. Torn from my comfortable home and great job

and sent to the far North of England to start my 2 years National Service.

Determined to make the army regret that they ever called me up.

Arrived at the camp railway station after an eight-hour journey to be

met by a large, red faced 'gentleman', Hah! screaming at us to get into line.

Took one look at this apparition with three stripes and decided the

army was bigger than I and that if you can't beat'em you had better

join them. Two years later, less six front teeth, 4 weeks with

double pneumonia and the rise from signalman (private) to Sergeant

and back again to signalman I arrived back home a far wiser and

better person than when I went in.

I wish that they would bring National Service back as today there is

little chance of the younger generation being taught the necessity

of discipline in a modern civilization. I look back on the good

times in the army and the wide range of people I met from all

walks of life. The lad from the slums of Glasgow with little or no

learning to the Bachelor of Arts (he had been deferred until he got

his degree) who was going back to university to take his Doctorate.

The chap from a small mining village in Yorkshire (he had never

seen or used a fixed bath or inside toilet) and the lad whose father

owned a night club. Of course, there was the usual couple of con men

and fixers and one or two light fingered people but even they soon saw

the errors of their ways. All in all a valuable experience which

looking back I would not have missed.

Once again I feel I was very lucky with whom and where I served.

Dave B (UK)


Early in 1945 I was playing indoors with my friend from across the street Pat (Patricia)

a little girl the same age as myself. Seven years old at the time. Now in our front room

there was a large wicker work basket chair which was always being argued over as

to who would get to sit in it if Dad was not at home. If he were home there was no

arguments, he sat in it and that was that.

Anyway, on the day in question it occurred to me that if we pulled the curtains (drapes?)

and I put a lighted night light under the chair then the light filtering through Ýthe wicker

work would make pretty patterns on the wall. If I remember rightly there was no paper

on the walls at this time as the plaster etc. was continually being blown off by nearby

bombs, and in any case you could not buy wall paper at this time. A night light by the

way was/is a small circular candle about one and a half inches by one and a half inches

and was normally used in the shelter.

Anyway, under went the night light and the patterns did indeed appear on the wall.

However within a short time the chair, which was bone dry suddenly burst into

flames and there was nothing else to do except tell my Mum that I had set fire to it.

Mum rushed in and grabbed the chair and tried to drag it to the back door and garden,

but it got caught at the bottom of the stairs. After a short fight with the chair she

finally got it to the front door and out into the front area. Fortunately, some workmen

were passing by and quickly helped Mum to put it out, but needless to say the

chair was beyond repair.

On seeing the resultant mess I informed my Mum that "I think I aught to go to bed

" (it was mid-morning) and immediately did so remarking as I went "well at least we

won't argue over it any more" What my Dad said when he got home I never knew, but

the chair and escapade were never mentioned again. Apart from the chair and a slight

scorch mark at the bottom of the stairs there was no damage done what-so-ever.

Thus ended my first attempt at arson.



I was evacuated to Cinders Hill about quarter of a mile from

the coal mine of the same name.

Attached is a photo of the house which I came across a couple of days ago.

The road was Amesbury Circus.


We were very lucky (my mum, brother and me) as

the family that took us in consisted of just the mother and daughter. Father

was never talked about, and I got the impression that he was not very welcome

and in any case was a merchant seaman. Rather him than I. I think that they

were the real heroes of the war, going to sea in old unarmed merchant ships

with a possible top speed of around 5 or 6 knots. When we arrived in

Nottingham, in the dark, we were bussed around the various estates in cold

double deckers and stopped on one estate which was a proper slum. In fact, it

was so bad and the people so poorly dressed that most of the mums refused to

even get off the bus and most of them came from the East end of London which

was not exactly the best of places to live. The people were great though.

When I eventually came back to London in Jan., 1945 I had only been indoors

about 5 minutes when I heard this loud bang. " Who shut door?" I asked in my

new Nottinghamshire accent and my brother replied "That's not a door, it's a

bl...y rocket." He is in fact, one of the few people I know who actually saw

one come down. He described it as a dark rainbow in the sky. Fortunately,

he was far enough away not to be hurt.

A few of our neighbors in London never used the shelters which

were basically built by contractors (Council tenants had this privilege and

got the shelter for free. (A private house had to pay the vast sum of seven

pounds for theirs) but went to the nearby Chislehurst Caves every night with

all their bedding and whatnot packed into a Hop Picker's trolley. You know a

large box about 3 foot cubed and mounted on wheels with a small wooden

handle. You can still see relics of the wartime use if you visit the caves

today together with artifacts going back to the Stone Age.



Although our shelter was the 'Anderson' type, a friend of ours across

the road had a 'Morrison' shelter in the front room.

It replaced the dining table and was meant for the older ones among us.

(I seem to recall that it was little more than an angle iron box with

sides of wire mesh). My dad turned our shelter into a shed, and it

lasted us until the late fifties when a proper wooden one was bought.

The house my grandparents lived in, in Greenwich, was a Victorian 3 storey affair.

At the beginning of the war they moved into the basement and lived there

for the rest of their days. The rest of the house was furnished, and the

top floor was sub let. Why they never moved back I have no idea.

They both died in the early 60's. They never had any type of shelter

as I remember. During the rationing my mum would push a

baby pram the five miles to Grans and then push it back full of coal. This

happened even during the daylight raids. We kept our coal, when we

had it, under the stairs in what was always known as the coal cupboard.

As the door was adjacent to the front door, it was

ideal for the coalman to empty his sack straight in.



My uncle was a bus driver on the 94 bus route for many years,

and one evening during a very bad fog was slowly maneuvering

his bus and following the tail light of a car in front because as

he would say "It was going my way".

After a while the car stopped as did uncle and a few minutes later there

was a tap on the door to his cab. Sliding back the door he was confronted

by an irate business man, complete with bowler hat, who wanted to know

when uncle was going to take his bus out of the business man's drive!

Yes he'd followed him right up to the front door. The fog was so bad

that the bus had to stay there all night. Very unhappy business

man, extremely unhappy passengers who had to get out and walk.

For years afterwards if for any reason uncles bus ran late, he would be asked

whose drive he had been parking in. Now days when a fog appears and

visibility is down to 100 yards or so I recall those days before the clean

air act came in when literally 'you could not see a hand in front of your




 One of my dad's old remedies during the war was a bread poultice. This

consisted of some sort of bread mixture on a pad, very hot and applied to

the cuts and grazes on my knees after a days playing. It was supposed to

draw out any dirt and infection. I still have both knees albeit with lots of

small scars so I suppose it was effective.

One of my Gran's remedies concerned a silver threepenny bit (remember those).

One day she rubbed this on a nasty wart that I had on my hand and told me

that she was buying the wart and that when it went she would give me

sixpence. I don't know wether it was the thought of this vast fortune or

something in the metal makeup of the coin but three days later the wart had

gone, and I was richer by sixpence.

She was also the one that cured my lack of appetite which was worrying my

mum. She gave me a shot of her daily medicine and told me that my appetite

would return. I drank, back came the appetite and all from an inch of




It was late July or early August 1944 that I was awoken early and dressed in

my best clothes and outer coat. I was just 7 years old and thought that we

were going out for the day. After a walk through the estate we, that is my

mum, brother Peter and me, got onto a double deck bus and had a short ride

to Chislehurst station. I have the feeling that my dad was there as well but

I cannot really remember. At the station there were several other buses and

loads of mothers and children all milling around and we, with the rest,

stood around waiting to be told what to do. I do recall being very worried

about the bus because it had driven up the slope to the station and I could

see that there was not space enough for it to turn round to leave. Suddenly

to my amazement it started to reverse down the slope and this was the very

first time I found out that buses could go backwards as well as forwards! At

some time we must have got on the train but of the journey I cannot recall

one iota but do remember that we did not have to change trains which meant

that we had been routed right around London to head North to Nottingham.

  The journey started early in the morning but we did not arrive at Nottingham

until it was dark and there we all got off the train and embarked on more

double deck buses. These again were something new to me as they were Green!

Not the familiar red I was used to. After a short journey we pulled up in a

very run down estate on the outskirts of Nottingham and watched as several

people came out of the darkness towards us. The mothers on the bus were

horrified at their appearance as their clothing and attire was dirty and

scruffy to say the least and as one all the mothers refused to even get off

the bus. After a lot of wrangling the bus drove on and after several stops

where people were dropped off we came to Amesbury Circus on the Cinderhill

estate where after a bit of haggling a nice lady  and her daughter took the

three of us in. This turned out to be a godsend as Auntie Gladys as I called

her became a second mother to me. I can remember being given a hot drink and

something to eat and then being put to bed. Thus ended the first day.

Dave B (UK)



My father used to cycle about 5 miles to work in a factory on the Thames

between Woolwich and Greenwich. He had one speed that he would travel

at and this never varied and was about 5 miles an hour. Anyway, one day in

1944, before we were evacuated, he came into the house and told us all to get

down the shelter as a Buzz bomb had followed him all the way home!

Naturally, we all laughed but stopped when we heard the sound of its

engine which stopped almost at once. The bomb dropped about 500 yards

away and took out two changing rooms and left a crater in the middle of a

local football pitch. My father maintained that the bomb really had 'chased'

him all the way from Woolwich.

Dave B