Derek Helling's Story


























































My name is Derek Helling.

I was born in Croydon in 1939 and grew up in South Norwood,

London, SE25.

Obviously, I was too young in the early days of the war to remember

much, but some things are imprinted in my memory.  One is the smell

of the cold, moist air when we ran from the house to the Anderson

shelter in the garden next door. My mother put saucepans on our heads as

protection from falling shrapnel. We were never hit, but we used to

find bits of ragged steel in the roads after a raid.  Probably from

our own AAA. Another memory is my father holding me at the entrance

to the shelter, pointing out the red hot tail pipe of a V1 and my mother

admonishing him to bring me back into the shelter. That was when I

learned that if I could still hear a V1 I was (fairly) safe. I also

remember seeing the contrails and my father saying that brave RAF

pilots were protecting us.


We were evacuated to Somerset, to a truly wonderful family in the

Mendip Hills.  I don't remember when we went, but I recall walking to

Norwood Junction station over streets covered with broken glass.  My

father explained when I was older that the bombs created a vacuum that

sucked the glass out of the windows.  I recall the train leaving

Paddington and seeing a lot of damaged buildings.


The best part of our evacuation was that my mother came with us.  I

don't know how this occurred.  I think that a church that she

attended had some contacts with the family in Somerset.

We soon learned how to milk cows, collect eggs, etc.

We always had plenty of food, the farmer's wife made butter,

clotted cream, preserved fruit, made jam, etc.  

My lifelong friend was also evacuated with his mother to a farm

not far from us and their experience was much the same as ours. I

never realized that other evacuated children had such terrible

experiences. I always looked back on it as one of the

happier periods of my life.


My first school was in the local village.  I was aware of no

hostility, we were not badly treated and my parents remained in touch

with our evacuation hosts for more than 30 years after the war ended.


Another memory is later in the war when I was playing in the fields.  

It was warm, spring or summer I suppose, and we heard the sound of

many aircraft engines.  I looked up and saw dozens of aircraft towing

gliders. They were very low and seemed to clear the tops of the

hills with little room to spare. I always assumed is was the

beginning of the invasion.


After reading some of your letters my heart goes out to those who

suffered abuse and brutality in the haven that was supposed to be


I now live in the U.S.A., in Wildwood, Missouri. I have been in the U.S.

since 1968.  I love to visit England but am always ready to come back

to Missouri.  I think that home is where your children are, and my

daughter lives just 19 miles away.


My wife has just brought in a bacon buttie, must go


Regards.......Derek Helling




 updated 11/17/2000


































































































































































































































































Updated 11/6/2000