A Local Lad Remembers

Wartime Memories from Blitz and Bananas cast member Derek Allen.

Derek Remembers when...

Living in London’s most heavily bombed borough, we saw plenty of BLITZ, but no BANANAS, although there were a few about brought in by Mercahant Navy seamen (illegally)

This reminds me of an incident concerning two cockney boys on a train. A kind old lady had obtained a few bananas and gave them one each. They had no idea what they were, so the kind old lady explained that you took off the peel and ate them. Just then they entered a long tunnel and in those days no lights came on, so they were in pitch darkness. There followed a short conversation. “‘Ere Charlie, you etten yours yet ?” Charlie relplied, “Nah, not yet”. To which the first boy said ” Well don’t, I just bit mine and I’ve gorn blind !”

Looking back it is surprising how much we managed to enjoy life and accepted the tragedies. We held parties, went to dances and the ‘pictures’, put on mini concerts in air raid shelters and went camping.

Of course we were scared at times and sad at the deaths. I was in the Volunteer Light Rescue Service three nights a week and we were busy, but still had to go to work the next day. Our most tragic incident was the bombing of the Catford school where about 30 pupils were killed. Civilians helped the Fire Brigade and Rescue Services digging in the rubble, including a vicar from a local church. A policeman found the body of his son.

My wife,Olive, was about ten years old. A bomb dropped in a cemetery opposite her house and she was blown under the table. Helping to clear up broken glass and bones from the bodies, she was late for school and was severley reprimanded ‘being bombed’ was no excuse for being late !!

Olive got detension !!! To-days kids would get counselling and a box of chocolates.!

For relaxation on Sundays, if our band was not required to lead a church parade or fund raising parade to buy a ‘Spitfire’ (£3000) or help the war effort with events like ‘Warship Week’, we played football.

I formed ‘Lewisham Rovers FC’ and our ‘Home’ ground was Lloyds Bank Sports Ground at Beckenham. We paid the groundsman seven shillings and six pence (37p) per match, (I am sure that Lloyds Bank had no idea that he did this, as the entire site had been taken over by the Fire Brigade; they used the club house as their depot and ignored the football pitches.)
We played our Cup Final on the ground of Millwall FC.
One of our players was the founder of Thornburrows furniture shops.
The sister of one of our goal-keepers and her baby was killed by a shrapnel bomb at Catford.
Another player in our team (still alive) was among the first troops to arrive at Belsen concentration camp.

Excuse the ramblings, I must be getting old.!

Derek Allen.


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