June 1995 In ‘Seems Only Yesterday’ villagers recall personal memories of Pirton. This month Millie Walker recalls her experiences in Bury End
THE NIGHT MY HOUSE WAS BOMBED
I suppose that when I went up Wood Lane to see where the first doodlebug had fallen, I realised that it might not be the last near the village. But I never thought that soon afterwards my house in Bury End would be the target.
It was a terrible autumn night, 24th September 1944; the wind and rain lashing the house. I must have been asleep for it was around 4am on that Sunday. Suddenly I woke to the most terrifying noise – a huge whoosh, bang and as if an express train was tearing through the house. It was only later I learnt that a German flying bomb had roared above the Bury before smashing into an elm tree near the water by Toot Hill. I guess that tree saved a lot of lives for otherwise the bomb would have crashed much nearer some village houses.
I had lived in the village all my life, nearly all the time round Great Green. I was born in 1908 in one of the cottages on the same side of The Green as the Cat & Fiddle.
Then, until they were demolished in 1922, in one of the four cottages on the opposite side by The White Horse (now the Motte & Bailey). Anyway, in 1922 I moved to this row of cottages, six of them then and I lived next door (now No. 13) with my parents and sisters Alice, Beryl and Trish.
Our cottage was much smaller then with a lean-to at the back and the toilet across the yard; we got water from a standpipe nearby. When the flying bomb fell every window was blown out, beams were everywhere and our marble washstand was split in half. It was pitch dark and I realised something terrible had happened to our house. The roof was destroyed, parts of the walls caved in and much of the back of the cottage totally destroyed. One of our neighbours was pinned down under fallen beams and several others bruised and cut, but it appeared that no one was killed. Luckily Percy Wright was on duty in his ARP hut nearby. He thought the telephone had been brought down but managed to get hold of the rescue services. Of course, everyone around had to move out. We got meals at the village hall and I slept at Pirton Court where I worked for Mr and Mrs Martineau.
Later I went to Davis Crescent. At first the Council said our bombed houses could not be repaired; that they would buy ours for £871. Anyway, Mr Martineau was a solicitor and he helped us out. So the Council agreed that we could look for a builder and it was repaired. The bombing had been a terrible thing to go through but I suppose it was all a blessing in disguise. The cottages were rebuilt larger, with proper kitchens and toilets. It was not until Christmas 1946 that we finally moved back. All our furniture that had not been too badly damaged had been stored in the Sunday School (where ‘The Rafters’ was later built on Great Green. There was one other thing. When the bomb fell our chickens, about twelve of them, were killed. Mr Ward took them and sold them to a shop in Brand Street, Hitchin. I wondered if they were all right to eat but we got 2/6d each for them.
July 1995 MORE ON THE BOMB THAT FELL ON THE BURY
Following last month’s reminiscences by Millie Walker of the 1944 night when a flying bomb blew her roof off in Bury End, Mabel Males, now living in Luton, kindly wrote to the Magazine.
‘At the time I was living up at High Down Cottages. Very suddenly I was woken by this high pitched screeching sound, along with a brilliant florescent light beaming through the bedroom window. ‘Without thinking, I dashed to the child’s bedroom snatching up my eighteen month old son. Putting him on the bed I said that at least we would all die together. The next second this terrific explosion shook the house. ‘My husband being in the Homeguard, hurriedly dressed and dashed down the drive to help put tarpaulin sheets over the shattered roofs.’