Brian and Valerie Mott: Coping with the bombing

Valerie snd Brian Mott pictured in their front garden in Radley in August 2006
Brian and Valerie Mott, 2006

Brian, who was born in 1932, lived on the edge of Windsor Park, a few miles from the town of Windsor. He went to Egham Grammar School and spent most of the war years there.

At the start of the war Brian’s father was not called up immediately as he was a builder and was constructing gun emplacements, etc. along the River Thames. In 1941, however, he was called up into the Army. Brian’s mother was very hard-working, and she got a job as the local postman to supplement the family’s income. She got on her bike incredibly early in the morning to collect the mail and was then out delivering it. Brian had an older sister and younger brother, so he felt he was the man of the house and made breakfast for his siblings and got them ready for school.

Egham was about 20 miles out of central London, but the school spent a lot of time in the basement air raid shelters. The Grammar School shared its buildings with a bombed-out school from central London. The two schools alternated, having either morning or afternoon sessions.

Brian remembers playing cricket one afternoon in Windsor when a doodlebug (a V1 flying bomb) passed overhead. The boys all lay down on the cricket field and the doodlebug came down about a mile and half away. On another occasion while waiting to go in a swimming pool near Staines a doodlebug came over and landed near an Army establishment. They felt the shock waves from it. [Note: Thousands of doodlebugs were launched by the Germans to bomb London starting in June 1944. A doodlebug kept flying until it ran out of fuel when it fell to the ground and exploded.]

At the beginning of the war, Brian’s father put sandbags around the walls of their ground floor bathroom to form a makeshift shelter. Later a Morrison shelter was delivered and this consisted of a hard steel table with substantial legs and a steel top. The table was put in the sitting-cum-dining room and the family slept under it.

There were a few stray bombs in their area. One blew some tiles off their roof as it dropped in a nearby cemetery and blew up some graves. As a child Brain felt that people adapted to the situation as part of their lives. It was quite stressful, but they got used it.

Valerie was born in Balham in south London in 1936. When the war started her father went into the RAF, and she and her mother went to stay with her father’s aunt in a little village near Swansea in South Wales. Both her parents were Welsh. When the bombing had calmed down, they went to Swansea to live with her grandmother. The whole family went into the ‘coal hole’ (a cellar where coal was stored) when the air raids started. Swansea was flattened during the war because of its docks, but no bombs fell near Valerie’s family. She returned to London when she was 10 and her father had left the RAF.

Interviewed by Tony Rogerson on 24 February 2006