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Ida Mary Wilkinson
Extract from a letter dated 28th October 1940
... I am afraid we have had some very bad luck since I wrote to you last. A fortnight ago we had a telegram to say our house at (2 Smithies Road) Abbey Wood had been damaged by a bomb falling just in front of it. So I had to make the hazardous journey to see it on Thurs. (One doesn't care to get off the beaten track nowadays). It's very badly shaken, the windows and front door are gone, but the roof is still on. It took me 4 hrs. to get there and I spent 3 hrs. solid hard work clearing glass away. Whilst I was there there was a raid and bombs dropping not far away, so at 4 o'c. I thought I had better get towards home. The railway was blocked, so I had to go by bus and tram and went straight into a raid at Greenwich with bombs dropping all round us. The conductor told us to lie on the floor and urged his driver to keep at the wheel and drive on through the bombs - I can tell you it is an awful experience. We survived and then had a breather. You couldn't see for dust from the debris. It's a wonder we survived that lot. It's no use going to a shelter because we should be there all the time. I managed to get home to Thames Ditton just as the sirens started for the usual all-night raid.
That night at 2 a.m. we were nearly all killed by a landmine which exploded near us and blew off our roof and all the windows and doors out. We were trying to patch things up a bit yesterday when we were told that another landmine had been found nearby in a tree and everyone had to evacuate. This thing was blown up in the afternoon. We expected to find our house collapsed on the ground but apparently more of the blast went the other way, so we were able to get back in again. These landmines do terrible damage and Thames Ditton looks a mess. We were just trying to straighten things up a bit when we were told to evacuate from our houses as another landmine had been found in Hampton Court.
The tiles are off and rain is coming in onto the bedroom suite and mattress of the bed. The mirror of the dressing table is broken and the suite all scratched - it does seem a shame. However, we now have the roof mended, but with no glass in the windows and the doors not fitting properly, it is not exactly comfortable. We only wish we knew where to go. The R.S.P.C.A. took the animals.
However, our chief worry is travelling up and down to town. We are liable to get stranded any night, because as it gets dark and the bombing gets worse and worse, the train tracks get messed up and buses etc. won't run when the bombing gets too bad at night. If it wasn't for Mother being at home we should be able to go to a public shelter, but she can't possibly get to one and we wouldn't leave her at home. If Charlie's firm would only move from London it would solve all our problems, but as it is he is worried to death with us there and I feel I can't leave him by himself with no proper roof overhead and such a terrible journey everyday.
A man from Letchworth was saying the other day that he had read about London in the papers and listened on the wireless, but he never dreamed it was as bad as he had found it.
You said the house next door to you was empty, which is rather surprising nowadays, now that so many people are going to the country. I was wondering if it would be possible for us to be there for the time until we can get somewhere else. What is the rent? Although, I really feel I can't leave Charlie in London by himself, with no where to sleep. It really is a problem. Mother doesn't want to be a burden on anyone, but if I could persuade her to come down to you just until we see what arrangements can be made for the winter, as Charlie is worried to death what with one thing and another; with us there, the furniture all spoiled and rain dripping in on everything.
Well, I expect you think this is a miserable letter, but we are only one family of thousands and I only hope such treatment doesn't spread to any more towns in England, although I believe one or two up North have had it pretty bad.
Hoping, you are all keeping well, Mother sends her love. I think she is too upset to say much these days. Will close now, hoping the day of peace will not be long in coming and that we will be seeing you once again one of these days.
Your affectionate Niece and Nephew."
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