Heritage: When The Blitz was party of everyday life in east London
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
In this week’s heritage column, Hainault schoolboy Derek Hall remembers what it was like in east London as the Luftwaffe pulverised neighbourhoods and fighter pilots shot up residential streets.
I remember how much fun we all used to have collecting war memorabilia from crashed aircraft or dropped bombs.
You used to get big jagged shards of metal, horrible looking things, so nasty and jagged with different angles, and then you’d go to school and find out one of your mates had a piece that was a bit longer or a bit more jagged.
You’d go, “corr, what do you want for that?” and he’d say, well I want three pieces like yours!
That’s what it used to be like, we used to work really hard to build up our collections.
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They were all brown and rusty, an off colour.
They weren’t metallic, because as soon as they got a bit of dampness on them they’d begin to rust because it was untreated iron.
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I remember when I was living in Dagenham we saw one plane go flying past towards the airfield and the pilot was hanging out of the aircraft and his boot fell off.
The bigger boys climbed over the railway lines to retrieve the boot.
You used to be able to tilt your head up to the sky and watch all the trails of the big German aircraft and the smaller Spitfires and Hurricanes.
It was just like you’d see the big jet trails today, except where those are straight these were at all different heights and angles, you’d get figure of eights and long curves and all sorts.
I don’t know about the adults, but certainly for us as kids we would always stop what we were doing and look up and wonder about what might be about to happen – who would get shot down, and then they would all speed off and there would be fighters trying to chase them away.
My brother was pushing me down the road one day on our three-wheel bike, and this German aircraft came flying above the road shooting up everything.
Fortunately an air raid warden was on station on the road, and he grabbed us as fast as he could and threw us into a shelter, otherwise we would certainly have died.