Doug Halloway continues
remembering life in the early 1940s…
I was working all hours at Slough with a long coach
ride each way,
every day. There were some nice girls in my section and occasionally
some of us would meet at Waterloo Station for a meal at Lyons Corner
House and then a full programme at the cinema - two films, news,
cartoons and the organ interval. Afterwards back to Waterloo Station;
the girls to Slough, we to Kingston. Any raids were ignored but
fortunately no bombs fell near us.
However, I got caught in London on 29th December
1940 in one of the
heaviest raids at that time. My brother and I had been to Hull to stay
with our parents for Christmas and returned to King's Cross at 5.30 pm.
As we got off the train the air raid warning sirens started. Nobody
wanted to go through the ticket barrier so we jumped down onto the
rails, climbed onto the next platform, which was empty, and ran along
to get down the 'tube' for Waterloo. The underground station platforms
were already being filled with people who were sleeping there so we
could only get as far as the Haymarket.
The raid was in full progress with bombs falling mainly in the docks
area. The large shutters on the shop windows were moving quite a bit
when a bomb was a bit close. We set off across Trafalgar Square and
down Whitehall to Big Ben. The underground station opposite was closed
so we walked across Westminster Bridge. On the other side of the river
a building had been hit and was burning fiercely and practically
blocking the road. We were going to attempt to get by but a policeman
stopped us and asked where we trying to get to. We told him Waterloo
but he said the station had been hit and no trains were running, so we
turned back across Westminster Bridge and headed for Victoria Station.
As we looked towards Tower Bridge we could see buildings further away
all ablaze and barrage balloons were clearly visible above the flames.
We didn't see anyone else, only the occasional taxi towing an auxiliary
fire pump. Here and there the top floors of buildings were on fire from
incendiary bombs but there were no fire services dealing with them.
When we got to Victoria there were no trains or
trams running. It was now about midnight and at last we saw bus going
to Clapham Junction and got on. The station was crowded but we were
told that a train to Kingston would leave at about 1.30 am; and
amazingly it did. We got back to Canbury Avenue to find that a bomb had
demolished some houses two streets away. Such was life during the war
but thankfully it was not always so hectic.
Back at Slough Hawkers was visited by fighter pilots
who came to thank us for the Hurricanes. One chap had a hook for a hand
but was still flying. They looked very smart in their uniforms with
wings; that was for me, so when I was old enough I volunteered for RAF
aircrew. I sat exams and had a medical at Oxford University and was
very disappointed when I failed the medical; so back to Slough for me.
I the volunteered for the Navy and passed the medical but the manager
at Slough, Tom Bray, wouldn't release me.
We were still working lots of overtime with
alternate months on night shift. (An elderly man on my section had been
a pilot in the first World War). I used to see that everyone had jobs
and then sometimes had a kip in my office. Occasionally we had a dance
at the Good Companions pub which was very good. ENSA (Entertainments
National Service Association) played sometimes at lunch time, mostly
classical music which was not appreciated by some. One evening we had a
big show at Langley with Tommy Trinder and Cyril Fletcher.
The build-up for D-Day started at the end of 1942
which gave me the opportunity to join the Forces, volunteering for the
duration of the war. I was in REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical
Engineers) for four and a half years from March 1943, a very different
life from that at Hawkers in Slough.