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Memories of Clapham Bombing - Jack Stevens' War Memoirs

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posted on 2024-06-05, 17:37 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Jean brought her brother Jack's memoirs of his war service, written in 1991 to the Collection Day. He was 13 years older than she.

A photo taken in 1946 shows the wedding of her sister to Londoner, Harry Colbourn. Jean remembers that everyone donated clothing coupons for her sister's wedding. Jean, aged 12, hated her new shoes and ran out of the shop crying when they were purchased.

In the photograph, Jean is the girl on the far right, and Jack is the fourth from the left.

Jean's father worked in a torpedo factory. He had served in WW1. He was the lead driver of a gun carriage. He loved his horses and travelled by ship with them.

Jean remembers an occasion when she and her siblings were swooped on by a Messerschmidt. Her 15-year-old sister threw them into the bushes. "It turned my brother's brain for some time - he was nine and a half, I was seven."

I actually remember when I was walking to school with my mum and another little friend and Mum said, "We are at war".

My father had a van in which he always kept a section of piping. This would have been attached to the exhaust and the family gassed if we were invaded. His mother was Jewish, so he knew what would happen. We lived in Weymouth, near the seafront. Later Dad found a job in Horsham, where there were no raids, but then he had to do war work and we moved to Clapham. My sister too was involved in war work - she did welding and cycled to Richmond each day. Later she was a Land Army girl working on a farm on Vicarage Hill on Essex Way (Benfleet) opposite where she lived.

Jean's father made a shelter for the family under their home in Clapham, which was quite comfortable. "When the bombing was really bad we used to go to the basement at Decca Records nearby and take our bedding." On Saturdays, the family would clean the house and rotate the jobs among themselves.

"I went to get the fish and chips for lunch and the sirens went - they were trying to knock out Clapham Junction. In the fish shop, we all crouched down behind a wall. We heard a doodlebug, then silence. A house caught a lot of the blast. There was thick black smoke. A policeman stopped me and asked why I was crying. Then my mother came out, wearing her turban, her face covered in blood and crying, "My baby!" Luckily my family were under the stairs. The glass front door had splintered into the wall behind it. It looked really pretty. We had to go to a centre and sleep in bunks. My sister was looking after us. My aunt in Benfleet had a second house and offered it to us. It was like paradise, it was lovely and we were safe!

On V.E. day there were lots of celebrations. At midnight we walked all the way from Southend to Hadleigh, everybody was celebrating, linking arms, walking and singing.


Item list and details

1. Jack Stevens's Memoirs - Document dated 10th October 1991. 2. 1946 Photograph of family.

Person the story/items relate to

Jean, her brother Jack Stevens and other family members

Person who shared the story/items

Jean Scarisbrick

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

The Contributor's memories and her brothers memoirs

Type of submission

Shared at Hadleigh Library, Essex on 4 November 2023. Organised by Hadleigh Castle u3a.

Record ID

98110 | HAD031