Memories of a Young Lad

Jim Cross (written c1996) 

In 1944 Hitler launched the attacks of V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets.  At the time of the V1 bomb falling in California Holdings (5th July 1944) I was working for Mrs Spriggs, who owned a shop (now Spirit Hair Company, Kathleen Cottage) next to the butcher’s. I worked there after school and on Saturday mornings.

I was waiting for Mrs Spriggs to make up an order of groceries for Mrs Cheeseman who lived at the top of the Common in St David’s.  Rather than leaving me to linger idly, Mrs Spriggs asked me to bring in some coal from the garden shed.  It was whilst doing this, as l crouched on my hands and knees filling the bucket with coal, that the bomb fell.  I found myself almost trapped by the remains and debris of the shed roof which had fallen in on top of me, but freed myself as quickly as possible to return to the shop.

Here I was met immediately by signs of destruction; a window damaged by the attack and an injured Mrs Spriggs having cuts bandaged by a lady who was lodging with her during the war years.  Once the clearing of the shop was complete, l can remember asking Mrs Spriggs if the delivering of the groceries could wait till later, as l was keen to go and see where the bomb had landed.  But she refused.  I grabbed the basket of groceries and left to make my way to Mrs Cheeseman’s house.  Several people were walking towards California Holdings, situated just off the Common.  Unable to resist the urge to follow the crowd, l abandoned the basket of groceries in the middle of Downley cricket pitch, where l left it for about two hours.

When the attack occurred there were seven shops located along the High Street and Commonside and two in Littleworth Road.  Three in all had their windows blown in by the blast.  Several of the houses on the Common also suffered extensive damage, visual evidence of the destruction and disruption caused by war.