Memories of the War

Putney resident remembers as the country celebrates the Battle of Britain

This week we are celebrating eighty years since the Battle of Britain. Derek Woods who has lived all his life in Rotherwood Road was six when the Battle started in 1940. Understandably he doesn’t remember the dog fights,the daring do,the life or death struggle but the effect the War had on his education.

Derek at home in Rotherwood Road

He started off in 1939 at Hotham School which was quickly converted into an auxiliary fire station.That meant moving to St Mary's.” At first my parents opposed the general evacuation of children But when the bombing started in 1941 they shipped me up to Luton to stay with my aunt and uncle. From then on I was going backwards and forwards according to how my parents saw the ferocity of the bombing. By the end of the War I had six different spells at primary schools in Putney and Luton. I understand how people feel today about disrupted education, although I eventually got to Wandsworth(Grammar) School I just failed my 11 plus,which I put down to those War years,which I feel probably affected my career prospects.”

“What I most remember was the Anderson shelter in the garden. It was 6x4 feet and somehow three adults(parents and aunt) and me crammed in, if you could sleep it had to be sitting up. My father working 16-20 hour shifts in the power stations was in a reserved occupation. I remember when the munitions factory Vokes ,where the Sainsbury's garage is,getting hit. The explosion was so loud we knew it was pretty close.(across the road). The Air Raid Wardens were very strict and the slightest chink of light and they would be knocking on your door.”

“Another memory was of the ration cards. Where Blades in now used to be Hawkins the grocers. He wore a brown coat and had his favourites. If he didn’t like you he had run out. And as for the black market, our neighbour was a driver with Tate and Lyle and was caught dealing on the side. He lost his job and ended up cleaning cars. “

Derek Wood was talking to his friend and near neighbour Hugh Thompson

September 25, 2020