Friday, August 05, 2005

Bombsites 1950s

I lived at 22 Cambridge Drive with my parents and sister. That's a road in South London at a place called Lee Green. The period I am talking about is from say 1950 to 1956. Between 5 and 11 years after the end of the war.The large area or it seemed large to me between Cambridge Drive, Leyland Road , Osberton Road and Eltham High Road was a bomb site. But because it was between 5 and 11 years after the cessation of the war it was a beautiful bombsite overtaken by nature with ruins mysteriously rising out of reclaiming vegetation.About this time I was introduced by David Silver to the CS Lewis books about Narnia and the bombsite really did have the quality of another country. In fact I could draw a map of its main geographical features now. The 50's were a time of paranoia and the incident I remember most concerned a German Spy.I was probably about 7 and there were a few of us, maybe 5 or 6 who played regularly on the site. There were bigger boys there too and some had constructed a circular track where they raced their bikes. I think speedway must have been an 'in sport' in those days.These boys would also sometimes set off explosions and we smaller boys wanted desperately to have a go and so pressed them to tell us how to do it. I remember Colin Steer one of the big boys taking us aside and disclosing the secret formula. The principal process involved soaking newspaper in water. Colin was obviously a sensible fellow for despite our following the formula to the letter we not surprisingly failed miserably.One of the other big boys swapped a huge commando knife that his father had brought back from the war with me for, I think, a Dandy Annual. My mother made me take it back as soon as she found out but not before the German Spy episode. The big boy, whose name I have forgotten also I think fancied himself as a leader of men. He gathered us smaller ones together and told us of the German Spy that he had been observing. Every evening at a specific time this spy was seen to walk slowly through the bombsite leading a small dog to divert attention from himself. He was obviously waiting for the coast to clear so that he could make contact and pass information on.A plan was devised whereby the, 'leader of men', whose name I have forgotten and his platoon of 7 year olds including myself would track this spy keeping, ourselves well hidden in the lush vegetation. As soon as contact was made we would spring from the surrounding jungle and kill or capture them. I don't know about our leader but I and the rest of the group believed 100% in the mission. Luckily contact was not made and no doubt some poor chap in the habit of walking his dog on the bombsite every evening has been blissfully unaware that he was being followed by half a dozen 7 year olds one at least carrying a 12 inch commando knife and all of them prepared to kill him if necessary. Now the bombsite is an awful block of flats.


bertie said...

Did the Americans bomb your street? You don't seem to like them very much.

MacDuff said...

Not as far as I know - I thought it was the Germans - but you might be right they seem rather good at it.