Memories of War
I’ve been chatting with a chap called Raymond Gallagher who at first was telling me about his father who lived in Trinity Hospital when he retired (and was telling me that the reason why the old buildings are still uninhabited is due to Health and Saftey regulations clashing with listed building regulations, a ridiculous state of affairs – these buildings were lived in for centuries, were they really that dangerous?) but as our conversation wore on Raymond revealed that, as a child, he lived through WWII in Christchurch Way.
I don’t have any old pics of Christchurch Way, but he would have known these pictures, that Dave sent me, of Pelton Road – this block was lost in the war.
He told me that he’s included in a website that I didn’t know about – but which fans of Wartime Greenwich /Traf Road/Christchurch Way / general East Greenwich might find as interesting as I did.
It’s a project from the University of Greenwich called Memories of War which, if you put ‘Greenwich’ into the search engine, you’ll get an array of interviews and memories, one page of which includes those of Raymond.
It’s an ongoing project and they’re still welcoming memories. Over Christmas I was talking with my parents about the war, they were both very small but have vivid (and in Dad’s case eyewatering – his older brother was somewhat cavalier in his attitudes to live ammo he’d collected as schrapnel) memories.
I susggested they wrote them down – there is a shrinking number of people who have recollection of the war. Their tales of deckchairs in Anderson shelters, being refused refuge in someone else’s shelter when they were far from home and being forced to crouch behind a motorcycle sidecar as the Messerschmitt flew over so close that Dad could see the expression on the pilot’s face, gathering grisly remains of fallen German (and British) pilots, collecting all the bullets from a fallen machine gun, emptying out the powder into a catering custard tin and throwing matches at it – basically the responses of small children to a concept they didn’t understand – fascinated me.
Their reply was ‘oh, there are so many stories knocking around; everyone’s got one, they’re all similar, why would people be interested in ours?’
Because they aren’t ‘the same.’ Everyone has something to give and if their particular story isn’t told, it is lost to the world. I’m working on my parents – there are people who want to hear these tales and as the years pass it becomes more and more alien to those of us who have no experience of war. Personally, I think there’s room for memories of other times too – the 1950s and 60s are beginning to retreat in the collective mind these days too.
I always love to hear people’s stories and I know that it is of immense use to historians such as Stephen from Blitzwalkers. Don’t automatically assume that we will have heard this stuff already. Do contribute.
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