National Geographic : 1991 Jul
HEN THE BOMB HIT, my I /brother Pete and I were in the coffee shop adjoining the JW Balham Underground Station. SThere was a terrific blast of hot air, and a roaring noise like one of today's jets taking off. Then I was lifted from the stool and hurled to the floor just under the big window. The glass had shattered; there were bits stick ing out of everything. The lights were out, but we could see clearly from the flames just out side. I waited for another explosion, but it didn't come. I was drenched with sweat, more from sheer terror, I think, than from the heat, but I was alive and miraculously unhurt except for a couple of bruises I got when I hit the wall. Pete was unhurt too. We were worried about our mother. We tried to go up Station Road to our usual shelter in the cellar of the fish-and-chips shop, but the police turned us back. There was alot of shout ing and screaming and people running. Rescu ers were still trying to get down to the people below in the Underground station, so we ran up the High Road. Then the guns on the common opened up, and we heard the drone of another Heinkel. You could always tell a Heinkel because its engines seemed to be out of sync. We dived for cover behind a mound of debris that I think was a bakery the day before. The bombs came down about half a mile away. When we reached the shelter, everyone was all right. Mother was crying. She said she thought she'd lost us. And Lotta was singing. Lotta was the shopkeeper's daughter, and though not blessed with the gift of music or voice, she insisted on "keeping up the spirits" of her captive audience far too often for my lik ing. Unfortunately, she seemed to know only two songs all the way through: "All the Things You Are" and "We'll Meet Again." It was October 14, 1940, the night we lost our second house, the 38th night of the great air bombardment of London, later to become famous forever as the Blitz. "For fifty-seven nights the bombing of Lon don was unceasing," Winston Churchill was to write in Their Finest Hour. "Never before was so wide an expanse of houses subjected CAMERON THOMAS now lives in Sidney, British Columbia, where he works as a free-lance writer. He retired from a career with a Toronto television station in 1979.