John Trafford

Recollections of evacuation to Cornwall and air raids over Catford.


Born in 1927, John Trafford was living with his family in Catford when war began in September 1939. Expecting heavy aerial bombardment at the outbreak of war, the family left London to stay in Englefield Green, Surrey. However, due to disagreements with the owners of the billet, the family returned to London after a fortnight. During the summer of 1940, John was evacuated to Cornwall with his brother. Although John had a ‘fabulous’ time away, he soon returned home: ‘My father had served in the trenches in the first war. He panicked, he kept rushing down to Cornwall. After about four/five weeks he took us back to London. Just in time for the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, which for a boy of thirteen was fabulous, most exciting’.

The Blitz

When the Blitz began, John came to spend every night in the Anderson shelter in the garden. However, the Anderson had a habit of flooding and every morning it was the job of John and his mother to empty the shelter of water. ‘I’d have to take up the board every morning...and hand the bucket of water up the step to my mother who would carry it down the garden and pour it in the drain. One...particular day there was a hundred and thirty buckets [of water]’.

For a teenage boy the war was often exciting:  

‘[I] found an incendiary bomb in the garden, that was most exciting. It didn’t go off... Father had gone to work, next day I spent all day throwing it on the ground trying make it go off. It wouldn’t go off. When he came home and I told him, showed him my treasure. He exploded. So he took it away and I created a fuss... Anyway, he was by then an air raid warden and a couple of days later he brought me an empty one back’.

'A big smoking heap'

On his sixteenth birthday in 1942, John began work at Catford Town Hall. John remembers one incident in 1943 that occurred whilst he was at work. Around lunch time the bombs started dropping and as soon as it quietened down, John hurried outside:

‘Catford was deserted. Nobody about and on me bike and off I went, going along the road. They’d dropped one bomb in the gutter in Sangley Road. It was a big crater and the gas main had been hit. It was a big Bunsen burner half as high as this room...burning away. [All] the houses on both sides, the windows had come out so I had to pick me bike up and put it on me shoulder and walk along. Walking down the side of the road, walked past a crater, oh, you know, most exciting. Looked round and there was a dead man lying there – only a dead man. I carried on got on me bike, got up to the top of hill, Sandhurst Road. A lot of children running about all dirty and crying... [The] Sandhurst Road School had been cut in half and half of it was a big smoking heap... [T]hat night there was another air raid and we’d all gone down to the Anderson shelter and my father came in...he had blood all down...the front of his coat so I knew where he had been and I pointed it out quietly to him and he was very upset that I’d seen it’.  

Towards the end of the war John was called up but he did not experience active service as the war soon came to an end.


Out of Harm's Way
Out of Harm's Way (256k)
To read more about John Trafford's experiences as an evacuee in Cornwall please press the above link.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 18/04/2012.