Alan Francis

Recollections of life on the Home Front and the cruelty of war.

'Stick it out together'

Alan was a nine year old boy living in Wembley when the war started, he and his younger brothers were offered evacuation but their parents declined opting to “stick it out together”. When the air raids started in Wembley Alan enjoyed watching the search lights and was upset at missing the action when taken inside for safety.

The City of Benares

Another evacuation opportunity arose for the boys, this time to sail with the City of Benares to Canada. The boys were excited to go but their parents once again declined. Of the ninety-seven children that boarded the City of Benares ship in September 1940 only fourteen survived – with all of Alan’s school friends from Preston Park School, Wembley, losing their lives. Alan and his friend, Roy Grattan, who was selected to go on the ship but was told it was full right at the last, still attend an annual memorial service at the school.

A devastating night

On 29th September 1940 at 02:30 Alan’s home took a direct hit with his mother and six neighbours losing their lives. Alan was carried out of the house by an Inspector Evans whilst his brother was rescued by the fire brigade. Coincidently, ten years later Alan went for an interview to join the police service which was conducted by a Superintendent Evans – the very same officer who had rescued him.

Collecting shrapnel

Alan recalls a large number of incendiary bombs dropping on Wembley which meant that the boys at East Lane School had to shuffle across the sports field raising their arms if they saw a hole. If the hole was black it meant the bomb had exploded whilst if it was clean the bomb was yet to explode. At the age of thirteen Alan started a paper round which meant he was one of the first onto the streets each morning, because of this he amassed an amazing collection of shrapnel.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 07/06/2012.