Patricia Bennett

Photo:Photograph of Patricia with her sisters.

Photograph of Patricia with her sisters.

Patricia Bennett

Recollections of wartime in New Cross.

'Waiving to the trains'

Born in 1935, Patricia Bennett was at the outbreak of war living with her parents and two sisters in New Cross. In the early part of the war, Patricia’s elder sister was evacuated to the South Downs and remained there for five years. Patricia recalls the day her sister left, ‘I can remember so clearly being ‘up on the bank’ waving to the trains as they pulled past laden with children hanging out of the carriage windows’.

Patricia was evacuated with her mother and baby sister. However, the family stayed in Brighton for only a week before returning to London. Patricia’s father worked on the railways, a reserved occupation, and stayed with his family throughout the war. In addition to his work, he was a member of the Home Guard and the ARP.

The Blitz

Although just a young girl, Patricia clearly recalls the Blitz. Most nights were spent in the Anderson shelter in the back of the garden. Patricia recalls:

‘The noise, even in the shelter, was deafening...My mum would put on a record, usually ‘Roll Out The Barrel’, the loudest music we had, to cover the noise...It seemed to go on forever, sometimes when the explosion was ultra loud, the shelter seemed to rock and lift up and often we would be plunged into darkness as the power failed’.

The bomb damage in the area was extensive:

‘Each morning we would come out from the shelter and see if our house was still there. Most days we would have damage, some day more damage than others...Dad was sure that each time he cleared up and put some plasterboards up, it would be the turn of the next room. Just one ceiling down and two windows blown out was a good day!’

'Brick dust and cement'

For the first few weeks of bombing Patricia was kept home from school but she soon returned back to school. The war was a constant presence at school. Patricia recalls that ‘home and school always smelt of brick dust and cement, it was in your mouth like sand from the beach. We used to pick up bits of shrapnel at playtime as our playground became more and more littered with debris’.

'Woolworth's had just vanished'

Towards the end of the war, Patricia experienced the V1 and V2 rockets in London. One Saturday morning Patricia and her sister were running errands in the New Cross, planning to visit Woolworth’s before heading home, when they heard a terrible explosion. Patricia recalls, ‘as we scrambled out of the shop covered in dust, we could see the most enormous cloud of smoke coming up from the [New Cross] Gate station and we thought that was where the V2 had landed. It was only as we hurried home somebody told us that Woolworth’s had just vanished, blown up with some other shops’.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 08/06/2012.