Taking cover from the bombs during the war

Midanbury Lane sign“One could always tell when ‘Jerry’ would be coming over: cloudless nights with calm air – and by 6.30 pm the sky would start filling up with bombers.” Douglas Mills remembers taking cover from the bombs in his family’s Anderson shelter when he was a child living at Midanbury Lane during the war.

“I lived at number 65 Midanbury Lane, now 165 throughout the war and remember the times spent playing in the huge cellars and brick rubble piles on the land r/o 65 Midanbury Lane. We had four very fine acacia trees growing just over the wooden fence at the bottom of the garden which was out of character for the area, but must have related to the large house once there.

Half of our rear garden was taken up the Anderson air-raid shelter and the heavy anti blast doors fitted at the front facing the house. Dad was one of the few who knew about trench warfare from WW1 on clay and had lined the base of the shelter with sealed concrete. As a consequence other shelters flooded in the winter and we ended up with four families crowded into our shelter one night. The ARP were not very pleased!

Anderson shelter - image under CC2

'We heard the scream of a bomb getting louder...'

A stick of incendiary bombs fell diagonally across our garden one night and across the roof of number 67, and when Dad rushed next door one bomb had passed through the roof and was burning itself out in the bath. Lucky? Then one night we heard the scream of a bomb getting louder and louder as we huddled to the concrete trying to escape and bury ourselves into the earth as though hanging on for dear life as we expected a direct hit – only to hear a loud thud and the floor of the shelter shook. The 500lb UXB had landed just outside the ARS at around number 77, and had thrown up a crater larger than the rear of the garden burying the shelter in clay.

Everyone in the road was evacuated that night and around 12 noon the next day after spending the night with Mr and Mrs Clarke of Dimond Road we returned to find the bomb minus its tail fins straddling the pavement where bomb disposal had dug it out and left it on the pavement.

There were valid reports at the time of a second bomb that fell across the road into the soft dump but if it did it was never found although the woodland and steep soft-banked rubbish dump across from number 61 could perhaps absorb a bomb. The wood ran from the corner of Thorold Road up to number 65 and was covered in a number of burnt out incendiary bombs.

'An almighty flash and bang...'

The only other major incident was one night around 1944: there was an almighty flash and bang that lit up the inside of the shelter and when we emerged from the shelter the front door was blown through to the kitchen door and the back door was out in the garden. All the crockery in the kitchen was broken, but we never did find out where the blast came from. Some said it had crossed the river to the high ground but we never knew for sure.

I'm not going to say I survived the bombing unscathed because I didn't and one major contributory factor was the AA and barrage balloon gun site just on the corner of Avon Road and Midanbury Lane. The racket when that opened up nearly drove the women in the nearby shelters insane along with small terrified little boys and girls (Jill and Robin Basset further down the road).

One could always tell when "Jerry" would be coming over: cloudless nights with calm air, and by 6.30 pm the sky would start filling up with bombers lined up across the sky from Bitterne to Deepdene heading for the docks and Eastleigh. If the guns didn't open up it was because there was still enough daylight for our fighters to operate and I have seen light evenings with the sky filled with con trails of defending and attackers alike, never knowing friend from foe in the melee.”

Douglas Mills (age 77 eyes not as good as they used to be but brain ok...)

You can hear the war memories of another Bitterne Park resident in our audio interviews with Mary long from this link.

If you've got memories that you'd like to share of times gone by in Bitterne Park or nearby areas, please contact us. We're always interested in publishing your old photographs too - but you must be the copyright owner or have the relevant permission.


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