The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

1940 - "Things begin to hot up"

In terms of relentless bombing, London was probably the worst place to be during the Second World War. My English "dad," Aubrey - who lived smack in Victoria at the time, once told me that he joined the Royal Navy because it was a lot safer than staying put in London. Children were sent to the countryside or as far afield as the United States and Canada. Beyond that, Londoners just dug in and carried on.

Walter and May were in the diggers-in/carriers-on group. By 1939, Doug had joined the Royal Engineers (Walter went with him to enlist since Doug was underage). But Walter, May, and Ron stayed put at 23 Clifford Road, Mortlake. Both Walter and Ron were working at Kingston County Hall, a daily 10-mile round-trip on their bicycles, and according to Walter:

In 1940 things “began to hot up.” I went off duty this particular night, Ron had already gone home. On my way home, I heard a tremendous crash. I thought that cannot be far away. I arrived in my dugout at 730pm as I didn’t hurry home. When Ron and I cycled to Kingston next morning, I was amazed to see our large tree outside the canteen, and the canteen also had been blown to smithereens, so I got away in time. Lucky me! We lost our stoker in that blast, but not much damage was caused by it.

Ron was kind enough to share some war stories with me when we visited last spring. I'll pass them along in due course, so stay tuned for the incendiary-in-the-kitchen story and the bomb-on-the-bridge tale.

I'm currently researching details of WWII bombings in the Mortlake/Richmond area but am having a hard time finding statistics online. If anyone can point me to a good resource, I'd be much obliged.
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posted by MaryB @ 2:46 PM  


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