IVY FRANKLIN (Survivor Downhills Shelter Tragedy)
Please forgive me for not writing before, but I really do appreciate all the information you have sent to me. My neighbour, who's interested in WW2 and wants to take some information into the local schools to show how tragic war is to the children, has gone to America to look after her daughter-in-law, so when she gets back I will invite her up one afternoon to show her all the information to see what she thinks.
I did receive the book from Mrs Bird of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. which as you said is very interesting. I have left a message of thanks to her on her answerphone, and also a letter of thanks. It really brought back memories about the war graves as, when my Bill was alive, we visited many of these sites in France, Belgium and Italy where Bill had done a lot of fighting during the war. We also went to the Menin Gate Memorial in the Belgian town of Ieper, when all the traffic and people stop at 4 o'clock everyday to the sound of the last post in remembrance of all of the fallen. the air of respect is so moving as are the 54,000 names of missing men and officers with no known graves who died in war.
My sister Julia and I also went to Singapore, and my son Victor happened to be there as he is an airline pilot and he took us to the Krangi war cemetery. Ray you would not believe how beautifully they are kept. It really is done with respect and one cannot realise how big these places are and how many people died. Numbers sound a lot but, unless you see how vast and row after row of graves, its only then that you really do! realise just how terrible war is. I am sure that my nephew Ray came to Italy with us once when we visited the war graves, perhaps he can convey the impact more than me, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission really do a wonderful job in looking after all the war graves throughout the world. Its very nice to see so much respect paid to those that died for us.
Now as to the London Blitz when, on the 3rd September 1939, Chamberlain declared we were at war (this was at 11 o'clock) soon after we all went to our back gate because the siren was going and we were all shocked and thought that's quick. We had not had much time to prepare for this but it turned out to be a false alarm and the 'All Clear' went. Apart from the blackout being in force, we never heard anything else until May 1940 when a bomb was dropped on a cinema in Edmonton, and my mum was saying we should go down our shelter, and again nothing else happened until late June 1940. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was walking home along Philip Lane as it was my dinner hour from work,and my goodness I did not hear a siren, but I saw German bombers coming over. I rushed home and when I got in my mum was making a cup of tea and cooking something for my brother Albert who was sitting there. When I told them what I had seen they were surprised and later, when my other brother Wally who was a fireman came home, he told us that the Germans had bombed the London Docks and it was bad. From that night the sirens went every night around 8 o'clock until 6 o'clock the next morning.
Fire Patrol from Dongola Road Tottenham -1941
Many of these would have been close neighbours of Ivy Franklin. Note the hand-held stirrup pumps held by the volunteers.
( Photograph: copyright Bruce Castle Museum)
Shortly afterwards they put a big gun on wheels at the top of Gloucester Road and Higham Road. They also put two large searchlights on the allotments and this was a target for the Germans as they were trying for the Gun and Searchlights. We watched a few dog-fights over the recreation ground with our fighter planes,(but no bombers), but the searchlights often picked out the bombers going over and we used to watch the gun trying to get them. Then, on the 18/9/1940 a bomb dropped on number 84 and 82 Gloucester Road and completely demolished the houses and yet, unbelievably, 10 people walked away without a scratch. They had been in the cupboard under the stairs, while we were in our Anderson shelter which was flattened by the blast and we all had cuts and bruises. So the next night my sister and Betty (Albert's wife-Ray's Mum) and Margaret (Wally's wife) said they were going to Turnpike Lane Tube station for shelter. Knowing that Mum would not have got there walking, I said I am stopping with Mum and off they went.
Turnpike Lane Tube Station
This is a more recent photograph but it has changed little since the war.
( Photograph: copyright Bruce Castle Museum)
When my Dad came home from the 'Lord Palmerston' pub and said they had a good shelter in the park and we were going. Again I said Mum would not make it as the siren had gone. At this point my boy-friend Lionel came as he did every night to make sure that I was all right. He said he would help us to get Mum to the shelter. Anyway, by the time we got there, the warden said 'Sorry - We are full up' and I was pleading with the warden as my Mum could not walk far 'Please let my Mum and Dad in! and I will go home with Lionel'. He said O.K but only three as it's really full (in my estimate over 300 people were packed in) and Lionel went home on his own. I can remember finding a seat for Mum and dad near to the entrance. I had to sit on Mum' lap and that's all I remember. I know that I was told I was lucky as my Mum was on top of me and I was only found as someone saw my arm move. My Mum was killed and when they got me out my clothes had gone except for my Bra, two sleeves and one shoe. I was taken to St Ann's Hospital and I was still shocked and did no know what had happened. A woman from Handsworth Road was in the hospital looking for her baby that had been killed in the shelter. I must have recognised her as it appears I followed her home up Avenue Road, through Summerhill Road and into Handsworth Road and perhaps just by instinct I got myself home. Everybody grabbed me and asked where I had been as Albert had been to the hospital and seen Dad and I had gone missing. No one knew where I was (nor did I) but Mum had died, but I knew she saved my life and perhaps even Dad as he had no memory of it, and I can't remember anything else apart from being on my Mum's lap and what I was told afterwards, but I do think that more people were killed than the ones you have told me about.
'Pearks' Store in Philip Lane - 1930's
This would have been the corner shop which served the local community and Gloucester Road where Ivy lived. ( Photograph: copyright Bruce Castle Museum)
My other memories were when you went to the underground for shelter you had to come up when the trains started running which was 6 o'clock in the morning. I remember my sister Julia and her friend and I were walking home one morning, it was pitch black and we were by Abbotsford Avenue and Julia's friend was worried about the flashes and suddenly a bomb dropped along West green Road and the 'All Clear' had gone. So we thought it must be a stray one. I also remember the German bomber on the green by the Town Hall at the top of Philip lane. Lard Haw Haw said on his radio broadcast that if the bomber was not taken away then they would take it away, and that night the Register office was bombed which was not that far away.
Regarding the casualty list in Stoke Newington I know that, if you were on a bus when the raids started, the driver would pull up at the nearest shelter and offered people the chance to get off if they wanted. So those that got off could have come from all area's. But the bus drivers were very good and would carry on so those that wanted to get home could do so.
Well Ray I'll have to stop now as my fingers are hurting.I hope this helps you and thanks once again. Take care.
Best wishes and good luck !
(Note: This letter has been reproduced for the Internet site from the original written by Ivy Franklin [nee Turner] )