Richard Beckett Beckenham
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My name is Richard Beckett and in 1944 at the age of nine was living with my parents and sisters at 14 Blandford   Road,
Beckenham. That is until  Friday 30th June 1944 when a V1 (which caused considerable damage to our house), fell onto
buildings in Beckenham Road /Mackenzie Road adjacent to the Railway Bridge which carries the Crystal Palace -
Beckenham Junction Line. We had an Anderson shelter in the back garden and my father had erected a blast shelter of
wooden railway sleepers around the entrance. This I am sure was the only reason that my Mother, my two sisters and
myself were saved from serious injury. My Father was on his way home from work and at the time was only about half a
mile away when the bomb came down. Later he;told us that from where he was, it looked to him as though ;it had actually
come down on our house.;In fact it had come down on the opposite side of the Railway track and consequently the Railway
bank had diverted a lot of the blast.;However, our house was;severely damaged and it was in the late 1940's before it was
repaired under the ; war damage repair system and we moved back in. What I can distinctly remember is that when the
bomb came down I heard no bang, only a loud whooshing Noise.  When we came out of the shelter, the back of our house;
with all the glassless windows looking like hollow eyes,somehow reminded me of a skeleton. Also there was the awful
overpowering smell of the stale dust which probably came out of the house lofts. In the 1970's when buildings were being
demolished close to my office in Croydon, the same smell was there and visions of that day in 1944 came flooding back.
However back to 1944, and suddenly my father came running through the house to make sure that we were all right, which
luckily we were. At the same time the lady from number 16 next door, appeared in the back garden clutching her baby in
her arms and both her face and her baby's were covered in blood. What had happened was that she had a Morrison Indoor
Table Shelter; which you may know was a steel sheet like a table top bolted to upright corner angles and with open steel
mesh sides. These shelters were okay for protection from falling debris, but as in this case of no protection whatsoever
against flying slivers of glass through the mesh. Within a short while, my parents and I were;taken by a WVS lady in a car
to the local Rest Centre; in the church hall in Clock House Road and given some refreshment. Later we went to stay with
my paternal grandparents in Thornton Heath, then some weeks later we were given a requisitioned house at Coney
HallWest Wickham where we stayed until we returned late in;1948 to our repaired house. One strange thing about the bomb
in question is that I have always understood that it came from the Crystal Palace direction which is the opposite of the
normal route that they came from. It has been said that it had already gone over and that it somehow got turned round and
came back again. In the weeks that followed we went back to the house several times to collect personal items and two
things remain clearly in my mind.;At the time of the bomb, my Mother had been in the house ;making jam and when she
heard the bomb coming she ran out and just got in the shelter in time. When we went back later, the walls of the kitchen
were covered in jam, and the walls of my Fathers shed were covered on paint where paint pots had exploded and mixed in
the paint were hundreds of small ball bearings from a tin which my Father had collected over the years.;One other personal
fact in this story is that my Father worked in the Booking Office;at Forest Hill Railway Station and as you are aware, that
received a direct hit ;exactly a week before n Friday 23rd June. My father had left work just a few minutes before to cycle
home and was about a quarter of a mile down the road when the building he had just left was severely damaged.; All I can
say is that he definitely had a charmed life for a couple of weeks.
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