30 October, 2014 10:23

COLUMBIA MARKET WAR MEMORIAL
Fundraising PUB quiz

Monday 24th November at 8.30pm

at Ye Olde Black Bull, 13 Broadway, Stratford. E15 4BQ.

The cost of entry will be £3 per person with Teams of up to 6 people. There will be a prize for the winning Team and a Raffle.
Prizes already announced
6 bottles of wine, £5 M&S Voucher
Digital camera, Signed copy of Alan Titmarsh book
OTHER PRIZES DONATED BY
Ryanstownshop
Angela Flanders perfumery
& Courtesy of The Guildhall Art Gallery
TOTALING OVER £300
Just turn up and PLAY
Anyone with a prize to donate PLEASE contact
Geoff at geotwi@gmail.com or Trevor at trevorwoodmbe@hotmail.com THANKS TO QUIZ ORGANISERS PAULINE AND LEN SINCLAIR who run quizzes MONTHLY at Ye Olde Black Bull
Donations to TREASURER CMWMG C/o Dorset Centre Diss Street , LONDON, E2 7QX Cheques made out to DORSET COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION (DCA is a registered charity reg 1147965 )

On 30/10/2014, GEOFFREY TWISTR wrote:
> September 7, 2014 by columbiatrawebsite.
> Post navigation← Older postsTom Betts
> Leave a reply
> On Saturday 7th September 1940, life changed abruptly for
> twelve-year-old Tom Betts. It was the first day of the London Blitz, > when bombs came raining down from the sky upon the East End and, that > night, one fell into the shelter beneath the Old Columbia Market, > where Tom and his family took refuge. It exploded killing more than > forty people and, although Tom was seriously injured, he was lucky to > escape with his life. Yet the events of that night brought an > unexpected and sudden end to his childhood.“I am happy to say that > although my story was horrific, my life has been good since.” Tom > reassured me when I spoke with him, “I went into the RAF at seventeen > years old and then married at twenty- two in 1950. I became a > specialist school teacher and I have a great and active life which I > share with my lovely wife Betsy and two children.”When Tom and Betsy > asked to join the housing list in Bethnal Green after the war, they > were told there was a twenty-five year wait. But then Tom learnt that > new homes were being offered in the new town of Corby in return for > six weeks work. “I got a job running the first bowling alley and I got > a house, and that was beautiful,” he informed me in fond recollection. >
> Tom rarely visits Bethnal Green, the location of his formative > experiences, anymore. It has changed almost beyond recognition, yet > today he is returning to lay a wreath in Columbia Rd in remembrance of > the events of that other Saturday, more than seventy years ago, when > life broke apart.“It was a very warm, cloudless Saturday, just like > any other early September day. We lived in Columbia Buildings in > Bethnal Green, part of a grand project built by Madam Burdett Coutts – > of the banking world – as a philanthropic venture in the
> eighteen-sixties. It was an enormous Gothic creation that comprised a > covered market, accommodation for several hundred, plus shops and > storage for the traders. We had our own church, swimming pool and > baths, and the luxury of a laundry on the fifth floor – it was by no > means the typical East End block of flats, it was something far more > majestic.
>
> That Saturday, after my mother had cooked breakfast for my brother & > me, I went out with friends knocking on doors to take orders of coke > from the local gas works. Doing our bit for the war effort earned us > threepence a sack which was enough to buy pie and eels, and also the > means to go to the Saturday cinema. In the afternoon, the sirens began > but since we had some light air raids in the previous nights, we were > not too alarmed. Yet that day was different, there was much more > anti-aircraft gun activity, so we were more curious and climbed up six > floors onto the roof to take a better look. There were hundreds of > German airplanes, flying so low that the crosses on their wings were > clear to see. Then bombs began dropping from them and landing on the > docks. It was bizarre – I remember looking down at the square below > where children were playing, oblivious to the destruction not too far > away.
>
> Eventually, the all-clear sounded and because of the raid my mother > was late for the weekly shopping trip into Bethnal Green Road. It took > about an hour to buy the weekend groceries and our usual Superman > comics. When we arrived home, we found that the water to the flats had > been cut off. We learned later that this was due to the amount of > water being used to fight the fires and, as evening came, the flames > from the docks were very bright. I was sent to the standpipe in the > next street to fetch water and I had just filled my bucket when a > woman came out to tell us she had heard on the radio that another wave > of bombers were on their way. So, fearing an even more ferocious > attack, I raced home to persuade my mother to go to the shelter – a > large area previously used as storage under the Market Square. >
> We were not too familiar with the shelter and had only used it once > before, when there was light bombing. It was large – about one and a > half football pitches in size, divided it into two equal parts by a > wall. We had all been given the luxury of a sheet of corrugated metal > to sleep on. The shelter began to get warmer and, with over a hundred > people down there, it became very hot. Everyone was calm and in one > spot there was a wedding party going on they were laughing and > singing. The noise outside told us all that bombs were falling and the > occasional rumble indicated they were getting closer.
>
> As the night went on I must have fallen asleep, but I remember feeling > very uncomfortable and hearing my mother next to me, chatting to my > aunt. All that I can recollect after that was feeling giddy and sick. > Still feeling very giddy, I opened my eyes. It was dark. I could hear > screams and whistles. Startled, I remembered where I was and began to > feel around for my mother and brother, as it was impossible to see. > The air was full of dust and it was pitch black. In the far distance I > could see a tiny light from a small bulb. I could not get my bearings. > Still lying on the ground, I focused on the dim glow coming from that > bulb in the distance. It was hanging above the exit doors. >
> I saw silhouettes of people pouring out of these doors, so I began to > crawl towards the source of the light and I crawled over a sheet of > metal covered by a blanket where a woman sat. She screamed at me to > get off as she did not want her blanket covered in blood, but her > words made no sense – what blood was she talking about? I felt my > head. I had assumed that the sticky liquid I could feel was > perspiration. It wasn’t. I began to realise that I was the source of > the blood she was referring to.
>
> As I neared the light, I realised fully what had happened and > remembered that within the shelter was a First Aid room, as I had been > to it as a volunteer to be bandaged up weeks earlier. So, instead of > going into the street, I pushed my way towards the First Aid room and, > after I nearly forced the door, they let me in. Inside, there were > about twenty people including one of my friends. A nurse bandaged my > head and we sat in there for what seemed like hours. When the > ambulance cars arrived, I was led by two ARP wardens out into the > street that was as light as day from the glow of the fires. The warden > who was holding my arm asked me to put on a blanket that he held. He > said it was for shock. The converted ambulance took me to the Mildmay > Mission Hospital where they were really working hard, looking after > dozens of casualties.
>
> After being re-bandaged, I was taken onto another ambulance – this > time with four stretchers in it and an attendant First Aid worker. It > was an horrendous journey, all the time the raid continued, and often > we stopped and turned around to avoid blocked streets. At one stage, > the woman First Aider who was with us told the driver, through the > slot in the cab, that the man on the stretcher above me had died. This > really did scare me and when she touched me on the head I shouted out, > “I’m not dead.” I am glad she believed me. The driver tried several > hospitals and I could hear them saying, “Sorry mate we are full.” > Eventually, a hospital in Kingsland Rd took us in.
>
> I was cleaned up and put into a room alone, still listening to the > guns and bombs raining down. At last, I heard the all-clear and felt a > lot easier. It was now daylight. It sounds silly now but I waited in > that room for a whole day before another person came. It was a nun. > She gave me some jelly to eat and some warm tea to drink. Later, a > nurse came in and changed my dressings – making me feel calmer. That > evening, an uncle came to see me. He had traced me from the previous > hospital and he told me that my father was on his way down from RAF > Sealand in Cheshire to see me. I began to fret over my mother and > brother, knowing that we had all been separated.
>
> By an incredible twist of fate, it appears that a fifty kilogramme > bomb had fallen through a ventilation shaft and exploded in the centre > of the shelter, which was an approved Air Raid Shelter and an ARP > depot. My mother, brother and I were less than fifteen feet from that > ventilator, which was made from glass! How unlucky and how > unbelievable that such a shelter could be built. To this day, I still > do not know how many people died in that approved air raid shelter. >
> When night fell on the 8th September, the raiders returned. This time > I really felt scared as I was alone, some four storeys up in a small > room, listening to the bombs crashing down. Early next morning, a > nurse came in with some tea and food. Then, about ten o’clock, two > ambulance men carried me down the stairs to the front of the hospital > where a Greenline coach, converted to carry stretchers, was waiting > and I was taken to the Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.
>
> Arriving there, I was taken straight to the ward at the top of the > block where I was bathed, fed and prepared for stitches to be put into > my head. This was a rather painful experience as I was kept in my bed > as they stitched. They were talking extremely kindly to me but it > really hurt. At one stage, a black man from a ship who was unable to > speak a word of English went berserk. Unable to understand anything > going on around him, he screamed in his own language and began to > throw things around the ward. I was concerned that he might hit the > doctors while the needle was going into my head. However, eventually > he was restrained and my head was sewn up and dressed.
>
> After ten days, my father found me and told me that he had been > looking for my mother since the event. By the time he discovered which > hospital she was in, she had already died of her injuries. It appeared > that she had been taken to a hospital and initially she was unable to > speak but, when she was able to so, had given her maiden name making > it impossible to trace her. I discovered that my brother had escaped > without any injuries and was with my grandmother. I was devastated and > I still have feelings of guilt because, on that day, I was the one who > had insisted we all went to the shelter.
>
> After a few weeks, I was allowed up and began to help on the wards and > I worked the washing-up machine which was in another part of the > hospital. I remember at one stage while cleaning up a casualty, a man > who had been brought in, I noticed a piece of brick imbedded in his > ear. I called a nurse and remember feeling that I was contributing > something to the hospital. Although I felt well in myself, my head > wound refused to heal and so I remained in hospital receiving an > occasional visit from my grandmother.
>
> Christmas came and a nurse took me on an outing to Enfield Town. It > was a wonderful treat, she even bought me a waffle with honey on it – > a treasured memory during a dreadful time. In the New Year, I > underwent surgery and skin was grafted from my leg onto my head. I > believe that this technique was in its infancy at the time. I stayed > in the main hospital until May and was then transferred to a > convalescent home, where I remained until the late August when my > grandfather came and took me back to the Buildings where we lived. > When I saw the first of my friends, they told me they were convinced I > had been killed in the air raid. I assured them that that was not the > case.
>
> My grandfather had an allotment and the King came to visit, and spoke > to us. He asked what I was doing and I said, “I’m helping my > grandfather.” Then, on 24th March 1944, I was having breakfast in my > grandfather’s kitchen in Columbia Buildings when the last bomb of the > war fell upon Vallance Rd. My porridge flew up in the air, out of the > bowl, and landed upon my leg burning the skin. So, on the very first > day of the bombing and on the last day, I got hurt by a bomb!” >

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