With our only military success being the routing of the Italians in North Africa in 1940 and the first half of 1941 this success was to be reversed when the Germans under Rommel interceded and on in July 17th he struck for Egypt quickly pushing our troops back over the hard fought land we had taken from the Italians, by October 1942 his troops were poised to attack towards Alexandra in Egypt but was held up by the British at El Alamien which one could say was the turning point in the war and on the October 23rd the British and Commonwealth troops, under the command of General Montgomery and after the greatest bombardment in history using 592 guns firing full out for fifteen minutes, started to push the Germans back across Libya from which they never recovered. I clearly remember that the sound of this bombardment was recorded and played over the radio.
As Winston Churchill said at that time ‘this not the end but the beginning of the end’. In the Atlantic the Germans were still achieving a great deal of success in sinking Allied shipping with thousands of tons of ships and their precious cargos going to the bottom of the ocean through the action of mainly of the U Boats although aircraft also took a toll, at the same time they were loosing more and more submarines.
In many ways at the age of ten I was aware of a great deal about America, mainly through the radio and particularly singers or ‘crooners’ as the male singers were called and once America was in the war comedy programmes, big band music, swing and jazz became as familiar as our own programmes. One the first songs we heard was ‘Over there, over there, over there, everywhere, for the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming over there.’ And ‘You’re in the Army Mr Brown, no private room or telephone you had your breakfast in bed before but you won’t have there anymore’
The American soldiers became known by their own terminology such as G.I.s [General purpose] Doughboys and of course Yanks. When I asked my Father about them all I can recall call was that they smelt but I didn’t gather what sort of smell, good or bad, but all though welcome, they did come in for some derogatory remarks such as ‘what took you so long’ and ‘at least you are in it a little earlier than last time’, referring to the First World War. They were also ‘better off’ ‘better dressed’ ‘better fed’ and ‘better equipped’ than our own troops which didn’t go down too well with our forces and to make matters worse, the women loved them particularly as a source of nylon stockings which were otherwise unavailable.
As I have already stated the night bombing more or less stopped by the middle of 1941. How many night raids were actually made on Southampton I’m not sure nor when the last one took place. I do recall that the first time that the siren sounded that we did not have a shelter I took myself into the cupboard under the stairs and sat on sacks of potatoes, I was shaking and scared more from the prospect of being gassed, particularly as our house did not have a gas proof room. I think on that occasion no raid developed.
The Anderson Shelter which came later, originally had a dirt base but before we used it mum discovered that water was getting in and was already covering the floor. Almost too late, she remembered that dad had buried something in the floor, although she didn’t know what exactly what, dad thought he had buried what ever it was secretly and without mum knowing, luckily she knew he had buried something and thought that whatever was, it would be damaged by the water so she dug it up. It was a biscuit tin containing about £200 in cash which was contaminated with water, she had to peel the notes apart and pegged them up on the line across the kitchen to dry out, Dad was less than pleased when he got home, not so much because of the state of the money but because mum now knew about his secret hoard, £200 was then quite a lot of money.
Before the night raids started a concrete floor and sides up to ground level was added although water still seeped in but I don’t know were dad hid the cash from thereon, nevertheless his secret was out, which I think showed a great lack of trust in mum.