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Blitzed Out Of Home

Discussion in 'The Blitz' started by Jim, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Colour cheerfulness, and “none of that Nosy Parker business” these were among the chief impressions brought away from a tour of several of the Rest Centres run by the Social Welfare Department of the London County Council. They must have meant a lot to the unfortunate folk for whom these Centres had been established, people who, emerging from their Andersons or public shelters in the early morning light, find that their homes and all their worldly goods had been blown to pieces or buried beneath debris, or at least covered with a thick layer of dirt and dust. They themselves were likely to be a bit dirty too, particularly if bombs had been stirring up the elements round about them. Some of them, as they step along the white line which guided them through the children's playground to the school where the Centre was established, were dressed in their night clothes only, or maybe they had next to nothing on except a blanket.

    Bombed out of their home, this family, after rescuing what they could in the way of personal belongings, make their way to an Emergency Rest Centre.

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    No sooner were they inside the Centre, that they find a deck-chair awaiting them, a cup of tea and a cheery smile. Then there was hot water for a wash, heaps of shoes and piles of clothes from which any deficiency in dress may have speedily been repaired. There were no questions asked, no payment was demanded, nor was it taken if it was offered, though some of the guests, as that was the official term, may have stayed as long as a week, until their homes had been made fit for them to go back to, or a neighbour offered them the use of a spare room, or they could have been evacuated into the country.

    Scattered about London were numbers of these Rest Centres, and, of course, in other great cities, too. The first line Centres were L.C.C. schools, where accommodation was available since so many children had been evacuated. These had been carefully adapted for their new use, floors had been strengthened, and windows blocked up, also gas-proof rooms were provided. The second line consisted of church and public halls, which were used as overflows. Then there was a third line brought into use only during the very bad “blitzes,” consisting of chapels, mission premises, Quaker meetinghouses, and the like. A considerable proportion of the staff was drawn from the ranks of the teachers, but many had been specially recruited, and the whole were under the direction of the permanent staff of the L.C.C.’s Social Welfare Department.

    They reach the Rest Centre, which was housed in a school building, and the first thing they did was to have a good meal, right, before making plans for the future.

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    The Centres of the first line were reminiscent of the hostels which had become so popular amongst holiday makers of recent years. In each there was a reception-room, a large communal dining-room, a recreation-room for games, and a children’s nursery, the latter in particular was an altogether charming place, with its chintz curtains, its jolly pictures and its wealth of toys mostly second-hand but none the less desirable for that. There were rocking-horses, building bricks, dolls houses big enough to get into, shops and garages, and chairs just big enough for the comfort of juvenile posteriors.

    An experienced lady interviewer having a chat with them about their future plans, giving some useful advice, and offering further assistance they may need.

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    Then upstairs there was a rest-room and what a collection of armchairs, settees, sofas, and other relics of bygone days had been rescued from bombed homes! Now they were enjoying a further lease of usefulness in surroundings altogether undreamed of by the mid-Victorian newly-weds who first gave them a place in their homes. Everywhere there were bright colours. The rooms were known as the green room, the yellow room, the deck-chairs were painted vivid reds and blues, and even the bins in the kitchen were distinctively coloured. Then there were the bedrooms with piles of mattresses ready to be laid on the bunks, on the door of the women's room was the notice, "Gentlemen withdraw when the first lady retires."

    Down below, well beneath street level, was the Control Room where, when the Alert was sounded and the bombs were dropping and heaven knows, every street in this thickly-populated area of North-East London had its wounds, the officer-in-charge directed his little army of workers. Sometimes he was hard put to it to find room for all his guests, but as many as 1,800 had sought admission in a single night.

    Reported in "The War Illustrated" 1941
     

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