Joyce Welland's Story
Reproduced from the Bath Chronicle, November 18th 2002.
"Joyce Welland writes:
"I was 16 in 1942, and my father worked at Stothert and Pitt. My family was living in North End, Batheaston at the time of the Blitz - my stepmother, father and sister, Grace."
On the first night of the bombing, Joyce was at home, safely tucked up in bed. Her father, however was not. He was still at work, right in the firing line of the bombs.
"My stepmother banged on my bedroom door and said 'Get up. We're being bombed.' I got out of bed quickly and lit the gas to make tea. The flame came up at first and then went out. My stepmother told me to put money in the meter, but even after I'd done that, there was still no gas. We thought perhaps the gasworks had been hit; and the gasworks was right next to where my Dad worked."
Joyce was told to go on her bike and find out if her father was all right and, at first light, she cycled down into Bath.
"I got as far as Snow Hill and could see it had been badly hit. I got to the top of Walcot Street and a fireman stopped me. 'Where do you think you're going?' he demanded. He wouldn't let me go down Walcot Street so I had to go up via Hedgemead Park.
"I remember having to pick my way over hosepipes, which the firemen had laid out, trying to put out the fires."
Joyce arrived at Lower Bristol Road and saw on her way that the cemetery had been blown up.
"At Stothert and Pitt, the manager told me that my father had left the factory during the bombing, to check whether my mother was all right in Roseberry Road. The manager said they'd expected him back, but as yet, there was no sign of him."
With a rising sense of panic, Joyce cycled to Roseberry Road. To her relief, she saw her father sitting on a shattered pillar on the road. He had his head in his hands, and he was weeping.
To see pictures of Roseberry Road, click on the image or click here
Her father had managed to get all his relatives who lived on Roseberry Road into the Anderson shelter Tragically the shelter had received a direct hit during the raid, killing many of the people seeking sanctuary there.
"My dad said, 'They're all gone, all dead.' He had returned to work after he was sure everybody was safe; if he hadn't have done that, he probably would have been killed, too."
Many of Joyce's family were killed that night, her first cousins, her grandmother (Granny Derrick) and aunts.
"I said to Dad to come on, to come home, but he said he wanted to find his mother first."
Joyce remembers putting her arms around her father and telling him that she would have to go home, to put her stepmother's mind at rest. Her father found his mother's body at Walcot cemetery some time later. But one remarkable story emerged from this night of destruction.
"Little Shirley Kilminster (one of Joyce's cousins), who was about three at the time, was blown right out of the shelter. I learned later that she actually survived, and wandered off towards the river. Somebody found her and took her in. I'd love to find out what happened to her, and to let her know that we are her family"
Joyce's father finally arrived home later that day and was clearly affected by the events of the night. "He sat as if he'd been struck dumb."
When the bombing re-started on the following day, Joyce remembers feeling very worried that Eagle Road, where she lived, was built with white stones.
"I thought it would show up like a beacon to the passing planes. I remember seeing lots of people walking up through Batheaston to the countryside, holding blankets and children. It was a very sad sight."
Luckily, Joyce's worries were unfounded, although a couple of stray bombs did end up dropping on Batheaston.
"A couple of schoolboys were up a tree at the time, 'hopping the dolly' as we used to call it, playing truant. They were completely blown out of the tree when the bomb dropped. They were fine, but I think it taught them a lesson."
Bullets riddled Eagle Road and Joyce recalls her stepmother running out of the front door, leaving the light blazing.
"She was shouted at and told to get back inside pretty sharpish."
Shortly after this period, Joyce joined the Land Army in Chewton Mendip.
Joyce says she has just bought the Bath at War video, and is 'definitely in favour' of a memorial to Bath's war victims. Like so many Bathonians who survived the blitz, she feels it would be a fitting tribute to those who weren't so lucky."
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