Ray Lechmere

On the Wednesday night of the disaster Ray's family walked to the tube after the air raid warning; the children were in front including Maisy, who was nearly 17. A crowd was pushing down the steps. When they were near the landing they got jammed against the wall where they stayed until they were pulled out and taken down to first aid. Maisy had been given a baby that she handed over. They left the shelter for home at 5 a.m. Outside there were body bags lined up on the pavement. Eventually Maisy managed to find the bodies of their father and grandparents in a mortuary. On Monday their mother turned up from hospital on crutches, her face black and blue. She never spoke about it afterwards. Ray remembered the empty desks at school and an unsympathetic teacher.

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Summary

 

 

Interviewee/s:

Ray Lechmere and his niece Sue Butler

Interviewer/s:

Philip Sunshine

Joy Puritz

Date of Interview:

16.1.2014

Location:

Bethnal Green Library

Length of interview:

Any other info:

 

 

 

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Summary:

 

Ray talked about his childhood in Bethnal Green. His father was a carpenter, his mother and sister made uniforms in a factory. His father and grandfather used sometimes to chop up horse meat in the knacker’s yard and bring it home to cook to sell in the market for pet food. The smell and flies were terrible. Ray would enjoy collecting pieces of shrapnel after a bombing raid. On Sundays a man came round selling shrimps and winkles which they had for dinner. Living conditions were very primitive. His first school was bombed; he remembered two sadistic teachers in his second. Once their house had bomb damage which had to be patched up. He always felt the enemy was after him personally.

 

During the Blitz his family sheltered under arches. After the wooden doors once caught fire in a raid they stopped going there. They got an Anderson shelter in their garden which unfortunately meant cutting down a vine which had produced black grapes. They mainly went into the tube. Once on their way there an enemy plane briefly machine-gunned them as they crossed a football pitch. A woman fell to the ground screaming. He remembered a big Christmas tree in the tube shelter, and his father playing the piano accordion. He hated the smell of carbolic and disinfectant down there.

 

On the Wednesday night of the disaster the family walked to the tube after the warning; the children in front including Maisy, who was nearly 17. Their parents and their father’s parents followed. A crowd was pushing down the steps. When they were near the landing they got jammed against the wall where they stayed until they were pulled out and taken down to first aid. Maisy had been given a baby that she handed over. They left the shelter for home at 5 a.m. Outside there were body bags lined up on the pavement. Eventually Maisy managed to find the bodies of their father and grandparents in a mortuary. On Monday their mother turned up from hospital on crutches, her face black and blue. She never spoke about it afterwards. Ray remembered the empty desks at school, the unsympathetic teacher.

 

He told of a prisoner-of-war camp in Victoria Park. The Italian prisoners, in their prison clothing, were allowed to go shopping and mix with the locals. There were Mosley meetings in the park.

 

Sue Butler, Maisy’s daughter, said that this was the first time she had heard about the disaster in so much detail from a member of her family. She was lucky to have been born.