Peter Perryment was 12 years old and was caught up in the middle of the crush. He managed to squat down and somehow avoid asphyxiation for several hours, until the bodies surrounding him were moved and he could get free. A policeman grabbed Peter and took him across the road to the Salmon and Ball pub near the railways arches. Tragically his sister and cousin died immediately in front of him.
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You can listen to the interview RECORDING below:
Date of Interview:
30th January 2014
Location: 10, Sussex Close, Canvey Island, Essex
Length of interview:
17 mins 56 secs
Any other info: Peter Perryment is a survivor of the disaster. There are also a few B & W pictures which relate to the comments he makes during the interview. Pictures of Iris and Barbara
01 m 00secs
Announced by the interviewer. How did the day start?
When the siren sounded on that particular day they made their way to the shelter. They had their own special bunk – mother, aunt and her two children and Peter’s sister. His brother was 18 but would never go in an air raid shelter. Used to sleep in bed whether there was a raid on or not; at 18 he was waiting to go in the Army.
Peter was 12 at the time and he describes going to the shelter as an experience. It was something they did all the time and were expected to do. Made way to air raid shelter when the raid started. That was what they did on this day.
There was a raid. Suddenly the ”sky opened up”. Peter and his sister and cousin were told to run on in front.
They got halfway down the stairs. Suddenly they couldn’t move. Copuldnit get up or down. They were being crushed. Peter squatted down but his sister and his copusin were standing in front of him – and they both died. (He identifies them in a picture)
Peter then describes what happened to one of his classmates (Alfie Hie ?) Alfie’s mother and two sisters also died. Alfie did exactly the same as Peter and he survived. They were also standing whereas Alfie had crouched down.
Got halfway down (the stairs) and couldn’t go any further. Halfway down in the middle. All the crushing was around us.
Didn’t know what was happening. Not until the dead bodies were removed and a policeman grabbed hold of him. He was taken out the crush and across the road to the railways arches close to the Salmon and Ball pub and told to wait there until the all clear goes.
Mother didn’t know what was happening either. When the guns sounded they didn’t get as far as the shelter. They went in a block of flats.
Not panicking. Didn’t know what was causing the crush. People falling down blocked the staircase. No-one could get any further. But people kept coming in, coming in. That was when they started crushing us. (then repeats story of policeman helping him across the road to safety)
When the guns opened up my mother and aunt thought it was bombs dropping. That’s why Peter and the other two were to go in front…hurry to the shelter.
Sounded like guns, bombs and everything. There was an anti-aircraft gun that use to go up and down the railway line. It was banging away. So near to us it sounded like bombs dropping.
There was canteen down there (in the shelter) Friends were there and we sat with them. Went back home as soon as the all clear went.
Couldn’t go to school the following day. We went back home and my father was still at work… Mother, aunt and brother went round the hospitals to try and find some information. Told father when he came back from work that Barbara and Iris were missing. Father didn’t know that a lot of people had died at the air raid shelter. He went round and was told there was a makeshift mortuary in a church. His Dad went there and found Peter’s sister. Came back and said he had found Iris. She’s dead. Aunt wanted to know about Barbara. Aunt then wanted to go and look for her daughter but his Dad said that would be terrible. Dead bodies all lined up. Peter’s brother went instead and found Barbara. He was walkibng along a line of dead bodies and saw a little pair of black patent shoes (next to a covered body). He asked to look at the body. It was Barbara. She was 7 years old.
(Peter then refers to the photograph he is holding). “That coat she is wearing. It’s the one she was wearing when she lost her life. It was taken about 2-3 weeks before it happened. My mother died in 1983, 40 years later, and that coat was hanging in her wardrobe. It was hanging up in her wardrobe 40 years after”.
It was painful for my mother and my Aunt. Joan is still alive and that’s Barbara wgho died standing just in front of me (reference to photograph).
He went to school the following day. Nobody talked about it. You could only talk about it if you were there and knew what happened. A lot of his mates from school were missing. James Taylor was in his class and also died (at Bonner Street School)
Mother and father didn’t talk about it much afterwards. Such a disaster to them they didn’t talk about it much.
People who asked about it he would talk to them but not too much. When you’re only 12 years old you don’t understand it too much.
When they pulled me out they were laying out all the dead bodies along the pavement. They were covering them up s they pulled them out. Army were there, Fire Service, Police and ARP were there. Ends At 17.57