I was born at Lockington Hall, an 18th century country house 20 miles NW of Leicester in the early hours of Wednesday November 20th 1940. Alas this was not my family’s ancestral estate – it had been requisitioned by the Govt as a maternity home for expectant mothers from areas being bombed by the German Luftwaffe at the start of WW2……altogether 2000 of us young Brits were born there during those war years.
Starting on 7 September 1940, London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London. My South London mum was six months pregnant when the London Blitz began. My dad had been called up into the army and was away “somewhere in England” manning anti-aircraft artillery. Imagine what it must have been like having to spend every night during the last months of your pregnancy down in a cellar hearing the crash of guns and bombs up above, never knowing if the next one was coming down on your house to blast you into kingdom come. Being evacuated to a peaceful rural mansion a fortnight before your due date must have seemed like a minor miracle.
In actual fact in November 1940 the area was not too peaceful. Just a few hours before I was born the Germans launched a devastating raid on nearby Leicester.
Before November was out mum and I were despatched back to South London and further air raids. Dad was granted some leave at times but in early 1942 he was sent off to North Africa and Italy and the next time I saw him was in 1945 when he was demobbed….