Stephen Simmons

Recollections of teenage curiosity of bombs and a number of lucky escapes.

Siemens Bros.

Stephen was thirteen when the war broke out in 1939 and lived on Eltham Palace Road in Eltham. From 1940 to 1945 he worked for the Siemens Bros. in Charlton where three weeks into the air raids the wall on the edge of the Thames where he worked had crashed down leaving him partially buried under the rubble whilst his father was buried under a girder that had fallen on him. Stephen was okay but his father had broken his back and was in hospital for four years leaving him to provide for his mother, brother and sisters on the £3.10 he earned for a fifty hour week.

A lucky escape

As a teenage boy Stephen was curious of the bombs that fell out of the sky. This curiosity often proved dangerous and he had a number of lucky escapes. Stephen’s first lucky escape came about when one morning he and his brother went looking for bits of bombs and shell caps. They found a 500lbs bomb next to the dancehall at the Yorkshire Grey Pub in Eltham and decided to come back to retrieve what they could that evening when the police and Home Guard had left. They took tools made for removing fuses from bombs and climbed down two ladders to reach the bomb, they then tried to knock out the fuse plate but heard a rasping noise coming from the bomb and so went home. At around two o’clock the next morning they heard a large bang and so investigated the following morning to find a large crater had replaced the dance hall.

A near miss

His second near miss was to come only two days later when he and his brother met from work to find a very large bomb half in the pavement. They attempted to remove the fins from the bomb but were unsuccessful so covered it with a bin full of pig food intending to come back later to work on it. Luckily, they did not return that day as the following morning it exploded leaving pig food hanging on the overhead wires.

A notable incident

Another notable incident for Stephen occurred when he and his brother went off at 4am to find a bomb they had heard land but not explode the day before. They sawed off the pipes and took the pump home to work on – when their father came in to the shed to ask what they were doing he was told of the complete flying bomb. He was angry at the boys calling the police who sent a lorry to collect it and evacuated all the surrounding houses for a few hours.

Called up for service

Stephen participated in the war as it came to a close starting off in the Air Training Corp before being called up to the Navy in 1945. After leaving the Navy Stephen became a motorcyclist –competing in the Isle of Man TT Races in 1950.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 07/06/2012.

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