John Rosher

Recollections of a Saturday in November 1944 when a V2 fell on Woolworths in New Cross.

'A bomb had fallen somewhere ahead'

A memory particularly clear in John’s mind is that of Saturday 25 November 1944, the day a V2 rocket landed on Woolworths in New Cross killing 168 people and seriously injuring 121. John was a young boy at the time and lived with his family in New Cross Gate. On this particular day John had, together with his mother and siblings, visited Lewisham to purchase shoes. However, John’s sister Anne and baby brother Ron had not come along as Anne wished to visit Woolworths before paying her a weekly grandmother a visit.

Returning from Lewisham on the tram, the family soon realised that there had been serious incident in New Cross. John recalls:

‘The return tram journey became slower and slower as we approached the Marquis of Granby, about a mile from home, I could hear the wheels of the tram grinding on the glass and rubble in the tracks, the noise got louder and louder until the tram shuddered to a halt, the conductor said he was sorry but they could go no further, a bomb had fallen somewhere ahead and the road was closed’.     

'The smell of brick plaster filled the air'

Getting of the tram, John’s mother took the children through a closed off street to quickly return home. To prevent the children seeing the destruction around them, they had to pull their raincoats over their heads. From underneath the raincoat, John recalls seeing:

‘pieces [of] jagged metal parts of a car, glass and brick rubble was everywhere, we stumbled on for what seemed like hours to get past the worst, all we could hear was men shouting as they dug for survivors, the smell of brick plaster filled the air, a smell which can never be forgotten’ .

Returning home

In later years, John realised how worried and helpless his mother must have been walking past the ruins of Woolworths not knowing if two of her children were buried underneath the rubble. Luckily, as they arrived home Anne and Ron were waiting outside the house. ‘Realising that we were all safe we put our arms around each other and cried and cried’.

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John Rosher
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This page was added by Malin Lundin on 12/06/2012.

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