A few days back, I posted the following on a forum posting:
Earlier today, I popped by Adam Coffman's house in Fairfax Road. Whilst we were chatting outside his house, an older chap poked his head round the fence and pointing at the 1960s flats now filling the gap in the Victorian terraces where a doodlebug hit in 1944, "There y'are", he said, "Used to be number 105 there. I was born there in 1940. I was a war baby. It got 'it by a V1. I was only young but I remember it like yesterday. It wasn't the noise or the fire. It was the pressure I remember most. Tremendous force, it was like nothing I felt since. My dad used to be a French polisher. I think my brother was 'ome. He did the radars on HMS Hood. He was one of the few survivors.............."
And so this rich seam of local history poured out unabated (and unabateable). David (David Richard Norman, to do him justice) later lived in Umfreville Road, where in the 1980's he helped to get Railway Fields established and chose its name. Apparently it was nearly called Green Lanes Park!
I've given him my number and he's promised to get in touch and share his memories on 'tape'. He's also promised that he'll post a copy of a long letter he wrote to the Journal back in 1980 about his experiences in WWII Harringay.
Today, David dropped off his written memories and some photocopied photos. I have digitised them and am attaching a pdf.
It's strange; the pages carried a very strong odour of stale tobacco and I somehow had the feeling of smelling a bygone age as I scanned them.
This is brilliant Hugh, thanks so much for making David's memories and memorabilia accessible to us all.
What I particularly like here is the way he brings out the importance of smell.... something like the smell of soot can set off a whole train of memories of him, very evocative of the past. We all experience this but perhaps dont take much notice in our hurried everyday lives. It's not just things and words but smells even touch that can trigger the past and bring it to life again.
Reading this also reminds me of stories my mum used to tell of her family's experiences and near misses in Coventry, which was a main target of the Luftwaffe. Those shelters... venturing out to see if your house was still there or not. I recall the 'gaps' in my grandma's street when I was a child where houses used to be. And those doodle bug- mum's tales of those put the fear of god into me especially the bit when it stops making any sound and you know you've probably had it...and maybe that is why I became a pacificist and CND supporter early in life...
Great stuff Hugh - please thank David for sharing this with us.
Yes, thanks from me too to him and to you. Great stuff.
PS. I'm at 68 Fairfax Rd. Bought the place despite alarmingly bowed out wall of the extension. Was told it seemed okay, no further serious damage etc. Anyway, I've always assumed this came from that bomb since we're not that far away thouh across the road.
OMG, never knew an Ambulance Station was based at NHP! Great photo.
I'm going to see if I can get hold of the original to scan. If so will let you have an HR copy.
That would be grand. Ta
This is a brilliant bit of local history we live in one of the 'new' 50's houses on Fairfax Rd so have often wondered at the story behind our plot. I'm so glad that David Norman was able to share his memories with HOL
Paula, yes in theory 1950s houses - no doubt they were planned in the late 1950s..
The prefabs on the bomb site were demolished in Summer 1960, the same time as those on Warwick Gardens.. and the replacement flats etc.. weren't completed until late 1961, early 1962. So they are, in fact, 1960s houses
On a far less dramatic scale, a few years ago when we were living in 123 Fairfax Road we came across a man in his late fifties peering up at our house. He told us it was his family home many years previously and he'd been born in the front room before his family emigrated to Australia. Just a few weeks earlier our son had been born in that same front room!
I remember the prefabs well.