u3a - Battle of Britain and the Blitz stories - Beryl Blood

Submitted by Beryl Blood - Kings Norton and District u3a



My mother, Irene Mussell, nee Underhay, was a tracer in Portsmouth Dockyard during WW2. First she worked in the gun-mounting, then later in the torpedo-tube drawing office. One August day in 1940, her brand new office was bombed. Months later, her favourite hand-knitted cardigan, and her precious drawing instruments were found in an abandoned drawer.  She used to describe the Blitz to me, how the first bomb hit the Blue Anchor at Kingston Crescent and that the main power station was hit, taking out the electricity throughout Portsmouth. All the shops in Commercial Road and Kings Road were bombed, including the Guildhall. Only the station and post office remained because of the number of fire watchers removing incendiaries.  

My grandfather, Robert Underhay, had worked as a window cleaner after he was made redundant from the Dockyard. As he owned ladders, he was responsible for removing incendiaries that had lodged in gutterings in local houses. During the Blitz of January 1941, he went on duty as a fire officer on the Friday night. My grandmother’s sister, Doris, was due to be married the next day. She had to walk to the church in a long white dress. No guests could get there, and the reception venue, where the wedding cake had been stored, was bombed. The family knew that six firemen had been killed in Timothy Whites but they didn’t know my grandfather had survived until two days later. When my mother married, she insisted on wearing a short blue dress in case she had to walk to the church!