MEMORIES OF A MOONLIT NIGHT
by Jennifer Ball
This article was originally published in the April 2009 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
My Grandfather, William Sole (1879-1956) had an elder brother and a younger sister but by the time he married in 1907 both were dead as was his brother’s only child, little Victoria. Fortunately, because he was a great family man, he also had three half sisters, Sarah from his mother’s first marriage and May and Lillian from her third marriage to John William Stevens a bargeman in 1885.
From left to right: Lillian Chilvers with two daughters Ethel and Lily, and sister May on the right
May married and had no children but her sister Lily became Mrs George Chilvers and had three daughters, Lily, Ethel and Connie. It was the youngest of these half cousins to my mother who I always called Aunt Connie, who told me the following
“It was a bright moonlit night on Saturday the 10th May 1941. I will never forget it as long as I live. My sister Ethel had gone to a dance over at New Cross. We lived at 21 Potters Buildings, Limehouse, in the East End of London and when the air raid warning sounded at about 11 o’clock I went, along with my mother and other sister Lily, down to the caretaker’s flat on the ground floor. He was out fire-watching but we sat in the heavily curtained room, his wife on one side of the fire in the black range and Lily on the other.
The bombers came over in waves. We could hear the whistling of the bombs as they fell and the noise of the explosions. The old lady said to me “Go and have a lie down in the bedroom Connie.” Thank God I didn’t. When the bomb that hit Potters Buildings exploded, that part of the flat completely disappeared along with half of the room we were sitting in. I was under the table. Bits came down on top of me. Mum was hit on the head.
Later I could hear her calling for Lily and I kept saying “I’m alright Mum” but I think we both knew that Lily wasn’t. She and the old lady were both killed by the blast.
I had hurt my shoulder and when we were rescued I was taken, I believe, to Poplar Hospital. As that had also been hit by a bomb I was eventually treated at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. We moved in with my Mum’s sister and my Uncle Jack after that, over in Kennington.”
Connie Chilvers marries Bob Simpson in 1949. Her Aunt May and husband Jack are on the right. Connie’s mother, Lill, is on the left and near her stands my Grandfather, Will Sole.
Behind him stands his son Bill Sole and grandson, another Bill Sole!
Three other grandchildren are in the photograph; Coral with her mother Julie Sole behind, and Corinne and Sylvia in the front row.
FOOTNOTE: A quote from THE LONDON BLITZ by Cyril Demarne. “This was London’s most devastating raid. Hundreds of bombers maintained a shuttle service across the Channel, some of them making three trips from their bases in Northern France to target London. Twenty eight German bombers were shot down but nearly 1,500 Londoners died that night including 35 firemen.
This was the last major air raid on London mainly because a month later Germany Invaded Russia and its planes were busy elsewhere.”
As one of the civilian war dead Lillian Sarah Jane Chilvers is recorded on the C.W.G. site.
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