On January 10, 1941 there were, perhaps, many atheists in the city. By sunrise on January 11 there were many fewer.
Jill Jackson was a young girl living at home on the corner of Hyde Park Road and Forbury Street. On the night of January 10 Jill was huddled under the stairs of the house while all around was in flames. The terrific noise of the bombing, crumbling buildings and the terrific noise of glass being blown or sucked out of surrounding buildings was terrifying.
Her petrified mother was chanting under her breath: “Oh God, please save us. Dear God, please save us.”
Jill says: ‘In the morning we opened the front door and a massive bomb crater was right outside. Perhaps her prayers had been answered.’
Jill was nine at the time and attended school part-time. One week it was in the mornings, the following week in the afternoons. The family lived out of suitcases so they were ready and packed for a quick departure if needed.
As there was only a small yard at their house, they ran to public shelters if a raid was imminent. Jill was lucky as she was allowed to sleep at her friends and shared the shelter with her.
The smell of damp earth and condensation running down the walls is still sharp in her memory.
One evening the raiders came and there was no time to get to the shelter so the girls crouched down in a broom cupboard.
Jill’s father, Patsy Jackson, remained in bed. ‘If Hitler thinks he’s getting me out of my bed at this time of night he’s got another think coming,’ he shouted. He remained in bed, windows or not.
Patsy was the manager of the wholesale fish market in Surrey Street, JB Handley & Son.
Jill’s older brother had suffered from double pneumonia and pleurisy and nearly lost his life. Through this he was not considered for call-up. He joined the National Fire Service and was in the thick of it on the night of January 10, 1941. Apart from fighting fires he was pulling out bodies from around the Guildhall area for some time.
A few days after the January 10 wartime blitz, Jill and her mother walked along Commercial Road, or what was left of it.
It was difficult walking on the rubble and the pavement and the kerb were indistinguishable. The LDB (Landport Drapery Bazaar) had gone but it gladdened residents’ hearts to see Home & Colonial was still trading.
For years after the war Jill and her pals used the bombsites as playgrounds. It was no wonder all the boys seemed to have plasters on their knees!
In 2013 Jill, then a widow, married former naval officer and regular correspondent to this column, Doug Barlow, on his 85th birthday.