The bomb that rolled up the stair carpet

Former News journalist Tim King lived throughout the Second World War on the Highbury Estate south of Cosham railway station.

Sunday, 16th October 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 6:03 pm
Highbury Buildings then and now (below)
Highbury Buildings then and now (below)

He lived at 26 Hawthorn Crescent, a bit too close for comfort to that station and the line which the Luftwaffe targeted and obviously missed when bombs hit Highbury Buildings, the Carlton cinema and Mulberry Avenue.

The family were in their Anderson shelter at home when the bomb hit Highbury Buildings, little more than 100 yards away, with an almighty explosion that shook the house.

The blast blew in the lead light front door windows and the door and rolled up the stair carpet out of its stair rods.

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Highbury Buildings, Hawthorn Crescent

Tim says: ‘I think a sailor sheltering in a shop doorway was killed, but I cannot remember other casualties.

‘After that we abandoned the Anderson and took to the tunnels in Portsdown Hill until the worst of the blitz was over.

‘Sometimes we had to walk, other times I remember army lorries coming to the estate to ferry people to safety.

‘There were several shops in Highbury Buildings with two storeys of flats above.’

Highbury Buildings, Hawthorn Crescent

As Tim recalls, these included Carter’s confectioner’s run by Mr Carter senior with his son, WC ‘Bill’ Carter, running the grocer’s next door; Wilkes’ chemist’s; Burton’s butcher’s, and Ryan’s ironmonger’s nearby on the corner of Chatsworth Avenue.

After the war, Tim’s father and thousands of other property owners claimed for War Damage, which was an interesting set-up because in those days many people could not afford home insurance and insurers – like today – excluded war damage from policies.

Winston Churchill realised this when he had to shelter in a tunnel during a raid on Ramsgate.

He emerged to see a small hotel had been hit and the proprietor and his wife were standing amid the rubble in tears. They’d lost everything.

The PM immediately ordered the Chancellor to devise a compensation scheme to spread the eventual massive cost.

It was complex and involved mortgage lenders, but basically, the War Damage Act 1941 required all home owners to pay the Inland Revenue an annual assessed contribution, mostly two shillings (10p) in the pound.

Tim adds: ‘You can still find bits of history from those dark days on the Highbury Estate.

‘Look carefully at any original stone pillars supporting the bow-shaped front garden walls.

‘These had been fitted with heavy decorative chains and under Sections 50 and 53 of the Defence (General) Regulations Act 1939 they were snipped off to be melted down towards the war effort, but you can still see where the last links were cut close to the pillars.’