on 9 June 2005
Being a relative and near contemporary of Donald Wheal and, having shared many of his experiences of the World's End and wartime evacuation, I was transfixed by his narrative. It was warmly evocative, conjuring up local characters, buildings, sounds and smells of that unique environment. His description of the bombing of the Guiness flats moved me to anger and sadness as well as unutterable gratitude that my family survived that dreadful night. My memories differ from his in some respects (they would wouldn't they?) but that does not detract from my overall respect and admiration for this long overdue work.
on 7 November 2009
My Dad grew up in the World's End; 4 years younger than the author. He went to the same school: Ashburnham. My Dad has memories of being a small boy looking up at the Lots Road Power Station as the men (control)-smashed all the windows so the glass would not damage anyone if the place was bombed in the Blitz. He says he and all his mates would have LOVED that job! He does not share the same memories as the author, however, of the evacuation day and he would have loved to have met the author (who died in 2008?) to discuss their differing memories of the same event! My Dad, who grew up in Tadema Road, Lots Road, and then much later in Tite Street and Ann Lane, was evacuated to Devon. I have read bits of the book to my Dad and now will send it to him. I go to World's End regularly and sadly the World's End pub has changed its title and may as well have been renamed 'Theme Pub from hell' or some such thing! The Cremorne Gardens - referred to in the recent TV drama series about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood - is now a small landscaped space on the riverside but still very pretty. Most importantly (should the publishers or author's agent ever read this) I have a photo of my Dad as a small boy amongst a group of kids walking with their gas masks and little bags with a teacher ahead of their group, carrying the sign Ashburnham. I'd be delighted to share this photo if someone asks!
on 11 September 2008
When a friend casually handed me his heavily dog-eared paperback and nonchalantly remarked I might like the work, I took notice. Not only did the wear-and-tear indicate the book had been passed through the multiple hands of our friends "on recommendation", but it just happened to correspond with my interest in WWII memoirs. While the book creates an indelible impression of a tight-knit family surviving the hardships of the blitz, it also masterfully delivers an insight into the psyche of vanishing dimensions of rural and urban British life. My words will never do the book justice. However, I do find it telling that I remain profoundly grateful our writer survived to tell his tale...and too, that I cannot help but ponder the incalculable loss our world suffered in those who didn't survive. In short, the book doesn't preach, but the myriad costs associated with war are delivered with both intellectual and emotional equilibrium.
on 19 October 2010
A great book in every sense - A must read for anyone from the World's End Area (as I am) told in a style that anyone from the area will recognise and embrace.
Who knew about the original Cremorne Gardens? Not me for sure! Vicat, Bifron, Stadium, Meek and Dartrey were replaced by World's End Estate in all it's anonmitiy (Still a great place to grow up though) Heart rending in places, tragic in others - And yet something on every page to bring a smile to the lips. As much a coming of age tale as an history lesson - And running all the way through the "Lets get on with it" attitude that was still prevalent in SW10 until I left in the mid 80's...
...and weren't we all better for it !
on 4 December 2006
This is the best book of memoirs/autobiography to come out for many a long year. As you read it, you BECOME that young lad from pre-Playstation Britain. You feel his hunger, smell the smoke from the high explosives, sense his fear. The amazing thing is that people lived like this 'only' 60 years ago.
This book should be part of the course work in schools throughout Britain, nothing gives a better insight into the life our parents/grandparents lived and the real meaning of war. I was born ten years after Dee in a similar working class block of flats (only at the other end of Chelsea)and I now know how easy I had it.