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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A Terrible Day in the archives of my memory


A recollection I have of when I was very young is holding my Grandma’s hand very tightly one day back in 1948, (I was six years old) walking by her side for miles, my little legs aching as we neared home. She smelt of petrol and smoke and her face was all sooty and so was mine, we all must have looked in a sorry state. Dad and Sis were a long way in front of us. She bent down in front of me as we were about to cross the road at Northwood and asked me if I would like an ice-cream, and of course I said “yes please” because I remember waiting at the zebra crossing to cross the road to the Post Office and looking up at her lovely face, a tear was running down her cheek creating a line on her skin. That image has stayed with me my whole life, seeing my lovely Gran that we all worshiped, so upset, to think of her now as I remember that day, brings a lump to my throat. 

Digging deep into my memory-hard-drive muddled up in the little grey cells that are left, I remember pushing in front of a crowd of people with Grandma’ holding on tightly to my hand. We sat down on the grass after ducking under a rope to get a better view of the spectacle of aeroplanes flying very close to where we were. The roar of the engines to one so young made my little heart I remember, pound in my chest.

There was a thump in the ground under my tummy as I lay there stretched out on the grass, the earth seemed to move, looking up I lost sight of Grandma’ (she must have been only a few inches away from me) but all I remember was a blackness that engulfed me and a hand was banging my head repeatedly. (I know now my hair was on fire)

Many would know the tragedy of that day, all I know is if we hadn’t pushed to the front and sat on the grass I wouldn’t be here today, because three people that I pushed my way passed to the front were sadly killed. The black smoke choking our lungs, the flames so hot, so close to us, must have evoked a fear in Gran’ that can’t be imagined. She never let go of my hand, never turned to run from that terror, but hung on to me for dear life until the danger subsided, finding her way through all the carnage to the safety of the road and finding Dad and Sis.

We had been to the Air Show at Manston and a plane had crashed very close to where we sat on the grass. I remember vividly the heat from it all, the black smoke rising high into the air with flames getting very close to us. A lot of people were killed that day, and it wasn’t until later on in life that I realised the enormity of what I had witnessed, and the closeness we had come to us all suffering the same fate. Dad and Gran decided to abandon the outing and get home as soon as we could, but the queues for the busses evidently were enormous, so we walked, all the way from Manston to home in Pysons road, a very long way for my little legs at the time.

A stalwart of the family, she always carried herself with pride and a stiff upper lip, she had taken on the responsibility of my safety that afternoon never for one moment contemplating moving from my side, but the further away from that disaster we walked, with home in her sites, the emotion was finally showing on her lovely face; we had made it home, our cloths and my hair not quite the Sunday best look we had set out with in the morning, but safe. The gratitude for the survival of this individual that has so many years later been able to write this account, is a sorrow that I never can remember thanking her, but as age has crept up on me, the magnitude and courage of what she did that afternoon is a lasting memory of love for that dear lady who was my Gran.


Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Alan, I was also a young lad at that airshow in 1948 with my father, who was stationed at RAF Manston at the time. The aircraft was a Mosquito which seemed to stall and just fall out of the sky onto the back of the crowd facing where we stood. I believe it hit a coach adding to the number of fatalities.

    Your gran certainly did you proud that day and I was equally glad to be with my father who was a solidly dependable figure when much around us was panic.

    Digressing, I enjoy your site and particularly the story of the old gentleman in Ellington Park, a place of which I have fond memories. Nice to have a bit of nostalgia instead of the 'angry campaigners' one finds on so many other blogs.

  2. Thank you Tom for your comment, I have been pleasantly surprised at the many emails I have received from my Blog with a similar vane of thought. It is still in its infancy, as my instructions from the grandchildren become clearer I hope to develop it all further. Like yourself, there are many stories to tell of a wonderful life, some of them very tragic like the one you have commented on. Thankfully, I was at the time, not really old enough to realise the enormity of the event and only to remember the ice cream and my Gran’s face on that fateful day.