Probus – blitz in WW2

probus hears about the blitz in WW2

Members of the Probus Club of Basingstoke had a personal history lesson by member David Stiles who reminisced about his wartime experiences as a schoolboy in Southampton.

Separated from his mother and baby brother as an unhappy evacuee in Ringwood he managed to return to his home in Southampton. Opposite was his grandparents’ large house, and their deep cellar made a safe and comfortable air raid shelter, much better than the Anderson shelters that were buried in most gardens.

Dog Fights

He was able to see the vapour trails from dog fights during the Battle of Britain knowing that the pilots on both sides were young men, not much older than themselves. Later, during The Blitz bombing raids on Southampton docks were a daily occurrence and one night, they had to remain in their grandparent’s cellar for fourteen hours.

Blitz on Southampton

During one raid the Luftwaffe dropped over 2,000 high explosive and more than 3,000 incendiary bombs, killing 650 people and leaving Southampton a smoking ruin. Some nights the speaker’s teenage uncles ran up and down the street assisting the firemen, wearing pots and pans and small baths on their head for protection. Had it not been so serious It could have been a scene from an Ealing comedy film.


Each morning boys would collect shrapnel and became expert in identifying this jagged metal from bombs or shells. Shrapnel became school currency and could be swapped for cigarette cards or marbles.

One day two Junker 88 bombers, with anti-aircraft shells exploded around them, flew straight at the school during playtime, firing their machine guns. The school windows were smashed, and the speaker had tarmac bursting around his feet racing to the shelter where he was flung inside from a bomb blast.

Identity cards, ration books, gas masks and other war time paraphernalia added to this stirring presentation.

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