Wartime Heritage ASSOCIATION
copyright © Wartime Heritage Association 2012-2022 Website hosting courtesy of Register.com - a web.com company
“Under Attack - Wartime Bournemouth and Suburbs” Bruce Edwin Graham
Return to Story Archive
“Under Attack - Wartime Bournemouth and Suburbs” I was born in 1940, six months after the outbreak of World War II. With my father away with the RAF, my mum and I remained in rented accommodations in the Bournemouth area. 43 Gladstone Road was one of a few addresses my mum and I shared in Bournemouth, in 1943, with her stepmother, Ma, my granddad’s second wife. Until that time we had lived temporarily at 60 Southbourne Rd, above ‘Owens the Chemist’. “No Fighter Pilot would have picked out civilians like that!” was the comment of a disbelieving friend in New Zealand when I described, many years after the actual event, what happened to my Uncle John and me near a clifftop AA Gun emplacement, at age three or four. Well, I’ll never forget the twigs, branches, and leaves, cascading down upon Uncle John and I, as the fighter plane raced over our heads at treetop height. My Uncle John Hopkins, my mother’s youngest brother, took the place of my absent father. Uncle John had, in his own words, “Got promotion to the dizzying heights of Corporal, Royal Engineers”. He served in Sicily, Crete, and North Africa, before being invalided out of the Army with recurring Malaria and once back in England, joined the Home Guard. My father was in India, a Sergeant in the Royal Air Force. I was one year old when he left, and I didn’t see him until 1947 when all the RAF there was demobilized. Every Sunday, for well over a year, my uncle called at home and took me for a long walk. Several walks found us close to the clifftop where you had to go through a canopy of huge rhododendrons which must have been eight feet high. This ‘jungle’ extended for several hundred yards, and then you would break clear onto grass for about 100 yards to the clifftop. One day, we were at the clifftop and Uncle John had walked over to speak with the crew of a nearby ack ack anti-aircraft gun emplacement. I had ‘important stuff’ to do like collecting some flowers for my mum and step grandmother. The nearby air raid siren suddenly burst into action. Uncle John raced over to grab me up under his left arm as the gun crew fought to train the gun on a speck out to sea. This very swiftly became the outline of an aircraft. I could only just determine this as I was bobbing up and down with Uncle John running. As soon as we were deep into the ‘jungle’ Uncle John hit the deck and lay across me. In the meantime we were listening to the anti-aircraft gun slamming away. And then, a burst of machine gun firing as the plane tore overhead. Not long after the siren sounded the ‘all clear’ it began again breaking into the alert. The same plane flew back over our heads headed straight out to sea. The next time, I was “under attack” by a German fighter pilot was close to the time on the clifftop. My mum enjoyed long country walks and on this summer day, I was with my her close to big hay fields near Throop, not far from the priory town of Christchurch. Mum was pushing me along in a push chair. As we passed one gate, we stopped to watch a farmer, riding a horse drawn tedder, a machine used for tossing hay in the air so it would dry faster for stacking. They were still making haystacks back then, “hayricks”. Square bales and baling machines were yet to be invented. The farm labourers would toss hay up into a huge pile, some twelve feet high, then they shaved the side with a knife some three feet long. Their off cuts were tossed on top, and later a thatcher would come along with a cart full of straw, and thatch it, just as thoroughly as a thatched house. The man we were watching, suddenly reins into a stop, and calls to my Mum “Ere Lady, you better find a place to hide under thick hedge. I sees an enemy plane a’comin our way!” With that he gives the poor horse a loud slap on the rump and executes a header into the nearest part of the hedge. I remember well hearing the snarl of the aircraft engine, which was louder than an old-fashioned express train. Mum does a short run, pushing me on the push chair, into the four feet deep roadside drainage ditch, and jumps atop me! There had to be at least nine inches of mud in the ditch! “Splatto”! I struggled around, and as I glanced up, mum pushed me back down, but not before I saw a whole line of “dust puffs” coming off the road, as the machine gun bullets struck. The rather old farmer untangled himself and helped mum haul me and the push chair from the ditch. We stayed there watching until he had regained control of the still galloping horse before going home to clean up. The pilot missed, again! Poor old Ma went white when Mum told her what had taken place. Bruce Edwin Graham, in his 83rd year, Tauranga, New Zealand, July 13, 2022.
Bruce Edwin Graham, (b. 1940) is the son of Stanley George Graham (1913- 1995) and Winifred Margaret (Hopkins) Graham (1899–1985). The Post-War Years With the war’s end and the return of my father, demobilized from the RAF, the family moved to a newly built bungalow at Bearcross. I attended Kinson Primary School, one of the oldest schools in Bournemouth. He then attended Ringwood Grammar School and in 1952 transferred to Portchester Secondary School for Boys. The ‘partner school’ just down the road was Avonmore Secondary School for Girls and we all travelled together on a No. 3 bus, attended sports and swimming meets etc. together. There I met up with a dedicated team of energetic teachers. Mr. J. K. Williams was the making of me. His was a delivery of maths, and science that I absorbed like blotting paper. My father, employed by Westminster Bank Ltd., was given a transfer to New Milton. I suddenly just about totally lost all my childhood friends, male and female. No more Friday evening Bournemouth Square Dancing Club; no more Saturday morning Westover Ice Rink skating sessions with the girls and boys whom I knew so well; no more watching basketball, and roaring for our Girls Team to win! Another transfer for my father, a Chief Clerk at the bank, a year later was to Haslemere, Surrey. In late 1955, I enrolled in the Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester, at Greenhithe in Kent. This was where Mr. Williams Maths teaching paid off during navigation lectures. I served a four-year apprenticeship on the West African Trade with The Guinea Gulf Line of Liverpool (Owners John Holt and Co., with huge ‘holdings’ in West Africa). Completing my ‘time’ I went to Warsash (Southampton University) to study for a 2nd Mates’ Certificate of Competency. Discovering I was four days short of sea time, I went to a Coastal Company, F. T. Everard and Sons Co. Ltd., of Greenhithe. There I had an enjoyable year on the coast, as 2nd, then 1st Mate, to Captain Brown, learning about tankers. During that time, I met my future wife, Rosemary May Enticknap. Gaining my 2nd Mates Certificate at Warsash enabled me to get the 3rd Mate’s position with the Blue Star Line, on their only tanker, MV Pacific Star. Blue Star also took me on an around the world circumnavigation, on their SS Wellington Star. I gained my 1st Mates’ Foreign Going Certificate in 1963 and signed a two-year contract with BP Tankers. And, that year, I married Rosemary. In 1964, I left seafaring and became a carpenter and joiner. The final year at sea, I studied the theory and trade drawing for those trades. In 1965, having gained a City and Guilds First Class Pass in the carpenter and joiner examinations, I emigrated to New Zealand, where until early 1969, I practised both trades. I was invited to enter an application for the post as Child Welfare Officer, with the Child Welfare Division of the New Zealand Dept. of Education, was successful, and got promotion to Senior Social Worker in 1975. I left that profession and returned briefly to the United Kingdom in 1981, where I stayed in Bruton, with my four children and my elderly mother until early 1983, when Rosemary also returned to Britain, and we all returned to New Zealand in June of that year. Once again, I did carpentry until in May of 1984. I was successful in getting a part-time position as a tutor in maritime studies. This developed into a full-time post, as Tutor in Charge of Maritime Studies. I was able to fully develop the Maritime School, with three full-time tutors, and four part-timers. The highest grade of ticket we taught was New Zealand Off-Shore Master. Other Courses included: Qualified Fishing Deckhand; Inshore Launch Master; Proficiency in Survival Craft; General Radio Operator; Restricted Radar Observer and 2nd Class Diesel Trawler Engineer. In 2002, I was able to take an early retirement at age 62. The Family Service during World War I and World War II My father, Stanley George Graham (1913-1993), known as ‘George’ served with the rank of Sergeant with the Royal Air Force in India during WWII. At the time of his death he was living at 42 Archery Square, Walmer, Deal, Kent. My uncle, father’s brother, Donald Graham (1917-1941) whose nickname was “Jock” was serving as a Supply Assistant on the British Battle Cruiser, HMS Hood when she was sunk on May 24, 1941, by the German battleship Bismark, with the loss of all but three of her 1418 Officers and crew. His name is listed on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Hampshire, England (Panel 57, Column 2) My mother’s brother John Arthur Hopkins (1906–2002) served as a Corporal, with the Royal Engineers in Sicily, Crete, and North Africa. He was invalided out of the army with recurring malaria and once back in England, joined the Home Guard. My grandfather, Edgar Graham (1880–1952) served with the Royal Navy from 1903 until 1925 as an Engine Room Artificer. He was twice Mentioned in Despatches: London Gazette April 11, 1919 “For Services while serving with the Channel Fleet” and in the London Gazette November 11, 1919 “For Services while in Russia”. During WWII, Edgar served on HMS Cutty Sark as 2nd Engineer and Chief Engineer between October, 1939, and February, 1941. In 1940, HMS Cutty Sark was converted to a Submarine Tender, and was attached to the 3rd Submarine Flotilla. HMS Cutty Sark was ordered to Dunkirk, with all the other ships, to help evacuate allied troops from the beaches; however, was diverted, to St. Malo, to destroy the masts of the Radio Station there, and this operation was successful. However, while alongside, she was dive bombed and one side of the ship was severely damaged, resulting in a flooded engine room. The engines were out of action, and HMS Cutty Sark had to be towed back to England for repairs by the destroyer, HMS Viscount. Edgar remained as Chief Engineer until he was Discharged Ashore on February 18, 1941. Great Uncle George William Graham (1887-1917) brother of Grandfather, Edgar Graham, enlisted with the Middlesex Regiment on September 8, 1914. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders. He was gassed and invalided home to recover in April 1916. He received a commission and was gazetted as 2nd Lieutenant with the 6th Middlesex Regiment in July 1917. He joined his Battalion in France in August. He was attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers and was killed in action east of Ypres on September 20, 1917. His Commanding Officer, Colonel G. Brighton, wrote: “He faced death as a true soldier, and was a very gallant and just officer, most courteous and ready to assist in every way. He will be missed much by one and all, and his battalion greatly deplore his death, for he was very popular with all ranks.” He was mentioned in Despatches and commended for good work on the Somme, and awarded the Military Medal for gallant and distinguished service in the field. His name is listed on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West Flanders, Belgium.
Edgar Graham