'The Gerries are coming'

BUTTERFLY bombs, air raid shelters, and father joining 'Dads Army' are all childhood memories of growing up in Ipswich in the second half of the 1930s, for Robert Robinson.

BUTTERFLY bombs, air raid shelters, and father joining 'Dads Army' are all childhood memories of growing up in Ipswich in the second half of the 1930s, for Robert Robinson.

Robert, of Jessopp Road, Norwich was born in February 1935 lived in Fletcher Road, Ipswich from 1939 until 1952. He recalls those difficult days of almost 70 years ago.

He said: “'The Gerries are coming' were the words my sister said to me as she took me along Sandy Hill Lane, to look at Orwell School in Robeck Road where I was to start in September 1939. My sister was two years older than me, and we then had the freedom to go off as far as our little legs would take us.

“Early in the war my father enlisted in the Local Defense Volunteers, this later became the Home Guard. My mother later worked for Frederick Tibbenham of Turret Lane, which manufactured propellers for fighter aircraft.

“In the school grounds workmen were busy building air-raid shelters and it wouldn't be long before we were using them. Nissan huts were built in a hollow beyond our school playground and an anti-aircraft gun was positioned outside our school entrance, facing the River Orwell. It didn't stay there for long, but later a barrage balloon was stationed across the lane and was easily viewed from our classroom.”

“The first explosion we heard during school time, which had us diving under our desks, was a bomb dropped on Fletcher Road. Two houses were demolished.

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“Soon after most children, along with their mothers, were evacuated to Leicester, which was considered safe as German aircraft couldn't then fly as far as the Midlands. We only stayed for about six weeks by that time the Luftwaffe had powered-up their aircraft to fly further. My sister and I were then sent to relatives in Nayland and stayed there for over a year. On returning home I discovered that an older boy from across the road had kicked what he thought was a tin can, it was a Butterfly bomb and tragically part of his leg was blown off. A few years later a VI rocket known as a 'doodlebug' landed in the meadow opposite the house we stayed at in Nayland, causing some damage.

“In May1945 the war ended and we celebrated Victory in Europe. In September there was Victory in Japan parties in Fletcher Road and Lely Road. We were taken into town as a large crowd gathered on Cornhill. Flags were flying from the Lloyds Bank building and three men, including a sailor, climbed the building and the sailor snapped off the Union flag and waved it around, much to the delight of the crowd and the stern looks of a policeman who had tried to stop them. My twelve-year-old cousin Bill, who was with his father a sergeant in the 14th Army, had brought along a Roman Candle firework and had just lit it when a man came along and smothered it with his attaché-case, which rather spoilt what was going to be something rather spectacular. We did, however, get some satisfaction as it burnt a hole in the man's case!

“In 1946 I went to Landseer Secondary Modern School. The previous year it was known as 'South Eastern Boys' but 1946 was the start of a new era. We were divided into houses or groups. Livingstone, Telford, Scott and Faraday. I was used to male teachers, my last teacher at Robeck Road was Mr Page, a very gentle and softly spoken man who played the piano very well and often filled in at Landseer at morning assembly. Most of my new teachers had returned from military service. One teacher, Mr Flegg, was often absent as he suffered from malaria. Mr Thomas, our PE teacher, had served in the navy. I was a little bit scared of him, as he was rather a hard taskmaster in the gym. I also remember the swimming at Pipers Vale, most of us blue with cold after the lesson. We used to queue up for a cup of hot Bovril or Oxo and a slice of bread for 2d.

“1947 was a great winter for a twelve-year-old, but not for adults. There was a lot of snow and weeks of frozen weather. My responsibility was to make sure there was a fire burning in the grate when my parents eventually came home from work. On one occasion I was so anxious to get my sledge out onto the Layers at Pipers Vale, which was well illuminated from the construction site at Cliff Quay Power Station, that by trying to keep the fire going I had put too much ash on top of the coal and smothered it. My parents were none too pleased and imposed an instant ban on sledging. The sledge however, did come in handy for trips to the gas works in Duke Street to collect coke, which was what remained after the gas had been extracted. The severe winter had caused problems with transport and deliveries resulting in shortages of fuel.

“Football had a high profile at Landseer School, happily I was selected for the senior boy's team and we won the Shaw Schools Challenge Trophy in 1950, presented to us by the then manager of Ipswich Town, Adam Scott Duncan.”

“The highlights of my final year at Landseer School were the trips to the big engineering works in the town, Ransomes and Rapier, Cocksedges, Ransome, Sims and Jefferies etcetera. Of course they were keen to recruit and they gave us a slap-up meal!”

Robert was prompted to send his memories of Lansdeer School and life in that part of town following the memories of the school in Kindred Spirits from George Garnham of Ipswich.

Brian Godwin of Lavenham Road, Ipswich, said: “I too went to Landseer School 1947-8 until Christmas 1952. I know George Garnham very well. I agree with what George said about some teachers types of punishment for the troublemakers. I remember Mr Stone, he was the school history teacher, but we spent most of our history lesson talking about cricket! I left school Christmas 1952. I did a five-year apprenticeship then joined the RAF. I was sent out to Cyprus, where I met up with George, he was with the army. We didn't get a chance to chat, just a quick hello.”


What memories does this feature prompt for you? Write to Dave Kindred, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.


The air raid when bombs fell on Fletcher Road, which Robert Robinson recalls was probably that of January 8, at 10.15am, when 16 Fletcher Road was hit and a woman killed. Another bomb landed on 6 Romney Road where a child was killed. Can you tell us more?


Pic 1.

The Landseer Secondary Modern School football team with the Shaw Trophy in 1950. In the picture are from the left standing: Mr Perkins the head master, A Colman, K Keates, I Turner and teacher Mr Brooks. (Middle row) D Thorpe, R Bryant and T Brown. Front row: R Robinson, P Hudson, J Tweed, P Bowder and T Clarke.

Pic 2. (Two pix available)

A party to celebrate the end of World War Two in Fletcher Road, Ipswich in 1945.

Pic 3.

Landseer School in March 1984. The school closed in 1987. It was demolished and housing built on the site.

Pic. 4

Members of the Home Guard in Ipswich during World War Two. Robert Robinson's father signed up for the force on the first day of it's formation in May 1940. This group was formed as the Ipswich Battalion and became C Company of the 9th Suffolk Battalion.

Pic 5

Robert Robinson recalls Cliff Quay power station being built. This photograph was taken when the huge chimneys were party constructed. The power station was demolished in the 1990s. The chimneys were destroyed by explosives 27 November 1994.


Aircraft propellers being built at Frederick Tibbenham's works in Turret Lane, Ipswich, during World War Two. This building is still standing today and belongs to Archant, publishers of the Evening Star. The area featured is now occupied by the companies design studio.

Pic 7

Workers making propellers at Frederick Tibbenham's in Turret Lane, Ipswich, during World War Two.>