By Brian Robinson.
The years of the London blitz during World War 2 saw houses stripped bare, their hearts ripped out. But the soul of London remained intact. Go back to 1947 though, just after the war ended, and you will still find many open spaces, not parks, but bombsites. The loose rubble had been cleared, but many buildings still stood deserted; damaged; propped-up. These were now the open playgrounds of the street kids. They were not fenced off. There were no warning signs. Health and safety had yet to be invented.
This is where we had our stone fights. Each army would build barricades faced with corrugated iron sheets; collect our stones by the bucket-load; and then our micro wars would begin.
I remember seeing something strange as I gathered my stones/ammunition one day. A little scratching around with my stick/bayonet revealed something metallic. A senior member of the Askew gang, Lenny Mac Fee, decided we needed a shovel and I was dispatched to meet that need. I had just reached the edge of the bombsite when a flash of light and heat overtook me.
I woke up in hospital four years later. I was twelve by then and my family had moved to a posh house in Kingston Upon Thames. I had no memories of the intervening years or of what had led to my deep sleep.
My mum told me I had received a bang on the head and there was nothing to worry about. But that didn’t explain the marks on my back or legs? She would get annoyed if I persisted in asking. All that is behind us she would say. We have a new better life now. So there is no point in looking back.
My dad hadn’t served as a soldier during the war. He worked for the ministry, or so I was told. But I didn’t know what he did with what ministry. Most days he would go off in the mornings and come back at night, but not always. Sometimes he would go missing for days, weeks on end.
Later in life I stumbled across a newspaper clipping at my parents house. The headline read: TWO CHILDREN KILLED IN BOMB EXPLOSION. ONE LEFT IN A COMA. Two members of the Askew gang were named: Lenny Mac Fee and Andy Woods. These were the only names left in my childhood memory.
My dad died when he was still fairly young. He was fifty nine and just about to retire. We buried him in a small wood close to our house in Kingston. A lady and her two children turned up at the funeral. I had never seen them before but my mother seemed to know them, or at least she knew of their existence. I now have two half sisters. That was the bombshell.