New book Air Raid records life during the blitz

THE SPIRIT of the blitz is a great source of pride showing the resilience and resolve of the British people. In an extraordinary book Air Raid that details one family s experience of the bombings on east London and Essex, that spirit is laid bare in the

THE SPIRIT of the blitz is a great source of pride showing the resilience and resolve of the British people.

In an extraordinary book "Air Raid" that details one family's experience of the bombings on east London and Essex, that spirit is laid bare in the diary entries of Mary Hoodless.

Her son Bill found the small book containing her memories of the blitz while he cleared out the flat where his mother and father lived before their deaths.

Reading it he was fascinated by the unthinkable situation his parents had lived through for so long and decided to publish it.

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Bill said: "When I re-read the diaries it had a lot more impact on me than when my mother would tell me stories as a boy.

"I think we all feel like that sometimes, we wish we had taken the trouble to ask questions and find out more.

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"Of course now I can't because my parents are long since dead.

"But I felt that the diaries are still relevant today in the sense that the world has changed so much that I felt this would be a good thing to see on book shelves.

"Do you think that Britain today could survive another blitz, how would today's generation cope with war?

"I think my parent's generation felt the war was justified and that's what the people wanted."

Bill's mum Mary seems to embody the English defiance in her diary entries as she writes: "Just about to have tea when the sirens went. Fiddlesticks to the raids - had a lovely tea while Mrs T kept watch."

The sirens would be a warning to all the families in the area to get into their air raid shelters.

And although the bunkers were small and cramped and rather uncomfortable they did help to save lives.

Bill said: "Although my mum said fiddlesticks that night was actually one of the worst raids.

"She and my father probably would have used the shelter in the end.

"People were tempted to stay in the house but this was risky.

"The Rycrafts, a family of four were killed in Romford in this way.

"As often happens with this sort of tragedy they had previously used the shelter but decided not to on that fateful night."

The night that Mary and her husband Henry had tea with Mrs H amid the bombs was in fact the night that the largest crater in Essex was made by a parachute mine in Romford.

It was just two miles from the Hoodless' home and the bomb destroyed 17 houses and damaged 100 others on September 21 1940.

Mary Hoodless lived in Hornchurch at the time of the worst bombings in Essex and London and tells of the destruction caused in Romford, Barking, Dagenham and East Ham.

In one diary entry she says there was no way into London from Essex anymore as all the lines had been bombed at Barking and Dagenham.

She wrote: "Dozens of bombs. No break in the firing all night. Tilbury to Barking line bombed.

"Dozens of planes in the searchlights. Fired hundreds of shells and couldn't hit one.

"No traffic beyond Barking to London."

Mary and Henry were lucky enough to be together throughout the war and survived the blitz together.

He was never called up for service because his job providing huge cans for the army was too important to the military; they needed him at the factory to ensure they had a constant supply.

Aside from telling the fascinating story that these diary pages hold about people surviving a terrifying situation, the author Bill Hoodless also wanted to write this book for his family.

Bill said: "I know that the blitz is something that never really left my parents.

"Once a low flying aircraft passed over our house and my father jumped out of his seat and looked out the window.

"He said afterwards that the engine sounded unusual but I knew that this was a reaction from his memories of that terrible time.

"I wanted my whole family to know about their heritage so that when my grandchildren grow up they will one day read this book.

"Then they will know a little more about their family history and be proud of who they are."

Air Raid is available in shops now, copies signed by the author can be bought in Hornchurch bookshops, price £12.99.

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