Bow Geezer, Dennis Banks, was born in London in 1931. I recorded him talking on 22nd Jan 2024.
Growing up in Loughton, Essex before WW2
Life during the London Blitz in WW2
Dennis’ father worked at Woolwich Arsenal during WW2 when it was producing bombs, bullets, shells, and torpedoes along with artillery, machine guns, and tanks. He used to cycle home during the Blitz and had a part time job as an ARP warden.
Dennis was unable to go to school because of the war, and roamed around the fields with Rex, his bulldog. He taught himself how to dismantle unexploded firebombs to make fireworks.
Britain’s 1.4 million volunteer ARP wardens (Air Raid Precautions) tried to keep the public safe during air raids. They walked around making sure everybody’s windows were blacked out during night time air raids to avoid guiding German bombers to targets. The ARP wardens wore helmets with a W on the front, and most also worked full-time.
They sounded warning sirens to tell people to go to their air raid shelters. But they themselves stayed outside watching for where the bombs fell and reporting them to control. After a bombing raid they would put out fires started by incendiary bombs, deliver basic first aid, free people buried under rubble, and find shelter for people made homeless. They did whatever they could to help. This was a dangerous job, 7,000 were killed in WW2.
The eight foot high unexploded bomb
The photo which heads this article is courtesy of the Imperial War Museum (© IWM H 8281). It shows Police and Army bomb disposal officers with a defused German 1000kg parachute mine in Glasgow, 18 March 1941.