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Spread Eagle



My friend Delores   https://delores2016.wordpress.com/about/ sent me a link to a news story about a WWII unexploded bomb discovered this week in Catford, SE London. She reminded us that Catford was in Bomb Alley and in the direct route for the Bombers heading to Blitz London. This discovery is close to the site of Sandhurst Road School that was bombed January 1943 where 38 children and 6 adults were killed and over sixty others injured.

The bomb was discovered in a house undergoing renovation and the ‘boys in blue’ and specialist officers from the bomb squad closed off the road and adjoining roads for a few hours although they didn’t evacuate the properties.   http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/suspected-world-war-two-bomb-found-at-home-in-catford-a3192511.html

This discovery elicited a number of jokes on social media about how the explosion would have improved the landscape or it would only have caused £15 worth of damage, Ha Ha! But Catford’s back is broad enough to take such aspersions.

Happily for Catford, the 10 inch shell, corroded and rusted, posed no danger for anyone but it made me think of a similar incident that Ian and I were involved in a couple of years back in Greenwich also in SE London.

We were having an impromptu day off, quite a rare occurrence, we’d had an English breakfast at the Stage Door Café in Catford Broadway before catching the 199 bus to Greenwich, and we were rooting around in our favourite junk shop, The Spread Eagle in Greenwich South Street, a plethora of items dating back at least two centuries.

The ground floor has a narrow sinuous pathway with objects closely huddled on either side, from the front door into the body of the shop then up two steep steps to the rear room between glass fronted showcases and counter on one side and book shelves on the other with frames and folders leaning against them making the floor space barely wide enough to place your feet. Buyers beware, what isn’t there to like.  At the very back is the café, cakes and coffee, very nice.

We’ve been going to The Spread Eagle ever since we came to London a long time ago, and Toby the proprietor remembers us and we pass the time of day before commencing to search the boxes, draws and corners on the ground floor for anything that might appeal to our taste but it is relatively half-hearted because we know by now what we are interested in will probably be found elsewhere. There are other potential buyers in the shop and we have to manoeuvre round each other in the confined space to get past to go through the hatch and down the crooked, steep and slightly rickety stair to the basement where multiple cubicles, packed from floor to ceiling, await our pleasure.

We are soon engrossed books, photographs anything about social history, put Ian with books and it’s a world well lost. The basement is quiet and has a cosy feel not many venture there it means we can peruse the items undisturbed at our leisure but eventually, however, two pressing needs disturbed our fixation and clutching our finds we head for the stairs in search of the ‘Loo’ and a cup of coffee.

Its difficult, whilst clutching our prizes, with hands full, to negotiate the stair and as we ascended we became aware of a pulsing blue light filtering into the stairwell. It’s almost like coming up out of water. We paused momentarily trying to work out if this was some new ploy of Toby’s to entice more sales, disco lights perhaps? We emerged and came almost nose to nose with two members of the Bomb Squad resplendent in body armour, they were almost as round as they were tall. In the pulsing light it was surreal. I don’t know who was more surprised them or us.

Toby, after we had disappeared into the nether regions, had, whilst rooting around in one of his storage sheds at the rear of the building come across a WWII parachute bomb approximately 18inches long 12inch diameter it certainly would have packed a punch at some time. How it had got into Toby’s store was anyone’s guess it was caked in dirt so as its name implies it may have floated and landed in a garden all those years ago or may have been lodged in a roof or wall crevice before somehow coming to earth. Whoever had unearthed it, unaware of the danger, it had somehow migrated to a Victorian outhouse where Toby rummaging for some elusive item pulled it out recognized it for what it was and called for help. The shop was evacuated but he forgot we were down in the basement.

We came into view just as our armour clad heroes were cautiously carrying the rusty, degraded ordinance out of the building.  Through their visors it was obvious they weren’t pleased to see us and they had a quick staccato conversation with whoever was monitoring their wirelesses, before they continued to the exit.

Immediately two police officers and Toby came in to the shop towards us. Toby’s face expressing mock horror. Over their shoulders we could glimpse police cars with their lights flashing and a small crowd rubbernecking on the other side of the yellow tape cordon.

The shell was taken away and detonated but we hadn’t been in any real danger and we hadn’t been aware so there was no shock and awe and we got a free cup of coffee and a cake.

Though it’s seventy years since the end of the war we are, almost daily, reminded about those dark days. Despite the cessation of combat and the disappearance on our landscape of the bomb scars it’s never ever over for those who were involved or their children and their children’s children, generation after generation.

My own father was one of the crew of an Anti Aircraft placement in Kingston upon Hull, the most bombed city in the Britain in WWII. During a raid where 500kg bombs, incendiaries and fragmentation grenades rained down out of a malevolent sky his friend was killed beside him. Though the physical scars healed the mental and emotional scars never healed and the legacy would continue to influence his life and his family up to this day.

Britain may have been the last man standing in 1945 but no one won.

Britain ‘Mortgaged to the Yanks’ didn’t finish paying for Lend Lease 31$ Billion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LendLease or the Post War Loan £1,075 million until this year 2016! Not to mention the ‘shared’ technology that Churchill had to give to persuade our ‘special friends’ to help us out in the first place. The repayment of which would drain the exchequer to the detriment of health, education, housing, transportation and other infrastructure affecting every man, women and child in Britain.

The legacy for the huddled masses that throng the squalid, tented refugee camps in Europe will also be for generations and still no one will win.