Monday, 19 March 2012

Children living history by Theresa Breslin

 At the beginning of April Random House will re-issue
 two of my books: 

KEZZIE and HOMECOMING FOR KEZZIE will be published
as a bind-up entitled 


The middle of March is the anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz when two nights of misdirected bombing raids (only one bomb fell on the targeted shipyards) annihilated the town and part of Glasgow. 

Lampposts had been placed among the surrounding hills as decoys, but there was no way of disguising the silvered ribbon of the River Clyde that led the pathfinder planes to the town. Incendiary hits on the sugar refinery, the huge naval oil storage tanks and the Singer Company's lumber yard set the whole sky burning - giving plenty of illumination for the bomber squadrons to follow through. My mother told me that the sound of the planes overhead woke her up. She went to stand beside her father at the door of their house twenty miles away watching the red glow of the flames, knowing that her aunt (her father's sister) and uncle and all her cousins, with whom she played in the summer, were in their homes in Clydebank that night. Civilian casualties were very high. And because at that time there was a social pattern of close family support with relatives living next door to each other, or on different floors in the same tenement building, whole families were wiped out.

Doing a round of school talks last week I visited 

Bankhead Primary School and was greeted with 
their welcome sign and their wonderful book-loving 
pupils and teachers. 
We had a great session together and then I was 
told that they were having another visitor later in 
the week - someone who had been a boy messenger 
during the Blitz and had survived - and he would tell
 them of his childhood. Their school had been used
 as an ARP Station during the War and had suffered
 a direct hit. They allowed me to take some photographs
 of their display which tells their story better that I can.


Like many other rural towns an evacuee receiving unit was set up in my local church hall. One of the first groups to arrive had with them a baby girl who'd been found lying in a street with no sign of anyone around her. Lots of people volunteered to take the baby home and look after her but the senior ARP officer decided to keep her in the station for a few days so that she could be properly medically examined to ensure she had not been injured in any way. Two night later a forlorn little family came in, cut, bruised, with torn clothes. having been dug out of the rubble. The oldest child was a boy of about nine or ten. Upon hearing the baby crying in another room, he shouted out:

'That's our baby That's my little sister!'
And it was.

And yes, my mother's cousins eventually turned up, clutching a shopping bag of their possessions... and the budgie cage!

KEZZIE AT WAR will be published by Random House on 5th April 2012


alberridge said...

Thank you for a beautifully evocative post, Theresa - and especially that vivid picture of the Clydebank Blitz. I'm ashamed to say I knew hardly anything about that, and guess it's a victim of the 'if it's north of London it didn't happen' school of history.

But it's good to see our schools are still keeping the memory alive - and of course books like 'Kezzie at War'. Best wishes for a huge success with the re-release!

Alex said...

I can't wait to read Kezzie at War. It is a book right up my alley.

I love to see the projects kids do for the things they are learning about and when an author visits.

Glad your mother's cousins turned up safe and sound. Amazing story about the baby girl.

Thank you for sharing all of this and will be looking forward to April 5th.

Theresa Breslin said...

Thanks for the comments. I think all big cities have their Blitz stories. I've heard similar tales from Belfast, Liverpool etc and of course London was ongoing. Clydebank is a raw memory here because it wasn't a big city, more a family town of shipyard and other heavy industry workers. It's very personal, especially in that particular school where the starred names on the memorial plaque indicate family members who died together. Project work by school pupils constantly amazes me.

Griselda Heppel said...

What a moving story - all those poor families. Your books look super, I'm so glad they are being reissued. Looking forward to reading them!

adele said...

Wonderfully moving post, Theresa! And love the baby glad too that Kezzie books are being reissued. A triumph of good sense at a time when the NEW and the SHINY can eclpse the Golden Oldies. Hurray for Random House, I say!

Theresa Breslin said...

Thanks Griselda and Adele. I'm really pleased with the cover which isn't new and shiny but traditional and attractive I think.