Updated: May 10, 2020
I have just returned from a short walk with my dog around the block, "the Block" being the square of my own Hermitage Road (named after Hermitage Farm - once part of the Caludon Castle estate and site of an actual hermitage (a dwelling for "hermit" monks), Mellowdew Road, Ravensdale Road and Morris Avenue. Ravensdale school lies in the centre of the block.
The houses of Ravensdale Road are particularly well decked out with flags and bunting today for the (muted!) VE day celebrations which triggered wartime stories of the neighbourhood coming to mind. My dad and his family lived in Mellowdew Road during the wartime years. In recent (and older) posts I have mentioned how as a twelve year old he was sent out with his fourteen year old sister Olive on a bicycle trek across the blitzed city to report to family in Leamington that they had all survived the bombings of November 14th 1940. On leaving their damaged house they had the immediate view of the house two doors down (no. 85 on the corner of Mellowdew Rd and Ravensdale Rd) having had the end of terrace side wall blown away completely. Olive described the scene as "like looking into a doll's house". A minute or so later as they reached the corner of Mellowdew Road and Longfellow Road they had a "close encounter" with a low flying German aircraft - being able to see the faces of the crew. My dad, Fred, assured his sister that the Germans weren't trying to shoot them. He could see that they were taking photos to assess the damage to Coventry (which had now entered the German language through the word "Coventryiziert" - razed to the ground.
Olive was later to join the Land Army and told me a story regarding a very unlikely family reunion. Whilst based on a Warwickshire farm the Land Army girls would work alongside Italian prisoners of war. One of the Italians, Vinnie, had been seperated from his baby brother who was taken to live with relatives in the USA years before. Vinnie remained at the family home which I believe was in Sicily before joining the Italian army. When attending a village dance alongside visiting American soldiers Olive and her friends met a man decked out in American uniform who was the image of Vinnie (who during the evenings would be under curfew - another lockdown!). It turned out that this American G.I. was Vinnie's long lost brother fighting for "the other side". Olive told me that this meeting of brothers was reported across the world. I'll be giving her a thought today and recall how the topical "We'll meet again" was sung enthusiastically by her friends from the sheltered accommodation where she lived at her funeral a few years ago. We can only hope that those remaining and in similar situations make their way through the current situation which is hitting care homes severely.
Getting back to my block and the war..... Many houses including the one that I live in now took direct hits with fatalities amongst the residents. If I look out of my front window today I can see that most of the houses on the other side of the road are of a simpler design than my own - no apexes or bay windows. This was as a result of time, labour and materials constraints during post war reconstruction and similar examples can be seen throughout the city.
Ravensdale School like others in the city worked a rota sysytem to ensure that there would not be a time when all of the pupils would be in the building at the same time. This was to mitigate against the horrifying thought of a hit during a daytime raid. The building doubled up as a first aid station and first stopping point for locals injured during the raids. The school field housed anti-aircraft artillery and soldiers billeted there provided locals with an extra source of income as the authorites would pay a shilling in return for providing the soldiers with a bath!
There are so many similar stories to be told of what we may consider to be "mundane" neighbourhoods across the city. I also thought it would be a good time to refect on the fact that we are all "children of war" - a theme I explored in a blog entry last year containing more of these family stories - link is here.
Hopefully if you've enjoyed reading this you may take a closer look at your local surroundings and possibly notice some "out of place" buildings, scorched walls, signs of shrapnel damage and the like - plenty of which are to be found across Coventry.