Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Air Raid Siren

In 1974 I was working as a young clerk in an Import/Export office in Bishopsgate, London. It had been announced on the television news that the authorities were going to test the old air raid sirens that were used in London during the World War II German air raids. The scheduled time for the test was announced but of course we forgot all about it. It was lunchtime on a weekday. I was in the office on Bishopsgate when the sirens went off for the first time in thirty years. I was sitting close to my manager, a man about forty five years of age. He would have been eleven or twelve years old during the London Blitz. I will never forget the look on his face when the siren started its distinctive winding, wailing sound. He stopped in his tracks, the color drained out of his face, he looked as if he was having a heart attack, until someone reminded him “Oh yeah, they are testing them ain’t they”. The manager took a deep breath and regained his composure, “Cor, that brings back some memories”. The fear had gripped the man so suddenly. Thirty three years had not erased the physical & emotional reaction to the sound of the sirens. He was shaking as he took out a cigarette to calm himself. He abandoned his work and sat down.


  1. Great story. But I'm as shocked by the recollection of being able to smoke in the office.

  2. Dear Gaw, your comment has inspired my next blog,