A wartime memory

The following appeared in the Ely Ensign in August 2005 on page 21.

One of our readers has contacted Ely Ensign with her memories about last month’s article which featured the World War II bomb attack on Cambridge. (Broken but restored – a church and a chaplain in wartime. July 2005).

Barbara Chamier recollects with clarity the horrifying evening in 1942 when an enemy plane bombed the vicinity around St Paul’s Church, Hills Road.

As a 21-year-old, she and her fellow students studying at the London School of Economics had been relocated to the relative safety of Cambridge to escape the Blitz in London.

During the war, university departments were manned by volunteer fire-watchers. That night, Barbara and a friend were on duty outside No 1, St Peter’s Terrace.

Barbara Chamier

“I was standing in Trumpington Street outside the Fitzwilliam Museum,” recalls Barbara. “A Fellow of Christ’s College, Dr Arthur Peck, who was in the Observer Corps, was standing on the roof. There was a “yellow alert”. It was dark because of the blackout and he shouted down to us to ask what we were doing.

“I remember hearing a plane flying low over us. Seconds later we heard a succession of explosions”.

Barbara remembers flinging herself to the ground. “I think there were about seven bombs,” she said.

“As we lay on the road in the dark, there was complete silence. Minutes later this was broken by the sound of ambulances rushing to the disaster area.”

The ambulances brought the wounded to the Accident and Emergency department on the Old Addenbrooke’s hospital site opposite the museum.

Fitzwilliam museum, Cambridge

Both women helped the wounded into the hospital – some were on stretchers, some in wheelchairs and some walked.

“I remember the priest from the Catholic Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs arriving at the hospital and saying a prayer over each of the wounded people,” said Barbara.

“The nursing staff were absolutely wonderful. Despite the chaos outside, no one flapped; everyone just did their job.”

After the war Barbara returned to Cambridge when her husband Peter became vicar of St Andrew the Great in the city.

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