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News > OE News > Recollections of WW2

Recollections of WW2

To mark seventy-five years since the end of WW2, we share two incredible stories from a couple of OEs.
3 Sep 2020
OE News
Damage to The Triangle Cinema just yards from QEH. Fortunately the school was relatively unscathed.
Damage to The Triangle Cinema just yards from QEH. Fortunately the school was relatively unscathed.

Yesterday, September 2nd, marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Here we share a couple of incredible recollections regarding how the war actually led to two OEs attending QEH. 

“In 1941, when I was 9, I was living in Plymouth as my father, a career RN officer was based there. Plymouth, being a major base for the Royal Navy, was regularly bombed at night and every night when the air raid sirens sounded my mother, younger brother and I would traipse to, and sleep in, a huge underground Air Raid Shelter. On 22 April, Plymouth was the subject of its worst air raid of the war and the shelter we were in received a direct hit from a huge bomb. All exits were buried and we were not dug out until the morning - and we were the lucky ones, there were 72 people killed in that shelter that night, the highest death toll in any raid on Plymouth. On exiting the shelter we found that our flat had also been bombed and we had no alternative but to get a train to Bath to stay with my grandparents. From there we eventually moved to Bristol and subsequently in 1943 I passed the entrance exam for QEH - so I can say that it was thanks to being bombed by the Germans that I finished up at QEH!”

Dr Aubrey Matthews (OE 1943-50)


“My father was serving with the Royal Artillery in the north of England, leaving my mother with me and Donald (two years younger than me, who would follow me to QEH and Oxford) who was very difficult to get to move from sleep during raids – it was my job to shift him!  During air raids we took refuge in a neighbour’s Anderson shelter a few houses away and one night in 1941 the house backing our garden was hit by a bomb and collapsed into our garden. When we returned after the All Clear, the house was a mess of dust and broken windows, but we all retired to sleep downstairs.  My mother, not surprisingly, did not sleep and felt very worried about our situation and decided that we should at once leave and go to grandmother’s in Bradford-on-Avon. After the usual struggle to wake Don and get him moving, we left to find a bus. Unbeknown to us at the time, about twenty minutes after we had left, a delayed action bomb which had been hidden beneath the rubble in our garden, exploded, killing an unfortunate passerby. After a time in exile in Wiltshire, we returned to Bristol and subsequently to QEH. I have always believed that mother had a premonition and fortunately we left in time.”

Dr Colin Richards (OE 1943-51)

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