• Stuart Cottrell

Meeting Bob



We are warned, as we approach his room, that Bob is a cheeky one. 'He sits on the naughty table at dinner. There's four of them, and Bob's the naughtiest'.

But Bob couldn't be kinder or more welcoming to us if he tried. He allows two total strangers to interrupt his day and invade his room. The room used to belong to his wife - 'This was her little world' he says. Now it's his, though his wife is so very present in the pictures, the artwork, the general beauty of the room.

Bob puts aside his paper and turns to us, ready to help. We explain how we plan to share his testimony in Devon schools to inform and inspire young children to explore their own local histories and he nods sagely, like that's a nice idea. We fuss about with consent forms and dictaphones and double checking he's happy for us to record and to be identified and he just calmly nods to everything we say, humouring us. 'It doesn't bother me', he says. 'It's just my story'.

It's in telling his story that Bob's cheekiness does become apparent - a bright glimmer in his eye when he talks about the shrapnel trophies he'd find in the street following an air raid; the deep chuckle he shares when he talks about walking home from school and hearing the sound of a doodlebug: 'It didn't matter if you could hear the noise, it was when the noise stopped that you had to watch out'. It's there as he rolls his eyes when he notes that it was only after he returned from being evacuated that the bombs started dropping around his street - 'Typical!'.

His story was, as all truly personal stories are, fascinating and full of insight. He talks about how it was quite exciting to be a child surrounded by the Blitz, acknowledging how the gravity of the situation often went over his head. But the story he tells of a bomb blowing out the back of the house whilst the whole family slept in the indoor Anderson shelter is genuinely frightening. When asked what he thought children should remember most about that time, he said 'the uncertainty of it all.'

Feel free to listen to Bob's story - the noise on the track is a fan (it was a very hot day). We hope you find it interesting and surprising.


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