AUDIO: Blackfen Blitz survivor remembers when Danson Park gates were locked come what may

News Shopper: Ernest Williams at home in Blackfen. Ernest Williams at home in Blackfen.

Not much bothers Ernest Williams these days.

The 85-year-old keeps himself busy in the well-stocked workshop at the bottom of his garden in Ramillies Road, Blackfen - the same street he has lived on for 75 years.

But last week's News Shopper front page touched a nerve for Ernest as it featured worries over what will happen when Bexley’s parks are left unlocked and unguarded come September 1.

The great-grandfather-of-one said: "Why worry if the gates aren’t locked?

"It annoyed me because what sort of world do these people live in to think like that?

"They locked the gates during the war because that stopped trespassers.

"An open space in those days, people respected it.

"The gates were there, they were locked and that was it. People respected it because you could be summoned."

Ernest remembers when the gates at Danson Park were secured every night during the Second World War - though all you had to do to get in was walk round them as the surrounding railings had been melted down for armaments.

He said: "What do they want people to do now, turn it into an open prison? It sounds silly.

"Perhaps I’m old fashioned. People expect vandalism because there won’t be any security and they expect things to be destroyed.

"It is the age we live in. It just got to me the difference between what I remember and the world today."

Moving to Blackfen the year war broke out in 1939 from Poplar in the East End, Ernest would head out with a group of friends every morning during the Blitz to see what damage had been done the night before.

News Shopper:

Ernest by one set of gates at Danson Park. 

The retired building company owner said: "We were a group of lads, not a gang.

"The phrase was, and everybody said the same, ‘I wonder who copped it last night?’

"You didn’t take any notice. You heard of people being killed every day, all the time and it didn’t mean anything because there were so many.

"There was just so much that went on but what could you do?"

Ernest, who did two years national service after the war in the military police and as an artilleryman, says he had a near miss in 1941 during an air raid.

News Shopper:

Last week's News Shopper front page. 

He said: "There was a dog fight going on and we were running around picking up cartridges.

"We could have been shot but we didn’t think about it - that was our lives."

Nowadays Ernest enjoys a more sedate life as a retiree with his wife Margaret, 84, a few doors down from the house he first moved to as a 10-year-old.

He said: "I am the last one of the group. If I don’t pass this information on before I go it will be lost.

"All the memories are in my head."

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