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Night Ernie's wife slept with a bomb

After popping out for a call of nature, Ernie returned home to find his wife sleeping with the enemy... after a fashion.

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Blitz damage in the West Midlandsafter a raid during the night of May 16/17, 1941

Because when Ernie went back in his West Bromwich house after his excursion to the lavatory in the back garden he discovered that his wife had a new companion in bed, in the form of a German incendiary bomb.

It is a wartime story recalled by Ray Edwards, who was a small child during the Blitz, being born in 1937, and living at the time with his grandmother and uncle, Luke Dunn, at 62a William Street in West Brom.

Most of the houses in William Street, he says, were of the old type, with cellars, no indoor toilets, and houses would have a long entry shared by three families. After work most men would go to a pub in the street, called The Plough.

Ray, who lives these days in Sedgley, says: "One of our neighbours, Ernie, who lived at 72 William Street, told a remarkable true story to his friends gathered around the bar of an incident that happened to him and his wife."

After he and his wife went to bed, Ernie had a rumbling stomach so made his way to the loo in the back garden, and while he was there heard the air raid sirens sound. Suffering from stomach pains, he was detained for some time, and heard the drone of enemy bombers and saw the searchlights scanning the sky.

When he finally made it back to the bedroom he was puzzled to see a hole in the ceiling above where he had been sleeping and, leaning over his sleeping wife to investigate, his hand touched a metal object – a small incendiary bomb right next to her in bed.

Trembling with fright, Ernie had the idea of wrapping the bomb in the bedclothes to cushion the effect of it going off. But as he pulled them from his wife she kept pulling them back. As he pleaded with her she realised the gravity of the situation and very slowly, for fear that the slightest movement would detonate the bomb, she got out of bed and they went downstairs and warned the neighbours.

The pair spent the rest of the night with friends lower down the street. Meanwhile a bomb disposal team was called in to deal with the bomb.

Ray says: "My uncle Luke told my grandma and me Ernie's story and then took me round to see the damage that bomb had made two days later.

"Their bedroom faced onto the back garden and Charles Street. On the right hand side was a hole in the ceiling where the bomb had come through."

A glance at Google Street View shows that William Street is one of West Bromwich's lost communities, as all the old houses have been demolished.

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