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This new section is designed to hold memories of wartime Banstead and surrounding villages such as Nork,Woodmansterne, Burgh Heath, Tadworth and Kingswood. Also to be included are wartime stories from any residents living locally during the war years. Mail the Webmaster with any contributions. Thank you.
NOTE - None of these stories have been previously published in any of our books.
|List of contributions:|
November 2009 - Dennis Skinner - Memories of the ARP in Banstead.
February 2009 - Jane Smith - William Peasley in Home Guard group photograph.
November 2008 - Richard Wilman - Wartime events from a Winkworth Road resident.
July 2008 - Liz Christie and Judy Forth - The story of Pilot Officer Antony Hayward.
June 2008 - Tom Slaughter - The Summer of 1944.
Nov 2007 - Michael Woodman - Hillside, Nork, memories.
|Edited memories provided by Dennis Skinner in
November 2008 |
The original memories were recorded by his father George Skinner.
MY MEMORIES OF BANSTEAD ARP in WWII.
ARP wardens patrolled from various posts around Banstead. The main post was a bunker built in the Lady Neville Recreation Ground behind the pavilion against the hedge backing onto the Barclays Bank land.
do not remember where all the Wardens posts were located, but there was one
in Winkworth Road on the common beside No. 1 Winkworth Road (opposite
Greenhayes Avenue), one in Bolters lane beside Norgrove Cottage (opposite
24), another at Park Road near the Mint PH, and the Council Depot in
Winkworth Road was a depot for the heavy rescue squad and the wardens
Wardens were on duty 18:00 - 06:00 in pairs on 2 hr shifts (unless a raid in progress) Arthur Ryall was only on duty during the day (again unless raid on at 18:00).
We (wardens) were given training on what to do in the event of a gas attack and were issued with a heavy waterproof jacket, hat and leggings which we were to wear whilst on patrol but were so hot and uncomfortable that after about two weeks we stopped wearing them. We were to tackle any incendiary devices that we could, usually by dropping clods of earth on them. There were several raids where incendiaries were dropped, they were often phosphorous and often made a popping noise whilst they burnt. In one such raid one Saturday night, the roof of Priory School (Bolters Lane) was set alight, and I helped to try and save as much furniture as possible as the fire brigade fought the flames. I was drenched to the skin and freezing cold by the time the fire was out. The following day, I passed by and said to the Head Master's wife " I am sorry Mrs Poole, I hope you did not lose much in the fire". The reply "All I want from you is your money for the Spitfire fund" is all the thanks I received for my previous help!
The Winkworth Road Depot had an entrance from Sutton Lane and an exit to Winkworth Road . One evening when on patrol I entered the depot from Winkworth Road (the exit) and noticed a guard at the entrance. I made it known that the exit was not guarded, but this was dismissed as not being necessary as it was the exit!When ARP first formed they were given a small room at French & Foxwell's garage in the High Street (now Nos 91-99). This was sandbag protected and had a phone. The Auxiliary Fire Brigade was also based here (before Fire Station built in Brighton Road), they had two pump trailers and about eight men were on duty at all times (I think they may have also had an old taxi to pull the pumps?).
The main public shelter was also in the Lady Neville Recreation Ground and was a wide passage that went round in a square with bunks around the walls and could hold about 100 people. A hand driven generator was installed for lighting, but usually only candles were used. Two regular users were the Andews sisters from De Burgh Park who entered the shelter every night as soon as darkness fell. Mr & Mrs Minchen (both Wardens) of Court Road would make hot drinks every night for occupants of the shelter.
There was an ammunition dump off Park Road and often at night the only traffic would be the lorries taking AA shells out to the gun batteries, the only one I remember was at the top of Colley Hill. All vehicles had to have hooded lights which made seeing your way and avoiding obstructions difficult, so together with petrol rationing, there were very few vehicles except military ones especially at night.
The sight screens of the Cricket Club were always left out on the cricket ground to obstruct the area in case of an airborne invasion. It was always good to be teamed up for patrol with warden 'Bunny' Nibbs who lived in Court Road who was also Treasurer of the Cricket Club. If it was a cold or wet night he would let us both in to the pavilion wherein was a bar!
Part of the 'last ditch' London defence ring ran through Banstead, alongside Holly lane and Chipstead Road it was a steep sided ditch, and at road crossings (such as Drift Bridge) were concrete 'Dragons teeth' at the side of the road and hoops of bent rail line could be placed in holes in the road to block the gap between them.
There was a period of about 12 nights of raids on the East End and Docks, and during the Saturday afternoon lorries arrived with bombed out families who were being put into the new (pre war) unoccupied flats in the parade between the Church entrance and Woolworths (Nos 48-62) in the High Street. That night in bed I was awoken (around 2:0am) by the unmistakable sound of falling bombs and instinctively pulled the blankets up over our heads. Immediately following the huge explosion was the even more terrifying sound of glass breaking as nearly every shop window between Wilmot Way and French & Foxwell's Garage (N0s 47 - 89) was pulled out by the suction of the blast. My own shop window (Hearn's Butchers No 79) was one of the few left intact as it was not fixed, and could rattle, as it was capable of being raised in front of the meat display. I pulled the blackout curtain aside and looked out from the bedroom window and all I could see was a tree in the churchyard (by the gate on the path from Avenue Road) on fire from top to bottom, set alight by an oil incendiary bomb. I did not know at the time, but one of the high explosive bombs had also exploded in the graveyard near the (now demolished) Lambert private chapel. I immediately dressed and reported to the wardens post, and was told by phone from the Council Offices to stop anyone from entering the Churchyard by the main entrance. Warden Nobby Clark guarded the Institute path and other Wardens similarly did the same at every other entrance until about 08:00 the next morning when the Council workmen sealed the entrances off. The smell was appalling as graves had been exposed in the blast. What a welcome for the east enders on their first night of evacuation!
On the following Monday morning, Miss Andrews (of De Burgh Park) came into my shop as usual and said what a terrible thing it was that bodies had been disturbed by the bomb. I replied " Better the dead than the living Miss Andrews". Without a word she left the shop and never returned.
Another day whilst serving in my shop, from the mist came the sound of a heavy bomber, then the familiar howl of bombs descending, and without taking time to give a warning I grabbed at the only woman customer and pulled her to the ground with me behind the counter. A stick of about six bombs exploded in the fields between the Mint PH (Park Road) and the cricket pitch.
On another occasion, at least two bombs of a stick failed to explode. One fell in Wilmot Way and another in Greenhayes Avenue. The one in Greenhayes was defused and after the explosive had been steamed out it was mounted on a trailer and pulled around the district by a council lorry for people to see. The mark through the ground of the one in Wilmot Way was followed to about 20 feet down but was then abandoned, so I assume it is still down there somewhere to this day.
When the Home Guard was formed it started life as the Local Defence Volunteers and consisted mainly of the older men. They did not have uniforms but wore arm bands with the letters LDV on them. Later they had rifles, but when they were issued with a Browning machine gun, during a training exercise in the school hall to dismantle the gun, it went off hitting a Mr Gilbert of Colcokes Road in the thigh. Unfortunately, the round hit the loose change in his pocket turning it to shrapnel and he bled to death. It turned out that the gun had not been checked after range practice the previous day and a round was still in the barrel.
Sargent Collinson (barber) had been a bombardier in the first war and was the one to give the hand grenade training when they were issued to the Home Guard.
My wife remembers that later in the war after my call-up, the Church Institute hall opposite our flat started holding dances and socials a couple of times a week for the Canadians troops in camp in Banstead Wood. There was a store room at the rear of the hall with mattresses and blankets for use in the hall if it was required as emergency accommodation. She often drew back the blackout in the morning to see blankets and mattresses strewn around the orchard next to the hall, left there by the Canadians after frolics with the local girls the night before.
Sometimes Indian soldiers would turn up at the hall, much to the annoyance of some Canadians, and more than one knife fight between them occured in the High Street.
L R G Skinner (George)
|Photograph sent in by Jane Smith February 2009
THE LOCAL HOME GUARD.
William Richard Peasley
|Edited memories provided by Richard Willman in
November 2008 |
MY MEMORIES OF BANSTEAD IN WORLD WAR 2 .
Born on 22/02/1936 Lived at 33 Winkworth Road in BANSTEAD, Surrey
EVACUATION OF DUNKIRK 26th May to 4th June 1940
The house backed onto the beach and I can remember vividly looking out to sea daily and seeing the vast numbers of boats and ships at sea with a background of black smoke over the French coast. The vessel which really sticks in the memory was the large white ship with a large red cross on its side. The weather as I remember it was sunny.
In my Father s records there are 2 photos of us which included my brother, then only two and a half months old, on the beach at Littlestone.
I can also remember one night an air raid warning sounded during which time we had to stay under the stairs for protection, being the strongest part of the house.
My Mother told me many years later that early every morning
during our stay there my Father patrolled the beach to make sure there
were no bodies present. None were ever found although he apparently found
a lot of equipment.
One sunny Saturday afternoon, a lorry arrived and the driver and my Father unloaded what seemed like hundreds of Hessian sand bags and some large sheets of plywood. My father started by covering the dining room windows and external door with the plywood, inside and out, leaving only one small pane of glass exposed. Once this was done he then built a sandbag wall approx. 7 feet high outside across the rear of the dining room, leaving a narrow gap for access. This was to become the shelter room . A number of times during the war I can recall pieces of shrapnel by this sandbag wall and holes in the hessian.
At the start of the war whenever the air raid siren sounded ( sited on the police station on the High Street) we used to go into the cupboard under the stairs for protection, day or night. We had been told that the stair well is the strongest part of the house and the place most likely to withstand a bomb hit or blast on the house. I remember hating going into the cupboard because with the door pulled closed it was cramped, dark, hot and claustrophobic.
They were issued free and were approximately 6ft 6in x 4ft 6 in x 2ft 6in high and consisted of a heavy steel plate top, held up by 4 heavy steel corner angle pieces, with steel mesh sides which hooked / unhooked into place and a sort of woven steel strip springy base. This was erected in the dining room, the shelter room. The dining room table was moved to the front room in front of the window and the chairs remained in situ around the shelter which had now become our new dining room table.
This new place of refuge I also hated because I felt so confined. Initially we used to go to bed there every night but this was gradually relaxed and only became used when the siren went.
I remember us having gas masks but never having to use them.
BATTLE OF BRITAIN July to October 1940
I can remember seeing Spitfires dog fighting with the German Messerschmitt fighters overhead during this phase of the war. One particular blue sky day a tradesman had called at the house, coke I think for the hot water boiler, and I was outside. We all stopped to look up at the air battle going on directly overhead, fascinated with no regard for safety.
THE BLITZ OF LONDON 7th September 1940 to 11th May 1941
The rear of our house in Winkworth Road faced almost north north east towards Central London and from my bedroom at the rear of the house I could look out over Banstead Downs and see Saint Paul s Cathedral on a clear day. I often used to borrow my Father s telescope and look out towards London, fascinated by the unknown territory.
Right from the start I remember the Blitz of London, the frequent wail
of air raid sirens particularly in the evening and night, the grinding
droning noise as the waves of German bombers passed overhead, one after
the other. At night of course our blackout curtains were drawn but I can
always remember the times with my Mother spent looking out of my bedroom
window at night. The whole horizon and sky above was a burning vivid glow
of yellows and reds and oranges from the great fires raging. I also
remember the searchlights swinging around the sky. Sometimes during the
daylight raids we could see the waves of German bombers and protective
fighters overhead en route for Central London frequently under attack from
our fighters. Sometimes bombs were dropped in error on the Downs and the
craters were there for all to see. I know my Father being in the AFS,
Auxiliary Fire Service, attended some of these fires.
V2 Rockets 8th Sept 1944 to 27th March 1945
These were for me the worst, especially the V1s. The air raid sirens
more often than not would sound, both day and night. One would hear the
deep droning type of noise from the engine and we would wait with baited
breath for the noise and engine to stop. We then knew we had 15 seconds
before the rocket bomb hit the ground and exploded with tremendous force.
Fortunately none hit in the close vicinity of our house although we
frequently heard the explosions.
Probably the most frightening experience was one morning when walking to school with one of my friends. Our school was Nork Primary School, now called Warren Mead Junior School. From Winkworth Road we would walk to the crossroads with the Brighton Road, crossover to Fir Tree Road and then cut across a piece of open land to Eastgate. From here we would go down the hill of Nork Way and at the bottom turn right into Warren Road. Towards the end of this road we turned left into Roundwood Way.
This particular morning we had just turned right into Warren Road when the air raid sirens sounded, and, almost immediately we heard the familiar dreaded drone of the V1. We looked up and there it was, low and almost directly overhead, and then crashed and exploded a little further on.. We were petrified and ran into the nearest house, the house which was just on the corner, knocking wildly on the door. A lady let us in and phoned my mother who came and collected us and took us on to school. ( I later learnt that the lady was a Doctor).
One day we observed a V1 overhead being chased by one of our fighter planes. It was using its wingtip to change the direction in which the doodlebug was heading.
I accompanied my father one Saturday afternoon to my school. He had volunteered along with other fathers to help repair the school s windows, many of which had been damaged by a doodlebug landing and exploding near by.
Later, we started to experience the arrival of the V2s, silent until the explosion. One landed relatively close, on or about the 22nd February 1945. We were having a birthday tea with some friends. Suddenly there was a massive explosion and everything rattled. We learnt later that it was a V2 which had hit the wall surrounding the Banstead Lunatic Asylum, located just east of Sutton Lane, Banstead Downs.
I cannot remember when they were constructed, but as far back as I can remember the anti tank earthworks etc were in place at the crossroads of the Brighton Road, A217, and Winkworth Road and Firtree Road. They consisted of deep trenches dug either side of the A217, on the South side as far as the Police Phone Box on the west Side, and on the Northern side almost as far as railway bridge. To the East side of the trench backing onto the railway cutting a concrete blockhouse was constructed. (as far as I know never used by the army, but a great place for playing as children). On the 4 corners of the cross roads other anti tank protection was built, little pyramids of concrete and rail track bent into arches and the ends buried in concrete.
Crossing the railway bridge and onto the northern side of Banstead Downs, there was a long straight grass track, as wide as a main road. At intervals along its length poles were erected in pairs, one each side, and cables stretched between the poles. These were I was told to prevent the use of this grass strip as a landing ground for German aircraft.
At the eastern end of the houses on Winkworth Road, No1 on the Northern side had a triangular garden coming to a point alongside the road. Running from there was a track along the back of the houses in Winkworth Road until No. 29 and then on to Sutton Lane . The other side of the track were woods. Just in the woods at the end of No. 1 s garden an open top steel water tank was built which formed a water reserve for the fire service. We used to throw stones into the water.
I can remember seeing Barrage Balloons in use, mainly from my bedroom window looking North towards London
AUXILIARY FIRE SERVICE
As mentioned elsewhere my Father served in the Auxiliary Fire Service,
stationed at the Banstead Fire Station,
located on the corner of The Drive and Brighton Road I remember him
leaving and returning to the house in his uniform but can not remember him
talking about any of his fire fighting activities. He served part time
with the Local Authority Fire Brigade with the Auxiliary Fire Service
During the war on the grass verge between our slip service road and the main Winkworth road, pig bins were placed at intervals, attached to stakes. Any left over food, what little there was, would be tipped into these bins. These were collected at regular intervals and the contents turned into pig swill for feeding pigs. However one night my Father fell over some of these bins breaking some ribs and also damaging his teeth.
One afternoon at Nork Primary School, we were all given a package, containing chocolate powder. It was a present from the people of Canada.
My Mother always seemed to have a supply of dried egg powder from
Canada in the cupboard which never seemed too bad.
One day at School we were all assembled in the main hall. Mrs Wiggans,
one of our teachers, presented her son to us who had recently reached home
by various routes, having escaped from the Prisoner of War Camp in
Germany. He told us of his experiences although I cannot remember any of
Quite often during the war and in summer my Mother would take us on picnics, sometimes on Banstead Downs, and sometimes we would catch a bus to the Walton on Heath, Colley Hill area. One such picnic to the Walton area we came across a massive dump of jerry cans, filled I assume with petrol, with many American Army personnel rushing around. On reflection I assume that that picnic must have been in May / June 1944 just prior to the D-Day landings. I m amazed we were allowed to get so close to such an area.
One Saturday afternoon we all walked along Winkworth Road and then part way up Bolter s Lane. Approximately half way up on the right hand side there was a large playing field next to the Banstead House, the local Boy s Borstal. Along with many others we looked at a German bomber which had crashed in the playing field. Although it was well guarded we managed to get a very close look at the plane.
When Autumn arrived we used to catch the bus to the Colley Hill area to gather blackberries, no doubt to add to our diet. We also harvested rose hips for syrup which were collected by the school.Sometimes when we were playing on the Downs we would see men walking around dressed in a bright blue uniform with white shirt and red tie. My mother said that they were wounded soldiers from the Military Hospital at Belmont.
I remember that on the same evening a massive bonfire was made and burnt. It was located in the middle of the road where Follyfield Road and Commonfield Road meet.
I have since found a photo, of my brother dressed up as a cowboy, and I was in a sailor uniform, taken on that day. Our area did not have a street party although the residents of Winkworth Road going up the hill from Commonfield Road had one a few days later.
I also remember being taken to the cinema to see the Pathe News report
on the Victory Parade through London which took place on the 10th August
VJ DAY 15th AUGUST 1945
I do remember that I attended another massive bonfire in the same location as the VE DAY bonfire. However that s all I remember of that occasion.
AFTER THE WAR
In the Autumn of 1945 we were able to take a short holiday in a Guest
house in Bognor Regis.
|Memories provided by Liz
Christie and Judy Forth - July 2008 |
THE STORY OF PILOT OFFICER ANTONY HAYWARD.
A Banstead man shot down over Belgium in August 1941
|This is the story of my father, Anthony
Hayward. Much of the description of the war events comes from a Flemish
book. Wendy Henningsson a BHRG member assisted with the translation, and
Mark Stanley another BHRG member, revised the text and incorporated
additional research material. My brother Tim, my sister Judy and I (Liz)
lived in Fiddicroft Avenue Banstead. We have many items from our father's
exploits and all these have been collated into this story by Lewis Wood,
the BHRG webmaster. |
The crew comprising of Sergeant Donald.A.Whiting (Pilot), Pilot Officer Anthony.E.Hayward (Observer, later called Navigator), Sergeant Gordon .C.'Smithie' Smith (Radio Operator) and Sergeant J.Christie (Air Gunner) had taken off from RAF North Luffenham at 20.10hrs for a bombing raid on Mannheim.
Don Whiting's brother later recalled that before the war, he and Don had taken a pleasure flight from Manston airfield in Kent and it may have been this that was the start of Don's interest in flying.
In 1938, he joined the RAF volunteer reserve (RAFVR) and began his initial flying training from Fairoak airfield near Woking - a new and exiting 'hobby'.
As a member of the RAFVR, and with war inevitable it wasn't long before he was called up and on 27th of June 1940 he was awarded his 'Wings' as a Sergeant bomber pilot and was posted to 144 Squadron at RAF North Luffenham on 15th of February 1941.
In May Don was crewed with a new observer (later Navigator), P/O Antony Hayward and a radio operator Sergeant "Smithie" Smith, together with Air Gunner Sergeant J Christie.
Among their first missions was a 'gardening' mission laying mines off Borkum in the Frisian Islands.
Thereafter mainforce bombing raids followed on a regular basis on industrial targets in Hannover, Kiel, Bremerhaven and Osnabruck. On 25th May and 6th July attacks were made against German shipping in Brest using armour piercing bombs.
P/O Antony Hayward, wrote about his crew: "Don was a pilot who did not hesitate to fly in a straight line to his target even under heavy air attack. That allowed me as navigator and bomb aimer to successfully complete the mission in most cases . It goes therefore without saying that we were hit by "Flak" on several occasions.
My memories of Don and Smithie are of two young guys, always well humoured, and Don was seldom seen without a bottle of milk, which he drank pints of.
First day: We were without compass and only had a few sweets, a can of food tablets, a small quantity of concentrated chocolate, as well as a litre of water and a small bottle of rum. A bomber flew over us and we tried to attract his attention but the flare pistol did not work. At night we were packed uncomfortably together with the radio operator at the top. We all had cramp and nobody could really sleep.
Second day: Waves came into the dinghy and we had to remove water with a canvas bag. At night we took it in turn to keep watch every two hours.
Third day: We reduced our ration of water to one soupspoon instead of two souppoons a day.
Fourth day: We tried in vain to attract the attention of the British aeroplanes, waving scarves and handkerchiefs and flashing with a mirror. We started to talk about ridiculous things and said that once we were saved we would stand in a row with eight glasses of shandy, one in each hand and down them both together.
Fifth day: We finished the sweets and tablets. We played a game to see who could hold his head the longest under water, until the navigator came out of the water with a scream. "There is a great big mine underneath us." We all had a look. There she was, covered with muscles. It was a big thing with pins. Shortly after this we saw three torpedo boats coming in our direction, but 1.5 km from us they turned away.
Sixth day: We tried to paddle in the direction of the coast but gave up at 20.00hrs.
Seventh day: Now we were also paddling at night, but we were losing our strength. I could not even stand up anymore. We had to blow up the dinghy more and more often with a-hand pump, but we were so weak and could therefore only pump twelve times.
Eighth day: All the drinking water was used up, and our tongues starting to swell up and burst. We rinsed our mouths with sea water, but did not drink it.
Ninth day: We spotted a Hampden and waved and aimed our mirrors at it. The pilot dropped his own dinghy and a water bottle and circled for four hours around us until we were saved by the "Air Sea Rescue".
The pilot that finally located the four men was Don Whiting. The radio operator transmitted their position (forty km east of Great Yarmouth) and fired his "Very" light pistol signals to the arriving lifeboats. After landing, Don and his crew obtained a telegram with congratulations from 5 Group Bomber Command.
Don had by now flown his twenty-fifth operation and on 22nd of July the crew enjoyed a rest from operations. During this period they did some test flights to evaluate a new bomb-sight manufactured by the American company, Sperry.
On 25th of August 1941, after four weeks of rest, the crew flew its 28th and last mission to Mannheim in Germany where the Hampden was damaged by Flak. During their return, near to the city of Brussels, fire broke out and the Pilot ordered the crew to bail out.
The only survivor, Antony Hayward recalled:
"I realised that we were very low when Don ordered us to leave the plane. I deployed my parachute immediately, without the usual 'Count to ten' routine, and even then it did not have time to open properly. I hit the ground very hard and as a result injured my leg, back and right arm. Christie and Smithie opened theirs too late and never stood a chance."
At 23.00hrs the twin-engined bomber hit the ground near the Ninove-Halle road, near Puttenburg Castle, Pepingen (near the village of Brages, Brabant).
Antony Hayward continues:
"I could not walk without help, but two Belgians carried me to a house, I think near Evere, where a very nice lady put me to bed and fetched a doctor who tended a Flak injury to my head. The following morning the lady told me that the Germans were checking house after house. Because I could not be moved, she had to go and tell the soldiers where I was before they found me.
The other three crew members, Don Whiting, his radio operator Sergeant Gordon Smith and the Air Gunner Sergeant John Christie were buried at the cemetery of Evere-Brussels. The twenty-two year old radio operator Gordon Smith, an office clerk with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company (LMS) was on his 23rd mission. The Air Gunner, John Christie was a new crew member, probably a 'spare gunner' on the squadron and it is believed that this was his first operation.
The injured Hayward was taken prisoner of war and was cared for at the "Hopital francais" at St.Agatha-Berchem. He was later interned in Camps Oflag X C /L3 as PoW No.3752.
sent in by Tom Slaughter - June 2008 |
THE SUMMER OF 1944.
I was born in Epsom General Hospital in November 1936. My parents, Tom and Elsie Slaughter had moved to Tattenham Way from Manor Park, East Ham in 1934. My father was employed as the Manager of Rhodes Newsagents and Post Office in The Parade, Tattenham Way. When I was born they moved to St Leonards Road, Tattenham Corner. My father left Rhodes and joined Hodges Dairy in Banstead Village and became a milkman until he was called-up for the RAF in 1941. It was in St Leonards Road and the surrounding area that I spent my childhood and youth.
The Summer of 1944 was for everybody, young and old, a time of optimism. D-Day the 6th of June had seen the Normandy Landings with the Allies gaining a foothold in France. As a 7 year old, living at Tattenham Corner, the end of The War was in sight. My parents, and all the parents of the children in general, had never let us believe we could lose The War even in the darkest days of 1940, 1941 and 1942. So the VI Flying Bombs unleashed on South East England by the Germans on the 13th of June just a week after D-Day was to be a shock and, briefly, it dented our optimism. The VIs quickly became known as 'Doodlebugs' or 'Buzzbombs'. Their main characteristic was a drone or buzz as they flew overhead and then the engine 'cut out', followed by their gliding down to earth and exploding. When this occurred in populated areas it could be devastating with heavy loss of life. It was a random attack strategy with these deadly weapons of war landing anywhere on their flight path over the South East of England although clearly London was the prime target.
I remember vividly during that first week of the VI attacks going to school by bus, the 164A, from the bottom of Merland Rise and getting off at the end of Tattenham Way. The Air Raid Siren echoed out its now familiar warning from outside Roberts Stores at Burgh Heath. My memory has always been it was a Friday which, if correct, was Friday the 16th of June. I was attending the Burgh Heath Methodist Junior School which at that time was housed on the Ground Floor of the Banstead Central Girls' School in Picquets Way. The reason for this was that the Methodist School had no Air Raid shelters of its own, as required by statutory regulation, so the school spent The War at Picquets Way where there were shelters.
As we left the bus with the siren wailing the adults hurried us up into Picquets Way, across the School Playing Fields towards the school shelters. Our teachers were shouting at us to hurry as at least one 'Doodlebug' flew quite quickly above us. It was frightening because this was a new form of attack on the population. It came during the daytime and people were unsure, initially, how to deal with it. Once inside the shelters we felt immediately safe and soon calmed down .As the days passed we all quickly understood the pattern of 'Doodlebug' attacks. All the time the engine was going we were safe. If the engine cut-out then we had to find cover. The duration from the engine stopping to it hitting the ground varied from a few seconds to what seemed like a minute of two.
Just over three weeks later, on Monday the 3rd July, my mother and I called into my aunt's house in Picquets Way before setting out with my aunt, Winifred Mash and cousin Valentine aged 4 to walk to Banstead village. We turned into The Drive on our way to the Brighton Road. As we approached the Brighton Road, by the National Fire Service Station on the corner opposite Garratts Lane, the Air Raid Warning sounded and the dreaded drone of a VI overhead could be heard. At that moment several firemen rushed out of the Fire Station and speedily gathered us up and without formality pushed us into a slit trench at the side of the buildings just as the VI's engine stopped. We all knew what was coming as the Flying Bomb glided down. The firemen told us to lay in the bottom of the trench and without any thought for their own safety they laid over the top of us. The only protection they had was from their steel helmets - no flak jackets or body armour in those days.
Within a few seconds, it seemed an eternity at the time, there was a loud explosion. When it was considered safe the firemen stood up and helped us to our feet. We all looked towards Nork where the explosion had come from to see a pall of brown and black smoke rising vertically, no wind to speak of. The VI had come down in the vicinity of the junction of Nork Way and Eastgate. It caused major damage to the garage, shops and buildings. 5 of the 11 casualties were taken to hospital, one of whom later died. The 'All Clear' sounded and we continued our journey to Banstead. We were a little shaken but nothing more.
With mounting casualties and some considerable terror within the populace the Government hurriedly organised a new wave of evacuation of children away from the South East. Some went in 'school parties' others went separately as children traveling with their mothers or other close relatives. As my father was away in the RAF my mother decided to be evacuated with me and my young cousin Valentine Mash from Picquets Way during the 2nd week of July as I remember. We made our way, early one morning, to London's Euston Station by train from Sutton Station, having no idea where at the end of the day we would finish up. One very real and worrying memory of that journey into the 'unknown' was being crowded with literally thousands of other children and mothers standing in front of Euston Station. Although I was only 7 at the time I had visions of a Doodlebug landing amongst us. Thankfully no air raid sirens sounded.
Some how we all made it into Euston Station where we boarded one of the many waiting trains. Our packed train left Euston around noon . What ever way you look at it was a fantastic exercise in organization, nobody was seemingly left behind. Traveling in carriages pulled by a steam train was exciting and soon the fears we had experienced in the previous weeks evaporated. I have no idea where the food and drink came from but we survived the journey to North Wales arriving at Denbigh Station some 4 or 5 hours later rather tired that's all. We and all the other evacuees were to spend a memorable Summer in rural North Wales. For us it was the village of Betws-yn-Rhos some 4 miles from Colwyn Bay. I even spent the last week of the Summer Term at a Welsh speaking school. I saw the sea for the first time at Rhyl. The people of North Wales were very kind to us added to which it was a very sunny July and August.
By September when the threat of the VI attacks had receded my mother, cousin and I returned home as did many other evacuees. The next wave of German attacks was the VII Rockets however, though they were more dangerous than the VIs, they were targeted on Central London. Other than the odd stray VII we were spared but anyway there was no obvious warning of their coming. The VIIs, as the Allies advanced further into Europe, soon died out. Within a year The War was over.
My abiding memory of that Summer of 1944, at a time when many momentous events were occurring in the Second World War, was the selfless bravery of those firemen of the Banstead National Fire Service stationed at their Brighton Road Station on the 3rd July 1944. I often wonder who they were?
sent in by Michael Woodman as recalled in July 2006. |
MY WARTIME RECOLLECTIONS OF BANSTEAD
My name is Michael Woodman; I was born in January 1936 and lived at No 8 Hillside during the War years. My parents were Queenie and Harold Woodman who moved to the house in 1930 when they married from where they had lived near Woodmansterne station off the Chipstead Valley Road in Coulsdon. Having recently read through ' Memories of Wartime Banstead District' I offer the following memories that may be of interest.
My Uncle, George Ratcliffe, lived at No 18 Hillside that was the extended semi joined to No 16 where a High Explsive (HE) bomb fell in 1940. His mother and father, Effie and James Ratcliffe, lived in the extended portion of the house and he, his wife Dorothy, and their three children, Audrey, Alan and Joan, lived in the main part. The bomb damaged No 16 extensively as it must have just missed the back corner of the house penetrating the soft chalk to a depth that caused the blast to rise vertically thus reducing the lateral damage considerably. I well remember the crater that was left, a deep hole surrounded by a mountain of white chalk. The unstable building was demolished and the end wall of No 18 shored up. The roof of No 18 caused a number of problems after the war from where it had been lifted and dropped by the blast.
My father arranged for my mother, brother Geoffrey and me to stay at a boarding house in Brendon, North Devon for six months during 1940 when the bombing near London was at a peak. We returned later that year to live for a while in Waterer Gardens, Burgh Heath as the house in Hillside had been leased out for the period of a year. This is a picture of it taken in 1930 just after it was built; it cost £800 to purchase.
When we finally got back to Hillside the bombing had eased slightly but the hostile aircraft continued to pass close by and the anti aircraft guns that appeared to be mobile, boomed whenever the siren wailed. Looking from the back door of the house on a cold winters evening it was possible to see the dreadful glare that indicated that London had caught another packet. This was when father thought if safe to do so but if the aircraft were too close I was bundled into the back of the broom cupboard under the stairs where a cushion made a little nest for me to sleep in.
We seemed to get the tail end of the raids and the bombs that dropped appeared to be erratic but we were near to the goods yards at Banstead Station that could well have been a worthwhile target.
One morning I was curled up on the cushion when a bomb exploded nearby. Coming out from the cupboard the air was filled with dust, the sun was shining through a gap where the metal French doors in the sitting room had been blown open and broken glass littered the floor. Later it was discovered that a bedroom ceiling had suffered, there was an area about a yard across that was hanging in jagged pieces round the edges and a mess on the bed where the lath and plaster had fallen. I think that this must have been the bomb that fell in Nork Way.
When the friendly aircraft crashed in the garden of a house in Tudor Close I made my way to the top of the hill to see if I could see anything. I was confronted with a large trailer that had been rushed to the scene with a crew to clear up the debris. Later in my life I became friendly with the son of the owner of 'Broad View' who was Best Man at my wedding in 1959. He told me the story of the crash and I think that I am right in saying that the engine stayed in the ground for some years as the force of the impact buried it well below the surface and for some years they had to be careful with what they put on bonfires as there were a number of bullets liberally spread around the garden. The body of the pilot was recovered and put on the veranda before being taken away. A strong military presence was evident for some time. Mr George Harrison owned the property. He also owned G.W. Harrison (Builders) Limited of Canon Lane Burgh Heath. Ian Harrison, the son, moved to Rustington when his parents died and the business was sold. I lost contact with him in the 1980's. It is interesting to note that Waterer Gardens mention previously, was developed by G.W. Harrison Ltd. The 'W' being a family name 'Waterer'.
The friendly Lightning aircraft that crashed on Banstead Downs came into my view over our house in Hillside and was obviously having problems. When it crashed I rushed to the area on my bicycle and was most probably one of the first to arrive on the scene. The burning wreckage with the strong smell of disaster was a ghastly scene as were the bits of body that hung from the surrounding Hawthorn and scrub. The emergency services soon arrived and cordoned the area off. I remember that the roofs of the houses in Burdon Lane were evident and that it was a hot day.
On a number of occasions I did my bit to help the Home Guard and Air Raid Wardens. I made a box that contained sections for clout nails and wire nails; I armed myself with a hammer and saw from fathers workshop and collected pieces of roofing felt and laths from the ARP post in Buckles way. I then proceeded to look for windows that had been broken by the blast and did my best to patch them up. One house had a back door with two long vertical windows panes of which needed attention. I cut the felt to size and fixed it with suitable laths hammering the last nail home. This operation had obviously had some effect on the good pane as it shattered and I had a further job to do. I was most probably eight years old at the time.
The Morrison shelter was an improvement in our house. Father erected it in the dining room and this provided a steel cage for us to sleep in at night and to take refuge during a daytime raid. One morning I woke with a feeling of claustrophobia that was caused by my mother spread-eagled over me as I lay sleeping near the side of the shelter. The raiders had come quickly and she had not had time to fasten the wire mesh on the side therefore was using her body as a shield. A bomb fell close by in Buckles way; I later took time to investigate the damage that seemed to be superficial, the bomb having fallen on a piece of waste ground.
As a family we often walked to St Mary's Church Burgh Heath on Sundays. Most times it was possible to collect pieces of shrapnel and foil that I believe was used to hamper enemy direction finding equipment but on one occasion we were on the look out for Butterfly Bombs that were dropped in numbers and were designed to be picked up by unsuspecting civilians. They had fuses that were delayed until picked up when they would explode with dire consequences. We didn't find any but the warning notices certainly had kept us on guard.
The blast wall that was erected outside the vestry door of St. Mary's Burgh Heath was knocked down when the war was over. My father purchased the rubble and had it shipped to 8 Hillside where he systematically chipped the concrete from the bricks in order to build a coalbunker outside the larder window. The flying strong concrete damaged two pairs of his prescription glasses but he was pleased to have recycled the material and to have added to the church funds as well.
My mother was ecstatic when father gave her a gas mask for a birthday present. He also pleased her with two defused incendiary bombs that he kept in the dining room. They were instruction pieces that he used when recruiting for the fire-watching job that he did at his works in East Croydon - Creed and Co Ltd.
Looking north from our backdoor it was possible to see well into the London area on a clear day and the sight of the barrage balloons lingers in my mind, as did the fires when London was burning. The Doodle Bugs were often seen in the night sky with their telltale flame gushing like a retreating dragon. Father had realised that when the flame was extinguished the bomb would fall like a stone therefore if this happened anywhere near us whilst watching from the back door, a hasty retreat was made to the shelter until a 'crump' of varying magnitude would tell of the proximity of the explosion. A number fell close causing substantial damage to property but luckily few lives were lost.