Across Sunbury Road/Twickenham Road from the old site of the War Memorial, opposite the Oxford Arms public house was an old red brick house (The Hollands). Beside the house, during the war, stood an emergency water supply tank for the fire brigade to use. It was open and about 4 feet deep, 40 feet long and maybe 12 feet wide. My friends and I used to climb into it and swim in the water.
My father was a carter for Mr. Reynolds who had a little haulage business and still used horses. Mr. Reynolds gave up in 1939 and sold the business to the Page’s who had extensive nurseries and glass houses either side of Oak Avenue, just across the Hampton boundary. My father went with the business and he looked after the horses for Page’s during the war. He fed them turn and turn about with Mr. Rayner. When there was a raid on my father would go down to their stables and let the horses out into the field. I remember going with him to do this, one night when the district was being heavily raided, it was 11 o’clock and we set off together down the Hounslow Road towards Bear Road and Hanworth Village. There had been a cottage on the east side of Hounslow Road, opposite Park Road, just north of Swift Road; now it was rubble, dashed across the Hounslow Road as though a giant hand had lifted it up and smashed it down on the road surface. It had taken a direct hit, I didn’t see it happen but I remember how shocked I was to see a place I’d always taken for granted just destroyed like that.
During the war years Page’s nurseries accumulated a lot of unexploded bombs. At the end of the war it was Americans from Bushy Park who came and spent several weeks making them safe. I think the German bombers must have been looking for Kempton Waterworks and its reservoirs and mistaken the acres of shining sheets of glass house roof for the water surface of the reservoirs on a moonlight night.
At number 46 Winslow Way, a woman, was killed when the house received a direct hit. She had been in her shelter in the garden, but she went back into the house to get something from her home.
We went either to the Council Shelter in Winslow Way, or to Number 7 (of 10) shelter in the grounds of Oriel School. The number 7 shelter was just behind our house in Winslow Way. There was a wire fence between our back gardens and the school grounds but lots of people cut holes in the fence so that they could use the school air raid shelters at night. These shelters were all made of cast concrete slabs and were all above ground – surface shelters. They had four rooms, you could go in at either end and get from one room to the other by a hole about 3 feet square cut into the concrete partition between them – so that you could escape from either end in an emergency; but you couldn’t get from the pair of rooms on one side into the pair opposite – the central partition was complete.”
It was a surface shelter like this, in The Close, that a flying bomb landed on.
The Close was part of a development of Council Houses along the north side of Twickenham Road. To the east of The Close the houses were set back from Twickenham Road behind a broad grass verge. A friend was a casualty and he came back to school after a while, but his face was always marked by burn scars after that. Another chap, a good little footballer who played for Hanworth, he was killed.
A Land Mine fell into one of the back gardens of the houses south of the Rex Cinema on Hampton Road West – they’re set back from the main road and face onto a service road. The Land Mine didn’t go off. The man there got up and went to feed the chickens he was keeping in his garden and found it sitting there. A lot of houses were evacuated while they made it safe. Winslow Way, where I lived, that was cleared. It wasn’t for long so they didn’t take us anywhere, they just told us to clear out for a while.
A Spitfire knocked a chunk out of the spire of Hanworth Church one day. And Lord Haw Haw, he said on the radio that he knew that the clock on Hanworth Church was five minutes out; people went out to look – and he was quite right too! I don’t know where he got his information from?
It was the same everywhere; if the air raid siren went when you were on your way to school you had a right to turn around and go home and take shelter with your parents. You were supposed to be less than half-way to school when you did that. But the rule was stretched as far as the school gates. If you hadn’t gone through the school gates when the siren went, then you could go home. I sometimes went home and didn’t hear the all-clear sound, so I stayed there and never went back to school that day.
8/9 1940 Battle of Britain
I remember standing in the back garden of our home in Winslow Way and looking up into the sky and counting 39 German aircraft, all flying in formation and heading south - back to northern France and the continent. There was one lone English fighter plane chasing after them. I often wonder what happened to that fighter plane.
An English aircraft - a fighter - was shot down and crash landed near Kempton Park. There was great to–do because the pilot was a Polish man and spoke very little English – or perhaps very heavily accented English. He was taken for a German because we were so eager that the shot–down fighter should be one of theirs and not of ours!