Flying bombs hit the county

1944: Flying bombs, rockets and bombs hit the county. The first one fell on Guildford on Saturday, June 28th at 2.05 pm. It fell in a field near Foxburrow Avenue. A second one fell later that day in Stoke Recreation ground.

Internet: My mother, father and myself lived in a house in Recreation Road, right next door to the recreation ground and the doodlebug dropped just the other side of the recreation ground fence. My parents heard the engine cut out, and my father went down the garden to look for it, and was consequently blasted to the ground, all his breath taken from him. My brother and I were covered in plaster, debris and glass as we lay in our beds. When he was woken, my brother thought that he had been called to get ready for school. He had slept right through the blast!

We were rescued by members of the AFS, to which my father belonged, and one of his colleagues took my brother and I back to his lodgings in Martyr Road. My father walked about all night in a dazed state, while my mother was taken to hospital to have forty eight stitches in one side of her face, which had been badly cut by flying glass. My father joined her in hospital the following morning due to shrapnel damage to his leg. We lodged with grandparents and relatives for nine months while the house was repaired, and, in parts, rebuilt.

My father was utterly devastated by the sight of his beloved garden, from being mature and fully stocked, making us self-sufficient in vegetables, to a flattened wasteland. My main distress as a child at the time was that I had that very afternoon cleared out a large glass tank of very mature tadpoles, and which of course, were blasted sky high.120

Up to 6,184 people were killed and 42,146 injured by V1s, mainly in London, Kent and Surrey.

Normandy: It was estimated that about thirty large bombs dropped within the borders of Normandy parish. However, only minor damage occurred in Normandy. A string of four bombs was dropped south to north, the first one landing near the British Legion hut. The next one cleared the houses and fell behind some kennels. The third ended up in a field and the last in a wood without exploding.

A report stated that an aerial torpedo was dropped on the western side of the stream going under Glaziers Lane. This failed to detonate but was found twenty five feet down in the earth. What a torpedo was doing so far from the sea was not explained.

A land mine was dropped near Tunnel Hill on the ranges. John Mullard recalled that the explosion lifted his bed off the floor but when he asked his father what he should do the reply was "It's a bit late now, go to sleep". He was told later by the village policeman that the land mine had felled a swathe of pine trees of about half a mile in diameter fanning out from the centre of the explosion.

Finally, what was reputed to be the second Doodlebug (flying bomb) to land on British soil ended up in the sewage farm near Elm Hill. Several aircraft crashed in the area including a Dornier bomber that came down near the Anchor but the most tragic incident occurred in 1941.

On the night of 10 March, a Halifax bomber returning from its first raid on enemy territory was hit by "friendly fire" and the wreckage crashed at Merrist Wood just inside the parish boundary. Four of the crew were killed but two survived by bailing out.

Headley, Leatherhead: During the Second World War Headley received in the region of one hundred bomb hits including a near miss on the rectory with a flying bomb but no one was seriously injured. Headley Court became the headquarters of Canadian forces in Europe and Headley Heath was used as a training ground for engineers building airstrips and trench systems then demolishing them again.

Abinger Common: The parish church of St James August 1944 was hit by a German flying bomb.

Albury Church: Most of the original stained glass windows of the church were destroyed or damaged by a flying bomb that fell on Weston Wood in 1944.

Cranleigh School pupil: That Autumn I went to Cranleigh School. I was a border and to begin with, not very happy, but after I had made some good friends, it was fine. The school was in Surrey near Guilford. The Germans were bombing London, and sometimes they dropped bombs quite near the school. We could hear them whistling as they came down. There would be a huge bang and once or twice some windows were broken.

During the day, if there was an air raid warning, all the school had to go and sit in air raid shelters built on the school grounds. I used to hope for an air raid warning if I hadn't done my prep. We were expected to spend one afternoon a week digging and working growing vegetables on a part of the school grounds.

Later, when I was older, I became part of the school section of the Home Guard. This was rather exciting as we had to practice firing guns, including a very primitive anti-tank gun which fired a bomb and was supposed to bounce along the ground and hit the underneath of the tank – some hope!

Just before I left to join the Navy in 1944, the Germans started sending VI bombers to attack London. These were flying bombs and they would often pass right over the school. As they were coming over at all kinds of time, it was impossible to spend all the time in shelters and do no work. So the oldest boys took it in turns to stand on the roof of the school and press a hooter if a 'Buzz Bomb' looked as though it might hit us. We felt very important.

Guildford was very lucky compared with many other towns. There was never a planned German air attack. Nevertheless, there were five hundred and forty two air-raid alerts throughout the war and bombs were dropped on thirty one occasions. These were mostly from stray aircraft that were probably lost. Four people were killed in total, the worst incident being in Cline Road. In addition, four more were killed just beyond the Borough boundary in Rydes Avenue.

In the summer of 1944, V1 flying bombs were launched against south-east England. Five landed in Guildford. Most were on the outskirts, but one killed two people in Aldersey Road. On 28 June another fell. By great good luck, it exploded in the middle of Stoke Recreation Ground. If it had fallen even a short distance on either side it would have killed many people living in the busy streets around.

Graham Hardy: Two Mustangs crashed over Stoke Park, together with a number of other air crashes, including a Dakota off Clay Lane.121

Felbridge: Crash Landing at North End a German bomber took the roof off North End Lodge which was adjacent to Simpson's Garage, London Road, North End. It happened at 9.20am on Friday 27th September 1940. The bomber was a Junker 88 which developed a fault in its starboard engine and lost formation whilst on a sortie to bomb London. The cockpit was destroyed in the attack and three of the crew of four lost their lives. Three baled out in the Hartfield area, out of these three, the parachute of one failed to open, a second died of his wounds in Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, and the third survived, though he broke his leg. The fourth remained in the plane, presumed already dead when the others baled out.

Felbridge: War time memories of a boy from Imberhorne Farm: The Coomber family, who lived in Imberhorne Farm Cottages during the war, helped dig a shelter behind the cottages, not far from the pond. Jim Coomber, a small boy at the time, remembers that on one occasion the air raid siren sounded when they were in the middle of dinner and he ran to the shelter, on arrival the jelly that he was looking forward to for dessert fell off his plate! He also remembers that a bomb came down between Imberhorne Farm and Gullege that blew out all the windows and that a Spitfire crash landed in Long Field to the south of Felbridge Water. This plane was eventually recovered on a low loader. He remembers 'It was always a rush to the scene of a crash to see what souvenirs you could get'.

German plane crash lands near Rowplatt Lane. A German plane crash-landed in the woodland running down the Copthorne Road from Rowplatt Lane, and Jim Coomber remembers that the villagers of Felbridge rushed to apprehend the German airmen.

St John's Church damaged by bombing raid. The exterior of the church has remained little changed over the years except for damage sustained during World War II, when, on 28th August 1940, three bombs landed in and around the grounds of the vicarage and church. One bomb landed near the east wall of the church that shattered several of the windows in the south and east walls. There are also a few shrapnel scars to be seen on the east wall, the carved tops of some of the buttressing on the south wall have been sheared off and several of the graves in the area have suffered slight damage.

Another bomb landed near the north and west wall where the driveway up to the vicarage, now The Glebe, met the London Road. This bomb loosened or removed slates from the north porch and north aisle, and again left shrapnel scars in the west wall. Most of the windows in St John's church were damaged during the Second World War when three bombs landed in the grounds of the vicarage and church on 28th August 1940.

Westcott: Mr. Lawrence recalled when a flying bomb hit a tree at Rookfield, further down the street. He said: "I remember there being a hell of a bang and then the curtain rail came through the window, as I hid under my bed."Another time three or four stick of bombs landed on the common and the shrapnel got stuck in our roof." A bomb fell on my mother-in-law's road in Westcott destroying four houses and killing nine people. On the whole this was one of the most devastating attacks on the area with the majority of bombs and V2s falling in fields or not even exploding.

Reigate: Shaw's Corner, 1940, 1st or 2nd Sunday in August, approximately 1pm: A bomb fell outside The Foresters Pub (now called The Hatch) possibly killing four men. A second bomb fell in St. Mary's Cemetery. Holmesdale Road Cottages which backed onto the Railway Line near Reigate Station were demolished during a night raid as was Mr Holmes, the vet's house in Warren Road.

In St. Albans Road cul-de-sac, a time bomb was dug up by the Royal Engineers. West Street near the junction with London Road a time bomb was removed by the Royal Engineers. A loan raider bombed Charlwood the Bakers at approximately 11.30 am in October 1940 or 41. Clifton's Lane, a bomb fell in the grounds of Fairhall a (large house). Merstham, Easter 1941, Wells Nursery and South Merstham Church were destroyed during a night raid.

Aa bomb fell in allotments on the west side of Reigate Hill above Brokes Road during a night raid. Evesham Road, a small bomb fell on the junction between Evesham Road and West Street during a night raid. A large number of incendiary bombs fell in the Colley Lane area between the A25 and North Downs during the Blitz. An unexploded anti-aircraft shell fell in the Market Square (outside Old Town Hall) killing Doug Jordan who was waiting for a bus by La Trobes shop during the evening.

Flying Bombs (Doodlebugs) 1944: The first flying bomb to fall in the Borough was on June 16th at Sanders Estate at Buckland at approximately 10am, this was the first real day of the battle. Earlswood Road, Redhill, exact location unknown but there was a lot of damage and many casualties. Reigate Hill, on the east side opposite The Rock a house was demolished during mid afternoon. The Clears, Sheep Walk - the sheds of the Hearthstone Quarry were destroyed, there were no casualties this happened during the early hours of the morning. Corner of St Albans Road and Brokes Road a house took a direct hit during the early hours of the morning.

Redhill: "On one occasion during a school holiday, the Co-op milkman was making deliveries from his horse-drawn float when the spiteful pilot of a "Stuka" dive Bomber decided to shoot-up "The Square". The noise these planes made as they dived down was expressly designed to terrify, but when they eventually flattened out and roared along the road at rooftop height, spitting out bullets which ricocheted off the road like red-hot missiles, it was petrifying.

Mum shouted to the milkman and held the front door open for him to take cover. He ran up to the doorway, paused, then immediately ran back again in spite of the bullets, to release his horse from the shafts and allow it to gallop off with eyes rolling in fear. The milkman told us, he just had to give his pal of many years a sporting chance.

Reigate: "My mother was about half way down as a very low flying plane flew south to north up the line of Reigate Hill. It must have circled because a few minutes later it returned the same way again and my mother identified it as a German fighter. It was low enough for her to see the pilot and the Germany markings. It repeated the manoeuvre a third time, but machine gunning as it flew up the hill. One bullet passed through the rim of my Mother's hat, another through the hem of her long coat. She threw herself over the side of the hill, brushed herself off and continued down the hill when she was sure the fighter had gone.

She carried on, went through the tunnel into Reigate High Street, with the intention of catching a bus to Redhill from outside the Old Town Hall. When she turned right from the tunnel into the High Street there was chaos and pandemonium.

It seems the High Street had been strafed by a fighter, whether it was the same one or not she doesn't know. She thinks some twenty or so people were killed or injured. Her father eventually found her in Reigate High Street amongst all the mayhem. He was apparently ashen faced as he thought she might have been killed. He wasn't too good either after she showed him the bullet holes in her hat and coat. She didn't realise at the time just what a close call she'd had.

A Flying Fortress crashed on the top of Reigate Hill; it was already shot up and needed an emergency landing; it was dusk or dark, because the pilot asked for permission to land at Redhill aerodrome but they would not turn the landing lights on because enemy fighters were about and they would have shot up the airfield.

German plane crashing close to Kingswood Church; the pilot was captured by Canadian troops who were billeted around the area.

Reigate: "I went to Sunday school at the Methodist church in the High street. One day we were playing outside before class began when we heard the unmistakable drone of a German plane ... we kids knew the sound of those engines from experience and used to say the rhythm was saying "Its for you ... it's for you ... it's for you ... ". When we rushed in to tell the teacher she told us not to be silly because no air-raid siren had sounded but if we wanted we could be seated in the classroom and resume lessons, which we did.

A few moments later came the high pitched whistling of bombs falling as the German bomber, being pursued by a Spitfire fighter, jettisoned a string of bombs which fell at intervals along the high street but fortunately didn't explode. And the teacher was on her belly along with the rest of us beneath our desks for protection.

On another occasion (also when no alert had sounded) I happened to glance down grandmother's garden from the living room of Number 1 Nutley Lane where she had re-located, just as a Messerschmitt 110 fighter-bomber flew by extremely low, hedge-hopping we called it. I saw the swastika insignia and the pilot quite distinctly. He then circled and flew over the railway lines with machine-guns and cannons firing at a train. A close friend had a near-miss when one of the cannon shells penetrated the window and lodged in the arm of an easy chair he was sitting in at the time."

Cranleigh: Early one Sunday morning I awoke to the most unusual noise not at all like any aircraft I had heard before. Suddenly it stopped and was soon followed by an explosion. The first flying bomb to hit Cranleigh had landed in the Rookery, a small wood between the railway line and Knowle Park.

A couple of weeks later another one landed on Jubilee Field at Cranleigh School. My home was in the middle of Parkgate Cottages near the cross roads. The first doodlebug damaged our back bedroom windows.

A week or so later we were getting ready to have our tea when the siren went. Very soon we heard a doodlebug approaching. Its engine cut out and we could hear it whooshing through the air. We scrambled into the cupboard under the stairs just as it hit the gasholder near the bottom of our garden. There was one fatality in this incident: Mrs Ede, the wife of Jack Ede, the gasworks foreman. They lived in a cottage next to the gasholder. She went outside and was hit by a part of the gasholder.

Frensham: When the flying bomb attacks began I used to watch them from my bedroom window as they passed across the sky. One morning a flying bomb landed in the woods not far away and our garden was showered with pine needles. On another occasion I was woken with a very large bang and, on opening the window, I heard what sound like a train rushing towards us. It was the only V2 that landed in our locality although I do not know where it hit the ground; the sound like the train was in fact the rocket motors that were heard after the actual explosion.

Holmwood: When we heard or saw a plane coming down we would try and beat the local policeman, Sergeant Bishop and the RAF to the scene for souvenirs. One day there was a plane that crashed on Holmwood common and we got there first, the wreckage was strewn over a wide area as it had exploded and it was still on fire. Whilst searching the wreckage one of us found a gauntlet and after picking it up they found the Gauntlet still had a hand in it, needless to say it was soon dropped. Shortly after we heard several loud bangs, the bullets had started to explode and we ran for our lives.

At these crash sites there was always a terrible smell that you will never forget. We had a Junkers 88 that came over our house just missing our chimney, this crashed in the Paddock about fifty yards behind Folley Farm House.

As time went on we started having flying bombs. We used to stand and watch the doodlebugs flying over and as soon as the noise changes from a drone to a hiss we would either dive for cover or try and run in the opposite direction.

There was a local chap named Freddy Fairbrother who used to deliver newspapers to Mill Bottom, Freddy was walking down the lane with the papers under his arm and this doodlebug came down in the woods about fifty yards from him. The papers were blow out of his hands and he was left standing there, he simply picked up the papers and continued with his deliveries.

Caterham: Both Caterham and Kenley held legitimate war targets for bombers, but as always civilian property in the area were bound to collect over and under or misdirected bombs. While we saw the over flyers during the daylight battle of Britain nothing but a couple of forced landings by Hurricanes damaged our soil. At Caterham it was a different matter since the barracks and the airfields of Kenley and Croydon had suffered by mid August, and with civilians collecting their predictable over and under.

With the main night bombing starting in mid September, then the over flyers already operating through the August weeks, now increased in great numbers. One bomber in late August gave us an awful midnight fright. The bomber was ablaze with petrol and bursting engines and perhaps on-board exploding ammunition, for the popping and banging and spluttering was seemingly closing by the second; the blazing wreck passed overhead and lit up the garden and bungalows. Luckily the Heinkel managed to fly another half mile before smothering a house in Queens Park were two people were killed.

Caterham one blitz night what was described as an aerial torpedo had exploded underneath a family shelter, killing all eight members instantly. Quite a lot of bombs fell at Caterham and at Coulsdon a spinning German fighter came down towards to crash into the Green. Several bombs fell at and around the Chaldon crossroads one night, damaging a bungalow.

More bombs fell around our very local fields one evening of lesser activity. We heard the bomber coming from an easterly direction, which, in our wisdom of experience, meant it, was a wanderer and needed watching. Mum was visiting a sick friend nearby, so grabbing our young sleeping brother, my sister and I stuffed him and us under the table just as the whistling of a dozen or more bombs began a drawn-out descent. Dull 'thuds' ended their fall period for they were incendiary bombs, and a couple of time-bombs or duds.

In early 1941 the blitz nights were much reduced and often intermittent and we no longer used the shelter. Two minutes after a bomber flew overhead there came a shattering 'bang'! It must have stirred the dust of every loft for miles around. It was in fact a land mine exploding near Merstham.

Leatherhead: Sixteen V1 bombs landed the most serious in Chaffers Mead and Thorncroft where two hundred houses and thirty two shops were badly damaged. Three V1 landed close to the Ronson factory in Oaklawn Road, and on Bookham Common. A further two exploded in Newton Wood, Ashtead.

In all five hundred and ninety one high explosive bombs fell on Leatherhead, nearly three thousand houses damaged, eight hundred air raid warning were sounded all resulting in one hundred and twelve casualties of which eleven were fatal, including three ARP wardens.

Betchworth: last four months of 1940 sixty three high explosive, three oil bombs and many incendiary fell on the village.

Brockham: V1 fell on the 3 August in a field opposite Jubilee Terrace; 19 and 20 July Coach Road and Pondtail Farm; 18 July Nutwood Avenue in River Mole; 21 July and 24 August Box Hill Farm north of the railway; 4 July on Box Hill near the monument. Other incidents in the village: high explosive fifty two; oil incendiary seven about six hundred incendiaries.

Dorking Town: high explosive seventy seven; ten oil incendiary and fifty other incendiaries.

Westcott: fifty high explosive; one parachute bomb; two oil incendiary; seven hundred and eighty five other incendiary.

Box Hill: Forty four high explosive; two oil incendiaries; about one hundred incendiaries.

Ranmore: Nineteen high explosive and about four hundred incendiaries.

Leatherhead: After the war broke out she worked in a factory (which was previously a Ronson Lighter factory) where she made instrumentation for wartime boats and aircraft, as well as camouflage nets. Iris, her brother Ted and her sister Olive worked together in the Ronson factory.

One day, amidst heavy bombing, the employees were told that if they did not have transportation home, they should stay in the factory. Iris had her bicycle so she raced home dodging the bombshell craters. Her mother was anxiously awaiting her and news of Ted and Olive. Later that night, when the bombing had ceased, Ted and Olive were able to walk home safely. In the morning twenty six craters were discovered around the factory. The factory was not hit, but the guard shack was and the guard killed.122

Cranleigh St Nicolas Parish Church: The parish church of St Nicolas stands in the village of Cranleigh and was built in the early 12th Century and its font also dates from this time. In 1944, during the Second World War, a bomb hit the church destroying the church room and infant school, leaving only three of its fourteen stained glass windows intact. The church also has a 12th century carving known as the Cheshire Cat which some believe to have been Lewis Carroll's inspiration for his famous Alice in Wonderland character.

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120 [25 January 2010].

121 Collyer, Graham and Rose, David (1999). Guildford, the War Years, Breedon Books, ISBN-10: 1 85983 177 X, ISBN-13: 9781859831779. This has a short section on the police.

122 [25 January 2010].


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