Attack on Vickers Armstrong aircraft factory 1940

1940, 4 September: Worst attack was on Vickers Works, Weybridge were bombed and eighty three killed and over four hundred injured. One aircraft on the raid was shot down near Shere and the airman who bailed out was captured by a Special Constable at Ripley.100

Contemporary report Weybridge: The attack on Vickers Armstrong Works was carried out by an unspecified number of aircraft but from reports received it appears that five or six direct hits on buildings were made and other heavy calibre bombs dropped outside hangars causing some damage but it is considered that casualties would have been greater but for the fact that the attack was made during the lunch hour. It appears that bombs dropped before the red warning was received. The full extent of the effect on production is not yet ascertained, but it is gathered that considerable delay will occur.

On the morning of 21st September 1940 at about 08.30 hours the Vickers Aircraft Factory at Weybridge was attacked by an enemy aircraft. Three bombs were dropped, two of which exploded, doing slight damage. The other, a five hundred pound bomb, penetrated the factory roof, passed through a wall at the end and came to rest on the concrete driveway outside the erecting shed, having failed to explode.

As the explosion of the bomb at the position where it rested would have caused considerable damage, its immediate removal was a matter of national importance. Lieutenant J. M. S. Patton, Royal Canadian Engineers, undertook to remove the bomb to a place of comparative safety and Section Leader Tilyar -Burrows together with Volunteers W. J. Avery, E. A. Maslyn and C. E. Chaplin, with complete disregard of personal safety and having no previous experience of handling unexploded bombs, immediately volunteered to assist.

The bomb was lashed to a sheet of corrugated iron, attached to a truck by wire cable and towed to a crater about two hundred yards away where it could do no harm. The task was accomplished in little more than half-an-hour from the time the bomb had fallen. The bomb exploded the following morning.

Throughout the operation these men displayed cool courage of the highest order and contributed largely to the removal of a serious threat to the production of this factory.

Note: Lieutenant J. M. S. Patton was awarded the George Cross and Captain D. W. C. Cunnington, also of the Royal Canadian Engineers, the George Medal for their gallantry on this occasion.

PC Arthur Bruce in 1980: One of the aircraft from this raid was hit and crashed on Netley Heath area close to a Canadian camp. Bert Bradley and I received an instruction to collect the remains of the crew and this we did in several brand new sandbags. We took these to the Woking mortuary then, having left our grisly load we resumed patrol.

Some time later we were asked if we had labelled the sandbags which we had not and were ordered to do so. On arrival at the mortuary we found the smell very strong so much so I just could not face it. Bert, having taken a deep breath attached a label on one bag and hurried out. This manoeuvre he repeated until all the bags were labelled after which we beat a hasty retreat.

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100 Durrant, A.J. (1951). A hundred years of the Surrey Constabulary, 1851-1951, p. 60.

 

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