The new year, 1940.
I am seeing for the first time, some of the terrible effects of warfare.
Wounded soldiers, dressed in royal blue uniforms, with white shirts and red ties, some just about able to walk, bandages on every part of their bodies, were coming in to town.
St Peters Hospital, a military hospital, is about a mile away. This must have been a marathon for some of the men, but with the help of their mates and their spirit, in they came with lots of back slapping and hand shaking, everyone of them a hero to us.
Even now, in war-time, there are still divisions between the more affluent areas of Chertsey and the council house area, which is near Chertsey railway station.
Of course, aged seven, I was not really aware of this, but I did notice that most of these soldiers—who were in the main infantrymen—stayed near the station end of town, this could be that The Bell, The Station Arms, The George and several other pubs were all clustered together around Chertsey Station. The top of the town was a bit too far for them to walk.
What we called ‘The top of the town’—London Street, and Windsor Street—were in the oldest part of the town. The Crown Hotel, where the two streets joined was a place, where in days gone-by, The Hunt would gather, to begin the hopefully fruitless chase for the cunning Fox.
Now, it is a place where I first see an airman, a pilot officer in his full RAF uniform, his face is badly burnt on one side. He looks no older than my brother Bernard who is about sixteen.
In the next few months this is to be a common sight, with the German bombing about to start. I think a burns hospital must have been fairly local.
I live in a council house in Pyrcroft Road, an old road with some very fine large houses, Pyrcroft house is reputed to be where Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist.
The Golden Grove, another very old building, a pub—is were my mum used to be a cleaner for Mrs. Snelgrove, a French lady owner—was a favourite place for officers to meet when off duty, a place that soon attracted the local girls.
Another big property, Lasswade House, with a lovely Japanese garden complete with a small stream and bridge, an orchard with fruit of every kind—good for scrumping– and a fine line of big Lime trees around one side— I remember hearing the rustle of the leaves on a windy day from my home.
The house is taken over by an army unit with a searchlight and a light anti-aircraft gun, with a Bren gun carrier parked on the once well kept lawn. Some of the soldiers were French Canadian, a place that soon attracted the local girls—and not so local, judging by the many lady’s bikes parked along the hedges most evenings.
Private cars are now rarely seen, only doctors or army cars. Sometimes a long convoy of tanks and lorries driving past towards Staines. Every child cheering and waving from every vantage point, mine was on top of ‘the green thing’—a large transformer of some sort—six feet tall, and other kids on the big Oak tree that stood on a raised island outside my home.
It is all very exciting