Not far away our neighbour Mr Mills, our local Air Raid Warden, will soon finish his patrol and hand over to his relief. He turns the corner near Johnson’s wood yard into Chilsey Green, there are no houses on his right, just Stanford’s farm, and on the left, a row of old cottages, my friend Barbara Walden lives there, and then Mrs Brooks house, her husband is away in the army.
Mr Mills knows everyone in his patrol sector, and probably most of the people in Chertsey.
He was a fit young soldier in the First World War, now he is a bit tubby, and too old for active service. Never the less here he is, once again in a uniform; the blue boiler suit of the ARP, he even has an army helmet. There is no mistaking the pride he feels in doing his bit for the war effort, swinging his arms as if he was still a young soldier. Heaven forbid anyone daring to show the slightest chink of light to aid the enemy planes on his patch.
In the distance— just twenty miles away—he too can see that same crimson glow of the fires in London. He has been told that incendiary bombs are now the choice of the German air-force. People seem more fearful of these than the big bombs, they fall in such great numbers and cover a larger area. Now it seems as if all of London is burning.
He remembers, as a twenty-five-year old soldier in France, seeing the same deadly glow in the sky, and thinking then, of all the people unable to escape.
He quickens his stride as if to shake off these thoughts. After all, it’s been another quiet night, mild with just a light breeze, enough of a breeze to make the leaves of the tall Aspin trees rustle as he passes the Lasswade House orchard.
The rustling leaves almost mask the sound of an aircraft’s engine’s. No reason for alarm though, it is something that happens about this time most nights it’s one of the Beaufighter night bombers about to land at Chobham aerodrome, less than two miles away.
But now, as the aircraft flies very low, the sound is not of a Beaufighter’s quiet radial engines but the dreaded droning noise of a German bomber, flying just above the Conker trees in Stanford’s Farm, instinctively he starts to run.
He stops for a moment to listen, the noise of the engine changes as it flies away from him.It is all too sudden to warn anyone, not even time for an air raid siren. He hears the engine noise quicken and then fade into the night, he knows this means the plane has released its load of bombs.
First he sees the houses just ahead of him in Pyrcroft Road light up as if by daylight, then comes the incredible noise of the explosion, followed by the blast.
He can’t stand, he tumbles like a bale of straw in a gale, along with branches of trees and all manner of things caught up in the violent storm sweeping up the road.
Clinging on to the railings of the bridge at the bottom of Mrs Ballard’s house, all he can see is a cloud of dust rolling toward him, lit up by the flames behind and the sound of falling brickwork. Then the terrible screaming and the shouts of people, some trapped, some injured and some terrified by what must seem like the end of the world—for some poor people it would be just that.
The bomber crew cheer as they wheel away, their mission accomplished, another blow for The Fatherland—but not quite the success they thought it was, the railway was untouched.