I saw my first German bomber as I was coming out of The Curfew Snack Bar with my brother Don. At first, we just heard the engines—Don knew it was a Gerry plane by the sound the engines were making. We started running as fast as we could to the air raid shelter in Barker Road, as I looked up, I saw three bombers going in and out the clouds, we stopped for a moment to watch them fly past. Don pushed me down on the grass verge and we covered our ears as we had been told to do, we stayed like this for what seemed like ages expecting bombs would explode around us, but nothing happened, except that I was stung with stinging nettles on my legs.
Other people who had seen the planes were running past us to the shelter, then the air-raid siren started up a few minutes after the bombers had passed, slowly at first and then very loud. This was one of the hit and run raids that the Germans had started to use, they used their fastest bombers flying very low. There had been several false alarms and most people thought this was another. I think this was the first time that the people in Chertsey had seen German bombers and now they would know what an air-raid would really be like. We were told by some workmen that the planes had passed over and that we should go to the shelter until the all-clear sounded.
This was not the first time we had heard a German plane, they would fly over at night after bombing London and would jettison any bombs left over on a railway or a main road. We had three bombs falling in nearby Lyne fields on the other side of the railway. Even so it was a bit too close but the next day kids from all over Chertsey would swarm over the craters looking for shrapnel—this was to become a new hobby!
The news of the bombers flying so low soon went all around the town, everyone had a different story of how many planes they saw. It would be the only time that enemy planes would be seen over Chertsey during the day for the whole of the war. The local searchlights would show them up at night as they passed over with flashes of anti-aircraft shells exploding around them, it was like firework night but strangely quiet, no bangers. We never saw any planes that were hit though, they were probably flying too high.
Many years later a friend, who lived in Barker Road, told me how she had heard the planes coming over that same day. Her father ran down the road ahead of her mother and her little sister, shouting for everyone to get into the shelter. Her mother who was carrying a small baby fell over. but he was so far ahead he couldn’t help her to get up. I didn’t say anything, but it crossed my mind to ask, why was he so far ahead and not there with his wife and carrying the baby. Perhaps he was making sure there was a place in the shelter for his family.
The Vickers Aircraft Factory, in Weybridge was badly bombed, probably by the same bombers that we saw. They caused a lot of damage and killed over eighty worker’s most were having their dinner in the canteen which had a direct hit.
There were rumours of some men using car headlights the night before to show the Germans where the barrage balloons were anchored so that the bombers could avoid them the next day, but some other men said they never had any balloons at all to protect the factory—rumours like this were always going around. Amazingly the production of Wellington Bombers and Hawker Hurricanes was only stopped for a few days.
The London blitz is now in the news every night, the war has really started. The evacuees who had gone back to London earlier because it was so quiet, started to come back. Our evacuee Mrs. O’Keefe and her son Dennis stayed with us, she said the Docks where she had lived in London, would be a target for the bombers. She was proved right it was the docks that were bombed every night. The Germans seemed to have so many aeroplanes they could target the factories in the north and midlands as well as London. The bombers could go anywhere they wanted to in every part of the country.