Chertsey Tales Part Twenty-three.
A German bomber is tree hopping across southern England. Inside are two young airmen. The pilot sees the same red sky over London, he can’t help thinking of all the terrified people there. He looks away to cast these thoughts from his mind.
They both lean forward in the cockpit, straining their eyes to see through the low clouds. They are looking for railway lines.
The fires raging in the distance make it hard for them to see anything on the ground. The pilot flies as low as he dares, over some tall trees and fields, then there beneath him he sees the rails, bright and shiny. He follows the rails through a small town, a railway station and a row of houses, the perfect target.
Below, Mr Mills, our local Air Raid Warden, is unaware of the approaching German bomber. He will soon finish his patrol and hand over to his relief. He turns the corner near Johnson’s wood yard into Chilsey Green Road, on his right is Stanford’s farm, and on the left, a row of old cottages. My friend Barbara Walden lives there, and then there is 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, but 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.
Above the trees, he too can see that same crimson glow of the fires in London. He has been told about the incendiary bombs that are now the choice of the German air-force. People seem more fearful of these than the big bombs It seems as if all of London is burning.
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 engines. 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.
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 sorts 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 terrible screaming of people, some trapped, some injured and all terrified by what must seem like the end of the world—for some poor souls 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 is untouched.
At number 75 Pyrcroft rosd, another drama is unfolding.