Saturday, 29 December 2007

Worcester Park, 1944

I ventured out today in the bright winter sunshine for a gentle amble around Worcester Park, to walk off some of the excesses of the past week - up to the top of Central Road, and into Lindsay Road (opposite the North End Tavern) for a stroll around Cuddington Cemetery. In the far corner of the cemetery are a row graves of civilian war dead of World War 2 - including a family of three - all killed on or shortly after 16th June 1944.

A little web searching unearthed an eyewitness account of the event in Worcester Park, when a V2 'doodlebug' was brought down by ack-ack fire destroying a number of houses in (I believe) Caldbeck Avenue:

"FRIDAY 16TH JUNE 1944 was a day just like any other; it was bright and warm and I was either on holiday from school or it was after school.

Like most of the other houses at our end of the street we had a brick built air raid shelter in the back garden, not too far away from the back door.

It must have been just before 9:30 PM when the siren sounded. The routine was mechanical - get up, dressing gown or a coat and slippers and shoes and off to the shelter. Our house was end of terrace and we would go downstairs out the back door around the side of the house and across the road to our neighbour's shelter. On this occasion, as we went out of the back door my mother said "let's use our shelter, we've cleared it out and it might only be a short raid"


There were five of us; my mother carrying my baby sister of just four months wrapped in a shawl; my father shepherding all of us; my brother and myself. My brother caused a flap by going back into the house to find the cat but my father got him back in the shelter.

As we ranged ourselves across the seats that were across the back of our now tidy shelter we could hear the drone of what turned out to be a V2 or doodlebug. I can see my father now standing in the doorway of the shelter hands against the wall on either side to balance himself and bending his knees as he sank down to maintain his view of the bomb that he could clearly see coming straight for us. He turned and leaped across the shelter and threw himself across us.

I can remember banging my head against the wall, probably the result of my father trying to shield us from the blast, but that was all. The noise must have been tremendous but I didn't hear a thing. The incredible thing was we were alright. My father had a cut on his knee (but not in his trousers!) and I had banged my head, but that was all.

When we collected ourselves we came out of the shelter and round the side of what was left of the house, into the road. The bomb had landed in the middle of the road.

Apparently it had been hit by ack ack fire which had tipped it up so that it hadn't fallen to the ground but had literally dived in creating a massive crater. On both sides of the road was utter devastation; houses closest to the point of impact were just reduced to piles of rubble whilst for those further away it was as if some giant hand had torn the fronts off them and then attempted to gouge out what was inside. Contents of bedrooms were being spewed out into the street as the unsupported floors gradually caved in.


Fires had started from fractured gas mains and the cries of trapped people could be heard some seriously trapped under piles of masonry, others safe but unable to get out from under the stairs - the under stairs cupboard having become an all too popular "shelter".

There was an all pervading smell in the air which remained as one of my most vivid memories - I don't know what it was but I think it may have been stale air that was released when the buildings were destroyed. The houses were fronted by dwarf walls many of which had survived but had been blown over; for some reason I found this amusing.

By now anxious friends and relatives had started to arrive and also the emergency services. We were whisked away. Of our friends and neighbours 10 were killed and over 40 injured - it was not a day just like any other after all.

About a week later, week I watched a funeral in Worcester Park that included a number of little white coffins - they were my friends."

(WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar)

28 COMMENTS (Add Yours Now!):

Danny Vandal said...

Wow, great story Worcester Park.

white van lady said...

My mum lived in Washington Road during WWII, and it was this incident when she was 5 years old that made their family realise that bombing was making it just too dangerous to live in WP, so they decided to evacuate to Hants. Apparently, one girl from the family that got the direct hit from the V2 was at mum's house for a children's party, and was one of the few people from that family to survive. Her mum had been pulling frantically at the rubble to try and find her and was overjoyed to find her alive.

My parents think that Worcester Park had heavy bombing as enemy aircraft "dumped" bombs unused on targets in central London on their flights back to Europe. Also, St Hellier Hospital was a big, fat bright white landmark to hit.

When my son started junior school, he was asked to research the history of his house. We spoke to an old lady in our street who lived in our road (south side of Central Road) since the 1930's and she told us that a mine had blown the roof clean off our house during the war. And there was me thinking that it was property developers in the 60's who had redesigned the upstairs rooms!

The Parkerilla said...

White van lady - thanks for posting that story.

Parkerilla

Theo Cordery said...

7.1.07

what a great story.
My dad and I spotted the graves today and googled for info and came up with your blog.

It really brought the story to life

Theo aged 8

The Brinkster said...

Hi WP
You might be interested in this story as well:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/69/a2096769.shtml

Cheers

The Brinkster
http://www.20six.co.uk/brinkster
http://worcesterpark.myminicity.com/

David said...

It would have been a V1, V2s came in faster than sound so you didn't hear them until they went BANG.

Jeff said...

The names of all the people killed by the V1 that fell on Caldbeck Avenue are recorded in a special book displayed at Sutton Library. But it wasn't the only bomb that fell on Worcester Park. Another scored a direct hit on the block where the Co-op now stands at Plough Green. If you look closely you can tell that this block and adjacent houses were rebuilt post-War.
Someone I worked with years ago remembered going to North Cheam Baths (just outside Worcester Park)in 1938 to hear Sir Oswald Mosley, the Blackshirt leader, speak to a packed audience. The person remembered his closing sentance "War is a crime against the people of all nations".

PG said...

Re David's comment above re the V1 at Plough Green I was told today by someone who used to live locally that a childrens' party had been planned for the green for the date and time (3.00pm apparently) that the V1 fell but was cancelled given expected doodlebug threat!

Jeff said...

The exact spot at which the V1 landed and exploded in Malden Road near to Plough Green
was just between the junctions with Idmiston Road and Fullbrooks Avenue. Right in the middle of the road.

On the Kingston Council Local History website you can access bomb maps showing the locations of all the bombs in WW2 that fell on the Kingston side of Worcester Park, it shocked me to see how many there were, I thought it would be just the odd one here and there in leafy old Worcester Park.

For years after WW2, if you bought a house in London you always looked up the bomb maps to see if the house you were buying had been damaged by bombing and patched up so you didn't buy trouble.

Anonymous said...

There was an unexploded bomb at 104 Brinkley Road in March 1941. I found some info relating to the incident while researching the Earl of Suffolk. He was a slightly eccentric chap who was in charge of an experimental unit tasked with helping the men of bomb disposal by finding ways of combating German boob-trapped bombs, time delay fuzes, etc.

In a file at the National Archives are some of the Earls papers. There is mention of looking for a suitable bomb to experiment on –

“Investigation resulted in discovery of a hole beside a house (no 104) in Brinkley Rd, Worcester Park and this site was examined by Dr Sutherland (Directorate of Scientific Research), Lord Suffolk and Dr McFertri e(National Physical Laboratory) on 21/3/41. The Bomb Disposal Officer stated hole was 20 feet deep and a tunnel 15 feet long existed under house. A 500Kg bomb was to be sterilized in it that day. Dr Sutherland undertook to get in touch with Sutton Borough Surveyors and make arrangements.”

A letter says “The nature of these experiments cannot be disclosed, but I can assure you that there is not the slightest danger to personnel nor to any property in the neighbourhood. These experiments are very urgent, and it is only the urgency which has forced us to make use of an existing hole rather than waste time by digging a special one for ourselves.”

The Surveyor came back to say the BD squad had gone through a water main serving a number of the houses there and in order to repair it the bomb had to be removed and the excavation filled in. Basically the Earl had to find another bomb in another hole.

A couple of months later he was killed along with a number of others while working on a bomb at Erith Marshes.


Chris R

Anonymous said...

I CAN NOT FIND ANY PIC,S NEWSPAPER CUTTING,S ON THIS STORY???

Anonymous said...

There would be no newspaper articles on the bomb disposal incident as it was related to experimental work and would have been classified/censored.

Chris R

Anonymous said...

WW2 - Worcester Park - Black Market prosecution.

Talking of newspaper articles, I was looking at an old newspaper the other day, Daily Mirror of 30 Aug 1940 and there was the following story that mentioned WP -

Woman Goaled for Tea Offence.
"It is a fragrant case of trafficking" said Mr Ronald Powell, Westminster magistrate, in sentencing Sydney Bloom, forty, salesman, of St Georges Drive, London SW to three months' imprisonment with hard labour, and Sheila Hawkins, thirty, waitress, of St Phillips Avenue, Worcester Park, Surrey, to fourteen days' imprisonment.
The man was charged with supplying tea for household consumption otherwise than in accordance with the rationing regulations, and the woman with obtaining it.
The woman was seen to receive a parcel from Bloom and on being followed she ran away. She was caught and taken back to Bloom, who was in a cafe. When he was asked what the parcel contained he replied that it was tea which he had just bought at a stall. There was 6lb.

Chris R

Philipmaguire45 said...

I CANNOT FIND NO PAPER CUTTINGS ON  CALDBECK ROAD WW2 BOMB CAN YOU HELP PLEASE?

john kirk said...

Having read the above is there an email address to contact you as i too am a survivor of that day. Please conact me on h.kirk@btconnect.com

john kirk said...

There wasnt too much reporting of the bomb but I have one photo if your interested.

vindi said...

any news of any survivors please comment

Hellibobs said...

Hello, My mother- in-law who was 5/6 at the time lived around the area during the war and was made an orphan after one of the raids in Worcester Park, her surname is Conroy would you know anything on the family? Is it worth us coming to look in the Cemetery?
Thanks for any information.

moley said...

sure love to see

moley said...

concrete sheds in browning avenue any one no why?

moley said...

I lived at 44 BROWNING AVENUE FROM 1960-71 NEVER NEW THERE WAS A HIT IN CALBECK SO SAD

Carole. said...

My family lived at 7 Browning Avenue, and our house was badly damaged, and we lived with an Aunt for six months while it was repaired. I was only seven months at the time and we were all in the air raid shelter.
I was told it was a V1, which landed at the 'T' junction of Caldbeck Avenu and Browning Avenue.
If you look at the roofs of the houses you can see a difference in the tiles of the ones that were damaged, or you cauld when I was a child.

ivan said...

They are air raid shelters

Ivan said...

It maybe that the green area of Brinkley Road and Browning Avenue, was where the bomb landed. I remember my Nan telling me who lived in Brinkley

Helen Aylward said...

Hello, just remembered making this posting can I still contact you about my request,

vindi said...

I lived at 142 John Kirk. If anyone can remember that day please email me at h.kirk@btconnect.com I would love to hear from you.

Tim said...

I was in 385 Malden road. New malden .Worcester park Surrey. When the doodlebug hit us 18th June I think.

Tim said...

Jeff ,were you there ?our home I just mentioned was very near, my mum and I were in an Anderson shelter in lounge. I was in my bedroom looking out of the window,I think I saw The bomb?but even so young I remember the strange silence ,mum ran into bedroom picked me up and ran back to lounge,we just got into shelter when whole house came on top of us.We were dug out by american soldiers.

Post a Comment

The Worcester Park Blog welcomes your comments and opinions!