Felbridge at War 1939-1945
Souvenir of memories from people of Felbridge to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II
Crash Landing at North End
A German bomber took the roof off North End Lodge which was adjacent to Simpson’s Garage, London Road, North End. It happened at 9.20 am on Friday 27th September 1940. The bomber was a Junker 88 which developed a fault in its starboard engine and lost formation whilst on a sortie to bomb London. The cockpit was destroyed in the attack and three of the four crew lost their lives. Three baled out in the Hartfield area, out of these three, the parachute of one failed to open, a second died of his wounds in Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, and the third survived, though he broke his leg. The fourth remained in the plane, presumed already dead when the others baled out.
Of the house, all but one room was damaged. The only room to go unscathed was the storage room where eggs were kept from the chickens that the family farmed. It was said that not one egg was broken and the dogs came out wagging their tails.
Notes supplied by L J Taylor and Tony Jones
All Kohima Ridge is ours at last
The end of forty days…….
We have come to the end of 40 days on the Kohima front.
For 40 days and 40 nights we have been plugging hard at the Japs in ‘the fiercest battle of the Burma campaign’.
It has been touch-and-go in a terrific slogging match. But we have come through – with victory.
The last Jap has been winkled out of the last bunker. Kohima Ridge is ours.
From it our 14th Army troops – men of famous West Country and Home Counties regiments – can survey all they have won in 40 days of grim hide-and-seek, hand-to-hand fighting.
More than 3,000 Japs lie dead on these hard-won features – Garrison Hill, F.S.D. Ridge, D.I.S. Ridge, Jail Hill and G.P.T. Ridge.
Many of the enemy lie round the Kohima Deputy Commissioner’s bungalow, where every inch was contested and no quarter given.
‘Slept on feet’
For 13 of the 40 gruelling days part of our forces held out on the besieged Garrison Hill. They never washed or shaved. They slept on their feet.
And when they did sleep it was for little more than two hours in turn. Water was scarce. Rations were meagre.
Day in, day out American planes swept low over the town to drop supplies.
Day and night the Japs kept creeping up, but always they were flung back. And now they will not creep up again. Kohima is ours.
It all began on April 5 (says Reuter), when the Japs made their first attack from the south.
Our small garrison mustered 3,500 men of whom only half were first-line fighting troops – and were strung out along six features.
They fought hard, but were overwhelmed. In 48 hours two ridges had fallen.
Reinforcements arrived and a battalion of a Home Counties regiment took up positions inside the garrison perimeter. The following day the road to Diampur was cut about two miles north of Kohima and apart from radio communication, our men were completely isolated.
The Japs seized the Bazaar area in Kohima and other strong positions.
Then began the inch-by-inch job of taking them out. Infantry, tanks, guns and planes were welded into a great striking force.
As the days wore on the battle was reduced to a bunker-busting process, with the starving Japs clinging to their foxholes like animals at bay.
Tanks had to be sent in to hammer at the bunkers with amour-piercing shells.
Superior tactics and supreme endurance won the day. Our next task is to drive the Japs from the Indian frontier. General Slim is finding the way.
National Newspaper article 17.5.1944.
Bert Wheeler from Felbridge was caught up in this siege of Kohima, which resulted in the loss of 17,500 British and Indian forces, many from the 4th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment and the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, and an estimated 65,000 Japanese soldiers.
Felbridge Village Produce Association
Before the war, Britain imported two thirds of its food, but once the war had started ships and crews were in constant danger of being blown up and as a consequence food became in short supply and rationing was introduced. People were continually being told to ‘make do and mend’ and above all ‘avoid waste to save on shipping’. With the shortages, clothes and food were strictly controlled through the issue of Ration Books. The weekly food ration allocated to each person was one egg, 2oz margarine, 2oz cooking fat, 2oz tea, 2oz sugar, 1 oz cheese, 4oz bacon or ham and meat to the value of 1 shilling and 2d just 6p in today’s money. It was through the introduction of rationing the people of Felbridge set up the Felbridge Village Produce Association to encourage residents to grow their own produce and support the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. The Association held a weekly market in the old Felbridge Institute in Copthorne Road, where their produce could be bought and sold, even as little as one egg!
From Felbridge Parish and People with additions from Ken Housman
War time memories of a boy from Imberhorne Farm
The Coomber family, who lived in Imberhorne Farm Cottages during the war, helped dig a shelter behind the cottages, not far from the pond. Jim Coomber, a small boy at the time, remembers that on one occasion the air raid siren sounded when they were in the middle of dinner and he ran to the shelter, on arrival the jelly that he was looking forward to for dessert fell off his plate! He also remembers that a bomb came down between Imberhorne Farm and Gullege that blew out all the windows and that a Spitfire crash landed in Long Field to the south of Felbridge Water. This plane was eventually recovered on a low loader. He remembers ‘It was always a rush to the scene of a crash to see what souvenirs you could get’.
German plane crash lands near Rowplatt Lane
A German plane crash-landed in the woodland running down the Copthorne Road from Rowplatt Lane, and Jim Coomber remembers that the villagers of Felbridge rushed to apprehend the German airmen.
Horses join the Home Guard
At the outbreak of war, the Thomas sisters had set up a riding school at Brook Nook in Furnace Wood. As riding was considered a luxury during the war years and food was scarce for non-essential animals, the horses were threatened. The girls were so upset with the prospect of losing the horses that their father, Jack Thomas the leader of the Felbridge Home Guard, enlisted all the horses as a means of transport for the Felbridge Home Guard, an action that ensured their food allocation and survival. As such the Felbridge Home Guard was the only Home Guard unit to have ‘pack horses’ during the war!
In the late 1930’s, with the outbreak of war imminent, there was a great need for more barrack accommodation and the War Office, (as the Ministry of Defence was then called), acquired Stratfords a house on the northern outskirt of Felbridge and its associated land in Newchapel from Mary Stratford, Lady Sanderson, under Section 1 (1) of the War Department Property Act of 1938. Local knowledge suggests that the building of the barracks started before the war, in 1938, took about eighteen months to complete and was developed to form a large permanent camp and named Hobbs Barracks, by 1940. The barracks eventually covered sixty-three acres, by the addition of ten acres of land purchased from Marjorie Thomas of Park Farm in 1941, and about six acres of land purchased at the rear of the White Rabbit Road House, now the Peacock, from Miss Margaret Josephine Fisher Brown some time after 1941 and before 1953.
The land purchased from Park Farm, situated west of the A22 and South of the camp, became the sewage treatment works, built in 1941, that served the barracks and is now the site of Beavers Water Plant & Fish Farm. A further two acres of land, just north of the barracks, to the east of the A22, was later acquired, circa 1943, which became No.1 Static Bakery serving the South Eastern Command that operated out of Hobbs Barracks. The military also commandeered five acres of woodland, opposite the Bakery, belonging to Newchapel House.
On completion, Hobbs Barracks became the home of the 3rd Battalion of the Irish Guards, a Training Battalion, together with associated service units, in June 1940. The first Commanding Officer was Lt. Col. the Viscount Gough, who lost an arm and won the regiment's first Military Cross in the Great War. The Irish Guards consisted of three battalions; the 1st Battalion in the 24th Guards Brigade was stationed at Northwood, Greater London, the 2nd Battalion in the 22nd Guards Brigade was stationed at Woking, Surrey, and a Training Battalion, that later became the 3rd Battalion, was at Hobbs Barracks, Newchapel.
The 24th and 22nd Guards were held in reserve around London to counter any German invasion. In July 1940, under the command of Lt. Col. the Viscount Gough, the Training Battalion at Hobbs Barracks moved to Dover as part of the garrison for three months. By October the number of recruits at Hobbs Barracks had accumulated to over 1,200 men, and from these recruits the 3rd Battalion was formed. In November, the Training Battalion in Dover moved to Northwood to relieve the 1st Battalion, and whilst at Northwood they were given the new name of The Holding Companies, under the command of Major JOE Vandeleur. Lt. Col. the Viscount Gough then returned to Hobbs Barracks and the companies there became the Training Battalion. The Training Battalion continued to supply men to the Holding Companies until February 1941, when they were large enough to be a battalion in their own right. In autumn 1943, the 3rd Battalion, Guards Armoured Division became one of the Infantry Battalions in the Division and from then until the end of the War trained with the 2nd Armoured Battalion. They were withdrawn to England and were disbanded, along with the Training Battalion, in 1946.
Recruits from other regiments also received their basic training at Hobbs Barracks and it continued to be very active throughout the War, culminating in the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
During the war, apart from basic training, Hobbs Barracks also operated as the RASC (Royal Army Service Corps) Command Supply Depot for the South Eastern Command. They supplied the Army, Royal Air Force and Navy with provisions, meats and bread, the bread being baked at the No.1 Static Bakery that was situated approximately 250 yards (231m) from the main gate, on the opposite side of the main road, heading north. The barracks, at this time, also housed the female members of the ATS (Army Territorial Service) who worked along side the male RASC bakers at the Static Bakery. The Bakery started production in 1943 and was in operation up until the late 1950’s.
Taken from Hobbs Barracks Fact Sheet DHW 08/01/03
The Felbridge Home Guard
Hobbs Barracks provided a training ground for the local Home Guard, or to be precise, the Felbridge Platoon of ‘F’ Company, 9thSurrey (Lingfield) Battalion, Home Guard, using the Rifle Range for practice with live 303 ammunition. The Felbridge Platoon was under the command of Captain Jack Thomas, with second in command, Lieutenant Arnold Kelf. Capt. Thomas had been a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Artillery, serving in France during World War I. He had been awarded the Military Medal for running ammunition supplies to the front line under heavy enemy fire and had been mentioned in dispatches for rescuing a team of horses that had come under attack. Lieut. Kelf was an explosives expert and during the war had most of the bridges in the Felbridge area wired up in case of a German invasion.
Taken from Fact Sheet DHW 08/01/03
No.1 Static Bakery
After England had declared war on Germany in September 1939, the problem of feeding large numbers of troops in the British Expeditionary Force in France had to be addressed. Previously, during times of conflict, the Forces had relied on Field Bakeries using ovens known as ‘Polly’ Perkins to supply the large quantities of bread required. A large Standard Army Bread Plant had been established at Aldershot in Hampshire, for some time before the out break of World War II, and it was due to the success of the Standard Army Bakery Plant, that it was decided, at the beginning of World War II, to establish three large Static Machine Bakeries in France, to be used in conjunction with the well-known Field Bakeries. However, due to the rapid fall of France in 1940, they were never built and it was not until 1943, that they were commissioned in England. One of these bakeries being at Newchapel, (No.1).
The Bakery operations started with the receipt of the basic raw materials. During the war, these deliveries were made under the cover of darkness, with the Bakery buildings being large enough to accept delivery lorries being reversed into the building to be off-loaded out of sight.
By 1945, Capt. H W Browne had become the OC at No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, commanding forty-one men of the RASC and seventy-two women of the ATS. The average bread production per month at this date was 1,100,000 lbs, [36,500 lbs Quartern loaves per day], with the total production, up until September 1945, given as 17,750,000 lbs), serving up to six Command Supply Depots.
Bread rations from the No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, were distributed to individual Military Units from the Command Supply Depot that was situated within Hobbs Barracks. These rations, which also included provisions in the form of green groceries and meat, were distributed to the Army, Navy and Air Force in the Southern region. To prevent detection by enemy aircraft during the war, the Unit lorries collecting their supplies were loaded inHeather Way, Eastof the A22 at the foot of Woodcock Hill. Here the lorries could be hidden under the tree canopy of the area, the idea being that the stream of lorries arriving to collect provisions could attract more attention and were more likely to be noticed than the two large lorries that ferried the provisions from the Supply Depot to their hiding place.
Interestingly, bread was not rationed during the war, although in 1943, National Bread replaced white bread as an attempt to make flour go further. The introduction of National Bread, which was greyish in colour, compared to white bread, allowed the flour to go further by not extracting so much of the grain, i.e. Wholemeal uses 100% of the grain, Wheat meal, 85%, National, 78% and White, 72%. However, between 1947 and 1948 bread rationing had to be introduced, as Britain could not afford, either in financial terms or space, to ship in the wheat from North America, in its struggle to get the country back on its feet.
Taken from Fact Sheet BR 01/03
Felbridge Home Guard on manoeuvres
Being too young to join the services, Ken Housman joined the Home Guard and went on several manoeuvres with the Felbridge Home Guard around Felbridge. One manoeuvre that took place in Lingfield involved Canadian soldiers pretending to be German, Felbridge Home Guard were caught in a hollow between the road and a barbwire fence. Ken fired at the Canadian soldiers, having a banger at the end of the riffle to give a bang sound. The response was that the Canadian’s threw a thunder flash at him, which blew up at his feet. Captain Jack Thomas, the Felbridge Home Guard leader, was captured and frog-marched off to the ‘Headquarters’. When Ken caught up with him he was covered in flour as a Spitfire had been bombing the ‘Headquarters’ with flour!
A22 as Missile Practice Range
To practice firing missiles the Home Guard would stand by St John’s Church firing down the A22 towards the Star Inn. The missile, generally a bottle filled with petrol and a wick, was fired down a piece of pipe by a small charge. Often the missile would get stuck in the pipe and blow up, or fall just out the end of the pipe and blow up!
St John’s Church damaged by bombing raid
The exterior of the church has remained little changed over the years except for damage sustained during World War II, when, on 28th August 1940, three bombs landed in and around the grounds of the vicarage and church. One bomb landed near the East wall of the church that shattered several of the windows in the south and east walls. There are also a few shrapnel scars to be seen on the east wall, the carved tops of some of the buttressing on the south wall have been sheared off and several of the graves in the area have suffered slight damage. Another bomb landed near the north and west wall where the driveway up to the vicarage, now The Glebe, met the London Road. This bomb loosened or removed slates from the north porch and north aisle, and again left shrapnel scars in the west wall.
Taken from Fact Sheet SJC 07/02i
Most of the windows in St John’s church were damaged during the Second World War when three bombs landed in the grounds of the vicarage and church on 28th August 1940. Those windows with no glass were boarded up for the duration of the war, the boards being temporarily removed during the summer months to allow light into the church. The grisaille (monochromic colouring) glass in one of the south windows in the chancel is all that remains of the original glass. This consists of four rectangular panels of painted glass, two that are predominantly blue and the other two red. These have been set into clear diamond shaped panes with lead work. Inscribed on a plaque under the grisaille window, a short history of the East window is to be found, which states that it was installed to replace four memorial windows shattered by enemy action, which commemorated Dr Charles Gatty, J Whyte, Mrs K Fellows and J C Joyner. The original East window, the largest of the windows, was originally dedicated solely to the memory of Dr Charles Henry Gatty and was completely destroyed, the current window being installed in 1949, the work of Geoffrey Webb.
The new design represents the Tree of Life with Christ at the centre amid the words ‘I am the vine; you are the branches’ as detailed in John 15. Above the main figure are St Peter, St Andrew, St Stephen, St Barnabas and St Paul, while along side Jesus are St Mary Magdalene, St Mary the Virgin, St John and St James. At the top is the Paschal Lamb and the banner of St George surrounded by angels. Although to a new design the central sexfoil window does still have the Agnus Dei or Lamb of God that can be seen in old photographs of the church interior, and there are still angels beneath it.
Taken from Fact Sheet SJC 07/02i
Church kept locked
St John’s church was kept locked during the Second World War as the organ inside contained valves which could be used in wireless equipment, and the authorities did not want them to fall into enemy hands in the event of an invasion.
Hedgecourt Lake Drained
During the war years Hedgecourt Lake was drained as it was felt that the German planes could use the large reflective surface of the water to navigate their way to London on a moonlit night.
Felbridge Air Raid Shelter
The Shelter was built as a communal shelter for the use of the people of the village during World War II. It was located on the Village Green opposite no.19 Crawley Down Road, in front of the school. Although Felbridge never saw enemy action it did not go unscathed, with numerous bombs being discharged around the area, several downed Flying Bombs and a couple of crash-landings. Several bombs landed on Woodcock Hill resulting in the road being damaged and closed, and a Flying bomb or Doodlebug came down near Hedgecourt Lake and at Felcot Farm in Furnace Wood. The Shelter was eventually demolished in the mid 1950’s.
War time memories of a girl from Felbridge
During the 1940’s a phosphorous bomb was dropped by a stray plane. It fell on the water main in Felcot Road [Furnace Wood] on the opposite side of the lane from our house ‘Kia-Ora’. The lane at that time was unmade, dust in the summer and mud in the winter. The phosphorous was splattered on the leaves of the hedges and grass verge and with the heat of the sun small fires were ignited from time to time afterwards.
My father, Louis Subtil, was an Air Raid Warden (ARP). The warnings were phoned through to him, and then he had to don a helmet and cycle round the Wood blowing his whistle. The same procedure followed for the ‘all clear’ and off he went again. His duties were to inspect houses to see that no chinks of light were showing through the black-out curtains, and of delivering sandbags for underground air raid shelters. He was also a member of the Home Guard and since ‘Dad’s Army’ portrayed so accurately and humorously their activities, there is nothing more to add.
I remember going to see the remains of a German aircraft which crashed in the field opposite Rowplatt Lane at the Crawley Down Road end, behind what was then a pair of cottages, now only one and now known as Vine Cottage.
When I was twelve years of age, a number of girls attended Red Cross instruction at the home of Miss Round and Miss Faraday. One misty evening, Mavis Hopper and I were walking to their house under the chestnut trees when we heard a loud explosion and we later learned that this was the bomb that fell on the cinema in East Grinstead. I knew several of the children who died because by then I had moved on to the old Sackville School.
Betty Salmon née Subtil
MURDEROUS ATTACK ON SOUTH-EAST TOWN
BOMB SHATTERS CINEMA AUDITORIUM
Women and Children Among Many Victims
SHOPPING CENTRE ATTACKED BY A DORNIER BOMBER
Fine Services by Civil Defence and Soldiers
Four death dealing blows were struck at the heart of a quiet South-East town soon after 5 o’clock on Friday, when one of about ten enemy raiders swept in from the coast to cause havoc in the shopping centre, and a large number of casualties among men, women and children. The majority of the casualties were in a cinema, where a bomb scored a direct hit. It was there that the death toll was heavy – very heavy for a single raider. From this cinema most of the dead were taken and a large number of seriously wounded were rescued and removed to the hospital in the town and to other hospitals in the neighbourhood.
Three other bombs were dropped and a number of incendiaries which brought disaster and damage to many shops in the same street. Immediately after the attack on street resembled a shambles with wreckage, glass and plaster covering the road and pavements and fires burning at some of the establishments. But within a few minutes of this ruthless attack on an open town Civil Defence workers, including Police and NFS, as well as troops and members of the Home Guard, were on the scene effecting rescues which became fantastic spectacles. Members of the public also helped in the heroic task, while members of the London Transport Passenger Board gave much valued assistance with buses for the transport of casualties. The combined services accomplished many feats of skill and daring, and worked feverishly throughout the late afternoon and night.
The attack on this quiet little country town will long be remembered for the manner in which defenceless women and children were massacred, and the viciousness of the attack by the Nazi raider on a locality which had not military pretensions. The attacking plane first circled round a near by station in an attempt to machine-gun a London train just as it was running into the station. There were no casualties or damage in this attack. The raider then circled the town twice before releasing its cargo. Bombs were dropped, also a number of incendiaries. The one high explosive which caused the greater number of casualties was that which penetrated the roof of the attractive cinema. It actually dropped among the cheaper seats in front of the auditorium, which were mainly occupied by women and children. Included amongst these were five WAAF’s who had been sitting together. There were also a number of soldiers who had come into the town from the surrounding district. The cinema, which has seating accommodation for 400, was fairly full at the time. Most of the children in the audience had gone to the cinema straight from school, a regular Friday night ‘habit’ among them. Instantly the whole place was in ruins. Masonry and heavy girders crashed on to the audience and buried them in a mass of rubble. There were many who were almost blown to pieces, but others lay pinned in the debris suffering from wounds of a ghastly character.
In the dust ladened atmosphere it was a pitiful sight. With all possible speed Rescue and Demolition Squads and First Aid Units were rushed to the scene. Other calls went out for further assistance, which was soon forthcoming and everyone worked feverishly in their attempts to bring relief to the sufferings of those trapped among the fallen masonry and plaster. The work went on in relays. The workers toiled unceasingly, and several who were ordered to take a rest refused to do so and worked on until they were at the point of collapse. At the same time as rescue work was carried on in the ruins military and other ambulances were rushed to the spot, as well as special casualty detector. Buses also came to the rescue, helping to take many of the wounded to hospital.
One by one, two by two, pale faced and lifeless children were brought out of the ruins. Some were found almost naked with their clothes blasted from them. Then there was a woman without shoes or stockings. There were others who were also devoid of much clothing and soldiers in battledress who were brought out in the same manner as might have been the case had they been in action against the enemy and across the road they were taken and gently lowered on to the floor of a local newspaper office which had been blasted.
AUDITORIUM OF DEATH
It was a sickening scene, one which brought tears even to the stoutest hearts among the gallant lot of rescuers who toiled on through the night. It was an eerie sight during the night with four candles stuck round the cash desk to give light to those ascending and descending the plush carpet steps leading to the auditorium of death.
A representative of the ‘Courier’ who visited this town of sorrow saw the interior of the cinema. Here and there one came across a shoe, a khaki cap, a man’s hat and a woman’s dress. The seats were torn to ribbons, seats which only a short time earlier had been occupied by light-hearted men, women and children. In a moment their joy had been turned into death or painful injury. In the rescue work a chain of soldiers handed out the much damaged seats which had to be removed, together with chunks of masonry and twisted girders before the majority of the killed and maimed could be reached by the rescuers.
INDESCRIBABLE MASS OF RUINS
In turn the bodies were taken from the newspaper office to a garage to await an identification parade. A mere glimpse at some of the victims made one realise what scenes of pathos would be forthcoming when processions of tearful mothers and fathers, brothers or sisters or sweethearts would make their way to that mortuary to see if they could establish the identity of someone who had been dear to them. By the following morning most of the bodies had been recovered, including 16-years-old Mollie Stiller, the little usherette. Among some of those who had miraculous escapes was the assistant operator, William R Henn, who was leaving the box when the roof crashed. He escaped with a few minor injuries. The senior operator, Tom Wickenden, was badly injured.
In the indescribable mass of ruins inside one could distinguish the screen curtain above which was a plaque of the Prince of Wales feathers. The curtain was in ribbons. Attached to the cinema was the Rainbow Ballroom, where dances were held with fairylike lighting effects. The dome shaped roof hung down in one great massive piece stretching to the floor, while the room itself was just another lot of rubble. And the same can be said of the room generally used by the Rotary Club for their usual weekly gatherings, but curiously enough the restaurant on the ground floor facing the street was hardly damaged.
The attacking plane is believed to have been a Dornier 217. It has been established that one-third of the total casualties were women, one-third children, and the rest mainly soldiers who had come into the town. [Abridged]
Contemporary report from the East Grinstead Courier
Whitehall Cinema Bombing – Felbridge victims
The original report of the bombing did not give any figures for the dead and wounded, and although it wrote graphically about the scenes of devastation it was reported in the typical ‘war style’ that did not give much away that could be used against the country and its people by the enemy. Later articles on the event put the death toll at 108, and the injured at 235, and many died later through injuries sustained during the bombing. Mr Lewis Bennett, who was the deputy Civil Defence chief for East Grinstead at that time, stated that at the time he issued 123 death certificates and logged 393 people as being injured. One of the original statements that ‘The attack on this quiet little country town will long be remembered for the manner in which defenceless women and children were massacred, and the viciousness of the attack by the Nazi raider on a locality which had not military pretensions’, is also slightly inaccurate. The area behind the old Whitehall cinema was, during the war, being used as a depot for Canadian Army vehicles and was more likely to have been the intended target. Also, not more that two miles North in Felbridge, was the Hobbs Barracks, yet another military target.
There was also controversy about the identity of the aeroplane that dropped the bombs. It was reported as a Dornier 217 and twenty-seven years after the bombing, wreckage of a Dornier 217 was found buried in a wood near Bletchingley, Surrey, believed to have been the plane responsible for the attack. However, an eyewitness believed the plane to be a Junker 88. On further investigation with the RAF Air Historical Branch, it was discovered that two Dornier 217’s were shot down on the day in question but that they had been operating over Croydon, Orpington and West Malling, with one being shot down over Bletchingley and one near Kenley, all in the Surrey area. There are no records of a Junker 88 being brought down on that day, and German records claim only two planes were lost out of ten sent on the raid. Based on this information it would seem likely that the plane responsible for bombing the Whitehall cinema returned safely to Germany.
Of the numerous people killed or injured, not only in the Whitehall cinema itself but also in the vicinity of the building in London Road, the following victims came from Felbridge and the immediate area:
Winifred Dorothy Catterick
Winifred was born in 1904 on at the time of her death was working as a S.R. N., probably at the Queen Victoria Cottage Hospital, and was living at Pixiewood, in Stream Park, Felbridge. Winifred was aged thirty-nine when she was killed in the Whitehall cinema bombing, and was buried on the 14th July 1943 in one of the two communal graves at Mount Noddy for victims of the Whitehall bombing.
Joyce Constance Coomber
Joyce was born in 1919, the daughter of Henry Thomas and Rose Still of 31 Imberhorne Lane. She married John Albert Coomber and they set up home at 24 North End. Joyce was aged twenty-four when she was killed in the Whitehall cinema bombing. She was buried on 13th July 1943 in Mount Noddy Cemetery, being joined four months later by her husband, John Coomber.
Sybella was born in 1883 and was the wife of Marcus Edmonds. They lived at Rose Walk, Mill Lane in Felbridge. Sybella was aged sixty when she was killed in London Road, East Grinstead, as a result of the Whitehall cinema bombing.
Ellen France was born in 1875 and was the widow of Arthur France. The official war graves information lists her living at Merxies, Copthorne Road, although the Felbridge burial register gives her address as Green Platt, Copthorne Road. Ellen was aged sixty-eight when she was killed in the Whitehall cinema bombing. The only memorial to Ellen France in Felbridge is a margin note found in the burial register. She was buried on 15th July 1943, in an unmarked grave, in the churchyard at St John’s, now just a patch of grass, located to the northwest of the grave of Charles James Valentine Hewitt.
Alice Maud Meadmore
Alice was born in 1900 and was the wife of Joseph Lewis Meadmore of 9 Sackville Gardens. Alice was aged forty-three when she was killed in London Road, East Grinstead as a result of the Whitehall cinema bombing.
Eunice was born in 1901 and was the wife of Henry Thomas Meyers of 3 Stream Park in Felbridge. Being as Winifred Catterick was a neighbour in Stream Park, Eunice and Winifred had probably gone to the cinema together. Eunice was aged forty-two when she was killed in the Whitehall cinema bombing and was buried on the 14th July 1943 in one of the two communal graves at Mount Noddy for victims of the Whitehall bombing.
Clara Louise Mitchell
Clara Louise was born in 1883, she was the widow of John Mitchell and they had two children a daughter named Ena and a son. Clara and her husband had run a small nursery garden behind their bungalow, ‘Hollybush’, in Rowplatt Lane, now the site of the close of houses called Tithe Orchard. Their daughter Ena married a Mr Parks and they ran a small farmstead near the Lincoln Imp, now the motel, at the bottom of Woodcock Hill. Again, like Ellen France, the memorial to Clara Louise Mitchell is a margin note in the burial register as she too was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard at St John’s on 13th July 1943. The grave is located on the second row north of the raised area at the lower South end of the churchyard, in a central position.
Ethel was born in 1913 the daughter of Mr and Mrs McCollum of 39 West Street in East Grinstead. Ethel married Herbert Smith and they lived at 66 Dorset Avenue, East Grinstead. Ethel was injured in the Whitehall cinema bombing but died of her injuries five days later on the 14th July, aged thirty, at the Queen Victoria Cottage Hospital.
Herbert Edward Smith
Herbert was born in 1911, the son of the late Mr and Mrs Smith of Halsford Croft in North End. He was the husband of Ethel Smith and they lived at 66 Dorset Avenue, East Grinstead. During the war years he was a Constable in the Police War Reserve. Herbert was aged thirty-two when he was killed in the Whitehall cinema bombing. He was buried on the 14th July 1943, the day his wife died of the injuries she had sustained in the bombing, in one of the two communal graves at Mount Noddy for victims of the Whitehall bombing.
Molly Iris Lillian Stiller
Molly was born in 1929, the daughter of Mr and Mrs J Stiller of 86 Sackville Gardens. Molly had just left the De le Warr School and was working as an usherette at the Whitehall cinema the day the bombs were dropped. Molly was just fourteen years old when she was killed in the bombing and was buried on the 14th July 1943 in one of the two communal graves at Mount Noddy for victims of the Whitehall bombing.
The Felbridge Fire Brigade
During the war Felbridge had its own Fire Brigade made up of men who were either, too young, too old or unfit to fight. The Felbridge Fire Station that was situated in Copthorne Road, next to the old Felbridge Institute, still standing it is now part of Southways the printers, the large blue double doors the only testament to the building’s previous use. Members of the Felbridge Fire Brigade included Arthur Dossett, Samuel Wren, William Norman, Sidney Dean, Stanley Walder, Richard Back, Alfred mills and William Pentecost. The equipment they were issued with was a Morris Commercial lorry and pump, powered by a Coventry Climax engine that was towed behind the lorry in what looked like an old side car.
Incendiary bombs land on Furnace Wood
The residents of Furnace Wood, being a bit our in the sticks, had battled for years to be connected to the mains water and just before the outbreak of the Second World War mains water arrived in the ‘Wood’. Enjoyment of this facility was short lived though, as very early on in the war, incendiary bombs were dropped and, in accordance with Sod’s Law, one shattered the water main. The result of this was that fire kept shooting up through the ground at the weak points along the length of the newly laid water main!
Exchange is no robbery
One day in the early 1940’s, when day-light raids came into being, a convoy of Canadian soldiers had to pull in off the main road. They were parked all under the big trees in Furnace Wood, covered with camouflage netting. We made friends with the group outside our house and they came and chatted on the lawn and had a cup of tea and told us about their families at home. We had a heavy crop of plums that year, more than we needed after we had bottled, jammed and scoffed them. We used to take bags of them up and they seemed to appreciate them. One family man bought out his photos and showed us, and gave us stamps and chocolate. His name was Dennis and he came from Saskatchewan.
Marion Jones née Pike
The Ministry of Food
The Ministry of Food had a kitchen which developed recipes to make the most of rationing. I still have some recipes in my scrap book that I cut out as a youngster from papers, magazines and old pamphlets from the shops.
Marion Jones née Pike
FUEL CAN BE SAVED BY MAKING UNCOOKED JAM
But it Takes Five Months
What ever fruits you have in the garden or can manage to buy, make preserves with them against the time when they may be scarce.
This is how to make Uncooked Damson Jam.
Break the skin of each damson with a needle; take ¾ lb. of honey or sugar to each pound of fruit, place a layer of sugar in a stone jar, then a layer of damsons, then sugar, and so on until fruit is used up. Top with a layer of sugar. Soak a bladder in water to tie closely over the jar and store for five months.
Recipe by Elisabeth Ann of the ‘Sunday Dispatch’ during the war years
Corned beef and barley make just about the most delicious mince you’ve tasted! The barley makes it more nourishing – stretches the beef, too.
Ingredients (enough for 4)
3oz pearl barley
1 level teaspoon mixed herbs, 1 medium-sized leek chopped
1 level tablespoon flour
1 level teaspoon beef extract
½ level teaspoon pepper
4oz corned beef
Method: Cook barley in about a pint of water with leek and herbs until tender.
Strain off water and make up to half a pint.
Blend flour with a little of the liquid, then add rest, stir until it thickens and boil for 5 minutes.
Add beef extract, pepper, beef, barley and a little browning.
Warm, through for 10 minutes.
Serve with vegetables.
Spam and Egg Pie
2 reconstituted eggs
6 wafer slices of spam or other tinned meat
salt and pepper
¼ lb short crust
knob of margarine
Roll out the crust, divide in half, use half to line the pie plate.
Spread the slices of spam to cover the crust completely, season to taste.
Melt a little margarine in a saucepan, pour in the egg, cook lightly until just set.
Stir in the chopped parsley.
Spread over the spam slices, cover with a lid made with the rest of the sort crust.
The spam and reconstituted egg are already cooked in this dish, so you merely need to cook the pastry.
Put in a quick oven for about 30 minutes or until the crust is brown.
1lb Green Tomatoes
3 to 4 onions
2 oz Dates or prunes, chopped
3 tablespoons Sugar or 2 tablespoons Syrup
Few peppercorns or red chillies (crushed)
1 rounded teaspoon salt
1 ½ gills (teacups) vinegar
Slice Tomatoes, chop onions, mix in basin with salt, stand overnight. Next day dissolve sugar or syrup in vinegar and boil up, add chopped dates and peppercorns or chillies – simmer for 5 mins. – then add Tomatoes and Onions and simmer till of thick consistency.
This recipe comes from a collection of hand written wartime recipes belonging to Vera Pike. Along side the recipe is the following comment: This recipe would be improved if the salt was increased to 1½ teaspoons and about twice the quantity of onions, ½ Treacle and ½ Syrup can be used.
Lord Woolton’s Vegetable Pie
2lb (1kg) potatoes
1lb (450g) cauliflower
1lb (450g) carrots
½lb (225g) parsnips
½lb (225g) onions
3 or 4 spring onions
water for cooking
1 teaspoon vegetable extract
1 tablespoon oatmeal
2oz (50g) grated cheese
Cook half the potatoes, the vegetables, the vegetable extract and oatmeal for 10 minutes in enough water to cover them. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cool and place in a pie dish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Boil, then mash the rest of the potatoes: spread them over the vegetables to make a crust. Sprinkle with cheese on top. Bake at 190ºC, 375ºF, gas mark 5 until lightly browned. Serve with gravy and vegetables. Serves 6-8.
This recipe was named after the popular Minister for Food, Lord Frederick Woolton.
Liquid Paraffin Cake
My mother was unable to make a sponge cake before the war, they would never rise, but during the war when food was rationed, she found this recipe for a sponge cake that never failed to rise:
3 tablespoos flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
3 tablespoons dried egg
3 tablespoons liquid paraffin
3 tablespoons sugar
milk and water
Mix all the ingredients together and bake in a moderate oven.
Marion Jones née Pike
Thank God for the W.I.
I don’t know how we would have managed without the W.I., they taught a great many things, Make Do & Mend, bottled fruit, jam making, drying apple rings on bamboo canes over the stove, the list was endless, much needed help to those who had not done things themselves before. They certainly helped the war effort.
Marion Jones née Pike
Felbridge Herb Gatherers
With the onset of World War II, Britain was once again in the same situation as it had been in World War I, with many of the plants used in medicines being imported from the Continent, and supplies disrupted or even blocked altogether. To counteract the shortfall a list of essential plants that needed to be cultivated and collected was drawn up. A simple and effective way to re-establish a supply of these plants was to encourage the people of Britain to collect and dry the plants found in this country. An effective system was established by Kew with assistance from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes and the Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence, who in turn involved the school children, and Scouts and Guides of Britain.
One such organisation that was formed in Felbridge to help the ‘war effort’ was the Felbridge Herb Gatherers, in which Dora Wheeler, a member of the Felbridge WI, played an active and prominent role. She mobilised the children of Felbridge School to gather and dry the required herbs from hedgerows, waste ground and the Commons of the Felbridge area to help meet the shortage of imported botanical plants and herbs. The herbs, once dried, were then sent to the companies that had, before the onset of war, dealt in importing botanical drugs.
The Felbridge Herb Gatherers set to work, and from two surviving receipts it is evident that they collected and dried huge quantities of plants from the Felbridge area. One receipt reveals that they collected 3lbs/1.3kg of foxglove seeds and 1lb 12oz/790g of red rose petals. Bearing in mind the weight loss during the drying process, these equate to about 15lbs/6.75kg of fresh foxglove seeds and 35lbs/15.75kg of fresh rose petals! A local newspaper article dated 12th August 1944 stated that the Felbridge Herb Gatherers had been active since 1941 and the two receipts dated 15th September 1943 and 12th September 1945 suggest that they were active until at least the end of the war and possibly longer. Money raised from the collection of the plants during the war was donated by the Felbridge Herb Gatherers to the Red Cross Agriculture Fund, which was run jointly by the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Service, to enable parcels to be sent to Prisoners of War and supplies to the sick and wounded.
The following is a list of plants that the Felbridge Herb Gatherers regularly supplied: Agrimony, Balm, Bay, Blackcurrant, Black Horehound, Burdock, Centaury, Clivers, Coltsfoot, Dandelion, Elder, Feverfew, Figwort, Foxglove, Garden Mint, Ground Ivy, Lavender, Lily-of-the-Valley, Meadowsweet, Mullein, Nettle, Periwinkle, Pilewort, Plantain, Raspberry, Red Rose, St John’s Wort, Sage, Scarlet Pimpernel, Tansy, Thyme, Violet, Wood Betony, Wood Sage and Yarrow.
Several of the Felbridge School children who were involved in herb collecting during the war also recall collecting plants after the war had ended. Rose Hips were collected from the hedgerows of Gullege Lane and from fields between Crawley Down Road and Copthorne Road, (Hedgecourt Common), being used for Rose Hip syrup. As an incentive the children were paid for rose hip collection at a rate of 3d a pound. Barbara Cornish also recalls other hedgerow plants collected for the ‘war effort’, which included blackberries, sloes and elderberries for jam, (if sugar was available from the ration), Hawthorn and Rowan berries, Deadly Nightshade to dilate eyes, and Chamomile for a blonde hair rinse, (vinegar was used for dark hair). Other plants gathered included dandelion leaves for greens and salads, chicory roots for a coffee substitute, and cabbage leaves for chilblains!
Taken from Fact Sheet SJC 01/04
In case of a major incident
During the war years, Felbridge School was designated a Rest Centre for the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and should a major incident have occurred the school was to become the Co-Ordination Centre for the dead and injured. It was the job of the Felbridge Scouts to muster, along with their handcart, to ferry the dead and injured to the school.
Substitutes for sweets
We only had 1lb of sweets per month, I used to save my coupons and use them all at once at the end of the last week. I had a real feast. I am sure quite a number of our generation went more for saving things as we’d been used to limited amounts of sweeties and had to make do with other things like Tiger Nuts and Locust Beans which were very sweet, but you needed good teeth as they were quite hard. We discovered a little provisions shop in Middle Row in East Grinstead which also stocked Matzos, the Jewish unleavened bread, not on coupons, like great big water biscuits about 8 inches square and ⅛ inch thick, they were good to chew as well.
We dug pignuts in the wood, chewed wood sorrel, field sorrel stalks and raw rhubarb (this was best dipped in sugar first). When no one was looking we scrumped currants, gooseberries, half-ripe strawberries and green apples, but we left the crab apples alone. It was a wonder our stomachs survived this weird diet; we certainly couldn’t eat it now!
Marion Jones née Pike
No milk today
There were no milk delivery men as they had all been called to the war. My sister and I took an oblong shopping basket up to the local farm and balanced 3 jugs in it, carefully covered with a tea towel on top. Some days they felt very heavy, but we didn’t spill much of it. To make butter go further, my mum used to mix it with margarine and slowly melt it down with a few spoonfuls of dried milk powder all whisked in. This mad a large bowl-full of a light spread, similar to today’s Flora or Benacol mixes, it went a long way. We did manage to keep a baker’s roundsman, and whoever was home first made a bee-line to the new crust, 1 inch thick, with or without butter.
We grew our own fruit and veg and picked blackberries for pies and jam. When chestnut time came mum would boil up a pot of chestnuts to help out potatoes and we’d squeeze them into long worms through the top of the nut. The best way was to prick and roast the nuts on a coal shovel on the fire, sometimes they’d jump out the hearth but they did taste good.
Marion Jones née Pike
Kissed the ground
I served with the RAF on the world famous Lancaster bombers, which was the machine that made all the difference. By the end of the war I had flown 69 missions and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I don’t say I was happy and every time I got home safely I kissed the ground.
No Air Raid Shelter
We didn’t have an air raid shelter, we used to shelter under the stairs when the air raids were too noisy. One night, after a lot of bombs and bangs were going off, we heard a loud knocking at the door. We thought it was the air raid warden to tell us there was a bomb dropped near the house. It turned out to be our neighbours opposite who only lived in a bungalow and wanted to come and shelter with us. When everything had quietened down they went back home.
Later in the war, the Germans launched a new weapon, the Doodle Bug. These were launched in France and came across the Channel aimed at London and the South East. There were two kinds, V1’s and V11’s. They were rockets which flew across the sky with blue flames coming out of the back. I used to sleep upstairs on my own and could hear the hum of the engines going overhead. I would lie very still and keep my fingers crossed that they wouldn’t glide down anywhere near us and land as they landed with a terrific bang and course a lot of destruction.
The Ministry of Food had a kitchen which developed recipes to make the most of rationing. I still have some recipes in my scrap book that I cut out as a youngster from papers, magazines and old pamphlets from the shops.
Marion Jones née Pike
Family dived for cover under table
With convoys regularly trundling past the house and German bombers over head, young Doris Curtis’ family felt as involved as anyone in the events of 1939-45.
Today, Doris Trefine still lives in the same house in Copthorne road where her family dived for cover under a table during air raids and spared part of their precious ration to give a welcome cuppa to convoys of soldiers on their way to Aldershot.
Well known as the area’s ‘paper girl’ until her retirement at the age of 80 last year , Mrs Trefine still has vivid memories of the war days.
Just before war broke out she left school at the age of 15 and started work at Hogger’s Nursery.
‘There was nothing round here then in the way of work like there is the Imberhorne Estate today’, she said. ‘And there were only the shops, the post office or the laundry in East Grinstead. I quite enjoyed pricking out plants and digging up trees’.
Before moving to Copthorne road in 1937, Mrs Trefine and her widowed mother lived in a house opposite Hedgecourt Lake. Her father, Sydney Curtis, was part of the East Grinstead bakery family and he died at the age of 29 after 12 years in the navy.
‘I remember a bomb falling at the back of the garage at North End and the German plane that dropped the bomb on the school at Lingfield’, she said. ‘We heard it was meant to aim for Hobb’s Barracks and the crew had been told it was on land between two lakes. But they couldn’t find it which is why they dropped the bomb on Lingfield’.
Other members of Mrs Trefine’s family lived with them and the fear of air raids was ever present, she said, ‘We were obviously worried because we didn’t know what was going to happen’, she said, ‘Quite a few were dropped round here – 28 in one night once. One Sunday night a bomb came down in front of the church. It cracked the bell but they managed to save four pieces of stained glass. But they lost the cat’.
News of Victory in Europe came while Mrs Trefine was at work at the nursery. The staff asked John Hogger it it meant they could have the following day off.
‘At first he said no but I think he was only kidding us’, she said. ‘Then he said we had to turn up to do the watering and after that we could go home’.
Her mother found flags and bunting to hang in front of the house and young Doris joined her aunt foa s aday at Ashurst Wood ‘where we had a ramble round the rocks’.
She recalls seeing East Grinstead decked with flags and knew parties and other events were arranged for the younger children in Felbridge.
East Grinstead Courier 5.5.05
Bullets fell like rain
During the war my father was an aircraft inspector and at weekends, when he came home from the aircraft factory, we used to stand on the lawn and watch the dog fights above with our Spitfires and the Focker Wolf 109’s. We could hear the shrapnel of bullets falling through the trees. Sometimes in the mornings, after a night raid, we would find lots of pieces of silver foil hanging from the tree branches, the foil having been used to stop the plane’s radars from working properly.
Marion Jones née Pike
School days during the war
When the war began I was still at Felbridge School and we were told if ever we heard a low flying aircraft, to duck down low in the ditch and take cover on the way to and from school. We were issued with gas masks and had to take them with us at all times. Luckily we never had to use them, but had to wear them for practice during lesson time. The boys used to breathe in and then let out piggy noises which made us all laugh, but they made your face very hot.
I remember taking large glass jam jars to school and being given them back fall of drinking chocolate powder from Canada; it was the best tasting thing for years. Made up of chocolate powder, sugar and powdered milk, I can still remember how lovely it tasted.
We used to help the school gardener cum caretaker to dig and plant up the garden for the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. All the vegetables were used in the school dinners.
At 11 years old I went to the Senior School in De la Warr Road, East Grinstead, there we often had to go down the air raid shelters. Various girls sang, recited and told stories to entertain us. There was one particular girl who used to sing long songs in Welsh which we never understood, but she had a good voice. There was a pom-pom gun on top of the water tower opposite and when we sat near the escape hatch at the end of the shelter, you could hear it firing at enemy aircraft overhead.
One day in the 1940’s we were going to school by bus (which used to drop us outside the school) but we were unable to go any further that what was the Co-Op. There had been bombs dropped on the cinema and up through the town the night before. Living where we did we hadn’t heard the bombing and it really was a shock, especially as there were some schoolmates we would never see again and others that were affected long after the bombing with nerves and shock. Gradually things got back to relative normality, with Sainsbury’s being moved into the big church at the bottom of Rice’s Hill. A plant man set up his stall on the bomb site that was Bridgelands and sold dahlias to people for their gardens.
Marion Jones née Pike
We kept rabbits during the war and it was my job to collect the green food for them. When dad came home he used to kill one to eat and we kept the skin as mum had learned how to cure them at the W.I. She also learned how to make gloves and slippers and they were very warm. Mum used to stuff the rabbit with sage, onion and breadcrumbs and sew up the tummy with a darning needle and linen thread. Roast rabbit, a real treat that I still cook occasionally now.
Marion Jones née Pike
The air-raid siren was located on the corrugated iron Medical Centre in Imberhorne Lane, now the site of the long-stay car park. It would sound the alarm and the all-clear at the end of a raid. It was regularly tested up until the middle of the 1970’s, some 25 years after the end of World War II.
23rd Armoured Brigade
During the war, Chartham Park near Felbridge, the home of the Margary family was commandeered as the Headquarters of the 23rd Armoured Brigade. In July 1942 the 23rd Armoured Brigade joined the Allied Forces for the first battle of Alamein. Of their 104 brand-new Valentine tanks that rolled into action at Alamein only 7 were left after only 2 hours of fighting, needless to say very few of the men returned from the war.
Ten Green Bottles
At the outbreak of the War, I was just 4 years old so my own personal memory seems to be restricted to going down the school shelter singing ‘Ten Green Bottles’.
Pam Coleman née Roberts
Fire Drill on the Green
My mother cycled into East Grinstead on the day that the Whitehall was bombed. She used to leave her bike in an alleyway by Bridgelands, where my father used to work, and do her shopping in Sainsbury’s. She had just finished her shopping when she heard the siren and hurried to collect her bike. She peddled frantically, as she had left me playing with a friend at home. By the time she reached Lingfield Road, she heard the bombs being dropped by the German plane. She peddled even more furiously until she got home where my friend and I were watching the Felbridge Fire Service practicing putting out fires on the Green. By this time I should imagine my mother was a little distressed, as she went over to the Firemen and told them that there were real fires in East Grinstead and people needing attention without having to practice!
Pam Coleman née Roberts
I can remember my brother telling me the sad story about our chickens. If you kept chickens during the war, you were allowed a ration of meal to feed them, which was intended to be mixed with potato peelings and any other appropriate kitchen scraps. You then had to forfeit your weekly egg ration.
We kept half a dozen chickens at the bottom of our garden and these were kept in a run during the daytime and shut inside a shed during the night. One night a fox got in and bit the heads off all our chickens, leaving us with no means of getting eggs. What made it more embarrassing was that my father had agreed to supply a neighbour with eggs and they too had forfeited their egg ration in favour of extra meal for our chickens. As a consequence neither household had any chickens or an egg ration!
Pam Coleman née Roberts
Spitfires and Hurricanes
At the outset of the War we were issued with Gas Masks. These were distributed from the Village Institute, on Copthorne road near The Star, where we had to produce our identity cards and then be fitted with the appropriate size. The masks were supposed to be carried at all times and I can clearly remember seeing them stacked against the schoolroom wall underneath the Cuckoo clock. We all dreaded rehearsals of putting them on and then lining up to be evacuated to the air raid shelter. The shelter was dug out underneath trees behind the school in The Glade and disguised with turf. We would sit there and sing songs loudly, to drown the noise of dog fights overhead. The windows were reinforced with crisscross tape to help protect us from flying glass in the event of an explosion. We were divided into two teams, Spitfires and Hurricanes, which were the names of British planes, and in sudden event of a raid and no time to get to the shelters we were supposed to dive under the desks with our teams, needless to say people just forgot and arguments ensued under the tables as to which team they belonged.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
Sea Grass Mats
During the war years the children ofFelbridgeSchoolwere issued with oval sea grass mats which we took out side and sat on in the area of the school grounds known as The Glades. Sometimes we were made to lie down and have a nap on them in the afternoon. I’m nor sure if this was because part of the school rules or whether it was to compensate for lack of sleep during air raids.
Ann Hillman née Agates
Air Raid Wardens
During the war, Air Raid Wardens were appointed and they would cycle around dressed in navy uniforms, wearing tin hats, and blowing whistles to warn people to take cover as it was important not to be seen from the air as well as protection from the bombs and shrapnel. The latter was quite common with Hobbs Barracks being nearby with large guns in action, and you would hear pieces of shell falling in the trees. Later there were loud sirens placed on posts, a wavering sound was the warning of a raid commencing and a continuous sound when all was clear. Another duty of the Wardens was to patrol at night to make sure every house had blackout curtains so that no lights could be identified from the air by planes searching for targets to bomb.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
‘Dig for Victory’
Everyone was encouraged to ‘Dig for Victory’ and produce their own vegetables. There would be posters around with a picture of a spade and a boot resting on it. At Felbridge School we had a garden which I think the boys dug with help from the school caretaker to grow vegetables and the girls did the weeding.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
Homes were given shelters to erect. We had the ‘Anderson’ which was a corrugated metal type that had to be assembled down a hole in the ground which took sometime to dig out, and resulted in a damp place to sit, especially at night. Eventually we would get underneath the dining table instead and try to sleep there.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
Later in the war, food help was sent fromCanadaand I remember when I moved to senior school in Lingfield that we had cubes of cheese distributed at lunch time to eat. Another treat which we had was chocolate powder and this was given to us in small paper bags, presumably for taking home to make drinks. Needless to say finger dipping took place and the bags would be empty before we got home.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
Armoured cars and tanks were a familiar sight when convoys went through the village and the Irish Guards at Hobbs Barracks could be heard clearly on their Parade Ground, as well as when the Band played. Other familiar sights were the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Home Guard. People who were not eligible for the forces were encouraged to join these.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
Hedgecourt Lake fenced
HedgecourtLakewas taken over by the M.O.D. and a post and wire fence was placed in the water, presumably to stop planes landing there. The water level was also reduced so that it was not visible from the air.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
End of War celebrations
At the end of the War, people hung out Union Jack flags and my father painted red, white and blue animals in the garden.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
One golden afternoon in September, with not a cloud in the sky, there was a fierce dog-fight immediately overhead of us in the Park between a Hurricane and a Messerschmitt 109; we were too excited to feel afraid. Then up from the meadows, rich with corn marched a handful of farm workers armed with shovels, pruning forks and bill hooks with which to engage the foe in mortal combat. They were bitterly disappointed when he bailed out three miles away near to the hospital.
Taken from Sunshine and Showers by Lucy Wells of Imberhorne
Bought a shop to beat rationing
With the onset of the Second World War my father thought it prudent to buy a grocery shop in Railway Approach in East Grinstead, thus ensuring a supply of food during the war years! My parent’s did not sell their bungalow in Stream Park but rented out, firstly to a family from London who were quickly replaced after they stored coal in the bath. My father also felt it would be safer from bombing in the ‘Town’ than Stream Park, no understanding my father’s logic, but one thing was for sure, we never went hungry.
I remember the bomber that crashed on the garage, old Simpson’s Garage; we watched that being shot down. It absolutely demolished the bungalow and it left one room untouched. Old Simpson used to sell eggs from that room and it never cracked one egg and the old dog, who used to sit under the table, got up and walked out of there wagging its tail as if nothing had happened. The rest of the house was completely demolished. How it missed the garage I do not know. It was a Polish fighter that shot him out the sky; they peppered him till he hit the ground. Then they found the crew, many years later, over the back in the woods there. They’d baled out, come down and they were found later on. It was not many years ago that they were found. Found them in Chartham Park side of Lowdells Lane. It was like the one that bombed East Grinstead, when he had those sixteen bombs down through the town, that plane was shot down and they found that when they surveyed the M25, and the crew were still in it. When they found that plane they proved it was the one that bombed East Grinstead because there were only two German planes went up that day. One came back and the other one didn’t, and the serial number and all that tied up with the one that had bombed the town.
He did do a bit of damage that one; there are no two ways about it. Mind you, can you wonder at it, you’ve got Caffyn’s Garage standing there in the middle of the town, an army repair depot with all their vehicles standing out there. I was lucky that night; I went to see the film the night before, all my mates went the following night. I lost a lot of mates in there. I said come on lets go the Thursday night, I believe, but they said no, but I said I was going that night, as I had to go on the farm the following night. About half past five, I believe they dropped it. One of my mates, Roy Owden, he’s only just died, he ran out of the cinema as the roof was coming down, he’d left his Mac behind, blow me if he didn’t run back in to get it! He didn’t get killed but he ran in to get his Mac, he thought I’m not going home without my Mac.’
Felbridge Home Guard 1940-42
9th Surrey Battalion, F Company, Felbridge Platoon
Major Anderson (Old Surrey Halls)
2nd Lt. Relf
The North End Squad, comprising Perce Buckland, Bill Fynn, Frank Terry, Eric Martin, Mr Dawson and Mr Gibbs, were on duty at Wards Farm in August 1940, when three bombs dropped at St John’s Church, by a plane approaching from the west, caught by a single searchlight. Mr Dawson (owner of North End Post Office shop) decided to find out where they had dropped, set off on his bike and promptly rode into the crater in the road.
A road block was created at Wards Farm for checking ID’s and the Home Guard used the upper part of the barn when not on Patrol.
A look-out post was formed at The Kennels with good views, heavily sand bagged and could have been defended. Part of the stable block at the Felbridge Hotel was used for night duties, resting between patrols round the village and brewing up.
Parades were arranged for Sunday mornings at 10.00 and Thursday evenings at 20.00, usually in the Institute. Route marches and exercises were held, such as manning the pill boxes on the defence line at Horne with the Irish Guards. Lectures by Lt. Thomas, Sgt. Relf and Irish Guards’ Officers on map reading, gas, road block tactics, grenades and bombs were given.
Pay Parades were held monthly and a Church Parade was held at Felbridge on 29th March 1942.
Rifle practice took place at Marden Park and on the outdoor range at Hobbs Barracks. Drill and lectures were also given by Irish Guards at Hobbs Barracks. PT was held at Baldwins Hill on Monday evenings. Fighting Patrols were also formed during 1941, led by younger Lance Corporals.
Eric Martin, member of the Felbridge Home Guard 1940-2
During the war I can remember being taken to a Magic Lantern show at the old Felbridge Village Institute, (I suppose I was about eight years old), I thought it was wonderful! One thing that really stuck in my mind was the black and white poster on the wall, I think it was just a head an shoulders and the message ‘Keep mum she’s not dumb’ and a friend of mine remembers another one ‘Be like Dad, keep Mum’.
Ann Hillman, née Agates
The children from Felbridge School would collect wild plants and seeds that were dried and sent to help the war effort. I remember having to pick the lavender that grew in long beds either side of the path leading to the front door of the old School House.
Memories from the Hedgecourt area
Living next to Hedgecourt Farm I remember that the lake had barbed wire on it during the war. Army lorries used to park up in the field outside Hedgecourt Cottages and in a field opposite the cottages there were an anti-aircraft guns. There was often a barrage balloon in the area. I remember one day watching a Spitfire chasing a German plane and the pilot waved to us. I also remember that Double Summertime was introduced to enable longer working days on the land.
Pamela Oram née Mitchell
We thought they were spies!
I was evacuated to Rowplatt Lane during the war and a neighbour of ours, Mrs Cree, would go out in air raids and shine her torch up into the sky, we all thought she was a spy trying to attract German attentions, but actually, Mr and Mrs Cree were the air raid wardens for our area.
Tales from the ‘Flutter Bat’ tree
One of the chestnut trees in Crawley Down Road had large crevasses in the bottom part that acted as seats, which the village men, Mr Sargent, Cyril booker, Mr Christopher, Mr Maynard and Mr Parnell, called the ‘Flutter Bat’ tree. During the war they used to sit on it in the evening and chew over what had happened during the day. They often said that when the moon reached the telegraph pole there would be an air raid and there inevitably was! One day we were sitting out there when a doodle bug’s engine stopped. Mr Sargent threw myself and my cousin in the ditch and lay over us. The doodle bug landed up at Gullege but the impact brought the ceiling down in Chapel Cottages all over Mrs Sargent.
On another day a hurricane was doing a victory roll over the village and lost one of its wheels, this too landed up at Gullege. The RAF men made tents out of the wings whilst waiting to be picked up. They also let the children sit in the cockpit.
Another day there was a spitfire that ran out of petrol during the Battle of Britain and landed at the back of Taddy Redman’s field, [Birches Cottage, Crawley Down Road]. Taddy was working in the field at the time, ploughing, needless to say it gave him a fright! Danny Sargent went had breakfast with the men one morning and eventually the plane was taken apart and taken away.
Resident of Felbridge
World War II memories
My age at the outbreak of the war was eight years. The way of life changed for us significantly from being quiet and tranquil – apart from the summer Sundays when ‘the visitors’ came down from London to very busy. The ‘visitors’ were French, Belgian and Italian families who my grandfather (also French) had known before he and my father came to live in Furnace Wood in 1922. The Italian men were quite noisy when they played ‘botcher’ in the lane which was full of potholes etc., the ‘woods’ they used similar being to the sedate English game of bowls. Instead of relative tranquillity before the war we were plunged into having the air raid warnings phoned through to us (Copthorne 54) as my dad was the ARP warden. David, my brother, and I helped deliver sandbags and went with the Home Guard on manoeuvres which meant all the children covering themselves with bracken and tying grass across so that the enemy would trip up. Also I remember that Parades were held on The Star car park with all the Services – Scouts, St John’s Ambulance and Red Cross, of which I was a member towards the end of the war at the age of twelve in 1943. Later in the war my father became an ambulance driver and at the end of the first week he had his first pay in many a long year – he held up his four £1 notes which made him feel quite wealthy.
Our house was a wooden one with a small coal range for cooking. We had a tin bath in the kitchen and boiled kettles to heat the water. My mother totally disliked ration books and threw them away at the first opportunity. With four adults and four children to support from the land it was a scratched living and although we kept chickens we seldom ate them ourselves. The bread was delivered by horse and wagon but was very course as was the porridge with many pieces of husk in it. There was enough to eat but it was very basic. We collected milk from Prevett’s farm in ‘The Wood’.
With the arrival of Jewish families who occupied six bungalows in Felcot Road, the need for vegetables increased and my father cultivated more land.
My mother had a very hard life but was most of the time tough and cheerful. With two young babies and my father’s illness she had to draw the water up from the well in a bucket – no pump, carry the bucket of dirty water out, feed the chicken and much more. For days before every Christmas she was plucking and trussing chickens. Boiler chickens were for family consumption at Christmas only.
We children slept in the cellar under my grandparent’s wooden house for a long time. The lavvy was way up the garden path with often a muddy patch to go through. An air-raid shelter had been dug underground in Grandpa’s orchard but was not used a great deal. Grandma prayed with us sometimes during air-raids.
At Felbridge School I remember being in the shelter a few times. We had signing of songs we knew and some that the evacuees sung such as ‘Green Door’. Mrs Rose was their teacher and very strict. She was my teacher for a while so evacuees were mixed into all three classes. Previously there had only been two classrooms- one each side of the assembly room/dining room in which a public library run on Friday evenings. The name of the man who ran the library escapes me but I remember he wore plus fours. My cousin Yvonne came to Felbridge School for a short time around 1941. She and my maternal grandmother stayed with our paternal grandparents because they had been bombes out of their house in Horsham.
Later, when I was at St Peter’s School, our teacher was taking us to Brooklands swimming pool and told us that the news of the D Day landings had been announced on the wireless that morning. At senior school I remember the windows of the canteen of the old Sackville School (now Chequer Mead Arts Centre) were shattered by enemy aircraft machine gun fire but fortunately my class arrived back at school from Brooklands after the event. I also remember that there was a soup day held at the school on Fridays.
David and I were evacuated to Aberystwyth in 1943. The first billet was with the station master. I struggled trying to remember what my mother looked like. In one of my father’s letters, which I still have, he wrote that ninety-one doodle bugs had passed over ‘The Wood’ in one day.
The Felbridge Herb Gatherers were after my time at Felbridge School but I do remember I took rose hips and coltsfoot flowers sometimes. I feel very ashamed to say that in order to supply the fighting soldiers abroad with parcels of cigarettes, chocolate and socks; I went into my grandfather’s garden and pulled his radishes, bunched them up and sold them to the neighbours without his permission. I had to sit on a chair and not talk until I had admitted that I was the culprit!
We saw the glow in the sky when London/Croydon was being bombed, the barrage balloons and search lights. We heard and saw the doodle bugs (VI), (‘Cheeky blighter’ my father said, ‘he’s got his lights on’) – the flames that propelled them came from the tail. There were VII rockets which were silent until they hit the ground and exploded. Towards the end of the war ‘The Wood’ was littered with strips of silver paper. This was to stop the enemy detecting our newly used radar system. The English fighter planes went across on their missions in formation but returned limping home – three at a time.
Mostly the wireless was switched on only for the news. My grandfather, being French, was quite shocked when he heard that France had capitulated. His Italian, or may be Belgian friends, Mr and Mrs Koda, were on board the Lucitania ship when it was sunk during the crossing of the Atlantic . I remember the Canadian soldiers were camped at Domewood. On one occasion they were cooking and eating in the short length of lane which runs from Lake View Road to Felcot Road in Furnace Wood. My brother enjoyed being there with them.
Although Grandpa had lived in England for fifty-four year, the Crawley Down policeman cycled to check his papers once a month for most of the war. He didn’t leave home often so he enjoyed having a chat with the policeman, the coalman and Mr Steer when he brought the paraffin for our lamps, heaters and primus.
I’ll end my reminiscences with tulips. I think the staff of Timothy Whites and Taylor’s must have been quite amused at me venturing into their shop week after week and asking for tulip bulbs when we were at the start of the war. I didn’t see the film ‘No Hiding Place’ which was filmed at Hobbs Barracks, but I have the book written by Corrie ten Boom, on which the film is based, in which she writes ‘No tulips turned fields into carpets of colour: the bulbs had all been eaten’.
Betty Salmon née Subtil, formerly of Kia-Ora, Felcot Road, Furnace Wood
An evacuee remembers
In the autumn of 1940, my mother, Daisy Cornish, and I were billeted at Maicot (now Spring Cottage) on the Copthorne Road in Felbridge. We left London fairly soon after the outbreak of War and initially, spent about a year in Godstone until we were displaced by some Canadian soldiers. After a few weeks in Lingfield, we moved in with Mrs Morris at Maicot. She was living alone, recently widowed, with one son, Cecil, serving in Burma and another, Rob, who lived with his wife Doreen and daughter Angela, in Ashurst Wood. Not long after we arrived Mrs Morris heard that Cecil had been taken prisoner by the Japanese. She was devastated, knowing full well that his chances of surviving the terrible Burma Road were remote.
We settled into our new quarters and I started school at Felbridge Primary, just down the road. At that time there were just three classes; infants – Miss Kilmister, juniors – Miss Coutts and seniors – Miss Dowding, who was also the Head. I was quickly promoted to the juniors as I could already read. There I met Pam Roberts and we became inseparable. We had a nativity play at school, and in the spring a grand production of Cinderella. My first, and last, leading role!
Two other London families were also billeted in Felbridge; Mrs Wilkins and her daughter Anne and Mrs Ennis with her daughter Barbara and baby Peter. The three London mums would meet us from school each afternoon and we would go for a long walk before going back to our billets for dinner. Pam tagged along with us, but on her first outing she fell into Hedgecourt Lake, so our mothers first met over a wet and bedraggled Pamela. Thus started two remarkable friendships. Our mothers remained friends until my mother's death in 1990 and now, sixty five years later, Pam and I are still fast friends.
Our walks took us to Gullege, Imberhorne, along Cuttinglye Road to Furnace Wood and to Hedgecourt Mill and Lake, Furnace Lake and Wiremill Lake. Sometimes it was a very long walk, three or four miles and sometimes a shorter one if the weather was bad. A favourite walk in spring was to Gibbshaven Farm where there was a field of wild daffodils (Lent lilies). Pam and I would each pick a bunch and clutching them tightly, set out back to the Green and home. By the time we reached the school, our little legs were tired and so were our hands, looking back there was a sad trail of dropped daffodils on the road.
In the autumn we would go chestnuting. Sometimes we walked to Furnace Wood and sometimes just to wonderful old chestnut trees along theCrawley Down Road. I loved stomping on the chestnut "hedgehog" shells and prying out the shiny mahogany nuts. I can still hear the pops and smell the sweet nutty smell as my mother and I roasted them over our small coal fire.
We also gathered rose hips to take to the collection point at Felbridge School where we would get rosehip syrup, concentrated orange juice and cod liver oil – all guaranteed to keep us healthy on our meagre wartime diets. We picked blackberries from a huge thicket in the Park, just beyond where the Copthorne and Crawley Down Roads met at the point of the Green. We pulled the leaves down with walking sticks and scrambled to pick and eat the sweet ripe berries. Scratched and stained purple with juice, we would carry our harvest home to make jam and pies with carefully hoarded sugar rations. Some we would take to school for the 'orange juice ladies' who had extra sugar rations to make jam for the troops.
There was always the rumble of convoys along the Copthorne Road. One Saturday morning, Pam and I begged her mother for dressing up clothes and shoes to play Princesses. She thought we were in the garden, but hearing the rumble and clatter of the convoy grind to a halt, she walked to the front gate and looked over to the Green. There was one little blonde girl, Pam, and one little dark-haired girl, me, performing for the cheering and clapping troops. We, two five year olds, had stopped the British Army in its tracks!
Not long after we came to Felbridge the school decided to offer a hot midday meal to the pupils. Many had a long walk to school and back and had to bring sandwiches. My mother had worked in a restaurant in the City in London and volunteered to set up and run the kitchen with the help of the two other evacuee mums. She was in her element and was soon making pots of Irish stew, tasty Lancashire hot pot and her speciality, rice pudding.
By then, the realities of war were coming more often to Felbridge. There had been the terrible tragedy of the bombing of the East Grinstead cinema, with the loss of about two hundred innocent lives, many of them children. Stray bombs fell on Felbridge and we gleefully collected shrapnel to swap in the playground. The convoys continued to rumble through the village. At night, the searchlights would briefly illuminate our blackout darkened houses. Shopping trips to East Grinstead showed us first hand the terrible effects of battle in the horribly scarred and reconstructed faces of McIndoe's Guinea Pigs – the burned and disfigured soldiers and airmen from the special plastic surgery unit at Queen Victoria Hospital, run by Sir Archibald McIndoe.
We had air raid drills at school, under the desks in the classroom and under the folding tables at lunchtime. Lunch was very civilized. Each table was named from a different plane. I was a Hurricane. We took turns to serve the person across from us. We were drilled to stop anything we were doing if the air raid warning sounded and to immediately get under cover. I remember one day I was at the head of the queue standing in front of my mother who was serving rice pudding. She ladled two generous portions on to my plates, then the siren went off. Being an obedient and literal child, I threw the two plates of pudding back to my mother and dived under the nearest table. There I got into a hassle with a small boy, who said ‘You can't come under our table, we're Spitfires and you're Hurricane!’ I yelled ‘It doesn't matter; we'll all be killed anyway!’ All that happened was a cow was killed by a stray stick of bombs and my mother was dripping with rice pudding!
One of my strongest memories is of the cheerful stoicism of the mums. Rising to the challenge of making do and mending they could unravel worn jumpers, wash the wool, dye it and knit it up again. They stretched our meagre rations creatively, making plain but wholesome food supplemented by home-grown vegetables, hedgerow fruits and windfalls from local trees. We ate a lot of Spam, bullybeef, reconstituted eggs and dried milk. My mother made salad greens by blanching dandelions with an old brick. Rabbit was also a staple food, but we had to be careful not to crack our teeth on the lead shot. My mother would scrape the skins, stretch them on a wooden board and rub them with alum to cure them, and then she sewed them into fur-lined mittens to ward off the inevitable winter chilblains. The Roberts kept chickens and preserved their eggs in a bucket of isinglass kept in the downstairs loo. Mrs Roberts cooked up evil-smelling chicken mash from food scraps and peelings in an old pressure cooker. Nothing went to waste.
I remember looking at a display of wax fruit in the windows of Letheby & Christophers in East Grinstead and being told that after the war we would have the real things (bananas, oranges and grapes) again – such luxuries, such dreams. As we did our daily walks through the woods and fields, led by my mother, we would all sing – old music hall songs, Show tunes from the 30's and ‘hits’ by Vera Lynn – White Cliffs of Dover was a favourite. Thus we kept up our spirits as we trudged along. And so our lives went on despite the uncertainties of air raids, the horror of damaged and burning planes, and talk of the terrible blitz on London.
My father would drive down from London on his motorbike and sidecar about once a month. He and my mother would talk quietly about the bombing. Eventually our flat was bombed out and he had to rescue what furniture and belongings he could and move in with his brother in another part of London. He had joined the Home Guard and between that and his job of hauling tarmac to make runways on new air bases, he had little time to visit. He would walk into our room, peeling off his motorbike clothes and smelling of the cold, damp outside and his special brand of St Julian tobacco. It always felt like a small Christmas when we were a family again. Like most wartime couples, it was very hard for my parents to spend so much time apart. Despite my mother's growing love of the countryside, her job cooking for us all at school and her new friends she desperately wanted us all to be together again.
Later in 1942 there was a lull in the bombing and my father decided to try to move us back to the London suburbs. I wanted to be back with my dad, but I also didn't really want to leave Felbridge. Like my mother, I had developed a deep appreciation of the woods and fields of Felbridge. I delighted in learning the names of the trees and wild flowers all around us, including the little white wild flowers that carpeted the woods in spring, they were dubbed "wooden enemies" by Pam! I knew where to find cowslips and the best banks for primroses and violets. I watched for the dog roses to unfurl in the summer and for the shiny red hips decorating the hedges in the autumn. Then something happened to precipitate our leaving Felbridge.
Once a week, Mrs Morris would walk down Copthorne Road to visit with friends. As it was after dark when she started back for home, my mother would walk halfway to meet her. The last part of the path along Copthorne Road made Mrs Morris nervous because there were trees between it and the road, making a dark "tunnel". One Friday evening my mother tucked me into bed and set out to meet Mrs Morris. As she walked through the "tunnel" of trees she heard footsteps following her. She speeded up and so did they. She glanced quickly behind her but couldn't see anyone in the pitch dark. She hurried up again, her heels tapping on the path. Suddenly, someone grabbed her and hit her hard on the head. She screamed and stumbled forward, blood streaming into her eyes. At that point a car came along the road and lit up the path. My mother saw Mrs Morris and ran screaming towards her – her attacker ran off as the headlights beamed on to him. Mrs Morris got my mother home and called the police and a doctor. She had a nasty scalp wound that took several stitches to close it. Later the police found a broken bottle that had been used as a weapon. They decided that it was a case of mistaken identity, possibly a soldier from nearby Hobbs Barracks, who had had a falling out with a local girl. Then my father arrived and calm was restored.
Eventually my father found us a house to rent in Chislehurst in Kent, far enough out of London to have woods, fields and ponds. We moved in January 1943, just in time for the VI rockets, the dreaded "doodlebugs". But the pull of Felbridge was still strong. During school holidays my mother and I would get up early and catch the three buses that took us back to Felbridge. As we got off at the Star on the London Road, I always felt that I was coming home.
After the war, when I was at Grammar School I would ride my bike down to Felbridge and stay with Pam. Sometimes she would come and stay with us and sometimes I would go on holiday with the Roberts. Our parents continued to visit and sometimes took holidays together. We grew up, married and in 1968 I moved with my four children (and the cat) to the United States. We continued transatlantic visits. The Roberts were my other family. Over the years, and many moves later, Felbridge has become the place where I claim my roots. For a small child it was an idyllic island in a war torn country, where friendship overcame all the uncertainties and deprivations of the times. It also set the seeds of my future career as a biologist and teacher. The lessons learned during our after school walks through the woods and fields of Felbridge have been passed on to the many students I have encountered in forty three years as a teacher.
Felbridge will always be my home.
Barbara Whiter, née Cornish, Webster Groves, Missouri
Our War – The bombing of Lingfield County Secondary School
My friend Margaret and I have always been friends since 1936, as we lived next door to each other in Felbridge, a small village in Surrey. At the age of eleven we both left Felbridge School to go to Lingfield County Secondary School. On the morning of Tuesday 9th February 1943, we left our homes at 8.20am as usual, and walked to the bottom of Rowplatt Lane to wait for the coach. Three coaches collected children from around the villages to take us to Lingfield to school.
It was a wet, dark morning, and as we waited on the side of the road, chatting as usual, we heard the steady drone of an aeroplane, German of course. We knew at once, as they all sounded different from ‘ours’. As we watched, skywards we saw a German Bomber, slowly approaching. It tilted slightly as it passed overhead and we could see the unmistakeable markings of a German cross under the wings. At that moment the sirens wailed, we didn’t take much notice as after three and a half years of war we had grown complacent – it was part of our daily lives.
The coach arrived and we climbed aboard. Some 20 minutes later we reached the village of Lingfield. We rounded the last bend and complete devastation greeted us. Debris everywhere, houses with windows broken, a complete row of old and tiny cottages lay with roofs open to the sky, still with fires smouldering. Disaster had only just struck and people were rushing about everywhere. The coach driver picked his way carefully through the village, round the pond and into the High Street.
A fire engine was standing in the school playground, the Gas Company repair lorry also stood there. My dad must have been there somewhere, as he was in charge of ‘Repair Party Gas’. It was these men who had to attend to turn off the gas to the mains. The playground at the front was littered with wood and broken glass. Smoke was still pouring from the back of the main building and something seemed to have disappeared altogether. As children do, we all climbed over to the side of the coach so we could see easier, and now we could see that the roof of the Assembly Hall had gone.
Mrs. Huddspeth, our music teacher came running across the playground to the coaches. The driver must take us all home, the school had received a direct hit on the Geography room, three classrooms, the Assembly Hall, the girls’ cloakrooms, and the ladies staffrooms had all gone. The girls corridors, which were supposed to be bomb-proof (!) had come down like a pack of cards. Two teachers, two children, and Jessie the cleaner were all dead. Another elderly teacher was being dug out, seriously injured, who had the two dead children round her. So in a dazed sort of way, we went home. What next?
My father arrived home that evening, plainly distressed, he had been helping with the rescue work. He was very upset as he had a lot to do with the school, helping to run the Air Training Corps for boys and girls, and the classes for Aircraft Recognition for which he was trained. A few days later a message arrived from Lingfield via our Infants School that we were to attend our Infants Schools with a teacher from Lingfield until arrangements could be made for some temporary accommodation. We didn’t think much of that! Go back to Infants! However, it wasn’t for long. We went back and were told that some of our classes were to be held in ‘The Old Star Inn’ public house near the church in Lingfield. That might be fun! The rest of the school building had been temporarily repaired. The class rooms that opened on to the hall now had outside walls and doors, proving to be quite draughty in winter! The murals and decorations of the old hall now appeared on the outside!
Our maths classes were now held in the pub, which was only a short distance down a narrow ‘twitten’ and we soon got used to it. Maybe we could waste a bit time to shorten lessons….but it was not to be, the teachers carefully worked out the timetables to allow for time! The place still smelt slightly from beer – especially the Public Bar! The children soon forget, and we gradually settled to a new routine. Soon there were too many children joining the school, and by the summer some more alternative accommodation had been found. A charming little Manor House at the top of Jacksbridge Hill, next to some apple orchards had been found. Even further to walk! By the time we had walked up and down two or three times a day between school and house we were very fit! The War went on and Margaret and I, and all our friends got older and left Lingfield School to earn our livings.
Mavis V Porter née Hopper formerly of Felbridge, now of Findon Valley, Worthing, West Sussex
Time to Remember
I remember one summer evening a crowd of us children, including Mavis Hopper and David Wedge, were playing rounders in the School field at Felbridge, all of a sudden we heard a plane approaching over the trees from the Copthorne Road. We stood and watched for a moment then realised it was a German Bomber flying very low, we then had to run for our lives as he machine gunned us and we threw ourselves under the hedge by the Chestnut trees for cover. We were very frightened but felt lucky to be alive. The German plane was followed by one of our fighters and we believe it crashed in Sharpthorne.
Margaret Owden, née Pentecost
Bombs around Park Farm
Our house was close to the Barracks [Hobb’s Barracks], close enough that we could hear the bugle, and the Irish Guards used to practise their marching and Band practise in the lane from Hobb’s to near our house at Park Farm, so we heard the pipe band playing quite often.
I remember one night we saw a plane come down in flames. That would have been the one that crashed at Wiremill. Also, when Woodcock Hill was bombed, the bombs whistled down. They landed all around the house called ‘The Sheiling’, but the owner was deaf and didn’t hear them. Fortunately she survived.
Park Farm also had two bombs fall in the filed at the side of our house and a bit of a bomb went through our bird aviary, luckily no birds escaped. I also remember on another day, in the same field, a plane that was so low that it was below the height of the hedge, it was a fighter plane but I don’t know what that was doing.
Joyce Chewter, née Streeter
Flying Bomb attacks started in 1944 and it is said that if you heard the drone of its engine you were alive. Launched from the French coast the Flying Bomb or V1 as it was known, would fly until its engine failed then it would fall to the ground and explode. The last V1 to land in Britain came down on 25th March 1945 near Lower Barn Farm to the east of the Felbridge Hotel, behind North End. Fortunately, casualties were slight but damage to property was extensive and wide spread, affecting as far away as the houses in Imberhorne Lane.
War Damage Reports
World War II
‘War is coming’ was the talk as to the school we would walk.
Gas masks issued at the hall, in various sizes, mine was small.
Stacked at school they would sit underneath the Cuckoo clock.
A dug out shelter under trees, the camouflage was made of leaves.
We sang songs to drown the noise made up there by our brave boys.
Crisscross tape upon the glass to prevent damage from a blast.
Under the desks we would dive if there wasn’t time to hide,
We had two teams, Spitfire and Hurricanes, but we got mixed
Ensuing arguments would leave us vexed.
Buckets of water to quench the flames,
Buckets of sand to do the same.
Air Raid wardens dressed in navy with tin hats would blow their whistles
And shout to take cover from enemy missiles.
During the night it was ‘Put out that light’.
Posters on notice boards would say ‘Dig for Victory’.
The boys at school were not so keen. We did our bit to help weeding.
Anderson shelters were the rage; to dig the hole took us an age.
‘Careless talk costs lives’ we were told. To talk to strangers would be too bold.
At Lingfield Senior School, food parcels arrived,
Cheese cubes for lunchtime snack.
Chocolate powder for making drinks never got beyond the gate,
Finger dipping was its fate.
Armoured cars and tanks on the road did travel; you could hear the crunching gravel.
The Irish Guards were on Parade, you could hear them as their Pipe Band played.
Meeting tonight the Home Guard said, ‘Polish your buttons for inspection’,
The Fire Service polished their Engine instead.
‘The War is over’, everyone shouted, ‘Hang out the bunting and Union Jacks’.
My father planted a colourful hue, of flowers, in ‘Red, White and Blue’.
Jean Roberts née Sargeant
VE Day celebrations
At the end of the war we celebrated VE Day, we had a lovely party in the Felbridge playing field where the Village Hall now stands. I think it was arranged by the Felbridge Home Guard, of which my father was a member. We had sports and games in the afternoon before a tea and a large bonfire in the evening. It all seemed very exciting after five years of war, and going to the seaside and not being able to go near the beaches because of barbed wire defences. War was a terrible thing and something you would never wish another generation to live through, sadly quite a few people lost only sons in the war who lived in Felbridge.
Ann Hillman, née Agates
Greater love hath no man that he lay down his life for his friends
For over sixty years there was no memorial in Felbridge to the service men who laid down their lives during World War II. The only references to anyone not returning from the war were to be found discreetly inscribed on relative’s headstones or, in the case of FO Albert Cheesewright, a pair of credence tables in St John’s Church. In the year of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II it seemed a fitting tribute to erect a memorial to these men and found there to be eighteen men with Felbridge connections that have lain unrecognised for their services. Sadly, due to Diocesan formalities, it was not possible for the memorial to be erected in 2005 so these service men will have to wait a little longer for their deserved remembrance memorial.
F.O. Gerald Dennis Carroll
Gerald was born in 1921, the son of Charles Michael and Luisa Margaret Carroll who joined Luisa’s mother, Mrs Horsefield, at 6 Wembury Park in Newchapel in 1943. Gerald joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 138 Squadron, and F.O. Gerald Dennis Carroll 137405 was killed on 8th February 1944, aged twenty-one when the aircraft he was in crash-landed. Seven young airmen were killed in the crash, five Britain’s, and two Canadians, Gerald being one of the British. He was buried in Grave No.7 of the Autrans Communal Cemetery in France. The small town of Autrans, west of Grenoble, is situated high up in the Vercors. On 31st July 2004, a small monument was dedicated to the memory of the airmen by the town’s people of Autrans at the place where the crash occurred, an area that is inaccessible during the winter months.
Capt. Michael John Carroll
Michael was born in 1917, the son of Charles and Luisa Carroll, and older brother of Gerald Dennis Carroll. He joined the 113 Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery, where he rose to the rank of Captain. Capt. Michael John Carroll, 124063, was killed on 10th September 1943, five months before his younger brother Gerald, and was buried in Grave III. A. 1 in the Salerno War Cemetery in Italy. Allied Forces had invaded the Italian mainland on 3rd September 1943, and Commonwealth and American Forces landed near Salerno on 8th/9th September 1943 which was followed by fierce fighting for several days in the bridgehead that they established. The site of the cemetery was chosen in November 1943 and it contains many burials resulting from the landings and the fight that followed in which Capt. Michael John Carroll was killed.
2nd Lt. Patrick Milne Carroll
Patrick was born in 1920, the son of Charles and Luisa Carroll and middle brother of Michael John and Gerald Dennis Carroll. He joined the Royal Tank Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps rising to the rank of Second Lieutenant. 2nd Lt. Patrick Milne Carroll 187261 was killed on 22nd July 1942 and is remembered on Column 29 of the Alamein Memorial in Egypt. This memorial forms the entrance of the El Alamein War Cemetery that contains the bodies of Commonwealth Forces who fought in the campaigns in the Western Desert, especially those who died in the Battle of El Alamein in 1942. Patrick was the first of the Carroll brothers to be killed in action, the war claiming three of the Carroll children.
F.O. Albert George Frederick Cheesewright
Albert was born in 1901, and served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves during World War II. Flying Officer, Albert George Frederick Cheesewright, 65030, was killed on 4th May 1942, aged forty-one. His name appears on the Singapore Memorial,Singapore, Column 412. The Memorial stands in the Kranji War Cemetery, and bears the names of 24,000 casualties of the Commonwealth land and air forces that have no known grave. The airmen who are commemorated died during operations over the whole of Southern and Eastern Asia and the surrounding seas. Unfortunately little else is known about his personal life, except that he was married to a lady called Dorothy, who at the time of his death in 1942, was recorded as living at Earls Court, London.
Sap. Harold Curtis
Harold was born in 1916, the son of Frederick and Florrie Curtis, of ‘Trevore’, Copthorne Road, Felbridge. With the outbreak of World War II on 3rd September 1939, Harold signed up with the No. 2 Bomb Disposal Section of the Royal Engineers. However, it was not defusing a bomb that caused the death of Sapper Harold Curtis, 1888425, on Thursday 31st October 1940, at the age of twenty-four. He had been on leave and had returned to Barracks. On his arrival he was requested to take a message, by motorbike, and it was whilst on this duty that he was involved in a fatal accident. His body was returned to Felbridge and he was buried in the churchyard at St John’s.
Lt. C Francis Drake
C Francis Drake was born 7th September 1911, the son of John Bernard and Beatrice Louisa Drake, and grandson of Anne Louisa and C Bernard Drake. C Bernard Drake, MA, was Rector of Leverington, Cambridgeshire, and some time after his death his widow Anne moved to The Limes, Felbridge, naming the house Leverington. C Francis married a lady called Dorothea, who at the time of his death was recorded as living in Germiston, Transvaal, South Africa. Francis served with No.12 Squadron of the South African Air Force rising to the position of Lieutenant. LT. C Francis Drake, 102340, died in active service on Thursday 4th June 1942, aged thirty. He is buried in the Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery in Egypt, in grave no. 12. C. 7. All the graves in the Halfaya Sollum Cemetery were brought in from the surrounding area to centralise them and give them a safe location in a sensitive area, being only a short distance from the Libyan border. The cemetery contains 2,046 Commonwealth burials of World War II, of which 238 are unidentified. Francis is also remembered in the churchyard of St John’s, on the grave slab of his grandmother, Anne Louisa Drake, who at the time of her death was aged ninety-one, and was buried on 18th September 1942. Also recorded on her gravestone is:
F.O. John Randal Drake
John Randal was born in 1909, brother of C Francis Drake, and married a lady called Sonia, who at the time of his death was living at Victoria, London. John Randal served with the 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves during World War II, rising to the rank of Flying Officer. F.O. John Randal Drake, 115207, was killed in active service on Thursday 1st October 1942, aged thirty-three, and his name appears on the Runnymeade Memorial, Surrey, that overlooks the Thames, panel number 66. The Runnymeade Memorial stands on Cooper’s Hill, at Englefield Green, between Windsor and Egham, and commemorates the names of over 20,000 airmen lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe. The circumstances of John Randal Drake’s death are not known, and as well as the Runnymeade Memorial, his name also appears on the grave slab of his grandmother Anne Louisa Drake, along with Francis Drake, his brother, who also died in 1942.
1st O. Gilbert Christopher Gould
Gilbert was born in 1907, the son of Gilbert and Grace Gould. He married Esme Maude and they had at least one daughter called Mary. Both Gilbert and Esme were school teachers and the family home was Tangle Hedge, The Limes in Felbridge. Gilbert joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, rising to the rank of First Officer. 1st O. Gilbert Christopher Gould was killed on 8th February 1945, when the taxi plane in which he was travelling crashed into the North Downs, he was aged thirty-eight, and was laid to rest at Golders Green Crematorium.
Sap. Mark Heselden
Mark was born on 7th March 1916, the son of William Mark Heselden and his wife Edith née Cosson. Mark joined the family building firm of W M Heselden & Sons Ltd. in 1930, working as a carpenter. On 4th April 1940, he married Winifred Emily Alison Potter, and they had one son called Keith, born in 1942. In 1940, Mark was called up under the Government’s direction of labour policy for World War II to carry out duties working on aircraft engines. He worked first at Gatwick and later at Southampton, and whilst in Southampton the Germans bombed his unit heavily. Later Mark joined the 174 Workshops and Park Company of the Royal Engineers, and was due to take part in the Normandy invasion of 6th June 1944, but Sapper Mark William Heselden, 14379084, was fatally injured just a fortnight earlier when an army lorry in which he was travelling was involved in a road accident. Mark died the following day on 23rd May 1944, at the age of twenty-eight, his body returned to Felbridge to be buried at St John’s.
F. Lt. Geoffrey Robert Humphries
Geoffrey was born in 1917, the son of William and Daisy Humphries of Felbridge, and in his short life had gained a Bachelor of Philosophy. Geoffrey joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 159 Squadron, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. F. Lt. Geoffrey Robert Humphries, 82962, was killed on 23rd February 1943 and is remembered on Column 423 of the Singapore Memorial in the Kranji War Cemetery in Malaya. After the fall of the island the Japanese established a prisoner of war camp at Kranji and after the reoccupation of Singapore, the small cemetery started by the prisoners of Kranji was developed into a permanent war cemetery by the Army Graves Service after it became clear that other war cemeteries would not remain undisturbed.
Sgt. (Air Gunner) Royston Elvin Keel
Royston, known as Roy, was born in 1925, the son of Bertie and Ellen Keel of 1 The Firs, Crawley Down Road, Felbridge. Roy joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 218 Squadron, rising to the rank of Sergeant (Air Gunner). SGT. (Air Gnr) Royston Elvin Keel, 1809996, was killed on 1st January 1945 and was buried in Grave No.VII.D.17 in the Leopoldsburg War Cemetery in Limburg in Belgium. Many of the airmen buried there were shot down or crashed in raids on strategic objectives in Belgium, or while returning from missions over Germany.
Sig. Cecil Morris
Cecil was born in 1909, the son of Herbert and May Morris of Maicot, (now Spring Cottage), Crawley Down Road, Felbridge. Cecil married Emily Selina and they moved to East Grinstead. Little else is known about Cecil’s personal life. In World War II, Cecil was called up and served as a Signalman, with the 18th Division of Signalmen, in the Royal Corps of Signals. Signalman Cecil Morris, 2354987, died a Prisoner of War, on Tuesday 25th January 1944, aged thirty-five. He is buried in the Chungkai War Cemetery, Thailand, in grave no. 3. E. 3. This cemetery contains the remains of the Commonwealth and Dutch prisoners of war that had been forced to work by the Japanese on the notorious Burma-Siam railway. The railway was a project to improve communications to support the large Japanese Army in Burma. During its construction approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway, later moved to the Chungkai Cemetery. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar). The two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma, worked from opposite ends to meet in the middle. The Japanese aimed to complete the project in fourteen months and work began in October 1942. The line, nearly 263 miles (424km) long, was completed in December 1943.
The Chungkai Cemetery was started by the prisoners of war of the Chungkai Camp, which was one of the base camps on the Burma-Siam railway, and it contained a hospital and church built by the Allied prisoners of war. Most deaths, including those forced to work on the railway, were due to malnutrition, malaria, dysentery and pellagra, a vitamin deficiency disease. There are 1,427 Commonwealth burials in the cemetery from the Second World War. It is unclear whether Cecil Morris was one of those forced to work on the Burma-Siam railway as his date of capture is not known, but if he did work on the line, he survived that only to die of one of the previously mentioned causes of death.
Cecil’s father Herbert did not live to know the outcome of his son’s fate in World War II as he died in February 1941, and was buried in St John’s churchyard. A memorial to Cecil Morris was placed on this grave by his mother May and wife Emily in the form of a square block-shaped stone urn.
Sgt. Alfred Joseph Muggeridge
Alfred was born in 1913, the son of John and Ellen Muggeridge of Felbridge. He joined the 422 General Transport Company of the Royal Army Service Corps, rising to the rank of Sergeant. Sgt. Alfred Joseph Muggeridge, T/173644, was killed on 2nd December 1942, aged twenty-nine. He is buried in grave no. 1.B.2 of the Tel el Kebir War Memorial Cemetery, northeast of Cairo in Egypt. During World War I, Tel el Kebir had been a training centre for Australian reinforcements and the site of a large prisoner of war camp. During World War II the site became a hospital centre and a large ordnance depot was established there, with many workshops for the repair of armoured cars and other weapons of war.
Lt. John Seymour Pears
John was born in 1915 the son of Harry and Kate Pears who moved from Brighton to Newchapel House in 1924. John was well educated and attained a BA at Trinity College. With the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted with the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons), Royal Armoured Corps, rising to the rank of Lieutenant. He was part of the Allied Forces that invaded the Italian mainland on 3rd September 1943, but his active service was cut short as Lieutenant John Seymour Pears, 13257, lost his life on 20th October 1943, aged twenty-eight, and was buried in grave no. VII. D. 6 in Minturno War Cemetery, in Italy.
Cpl. John Henry Stone
John Henry was born in 1916, the son of William and Mary Teresa Stone of ‘Talacre’, Copthorne Road, Felbridge. John Henry was called up to serve with the 2nd Armoured Division of Ammunition Sub-Park of the Royal Army Service Corps during World War II, rising to the rank of Corporal. This Division was in the vicinity of Greece in early 1941, at the time when the German and Italian troops were advancing towards the Egyptian frontier, and invading Yugoslavia and Greece. Between 24th April and 1st May 1941, nearly 51,000 British and Commonwealth troops were evacuated from ports in Southern Greece, leaving behind 7,000 prisoners as well as a quantity of valuable equipment. Some of those saved were sent to Crete where, in late May, they fought a bitter and ultimately unsuccessful battle against invading German airborne troops, and a further 12,000 became prisoners of war. Cpl. John Henry Stone, 188552, was killed on Saturday 26th April 1941, aged twenty-five, and his name appears on the Athens Memorial, Greece. This memorial stands within thePhaleronWarCemetery and commemorates nearly 3,000 members of the Commonwealth land forces, with no known grave, who lost their lives inGreece and Crete in 1941, and again in 1944-45, and those who lost their lives in theDodecaneseIslands andYugoslavia between 1943-45. John Stone is also remembered on the gravestone of his parents, William and Mary Stone, in the churchyard of St John’s.
F.O. Basil Thomas Vardy
Basil was born in 1920, the son of Frederick Norman and Gladys Mary Vardy of Felbridge. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, rising to the rank of Flying Officer. FO Basil Thomas Vardy was killed on 25th September 1943 at the age of twenty-three and was buried in Plot B, Row 7, Grave 7 of theKroonstadNewCemetery inFree State nearBloemfontein inSouth Africa.
Pt. Frederick Ernest Weeks
Frederick was born in 1919, the son of James and Mary Anne Weeks, and shortly before the outbreak of the war, Frederick had married Joyce Lillian Alice of Crawley Down Road, Felbridge, and they had one daughter who he never saw. When war broke out he joined the 7th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Pt. Frederick Ernest Weeks, 6402497, was killed on 18th May 1940, on his twenty-first birthday, and was buried in Plot 9, Row B, Grave 3 in theAbbevilleCommunalCemetery extension, in Abbeville near the Somme inFrance. The town of Abbeville is on the main road from Paris to Boulogne, and during the early part of World War II was a major operational airdrome, but the town had fallen to the Germans by the end of May 1940, and it would seem likely that Frederick was killed during this action.
Lt. Donald James Wilson
Donald was born in 1912, the son of John Sydney and Ruby Wilson of Felbridge. Donald gained a BA at Canterbury and was married to a lady called Kathleen when he signed up to join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, serving on HMS Neptune and rising to the rank of Lieutenant. Lt Donald James Wilson was killed on 19th December 1941 aged twenty-nine, and was buried in grave no. 2. F. 22 in the Tobruk War Cemetery in Libya. HMS Neptune, on which Donald served, was a light cruiser that had been commissioned on 23rd February 1934, and was part of the Malta-based Force K of Admiral Cunningham that was trying to intercept an Italian convoy heading for North Africa in December 1941. The Neptune capsized and sank about twenty miles off Tripolli after sailing into a newly-laid Italian minefield and hitting four mines. A total of 765 officers and men, including Donald, went down with the ship. The survivors of the Neptune were found floating on a raft four days later by two Italian torpedo boats. Of the sixteen men on board only one was alive, Leading Seaman John Norman Walton was the only survivor, and he became a prisoner of war.
Killed on Christmas day
Amos Edward Pattenden, known as Ted, was the son of John and Edith Pattenden. John, (christened Alfred John) was the son of Amos and Jane Pattenden of Little Hedgecourt Farm. Before their marriage in February 1911, Edith Ellen Howell, known as Edie, worked as a housemaid for Dr Charles Henry Gatty at Felbridge Place, and John worked as a labourer. They had six children, Ted being born in 1920. By the outbreak of World War II, the family had moved from Felbridge and were living on the Gravetye estate, near West Hoathly. Ted enlisted with the Coldstream Guards, rising to the rank of Lance Corporal. The Coldstream Guards consisted of two battalions; Ted was in the 2nd Battalion, which fought in North Africa between 1940 and 1943, advancing to Medjez-el-Bab, which was the limit of the Allied advance in December 1942 and which remained on the front line until decisive Allied advances in April and May 1943. Having survived the Second Battle of Alamein, Lnc. Cpl. Amos E Pattenden, 2658442, was killed on 25th December 1942, Christmas day, aged twenty-two. He was buried at theMedjez-el-BabWarCemetery inTunisia, grave no. 3.C.11.