Stray bombs

There was no NHS until after the war therefore you had to pay for the services of a doctor or hospital treatment, to avoid such costs it was necessary or at least sensible to be insured against those needs, to this end most families belonged to schemes where they paid into the ‘Panel’ a few pence per month. At that time there was a wooden hut which had once been the village ‘Reading Room’ which had been relocated to be in the grounds of St Boniface Church and about half a mile down Hursley Road from home, it was here that we would pay our subscription to Mr Pook the Prudential Insurance agent.

Mr Pook looked a bit like Capt. Mainwaring from ‘Dads Army’ in his role as the bank manager. He lived in a large detached house with an extensive garden at the top end of Hursley Road between Hiltingbury and Hocombe Road. Our gang got to know this house or rather its garden because we had befriended an evacuee from Portsmouth Grammar School who was lodged there during the ‘Blitz’. One day after a night bombing raid we called on him, outside the house was a mattress almost totally destroyed by an incendiary bomb which had crashed through the roof and onto his bed just as he left it because of the raid, the bomb was one of many that had fallen mainly into the birch wood that backed all of the houses at that point but they had caught fire to the thatched roof a lone property in Hocombe Road destroying the entire roof. The woods was also part of the garden of the house where we found a number of burnt patches with a white ash centre and the fins of the bombs and a strong smell of phosphorous. I kept one the fins for many years together with shards of shrapnel and the calibrated nose cone of an anti-aircraft shell.

On another occasion a stray bomb hit and destroyed a large detached house on Winchester Road, again between Hiltingbury and Hocombe Road, killing a man. My Uncle Doug and his family had a lucky escape when a land mine fell at the bottom of his garden in Shaftesbury Avenue, the road where I was born, The gardens of the surrounding houses which backed on to those in Keeball Road were quite long and slopped down to a footpath where the mine landed in soft soil, making a massive crater and taking off the roof tiles of most of the surrounding houses and shattering all of the windows facing in that direction, at the same time another bomb landed on a vacant plot next door to the house where my Aunt Joan lived but failed to explode, a further bomb fell in Knightwood but also failed to explode. North Baddesley was also subject to a number of stray bombs and although the amount of such events was small they were enough to warrant going to the shelter or taking cover when the siren went although some people even slept through some of the raids.

Whilst bombing was either still going on or was likely, our play area was more or less limited to the Green and near by copse and we rarely adventured further a field but one day an excavator and dumper started to dig up our playground dumping the clay soil into the copse, which eventually killed the mature oaks. On our Green they built an aircraft factory making wings for Spitfires, Hursley Park which had belonged to Sir George Cooper had already had factories built in the grounds also to do with the construction of Spitfires. Southampton Corporation buses were used morning and evening to ferry the workers in from Southampton and about a dozen double decker buses would travel very fast up and down Hursley Road swaying quite a bit as they did so. All this resulted in losing our much loved play ground thus we had to find new places to play.

As I have already mentioned that Chandlers Ford was not a target but it was subject to stray bombs, the German planes always attacked from inland, apparently the radar system which was still in its infancy was directed out to sea therefore any enemy plane that managed to cross the coast was the out of the radars range which made them much more difficult to plot, that is one possibly reason and another was that their target was more visible when approached from inland being shown up by Southampton water and the Itchen and Test Rivers with any light from the moon or other source reflecting on the water.