Doug Clews lived in Chandler’s Ford between 1938 and 1966. Now living in Perth, Western Australia, Doug shares his fascinating childhood memories of Chandler’s Ford with us.
Today I’m going to share an eye-witness’ account of what happened in WWII in Winchester, recalled and written by David J. Ward, at that time a student at Peter Symonds’ School, Winchester.
When it happened, I was at Nethercliffe School in Hatherley Road in Winchester, which backed on to the Peter Symonds’ playing field, and although I did not actually see it, I share the memory because of what happened to John Kirby. See also Part 4 of my story.)
A significant day: Tuesday 9th February 1943, by David J. Ward
(The story is reproduced here with kind permission of Peter Symonds’ School Nostalgia Corner.)
“… It was whilst at Peter Symonds’ School that I saw bombs actually drop from a German aeroplane. The school buildings are on elevated ground above Winchester City with a wide sweep of grass playing field extending down hill from them. The air raid shelters were at the farthest extremity of this field which, although never used in my time, would have entailed no small exposure to hazard if it had been necessary to get to them in anger. Anyway, on the morning of Tuesday, 9th February, 1943 I had cycled to school as usual and arrived early. I was standing with a group of other boys just outside a line of classrooms at the highest point when the air raid siren was sounded. Almost at the same time an aeroplane appeared roughly on a level with us and seemingly following the railway line in the dip from the direction of Southampton. When almost directly abeam our position it dropped its bombs (17 of them according to my note written at the time). It then turned ninety degrees left to head straight for our school, at the same time climbing to get over the rising ground.
Foolishly, none of us took cover. The aeroplane passed almost directly over the top of us at something less than a hundred feet whereby we could see the bomb aimer/gunner with total clarity in the transparent, domed nose. We waved to him and I can see him, in my mind’s eye to this day, waving back at us! Of such foolhardiness are children made.
We did not hear the bombs explode. I believe they were small ones anyway. It transpired that one of the bombs went through the roof of what was then the Royal Cinema in Jewry Street. It came out through a window, bounced on the pavement and exploded, killing a man waiting for a bus in City Road, and demolishing Murray’s Clothing Store front window.
Other bombs fell at the top end of North Walls and Hyde Street where another man was killed and the greatest amount of damage evident. I know, for some years afterwards, there was a bath and piping visible high up on an exposed wall where the rest of the building had been destroyed. There was talk of somebody being in the bath at the time but I cannot vouch for its accuracy. It is likely the bomber was anxious to get rid of its load and may have aimed for Winchester railway station and marshalling yard.
I happened to keep one of my few persistent diaries in 1943, and the entry regarding this event is interesting, if only for its utter brevity.
Here is a (correctly spelled) transcript:
‘Damp – Took a model boat I made for woodwork lesson – Saw a load of tins of household milk drop off a lorry – Air raid siren went at school – I watched a Dornier Do 217 dive out of clouds and go hedge-hopping, then I saw it drop 17 bombs – Damage in Winch – Too wet for cross-country running – One other siren.’
That, in a way, summarises my war as a schoolboy. An event which, today, would make banner headlines, merits no greater measure of newsworthiness than can be squeezed between tins of milk and cross-country running …”
What’s your memory of the war years? Please leave a comment and share your story with us.
Article Series by Doug Clews
- My Memories of ‘The War Years’ in Chandler’s Ford: 1939 – 1945 (Part 1)
- My Memories of ‘The War Years’ in Chandler’s Ford: 1939 – 1945 (Part 2)
- My Memories of ‘The War Years’ in Chandler’s Ford: 1939 – 1945 (Part 3)
- My Memories of ‘The War Years’ in Chandler’s Ford: 1939 – 1945 (Part 4)
- My Memories of ‘The War Years’ in Chandler’s Ford: 1939 – 1945 (Part 5)
- My Memories of ‘The War Years’ in Chandler’s Ford: 1939 – 1945 (Part 6)
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