Cows, bombs and bombers
Most of us have been fortunate enough not to have to endure aerial bombing raids so can only imagine what one would have been like to experience at first hand. Some of our older relatives had tales to tell of bomb damage – my mother was bombed out twice, once when she was living in industrial Lancashire and once when she had been evacuated to the alleged safe haven that was Paignton in Devon – and of the sensations of fear and apprehension when the air raid sirens went off.
During the course of the war Frimley Green had to endure 344 air raid warnings, the first at 8.35 in the morning on 5th September 1939. Some were fairly short in duration whilst others would last between 10 and 12 hours. At the height of the bombing raids Frimley Green was subjected to warnings on thirty-one successive days.
On Halloween, 31st October 1943, two 500 lb bombs were dropped on the village at around 10.47 in the evening, one landing behind the shops and fire station at Wharf Road and the other behind Tipper’s garage. In all 123 houses were damaged by the blasts and over 500 windows shattered, although no one was killed or injured. The bomber then proceeded towards Camberley where it was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Struggling to control his plane the pilot turned back towards Frimley Green and crash landed in the grounds of Little Ingestre at the intersection of Wharf and St Catherine’s Road, land now occupied by care homes.
Two parachutes were found, one in some bushes and the other hanging in a tree. Apart from a wallet containing Dutch currency, some scraps of German uniform and two small fragments of flesh and bone, there was nothing left of the occupants. Of particular note was the identity of the plane. It was a Messerschmitt ME 410, the first one to be shot down in England.
On August 3rd 1940 the first bombs fell on Frimley Green, mainly targeting the Basingstoke canal and the common, although one falling at Cuffley’s Farm killed a cow. It was no fun being a cow in the area. Another cow was killed and two were so severely injured that they had to be put down when a 250 kilogram bomb was dropped at 15.05 on the afternoon of August 24th 1942 about 50 yards behind Grove Farm. It left a crater 24 feet wide and 6 feet deep which became a bit of a local attraction; as a fund raising exercise the enterprising Red Cross charged a fee to view it.
The doodlebug, the missile so called because it made a strange, intermittent buzzing noise but more ominously had a device that counted the revolutions of a tiny propeller in its nose and when it reached the number calculated to bring it over its target the engine cut out, also made frequent appearances in the area. Mostly, though, the residents heard the buzz and not the pre-detonation silence. The only one I can definitively find that landed in the area did so in the Grove, about 300 hundred yards from the Cottage Hospital in July 1944, leaving a crater and providing children with the opportunity to collect shrapnel from the cornfields, now occupied by the Grove Primary School. The force of the explosion brought down the ceiling plaster in the hospital.