Medstead Memories #4
The wartime years as recalled by Ron Smith
I was born in January 1934 and lived with my father Percy, mother Marjory, and my older brother Dennis and sister Grace at Red Bushes, Boyneswood Road, Medstead (now Red Bushes House). My father ran a small transport business ‘Smith’s Transport’, running a 10 ton Dodge lorry to collect milk churns from local farms and general haulage. Unusually for the time, we had our own Ford Eight car and our own telephone (Medstead 2123).
We used to get water from our rain water tank, as mains water did not come to the outskirts of Medstead till the 1950’s (when I helped lay the pipes). If the tank ran dry, we would get Duncan & Pine to refill it from a water tanker, filled from a stand pipe in the High Street.
My father and his sisters Dolly and May ran the Windmill pub in Four Marks, which they had taken over from their mother Hannah Smith.
I well remember Neville Chamberlain’s announcement on the wireless that ‘we are now at war’. We had an old ‘Cossor’ set, with accumulators, which we had to take away to be re-charged. We were issued with gas masks and told to carry them at all times, including to school.
Food rationing was introduced and meat, butter and eggs were all rationed, supplemented by the meat and eggs from the pigs and chickens we kept ourselves.
I used to cycle to and from Medstead School (next to the church). There were about 30 in each of the 3 classes, the teachers were Mrs Perry (junior class), Miss Wallace (middle class) and Miss Daesh (?) (senior class). I remember being at school with Dorothy Blackman, Roy Bond, Philip Brown, Marjory Fidge, John Ford, Henry Hughes, John Lane, Margaret, Robert & Violet Neville, Christopher, Rosemary & Sylvia Prior, Jimmy Radbourne, Edna & Rosemary Shackleton and Betty Trustlove. There were also evacuee children from London staying at Club House Cottage in the High Street and with Mrs Arnold in South Town Road. School Christmas parties were held at Medstead Institute in Hussell Lane.
Early in the war, my father joined Medstead Home Guard, which also included Jack Dance and Arthur Pitt. They trained twice a week in the Village Hall in Castle Street and at Medstead institute. They used to patrol the village and there was a look out post on an earth mound next to the pond between Roe Downs Road and South Town Road. I remember they would sometimes ‘guard’ Boyneswood Road from trenches either side near the railway bridge. They occasionally performed ceremonial duties at the Church and elsewhere.
There was a search light post and air raid siren up a track off the West side of Lymington Bottom Road.
The school did not have an air raid shelter, presumably because most of the air raids were at night. We built an underground shelter at the bottom of our garden, whereas next door had an above ground ‘Anderson shelter’. Unless there were lots of enemy aircraft, we would usually stay in the house instead of using the shelter.
We could sometimes see the glow from the bombing of Southampton.
One night early in the war (1940/41?) a bomb dropped in the hedge between our garden and Mrs Brittan’s who lived on her own next door, with damage to both houses, but no injuries. Another bomb from the same stick, dropped on ‘Eversley’ (the end house at the top of Redhill), which was flattened by the blast, however the occupants Mr & Mrs Albert survived. Two more of the same bombs dropped in the land behind Redhill and Roe Downs Road.
On another occasion, a stick of bombs fell alongside Lymington Bottom Road, with one landing in the pond at the Five Ash crossroads and another fell next to the house on the corner between Lymington Bottom Road and Station Approach.
The Canadian army stationed around Aldershot used to come to train in Chawton Park Wood every few weeks for 3 or 4 days at a time. They were always friendly and would allow me, a mere boy, to cadge food from their field kitchen.
One night, a big British four engined bomber crash landed not far from our house in a field beside Boyneswood Lane. The fuselage remained fairly intact, but the tail plane and one wing had broken off. I thought it was a Lancaster, however it may have been the smaller Stirling. [February 18th 1943, R9163 of 214 Squadron, Stirling four engined bomber crashed at Four Marks (which at the time included Boyneswood Road), source: www.hampshireairfields.co.uk/hancrash.html]. Later in the war my father joined the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) and after training, served as a driver in Sicily and Italy.
In 1944, we occasionally heard the distinctive drone of a V1 doodlebug flying bomb, sometimes seeing them. One landed and exploded in Wield Road.
From time to time, I would stay with my granny - Hannah Smith, who lived on her own at 2 Southdown Cottages, a semi-detached cottage in South Town Road. The Pearsons lived in the other half of the semi (1 Southdown Cottages), with Mrs Arnold, who took in evacuee children, living in the house on their left (now ‘Hedges’) and the Goodyear family living in the house on Granny’s right (now ‘Sycamore Cottage’, next to the junction with Homestead Road.
I remember seeing the remains of a German Junkers JU88 twin engined bomber (and crew) which had crashed and exploded in a field between Redwood Lane and Hussell Lane.
[May 16th 1944, Junkers Ju 88A-4, Werke/Nr.550581, coded: B3 + BT, 2 engine bomber shot down by British Mosquito fighter, crashed and exploded in Medstead. The 4 crew all died.
I recall another plane, crash landing near our house, which I think was a DC3 Dakota, twin engined transport plane, which crashed in the field behind Boyneswood House, the plane was wrecked and I remember seeing the hanging straps inside the fuselage.
[February 5th 1945, KG409, a Dakota DC3 of 437 Squadron, crashed in Four Marks (which at the time included Boyneswood Road), crew bailed out after striking trees in low cloud.
I remember after peace was declared, there was much rejoicing, with a big ‘booze up’ in the pub.
There were several shops in the Village:-
John King’s hardware shop (now Medstead Hardware).
Dick Licence’s garage and petrol pump (next door to the Handy Store).
The Handy Store (as today, though not sure of the name then).
Arnold’s Butchers in the High Street (Bernard & Laura Arnold).
Broomfield’s general store in Church Lane, run by Mr Andrews (later moved to Castle Street).
The Abbey Stores in Hussell Lane run by Gordon & Kath Smith.
Mrs Snelleck at Ash Cottage, South Town Road (second hand clothes).
Eddol’s boot and shoemaker, South Town Road.
There was also a second hand clothes / charity shop in the High Street (opposite the hardware shop).
Ron Smith (Ronald George Smith)