---- News, Views & Information

Amersham During World War II


There are many other places in Britain which had a more notable time during World War II, but the War obviously had an impact on Amersham, perhaps the most lasting impacts being the expansion of the hospital and the creation of the Radiochemical Centre.

On this page you can read sections about -

Preparations & Evacuated from London - War Time Memories - Air RaidsFlying Bombs - Air Craft Crashes - Air Raid Evidences & Air Crashes
Special Training School XX - The Creation of the Henry Allen Nursery School - Shardeloes Maternity Hospital
  ARP, The Home Guard & Bases - The Radio Chemicals Centre - Amersham Hospital Develops - Evidence of World War II - High & Over

Evacuated From London

The growth of Amersham-on-the-Hill during the 1930s meant there were many new houses for people to move into. A lot of the people that moved into the houses came from London. During the 1930s some moved just to leave the crowded city, but others decided that with the possibility of war a move from Central London would be a wise move. When World War II broke out, more people moved out to towns like Amersham, either buying property or staying with relatives. A number of children were also evacuated either officially or unofficially to relatives. Local schools gained extra pupils transferred out from London schools.

Doris Lediard, now from Oregon recalls "I was one of many school children who were evacuated from London at the beginning of the War. We were billeted in Chesham and I rode the bus to classes at the Amersham (Challoners ed?) Grammar School. Us girls from the Chiswick County School shared the school with the Grammar School pupils, they attended in the mornings and we went in the afternoons and I think on Saturday mornings also. During the mornings our school packed into a Scout Hut in the woods to do our "prep". It stands out as one of my vivid memories, as to get to the hut we had to go by a soldier who checked our identities. Also the hut did not have any heat and many mornings the ink was frozen in the ink wells, we were so cold that we worked in our overcoats and hats. I especially remember a restaurant in the town whose kind owner allowed us "evacuees" to sit in the warm and eat our sandwiches, (it felt like heaven to us frozen girls)."

Dr. Challoners school would have been one of the many local schools to gain extra children from families moving out of London

Sylvia Osinowo recalls "I was born in Amersham in 1937, my aunt Mrs Emily Chalwin had a very small general grocery shop in London Road facing Waterworks Cottages, the site is now Tesco.  I lived in Waterworks Cotts with my mum, dad and sisters, there were six cottages in the row at the end of which was a tiny shop up a few steps owned by a Mr. Pigott.  These cottages and shop were very near Bury Farm. There was a line of cottages on the other side of the road leading up to the Police Station, some of them must have been empty at the beginning of the war, because quite a few evacuee families came to live in them and some stayed after the war.  There was also an empty public house called the Wheatsheaf which housed several families. This was in the middle of the row."

War Time Memories

The late Pete Wood, from Southern California,
recalls his memories of Amersham during the war -
"My father was mobilised on September 1st 1939 so my mother and her 2 children (I was 5) went to her parents home in Amersham. The address was then 47 Woodside Road which was later re-numbered to 115 and we lived there until Dad returned in 1945.

Woodside Road in the 1930s - Picture Courtesy of Pete Wood

"We then bought a little house at 46 Orchard Lane and I lived there until I was married in 1957. We moved in 1960 to California. I remember the incendiary raid of 1941. The little bombs were popping all around us and I found a live one next morning in King George V Playing Fields, which backed onto my garden. The night sky was as bright as day but fortunately no house fires were started.

"It was also quite common to see Spitfires flying low over Amersham chasing Nazi aircraft - truly memorable events in the life of a young boy growing up in wartime. The air raid siren outside Dr. Farquarson's house at Sycamore Corner always seemed to go off after the aircraft were long gone!

"The citizens of Amersham did their bit too and purchased a submarine for the Royal Navy. There was a huge "thermometer" outside the bank at Oakfield Corner showing the weekly totals of peoples' donations.

"On the night of VE day someone "found" 20 or 30 military signal rockets and let them off on the vacant lot that later became the post office on Hill Avenue - an awesome sight for a 10 year old boy! Even after all this time there is a part of me which never left Amersham and I have a lot of fond memories."

(The air raid siren Pete refers to above was used after the War to call out the retained firemen. The siren brought back many memories for the residents and continued in use into the 1970s. If the wind was blowing in the right direction you could also here the siren in Chesham).

David Woodridge now from Perth, Australia write "There is some mention of dugouts in Rectory Wood, it must have been just prior to "D" Day because at one stage Rectory Wood was bursting at the seams with English soldiers and, mostly on the south side, there were many dugouts and slit trenches. The old bus station at the eastern end of the Broadway was used as a transport depot, lots of army lorries and also tanks and I can remember these tanks tearing up the road surface as they went up and down the streets, quite terrifying as a little lad. The soldiers were made to swim at the old Cygnet swimming pool amongst other things and I remember the poor soldiers being made to swim in the freezing conditions and they were absolutely blue with the cold. Then all of a sudden all the soldiers disappeared so that must have been "D" Day time."

Round by Pond Wicks next to the Rec. was "Amersham Prints" and they amongst other things made balloon barrages and parachutes."

Picture Courtesy of David Woodridge
The rope/splicing workshop at Amersham Prints, off School Lane, taken at 3. 56 pm some time during WW 2. They made parachutes, inflatable boats and barrage balloons. There would be a need for all sorts of roping. David can remember his father coming home and practicing different knots and splices.

Picture Courtesy of David Woodridge
A more general view of Amersham prints show David's father, Bert Woodbridge in his cap, top left. David writes "I'm afraid that although some of the others look familiar I can't put a name to them, I tried to enlarge the work bench and it is a little out of focus but I noticed, with interest, that hanging on the wall at the back, some very thick ropes that I would think would be for the barrage balloons, those ropes on the work bench could be anything."

Gerald Goldberg remembers various stories from his time in Amersham during World War II.  "With regard to the glider that became detached, we saw that happen overhead and myself and three friends saw the direction that the glider took and followed across the fields for a couple of hours and came across the undamaged glider and talked to the crew. We were invited aboard the interior and were shown the cockpit plus some weapons among which were hand grenades that they called their “pineapples”. I was also in school when the bombs dropped nearby, the school windows were blown out and our desks flew into the air and we all ended on the classroom floor in shock. We also saw the German plane that crashed at another time. There was an American airbase a few miles away and us boys used to creep to their rubbish dump and salvaged sticks of chewing gum and other sweets thrown away. The only other thing that happened was that a large convoy of troops that some of who  had camped near our cottage in a grass area. I talked to some soldiers who asked to borrow a fish and chip frying pan. They also showed me their “iron rations” which had some biscuits that were so hard that one was nailed to a nearby tree. It’s amazing that these memories are still vivid to me and that my grandchildren find hard to believe. How times have changed but we owe so much to those wonderful forces that protected us"

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Air Raids

Lola Richards (nee Matto) now from Canada remembers on her web site  here (which includes pictures) her memories of the War in Chesham Bois. "The worst part were the Air Raids. My Dad constructed an Air Raid shelter in the house, made from a heavy carpentry bench, with sheets of metal encasing the sides. We crawled into the shelter from one end and had blankets and pillows in there as we often had to hide for quite a while. The only problem was, as soon as the siren sounded, our 3 large Airedales would dash for the shelter and get in before us! We would listen to the planes going overhead and got to know by the sound of them whether they were 'Ours' or 'Theirs'. Then we would hear the 'buzzbombs' going over, and pray that the noise would continue. For when it cut off, that was when the bomb would fall. Even now, when I hear the E.M.O. siren, I get a sinking in my stomach, as it sounds just like the Air Raid sirens used to. You never forget something like that. For light, we had a lantern covered with green baize, and I can still recall the smell of the warm cloth. Of course black-outs were in effect so we couldn't have much light, even tucked away in the shelter. As a child I was only aware of feeling safe and protected in our hide-away. When the All Clear siren sounded, it felt so wonderful! We would all pile out and my Mum would go and put the kettle on to make a cup of tea!.

"However, one night it was different. Shortly after an especially scary raid, my Mum was alarmed by the Bomb Disposal Squad leader pounding on our door and telling us to evacuate the house quickly. Evidently, they knew that one bomb had dropped but had not exploded yet! My Mum always remembered wrapping me up (I guess I was about 3 years old then) and taking me outside to go to a neighbour's house, Mrs. Honour who lived on Woodside Avenue. Our house was situated right across the Chess Valley from Bovingdon Aerodrome and that was a prime target for bombs. A German bomber had dropped a 'stick' of six bombs aimed at Bovingdon, but unfortunately for us, his aim was a little off - and they came across the valley dropping in a line up our side. One was a direct hit on the goat shed at the far end of our property - the poor goat never knew what hit him! The next one fell in our back lawn - only yards away from where my Mum and I were hiding in our home-made shelter. Not only did it land there, but it turned underground and tunneled beneath the house......but did not explode!

Sign outside Lola's Chesham Bois house

"After evacuating us, the Bomb Disposal Squad dug down to defuse and extricate the bomb. I have the greatest admiration for those brave men! We were not allowed back home officially, but my Mum sneaked back to feed the rabbits and chickens, and managed to get some photos of the crew working. After the crisis was over she made them all a cup of tea, of course!"
The above episode may be the one referred to below in the second extract from the Surrey history Centre.

Referring to the bombs landing on King George V playing field mentioned above David Hawley adds "I note that the description of the Incendiary bombs was accurate except that a house did get hit, our house, and if it was not for the bravery of my brother Ray who was ahead of us going up the stairs to bed, our house would have caught fire. The bomb when it came through our roof landed on the floor of our large bedroom on its fin [the mark was on the lino for many years] and it bounced onto a marble topped dressing table. Ray entered the room and using my eldest brothers best grey flannels, scooped up the flaming bomb and ran down the stairs shouting 'open the door' and he threw it into our front garden. His photo appeared in a national paper I think it was The Sketch but I am not sure."

Frank Phillipson has passed me details of some research he has doe at the National Archives. He has found records which details some of the bombing in the Amersham area. Some of the details are as follows

27 September 1940 - 6 bombs landed in Amersham Common, 5 of the bombs were 50kg, covering an area of about half a mile. The assumed target was the railway station. Most landed on open ground, some in fields and one damaged a footpath and sewer cover. Apart from craters, no other property was damaged.
18 October 1940 - 1 bomb landed in Chesham Bois. No casualties, the bomb landed 14 feet from a bungalow which was "badly shaken".
15 November 1940 - 10 50kg bombs landed in the Coleshill area. No casualties and open land or farm land hit

The detail shown on the Archive records is quite extensive, with each bomb location noted with details of impact and damage caused.

James Fairbairn, now from perth, Australia write - "I was reading with great interest your Amersham during WW2 page – I grew up in Amersham (Elms Close & Longfield Drive) in the 1970’s & 1980’s. An elderly neighbour who lived on Longfield Drive at the time, Betty Radcliffe, (she had lived in the same house since the street was build back in the 1930’s), told me that there was another bombing raid that doesn’t seem to be mentioned on this website. I can’t recall what year, but according to her sometime between ‘40 & ‘42 a solo bomber dropped 3-4 large bombs in a line from Hervines Wood to what was then the Cinema on Sycamore Road (where the Iceland Supermarket was when I was growing up). I seem to recall the another landed in what is now Dr Challenors playing fields. The impression was that it was a bomber which had missed its intended target and was looking to get rid of the payload before the flight home. The very large craters of 2 are still there to this day in Hervines Wood. I would be fascinated to know if there is any archive information that corroborates this story, or in fact any other witnesses alive that remember the incident."

If anyone has any more details of raids, please email the web master

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Flying Bombs

Pete Wood continues - "I also recall a Sunday morning in the spring of 1944, a flying bomb (Doodle Bug) landed in Chestnut Close (this may have been Chestnut Lane - see below - Ed.) and demolished two houses and killed several people. I still remember my stark terror as I stood in my grandparents house in Woodside Road hearing the pulse jet cut out and the swishing sound as the bomb plummeted to earth not knowing if it was the last few seconds of my life. The massive explosion shook the house but fortunately no windows were broken. Perhaps some more of your readers have recollections of these events."

Pete Wood has supplied the following pictures -
1411 ATC Squadron Officers of 1411 Squadron
War Time Dried Milk
VE Parade Chesham
1411 Squadron at Dr. Challoners, Officers of 1411 Squadron,
Dried Milk display and VE Day Parade in Chesham
See here for all of Pete's pictures with full descriptions

Malcolm Flack from Amersham also remembers "Being born in Amersham in White Lion Road a year before the commencement of the War, I can recall as a child seeing what I now understand was a "Doodle Bug" flying in a westerly direction towards the Chesham Bois area and subsequently hearing a loud explosion. My family decided later that day (a Sunday, I believe) to take a stroll in that direction. We went along Parkfield Avenue to the end at the junction with Chestnut Lane, where straight in front of us behind the hedgerows were the remains of what was a fair sized detached property which had been destroyed by that deadly object. Nothing stood more than a metre high as far as we could see."

Since receiving the above information, I have been advised that the first "Doodle Bugs" were not launched until June 1944, spring could be described as June, but memories of over 60 years ago should allow for this. There has also been a suggesting that no flying bombs landed north of London. My research on this matter definitely reveals there was a large explosion which destroyed a house in Chestnut Lane. Whether it was a V1 is less clear, it appears they did land north of London and it also appears much dis information was given out to try and confuse the Germans on the success or otherwise of their attacks. If anyone can provide any more details on this incident, I would be very grateful. I am indebted to Frank Phillipson who has contacted me and writes "... I have found from "The Defence of the UK" by Basil Collier IWM 1957, that 27 flying bombs (V1s) landed in Bucks and that 2 V2s landed in Bucks during February 1945. This is backed up from information from the Centre for Bucks Studies in Aylesbury."

Malcolm Hutton now from Melbourne, Australia has added the following - "I have just come across your web page and this has answered a question that has been in my mind for decades.  I was born in June 1933 in Co. Durham but we lived in Pinner from November 1936.  Most of my mother’s family had lived in Bucks for years.  Auntie Jenny had the Stores in Hyde Heath, Grandma and Grandad retired to Hyde Heath, Uncle Oliver was at Chesham Bois in later years, but Uncle Jim and Aunt Elsie Draffan had lived in the Tiled Cottage in the lane opposite the station at Little Chalfont for many years.   After the war Uncle Dick Draffan had the grocery shop in Prestwood, later to be enlarged into a supermarket which I see is now a Co-op store.  Consequently we spent many weekends at Hyde Heath or Little Chalfont.  I remember the Doodle Bug so well.  It had to have been on a Sunday and it was somewhere around mid morning. Auntie Elsie was in the kitchen, Mum and Dad were in the lounge and Uncle Jim had just gone to the loo!  He had always said that if there was one overhead he would be sure to be on the toilet. There was horror for a moment when that awful throbbing groaning noise was overhead, and I know somebody said it’ll be alright if we hear the engine stop, which it did just then. Seconds later we were under the Grand Piano. I seem to remember the crumping noise, but could that be imagination now?
    I know it had to be in the morning because afterwards Uncle Jim, Dad and myself made our way up the road to the Pub where I always had to sit outside with a lemonade.
    The next big Sunday that sticks in my mind on another weekend at Little Chalfont was just before D-Day, though I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time. This time we were on our way back to Tile Cottage from the Pub looking forward to Sunday Roast, when the convoy came through.   We got stuck on the Station side of the road for what must have been a good half hour, before we could cross the road to the steps that short cut up to the Lane.  Does anybody know which Sunday it was when the D-Day convoy passed through Little Chalfont?  I can only guess at 28 May, 1944.
     I have so many fond memories of Hyde Heath, Amersham and Little Chalfont, especially Uncle Jim’s Lawn next to the house and overlooking the railway line where we used to play croquet.  In later years my cousin June got married and had a house built where the lawn was.

So that fateful day had to be 2nd July, 1944.  Many thanks for helping make these memories come back."

Mike Smith from Chesham Bois has supplied further information about the bombings in Amersham. "Inspired by your website I have been looking up the records (ARP reports) at the Centre for Buckinghamshire studies.

"I believe there were probably four flying bombs in the Amersham area, including the following three specific incidents:

"The first of these was the one in Chestnut Lane, which fell at 10.52 or 10.54 am on 2nd July 1944. The report says 'Red Lodge and Bungalow (part of the same property?) completely demolished. Northcott partly demolished. The Leys severely damaged. Two other houses badly damaged. Many houses and shops in Bois Lane, Chestnut Lane, Woodside Avenue and Sycamore Road suffered severe damage.'

"Another report says '1 house completely demolished (5 yds away from Flying Bomb) 4 houses partly demolished (10 and 55 yds away) 135 houses damaged (ceilings, roofs, windows) (within 200 yds radius)'.

"Casualties were 'Killed 1 male 1 female. Admitted to Amersham Emergency Hospital 3 males 10 females 1 child. Other minor casualties, chiefly cuts from glass'.

"The next was at 17.55 on 5 July 1944 at Windmill Plantation, Weedon Hill Wood, Amersham. The report says '12 houses within a radius of 400 yds (badly damaged?). Damage to ceilings, tiles and glazing to other houses within a 1/2 mile radius'.

"The third was on 16 August 1944, 1/2 mile SE of Ley Hill Common. This seems to have been on open ground as no damage was reported.

David Hawley, now from Aylesbury has contacted me and writes "I was born in 1935 at 26 The Meadows and have a few memories of events I witnessed during World War 2. I can confirm that a Doodle Bug did in fact land in Chestnut Lane. I was standing on a footpath opposite No. 20 The Meadows where the Brackley family lived and was with an evacuee named Louis Kerner who lived at No 20. We both heard the noise of the Bug as it passed over The Meadows and saw it just before its engine stopped then saw it start to fall, at this Louis ran into his house and I ran to tell my Father and as I was going through our Back door there was a loud explosion. My Father and I could see a plume of smoke, he then took hold of my hand and we went to the end of our garden and over the fence into his railway allotment, up the bank and over the railway and through a hole in the fence and then along the edge of the cricket ground down to, and over, Woodside Road up Mitchell Walk into Plantation road into New Road and then into Chestnut Lane. The first thing we saw was the side of one house which had been damaged and a couple standing by a cooker outside the house. All they said to my Father was 'we've lost our Sunday Dinner'. We carried on until we saw the house or bungalow that had been virtually flattened, other houses were damaged but my Father said 'this is where it landed' "

I am very grateful to Richard Doust who has provided the below following research he has undertaken.

I have been doing research on Bovingdon Airfield, and I came across a photograph from the US national archives with the description: Aerial view of houses damaged by a buzz bomb which hit the residential area in Bovingdon, England, on 2 July 1944.  I was unable to identify a location in or around Bovingdon village, which matched the photograph (even with the aid of Google Earth and old aerial photos).

Reading through your pages on flying bombs in the area, Mike Smith had provided accounts from ARP reports, which detailed a flying bomb on the 2 July 1944 in Chestnut Lane, Chesham Bois.  Using imagery from Google Earth, I have matched the three houses on the junction of Chestnut Lane and Parkfield Avenue, Chesham Bois, to those in the photograph.

 On  the original photograph towards the top, you can see two boys trying to get a glimpse of the bomb site through a gate from the path.

Another thought around the photograph, was whether it was taken specifically to review the damage caused by the bomb, or if an aircraft was on an approach run into Bovingdon Airfield.  If you draw a line from the location the photograph is taken, to Bovingdon Airfield, it pretty much lines up with approach to the main runway.

aerial view

Google Earth
Google Earth View of Bomb Location - Chestnut Lane / Parkfield Avenue

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Aircraft Crashes

Frank Phillipson has researched an incident that occurred in Little Chalfont. In the book "Raiders Overhead" by Stephen Flower (about air raids on the Walton and Weybridge area of Surrey) reference is made to a Halifax bomber being accidentally shot down by British anti- aircraft guns sited near Weybridge and Slough on 24th March 1944. The aircraft crashed at Lodge Farm, south-east of Little Chalfont (the farm is south of the railway and east of Lodge Lane). A database of bomber losses reveals the following details :-

Type:- Handley Page Halifax II (Merlin engines) Serial No.JD317
Unit:- 1659 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit i.e. training crews to fly four engine heavy bombers).
Operation:- Diversionary attack on occupied France west of Paris.
Date:- 24th March 1944

Airborne at 19:22hrs from RAF Topcliffe the Halifax was part of a diversionary force made up of 147 older bombers from training units. The diversion was in support of the Main Force bomber operation against Berlin of 811 aircraft.

Halifax JD317 steered for an area west of Paris but, on the return leg to base, the aircraft strayed into the London Defence Zone and was shot down at 23:00hrs by AA fire. It crashed in flames at Lodge Farm, Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire killing the pilot F/O MS Little RCAF who is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery. Three injured members of crew were admitted to hospitals at Amersham and Watford suffering from sprains and shock:- P/O J.S.Beresford RCAF, Sgt J.Mackenzie RCAF, Sgt N.E.Cowan RCAF.

Further research reveals there was an unusually strong northerly wind which blew the Halifax over 100 miles off course over the London Zone. The pilot was praised for staying at the controls of his aircraft steering it away from "a village" and saving his crew. It appears the Halifax did not identify itself to the London Defence Zone, hence the error in shooting it down.

Malcolm Flack from Amersham remembers "I recall seeing some sort of plane (I have no idea what type etc.) stuck in the trees in Lodge Lane Little Chalfont. The exact location was after you go under the railway bridge in Lodge Lane from the Amersham-Rickmansworth Road and at the bend in the road after the dip, it was on the left just before Long Walk turning."

Pete Wood recalls - "In 1943 (I think), a Lancaster bomber crash landed at night in a field bordering Stony Lane. The next morning, I furiously cycled over there and sure enough there was the Lancaster with its wheels in mud up to the axles and missing the left wing-tip. The pilot had done an amazing job in landing it, but two oak trees at the edge of the field were a little closer together than the wing span. When I got there, the aircrew had already been picked up and the aircraft was being guarded by an RAF corporal. I found the left landing light some distance away and persuaded the corporal to let me have it. The reflector was crushed by the impact but the bulb with a filament that looked like a gate spring still worked and I kept it for many years.

Richard Martin writes - "I came across your website after doing a bit of searching to verify the story of a Lancaster crash landing at Amersham in World War II.
The incident is detailed in the book 'Boys at War' by Russell Margerison who was an air gunner on the Lancaster PED940 which landed with wheels down after running out of fuel. In the book, Russell Margerison writes: We had, in fact, touched down in a small field in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, where we had run parallel to the A404 Amersham to Watford Road, some thirty yards from the backs of the houses there, ploughed through a small hedge and crossed Stony Lane, climbed up a banking and passed through some small trees, Max having chosen the widest gap. Unfortunately the gap had not been wide enough to cope with the 102 foot wingspan and consequently half of the port wing was left neatly wrapped around the largest of the trees. A pig pen had been demolished and a small hole had appeared in my turret. But there, at Great House Farm, part of the Duke of Bedford's estate, PED940 stood proudly, having completed the last of her operations, still undefeated. She would now have to be dismantled and removed piecemeal."

David Hawley writes "I wonder if any of your site visitors were in the the Black Horse Primary School sports field the day that a two engined German plane flew over it with an airman on its wing. It crash landed in a field at Raans Farm and after school we went and saw it and by this time the Home Guard were there with the German airmen."

Richard Ayres now from Staffordshire recalls that one of the gliders from the force that set out for Arnhem in 1944 came down in Rogers Wood Field, to the south of the River Misbourne.

David Hawley adds "I also remember the glider incident as myself, plus the Brackley brothers went to see it. I remember the soldiers were not very happy, they did not know then how lucky they had been. I also witnessed from the top of Stanley Hill the recovery of the Glider by a Wellington aircraft from a hook line that had been erected."

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Evidence of Air Raids and Aircraft Crashes
From The Surrey History Centre

Further research undertaken by Frank Phillipson has revealed some interesting records about events in the Amersham area. The Southern Regional Civil Defence area included Bucks and situation reports viewed at the at the Surrey History Centre (Surrey was in the same Region as Bucks until March 1941) provide a record of events.

Report from 18th October 1940
Reproduced with permission from The Surrey History Centre

Report from 29th October 1940
Reproduced with permission from The Surrey History Centre

Report from 24th November 1940
Reproduced with permission from The Surrey History Centre

Report from 11th December 1940
Reproduced with permission from The Surrey History Centre

Report from 30th January 1941
Reproduced with permission from The Surrey History Centre

Report from 17th February 1941
Reproduced with permission from The Surrey History Centre

Report from 26th February 1941
Reproduced with permission from The Surrey History Centre
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Special Training School XX

Nigel Woof from Chalfont St. Giles writes "two houses in Pollards Wood - Pollards Park House and Pollardswood Grange - (near the site of the Amersham plc site today) were requisitioned in 1941 and became 'Special Training School XX' (i.e. number 20) of the Special Operations Executive, better known as SOE and recently popularised by the Sebastian Faulks novel 'Charlotte Gray' and the film of the same name.

STS20 was apparently used to train Polish section SOE agents in clandestine operations. The Polish SOEs activities included operation WILDHORN in 1944 and '45 in which British / Polish aircraft were covertly landed to bring out key Polish underground / resistance leaders and return them to England. In one of these missions in July 1944 a captured V2 rocket was also apparently brought out.

I know of no accounts by local residents of the goings-on in Pollards Wood during the war, but presumably many suspected there was something 'hush-hush' happening there! Would be fascinating to know if anyone remembers.

For details of Operation Wildhorn, see

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Henry Allen Nursery School

An interesting story concerns the creation of the Henry Allen Nursery School. In the early 1940s, there became a need for the provision of nursery places for the pre-school age children of Amersham and the surrounding area. Many local women were employed in war work (Amersham Prints in The Maltings, had been taken over to manufacture barrage balloons and The Cartwheel in London Road made radios). In 1941, before the bombing of Pearl Harbour which resulted in America entering the Second World War, Californian subscribers to the American Save the Children Federation provided the money required to build a Nursery as a way of aiding the British war effort without becoming involved militarily. The President of the Federation was Governor Henry J Allen of Wichita, Kansas. In 1941 he traveled to Amersham to turn the first spadeful of earth that marked the beginnings of the Nursery. The site chosen was a piece of farmland adjoining Mitchell Walk, which at that time was an unmade road (remaining so until 1960) with only one house. On 9 February 1942 Henry Allen Nursery opened its doors for the first time with places for forty children aged two to five, although occasionally babies as young as eighteen months were admitted if their mothers work was essential to the war. The two classrooms were named after the Royal princesses; the old children were in Elizabeth Room (now Purple Class) and the younger ones in Margaret Room (now Red Class). (This information has been kindly supplied by the Henry Allen Nursery School, for further information see the School's web site LINKTO<'" designtimesp=9114>here

Henry Allen Nursery School (Picture Courtesy of Henry Allen Nursery School)

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Shardeloes War Time Maternity Hospital

Picture Courtesy of Bridget Clarke

During World War II Shardeloes, on the outskirts of the Old Town, was converted into a maternity hospital for people from London to come out to the countryside to have their children, over 5200 children were born there by the time it closed in 1948. I receive quite a few mails from people born at Shardeloes. Some have posted on the Amersham Forum asking for others to contact them.

I am grateful to Kathleen (Dorothy Cutting) Wachholz, now from Canada for telling emailing - "I was born at Shardeloes on September. 3, 1944 - actually I was the 3,000th baby. I have a paper clipping of a visit by the then Princess Royal on September 12, when I was 9 days old.  I guess I had my 15 minutes of fame at an early age"

Kathleen has kindly provided a copy of the paper cutting, which is shown below (the actual text is repeated below the image)

The Evening News - September 21, 1944

The Evening News - September 21, 1944!
"3,000 BABIES
Born in Mansion
"Evening News"  Reporter
One of the stately homes of England, a house steeped in history and tradition has become the war-time birthplace of over 3,000 children, most of them he babies of London parents.
The Mansion-cum-maternity home is Shardeloes, ancient seat of the Drake family at Amersham, built by Robert Adam in 1760, and home of the present Lord of the Manor, Captain Thomas Tyrwhitt-Drake, M.C.
Captain Thomas Tyrwhitt-Drake moved out of the house when the war started and went to a less pretentious so that Shardeloes could be turned into an emergency home.
It is probably the biggest home of its kind in England and almost certainly the grandest for it stand in its own park of 700 acres.
One Every Day
A day never passes at Shardeloes without a baby being born.  Up to to-day 3,024 (it looks like 2,024, but I think it must be a typo) have been brought into the world there since September 1939 - an average of five every three days.  The number includes dozens of twins, but the staff is still waiting for the first triplet -r or more.
The accommodation of 55 beds is always full and the staff of 20 is kept busy night and day.
The Queen and the Princess Royal have both called at Shardeloes.  When the Princess Royal was there recently she saw the 3,000th child to be born there, the six-day-old daughter of Mrs. Grace Cutting of Trinity Road, Tooting. 

May thanks to Kathleen for creating the above text from the clipping.

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ARP, Home Guard, Military Bases

In the book "Yesterday's Town: Amersham" by Nicholas Salmon & Clive Birch - Copyright 1991, ISBN 0 86023 486 X it states that the Amersham section of the territorial Army joined with other sections to form the 1st Bucks Battalion. Amersham had first aid posts set up at the ARP Centre, Sycamore Road, While Lion Road. Elmodesham House in the High Street became the area head quarters for defence.

Hervines Park / Hervines Woods

Hervines Park and Shardeloes Park were converted for farm use and the new "greens" in the newly built Woodside and Highfield Closes were turned into allotments. As well as the purchase of the submarine which Pete Wood mentions above - which unfortunately was never named "Amersham", but was adopted and was called H M S Unbroken - the town's residents during the War raised funds to help purchase aircraft and tanks.)

Woodside Close Toady

On the corner of Woodside Road and Sycamore Road (where Hopper & Babb is now) the War Food Office issued ration books. The Maltings in the Old Town was used to make barrage balloons and The Cartwheel on London Road made radios.

Around Amersham in Rectory and Pipers Woods and at Hodgemore army camps were set up. The camp at Pipers Wood was by occupied at various times by the King's Own Scottish Borderers and also by the Americans and was used after the war as a reception centre for returning prisoners of war. The camp at Hodgemore became the home to a large contingent of Polish servicemen. The camp remained in existence well into the 1950s with its own shop and post office.

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The Radio Chemicals Centre

The Radio Chemicals centre / Amersham plc now part of GE Health Care

In 1940 a company was set up on White Lion Road to make luminous paint based on radium. This site grew and after the war formed the basis of the Radiochemical Centre, which in turn became Amersham plc, now part of GE Health Care. The complex along with other sites in the area is now one of the areas largest employers. Although having been created during the War, the centre has moved its focus into the medical industry.

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Amersham Hospital Develops

By the outbreak of War, The Work House in Whielden Street had divided into The Amersham Public Assistance Institute and St. Mary's Hospital. Part of the site was then commandeered to become an "Emergency Services Hospital" serving the military and civilians. "Temporary" buildings were erected to form wards and operating theatres in 1939/40. They were built by Canadian Forces and these temporary buildings remained in use until the end of the 1990s. There were 280 beds in the temporary hospital and 138 in the old work house part. St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington assisted in the running of the hospital. (Thanks to the Amersham Society for information) See the Amersham Hospital page here for more details.

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Evidence of World War II

In parts of Amersham, there are still traces of World War II. Richard Ayres now from Staffordshire writes "if one walks up the footpath from the church through Tenters Field one enters Rectory Wood: turn right on entering the wood and adjacent to the footpath there are the remains of trenches dug by Amersham Home Guard (Brazil's Division) in 1940 - my father was one of those who helped dig them.

View from Rectory Woods, probably the view from the trenches

"There is also a footpath leading from the bottom of Station Road through Ruccles Field (part has now been hard-surfaced to provide access to Tescos). Before reaching Tescos, on the left and most of the year hidden by grass and nettles, is a concrete machine-gun emplacement, again dating from 1940."

I have also been advised that there is evidence of trenches to be found in Hervines Woods, near Longfield Drive.

Ed Griffiths from Prestwood has provided more information about the gun emplacement mentioned about - "this is in fact a World War II Home Guard ‘spigot mortar’ position."  It is not always easy to spot this, but Ed has provided more details of how to spot it "The emplacement is next to the footpath, up against the fence of the small holding.   If you leave Tesco's car park by the bridge over the stream (River Misbourne), turn right towards Station Road, the emplacement is on right of the path next to chicken sheds (right by path)."

The above picture of the spigot mortar position was taken in March 2013. 

It seems quite a few of these type of positions were created during the War and their design would allow the area to be covered by the mortar to be large, but why one was located in this part of Amersham is a puzzle.

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High & Over

Picture Courtesy of Ian Halley

Whether it is an urban myth or not I'm not sure, but I have been told that the High and Over house, off Station Road (above), during World War II it had to be camouflaged, because it was built in the shape of a letter "Y" . The reason being that the distinctive shape of the house gave directions to German bombers on their routes to their targets in Britain.

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You may find a dissertation by Bob Stonnel about life as a school boy in Amersham during World War II of interest, see here
If anyone has any memories or further information about Amersham during World War II, I would be delighted to hear from you. I believe it is important to record these memories so we can appreciate what life was like during the War. Please email the web master

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