---- News, Views & Information
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 Raids - Flying 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
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.
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."
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."
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!.
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 follows27 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
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 -
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
that fateful day had to be 2nd July, 1944. Many thanks
for helping make these memories come back."
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 :-
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Born in Mansion
THE QUEEN CALLS TO
SEE "LITTLE LONDON"
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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
Any additions, corrections, alterations, please email
the web master
Amersham Home Page
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