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Air Raids in Eastleigh

by CSV Solent

Contributed by 
CSV Solent
People in story: 
Roy Pidgeon
Location of story: 
Eastleigh, Hampshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Ian Douglass and has been added to the website on behalf of Roy Pidgeon, with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

In 1939 at the outbreak of war I was six and lived with my parents on the Isle of Wight. My father was in a ‘Reserved Occupation’ as he worked for Southern Railway. Soon after the war started he was transferred to the Railway Works in Eastleigh and we had had to leave the comparative safety of the Island for the mainland.

We lived close to Eastleigh Airport and so many of my memories were connected with air raids and aircraft. In 1940 I remember a Lysander coming in to Eastleigh Airport hitting the cable of a balloon tethered to the Recreation Ground. The plane crashed into White’s coutyard and crashed with no survivors.

In 1941 a plane (either a Hudson or a Blenheim) took off from Eastleigh, hit a balloon cable and crashed into houses in the town and all the crew were killed.

Also in 1941 three Heinkel 111s flew very low over Eastleigh Town Centre and dropped bombs on the Railway Running sheds and Eastleigh Co-op. Being very low none of the bombs exploded. One of the planes fired a machine gun at me and my friends who were playing football in the field behind the houses in Campbell Road. Fortunately none of us was hurt. I later learned that all three of the German planes were shot down over the Solent. The bomb which landed in the Co-op was defused and later placed outside the Town Hall and you can now drop coins into it for charities.

I went to Chamberlayne Road Boys School and whenever the air raid sirens sounded we had to march along the road to the air raid shelter with the anti-aircraft guns firing over our heads. If we were at home when an air raid started, we used to go to the above ground shelter along the road. This shelter was only a single brick thick and so we did not feel very safe in it. It had an escape hatch in the roof and we used to climb up the ladder and prop it open during a raid, so we could see what was going on outside.

When the bombing became very bad, I was evacuated to Christchurch to stay with a family friend. This proved not to be a very safe place as they lived next to the anti-tank training grounds and so I was sent back to Eastleigh!

In early 1945, a formation of New Zealand Mustangs came into Eastleigh Airport and two collided, one crashing into the fields by the Portsmouth railway line. After the war a group of us were swimming in the River Itchen near the crash site and we found a pilot’s head (still wearing the helmet) in the reeds.

Early one morning in 1945, a V1 ‘Doodlebug’ flying bomb flew over Eastleigh Airport and crashed into the field opposite the Clock Inn at Fairoak. A few of us cycled to the crash site and I obtained a piece of the rocket.

The girls at Eastleigh Girls School knitted balaclavas and scarves for the troops. The boys meanwhile had to make up parcels for the troops containing sweets, papers, soap, cigarettes etc. I remember that after air raids we used to collect shrapnel from the road on the way to school.

Eastleigh Recreation Ground was a holding area for American Troops prior to D-Day. I remember that the black troops were segregated from the white. We all cadged gum, cigarettes and candy bars from them!

Most days Spitfires flew test flights from the Eastleigh Airport. These were either brand new Spitfires or ones which had been returned for repair. One of the pilots working for Vickers was Jeffery Quill and he used to thrill us lads with his daredevil rolls and loops.

I well remember going shopping for my mother. We would need ration cards for most things and would nearly always had to join a long queue. On the way to school I would often buy a bag of cakes for 3d. from the bakers. These were sold cheaply as they had been made the day before! School dinners were awful. They were made in central kitchens in Chandler’s Ford.

Birthday Parties were simple affairs. We would have a party in the house and eat sweets and trifle. Usually I would only get one present! For Christmas, I remember getting an orange, an apple and one toy!

As my father worked for the Railways, he would get free travel. I used to go days out with him to places like Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

The road we lived in was owned by the Railway and was divided into three sections (top, middle and bottom) according to what job you did. We lived in the bottom section where the people, who made and assembled the steam engines, lived. On VE Day there was a party in each of the three sections. Everyone had the day off work, we all wore hats and there was music in the street. I remember the local greengrocers ran stagecoach rides for all the children.

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