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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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by thestockers

Contributed by 
thestockers
People in story: 
Jack Stocker
Location of story: 
Kingston, Surrey
Article ID: 
A2038538
Contributed on: 
13 November 2003

--written by Jack Stocker after being pestered by his grandson Julian Stocker, who submitted it to this site.--

Early 1940.
I was a toolmaker nineteen years of age and working at A.C. Cars in Thames Ditton, we were working long hours seven days a week, producing guns, and parts for aeroplanes, and were used extensively to make very urgently needed specials, for which we received telegrams from the Ministry thanking us for our efforts, so the only free hours were late in the evening and we made the most of them and would usually not go to bed before about twelve.
Everywhere was blacked out but at that time there was no bombing.
I was with a friend walking through Kingston when he stopped to speak to a girl who had been in his class at school, in the darkness I couldn’t see her features but her voice struck a chord in me, and as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I asked if we could meet again.
We married in 1942 we have five sons and a daughter, eighteen grandchildren, four great grandchildren, I will soon be 83 and my wife will be 81 and we have now been very happily married for sixty-one years.

But my story happened shortly after we met.
Although I was seeing her regularly I was still doing as nineteen-year-old lads do and meeting other girls.
I had arranged to meet a girl who lived in Ditton and I made my way there, It would I think, surprise our modern youngsters to know that at that time, you met with the intentions of finding out if you enjoyed each other’s company and no more than that. We walked through Ditton, across Western Green and onto the Hampton Court Way, we passed under the railway bridge, and on the left immediately after this there was an unmade pathway that ran alongside the railway, and had the common on the right of it.
.
Searchlights were scanning the sky, this was not unusual, they did this regularly for practice, and there had been no reports of German planes crossing our coast.
We came level with a railway signal, stopped and sat on the grass, we talked and watched the searchlights, and we were lying in a comfortable little hollow.
Then the sound of a plane engine could be heard, and the searchlights were trying to pick it out, we watched as the sound moved across the sky a fair distance away on the other side of the railway, then the plane started to dive, I thought just to get out of the lights and give more practice for the searchlights, but it continued to dive, and I said it must be out of control, then there were explosions on the other side of the railway and the plane zoomed over our heads, and in the pitch black darkness, there was a heavy thud and we were splattered with something.
I had noticed an air raid shelter at the entrance to the path, and thinking that there could be more planes, we quickly made our way there, but because air raids were not expected, the door was padlocked, we went back down the Hampton Court Way to a pub on the Western Green, and in the light of the pub found we were covered in earth.
I took the girl home, and returned home myself.
The following day at work, we were told that bombs had demolished houses at the back of Western Green.
I told a friend what had happened the previous night, and said that at lunch time I was going to look at the houses and then look to see what it was that had fallen close to us the previous night, I said it was probably masonry or something off the houses, and I knew exactly where we were because it was directly opposite the signal and we were lying in a hollow.
He came with me, and after looking at the houses we arrived opposite the signal, and in the grass just three or four feet from the hollow was a perfect circle of earth level with the ground, and standing in the centre as if still attached to a bomb were four large heavy sheet metal fins, and as I shouted at him he walked over and picked one up.
We had seen a bomb disposal team at the houses so we took the fin there, and one of the team followed us back to the bomb, he said it was the plane’s main bomb and after a little persuasion he let me keep the fin, then left to organise the disposal of the bomb.
If anybody had told me that an unexploded bomb could completely bury itself, stripping off the fins as it went in, and that they would stay together at ground level while the grass and earth burst out passed them, and that it would then leave a clear cut circle of earth at ground level, with the fins standing in the middle, I would find it difficult to believe, but that is exactly what happened.
I have thought about it, and think that the earth must have been forced out like a tube around the bomb, and the fins were unaffected inside of the tube of earth.

But it doesn't end there.
A short while after this I had curvature of the spine, Dr Fitzgerald our family doctor visited me at home and asked if I could think of anything that might have caused it, I said I couldn’t, but my mother was there and said what about the bomb, so he asked me to relate the story. He was amazed that we had been so lucky, but agreed that it would not have been the cause.

A few weeks later he contacted me to say that he was raising funds for war effort, and asked if I would attend his meetings and tell of my lucky escape, but I had to refuse because I had never told my regular girlfriend of the bomb, or that I had been out with the girl.

Then came a time when my girlfriend and I had to collect paperwork from the doctor, so we went together, and when we walked into his surgery, his first words were, are you the young lady who was with him when the bomb fell, he could see by the look on our faces that she was not.
I had some explaining to do but fortunately for me it made no difference to our relationship, Dr Fitzgerald fetched our children into the world and his greeting to my wife was always, are you the young lady who was with him when the bomb fell.

If this should get published there is a possibility that somebody seeing it might possibly give an answer to a question.
A.C. Cars was owned by two Hurlock brothers, William Hurlock’s daughter Beryl worked there and Beryl’s friend Paddy Nelson also worked there, Paddy lodged at a house in Ditton and we went out together a few times, she was a good friend and great company.
Then one morning she didn’t arrive for work and later that day she appeared at the entrance where I worked, she was accompanied by Beryl Hurlock and a young Army officer, and that was the last I saw of her, I have often wondered where she went and if she survived the War years.

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