- Contributed by
- CSV Actiondesk at BBC Oxford
- People in story:
- Brian Chadwick
- Location of story:
- England mostly London and Oxford
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 September 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from Oxford BBC/CSV on behalf of Brian Chadwick and has been added to this site with his permission. Brian Chadwick fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
PEOPLE IN STORY: Brian Chadwick
LOCATION OF STORY: Croydon, Oxford
MAIN AREA OF INTEREST: Childhood
TITLE: A MARVELLOUS TIME FOR A BOY
Brian was 7 in 1940 and was in London during the Battle of Britain, living at Wallington, on the edge of the airfield at Croydon. This had been a civilian airfield until September 1939, when the military moved in. The planes on Croydon airdrome were dispersed around the edge of the field with the pilots camping in tents near their planes. At the end of the airfield was a park with apple trees, the boys would throw apples to the pilots. Brian remembers the sky being full of planes with vapour trails. He and his brother were very keen on planes and could tell the type of plane just by hearing its engine.
Every night the family would be in a communal air raid shelter on a big green, with Spitfires and Hurricanes taking off all around, depending on the wind. The patrols would take off at the same time every night. Machine gunning in the streets was a regular occurrence then, and planes would often be crashing all around. Brian remembers one time when he and his brother were allowed to scramble about on a shot-down Blenheim aeroplane. In one bombing raid he was in the library with his brother and the books on the shelves came down on top of them. His mother came and collected them after the all clear. He also remembers the school dinners with awful gristly meat, they used to sprinkle a dark sauce [HP] over the food to take the taste away.
His father flew from Croydon aerodrome and sometimes worked there in an office. One day he was working at his desk and a messenger boy came in and stood opposite him on the other side of the desk, at which point the airfield was bombed. As a result of this Brian’s father was unconscious for 4 weeks and was not able to fly again; of the messenger boy no trace was ever found.
Brian’s father decided it would be safer to send Brian and his brother to their uncle in Canada. So their passage to Canada was arranged, they were to sail on the Athenia. Before that, however, they went to stay with an aunt in Barrow-in-Furness, only to find the town experiencing worse bombing than London — it was a desirable enemy target as it was an important ship-building town. Though they returned south to catch the boat to Canada, they were too late and did not get there before it sailed — just as well, for it was the Athenia, which was torpedoed and sunk on its way to Canada.
They then went to Wolverhampton for a while, then to Florence Park in Oxford, which was very different from London, with no air-raid shelters and no bombing. Brian remembers the aircraft dump on Garsington Road, he and his mates could climb through a fence and pinch bits of planes - a marvellous place for a young boy. He would make model airplanes from cardboard and sell them. His injured father could not fly any more so worked at the CRU [Civilian Repair Unit] at Morris Motors, repairing damaged planes, which would then fly out again from the airfield at Cowley.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.