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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Wartime Memories

by roymontgomery

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Scott Montgomery, Audrey Montgomery, Roy Montgomery
Location of story: 
Beech, Alton, Hants
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 March 2005

Dan and me in 1940

To set the scene my parents, Scott and Audrey MONTGOMERY owned a bungalow a couple of miles outside of Alton, Hampshire and I grew up there from my birth in November 1939 through to the end of the war and later. Most of what I remember from the war years are rather disjointed events that have no great indication of time. We did have our own air raid shelter that was some distance from the house and was a half-sunken room with soil and turf heaped up across the top. Whether it was constructed as a shelter or was previously in use as a cellar and cool room I do not know, but it certainly served its purpose at that time. I can remember hearing the air raid sirens sounding in Alton two miles away and being taken by my Mother into the shelter, wrapped in a blanket if it was during the night, until the all clear sounded.

Probably the most vivid was being taken by my mother to see the wreckage of a German aircraft that was shot down alongside the Medstead to Alton road just outside of the village. I think that it was a twin-engine aircraft and I'm pretty certain that the crew were killed as I remember the guards tearing out squares from the parachutes and giving them to the local girls to make handkerchiefs. Whatever it was it certainly did not leave much about as I remember most of it being scattered in bits across the field.

The only other German flying machine that I remember seeing was a V-1 Doodlebug that flew over our home one day. The sound of it's motor was so unique that it is imprinted in my memory and I will never forget it. As long as the sound of the motor could be heard then the area was safe and there was nothing to fear, and thankfully this one continued over our house and we could still hear it disappear into the distance. I seem to recall that later we heard that it had eventually come down somewhere near Micheldever. Presumably as it was heading nowhere special the RAF were not going to waste time trying to destroy it because there was no other plane in sight.

Two other events that come to mind associated with the war was once being called outside to see a fighter trying to shoot down a barrage balloon that had broken free and was drifting around and the other was to see three bomb craters. The latter was the result of three German bombs that were dropped and exploded in the middle of a farmer’s field about a mile north of Wivelrod. To a little boy the three great holes in the ground appeared to be huge but in reality they were probably pretty small, however, many years afterwards the spot was always visible when the field was ploughed by the appearance of three white patches of chalk. I think that most of the other women and children from Wivelrod were also there so it made a sort of a day out. I think that opinion was divided as to whether the bombs were the result of being jettisoned or whether they were really meant for Lasham airfield a couple of miles further north.

Perhaps it was rather unusual but the airfield at Lasham had a public road going through it and I can remember riding on the top deck of a double-deck bus coming home from Basingstoke and looking at the aircraft that were dispersed around the airfield. The ones I particularly remember were single engined fighters parked under the trees that still lined the road and which were adorned in black and white stripes. Whether these were the D-Day markings or whether they were the identification stripes that were carried by Typhoons I do not know. Once the war finished the RAF left the airfield within a couple of years and consequently a lot of the buildings in the domestic area in Lasham Woods were demolished. Some of the rubble from here was used to lay the foundations of the roads in the new council estate being built in Medstead in the late forties. The airfield remained active though, becoming one of the biggest gliding centres in the country as well as housing a maintenance base for civil aircraft.

Following the start of Word War II my Father joined the local Home Guard unit, believed to have been 'A' Company 24th Hants Home Guard. It would appear that Alton was served by three platoons, HQ for the centre of the town, No.1 for East Alton and No.2 for West Alton. It appears that by early 1941 Father was described as O.C. with Jim MAY as second in command, presumably this was in Beech which would have been part of No.2 Company. My Father was actually a sergeant and as far as I know either Colonel BIRD, who lived at the "Old Farm House" in Wellhouse Road or Major TWINING was the commander.

Another sergeant was Andrew, a brother of Jim MAY. A notebook from around this period exists which lists a number of names, including LEA WILSON, A. RISBRIDGER, D. EMERY, A.S. and J. BUTLER, HODGSON and CHURCHILL. A lot of the details involve range practice, wearing armbands and in one case the Beech Section being on duty at the Waterworks OP, unfortunately although there are a couple of vague dates there is nothing to indicate the month or year. Apart from one photograph, which shows him in uniform wearing sergeants stripes and holding me, very little information survives from this period and all that I can remember is seeing him in uniform on odd occasions

At the end of the war, although whether it was VE Day or VJ Day I have no idea, I do remember that my parents hung a flag on one of our trees and stretched some bunting across the garden. The relief at the end of the war must have been immense because our home was isolated some three hundred yards away and invisible from the road, so the only people who would have seen the decorations were any visitors that we had. The other memory regarding the end of the conflict was being taken by my Mother to watch my Father in his Home Guard uniform marching in a victory parade through Alton shortly after the war finished. My Mother and I were standing on the raised pavement on Crown Hill and had a superb view.

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