31st August 1940

My day to go to Maidenhead. Awakened by sirens at 8 o’clock, so I rushed up to the Castle unwashed and unfed. While I was on the roof a big flock of planes came over from the W. at a great height, and I could hear machine gun fire, and suddenly in the midst of it the scream of falling bombs.

One bomb had fallen slap in the middle [of Roman Road] at the top end, near Castle Road, right outside the house where Councillor Cross lives. The next bomb fell on two old timber cottages in Land Lane, next to Maydays, and demolished them, though miraculously without injuring the occupants. A third bomb was in a yard at the back of Boast’s, the Coach builder, on East Hill, which damaged a house on East Hill and slightly injured a woman. [Later note]: (She died about a year later). A fourth bomb was in a field in Whitehall Road, and a fifth on the Sewage Works, where a pipe was broken.

Scores of incendiary bombs also fell, doing little damage, at the bottom of Brook St. Others were in Land Lane and Magdalene St. and Barrack St., all quite harmless.

As soon as we got an All Clear I went off to see the damage, and then went round to Rose’s to get some breakfast. Having heard of incendiary bombs near Paxman’s, I decided to go down to see if the stables were damaged, but no sooner had I got there then the sirens went again, so back to the Castle. ...

I decided to catch the 5.35 to London, but found it had been cancelled. The next was the 6.13, but at 6 o’clock there was another alarm, and all passengers were made to shelter in the new subways. Jack Geerneant was there going back from a fortnight’s leave from Stanmore Aerodrome. The London train came in, so we travelled together in company with a private in the Coldstream Guards and a very drunk Scottish engineer in the R.N.V.R. The train crawled along at 15 m.p.h. as far as Ingatestone, where an All-Clear was given, and finally got to Liverpool Street at 8.30. I went to have a drink with Jack, and got across to Paddington at 9.15, to find no train before 10.5, and that would not get to Maidenhead before 11. I tried to ring Aunt’s next door neighbour to explain this, but could not get through, and almost at once a dreadful amplifier arrangement in the roof announced another raid.

The train left sharp on time. At Taplow we could see searchlights wandering all over the sky, and leaving Maidenhead Station I heard with a sinking heart the familiar hum of a German plane. Even here there was no escape from them.

Events on 31st August 1940 marked the largest operation to date by the Luftwaffe in the course of the Battle of Britain. More details can be found on the Imperial War Museum's Battle of Britain website and at the RAF's Battle of Britain Campaign Diary. CP

No comments: