Monday 15 July 2024

World War 2 - June & July 1944

Tuesday June 13th

The attack by V1's, known as Doodle Bugs commenced, having been launched from the Pas de Calais area of occupied France.  At 5am on June 15th. a V1. fell on the Bells of Ousley at Old Windsor. The explosion, heard over a very wide area, was quickly reported and brought the Civil Defence Services rapidly to the scene.  Police sealed off the area so the rescue services, under their supervisor Templeman, could work without hindrance from spectators.  Most of the hotel was destroyed and surrounding property severely damage. Within a short time some were rescued alive from under the debris but more were known to be trapped under the rubble. A second rescue party that had been called for found two more, unfortunately both dead. Among the injured was a three year old boy. On arrival the Rescue Squads found scattered among the debris many pound notes and pieces of the V1.  Twenty four hours later the policeman on duty at the site was appalled to hear another bomb approaching on the same line and as its engine cut out, he threw himself to the ground.  On losing power the V1. banked and dived across the river to explode in Wraysbury. Considerable damage was done to many houses, two people lost their lives and others injured.  

Saturday July 1st.

During the afternoon a flying bomb was seen and heard coming from the direction of Slough to pass over towards Windsor.  Within a very short time an explosion was heard as the bomb  hit the chimney of the Windsor Corporation dust destructor in Kentons Lane. Many houses were damaged but no deaths, although many were injured by flying glass. Blast shattered windows at Edward Woolhouse’s cycle shop in the Eton Wick. Royal Navy Artificer  P.O. Frederick Lamb from Sunderland remembered the incident as follows:-

He  was put with a draft from Portsmouth at 5 o’clock in the morning on June 6th 1944 not knowing whence they were bound. His thoughts at that time were of going across the channel with the invasion forces but they were told on reaching Waterloo Station that their destination was the Slough Government Training Centre, and they would be billeted in Windsor. He considered he was lucky, had they gone the other way, who knows what the outcome might have been. 

“After a hectic struggle to get  across from Waterloo to the station for Windsor with all our gear we arrived on Saturday at Windsor. Another artificer  and me had to go on our way to the Police Station to collect a double bunk bed and take it with us along with our kit bags, suit cases, hammocks and tool boxes.  Eventually we were dropped off at a house near to a Pub.  The  family with whom we were billeted, a husband and wife with young girls had a small  upstairs room for us.  We carried our gear to the room and then assembled the double bunk bed.  On the Monday morning we caught the train to Slough to work at the Government Training Centre on shifts from 2—10 one week, 6—2 the following week which brought us to July 1st. . The house was partially destroyed , roof windows etc. I think we were taken to a school , the lady there said they would put us up there for the time being and showed  me to a mattress on the floor which was screened off.  On wakening the next morning I could hear babies crying and women talking.  Having dressed, I prepared to leave but  at the door  enquiries were made as to the my relatives and I explained that I was only billeted in the house.  

Arriving at the Training Centre The Chief Petty Officer  said “You are adrift, Captain’s report” to be charged with absent without leave." 

Having  explained my absence the  charge was dismissed. Leave to find transport to Windsor  and retrieve my gear. On arriving at the billet, it appeared the house was about to cave in any minute and I was faced with getting my gear out by myself as the driver  was not going to risk his life.  Having got my tools, hammock ,cases etc. I then set about finding a fresh billet. I finished the course and went to H.M.S Wildfire.”  

WRNS were also taught engineering trades such as welding, machining, wood working at the Slough Government Training Centre passing out as ship mechanic(LC)  for the repair of landing craft.

Wednesday July 10th

The Flying bombs brought new fears of destruction and as a precaution against fire raids a demonstration on dealing with  phosphorous bombs was arranged by Mr S. Romoff, the Council Fire  Officer. This was held at Woodley’s Yard in Tangier Lane, Eton, being  well attended by residents of Eton and Eton Wick.

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham


Monday 17 June 2024

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - Eton Wick 'Unity Players'

The photograph was taken at the finale of the 'Unity Players' first pantomime in 1948, 'Alladin'. The Players went on to produce 'Cinderella' (1950), 'Dick Whittington' (1951) and 'Spring Parade' (1950 and 1951). 

The shows were written by Fred Wiggett and Tommy Neighbour. As was the case in those somewhat austere post war years, the local communities, boosted by their restless ex-service personnel put a great deal of effort into raising funds for improving local amenities such as schools, and leisure facilities for both adults and youth, and had fun in the process. 

The proceeds of the 'Unity Players' sell out productions went to the purchase of new kit for the Football Club. 

Those identified in the photograph are: Fred Wiggett (with the boater on the right), Tommy Neighbour (half concealed, 4th from the right), John Cox (5th from the right), Zena Hunt (7th from right), Eva Bond (with bouquet), Francis Alder (left of Eva), and Joan Neighbour (5th from left). 

This article was first published in A Pictorial History of Eton Wick & Eton.

Thursday 6 June 2024

World War 2 - June 6th. 1944 - D-Day

D-Day Map

The invasion of Europe created a great amount of activity by the Allied Air Forces which were heard and seen locally as part of this massive force flew to their designated targets. The following memories probably refer to the reinforcement supply flights that took place, the main assault by airborne forces having taken place in the early hours of darkness. During the afternoon some of the 256 glider combinations used in the second assault were to be seen passing over the district. 

John Powell’s memory of that day is of hundreds of planes flying his place of employment at Burnham on D-Day 1944 all towing Horsa Gliders or Adrian (U.S.A.) gliders, a sight never to be forgotten. “Wave after wave of them all flying at very low level altitude, all heading towards France. My thoughts were of the thousands of poor souls never to return”. 

John Bye has memories of the sky filled with aircraft when he was on his way to school at Maidenhead. The planes were flying North to South, probably about 400 aircraft, with some towing gliders. This armada took about twenty minutes to pass. 

Sylvia Collier recalled ”I was at work at W.H. Smith & Son, Windsor on the morning of ‘D-Day’ when the Jewish gentleman from the public house next door rushed into the shop very excited with a radio under his arm, shouting in his guttural voice, "They landed, they landed, plug it in". Two of the assistants ran to the staff room in tears remembering how their sons had held them close on returning from their last home leave. One had a son in the army and the other a son in the navy”. 

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham

Saturday 1 June 2024

A History of Windsor Bridge

Windsor Town Bridge

This is part of the script for the talk History of Local Bridges given by John Denham on 15th April 1998.

Perhaps it should be called the bridge of aggravation. For 900 years the bridge has been plagued with problems which at times has given rise to heated debate between the citizens of Eton and Windsor. 

A Royal presence and officialdom plus the changing moods of the Thames when influenced by the weather have all contributed to the history of the Windsor Town Bridge. 

Invasion by the Normans was not welcomed by many Anglo Saxons who at times could be most unfriendly towards the new rulers. To secure their position after occupying London, a defensive ring comprising of nine forts which became more permanent as castle s was set up. Windsor was one of the nine.

The original fortress built of wood was started in about 1070, The attraction to build on that site, apart from the view of the valley was the fact that they would have the protection with the chalk cliff at their back and the river a barriet from which any frontal attack would have to cross and climb up. The occupants of the fort required military supplies, goods and services giving rise to New Windsor, the tourist town of today. 

At some time during the next hundred years, it became necessary to bridge the river. This may have been for access to the farmland around Eton and Eton Wick or to reach the London-Henley Road for easier and quicker passage to London.

It is known that a bridge existed in 1172, for that year the Kings tax collector, Osbert de Bray, accounted for £4-6s-6d collected from vessels passing under the bridge. 

Over the following years the fate of the bridge depended on its importance to the monarch using the castle.

Being of wooden construction, the early bridge was always in need of repair, perhaps due to collision by passing boats, or debris that built up around the bridge supports, especially when the river was in flood.

It is noted that Henry III gave permission in 1236 for six oaks from the royal forest to be felled to prop up the collapsing bridge and more six years later.

Edward 1st had little interest in the castle or the citizens and allowed the bridge to fall into decay leading to a petition by the ‘Poor Inhabitants' of Windsor for permission to charge tolls for its repair.

Edward had his sights on adding Wales and Scotland to his kingdom and sought a way out of the problem by granting pontage for eight years from 1277, and by charter, appointing the Fraternity of the Holy Trinity, also referred to as the Burgesses of Wyndesore, responsible for the government of Windsor and the upkeep of the bridge. But as is often the case things did not turn out quite as Edward envisaged.

The Brethren soon realized that the bridge was vital to local trade and as a route to London. This knowledge encouraged the Brethren who became quite skilled petitioners, cajoling gifts of trees and pontage grants from successive monarchs every few years.

Only tolls could be charged for traffic over the bridge, the more lucrative collection for vessels passing under the bridge going to the King.

Tolls were based on the cargo and its weight, for instance in 1367 the freight of coal between London and Windsor is noted at 1 shilling per chaldron. A chaldron, a unit of dry measure as for coke coal or lime equal to 32 to 36 bushels, today that would be approximately 56 cu yards (42.8 cubic metres). This toll on a barge carrying maybe 200 tons brought complaints from the watermen at this exaction. 

Because of the unsatisfactory state of the bridge the ferry continued to give a satisfactory if not always reliable service.

Royal Family quarrels in 1387 brought more trouble for the bridge Richard II, who believed in his divine right to rule, was a bad judge of men and his domineering attitude upset many people. When his uncles, the Dukes of Gloucester and York tried to dispose him, he ordered the bridge to be broken down as a defence against his unwelcomed visitors.  

Ten years were to elapse before he made amends with another pontage grant. 

He was disposed in September 1399 and killed in February 1400 aged 33 

James was followed by Henry IV who in 1411 gave two more grants, after which a bridge keeper was appointed at an annual salary of 6s. 8d. 

During this same year the Borough of Windsor carried out repairs to the bridge at its own expense, thereby sowing the seeds for future trouble.

Although housing and business had developed along the road which is now Eton High Street the founding of "the Kings College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor", (Eton College) by Henry VI for poor scholars in 1440-1 gave a new importance to the town. 

One of the first advantages given to his college was the free passage over and under the bridge. Two years later Windsor, apparently in accordance with annual custom, elected two bailiffs, and two bridge keepers.

 As the years passed the later Tudors preferred the comforts of Hampton Court Palace to the austerity of Windsor Castle and therefore having no use for the Bridge saw no reason to maintain it. Hence within ten years of the founding of Eton College, the Windsor Chamberlain in 1551 was compelled to sell two silver chalices for £15 to help pay for very urgent repairs to the unsafe structure of the bridge.

The bridge was a dilapidated affair and risking the king’s horses and the heavy waggons with the Royal baggage to the bridge was not an option. Therefore, the rickety state of the bridge may account for King's Stable Street in Eton, where the horses could be stabled and the waggons off loaded to lighter carts or even taken across the river by ferry.

Dr Osborn in his records of Datchet states the magnificent cavalcade of Henry VIII passing from London to Windsor in May 1520 went by way of Eton and Windsor Bridge; but Queen Catherine of Aregon diverged from the route near Colnbrook and crossed at the Datchet ferry. The Datchet ferry was used by Monarchs as a short cut and an inconspicuous back door to the castle.

As stated earlier the bridge was always in need of repair due to the heavy loads crossing on a structure whose supports had poor footings. 

The Windsor Corporation records for 1520 have the entry, 'Andrew Bereman was allowed for Reperacions don Upon the bridge as in pylyng Joistyng Rayleing and other Workmanship as it apperyth by his boke. The account was for £32 0s 5d.’

Toll concessions brought in as little as £5 and we find that the Chamberlain was having to meet regular bills for essential repairs to the wooden structure. Accounts show that charges in 1606 were £25.14s.5d.; 1609 - £5 13s. 10d.; 1612 - £12 19s.

Other charges not connected with repairs to the bridge were brought about by the punishment of wrongdoers. Public whippings were carried out on the bridge and when a new whipping post was needed in 1636, Robert Gill charged 5s. 6d. for supply and fixing thereof. He also charged 6d. for fixing the chain that closed the roadway over the bridge. 

Other fixtures of torture and death required no maintenance such as a tree at the foot of the bridge used in 1536 for the execution of a priest accused of treason, whilst the other a butcher also accused of treason was hung on the new gallows at the end of the drawbridge in front of the Castle gate. 

Throughout the centuries the bridge played its part in Royal Pageantry. 

James 1st had great interest in the pageantry of the Order of the Garter and emulated the custom of his predecessors.

The custom had been in times past for the Knights elect to proceed from London to Windsor in grand procession, in order to be installed.   

Having gathered in the city they thence rode on horseback to Windsor. Accompanying them would be a large party of friends and attendants.

A dazzling sight for those days which brought throngs of citizens to see the colourful cavalcade as it passed. A Duke would be accompanied by sixty horse escort whilst a Marquess would have fifty and so down the line in accordance to the knights degree of seniority.

Some were prone to go over the top in their display of gorgeous apparel with plumes of feathers so James 1st put a limit on the extent of the procession enacting an order that every one of the Knights-companions should have fifty persons to attend him unto the annual solemnities of the order and no more.

The escort of the Earl of Morton proceeding to Windsor is an example that would apply to the 13 Knights of the Garter proceeding to the ceremony.

 Grooms in coats two and two

 Trumpets two and two

 Yeoman two and two

 Gentlemen two and two



 Gentlemen of the Horse


 Four Officers of Arms

 Gentle Usher, bare

 Lancaster Herald, covered

 Earl Morton, supported between two chief lords

 Footmen on each side, in rich coats

 Noblemen and Gentlemen, according to their degrees

On reaching Slough, the procession gathered to place themselves in order to proceed to Eton, thence across the town bridge to the Castle. 

About thirty years on repairs were again required to the bridge structure.

An entry from the Chamberlain’s accounts for the year Michaelmas 1641 to Michaelmas 1642 refers to a payment for 2 loads and 35 foote of Tymber for the pyles belowe the bridge of £3-15-0. 

Again, from the Chamberlain's accounts for the following year Michaelmas 1642 to Michaelmas 1643 there is a charge connected with the military government of the place by Colonel Venn.

The entry reads "layd out for laying downe the bridge by Colonel Venns Appoyntmente.......£6-0-0.

Parliamentary forces occupied the castle on the 28th October 1642. Colonel John Venn, rated number one enemy by many Royalist, was appointed Governor of Windsor Castle. Upon being appointed he gave orders for the defence of the Castle. 

One of the defence measures was replacing several sections of the bridge with drawbridges. Following a report that the Earl of Essex and his levy of London apprentices were marching by Windsor to Newbury orders were given to destroy Windsor Bridge. This only left bridges at Staines and Maidenhead. 

On the 7th of November 1642 the Royalist under the command of Prince Rupert attacked the Castle with five pieces of ordnance firing from the grounds of Eton College, more damage was done to Windsor town than to the stout walls of said castle. The bombardment lasted seven hours but eventually the Royalist withdrew.

At the time the parliamentary army lodged in Windsor was approximately 16,000 foot soldiers and about 3000 horses. The population of Windsor at this time approximately two thousand. Many of these troops would have been encamped in the surrounding villages, whose population would have had to feed and shelter the soldiers and hope they would be paid.

The first Civil war ended in 1646, 

On the 24th of November 1648 the headquarters of the Commonwealth army was transferred from St Albans to Windsor and from then on until the King was taken to London in the January, Windsor was the centre of events.

Having spent Christmas as a prisoner, on January 19th 1649, King Charles was taken from Windsor Castle to board his coach near the Keep.... a guard being made of musket and pike soldiers. At the great gate a party of horse was drawn up in the marketplace at Pease-cod-street end commanded by Colonel Harrison. Harrison's cavalry closed around the coach and with its six horses the coach with its lonely passenger clattered down the hill beneath the Castle walls along the Kings Highway as they called it, then across the old timber bridge into Eton and so over the frost bound roads towards London. By dusk Charles was at St. James Palace.

Having been found guilty he was beheaded on the 30th January on the scahe river Thames.

The hard frost at the end of January 1649 had froze the River Thames again as a disguised boat was secretly borne down the river repeatedly encountering ice flows on the journey from London to Windsor. In the boat was the decapitated body of Charles I who had been beheaded for treason. 

Snow and ice mad it difficult journey and progress was slow. At Chersey the small party was `poled off' ice flows by local fishermen. At Datchet the party were challenged by Parliamentarians, who upon receiving a satisfactory answer allowed them to proceed.  

Under the cover of the flurries of snow all the obstacles were evaded, and the secret hearse moored safely at Windsor whence the coffin was borne to the castle. 

To make good the ravages of war the Council of State in 1649 issued a warrant for the repairs to the bridge. The Surveyor-General of H.M. Woods and Forests issued an order to fell 25 loads of timber from Windsor Forest for the repairs.  

The bridge was replanked, trebled railed and supplied with new piles and a drawbridge.

February 26th 1666, King Charles II visited the castle, having travelled via Staines, crossed the bridge to visit Eton College where he remarked on the names cut into the shuts of the windows by those who had left for Cambridge. His wife remained waiting in the coach.

Whilst staying at Windsor in 1674 Charles II granted double the number of trees for repairs but on being told that that the borough had mended the bridge at its own expense 200 years before -withdrew his offer. 

After allowing Robert Frith £50 for immediate works the corporation set about persuading the king to take a more lenient view of its predecessors' folly and in October 1676 they were rewarded with twenty five loads of timber.

More financial problems followed when the Queen Anne bridge at Datchet was opened in 1706 free of tolls. To this some Windsor council members reacted sharply being as bold to say that the corporation was not twopence better for the Queen's coming to Windsor. Eventually £55 in compensation was awarded to the corporation.

By the March of 1707 the tolls at Windsor had declined and the corporation was relieved to lease the bridge in its ruinous state to John Herring for forty years. His rent was £5 per annum because he had to meet all the cost of repair. Fourteen years later Herring appealed to the Corporation for help, who in turn advised him to petition the treasury for a grant of oaks. Much to his surprise Herring was awarded twenty loads of timber the next year.   

This gift did not relieve him of worries as an increasing number of people were challenging the right of the corporation to charge Tolls.

The situation became serious and with the help of the two Windsor M.P.'s Parliamentary confirmation of Tolls was sought, the said promoted bill receiving Royal Assent on 5th April 1736.

The ownership of the bridge was reaffirmed but the corporation was obliged to repair and maintain the Great Bridge' from the prescribed tolls including 6d. on each barge going up stream.

The new powers resulted in much higher takings, so John Herring's rent was increased to £10 the following year and then to £60 in 1766.

The increased traffic over the old bridge was more than the decayed timbers could take and it was declared not safe for His Majesty's subjects to pass.

The respite from repairs was short for on Saturday July 31st 1773 the council carried out a hurried inspection, the bridge being in so dangerous and bad condition with a great quantity of earth falling into the river, that every load that went over also ran great hazard of falling in.

What work was absolutely necessary was done immediately but on several occasions the bridge was closed for repairs and those crossing had to resort to the ferry.

More repairs must have taken place as it was forty six years on before the corporation applied to build a new bridge.

Perhaps this enthusiasm to build a new bridge resulted from the introduction of mail coaches, one of the first had passed through Slough on its way from Bath to London in 1774. This no doubt stimulated interest in fast passenger coach services to Slough and London from Windsor. By the year 1839 there were as many as 30 stage coaches a day running between Windsor via Eton to Slough. The rivalry between the owners, such as Gray, Moody and Lillywhite was intense.

It is to be wondered if the passengers of those days consider their safety when passing over the bridge?

The family of Lillywhite also farmed at Manor and Crown farms in Eton wick. This increase in frequent fast traffic plus the increasing carrier traffic must have put quite a strain on the bridge structure. 

The year 1775 the Corporation applied to build a new bridge at an estimated cost of £3000, but fearing much higher tolls the people of Windsor objected and the petition was thrown out. 

In a survey of the Thames by Robert Mylne it was noted that Windsor bridge was 165 ft. long with twelve or more spans was much obstructed by rubbish. 

Proposals were put forward included building of the lock at Romney which opened in 1797. This so increased the flow of the river that the bridge foundations were soon undermined.

By 1811 it was a tottering, completely rotten unsafe structure that even the poor residents of Windsor had come to the conclusion that something had to be done and raised no objections when the corporation invited Charles Hollis to submit plans. Thomas Telford was engaged as consulting engineer.

Hollis was an engineer working with Jeffrey Wyatt, the architect engaged on the restoration of the castle.

His submission for the new bridge in 1819 was for three cast iron arches resting on granite piers, and a roadway of gravel laid on cast iron plates.

Estimated cost, for this bridge design of 260ft length and 26ft. wide were £13,000 for erecting toll houses, the bridge and completing the roads. Purchase of premises on either side of the approaches, £2,500, expenses of obtaining the Act £500- total cost £16,000 If built on the same line as the existing route it could be opened in two years. 

Based on this estimate the corporation borrowed up to £16,000 by mortgaging the tolls. 

The wording of Clause 37 of the Act would prove very significant in years to come. The Act stated quite clearly that the toll income could only be used for the upkeep of the bridge, payment of loan interest and repayment of the loan and for no other purpose.

The provisions of the loan allowed the corporation to complete the bridge in five years, commencing March 21st. 1820. 

Twenty one years was allowed from that date to recover the cost with the provision of another thirty years if necessary.

The purchase of properties for approach roads and the removal of the old bridge took longer that estimated.

On 10th. July 1822 the new corner stone was laid by Frederick, Duke of York. The work proceeded steadily the two side spans of 43ft and 55ft. taking twenty three months.

During this time the citizens of Windsor and Eton as well as other travellers had to endure the inconvenience of the ferry of which they became thoroughly weary.

Because of the never ending complaints the corporation called a meeting on March 31st, 1824, with the two iron masters, Mr Baldock and Mr Fowler, to explain the delay.

At length the iron founders explained that the ribs had to cast in Wales, shipped to London, and transported overland to Windsor. 

A promise of delivery of the final rib during the first week of April was not met, the rib did not arrive until the 12th April. Disaster struck during the unloading at Windsor and the rib got broken. This raised the anger of the councillors and Fowler undertook to recast the rib in his London foundry and return it to the bridge site within three weeks, which he successfully achieved.

The new bridge opened on June 1st 1824 and the Windsor and Eton Express wrote, ` Any ceremony of splendour was considered unnecessary and therefore the Mayor and Corporation, having gathered at the nearby Swan Inn, walked in procession about noon accompanied with other senior officials, the Architect and the bridge Contractor to the centre of the bridge.

The toll gate was then closed behind the party and the Architect handed the silver key to the Mayor for him to open the gate.

The bridge was declared open by the Town Clerk and after three cheers the party returned to the Swan where lunch was taken. Tolls were levied from the next day and so began a new chapter in the troubled life of Windsor Bridge. This, the first iron bridge over the Thames, would be the centre of much legal argument over the next seventy three years. 

Twenty fours years on the bridge was to lose some of its importance as the Great Western and the London South Western Railway Companies brought their services to Windsor.

The Stagecoach companies went out of business as citizens turned to the speed of the trains although some struggled on with horse bus services to Slough and outlying districts. and perhaps the stage coach service from Windsor to Brighton which plied on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday returning the following the following day survived for a while.

The pricing of tolls for crossing this Great Bridge had one anomaly in so much it was cheaper to cross alive than dead. It cost only 2d. to cross in a hackney carriage but 6s. 8d. in a hearse.

During 1895 the corporation erected a new tollgate much to the dissatisfaction of Eton residents especially Mr Joseph Taylor.

Mr Joseph Taylor of Eton commenced a campaign to abolish the system under which `tolls were being taken for a timber bridge since passed away, on a stone bridge built and paid for by the public of today'.

Signing himself `Don Quixote' with a letter to the Windsor and Eton Express on 3rd September 1895, Mr Taylor demanded to know by what right the corporation continued to charge tolls asserting that perhaps no right existed if this was so, then more than £12,000 had been collected. illegally over the last 23 years.

He maintained that the Act of 1736 authorizing a table of tolls had been repealed by the act of 1820 which expired in 1872. To force the issue he informed the Town Clerk that on Tuesday 30th September he would drive onto the bridge and refuse to pay the toll. 

A resolution passed at a meeting of the corporation on 27th September ordering the collector to insist on payment and close the gate against anyone who refused to pay the requisite toll. Mr Taylor was sent a copy of the resolution who wrote to the Chief Constable of Buckinghamshire inviting him to send a police officer on the appointed day to witness the illegal closing of the bridge. 

 An Inspector and sergeant were sent, Mr Taylor upon arriving at the bridge asked to see the table of tolls and was shown the schedule of charges from the 1736 Act not those which has been in use for the previous twenty years. Mr Taylor refused to pay, where upon the gate was locked and he was forced to drive the long way home.

Taylor took counsel advice and was advised by Mr J. Witt and Mr W.Dankwerts that he was in his rights not to pay the toll. To give strength to his belief he and his friend, Mr Cecil Howlett drove over the bridge and paid the 2d. toll and obtained a receipt. Taylor then applied for a writ to recover what he contended was an unlawful levy and also applied for a writ to restrain the corporation from barring the bridge.

The Windsor and Eton Express dated 21st September 1895 published a letter headed `Barring of the Bridge' in which he gave guidance to those from whom tolls were demanded by the corporation for passage over the bridge. Another letter from an Eton resident referred to the dilapidated state of the bridge which needed cleaning and painting in spite of the corporation having benefitted from £500 a year tolls.

The case was heard in the Queens Bench on 13-14 May 1897,the Lord Chief Justice giving judgement to the corporation with cost but adding that this peculiar case would no doubt go to the Court of Appeal. The Corporation felt their victory worth celebrating and the Mayor gave the corporation a champagne lunch. Mr Taylor did not give in easily and immediately lodged notice of appeal. 

In October 1897 Lords Justices Rigby, Smith, and Hen Collins after listening to the case for another two days and reserving judgement. 

On November 8th with an unanimous decision they announced that the bridge tolls were illegal and must cease at once, Taylor was awarded cost. At mid-day the collector on the bridge received a telegram ordering him to stop the charging of tolls. This decision was not to the corporations liking and they took the case to the House of Lords.

The hearing before the Lord Chancellor and others began on the 25th November 1898, ending three days later with a verdict in favour of Mr Taylor. 

The toll gates were removed on December 1st 1898. 

The toll collectors cottage remains part of the Old House Hotel.

A poem written at the time of the lifting of the toll convey the feelings of the citizens.

The task is o'er, the work is done

The gate is lost, the bridge is won!

No Tax or Toll shall the Counties part;

Thus Berks and Bucks unite in the heart;

Windsor and Eton from blight are free,

Joined by the English Gift of Liberty!

After World War I the increasing production of, buses, lorries and cars which opened the way to freedom to visit the places of interest. Windsor with its castle became a magnet for day trippers by car and coach although the majority in the 1930's still arrived by train. 

The rise in car ownership from the 1950's which would become a flood also put more load onto the bridge for which it was designed.

The strain on the structure aggravating the crack in the iron work which was first noticed during an inspection by the county council surveyor in 1938. 

In 1946 a survey of the bridge led to frequent checks to monitor the cracks and to the Windsor Council investigating the possibility of repairing and widening the bridge, but no decision was taken and it was not proceeded with. 

Weight restrictions had been in force for some time, buses being the heaviest vehicles allowed onto the bridge. The cracks had become more prominent in 1969 which resulted in a single line traffic system, but after later inspections in 1970 by the Berks County Council Surveyors department, it was decided at an emergency meeting of the highways committee that the 146 year old bridge would have to close due to the rapid deterioration and the accelerating cracks in the cast iron. 

Over 11,000 vehicles a day used the bridge with the number increasing to 22,000 or more in the summer. This is an annual average of five million vehicles. A sample census for October 1845 at the toll gate on the Slough Road, gave a figure of 649,411 persons for a full year with an additional 35,000 for Ascot week. The design of the bridge was well within the limits for this traffic and the sound construction allowed it to carry the increasing traffic volumes for 146 years.

It was fortunate that in 1966 the Windsor - Eton relief road had been opened. The decision to close the bridge was not accepted readily by all. Eton and Eton Wick protested strongly and called for a new Windsor bridge to be built. 

A public meeting held at the Eton Wick village hall on Monday 5th October 1970 when nearly 200 villagers attended to vote overwhelmingly to send a deputation to Shire Hall Reading to lobby the Berkshire County Council for a new bridge.

A committee was formed by Mrs Florence Wilson, President of the Womens Institute, to organise a lobbying party. Nearly 40 people agreed to go to Shire Hall to confront the County Council. The Highways Committee recommended that the bridge should be rebuilt, but the planning committee recommended that the bridge should be closed permanently. 

Bucks County Council had offered £250,000 to the cost of a new bridge, Eton - Eton Wick came under Bucks County Council in 1970.

The Eton U.D.C. held the meeting to tell the village what action had been taken since the closure of the bridge. A questionnaire at the time showed that Eton Wick was in favour of having the bridge re-opened or putting a Bailey bridge across as a temporary solution. 

Mr Glibbon, who was Chairman of the Council, told the meeting that even if a temporary bridge was not possible, the thing that must be achieved was the reopening of the bridge as a matter of absolute urgency to the people of Eton and Eton Wick.

The feeling at the time was that the only people to benefit from the closure of the bridge were the people of Eton High Street, but the closure did effect trade in the high street. 

Private enterprise, suicides, romance, and Hell's Angels have all had their moments on or in sight of the bridge.

September 1730 Daniel Beaumont a starch maker by trade thought it would be profitable to sell wine from a ship moored on the Eton side of the bridge. This was frowned upon by the college authorities as it was feared it would entice the scholars to spend their time in idleness aboard the vessel. As he had no licence to retail the liquor his enterprise was short live for three years later he was petitioning against nine years in jail.

The new town bridge was the scene of a fatal accident due to a hard frost. A sixteen year old boy carter from Ascot leading his team pulling a heavy waggon across the bridge.....slipped and fell under the waggon wheels and was fatally crushed under the wheels.

Decoration of the bridge for royal occasions has featured archways for Queen Victoria's Jubilee of 1887 and 1897. 

The years spanning the world wars brought many tired marching feet over the bridge as troops from the barracks came to the end of those route marches. Added to these was the heavy military transport all putting strain of the cracked iron beams. Apparently one military incident did close the bridge for a short time during the war. 

A soldier driving a heavy transporter loaded with a battle tank having negotiated Eton High Street only to have the road collapse beneath the wheels as the transported approached the bridge. With little room to manoeuvre the long vehicle at that juncture, a lengthy hold up occurred in the high street. It took a several hours to extricate the exceptional load from its predicament. Rumour at the time was that he had gone that way to see a girlfriend in Brocas Street, If so the soldier must have been a little red faced.

A suggestion in 1946 by a correspondent to the Windsor & Eton Express that a permanent arch should be erected on the bridge similar to the Victorian arch as a gateway to the Royal Borough received no official support. 

Marathon race Windsor to London 1904 one of many sporting activities that have passed over the bridge.

The proclamation of George V as King in 1910 was a little upsetting for the loyal citizens of Eton when the Mayor of Windsor crossed the bridge to the Buckinghamshire side to announce the new monarch. To the fore were the Provost and Fellows of the College whilst the Chairman and members of Eton Urban were ignored. There was probably a reason but I have found none.

George V passed through Eton and over the bridge on his way to the Castle after his coronation in 1911.

And do you remember among the many other activities passing over the bridge?

Hell's Angels in their leathers and powerful motorbikes that roared across the bridge to meet at the Cellar cafe on the Windsor side of the bridge where the chairs and tables were chained to the floor and often fights took place. 

The bridge has suffered more indignity being now, unsafe for pedestrians to use the whole width of the structure. 

The other two bridges within Eton are Barnes Pool also known as Baldwins Bridge and Beggars Bridge at the Junction of Pocock’s lane both with a Norman History. 

There is further information about the Windsor Town Bridge on the Thamesweb site.

Saturday 25 May 2024

Eton Wick History Group Talk - A Stroll in the Park presented by Mr Peter Holman - 29th May 2024


A message from Ruth Maher:

Hi all, I just wanted to let you know that the History Group have arranged a series of talks for 2024. Because of the reduced availability of the Village Hall we will be holding our meetings during the school holidays. The talks schedule can be found by clicking on this link.

Please join us and learn more about our local area. Refreshments will be provided. 

We look forward to seeing you there.

Friday 24 May 2024

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - Empire Day, possibly.


This interesting old photograph is a mystery, leaving much to be guessed at. It is possibly an Empire Day gathering, some time between 1906 and 1910. The location, with the railway viaduct in the background is certainly at, or near to the south side of Eton Recreation Ground. The new Recreation Ground at that time would probably not have had the benefit of hedges, as it was all formerly Lammas land. 

The assembly of presumably Eton Porny school children and absence of uniformed boy scouts suggests it predates the Scout movement of 1908 (or 1910, if the formation of the Eton troop is allowed for). The flags, adults and speaker leads one to believe it was an Empire Day Assembly, a national celebration day inaugurated in 1902, May 24th to commemorate the birthday of the late Queen Victoria. 

This article was first published in A Pictorial History of Eton Wick & Eton.

Monday 13 May 2024

R. H. HOOD - 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry

Richard Henry Hood (Private No. 5385945) - 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry (Formally in Oxford & Bucks L.I.) - 28th Brigade. 

Dick, as he was more generally known, was born on August 31st, 1914, the second son of Albert and Florence May Hood. His older brother was also named Albert, and he was 20 months Dick's senior. Father Albert was popularly known as "Scottie" Hood and was the village coal merchant. He and May went on to have a family of five sons and two daughters at their home in the heart of the old Eton Wick Village at 3, Albert Place. Unfortunately, the elder girl, Rosie, died of tuberculosis as a teenager. 

Dick attended the village Infant School until April 4th, 1922, when he registered at Eton Porny. He left school, nearly a month before his 14th birthday, on August 2nd, 1928. Three years later he joined the regular peacetime army, serving in the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. Presumably this was not exactly to his liking, for in 1933 he persuaded his father to buy him out of his army engagement. Father had been delivering coal in the village by horse and cart for many years until early one evening, in the spring of 1931, a tragic fire destroyed his stable in Sheepcote Road, and killed the poor horse trapped inside. Scottie then had motor truck, but he never really mastered its temperamental mechanics in a way which compensated for his love of the old horse. 

By the mid 1930s his two elder sons, Albert and Dick, were running the business. At this time Dick was well known and a popular villager. In his leisure time he played right back for the Eton Wick F.C. and Saturday evenings, after the matches, he often played his accordion in The Grapes public house, for the landlord, Mr Dick Whittington. 

War came in 1939 and Dick had left the business to do military service. He was duly transferred from the Oxford and Bucks L.I. to the 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. He was now 25. Without his help, Albert probably became unsettled, causing him to volunteer for service in the Royal Air Force. When he arrived at this decision, his brother-in-law, Walter Farmer, moved from Sapperton in Gloucestershire to work in the village coal business before himself joining the R.A.F. in 1941. The business was subsequently sold to R. Bond & Sons for £100. 

In April 1941 the 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry became a unit of the 2nd (Gibraltar) Brigade which was formed for the defence of Gibraltar, and in consequence they served there until December 1943. On December 1st 1943 the Brigade was re-organised as the 28th Brigade and two weeks later, on the 15th, they left The Rock en route for Egypt. Other battalions effected included the 4th Devons, the 7th Kings Own, the 1st Herts, the 2nd Kings, 1st Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders and the 2/4th Hampshires. They were nine days in transit and arrived in Egypt on Christmas Eve 1943, where they served until March 10th 1944. 

Dick and Albert Hood together for the last time. 

At some time during the 10 week stay in North Africa, Dick managed to meet brother Albert. This rendezvous was very probably in Cairo and was certainly the last occasion he would see any member of his family.

The battalion sailed north to Italy, arriving there on the 15th. American and British forces had landed in the south of Italy on September 3rd 1943 and had steadily advanced up through the country. Particularly fierce opposition had been encountered at Cassino, south of Rome. On January 22nd landing barges poured more troops into Anzio. The stubborn defenders of Cassino still held on. 

On March 16th Dick was among fresh reinforcements landed at Anzio and the Battalion's first battle in Italy of note was recorded as Cassino II fought between May 11th and 18th 1944. Dick was reported as missing on May 13th and later recorded as died on that date. The Battalion took part in four more Italian battles in 1944. Cassino fell to British and Polish forces on May 18th. As with so many families whose kin were reported as missing, the hopes remained that one day their loved one would return. Most soldiers reported as "Missing" were in fact those whose bodies had no means of identification, many would be buried in graves with the headstone inscription "Known Unto God". The Commonwealth War Graves Commission says: 

Private Hood, Richard Henry, 5385945, 2nd Bn. The Somerset Light Infantry. Died 13th May 1944. Commemorated on the Cassino Memorial, Italy, Panel 5. 

Dick is commemorated on the Eton Wick Memorial and on the Village Hall Memorial Plaque. He was unmarried and 29 years old. 

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Friday 10 May 2024

W.W. FARMER - Royal Air Force

William Walter Farmer (Sergeant Air Gunner) - Royal Air Force

Generally called by his second name, Walter, on account of his first name being the same as his father, he was born in the picturesque Gloucestershire village of Sapperton in 1922 or 1923. Sapperton is a small village with stone cottages and is about three to five miles west of Cirencester. He had two brothers and one sister, but unfortunately one of his brothers died at the age of ten. The older brother made a career m the Royal Navy, and his sister Edna married an Eton Wick man, Albert Hood, and they made their home in a newly built semi-detached house in Tilstone Avenue in 1937.

Walter attended the Sapperton School until he passed the entrance exam for Cirencester Grammar School. He was both popular and good at sports and represented his school at football and cricket. The school considered him to be the outstanding cricketer at the close of one season, and awarded Walter the much coveted "Wally Hammond" bat. He was also an accomplished snooker player. When he was 16 years old he left school and took up employment as a footman to Lord Bathurst at Park House in Cirencester. At this time his brother-in-law was running the family's coal business in and around Eton Wick. Originally the business had been operated by Albert's father, "Scottie" Hood, with a horse and cart, but since the mid 1930's it was run by his two sons, Albert and Dick.

When the 1939-45 war started, Dick was called up to serve with the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and Albert decided to join the Royal Air Force. Because of this, Walter left his native Sapperton to live with his sister in Tilstone Avenue, discarding his footman's clothes for those of a coal merchant. He probably arrived in Eton Wick in mid or late 1940 and Albert was able to explain the business and introduce him to the customers before himself entering the R.A.F. in early 1941. 
When the time came for going abroad, Albert sold the business to R. Bond & Sons, the village road contractors, for £100. Walter decided to join the Royal Air Force also, and left the village for preliminary training in April 1942, having been Eton Wick's coalman for about one and a half years. He was a driver attached to the Motor Transport section, R.A.F. until he decided to volunteer for aircrew duties as an Air Gunner. By this time his sister Edna had a year old son, and his parents, Mr & Mrs Farmer, had moved from Sapperton to keep her company in Eton Wick.

Walter completed the gunnery course and was awarded a trophy for obtaining 85% marks: the highest entrant at that time. Before taking up flying duties with an operational squadron, it was customary for crews to be adjusted to the hazards they would encounter when they took part in raids against the enemy. They obtained this experience from one of many operational training units (O.T.U.s). During the last week of this further training Walter was one of the crew of a Lancaster bomber which crashed into the Brecon Hills in Wales. The entire crew were killed. Had he lived he would have been posted for operations the following week.

Albert Hood returned from the middle east after the war and Dick Hood was killed in the Anzio Landings in Italy on August Bank Holiday 1944. Walter was killed on the Easter Bank Holiday of that year in April just two years after he entered the R.A.F. He was 21 years old and his grave is in the beautiful Haycombe Cemetery that overlooks Bath. He is commemorated in Gloucester Cathedral, in the Sapperton Village Church, on the Eton Wick Memorial and on the Eton Wick Village Hall tablet.

William Farmer's page on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Monday 6 May 2024

World War 2 - May. 1944 - Shortage of House

The acute shortage of housing in the district had the Council considering what could be done to refurbish any derelict houses.  One such premise available was No.2 Bell Cottage in Eton Wick which had been taken over as a salvage depot in 1940 and was in poor condition having been vandalized by children. The council accepted a quote from Burfoots of Eton Wick of £163 for refurbishment including connection to the sewer but the acute shortage of material delayed the work for a year.

D-Day Preparations

As the assault on Normandy as drawing closer preparations increased across the South of England. Men, equipment and other war supplies needed to be in the correct order to reach the invasion forces at the right time. Eton Wick was one of the stop over points as remembered by resident Joan Neighbour.

“During one night, towards the end of May, a convoy of Army trucks arrived in Alma Road  and into Bell Lane. Daylight showed that sentries had been posted and the soldiers confined to the trucks. A dispatch rider took any orders from the men wanting cigarettes etc. and the women from the road made tea for the boys who seemed to be just waiting. I think it must have been part of the dispersal of troops and equipment in the build up to ‘D-Day’.  After a few days the convoy moved out with a farewell comment from the boys of "If we get through we'll be back to see you".  

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham

Monday 22 April 2024

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - Eton Women's Fellowship

The Eton Women's Fellowship was founded in 1963 after the Mothers' Union disbanded. It meets weekly at the Eton Church Hall and as well as Eton residents, attracts members from Eton Wick, Windsor and Slough. Social events include talks, quizzes, outings and parties. This is a photograph taken at their Easter Bonnet Competition in 1998. 

Standing left to right are: Mrs Day, Mrs Weeks, Mrs Mummery, Mrs Bell, Mrs Brades, Mrs Bolton, unidentified, Miss Hill, Mrs Batt, Mrs E. Edwards, Mrs Cook, unidentified, Mrs Leary, Mrs Butler, Mrs Pratt. 

Those seated are: Mrs Bowyer, Mrs Pidgeon and Mrs Golding.

This article was first published in A Pictorial History of Eton Wick & Eton.

Wednesday 17 April 2024


Post War photo of the Blue Bus

Eton Wick demands a better bus service.

Bitter complaints at liveliest meeting held for many years - so ran the headline of the Windsor and Eton Express reporting the evening meeting held on Monday April 17th in the village hall. Some very lively speeches were heard as village residents put their complaints of the inadequate and irregular service that was not always able to get war workers to their jobs. The practice of stopping sometimes at places other than the official stops and poor Sunday service were among the points raised. A general demand for an early morning bus from Dorney and Eton Wick into Windsor at quarter past seven was unanimously agreed but the grievance was voiced that the early morning buses were so full, workers were left behind and it was suggested that relief buses should be run. 

The claim that the Blue Bus did not keep to time and that drivers made unofficial stops across the common brought loud shouts of "Yes" from the meeting. As the meeting progressed the raised voices of protest became louder and the Chairman had to appeal for order and he then asked for concrete facts that the buses were not running to schedule, warning people they must be prepared to put their names to the claims and if necessary, go to the police court to swear to the facts. The complaint about unauthorized stops by the drivers brought out the comment "The artful ones". 

It was said that whilst people were waiting in the queue at the official village bus stops, the artful ones walked to Dorney Gate and stopped the bus there, with the result that when it got to the official halt it was full. This caused bitter feelings in those who had been waiting, perhaps in the rain, and then left behind. Several times the Chairman had to call for order before the discussion could be continued but he assured the meeting that the complaints would be sent to the Traffic Commissioners with a copy to the Eton U.D.C. It had been one of the most lively meetings held in the hall for many years. 

Mr. R. Weatheral of the E.U.D.C. took the Chair, with representatives of West Ward, Councilors Pert, Harding and Chew. The complaints had a successful conclusion with the Traffic Commissioners approving additional journeys and Bus stops. A new bus was purchased with twelve extra seats and the improved service commenced in January 1945. 

Air Raid warnings

Air raid warnings were still interrupting social gatherings as experienced by the ARP Cricket club at their annual supper and social held at the Bridge House Hotel, Eton. Their enjoyment was interrupted by the sirens giving their warning of a possible raid, whereupon, the Chairman, Mr G. Johnston asked members to leave and report to their posts for duty. 

An increasing number of air raid alerts prompted the Council to review the available firefighting equipment resulting in obtaining an extra trailer fire pump; this was put at the disposal of Eton College as their fire risk was greater than that of Eton Wick. 

The British Restaurant in Eton 

Since its opening in May 1941 the British restaurant at the Church Hall, Eton, had gone from strength to strength. A gross profit of £53 - 14s was achieved by Mrs Graham and her voluntary workers and because of this success the Council authorized the purchase of a refrigerator at a cost of £135. During the current eight-week period 4,369 meals were served. Forecasting an influx of summer visitors and the extra wartime inhabitants who were using the restaurant, a ticket system was considered for the regular customers. The forecast of summer visitors did not materialize and the restaurant lost money for the first time, but the number of regulars remained the same.  

A change of troops at the Dorney Common Anti-Aircraft camp

Easter brought a change of troops to the camp with a troop from 608 Battery taking over once more. 564 Battery moved to Canterbury, eventually going overseas to Hoboken on the Dutch - Belgium border. This changeover took place during the weekend of April 8th. and is remembered by Private S. Stanford, a cook with 564 Battery, now Mrs. Sylvia Newall and residing in Eton Wick, she married her husband George on Easter Saturday at the village Church, St. John the Baptist and following their seven days leave, her husband, who was serving with the RAF Regiment, returned to his unit in Lancashire and Sylvia joined her unit at Canterbury. 

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham

Sunday 31 March 2024

The Birth of a Legend - GT40 1964 - 2024


The legendary Ford GT40 was one of Slough Trading Estate's great success stories. Built by the Ford Advanced Vehicle section at Slough to compete in European high performance sports car races, it won the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour race from 1966 to '69, snatching the crown previously held by Ferrari. Want to know more? You're in luck! Slough Museum is holding an exhibition all about it on Sunday 21st April from 11.30am to 3.30pm at their Buckingham Avenue premises.

Thank you to Richard Emerson on the Slough I Remember Facebook Group

Monday 4 March 2024

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - The Choir of St John the Evangelist Church, Eton


Eton and Eton Wick had choirs until the 1970s. This is Eton's large and enthusiastic choir of 1966/7, pictured in front of St John the Evangelist, Eton, at that time the Parish Church.

In the back row (adults): W Stickley, R Boxall, D Pidgeon, A Welsh, P I F Bowyer, R Pike, J Stacey, S Fairbain, M Newland, L Pike, E Gater, C Blake, and the Choirmaster/Organist.

In the middle row (Boys): S Amor, R Hillyer, K Pallett, (?) Middlemas, the Rev. David A N Evans, P Angell, S Maw, (?) Maw, P Burt, W Pike

Front row: N Fairburn, (?) Middlemas, (?) Maw.

This article was first published in A Pictorial History of Eton Wick & Eton.

Monday 26 February 2024

Programme of Talks 2024

There are four talks planned for this year. They are:

4 Bridges and a Ferry presented by Josh Lovell on 10th April

A Stroll in the Park presented by Peter Holman on 29th May

The Miracle of Bletchley Park with Gillian Cane on 31st July

Maidenhead and the Movies with Richard Poe on 30th October

The meetings of the Eton Wick History Group will be held at the Village Hall commencing at 7:30 pm.

The entrance fee will be £4.00.which includes light refreshments.

Friday 23 February 2024

World War 2 - February 22/23, 1944 - German Night Raid on Maidenhead– Bray Area

This German raid on the Maidenhead area was probably the largest bombing attack on this area during the entire war. The original Air Raid message Purple at 00.01 was changed to Air Raid Red by 00.08 hours. For the next hour enemy activity over London intensified and a heavy AA barrage ensued. This was the seventh raid on Britain under operation ‘Steinbock’ part of Goering’s reprisal campaign of retaliation for the bombing of Germany. The attack on the night of 22/23rd February was carried out by 155 aircraft with 55 bombers directed against targets in West London made up of Dornier 217 M’s, Ju 188’s and Me 410 A’s.

At about midnight clusters of flares had been dropped over the Thames which drifted southwest towards the Weybridge area. About this time 15 Messerschmitt Me 410 A’s took off from Vitry - en - Artois. They were quickly picked up by ground radars and air borne radars of the Mosquito Mk.XIII of 96 Squadron based at West Malling in Kent. A night fighter action started near the South coast and continued over the Slough, Maidenhead Bray area. The action was successful as the crew of Mosquito XIII HK 370, Sqn/Ldr Caldwell and F/O Rawlins claimed a probable Me 410 and later confirmed as the Me 410 crashed at 00,15 hours 55 miles south east of Bray at Framfield, Sussex, the German crew being killed. As the raid continued, the Do 217’s joined the Me 410’s and possibly to elude their pursuers jettisoned their bombs at 00.35 hours on St. Leonards farm, south east of Oakley Green and Bray.

Five minutes later at 00.40 hours ten bombs, five of which were UXB, fell between Bray Police Station and the 8th Fairway of Maidenhead Golf Course. Two houses where slightly damage but no casualties. At the same time a large H.E. bomb exploded in the U.S tent camp in a field behind Bray Police Station. ,and although the relevant Incident Report stated 
“No Casualties. Some Tents Burned” , this was not strictly true since Private Donald Champlain of Melbourne, Florida, a telephone technician with the U.S. Army Signal Corps on detached service from Popham Scrubs, was injured by the blast and taken off to hospital. Mr Champlain recounted the incident…

“About midnight on the 22nd February a German bomber pursued by an RAF Night Fighter jettisoned his load onto our bivouac area releasing a 1000lb Heavy Explosive and a Thermal (Phosphorous). The 1000lb landed 25 feet from where I was standing, being knocked unconscious, with perforated ear drums and other injuries, including broken ribs”

“There were approximately 300 US Troops quartered in pyramidal tents. The unit was the 9th Engineer Command (9th air Force). I recall the Headquarters located in a stately mansion, probably what is referred to is Bray Court. I was a Signal Corpsman sent with others to install their telephone communications, as they (9th Engn.) had just moved into the area.”

Fifty three years later, in May 1997, Donald Champlain finally received the Purple Heart for the injuries caused by enemy action in Bray.

As the attack continued other bombs fell in the Maidenhead/ Bray area, one falling in a field west of Sheephouse road leaving a crater 12ft by 5ft diameter and damaging 50 houses. It is thought that this device could have been dropped by the Me 410 engaged by the guns of 564 Battery stationed on SM7 Site, Dorney Common.

The 564 (M) HAA. Troop stationed on Dorney Common with four 3.72” AA Guns, engaged the Me 410 at 11,800 ft with CS type fire using 42 rounds of ammunition. The battery return states, An Me 410, after engagement by site SM7, banked sharply, jettisoned bombs and flares close by and crashed in flames at Radnage, near High Wycombe.

A witness who happened to see the crash said, “It approached from the south at very high speed, the engines screaming at full throttle, leaving an extremely long trail of flame. Indeed as the aircraft hit the ground, this flame set fire to a nearby hedge”. Later one of the main under carriage legs was excavated and this was stamped with the type description Me 210, so perhaps this aircraft may have been a modified Me 210, but since the Me 410 was a development of the 210 then certain components were probably used in the later aircraft. Battery commander Major Haines sent a guard party to the crash site. They returned to Dorney Camp with one of the plane propellers, a trophy of their victory.

(research Leslie Kitson-Smith. Maidenhead.)

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham