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

Monday 19 February 2024

World War 2 - February

The slogan ‘Savings means Confidence’ was adopted at the meeting held for a Special Savings Week from May 6th to the 13th, called  "Salute the Soldier".  Meetings were called to make the necessary arrangements with the target set for the Eton District of £500,000.  A public meeting was held in the Eton Wick Village Hall where it was announced that the village target was £4000.  This called for a very big effort on the part of the organizers and the street collectors. The talk given by the Honourable Area Secretary was useful and inspiring but it was regrettable that more people did not attend. however a strong committee was formed to deal with the weeks entertainments. and as on previous occasions canvassing for savings  was left in the capable hands of the street collectors and leaders. After discussion the Committee agreed a programme of events for the week which included a Dance at the village hall, Parade for a United Church Service, a Concert, School Sports and a Whist Drive. 

Photographs of local men and women serving in the forces were obtained and displayed in shop windows at Eton and Eton Wick.  Eton  opened  their ‘Salute the Soldier Week’ on a novel note, no parade but a dance in the Eton College Memorial Hall by kind permission of the Head Master.  Music for dancing was by the College Dance Band with Major H.C. Streatfield in charge of the very thorough organization. The drumhead service held on Eton recreation ground on Sunday had a large attendance.

Other events for the week were a children's concert, Darts and Whist Drives and a show by the Foc's'le Follies from H.M.S. President III at the Baldwin Institute. Saturday, the final day, was attended by a large crowd at Eton recreation ground were a military band, sideshows and dancing brought a successful savings week to its close. 

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


Wednesday 14 February 2024

Eton Wick History Group Talk - A Ferry and Four Bridges: A History of Datchet Bridge & Home Park with Mr Josh Lovell


A message from Ruth Maher:

Hi all, I just wanted to let you know that the History Group will be returning soon and the first talk will be by Josh Lovell. Please join us and learn more about our local area. Refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing you there.

Monday 12 February 2024

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - Eton Parish Church Fete


This photograph is believed to be the 'celebrity' opening of the summer c1974 Fete, by the Emperor 'Iedo Kung Fu' and his entourage. From the left are: the Rev. Christopher Johnson, Rita Pidgeon, Lesley Ballard, Celia Russell and George Paget. George was a very well known character, often to be seen with his carriage and horses taking tourists and bridal parties to their destinations (and the odd appearance in 1960s cinema films). 

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