THE LUCKY JONES’
By Bob Jones.
Above is a story I wrote in 1994 which was published in the Esher News 50 years after the event.
The front page of The Esher News for April 6th 1944. The facts were not accurately reported, they got the Jones' the wrong way round and more importantly there was no mention of me being trapped in the rubble!
The location given was 'a rural area in the Home Counties' was all that was allowed due to reporting restrictions.
And I don't remember any Air Raid Siren either.
Sunday 26th November 2023.
Today, amazingly, I discovered this from Rosalyn on The Exploring Surreys Past website.
I was brought up in Oxshott and certainly one bomb was dropped in what was then Aylings Farm. My father was a fighter pilot and chasing the bomber. the German bombers used to release the bombs aiming at fields very often and escape – poor Dad saw the bomb whistling down right near the house. The people survived. My mother was a radiographer and the night the bombing of Brooklands happened she took off at night on her bike to go to the hospital that was taking casualties in. Sadly one casualty happened in the 1950s when two boys found a land mine which had been left behind by Canadian soldiers.
4am Saturday April 1st 1944
Little Heath Farm Cottages, Steels Lane, Oxshott were a pair of cottages which, until now, had survived the war unscathed despite many bombs dropped randomly in the area. The German bomb aimers were probably attempting to put out of action the powerful searchlight which was located a couple of fields away down Blundell Lane opposite Irene Road, or maybe a wild attempt at knocking out the ‘Gunsite’ located on the hill now occupied by St Andrew’s School Cobham or maybe an even wilder attempt at the Vickers Aircraft factory in Weybridge.
The cottages were built for the farm workers working at Ayling’s Farm next door and the occupants on this particular night were Reg and Mabel Jones and their 5 year old son Robert (me) in No. 1 and unrelated Ted and Gladys Jones and their two sons Norman and David next door in No. 2.
At this stage of the war In 1944 Hitler was making a last ditch attempt to put off the inevitable, which included many V1’s (doodlebugs) launched across the channel. The bomb now plummeting through the night heading for the front gardens of the cottages came from an aircraft that had obviously managed to evade the ‘detection systems’ and therefore the siren located at the top of Steels Lane opposite the original Royal Kent School failed to give its usual mournful warning. Maybe it was a doodlebug!
Earlier that day Ted, being the cowman, he also looked after the two farm horses on the farm, had all his four legged friends tucked away for the night and Orlando (Banjo) Hussey, next door in his ‘Gaydon Motor Works’, together with his yard full of rusting old bikes, cars, motorbikes, pipes, screws, nuts, bolts, washers and batteries and not forgetting his trusty ‘truck’ were now fast asleep together with their families.
To the occupants of the cottages there was no noise, merely, in the dim light, the sight of my newly built model galleon disappearing off the mantlepiece in my bedroom, slowly splintering glass, falling masonry and splintering timber. To the neighbours opposite and around there was probably an earth shattering blast that shattered glass and damaged walls, rooves and ceilings. The cottages were reduced to a pile of rubble and the front garden lawn, which had been blown skywards, came fluttering down and landed intact on top of the rubble, or that was the perception of 5 year old Robert who was now trapped with his mother under the rubble.
Reg had been blown into the back garden, ending up in the vegetable patch complete with pyjamas. Ted and his two son’s had also been rudely awakened and somehow ended up unscathed on the top of the rubble and it was only Gladys who suffered any injury a broken arm while extracting herself from the rubble. The survivors, together with the emergency services now on the scene and many neighbours frantically tore at the rubble hoping to find Mabel and her son, most fearing the worst.
Robert, and his mother who had miraculously managed to find her way into her son’s room, were both trapped in amongst the rubble and choking plaster dust, fortunately they were both protected somewhat by the iron frame bed and mattress which had closed around them affording some protection from the masonry. It was around 7am when the two were released unharmed from the rubble, neighbours by this time were on hand with cups of tea and comfort but no doubt themselves traumatised by the event.
Little Heath Farm Cottages were rebuilt around 1950 and exist today on the same site. ‘Gaydon’ next door was substantially damaged and repaired but Banjo was more upset that his yard full of ‘treasures’ had been somewhat re-arranged but nobody else could tell the difference.
A much better account of that night was written by Alan Simmons who lived opposite, he was about 9 at the time.
4am April 1st 1944 Alan Simmons 10 Crown Cottages, account.
One night I awoke suddenly to the noise of a German aircraft. They could be identified by sound and that had penetrated my sleep. The noise came nearer and nearer and then a whistle came from the night sky - the bombs were on their way. I gripped the sides of the mattress and my jaw shut tight; I knew I was in the hands of the Almighty.
My bed slid across the stained floor boards and little pieces of linoleum and plaster fell from the ceiling. I heard the clay tiles on the he roof clatter back down on the bathrooms. It felt like being in a cement mixer. Then all went still and I heard a rumble which I realized was masonry falling. I thought the walls would come in on me.
When the noise stopped I called out to my mother in the next room, and told her not to open the bedroom door because I thought the front of our terraced house had gone.
I opened my bedroom door and crawled out on the floor; everything was as it should be. On looking out of the hall window I could see that the rumble had been the two farm cottages opposite with seven people inside, which were completely flat.
In the morning it turned out they had all escaped, the bomb going under the cottages, the blast going through floors and ceilings and roof, catapulting the occupants still in their beds out into the night sky - a miracle!
Young Robert with his Dad Reginald in his Home Guard (Dad's Army) uniform.
The bomb went through the deck chair by all accounts!