War Time Memories of Thundersley

by Richard (Dick) Hills

WW2 Memorial Flight
Terry B

I assume I started at Thundersley School aged 5, in the September of 1937.
Two years later my first memory of the war was my parents listening to Neville Chamberlain on the wireless. We had an old radio which needed a battery accumulator, also a very tall pole to receive the signal.
My first involvement during the war was holding open the sandbags to be filled to stack around the Clinic at the bottom of Kenneth Road; this was the Casualty Clearing Station. There is a picture of the building in the Thundersley book.
In the corner of the Clinic grounds was a small concrete building which housed the local A.R.P. men. At the top of the adjacent telephone pole I believe was an Air Raid Siren.

I cannot remember anything else until the summer of 1940 when we stood in our garden listening and watching dog fights, the beginning of the Battle of Britain. You could actually hear the machine guns rattling away, on one occasion a plane was hit and we saw a parachute come down, probably in the Dawes Heath area.
One other memory of August/September 1940, was standing behind St Peter’s Church, looking to the South West and seeing oil tanks on fire at Thames Haven (Saturday afternoon).
One Sunday my Father took us through the Glen, around the golf course to Vicarage Hill to see the bomb craters on the summit of the hill. I was most disappointed, as they weren’t very big; I wonder if they are still there?
Also we went to the Weir to see where a land mine had landed, a big explosion but I cannot remember when this was.
We visited three crash sites. A Spitfire came down at the back of the Common, Knuts Poultry Farm. After school we all rushed to see it. It was still burning and ammo was exploding. Of course we were told to clear off!
My elder Brother said he came out of school and the Pilot was in the phone box, so he must have parachuted to safety.
We went down to Church Road, then along Moorland Road/Avenue to see the wreck of a Hurricane, this area then was all plot lands and unmade roads. The Hurricane was in a field probably either at North Benfleet or Bonvills Farm.
The third one was a Junkers 88 which came down by the corners of Sadlers Farm, right on the side of the old A13. We saw this come down from the top of Langford Crescent and ran all across the fields to see it. Again it was still burning and again we were told to clear off!
My friend of later years, Tony, lived in Barclay Road and saw the plane come down in a long shallow dive from the Wickford area. It hit the Oak tree (which is still there) stood on its nose with the tail in the air.

My next memory is in the winter when the London Blitz started. We had just gone to bed when there was a terrible crash; it was the bomb that destroyed ‘Strathmore’ in Hart Road. There were also two bungalows hit in Grandview Road and homes at the corner of Langford Crescent. I’m not sure if all happen in the same raid, it was thought at the time that the plane was returning from bombing London and released a couple of bombs he had left. The bungalows that were hit in Grandview Road have different tiles on their roofs.
During this period the siren went most nights and there were search lights and guns firing. You could tell if the planes going over were German as their engines sounded different. They had a thump, thump sound, totally different from the British fighters.

As a family Dad had erected an Anderson shelter, dug into a field next to where we lived. We would go down when the siren went. My Mum stopped going down the shelter after a frog jumped on her leg, she preferred bombs to frogs!
At this time I remember getting out of bed and watching a complete string of Tracer shells, several times. I was looking north so it was a Bofors or similar gun in the Rayleigh Area.
From the start of the war there was a complete blackout of lights, it was an offence to show a light. Vehicles had their lights dimmed or covered.
There might have been one or two street lights at junction but covered at top.
Later in the war 1943/44 I remember lying in bed listening to our bombers, I imagine they were circling before forming up to raid Germany.
I remember cycling along the A127 to Rochford and standing on Warners Bridge to see a flight of fighters (Spitfires & Hurricanes) take off. Same as you see in war films.
About the time of the ‘D’ Day landings we heard and saw Doodle Bugs going towards London (V1). I believe some came down (also V2) in the Wickford/Runwell Area.

Thundersley Secret Weapon? Was built on the side of the Little Common, opposite where the footpath to Raymonds Drive is. It was a metal square/circle about 6 to 8 feet high, possibly 25yds across. It was reputed to be a Giant Ray but I do not think it was used.
In the 80/90s I was talking to Peter Lucener (who lived in Burches Road all his life) about the Ray, saying it was never used. When he said that it was once, his words were, “you could see all the way to Chelmsford”.
Towards the end of the War we had grown big enough to climb into it. It did not have a roof. Inside were racks of what appeared to be fluorescent tubes all around the sides. As boys we could not resist smashing the tubes. It must have been built in 1939/40, we never saw anyone in uniform near it. It was taken down soon after the war.

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  • The Spitfire incident at Nutt’s Oakleigh Poultry Farm is one of the incidents that can be read about on the Benfleet Community Archive’s article World War II Air Raid Damage
    In Castle Point at https://d2s6yrbyrp01f9.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/AIR_RAID_DAMAGE_CASTLE_POINT_WW2__4of_10.jpg

    By Terry B (21/02/2021)
  • Hi;
    My grandfather actually owned that poultry farm. I grew up hearing stories of that day. Apparently many chickens died that day, but the pilot survived. I believe my grandfather helped the pilot out. I’m not sure about a parachute? I would like any other info, or indeed share what I know….

    By Carol Watt (20/02/2021)
  • Hi Mr Hills, that’s a brilliant piece of history involving the Spitfire that crashed at Mr Knutts at Oakley Poultry Farm!

    Admin, would you pls pass on my email details to Mr Hill as I would like to find out a little more about the exact location of the Knutt’s property for my research PS the Spitfire was actually removed and rebuilt!

    By Ian R (11/11/2020)

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