World War Two
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BLACKHEATH DURING WW2
The Second World War began in September 1939. Many of Blackheath’s young men were called up, but those who remained (usually because of being medically unfit for service), along with older villagers, formed The Local Defence Force under the command of Colonel Sandeman.
In 1940, on instructions from Winston Churchill, the LDVF became known as The Home Guard. In Blackheath, they were known as ‘B’ Company, 5th BN Surrey Home Guard Signals. Originally only men were able to enlist but later some of the younger women of the village joined up in a non-combatant role including Betty Edwards, Joan Hawkins and Joan Covey. The Home Guard post, a sandbag emplacement, was situated on 'Heads Hill', a short walk from the village. There was a wooden hut sleeping quarters just over the hill to the south.
The Home Guard Company HQ was set up at Brantyngeshay, the home of Colonel Sandeman. There was a network of field telephones made up with D3 cables that extended to Platoon HQ's in Shalford, Albury, Wonersh and Shamley Green.
The Volunteer Arms public house became the central control for air raid warnings with publican Bill Loynes as ARP warden. The air raid siren was located at St.Martins Corner, near the crossroads. Billie Hockley remembers running up the village in her tin helmet to report for duty as a messenger.
Plenty of flying bombs (V1’s or Doodlebugs) were seen from the village , but only two fell close by. On 19th July 1944 this is recorded in the Poilice Day book - 03.30 hrs Flying V1 landed behind the Blackheath Fire Station in the copse (near the village hall). Slight damage to housing and 1 slight casualty. 04.00 hrs Flying bomb landed near Tangley Way. Slight damage to house and no casualties. Squadrons of B52 bombers and spitfires would also often be clearly visible flying over the village heading off to France.
In 1940, the Government requisitioned the Hallams in Littleford Lane, ‘Cheshunt’ in the centre of the village (for the Adjutant’s HQ) and ’Theobalds’ on the cricket pitch (for other officers’ use), as well as the surrounding heathland, and Blackheath experienced its own mini invasion with the arrival of British troops.
Village life was continuing despite the hardships of war, but nothing could have prepared the people of Blackheath for such a change in its population.
The first troops to arrive were members of the Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment who remained in the village from 1940-1941. Next came the Royal Regiment of Artillery, mostly Northerners, who were known to the locals as the ‘go boys’. They established their camp on the heath and remained for two years before they departed for Palestine in late 1942. Some were to return to Blackheath and the surrounding villages to marry local girls and many settled in this area. One such soldier was Clarence (Jo) Rossall who served in the 67th Field Artillery under the 48th Division (South Midlands). Jo met Rose Sink who lived with her parents at Sandilands on the cricket pitch. In 1945, Jo returned to Blackheath, married his sweetheart Moina Rose Sink, and moved into Sandilands with her, where he remained until 1984 when he moved to Wonersh. He was a familiar face at the cricket club. Their children and grandchildren still live in the area.
The village was a hive of activity during the war years. Barnett Hill was a busy convalescent home for wounded servicemen. They were known in the village as the ‘blue boys’ because of their blue uniforms worn with red ties. Many Blackheath villagers worked there including Evelyn Saunders. A keen member of the Red Cross, she worked as a nurse at Barnett Hill Convalescent Home as well as organising the village First Aid Post.
Chilworth Station was an important link for troops and residents. The younger women of the village liked to go down to the station, particularly around the time of the Dunkirk evacuation. Numerous troop trains were passing through with repatriated and wounded soldiers. The soldiers often gave the girls mementoes such as pieces of shrapnel and continental cigarettes and matches.
The soldiers were not the only new residents. In 1939 a number of children, mostly boys, were evacuated from Islington and Wandsworth and billeted into homes throughout the village. The children went to a small kindergarten run by the vicar’s daughter, Miss Margaret Poole . The children were a familiar sight around the village with their teacher, on best behaviour, complete with their gas masks over their shoulders. The local village children found the village to be extremely exciting at this time with all the activity.
1st November 1942 saw the arrival of thousands of Canadian troops. They had been billeted in Aldershot for some weeks under the command of Lt. Colonel McMahon. The regiment was decentralised to the following areas -
Regimental HQ - Snowdenham Hall, Bramley
Headquarters - Northanger House, Godalming
‘A’ Squadron - Blackheath
‘B’ Squadron - Munstead Heath
‘C’ Squadron - Unstead Park
‘D’ Squadron - Bramley Park
Known as the ‘Rhinos’ to the villagers, ‘A’ Company of the 18th Armoured Car Regiment called Blackheath home between 1942 and 1943. Members of the Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers were also attached to the Manitoba Dragoons. Many of the men came from the Winnipeg area in Manitoba.
The Hallams had become HQ of ‘A’ Squadron. Protective boards were laid to protect the lovely wood panelling of the house. An excerpt from the Manitoba Regiments scrapbook has a note as follows -
‘ On November 1st 1942 the Regiment moved to requisitioned houses and mansions in Surrey. Here, we were in one of the loveliest parts of England, and the men found it very pleasant to live amongst such friendly rural surroundings, especially after the oppressive atmosphere of Aldershot”.
The heath, occupied by hundreds of men and armoured vehicles became a tented city. Large bell tents were erected to the right of Littleford Lane on Derry Hill for accommodation, and the circular depressions formed by the soldiers digging around the outside of their tents are still remarkably eviident.. There was a cookhouse up behind Blatchfeld.
The Canadians created many of the paths and the main gallops on the heath as part of their encampment. Stony flint paths and tracks were hurriedly built with gravel from Farnham. The area was formed as part of an assembly area for 10,000 vehicles. Rows of vehicles were parked up over the heath and around the perimeter of the cricket pitch. Soldiers from the Canadian Engineers returned to Blackheath after the war to help clear the camp and restore the heath. Many old vehicles and bits of equipment were auctioned off or buried on the heath.
The narrow lanes around Blackheath became extremely busy with vehicles, and many of the passing places that we use now are those carved out to accommodate the military vehicles. Transport for the local population was mostly a bicycle, the train or walking; petrol was in short supply and rationed.
The Canadians were to be part of the Allied Forces invasion of France in 1944. Their time here in Blackheath was spent training and preparing their armoured ‘staghound’ vehicles for their long journey through Europe. They set up a large maintenance area with deep inspection pits for the vehicles near the current top car park. The common was ‘out of bounds’ and encircled with barbed wire fencing to all non-military personnel.
One young Blackheath schoolboy of the time Brian Monk, still a resident today, recalls his memories.
'In 1944, in the months leading up to D-Day, I was a schoolboy of 9 years attending the Shamley Green School. My two sisters and I would walk to school from Barnett Hill where we lived. Sometimes we went via the rights of way access across Woodyers Farm, and sometimes down to Lynes' Farm and thence by public footpath south to the Shamley Green road. I usually made my way back alone, and quite often diverted east at Lyne's Farm and up on to the heath to see the Canadian troops who were amassing for their move to war. (South to take part in the D-Day invasion as we later learned).
Some say the whole area was enclosed by barbed wire, but that it not my recollection. I think only the important areas were fenced off. Anyway, I seemed to have no trouble reaching the soldiers and their vehicles, and got to know a few quite well. They saw my interest in them, their army vehicles and the Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
These Canadians, waiting for goodness knows what, were very good to me, allowing me to sit on or in their vehicles and motorbikes. They also gave me chocolate - a rare treat in wartime.
Early summer an entertainment was organised for them in the natural 'amphitheatre' in the hollow east of the path (Green Lane) along the west boundary of Lyne's Farm. There were few trees on the slopes then, and natural seating was easy. It was made known that local people were welcome, and my Dad, who for once was not on duty, took me to the gathering that early summer evening.
A boxing ring was set up and we saw a few bouts, and then a much stage managed 'fight' between a huge brown man, announced as the great Joe Louis (the Brown Bomber), and a much smaller white boxer. We all loved it.
Well know sports men and personalities were introduced, and I remember one was that great jockey Steve Donoghue. After the boxing, a small jazz band played, but my Dad took me home before the evening got too spicy!.
This must have made the troops realise that it would not be long before they went into action somewhere.
When the massed troops moved out we heard a rumble of armoured vehicles and lorries in the lanes while in bed at Barnett Hill. As soon as I could the next morning I ran down the front drive of Barnett Hill to see what was going on. Military police stopped others and me from getting too close, but I managed to give a wave and cheer to those passing before I had to leave for school.
A small group of soldiers remained behind for a while to dispose of unwanted gear and defective vehicles. One soldier jokingly offered me a broken down Harley-Davidson. I excitedly told my Dad who explained that I would not really be allowed to have it, and anyway it would be of no use to me, as we had no access to spares, and no spare petrol.
The movement through the narrow lanes by the large vehicles chewed out the banks to form the first passing places, now much further widened by modern day traffic.
Another Blackheath resident Hilda Beasley, although only 14 years old at the time, remembers well the lorries parked over the heath and the long rolls of barbed wire along Littleford Lane. Many local children found ways to sneak into the camp to receive sweets from friendly Canadians. One evacuee, George Brown from London, decided to crawl under the fence to have a look at the mysterious goings-on on the heath. He had just scrambled under the fence, when a large Canadian soldier suddenly smothered him. He thought he was in serious trouble, but the soldier had only flattened him to protect him from an imminent air raid warning. He was rewarded with chewing gum and sent home.
Joyce Skilton, a sixteen year old young Blackheath resident also recalls in her diary an interesting insight into life in Blackheath and the surrounding villages. She recalls films in the village hall, one such was the 'The Next of Kin' which she describes as gruesome. There were plenty of dances around the villages,many of them being described as 'packed out'. One dance in 1942 was attended by 260 people, they were entertained by a group of 2 men and 10 girls and the core was named 'Ack-Ack Annie'.
She also recalls that the Lion Hotel in Guildford was a good place to see lots of smashing Officers and good for a glass of port.
At another dance in Wonersh, it was a full house with lots of merry attendees who popped into the Grantley Arms for a round before the dance. There was lots of dancing, the jitterbug and tango until someone let a smoke bomb off, the band played 'God Save The Queen' in double quick time and then ran out. Regular dances were also held in Wonersh and at Dunsfold Park, the Military Police often having to be present due to high jinks amongst the soldiers. Often Blackheath girls were given a lift in army trucks to the Dunsfold Airbase, frequented by Americans.
The village hall became an important hub for both the villagers and the troops. It was used for ‘Ensa’ concerts and dances and two film shows a week. More importantly it was used daily as a ‘canteen’ for the off-duty soldiers. The canteen was manned by women of the village under the watchful eye of Rose Ayears, and others in the YMCA. They worked four shifts a day. The younger women of the village were very keen to volunteer to serve out the ‘chips beans and sausages’ to the soldiers.
It was a common sight to see lorries, jeeps and armoured vehicles mounted with Bren guns parked on the verges near the village hall whilst their drivers enjoyed some leisure time, and a good old cup of British tea in the hall.
Cricket matches were also popular, one such match on 5th July 1942 saw Blackheath men play the Wonersh Troops. Blackheath lost.
In May 1944 ,Field Marshall Montgomery came to Albury Heath to address the soldiers in the surrounding camps prior to D-Day landings.
In late 1943, villagers awoke to the sound of roaring engines. Vehicles and troops were lined up along the lanes and verges ready to depart. Most of the vehicles disappeared off down Sample Oak Lane to Chilworth. Villagers waved them off to an unknown destination – subsequently they learnt they went to a holding area nearer the South Coast for further training, and preparation for Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of June1944.
The Surrey Advertiser ran an article in May 1943 shortly before the Canadians departure from the area –
“The ‘Surrey Advertiser’ has been asked by some of the lads of the ‘Canadian Army’ to thank the people of Bramley and district, for their hospitality, great welcome, and general kindness. Their experience they say had been a happy one.
The writers wished their Surrey friends good health, good luck, and a safe return of their lads after the victory. Unsurprisingly, there would have been a number of broken hearts for the local girls when the troops left. Joyce Skilton wrote in her diary after walking back to the Hallams with a soldier who was due to leave Blackheath " I wonder if we shall ever see him again, wartime seems to be a long round of meeting nice people, making friends, saying goodbye and good luck and then meeting some more'.
There were a few in our village who married Canadians such as Molly Risbridger, who married Ken Lloyd Maxted. In recent years messages are still received from relatives of Canadian soldiers interested in their relatives time in Blackheath. . A Leonard Dolezar contacted the Blackheath Village Archives trying to determine the exact location his mother and grandmother came from. His mother's marriage certificate listed her address as 3 Heath View, Blackheath. Her marriage took place at Greyfriars Church, Chilworth (The Friary) in 1945. He states his mother was a war bride who left England for Canada in 1946 followed by her mother.
After the Canadians left, the Hallams became a prisoner of war/internment camp for German and Italians. It is reported that there were up to 220 located at the Hallams in 1945 and nearly 400 by 1946. There was a small lookout post manned by the Home Guard. Formed of sandbags, it was sited on Head’s Hill (Aeroplane Hill). By 1946, it held over 400 German and Italian prisoners who worked on surrounding farms, and engineering projects such as laying new roads. They wore baggy trousers with the letter ‘PW’ printed in large white letters on their seats. The local gardeners would know if the Italians had been past, because their gladioli bulbs would have disappeared; the Italians loved to eat them as they replaced the fish garlic they were unable to get. The two village churches, St Martin’s and the Friary were used for worship by villagers and the POWs.
The Hallams became used as a rehab centre until 1949 for displaced Polish refugees once the POW's had departed.
Many of the young men from Blackheath served with distinction and returned safely. Captain C.L.Burne,MC, was awarded the Gallant and Distinguished Services Medal and the Military Cross for his time in Burma. Private Ronald Velvick joined the Queens Royal Regiment in 1942 and after being stationed in Iraq, he took part in the Tunisian Campaign and the invasion of Italy where he was taken prisoner at the Anzio beach head. Albert (Bert) Ayears took part in the Allied Paratroop Forces action at Arnhem, Holland. Frank Hayward served in the Royal Corp of Signals and fought in France, Africa, Egypt and Iraq and held the Yeomanry Long Service Award. Colin Campbell was taken prisoner on the Western Front in 1940. He was held captive for five years before being liberated by the American
One man who moved to Blackheath after the war was Major Oswald A.J.Carey Elwes. A quiet and agreeable man who lived at Theobolds next to the cricket pitch. Many were not aware of his war time exploits as a member of the newly formed SAS regiment in 1944. He commanded the 'Lost Team' formed to harass the German forces as they reacted to the D-Day landings. He was instructed to search for and re-organise irregular French resistance forces, which had been attacked and dispersed in woodland.
ELECTORAL ROLL MAY 1945 BLACKHEATH
Atkins Bessie Fir Tree Cottage
Atfield Arthur 1 Chesnut Corner
Atfield Elizabeth 1 Chesnut Corner
Ayears Albert Laurel Cottage
Ayears Rose Laurel Cottage
Ayears Vera Barnet Hill Auxillary Hospital
Balchin Annie 7 Mitchell Cottages
Balchin Harold 7 Mitchell Cottages
Birkett Kathlyn Blatchfeld
Blackadder Robert Cobbins
Blackadder Margaret Cobbins
BlakeRose Little orchard
Brambley Edith 2 Hillside Cottages
Brambley Frederick 2 Hillside Cottages
Brambley Charle s2 Hillside Cottages
Browne Edgar Rose Cottage
Bullen Kelsey Rose Cottage
Bullen Rose Rose Cottage
Bullen Wallace The Ark
Bullen Walter Rose Cottage
Burne Edward Frith Cottage
Burne Mary Frith Cottage
Bushnell Bessie South Cott
Butlin Mabel 3 Pine Cottages
Campbell Edith Blatchcoombe
Campbell Margaret Barnet Hill Auxillary Hospital
Cannon Ada Rosemary Cottage
Cannon Jabez Rosemary Cottage
Cannon Malcolm Rosemary Cottage
Cannon May Rosemary Cottage
Chandler Frederick Lingholme
Chandler Dora Lingholme
Charlesworth Alice Sandilands
Clark Irene Hazardon
Clayton Amy Forest King
Cordy Kitty NAAFI
Common Elsie Kilkeel
Cooper Annie Lyne's Farm
Cooper Jean Lyne's Farm
Cooper Walte rLyne's Farm
Davis Albert Post office and stores
Davis Nancy 1 Hillside Cottages
Davis Rose Sandilands
Derry Minnie Melvin
Durham Myrtle Melvin
Durrant David Seminary Cottage
Durrant Edith Seminary Cottage
Durrant Kate 3 Mitchell Cottages
Dykes Maud Rosemary Hill
Edwards Alice 8 Mitchell Cottages
Edwards Arthur Gable Cottage
Edwards Frederick 1 Pine Cottages
Edwards Gillian 2 Chesnut Corner
Edwards James Firtree Cottage
Edwards Margaret 1 Pine Cottage
Edwards Robert 8 Mitchell Cottages
Evans John 2 Mitchell Cottages
Evans Olive 2 Mitchell Cottages
Farrer Daniel The Ark
Forrester Monica Pine Cottages
Gammon Evelyn Tynne Tarlwm
Gammon Olive Tynne Tarlwm
Garrick Dorothy 4 Chesnut Corner
Garrick Walter 4 Chesnut Corner
Gleadell Mary Bramfell
Griffiths Edith Blatchfeld
Harris Annette Crossways
Harte Christine Derry Hill Cottage
Hayes Elizabeth 2 Heathview
Hayward JoanPear Tree Cottage
Hayward SarahPear Tree Cottage
Hayward SydneyPear Tree Cottage
Herbert Edwin Tangley Way
Herbert Gwendolyn Tangley Way
Hook John 3 Chesnut Corner
Humphries Elizabeth Fourways
Humphries William Fourways
Isaac Joan Theobalds
Isaac John Theobalds
Jones Patricia Derry Hill Cottage
Joy Arthur Forest King
Joyce Cyril Village stores
Kemp Catherine Melvyn
Kennedy Gillian Tangley Way
Lawson Sarah Heatherlea
Lawson Wilfred Heatherlea
Lee Mercy 5 Mitchell Cottages
Lee Walter 5 Mitchell Cottages
Littleton Lucy Luesdon
Littleton Richard Luesdon
Longhurst Jane 3 Hillside
Loynes Minnie Volunteer
Loynes Wiliam Volunteer
Maclean Lillian NAAFI
Macdonald Mary Forest King
Macdonald Polly Forest King
Mace Cyril Barnett Hill Lodge
Mace May Barnett Hill Lodge
Mant Catherine White Cottage
Mant Levi White Cottage
McHardy Rudolph Heathview
McHardy Yolande Heathview
McMillian Walter NAAFI
Mercer Edward Gleneesh
Mercey Ivy Gleneesh
Mant Frederick Barnett Hill Garage
Mant Mini Barnett Hill Garage
Morgan Glady's NAAFI
Morris Margaret NAAFI
Moss Betty NAAFI
Murray Edward 3 Mitchell Cottages
Nicholson Winifred Martin's Wand
O'Sullivan Hannie Blatchcoombe
Parrott Rose Martin's Wand
Paterson Nora2 Chesnut Corner
Payne Thomas Hazelhurst
Payne Caroline Hazelhurst
Peto Edith Heathway
Pete Herbert Heathway
Pettit Ivy Barnett Hill
Poole Beatrice Vicarage
Poole Herbert Vicarage
Poole Margaret Vicarage
Pratt Sybil Top Cottage
Reidy Annie Little Melvin
Reidy Mary Little Melvin
Reidy Maurice Little Melvin
Risbridger Albert Holly Hedge
Risbridger Albert CHolly Hedge
Risbridger Annie Holly Hedge
Risbridger Emily 4 Mitchell Cottages
Risbridge rWilliam 4 Mitchell Cottages
Ryan Amelia Heathcot
Ryan Dennis Heathcot
Ryan Frances Heathcot
Ryan Stephen Heathcot
Salmon Lucy Heatherlea
Saunders Elizabeth 6 Mitchell Cottages
Saunders Evelyn 4 Heathview
Saunders William 4 Heathview
Shann Ethel Derry Hill Cottage
Sheeham Frank Kilkeel
Sheeham Jessie Kilkeel
Shepphard Daisy St Martin's Corner
Shepphard John St Martin's Corner
Skelton Florina St. Anthony's
Skilton Albert Thorntree
Steere Claire Ashlea
Stoke Elizabeth NAAFI
Strong Ellen Martin's Wand
Stewart Sophia Sandilands
Sudbury Evekyn Little orchard
Tagg Eleanor Cornerways
Talbot Elsie Barnett Hill
Talbot Hilda Barnett Hill
Tanner Allan Spa Cottage
Tanner Boswell Spa Cottage
Tatchell Edward St.Anthony's
Tatchell Elaine St. Anthony's
Treagus Ellen 4 Hillside
Treagus Frederick 4 Hillside
Vann Elizabeth Heatherlea
Velvick Florence Woodside
Velvick Herbert Woodside
Vincent Annie 3 Pine Cottages
Viney Violet NAAFI
Wadilove Edward Rose Cottage
Wadilove Margaret Rose Cottage
Warner Harold Hazards
Warner Doris Hazards
White Edna Heather Cottage
Wilson Marguerite Derry Hill Cottage
Woodcock Emma Top Cottage
Woodcock Robert Top Cottage
Yates Helena Luesdon
Yorkston Stella White Cottage
White Glady's Barnett Hill
We would like to thank the Manitoba Dragoons Museum in Canada for supplying us with some amazing images of the Manitoba Dragoons during their time is Surrey. Please note all photos remain their copyright.