A quiet Sunday afternoon suddenly turned to horror

Visitors to HayesMiddlesex.com have been recalling the quiet Sunday afternoon when a German plane flew low over Hayes, firing at random. He was SO low, people could even see his face in the cockpit....

A Heinkel bomber swooped low over the fences and rooftops as men, women and children ran for cover....

From Pammy

y father lived at No 3 Chaucer Avenue from about 1935 to 1953. I've told him all about this website and printed some pages off like Ernie Bray's Wartime stories of Hayes, which was of great interest to him, he has quite a few of his own which I'll try to get him to summarise and post on this site.

He can remember the big guns at the top of Shakespeare Avenue going off, apparently there were a lot of low flying German fighter planes going around Hayes, my father's twin sister, Eileen, was about 14 or 15yrs and was shot at by machine gun on her way in to the air raid shelter at the bottom of the garden at 3 Chaucer Avenue, he was so low apparently he skimmed all the fences all the way along Chaucer to Warley.

Luckily he missed my Aunty, but she said she would always remember his face, she saw him that clearly (sadly my Aunty died 4 yrs ago) - my father has all sorts of stories about the war in Hayes, funnily enough his name is Albert (like Uncle 'During the war' Albert). I'll get him to start scribbling!!!

From Sue Stanbury

i Pam,
Ive just read with interest your message regarding the German pilot.

My uncle lived in Bedford Ave and he told us of being machine gunned all the way down the road as he ran for cover.

I think the pilot may have been short sighted as I dont think he hit anyone. Uncle's name; Harry Johnson, had a brother Ronnie.

From Ron Rennie

Was this once the scene in Botwell fields?came upon this site after making many searches for info about the history of Hayes. I am particularly interested in the war years and one event, in particular, frequently comes to mind.

The year was about 1942 and I was, of course, a little kid about nine years old. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was playing in our front garden at Shakespeare Avenue, when suddenly there was a loud noise of aircraft engines and I turned around to see a German Heinkel 111 bomber flying along the street at, literally, rooftop level with all machine guns ablaze. In just a few seconds it was all over. Afterwards, my father managed to retieve three bullets from the lawn where my brother and I were playing.

We did hear that the plane had landed in a field at Botwell, and in fact, I stayed B&B at a farmhouse in Cornwall a few years back where the owner happened to have spent his childhood in that area. He said that he was playing in the field when the bomber landed and tried to take off again. I am interested in finding out more about this incident.

If anybody has any knowledge of it (particularly the date), or can direct me to a site that has this info, I would appreciate it.

From Ray in Australia

ES I also remember the German fighter plane that shot up parts of Hayes in 1942. I was playing with a crowd of kids in Townfield Square, when I heard my uncle - who was home on leave from the navy - shouting to us kids to get into the shelter, but it was too late as the plane was at rooftop height letting loose with cannon fire. Luckily no was hit.

It was a Sunday around lunch time and my father was on his way home for lunch and had just turned into Townfield Square on his bike; he lept off into the privet hedge as a bullet hit his bike. If my memory serves me right, this plane was on reconnaisance over Northolt air field and had been damaged and was making a run for it. I recall it being chased by Hurricanes and or Spitfires. I can remember my family talking about it and saying it had been shot down over the South Downs approaching the English Channel.

Some reports say the Heinkel was chased by SpitfiresI lived close to Botwell, but I have no recollection of a German fighter plane in a field. Us kids would have been all over it and I cannot think of a field large enough that a pilot would try and land on in that area. My father who is now 95 and still lives in Hayes may recall the incident I will endeavour to find out next time I give him a phone call in England.

It was a period in my lifetime that will remain forever ... The fires in London that lit up the night sky, the bomb falling in Longmead Road, the V1 falling on the EMI, an oil bomb exploding on the corner of Hemmen Lane and Central Ave and the V2 rocket that fell behind the Corinth cinema etc.etc. Not to be forgotten, the wave after wave of aircraft, some towing gliders, flying over Hayes heading south on D-Day 6th June 1944.

From Eric Hayles

I , my sisters and my Mum saw it as it flew across our garden in Second Ave, my Dad and my brother saw it as it flew over the Gramaphone Co., and my future wife saw it as she was walking down Nestle's Avenue.

From Tony Bragg

have read with interest the recollections of people being machine gunned by a German aeroplane. I was born in 1939 at No.5 Belmore Avenue. I remember playing with another child in our front garden when a German aircraft flew across the street at a very low height. I remember clearly seeing 2 men in the cockpit. I have always thought that this was a Messerschmidt 110 although I did not know this at the time. Perhaps this was another incident.

My Grandparents lived with us during the war and my Grandfather was an ARP warden. My Mother worked in a factory assembling radios. My Auntie May worked at the same factory and if they exceeded their work quota they would leave the surplus for each other on the other shift.

My Father was taken prisoner at the fall of Crete. I remember when he came home flags were hung out down the street.

The Webmaster writes:

ipping in to Catherine Kelter's book, I have found what I believe is yet another reference to this incident that so many people have mentioned here and on the Grange Park site, and which my own parents also remember.

On page 69 of the paperback version, "Hayes - a concise history", Catherine writes:

"In Yeading, a group of children coming home from Sunday School at St Edmund's Church on 5 October 1940 were fired on from a dive-bomber". I think she would be very interested to know that so many other people across Hayes had a similar experience that Sunday.

I've also found a reference to another incident which I believe has been referred to here, and confirmation therefore of someone's recollection. Read this...

"A Heinkel bomber was shot down by anti-aircraft guns during a daylight raid and was put on exhibition on Botwell Green where the swimming pool is now."

We've had many, many more memories and pictures posted to us since this section was added to the website, and we hope to bring them all to you soon (they're on our "Memories" message board if you can't wait!) Here's one of them...

From Ian Henderson

was born in Hayes in 1932 and have vivid memories of Cranford Park and the surrounding area. I can remember a B17 bomber crash landing in a field near the North Hyde Road and Parkway junction. The crew jumped out and legged it back to Heston,leaving the aircraft unattended. The local lads soon had the belly hatch open and one or two of the taller ones climbed in.

I saw a lot of trophies carried off that day including live ammunition. The next year a Buzz Bomb landed in almost the same spot (it blew my sister off her bike). I also witnessed the buzz bomb that hit EMI, it was in a perfect dead stick glide over Nestles Avenue at about 500ft.

Also being in class 9 at Townfield with windows on three sides of the classroom and seeing the explosion of a V2 rocket over towards Greenford....and then hearing the sound of the missile (supersonic)

From Ron Rennie

can tell you a little more as I remember that Sunday afternoon quite well. The bomber was actually a Heinkel 111 and flew at a few feet above the rooftops along Shakespeare Avenue firing its front machine gun. I was playing with my brother in the front garden when I heard a loud noise of aircraft engines. I looked along Shakespeare where the noise was coming from, and saw the wing of an aeroplane jutting over the front of the nearby houses. It was just a few feet above the rooftops and as it passed over the gap between our house and next door I saw all of the plane and knew it to be a Heinkel 111. I also saw the gunner in the front nose cone firing his gun. Afterwards my father dug three bullets out of the lawn my brother and I were playing on, which we kept, but unfortunately, I have not been able to find the one I had for many years now. This would have been useful to settle one dispute I have seen raised. Some accounts say that this bomber was being chased by two Hurricanes firing at it and they did more colateral damage than the bomber.

I was not aware of these two Hurricanes flying over. Did you see them, Tony?

I also heard at the time that the lady at no. 1 Belmore, Mrs Morgan, was upstairs in her front bedroom getting ready for church at the time. A bullet went through the front window, which faced the direction the bomber was coming from, and passed right through her abdomen somewhere. She was taken to hospital and fortunately survived her wound. We also knew your neighbor at no.3, Mrs Gye, very well as she worked with my mother at the Savoy cinema for a number of years during the war.

In closing I would ask if anybody can put a date to this bomber incident? Also is anybody aware of any official account of this attack. Does any Hayes News or Hayes Chronicle account exist of the incident? I am most interested.

From Alan York

do enjoy this website! Your "Terror from the Sky" is marvellous, as is reading others stories about the war years in Hayes. Re the V1 falling on the HMV shelter, I remember vividly seeing the bloody thing just prior to it hitting. I lived in Station Road above a shoe shop, almost next door to the old Hayes Workingmans Club. The back verandah faced the Southall Gasometer.

The V1 in question I spotted coming from that direction. As I watched, the engine cut out, which in the advice of the time meant it had two miles to go till it hit. I was a kid at the time at home alone, and I ran inside at engine cutout and hid under the kitchen sink. After what seemed like an eternity I snuck outside again only to look straight above my home and see the V1 whooshing right overhead! It exploded seconds later at HMV.

My older sister Audrey worked at HMV, and I can remember seeing my mother Doris pedalling furiously towards the factory to see if Audrey was ok. As she approached the factory my sister and a couple of workmates were streaming out of the gates, unfortunately my sister laughing, possibly from relief or fear.

My mother struck her across the face for laughing at such a time. I saw this happen because I was pedalling to the explosion site in search of some shrapnel or a piece of the V1.[ Aren't kids funny!].

Seeing my mother in such a mood, I did a very rapid u-turn and headed in the other direction!

From Valerie Robbins via Facebook, May 2020

We lived in Wyatt Close off of Balmoral Drive in 1942, I was only a few months old, my mother was holding me, my father and her were in the back garden watching a spitfire chasing a German plane, they never told me what type of plane. He was firing wildly at anything, my father rushed us indoors and our back door was strathed with bullets. He saved a bullet and gave it to me when I was 6, he told me it would bring me luck. I belive a girl was killed on the corner of Shakespeare Ave and Balmoral Drive. I still have the bullet dad gave me. I always wondered if it was a bullet from the RAF plane or the German, then a few years ago someone told me to measure it, if it was Imperial it was RAF, if German it would be metric. It is Metric, so definitely German.

The Heinkel bullet given to Valerie by her father

From the BBC's "People's War" pages:

Contributed to the BBC's People's War pages by Mike Collier. People in story: Michael and (my sister) Jean Collier, neigbours Norman and Len Bosworth who both served in the Army, Norman was the POW.

I was just 4 years old when the war broke out, and I lived in North Hyde Road, Hayes Middlesex not far from the shops between Wyre Grove and Roseville Road. My earliest recollections were of the air raids at night and being taken under the stairs with my younger sister by my mother. My father was employed by Fairey Aviation, who at the beginning of the war was making Swordfish aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm. During the raids he had to go out as a firewatcher at the factory.

At first we had no air raid shelter and spent many nights in the cupboard under the stairs in our three bedroom semi, as that was regarded as the safest place to be. After some time a neighbour managed to get an Anderson outdoor shelter in their back garden and they shared it with their immediate neighbours. I recall after a period of rain it filled up with water rendering it useless. However after some time all the houses were supplied with Andersons or inside Morrison shelters, which were like a solid steel table and replaced the dining table in most households. The new Andersons were also concreted in to make them waterproof. We spent many nights in our shelter and to this day I can vividly remember the sound of the very distinct undulating pitch of the engines of the German bombers. Early on in the war we were all issued with gas masks mine fitted over the face and head and was carried in a cardboard box. But my baby sister had a sort of a complete body suite into which she was placed and sealed in.

Heinkel Bomber Hayes Middlesex Botwell I went to Cranford Park primary School in Phelps Way, which was hit by a bomb in the early months of the war that killed the school caretaker and his wife, their only daughter survived. They were sheltering in the school boiler room that took a direct hit, to my recollection, it was the only bomb that fell any where near the school by miles. As the war progressed our lessons at Cranford Park were frequently interrupted by air raids and we had to hurriedly evacuate the classrooms and go into the long underground shelters that were built at the back of the school. In those days we walked to school accompanied by mum for a while but when we had learnt the route we went by ourselves, it was a walk of about three-quarters of a mile. On the way I can remember that we passed large round tanks of water, about four feet deep and ten yards in diameter which were to give instant supplies of water to fight fires caused by incendiary bombs. Also at the top of Phelps Way there was a large brick air raid shelter built on the pavement with a door that opened strait onto the road, we used to play in it frequently. On one occasion I was run over by a lorry as I ran out of that door, I must have been six or seven at the time, fortunately I got off with a cut on the head and a slightly bruised foot.

Food was strictly rationed and everyone including my father grew a lot of vegetables and kept rabbits and chickens. We just had rabbits, lots of them when they started breeding and it was my job to pick dandelions and cow thistles to feed them. My sister and I liked to play with them in our Anderson shelter, but it never seemed to bother us when one was dispatched and ended up on the dinner table. One of my other jobs was to follow the milk carts, which were horse drawn and collect the manure in a bucket for my fathers vegetable garden.

On several occasions during the war my sister and I were sent to my grandparents house in a small town in Sussex called Heathfield, just about a dozen miles inland from Eastbourne. I can remember that there were large numbers of Canadian troops stationed there and that they raided my grandmother's chicken coups, to steal the eggs. On one occasion they took the ceramic artificial egg that was used to encourage the chickens to lay, and my grandmother would laugh at the thought of them trying to eat it.

On one winter visit to my grandmother it was winter and there had been quitw a heavy snowfall. My grandmother was great believer in goose grease and we had it rubbed on our boots to keep the wet out and on our chests for some unknown reason. We always seemed to have long hot summers in those days and we would range far and wide in the fields between Hayes and Southall and Cranford Park with no fear of being molested or any other harm coming to us. Heston aerodrome at some point was taken over by the American Army Air Force as it was then, and as far as I could make out it became a casualty evacuation centre for D Day. We soon got used to the Americans, our favourite catch phrase was 'Got any gum chum' and they were very generous, as they knew that we had very little in the way of sweats etc. We were very keen on swimming and as Hayes had no pool we would walk all the way to Heston Swimming Pool as it was the only indoor pool around. In the summer we would sometimes walk to Southall or even Uxbridge outdoor pools. The next major period of the war that I can remember was when the flying bombs (also known as V1s or doodlebugs) started to come over, they were worse than the bombing as you heard them come with the very distinct sound of their pulse jet. The jet would suddenly stop and we were taught to get into the nearest ditch or behind any substantial wall, if out in the open lay down flat supporting your weight on your hands and toes, as if in a "press up position". They were designed to explode immediately on impact and create a very large blast field which in addition to it's own fragments would cause a lot of lethal flying glass and debris. The nearest one to land to us landed in fields between Watersplash Lane and Heston aerodrome. It caused considerable damage to the houses in Roseville Road. In our house, which was about one third of a mile away, it pulled a bedroom window frame out by two or three inches without breaking the windows. It was in the same field that a badly damaged B17 Fortress Bomber landed. It was there for a few days and as kids we were drawn to it like flies to a jam pot. The American guards were very casual, they let us have a good look around and you could see all of the battle damage that it had sustained. They told use that the pilot had seen his girl friend in that field and called in to see her.

It must have been the summer of 1944 that I had appendicitis with peritonitis, our GP a Dr Singer, who had a practice in Wyre Grove had me rushed to Hillingdon Hospital immediately. I can remember that I was operated on literally as soon as I got there by a surgeon called Mr Duncan. I was at Hillingdon for one month whilst the poisons were drained out of me, as there were no antibiotics then, I was told that I was very lucky to have survived and I certainly owe my life to those two doctors. At that time the V2 rockets had started to come over and the windows of all the wards at Hillingdon were totally bricked up as there could be no evacuation procedure, it was artificial light for the entire month that I was in there. I can remember when my mother had been able to get a choc ice for me, and it was such a rare treat that took it all round the ward, I was so excited. V2s were very different to V1s in that you had no warning at all before the impact. As they travelled faster than sound you heard them come after the explosion. I recall that one landed at the junction of Uxbridge Road and Landsbury Drive in the vicinity of a cinema there, whose name I cannot remember.

When I was discharged from Hillingdon Hospital, I remember that I was sent down to my grandparents in Sussex as it was thought that I would be safer down there. I remember taking the train from Victoria Station and after crossing the Thames seeing acre after acre of buildings that had been flattened by the flying bombs. When I got to my grandparents it turned out that I was probably in more danger there than back in Hayes as they were in the zone where the V1s were being shot down over the rural areas of Sussex, where in theory they would do less damage. Their house had already suffered considerable damage from one that had landed close by so we had to stop with an aunt. The first intimation of the arrival of a flying bomb was the sound of the gunfire at the coast, which they invariably passed. Then you could hear the fighter planes chasing them and the sound of their machine guns followed by the silence, then you would head for the ditch! My aunt had a Morrison shelter and my sister and I and our cousins all slept in it whilst our mothers slept in their beds. They had a kitten which used to play with the balls of a game of bagatelle up in a bedroom and on a number of occasions we heard this kitten playing away in bedroom as a doodlebug passed overhead. Whilst I was there I remember that one landed in a potato field and the potatoes were just about ready to be harvested. The farmer had no need to dig them up, as there were potatoes everywhere.

We returned to Hayes and as part of my recuperation I was encouraged to take up swimming as a sport and joined Heston Swimming Club. I can remember at Heston Pool when there was a warning of a flying bomb, we were all made to get out of the pool and stand along the side on the interior of the building. The other side of the pool faced the exterior and there was no wall just a series of windows and glass panel doors. Knowing what those bombs could do, I always felt that we were put in the most dangerous position possible, but who were we to argue as kids. Once the danger of the V bombs had passed the last months of the war were uneventful as far as we concerned. On of the few things that I do remember, our neighbour's son who had just recently been called up into the Army was home on leave and took me to the pictures. The newsreels 'Pathe News' were showing the first pictures of the concentration camp at Belson, which had just been overrun by the British. I remember that as the scenes were considered so horrific that children were made to leave the cinema and stand in the foyer until the news was over. However like most kids I was curious and managed to see most of it through a crack in the door.

In the last months of the war German POWs started to build prefabs opposite Cranford Park School, they were fenced in behind high wire net fences and were told not to talk, but as the building site was right opposite the school gate we all did.

When the war ended we had a street bonfire on a patch of waste ground, there were no fireworks as they were not available. Flags and bunting were put out everywhere and I remember going on long walks with my parents just to see all the decorations in different neighbourhoods, not only in Hayes and Harlington but over to Cranford as well. Our neighbour's eldest son who had been captured at Tobruk at the beginning of the war came home and had horrendous tales of conditions in POW camps. There were lots of other strange faces as the servicemen returned, some didn't as our local newsagent who was a friend of my parents lost both his sons in the war. A happy time for many and a sad time for some, but I am sure that my parents were just glad that they got though the war unscathed.

Photo caption: My sister Jean and I sitting on the tailplane of Heinkel 111. Picture taken 4th Nov. 1940, at Botwell Green Hayes Middx.

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar

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