Air raid shelters at Grange Park School

Ernest Bray, Grange Park Junior and Infants 1939-1944

My recollections of the shelters are quite limited. Certainly Hayes was bombed. Close to the school I can remember going to view craters formed by a stick of bombs which fell on the then unfinished Balmoral Drive between Warley Road and Shakespeare Avenue. I have a vague recollection of looking at a sign 'beware unexploded bomb'. Later in the war a V1 flying bombs or doodlebugs as they were known fell on houses at the end of Hurstfield Crescent opposite the start of Raynton Drive killing I seem to remember eight people. This was opposite St Nicholas church which was then a wooden structure on the corner of Raynton Drive and Balmoral Drive. The V2 rocket demolished a row of shops in the Uxbridge Road between Gledwood Drive and the forge, which was still shoeing horses well after the war, not far from the Adam and Eve. There was also a flying bomb which I saw passing over my house which exploded when it crashed on the Greenway in Uxbridge killing a number of people.

I am fairly sure that the school did not sustain any war damage. Hayes was regarded as an intermediate danger zone. There were high danger zones such as central London, safety zones in the countryside which was where children were evacuated. Hayes was regarded as being almost out of the range of the German aircraft. This does seem strange today when you can fly anywhere in the world from Hayes when taking off from Heathrow.

There were plenty of potential targets in the area. Fairy Aviation were making planes in a large factory in North Hyde Road, the AEC at Southall were making and servicing military vehicles and of course the Gramophone company (now EMI) were making radios and other electronic military equipment. The factory is largely unchanged outwardly today and would seem to be a very obvious target. They were never hit and the gossip locally said it was because the 'Gram' had part German ownership. Northolt aerodrome was a RAF fighter base only about a mile or so away. (For another view on this click here)

I lived in Kingshill Avenue and we always knew when the siren was to be sounded as a squadron of Hurricane fighters would take off from Northolt aerodrome and fly low over our house. The siren was on the top of the police station at Hayes End and the Gram's factory hooter would also sound. We could hear these quite clearly - I guess that as there was so little traffic noise the sounds travelled further.

Having seen picture of the shelters on the website I think they were constructed of concrete blocks to make a box structure and then covered with earth. There was only a few steps down into them and they would have only protected us from blast. There were a rows of wooden seats each side of the shelter. At a total guess there would be about sixty children in each one. A direct hit would have been fatal to all those inside. At first there was no electricity and when we were in them the teachers had large battery lamps. No lessons were possible and we used to sing and play string games such as cat's cradle and wait for the all clear.

There were very few daylight raids in the early days of the war. I remember spending nights in the Anderson shelter in our garden. My father took me out to see the glow of the flames when the docks were on fire in the East End of London. After the war the shelter was dug up and moved to the end of the garden and survives to this day.

It must have been quite a task for the teachers to get us all into the shelters safely and I have a vague memory of some strengthening work inside the school in the cloakrooms to provide more shelter. We must have been using the shelters mainly towards the end of the war when the V1 flying bombs where falling. There was no warning for the V2 rockets. At first the authorities tried to explain them away as gas main explosions. The public very quickly disbelieved this.

If there had been an air raid siren we were not allowed home until the all clear was heard or one of our parents came to collect us. I do not have any recollections of being frightened by these events and I think I accepted it as being a normal part of life. I suppose my early years knew little of any other lifestyle.

EB age 69. January 2002

Our pictures show Ernie, in his cap, aged 9, his sister Vera aged 4 and his brother Philip aged 6.