|Air raid on the Brooklands Assembly shop|
In 1935 Sopwith expanded the company, buying a number of other companies and forming Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Ltd. At Brooklands the production capacity was increased with the construction of a new assembly shop at the south west corner of the circuit.
Ron here recalls how this shop was bombed during the war. The unusual method of clearing unexploded ordinance employed by Canadian forces then guarding the facility – and how he unexpectedly got to sit at the controls of a Hurricane.
He also recalls how the Flight Shed – which was separate from the Assembly shop – did not have any air raid shelters of its own.
And at Brooklands they'd built, they'd replaced the old sheds, the old assembly sheds with a new building and so that was built and in place was it when you arrived in ‘46 (1936)?
Oh Yes, yes.
What can you actually remember about that building?
That building now, what can I remember about it? I can remember during the war – that period - I can remember - we had all around the aerodrome we had 'Ack - Ack' guns, Bofors and we also had balloons. And I can remember one misty afternoon a 'Ju 88' [a Junkers Ju 88 was a wartime German multi-role aircraft] coming in. I am pretty sure it was a 'Ju 88'. It came in and he bombed that assembly hanger - assembly line. I can remember that one bomb went into the Dope Shop which was one end of the shed.
So that was at the west end of the shed, yes.
Yes, and then two others went through the roof and came out at the side of the hanger and rolled along the side of the air raid shelters.
Now those Ack-Ack guns were manned by Canadians at that time. They - a couple of officers came along, saw where these bombs were and they got a type of jeep - a motor vehicle- they put a hawser at the back of it, a sheet of corrugated iron attached it to the hawser, rolled the two bombs on it and was going to tow it out to the aerodrome where if they exploded they could do no harm. One drove it and the other one sat on the two bombs.
Now the passage of that they were going to take was where a load of Hurricanes that were ready for delivery. I was then at that time working on the aerodrome staff. I can always remember Fred Middleton coming out of the hanger and saying, "Get those aircraft out the bloody way!"
Well, at that time I was just about sixteen and didn't need a second telling. I jumped in one of them and other senior men jumped into the others and - we know how to start these things up - we started them up and taxied them down to other end of the aerodrome.
Now some other boys - Jack ?, Pete Smithers and ‘Pickle’ Adams they were well in their twenties and I was just a little boy and they went off down the aerodrome and they virtually had 'tails up.' I was very, very gentle. I managed to taxi mine very, very slowly and very gently out of the way and stopped it well before I got near any of the other aeroplane. But, it was a terrific thrill to me as a young lad.
Yes, so to actually be at the controls of a Hurricane.
To be at the controls of a Hurricane at the age of sixteen. You know, it was something else.
So, in this air raid on the factory when the factory was damaged, was there anyone killed?
There was no one killed?