Kingston Aviation
Cyril Herridge
Transcript: 4
Early warning of air raids at Canbury Park Road during the war


Well one of the odd things I suppose – well we thought it was odd – but then you grow used to it you see – again it is accepting what becomes normal. They had an observation platform or a tower over the office block. That was at the top end on Elm Crescent right opposite what was an off-licence then – the Swan off-licence.

This is –

Yes Canbury Park Road.

This is Hawkers who had an observation platform? OK.

Yes a platform there. And you could see the men stand there. But they had a flagpole there and we didn’t seem to be able to – I say we, I’m talking about the neighbourhood or the road – didn’t know what it was. And I don’t know if they didn’t want people to know or whether it was just something that eventually got talked about. But up this very high flagpole used to go – I can only explain it was like – a 60 gallon barrel with big black and white squares on. A chequered barrel and that used to be pulled to the top of the pole – and we were led to believe – again I can’t say about the authenticity of this – that that was another early warning because it was a munitions factory and that was observed from the gun tower. So in Canbury Park Road if us boys see that barrel go up we knew we had time to scurry away and in all probability within about fifteen minutes the civilian air raid siren would go. Soon as the air raid was over, down came the barrel. You couldn’t see it because of the …..   

So this would have been some sort of company early warning?

Oh all to do with Hawkers – it was on top of their main roof. I can see it now.

Right. Sorry, can you just explain exactly where it was again because I haven’t quite understood that.

Yes, the corner of Canbury Park Road and I think it was Elm Crescent. On that corner was the main entrance to the offices. Directly above that main entrance there was the platform on the roof and this enormous flagpole. And I only ever see it fly a 60 gallon barrel with black and white cheque paint on it. Flags weren’t flown then anyway during the war. And that’s where it was – if that’s the corner, here’s the factory – main entrance there, come up to the top of the roof and that’s where the observation platform was.

So they would actually ….

Well you couldn’t see them but this thing just slide up

So by some sort of pulley system?

Well I doubt if it was hydraulic or anything like that. I just assumed – I’m assuming now that – just to see it going up. You couldn’t see the men doing it because it’s too high and they had like – not a guard-rail – but.

So how would they get early warning of possible air raids?

Well we were told – we were told – that when the aircraft were crossing the Channel and had crossed the coastline on the south coast. That flying time – they could get there in about fifteen minutes – and the aircraft were crossing the channel and the south coast. And we were told – it was – I’m not sure about this title – Coastal Command or whoever was doing the observing on the south coast. And that’s what we were always led to believe and everybody thought was authentic. Oh! – They get the early warning because it is an aircraft factory – and that went on all the time.