The 1939-1945 War and Tring
The reminiscences of John Bowman continued . . .

The Royal Air Force operated from the airfield and when the U.S.A. entered the war in 1941 the U.S. Army Air Force operated from there.

At the beginning of the war the Home Office organised Civil Defence, so that the population of Great Britain could help themselves in the event of expected aerial bombardment. The Auxiliary Fire Service was formed to supplement local Fire Brigades, and they, in their turn, became The National Fire Service. The Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance Brigade staffed First Aid Posts and Emergency Hospitals. In Tring there was a Military Hospital at Drayton Manor and a Maternity Hospital at Home Farm in Park Road. The town was split into two sections, and each section had an Air Raid Warden who was responsible for ensuring that no house showed any light during ‘black-outs’. If a bomb dropped in his section he would evaluate the situation, and call forward rescue or fire support if needed. The Rescue Section was housed at Honours Yard in Akeman Street, this being a builders yard and the Section was comprised of men working there.

In 1940 volunteers were required to form a civilian/military formation called The Home Guard. The volunteers were lightly armed and knew their own area, and so would be invaluable if we had been invaded by Germans. Youth organisations, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides supported the Civil authorities, Army Cadets attended training with the Army and the Home Guard, and sat examinations which entitled them to a trained soldier’s pay. The same applied to Air Cadets and Naval Cadets. During the early part of the war, London and the larger cities were subjected to very heavy bombing. Heavy damage to buildings and communications occurred, and volunteers were brought in from other areas to assist. Our own Civil Defence organisations in Tring relieved the exhausted firemen and rescue teams in London, some even went as far as Portsmouth to help out.

When the heavy raids on London occurred, we, in Tring, could see the red glow away to the East, with the flashes of anti-aircraft guns firing at the enemy aircraft. Quite a lot of bombs fell in the Tring area, but fortunately not much damage was done. There was some damage to a house on the corner of Albert Street and Langdon Street. The third of a stick of four bombs exploded in front of our house in Duckmore Lane. It dropped behind four haystacks, and shrapnel made some holes in our roof, and some windows were broken.

In Long Marston, the school and a public house were destroyed by a bomb. There were no children in the school at the time, but one person was killed. Air raid shelters were built along Tring Road and Station Road in Long Marston because of the close proximity to the airfield. The schools in Tring and surrounding villages, accepted evacuated children, who were billeted with local families. This caused overcrowding in the classrooms, so some classes from the Junior and Senior schools in the High Street, moved over the road to the High Street Free Church opposite. The Akeman Street Baptist Chapel also housed classes. The infant School in King Street used the Temperance Hall in Christchurch Road. So, you see, even the children were involved in the war effort.
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