View Chesham in World War 2 by:
Although war against Germany was not declared by the UK until 3rd September, the Bucks Examiner dated 1st September 1939 carried the headline “Chesham’s Defence is Ready”.
Chesham Town Hall became the HQ of the A.R.P. and 24 Air Raid Warden posts were set up throughout the town.
The Town First Aid Post was set up at the Germain Street Clinic, with first aid points at Newtown Baptist Schoolroom, Chartridge Hill House and Tweenways, Codmore Cross.
The Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service were organised and ready trained, as were Rescue & Demolition parties to rescue people trapped in damaged buildings.
Decontamination & Repair crews were also standing by to deal with poison gas attacks and repair essential services. Gas masks could be obtained from the Town Hall.
May 1940, and there was an appeal for volunteers not eligible for the armed forces to form a Local Defence Volunteer force (Home Guard). Within one week, 1,047 men and youths had visited Chesham Police Station and the formation of the local units had begun. Their HQ was the Drill Hall in Bellingdon Road.
Chesham took many evacuees. At one point there were 1,000 unaccompanied evacuated children, 1,848 adults from bombed areas and 2,500 other people who had turned up unofficially. The Billeting Officer had the unenviable task of finding accommodation for them all.
Chesham got off relatively lightly as far as being bombed was concerned. The only property completely destroyed was Goodings Smithy in Germain Street where the smith’s daughter Helen was killed in October 1940.
The Co-op Hall in the Upper High Street was turned into a British Restaurant offering cheap, nutritious meals to those in need and many of the factories in the town were ordered to do war work such as
- making army boots (Barnes and Giffard Newton)
- packing glucose powder (Van Houten)
- packing soap powder
- egg powder (Bury Farm)
- aircraft parts (Empire Works, Station Road and Canada Works, Amersham Road)
- Hurricane propellers
- searchlights and generators (Arthur Lyons)
- Mosquito fuselage parts (Webb Jarratt, Townsend Road)
Shillakers (Alma Road) was taken over by the Admiralty for the Telegraph Condenser Company although they continued to make gas mask cases. Hivacs was built by the Ministry of Supply in Asheridge Road where they made fuse valves for use in anti-aircraft shells.
March 1945 and a Lancaster bomber crashed near Chesham, killing the entire crew. The official RAF log read: “Took off from Little Staughton at 1733 hours. The aircraft was homebound, when a Target Indicator that had failed to release exploded sending the Lancaster hurtling into the ground at 0100 hours near Bellingdon, 2 miles north west from Chesham.”
Ashley Green goes to school
The Ministry of Information created a film in 1940 featuring Ashley Green, with commentary from the school headmistress, Mrs James.