Len Strong says he was 14 at the outbreak of WW2, and sends his recollections of that time in Alresford:
“I remember the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, when he broadcast on the radio, at 11am on Sunday 3rd September 1939: “We are at war with Germany”. I was going for a walk with my mate, and Mum said ‘take your gas-mask’. So off we went with the little square cardboard boxes slung over our shoulders. At 14 years of age it all seemed a big adventure to us, not realising the terrible consequences that lay ahead.
With Dad, I joined the newly formed Home Guard, as a messenger boy. Our squad was under the command of the local solicitor, once a Captain, then he retired, and we paraded with a variety of ‘weapons’. One or two shot-guns came from local farmers, but mainly we had a mixture of pitch-forks and garden tools, plus a few home-made ‘cudgels’. We looked like a ‘right Dad’s Army’.
We mounted dusk and dawn look-outs for enemy parachutists, on top of the local water tower at the top of Jacklyns Lane, which is now demolished and has been replaced by a bungalow. Dad had a cudgel and I a garden fork – but if we had seen any enemy I would have run a mile.
After Dunkirk, the bombing started. My Mum was ill in bed and Dad and I used to stand looking out of the bedroom window at the searchlights sweeping the skies over Southampton and Portsmouth and hear the sound of the bomb bursts like distant thunder. One night a plane came low overhead and dropped a stick of incendiaries, which set fire to a bungalow in Salisbury Road, and then a high expolsive bomb – which exploded at nearby Pinglestone. The plane was obviously only ditching its load because it was in trouble, and then crashed on Bramdean Common. Next day some of my pals and I cycled over to view the wreckage, it was a Junkers 88, and the bodies of two of the crew were laid out on a tarpaulin and guarded by two soldiers. They were later given a full military funeral and buried in Alresford church-yard. I understand they were returned to their homeland after the war.
My Mum passed away in 1941, and left alone with Dad I became a bit of a tear-away, so when two of my mates, who were a bit older than me, got their calling-up papers, I said to Dad: “I’m going to join the R.A.F”. Of course he said I was too young, but I found my birth certificate and made a crude job of altering my birth date from 1925 to 1923, and then off I went to Southampton recruiting office and signed on. So at sixteen, I passed for eighteen, and became a member of H.M. forces: the rest, as they say, is history. And now in 2012, at 87, I thank God I am still around with my memories.”
Len Strong, August 2012