Alistair's Memories

I  spent most of the years between 1945 and 2012 living at 170 Whyteleafe Hill opposite “the aerodrome” as everyone called it. Walking the perimeter track was a favourite activity – inherited by my brother’s family when they came to stay.

I can remember the airfield being used by Chipmunks, Austers and Ansons. Sometimes they would take off over our house – terrifying Horace our pet Dutch rabbit. I remember vividly the bands (cadets?) playing on the parade ground.

I was at Primary School (Maple Rd, Whyteleafe) when Reach For The Sky was made. My barber, Mr. Atkins used to have a picture of himself cutting Kenneth More’s hair. Other films were made at Kenley, but I don’t remember them being made – Angels One Five for sure and I gather some scenes from The Battle of Britain. Kenley’s underdevelopment after the war made it ideal.

As a student I had a job as a labourer for a firm developing Kenley and walked admiringly past the Spitfire parked at the end of the entrance road.

I also remember a French jet crashing on Kenley having mistaken Kenley for Biggin Hill. It was taking part in some Channel crossing race to celebrate Bleriot’s achievement fifty years earlier. Newspaper archives might have details.

I remember a noisy night – time exercise being conducted one day? much to my Mother’s and my fascination, but much to the annoyance of the then owner of 168 Whyteleafe Hill. The Cold War was ending and I suspect our Russian friends were among the observers. I’m sorry I can’t remember the date.

During the War, my Mother and Grandmother living at 174 Whyteleafe Hill had a clear view of the Battle of Britain and August 18th 1940 in particular. My Mother wondered what the whistling noise was, and was not amused by the answer an Uncle – also resident at 174 – gave her, another Uncle was serving on Kenley at the time and was able to get a message to the family that he was ok. An elder of …Hall church drove round to see if they were all ok and was told to go away by some military person in no uncertain terms. The road was of course being used by emergency services.

My Grandmother had refused to leave 174 – a providential decision as no house was hit. Some neighbours did as advised and lost all their possessions when the possessions at home or storage place was bombed out.. were they originally resident at 172? I’m not sure.

My Aunt and her family at 134 Salmon’s Lane could hear the tannoy on the airfield quite clearly and were able to react before the siren system sounded a warning or “All Clear”.

On August 8th? 1940, a stray bomb hit a lady’s coal and coke cellar. She lived on Salmon’s Lane. The debris shredded her washing. The lady concerned was a deeply committed evangelical christian and is said to have rebuked herself with the words – “That’s what comes of doing your washing on a Sunday!”

The thrills of battle and victory was always tempered for my Grandmother but my Uncle’s account of men finding an arm where a German plane had crashed.

She worried about every plane that tipped from side to side as it came in to land, or rather the young lad piloting it.

My Mother always remained sceptical of German claims never to shoot a man on his parachute.

My Grandmother had been given a dog for company. He would race for the shelter when the siren sounded.

The Canadians made themselves a name in the area. My Mother accused them of wrecking ….. and completely ignoring the blackout instructions.

Chummy, my Grandmother’s dog, disappeared for a while, eventually reappearing looking very well fed. My Nan blamed the Canadians, but who can begrudge them a reminder of their own home life when they had come many, many miles to spill their blood for this country.”

Comments about this page

  • Can’t remember Chipmunks but the London University Air Squadron used Harvards at some time in the 1950s.
    I saw one with wingtip damage after an incident. My brother, Ken, was at Kenley for his National Service and reserve service with 661 Sqdn, RAuxAF.

    By Len Algar (24/06/2020)

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