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Remembering the 88: a timeline of the 4th September 1940 Air Raid

On Wednesday 4th September 1940 at precisely 1324hrs, the Vickers aircraft factory at Brooklands was bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

The attack which lasted three minutes was considered the most devastating raid on an aircraft factory in Britain at the time and claimed almost 90 lives with over 400 injured. Just two days later the Hawker factory was targeted in a non-fatal attack that destroyed and damaged buildings.

The events of the 4th September 1940

06:30 A German bombing unit which specialised in high-speed precision attacks, ErprobungsGruppe (ErprGr) 210, equipped with Messerschmitt Bf110 fighter bombers, each carrying two 500kg bombs, flew from their base at Denain to their forward airfield at Calais/Marck.

The bombers were escorted by heavy fighter versions of the Bf110, operated by three other units, all based in Northern France.

11:00 Approximately 100 Bf110 fighters also flew to their forward bases. The plan was for all the formations to meet up in the Calais area, then fly down the English Channel and begin their attacks.

Late Morning Large-scale activity by the Luftwaffe confused the RAF, whose fighter squadrons remained on "Standby" to counter further attacks.

13:00-13:30 Thirteen fighter-bomber aircraft of ErprGr 210 penetrated the lines of defence and headed towards the factories at Brooklands. Approaching the Vickers factory from the south-west, the force separated into two smaller formations, in order to split the expected defences. Diving from the Byfleet direction (out of the sun), a wave of German aircraft rapidly approached the aerodrome and dropped their bombs. Another wave of bombers also attacked from the east of the factory. Although an alarm was sounded, it was too late, as with no prior warning local defences had no time to react.  Almost 90 people died, and over 400 were badly injured.  The destruction of Vickers factory buildings included much of the area around the Machine Shop, the Wing Shop and the Repair Hangar. Extensive amounts of roof glazing were also destroyed. 

13:30-14:30 Following the raid, the attackers headed south at low level towards the English Channel.

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The events of the 6th & 21st September

On Friday, 6th September, the Hawker factory was attacked by Bf110s and Junkers Ju88s, but although some buildings were badly damaged or even destroyed and an unexploded bomb was destroyed by a controlled explosion, Hurricane production was only briefly disrupted.

In another attack by a single bomber on Hawkers on 21st September, minor damage was done. It would have been much worse had an unexploded bomb not been dragged clear, in an act of considerable bravery, by a team led by Lt J M S Patton of the Royal Canadian Engineers, who was subsequently awarded the George Cross.

Names of the men and women who died as a direct result of the raids on Brooklands on 4th September 1940

George Joseph Abel • Doris Ellen Ager • John Leonard Alexander • Herbert Almond • Eric Ashton • Geoffrey Leslie Atkinson • Reginald Barber • John Owen Morris Barker • Eva Annie Barrett • Sydney William Belsey • Reginald Tom Burgess • Harold James Cake • Percy Chapman • Emily Cole • Irene Coleman • William Coleman • John Collard • Arthur Ernest Comber • William Ernest Cooper • William Cowdrey • Cyril Frederick Dollimore • Percy John Durrant • Edward Eastwood • Conrad Clarence James Eckless • Percy Ernest Ellis • Frank Etchells • William Percy Ferguson • Alexander John Forrest • Sheila May Fraser • William Joseph Fuller • Edward Horace Girling • Ephraim Gittings • John Gleeson • Gwendoline Joan Goddard • Thomas Horace Gorrie • John Edwin Greenwood • Leonard Gordon Gunner • Francis George Hall • Joseph Peter Hartley • Stanley John Hayward • Albert George Head • William Harold Hellyar • Gordon Edward Walter Hitchens • Charles Albert John Hoare • Thomas Horace Howell • William George Howes • William Ernest Hunt • Edward William John Jesshope • Cynthia Tugela Jones • John Henry Jones • Florence Mary Leppard • George Albert Lloyd-Davis •  Edward McElderry • Angus Neil Mckay • Richard Maden • Henry Walter Martin • Charles George Miller • John William Mounsey • Bert Edward Nicholls • Leopold Maurice Norman • Dougal O’Sullivan • William Robert Pearson • William Arthur George Philbin • Eric Stanley Powell • Sydney Rayner Thomas Preston • Peter Price • Ronald William Prince • William Alfred Roberts • Percy Robinson • Herbert Alfred Sawyer • Roland Charles Scott • Richard Arthur Sharp • Arthur Joseph Sims • Frank John Slade • Dorothy Lee Smith • Henry Frank Spinks • Harry Edward Spittle • Alice Stevenson • Alfred Tingay • John Chalmers Walker • Leo Trevallion Warren • Wilfred Henry Williams • Arthur Woodward • William Wright • Betty Young

After the Raids

Following the raids, barrage balloons were placed around the factories, they arrived just two days after the Air Raid had taken place. Aircraft manufacture was dispersed with new hangars and workshops built on and around the race track. Four Bellman Hangars were built for the construction of Vickers Warwick and Wellington aircraft, the surviving Bellman Hangar now houses the Brooklands Aircraft Factory exhibition.

Alternative factory space was also found in the local area and beyond. Whole departments were rapidly transferred to warehouses, garages, film studios and engineering works over a wide area.

The factory workers at Brooklands and the surrounding area would in total build over 3000 Hurricanes and over 2500 Wellingtons for the war effort.

  • Bellman Hangar 1940 Banking under Members Bridge.jpg
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04 September 2020