In 1937 when the
political situation was grave and a Civil Defence Corps was brought
into being, the late Mr Harry Benjamin Nicholls was elected Head
Warden of Ash and Ridley, in which post he remained until Peace was
declared in 1945. Several other people of the Villages also joined the
Corps about the same time.
A number of evacuees were sent from London immediately before the outbreak of hostilities, but they mostly returned home or
were transferred as this was proved to be a dangerous area.
For a short time the Warden’s Post was at
"Hillside", Billett Hill, then it was transferred to
"High Leigh" on the Main Road, and "Dairy Farm",
Hodsoll Street was set up as a subsidiary post with Mr A.R. Lucas in
All the Civilian War Services were well supported, Air
Raid Wardens, First Aid Team, Fire Watchers, Women’s Voluntary
Services, a good Special Constable Force, and a strong Home Guard Company
which was combined with neighbouring villages. The Headquarters of the
First Aid Service and the Home Guard was at Ash Manor.
Air Raid Wardens and Fire Watchers were under the control
of Mr Harry Benjamin Nicholls, Mr C.A. Prime was in charge of the
First Aid Team, Mrs Daisy Goodwin controlled the Women’s Voluntary
Services at first but later Mrs M.M. Ewbank took charge. Towards the
end of the War Mrs G. Simmons took over. Mr F. Goodwin was head of the
Special Constables. The late Major E.S. Dalton of West Yoke was for a
time Commander of the Home Guard, he was also a Government Factory
Inspector whose job it was to visit factories with a view to speeding
up production and eliminating unnecessary processes.
The first shock to the Village was the news that the
destroyer H.M.S. "Exmouth" had been torpedoed in the North
Sea with the loss of all hands and that Captain R.S. Benson, D.S.O. its
Commander, whose home was at Ash Manor, had gone down with his ship.
We Had front seats for the Battle of Britain, including
the famous Sunday when the air seemed full of parachutes, and the Home
Guard turned out to arrest the survivors. One parachute failed to open
and the German Airman landed in the "White Swan" field badly
incendiary bombs fell like rain but no great damage was caused, the
Fire Watchers were very active. In the morning the lane by Chapel Wood
was strewn with unexploded incendiaries.
From our five hundred feet up we looked towards London
and saw the glow of fires, recalling the occasion when we had watched
the Crystal Palace go up in flames. The nights turned into fantastic
Brocks benefits by the huge candelabra flares hanging in the sky.
During the Battle of Britain a number of Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
Sergeants were billeted in Ash. They were engaged in Radar work in
Bombs of every description fell over both Parishes
causing widespread damage to buildings, mostly of a minor nature,
including both Ash and Ridley Churches and the Ebenezer Chapel. Crops
and overhead electric cables also suffered. No fewer than thirtynine
bombs fell in Great Barn field.
There were two major incidents involving death and
injury, one was during the Battle of Britain when a high explosive
bomb fell at the back of the Council Houses, killing a child, Margaret
J. Sharman, and injuring several of the inhabitants. The other was during
the "Flying Bomb" (V.I.), or as it was commonly called
"Doodle Bug" period, when one hit "Haven Manor"
killing Mrs Victor James. The Manor was entirely destroyed.
Throughout the grim period when flying bombs were coming over, barrage
balloons covered the whole area from the Thames Estuary southwards as
far as Sevenoaks. One night while on duty Mr H.B. Nicholls saw eleven
V.I.s coming over at the same time, obviously fired from eleven
On the night of January 29th 1944 phosphorus
incendiary bombs fell over a wide area. The worst damage done was at
Ash Place Farm where four stacks of straw in the yard were set on
fire. The local Fire Watch worked here until fire engines arrived. The
engines were there all night and managed to keep the flames from the
house and outhouses.
The Rockets (V2’s) were the next scare, but none fell
very close although some fell in the Dartford Rural Area.