When the War Came to Spital

Published in Windlesora 02 (1983)

©1983, WLHG

Sources of local history are many, varied, and occasionally quite unexpected, as 1 discovered when looking through the daily service Registers of St. Agnes’ Church, Spital. I discovered that the Revd. Hubert Thornton Trapp, priest-in-charge, 1939-42, had made notes so that for the duration of his ministry at St. Agnes’ the service register doubles as a war diary. I was able to use this in conjunction with articles in the Windsor and Eton Express and a clear picture of wartime Windsor began to emerge.

It was on September 30th, 1940 that the War came to Spital. “ME109 downed behind Stag Meadow“, noted Fr. Trapp in St. Agnes Register. This was a scoop for the Windsor Express who devoted a good deal of the front page of the issue of October 4th to the story, plus a photograph of the wreckage.

The Messerschmitt ME109 in Windsor Great Park.

The report ran as follows:

“The first German aircraft to be brought down in the area crashed in Windsor Great Park shortly after 5pm on Monday. It was a Messerschmitt ME 109 fighter plane and had come over on escort duty with a formation of Nazi bombers. When the formation was broken up, this machine apparently came separated from the rest. High over Windsor Forest, the ME made an unsuccessful attack on two Anson aircraft and was caught in the fire of a British fighter. Suddenly it dived out of the clouds and began to lose height rapidly. It crossed Winkfield Road and Stag Meadow at a low altitude and, in attempting to land in the Great Park on the Royal Agricultural Showground, it crashed into the stout posts which have been placed there to prevent aircraft landing. The tips of the wings were torn off and the machine did a somersault, the pilot being thrown clear …. The Royal Lodge-keeper at Queen Anne’s Gate was the first to reach the Nazi airman who was uninjured and appeared very cool and collected after his miraculous escape. He spoke good English and asked for a cigarette. At the time of the crash, an officer of the New Zealand Air Force happened to be motoring through the park. He disarmed the German and arrested him. Later, using his own car he drove the Nazi to the nearest RAF Deport where the man was handed over to the authorities. An armed guard was quickly placed around the machine… Crowds of sight-seers came from all parts … The fuselage of the machine was punctured by bullets beneath and behind the cockpit and how the pilot escaped injury is a mystery … On Wednesday afternoon, it was brought back from the park and placed on show at the entrance to Park St…”

A young boy, Victor Newport, witnessed the crash land, Mr. Newport maintains that the pilot had fuel problems and landed after making two circles and that there had been no aerial combat.

Windsor & Eton Express (4th Oct, 1940)

October 1940, saw the beginning of concerted air attacks on the provinces. On October 11th, Fr. Trapp noted “c. 2am, two high explosives on Lovejoy’s Farm and farm buildings devastated, No casualties apart from shock. One choirboy in hospital for two days.” This happened at St. Leonard’s Farm at the top of St. Leonard’s Hill, the tenant farmer being Mr. Charles Lovejoy. The Windsor Express reported the incident on October 18th,

“During the early hours of Friday, two high explosive bombs were dropped on the outskirts of another place in the district. The first fell in the garden of two semi-detached houses of which the backs were blown out and the roofs partially ripped off. The eleven occupants had remarkable escapes.

Children in bed were thrown among the debris and rescued by their parents. and only one boy, Leslie Radburn, aged 12, was taken to hospital and detained suffering from a fractured shoulder. The second bomb fell in a field of swedes immediately adjoining a farm 50 yards from the houses. The farm buildings were damaged together with the model dairy but none of the animals were hurt. The crater made by the bomb was a big one and the blast took the tops off all the swedes. The tenant of the farm said the damage to the property was considerable as hardly one building had not suffered damage.”

Windsor & Eton Express (18 Oct 1940)

There were air raid warnings throughout October and on the 23rd, seven bombs fell in the middle of Windsor, but there was little damage. Bad weather on November 3rd and 11th brought respite from the sirens but November 14th was particularly noisy with planes passing overhead all night long. The next day everyone knew why, “Bad night – Coventry raided” wrote Fr. Trapp. November 15th brought a steady rain of incendiary bombs throughout the night, more than 400 falling in the local area, 250 of them in Windsor itself. The early part of 141 saw further raids and substantial damage in Windsor, but not for the rest of Fr. Trapp’s time in Spital, the skies were quiet.

Fr. Trapp left St. Agnes in March 1942 and joined the RAFVR as a Chaplain until 1947. After his departure, the service Register ceased to be a ‘War Diary‘ bit for those three years we have a unique record of the War as seen by a Priest at Spital.

Valerie Bonham

(this article was extracted from Chapter 16 of “In the Midst of the People” by Valerie Bonham).