World War I

Troops Parading in Wickford

During the 1914-18 war Queenie Thorrington can remember standing at her gate and watching the soldiers march up Runwell Road. Some were on horseback and there were mules straining as they pulled the guns. At 4 years old she thought it was the whole British Army and she looked for her Uncle Bob and was very disappointed when she did not see him.

She thinks the soldiers were from the Middlesex Regiment and a Scottish Regiment. Some were billeted in Wickford and the authorities said that they had to take two soldiers in. This meant that the children had to all cram in one room.

Like many families of that generation her Uncle Bob was killed in France and her Uncle Will went down with his submarine. 

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  • I assume from Mr Croot’s remarks about ‘nice’ German pilots that he is aiming his wrath at my own comments?  I can only assume that the ‘nice’ German pilot that machine-gunned your sister in Billericay Hospital was a Nazi.  I have made the Airwar over Great Britain my personal interest for many years and have won accolade for my knowledge. However, that is not at question.  I can tell you of several cases where German pilots opened up on civilians from France to England and in Europe. They were, I have no doubt, Nazis. But just as there are good Englishman there are also some very bad ones, and I think that goes without saying for the rest of the world.  I also have met British and American pilots that openly confessed to shooting down a German whilst hanging from his parachute.  War is War, and in many cases total and gruesome, but don’t let’s judge every book by it’s cover.

    By T.A.Williams. (17/02/2013)
  • Also, why did that lovely German fighter pilot machine gun Billericay hospital in the early 40s, while my sister was in there. Nurses put children under beds where possible, laid on others to protect them from those nice German pilots.

    By BOBCROOT (04/11/2012)
  • I too did a three year National Service and attend a N/S RAF reunion and a bomb disposal reunion once a year, but still think German bombers had no thought for civillians at the start, so they started it and we finished it with the the help of our friends. My father spent five years of my childhood fighting them, i didn’t know him until i was seven. I never did get to know him owing to the traumas he went through, like many others in our situation.

    By BOBCROOT (25/09/2012)
  • The subject of the Great War has always been of great interest to me. My late grandfather on my Father’s side enlisted in 1914 and joined the 12th Bermondsey Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. He made Kings Corporal and served on the Somme in France until November 1917 when he was invalided out of the Army on medical grounds and repatriated back to England. He had survived the First World War…..but when he died in 1953 the Coroner wrote on his death certificate……death attributed by War action. My late grandmother talking of her youth….would often talk about witnessing the Zeppelin the L32 when it was shot down over Billericay by Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey, DSO,RFC on the night of the 24th September 1916…..whilst piloting a BE2C out of Hornchurch. Very young at the time she was awaken to witness the incident and later on taken to the crash site by her Mother and Father to see the crash site….my thoughts are this was more for her parents sake. She remembered dismounting the train at Billericay Station and having to walk down to the other end of Jacksons Lane where the airship had come to ground. Quite a walk for a little girl…..she also said the roads were packed with people…uniformed and civilians…farm carts bicycles folk were arriving anyway they could to get a look at the tangled remains of the Zeppelin. My grandmothers most vivid memory….was in witnessing the bodies laid out in a barn which bordered the road or track . Long after this barn became known to locals as, “Dead man’s barn”…..any souvenirs Nan….don’t be daft boy I was only little myself…… That historical event in time was to happen again two years later…..only this time our own village of Wickford was to be written into the history books. The Germans very quickly replaced their huge Zeppelin airships with the twin engined Gotha Bomber Equipped with two Mercedes engines these bombers ranged over England causing death and destruction where ever they went. On the night of 28/29th January 1918……Gotha G V/938/16 of Bogohl 3 had completed it’s sortie over the Capital and was in the vicinity of Romford…..when at 10,000 feet it was intercepted by two Spwith Camel Fighters of 44 Home Defence Squadron….flying out of Hainault Farm. One of the Camels was of a special new adapted version of the aircraft known as a Comic Camel Which was being flown by Captain G.H. Hackwill, RFC the other aircraft a standard Sopwith Camel was being flown by 2nd Lieutenant C.C. Banks, RFC. What happened then was a ten/ twenty minute dog fight which followed the main London to Southend railway line…eyewitnesses said that the three aircraft lit up the sky with their tracer ammunition as they flew over Shenfield and Billericay. Finally as the trio of aircraft neared Wickford the British fighters swept in and finished the big German bomber off. With smoke and flame pouring from an engine the bomber rolled over and impacted on Frierns Farm….located just off of London Road, Wickford……using comparison photographs a well known aviation archaeologist Mr. Colin Lee and myself visited the area and pin pointed the crash site. At the time photographs were taken of the scene showing the Gotha crumpled and smashed on the ground. Other photographs show that Captain G.H. Hackwill, RFC visited the crash site and is pictured raking over his prize. Both airmen for their victory were awarded the Military Cross…..and both mentioned for their bravery in the House of Commons the following morning…..for they had both succeeded in bring down the first German aircraft to fall on English soil…….at night, and putting our little village straight into the history books. Today the scene has been built on…..but the back drop is a public walk bordered by the River Crouch….elegant homes and open farmland. Very similar to the scene depicted in the photographs of the crash site. Yet there is nothing to be seen where or near to the spot this incident happened. Neither is there a memorial or a marker in Billericay to Mark the spot where the L32 Zeppelin fell. A visit to Germany today and you may come across the crash sites where British Lancasters…Halifaxes…Stirlings have crashed whilst on night raids bombing Nazi Germany. Yet you can see memorials beside the crash sites commemorating the loss of the aircrew. I make no excuse for what the Nazi’s did….the murder of six million Jews….the rape and destruction of Europe and the bombing of our own Country. But not every German was a Nazi…..the young men who flew those enemy aircraft were ordinary young men like our own…Mothers and Fathers sons…with wives…brothers and sisters that will probably never know where their loved ones fell. In the area of Wickford alone there were nine German airmen killed…..three from the First War….when there were no such things vas Nazi’s….this is the crew from the Gotha . Leutnant Friedrich Von Thomas (Navigator and Commandeur)….and Unteroffiziers Karl Ziegler (Pilot),,,and Walther Heiden (gunner)…..moving onto the Second World War two airmen lost their lives in the Messerschmitt Bf110 that was shot down by Douglas Bader’s wingman Sub Lieutenant R. Cork of 242 (F) Squadron…..these were Pilot Lieutnant Hans Dietrich Albert….and his gunner Unteroffizier Hans Scharf……and finally the crew of the Dornier Do217M1 That fell in the grounds of Runwell Hospital on the night of the 21/22 January 1944…..Pilot Erich Reiser…..Erich Kanz……Gunter Kablitz and …….Georg Sauer…….all lie buried in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. I attend Squadron reunions and am history officer for two prominent RAF Squadrons, when you talk to the pilots…they all hate Nazi’s….but retain a camaraderie among pilots…… their own and former enemies.

    By T.A.Williams. (26/08/2012)
  • I said it sounded like WW2, not it was WW2.  I was not old enough to see WW1. I am still a youngster!

    By bob croot (02/03/2012)
  • Sorry, to disagree but it was WW1. Queenie was over ninety when I interviewed her and she was very positive about her memories.

    By Jim Reeve (19/02/2012)
  • This sounds like the 2nd World War as we had Scottish troops stationed in Wickford then and Churchend Lane also Brock Hill were very busy with convoys of tanks and troops up and down.  Mum used to say go and look for daddy when I was a small child.

    By Bob Croot (21/01/2012)

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