May 29, 2020|

Eric Tucker – An exciting boyhood

Ann Tucker was about 12 years old and was living on Hoads Hill about the time of the build up to the invasion.  She remembers convoys of military vehicles going up the hill and one of the vehicles, which could have been a halftrack, caught fire and exploded showering the area with debris.  Ann was also fascinated by the large Barrage Balloons in the sky over Southampton, which were visible from her bedroom window.

Eric Tucker was nine when the Second World War started and found it very exciting with all the troops and vehicles.  The American army were stationed at Shedfield House (now a retirement home), they had a Nissen hut in the grounds and on Tuesday evenings held a film show, which we sometimes managed to creep into. I remember telling my elder brother that we had seen one of Bing Crosby’s films; he did not believe me, saying that this particular film had not been released in England yet.

The Americans also had a depot at Hall Court, which contained hundreds of coffins ready for the invasion.  We liked the men who ran this place, they had built a diving board at the two large ornamental lakes at Biddenfield Lane where we used to swim.  These lakes were owned by Captain Franklin of New Place.

I was 10 years old living, at Shirrell Heath, when we saw a fighter plane with smoke billowing from it coming towards us over the Liberty.  Realizing that it was going to crash locally, we got on our bicycles and rode down to Pricketts Hill to see the plane had crash-landed in a raspberry field.  It was burning furiously with ammunition exploding all around.  The plane, a Hawker Hurricane, was smashed but the pilot had bailed out over the Liberty – he had landed in a tree and was rescued by a local market gardener with the help of a ladder.

I also remember sitting down by the river at Mislingford, watching German fighter planes regularly shoot down the Barrage Balloons over Portsmouth.  After that, without fail, Portsmouth would have an Air Raid that night.

Other short recollections:
• Shirrell Heath had a searchlight stationed in Hospital Road.
• Shedfield common was used by an Anti-Aircraft battery for a short while and as a depot for putting heavy grease onto military vehicles prior to landing on the Normandy beaches.
• a bomb blew a crater in the road just above Wilmots in Mill Lane, fracturing the main water pipe; the indentation of the crater is still visible in the road today.

Eric Tucker

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