The 1940 bombings and Susan Cooper

Although Cippenham didn’t suffer particularly from air attacks in WW2, during the month of October 1940, Buckinghamshire was bombed intensively and houses were hit twice in Cippenham causing fatalities in both instances. The online record, “Bombs over Bucks” gives a small amount of detail.

• 14th Oct. Cippenham Old people’s cottages. Casualties.
• 28th Oct. Water, gas and electric cables damaged. Casualties and unexploded bomb.

Stukas feature on this cover  although Cippenham would have been beyond their range.

Concerning the 14th October, the old people’s cottages referred to were on the Brook Path side of Bridge Close and four elderly people lost their lives. After the bombing, the cottages were rebuilt and still stand. Details of the casualties are known, and at least two of them were related to people living in Cippenham today. See the the comments section below for more details on the casualties.

Other than Bombs over Bucks than there is no published information on the second bombing on 28th October. The novelist Susan Cooper has written two fictional accounts of bombings,  both of which are likely to have been based on her personal recollection of this tragic event. Susan was born in Cippenham in 1935 and at the time of the bombing would have just begun at the local Primary School, and it is known that the bombs fell next to the school. Her first published work was a children’s story titled Muffin. Cippenham Primary School is given as the location for the story, in which a girl named Daisy struggles with being bullied. Daisy is befriended by an old lady whose garden adjoins the field of the school. Muffin is the name of the old lady’s dog. The old lady subsequently dies when her house is hit by a bomb. Fortunately, however, Muffin survived and was successfully able to defend Daisy from the bullies. The account of the bombing has notable similarities with a later story by Susan Cooper set in WW2 called Dawn of Fear. The story covers nine days in the life of eleven year-old Derek and his friends, during which they are confronted with the grim realities of war. One morning Derek finds a crowd gathered outside the school and makes his way through to find a large crater in the road. The narrative continues

Derek stood staring, mesmerised. He had seen bomb craters before, but they had always been in fields. A hole in a field, even a huge hole, was not the same as a hole in the road; this was more violent somehow, with yards and yards of road and pavement simply gone, vanished, and the road surface and stones and gravel and clay and broken pipes left naked in layers, as if by a vast jagged slice taken from a gigantic cake. When he looked around again, he could see that there was another crater close by, where the garden of the house next door to the school had been, and that there was not much of the house left, either, but only a heap of rubble and one lonely wall. “The old lady was in there.” Peter was back at his side, wide-eyed from gathering reports. “The bomb fell right on the house and she got killed”.

The events took place on a Monday in the book, and 28th October was indeed a Monday. Muffin, like the narrative above, also describes a crater in the road containing broken pipes, both stories agreeing with the “Bombs over Bucks” description. It seems likely that the 28th Oct bombing was one of Susan Cooper’s most powerful childhood memories.

Muffin was originally published in a book of short stories called When I was Your Age. It and Dawn of Fear are out of print today, but second hand copies can easily be obtained by anyone wanting to get an idea of what life was like in Cippenham for a schoolchild during the war. Unlike Muffin, Dawn of Fear is not explicitly set in Cippenham. The names of roads in the story are taken from Cippenham names, however, and a map in the book bears a strong resemblance to how the north side of the Bath Road would have been in 1940. Derek and friends are mostly occupied with building their “camp”. Over generations, this was a popular activity for children in Cippenham, perhaps because of the opportunities provided by the surrounding derelict farm and scrub lands strewn with the type of junk materials that could readily be utilised in the construction of dens and hideouts.

After attending Cippenham Junior School and Slough High School, Susan Cooper studied English at Somerville College, University of Oxford. She has had a highly successful career as an author writing  children’s stories, science fiction, dramas and screenplays. Her novel, The Dark Is Rising was adapted into the Hollywood film The Seeker in 2007. She has won several awards and accolades for her writing and currently lives Massachusetts, USA – having gone a long way from her earliest days in Cippenham.

Do you remember Cippenham being bombed? If so, please leave a comment.

Related items: The Cippenham V1 Flying Bomb ; The Slough Bomb Mystery


9 Responses to The 1940 bombings and Susan Cooper

  1. Carol says:

    I wasn’t born then. Moved to Britwell when I was in years old in 1959. I now live in Dennis Way and have been told that our bungalow was the only one bombed and two people died other than that don’t know much more or been able to find out. Do you know anything about this.

  2. James Webb says:

    I think I have more information regarding this. I actually came here looking for information myself about a story my grandad told me. I’ve always been told that his grandparents died in a bomb which fell in Brook Path during WWII, though information has been quite scant. I’ve never known the date or the year.

    From some limited genealogy research, I have found that my great great grandmother may have been born Sophia Stevens and that the man with whom she died may have actually been a second marriage (as my great great grandfather, Edward William Webb apparently died in 1932). I’m not sure of his name or her married name, I’m afraid, though I wonder if there is enough evidence to search in records now that I know the date of their deaths?

    • Dreadnaught says:

      I found that an Edward William Webb’s wife was named Phoebe (née) Weatherly, born Love Green, Iver abt. 1847. I was unable to find further records on her and couldn’t to establish whether she was one of the Brook Path casualties. Slough Town Hall once kept a book of condolence for its victims of WW2, in which she should be listed. It is on our “to do” list to try and track this book down, but it may have been mislaid. If anybody can help, please get in contact. We would certainly like to find out more about the Cippenham bombings and those that died.

      • James Webb says:

        Interesting that you found a different name there. They would have had at least one son, William Edward Webb (of Webb’s Garage on the Bath Road) if that helps. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were indeed one of the casualties, because the story was always oddly specific – I was always told that there wasn’t a mark on them when they were found in the wreckage of their home.

  3. James Webb says:

    I believe I have found the names of the victims from the October bombing.

    I spoke to my nan and she seems to recall that my 2x great grandmother remarried after the death of her husband, Edward William Webb. I found an Alice Webb marrying a Mr. Werrell after the death of Edward Webb.

    So I searched for the death of Alice Werrell and found, in the WWII Civilian Deaths, that Alice Werrell and her husband Alfred Werrell both died on 13th October 1940 at 19 Bridge Close. Same death day, WWII Civilian Deaths register and suspiciously close to Brook Path. I have a feeling I may have found it.

  4. Dreadnaught says:

    Following on from James Webb’s excellent detective work, the four victims of the Bridge Close bombings were

    ADA LOUISA FARRANCE age 70 of 11 Bridge Close. Wife of Robert Farrance. Injured 13 October 1940, at 11 Bridge Close; died at Slough Emergency Hospital.

    JOSEPH CHARLES FLETCHER age 75 of 17 Bridge Close, Cippenham. Husband of the late C. Fletcher. Injured at 17 Bridge Close; died same day at Slough Emergency Hospital.

    ALFRED WILLIAM WERRELL age 76 of 19 Bridge Close, Cippenham. Husband of Alice Georgina Werrell. Died at 19 Bridge Close.

    ALICE GEORGINA WERRELL age 69 of 19 Bridge Close, Cippenham. Wife of Alfred William Werrell. Died at 19 Bridge Close.

    The victims we could find listed for the 28th October bombings were

    EMILY LOUISA BUTLER age 32 of Dennis Way, Cippenham. Widow of Frederick Butler. Died at Dennis Way.

    ALBERT EDWARD CLAPSON age 24 at 8 Dennis Way, Cippenham.

    It’s unclear from the above whether the both victims were at 8 Dennis Way. This seems at odds with the two stories of Susan Cooper in which it was an elderly woman that was killed. There may have been other victims of this bombing that we were unable to track down using the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s website. Dennis way does (of course) border Cippenham Primary School.

  5. Tony WEBSTER says:

    In 1939 I was a pupil at farnham royal infant school.I remember a German bomb falling on the graveyard at the time it should have had kids going back to school after lunch. But we had been given the day one knew why.

    Anyone remember me call xxxxx xxxxxxxx. But hurry, I am now 88

    • Dreadnaught says:

      Hi Tony, We decided not to show your phone number to keep you safe from scammers. If anyone wants to contact you, they can leave a comment here and we will pass on your details.

      There is a comment under which says that in October 1940, a bomb falling in the churchyard of St Mary’s disturbed the graves of the recently buried victims of the bombing of High Duty Alloys. An incredibly unfortunate coincidence.

      Kind Regards


      • Nial T Reynolds says:

        I was living in Westgate Crescent as a child from 1937 to 1946 and a pupil at Cippenham Primary School at the time of the bomb incident in Dennis Way. I have vague memories of the devastated smoking house which had been hit and walking past it each day to school. I am now almost 85 years old and a resident of he US.


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