The 1940 bombings and Susan Cooper

Although Cippenham suffered little from air attacks in WW2, during the month of October 1940, Buckinghamshire was bombed intensively and Cippenham was hit twice. Details given in the record “Bombs over Bucks” are scant.

• 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 it is believed that the old people’s cottages referred to were on the Brook Path side of Bridge Close and that four people lost their lives. Although we have no information concerning the 28th October bombing, the author Susan Cooper has written two fictional accounts that are likely to have been based on her own recollection of the incident. She was born in Cippenham in 1935 and at the time of the bombing would barely have begun at the Primary School off Elmshott Lane. The earlier account is in a short children’s story titled Muffin. Cippenham Primary School is given as the setting 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. The account of the bombing has notable similarities with Dawn of Fear, which covers nine days in the life of 11 year old Derek and his friends, during which they are confronted with the grim realities of war. One day begins with Derek making his way to school. On route he sees a crowd gathered and runs to the centre to find a large crater in the road outside the school. 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.

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

4 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 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.

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