The War Diary of Hilda Andrews OBE


Hilda Andrews
Hilda Andrews
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Mrs Andrews was a resident of Epsom and, during the Second World War, was in charge of a local First Aid Post. She also became a Justice of the Peace and was active in the Conservative Party. She received the OBE for public and political services in 1956.

Hilda Andrews
Hilda Andrews
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

During 1940 she kept a diary, recording in brief the day-to-day events of the War as they involved her and the people of Epsom and that diary is reproduced below. (Please note that the images in the following table are to add visual interest and do not necessarily relate to the dates or incidents in the diary.)

10 May Heard startling news over the wireless of invasion of Belgium and Holland. Dramatic speech by Mr Chamberlain. Mr Churchill is now Prime Minister.
12 May A strange and wonderful smell was detected in the kitchen while breakfast was being cooked. Everyone looked for the haddock, but the odour was at last traced to Mrs Robinson's egg, which was merrily boiling - and was not fresh. It was hastily removed to the dustbin outside!
16 May Lady McNalty joined the staff for night duty.
18 May The first wounded arrived.
First wounded arrived
19 May Barrage balloon escaped. Plane had great fun potting it with machine gun bullets. Prime Minister's first broadcast (Winston).
20 May At midnight an explosion shook this building. Things seem to be warming up.
22 May Convoy of Belgians, Dutch and a few good old British Tommies. Sights seen and stories heard are beyond recording. War in all its terror brought to Surrey Downs.
British evacuation of Boulogne, described by eye witness "By God, they were magnificent".
28 May "They stood like rocks and didn't give a damn for anything."
1 June Convoy arrives with British, French and French Colonials wounded this morning on the beaches of Dunkirk. Excellent work by stretcher parties.
2 June 05.00: Train arrives, more wounded, incredibly weary and even more incredibly cheerful men. Glorious weather and bloody fighting continues.
8 June 14.00: We can still find enough men to play a cricket match.
9 June Decontaminated mustard gas casualty rehearsal.
Family Wearing Gas Masks
13 June Just as a matter of interest what are the eggs in the nest in my tin hat?
18 June Yellow warning gives five minutes after heavy gunfire was heard and felt in the Post.
19 June Britain's biggest air raid.
8 July Surprise announcement by Lord Woolton that tea is to be rationed from tomorrow.
9 July Mrs Case definitely stated that 'we will have a cup of tea!' We did.
13 July Mr Warden-Smith arrives to say that the Borough is organising a collection for a Spitfire. This has given a tremendous feeling to Lottie's 'Spitfire box'!
16 July Mrs Ronnie arrives with gold, sorry tea! Lottie's Spitfire is growing slowly but surely.
18 July Spitfire funds reach the first £1.
24 July Our nurses cease duty at the Cottage Hospital which now has a full staff.
27 July Quiet afternoon - enlivened by two wounded airmen coming to tea! Quite a flutter in the nest! Took them back to Horton in Mrs Palmer's car.
3 August Cricketers' tea, 35 to tea.
6 August Spitfire funds rise to £12.
8 August Health insurance goes up another penny.
14 August Adolf completely disorganises us by giving a 'yellow' at lunchtime - we don't like our meals interfered with. However, all is well.
15 August Air battle over Croydon, about 25 planes. Desperate attempts made to clear the park of the 'general public' - even the siren fails to do the trick.
16 August Why must Adolf choose lunchtime. All clear. Back to West Hill House for a gas lecture. Siren again. Many planes humming far above but invisible. Noises of guns and bombs getting nearer and nearer. Ear plugs and tin hats become quite popular; a calm humorous spirit prevails; all clear but not for Malden and Wimbledon. Considerable casualties. Two Ewell Court ambulances called out.
25 August Mrs Cole does her best to be a 'granny' and assist Dr Mitchell in delivering a baby at 'Fifty Lodge'. She pronounces that it's the most wonderful experience of her life.
26 August Siren goes. Later a Blenheim circles round showing off!! Sincerely hope he had good reason.
27 August The vicar pays us a visit, gratefully receives a cup of tea and a 'Woodbine'. Mr Pamment joins the party and the ensuing half-hour is one which would make Hitler seriously consider whether final victory would really be his!
31 August Mrs Custer learns with horror, mingled with delight, that there is an unexploded bomb in the next door garden. It is clear too that 'Mein Kampf' and our existence is just one damn siren after another.
2 September Here endeth the first year of the war.
Steadfast, sirens immovable, the same.
Year after year throughout the silent night.
Shines on that inextinguishable flame.

Presentation of £1. 1s.3d by four sweet little girls, proceeds from a concert, for our Spitfire.
6 September 08.47: Siren and then follows the Battle of Epsom, witnessed with some excitement by the less well-trained members of the general public. Bombs and sundry noises nearer than they have ever been.
7 September London's fiercest raid. 400 killed, 1400 seriously wounded.
8 September Beginning of London's longest raid.
9 September Siren. Uncomfortable number of enemy planes pass over. A fierce battle ensues - planes crash and parachutists bale out.
16 September An ugly piece of shrapnel found not far from our post, proving the value of the 'Tin Hat'! Several unexploded bombs in different parts of the Borough cause a diversion of traffic and much military activity.
26 September Message from secretary of Spitfire fund to say collection from First Aid Post 2 is over £20. Petrol bombs catch the 'Grandstand' on the hop and Nazi bomber dropped unexpectedly from the clouds. It fails to do much material damage, but causes a few casualties.
28 September Grandstand and paddock again bombed last night. £2000 damage reported to be done.
War Preparations at Grandstand
29 September Siren. Epsom has its first real taste of the Blitz. Bombs fall in the High Street, Dorking Road, Alexandra Road! Post 1 and Post 3 receive casualties which, under the circumstances, are happily few. Unexploded bomb in College Road.
1 October 20.50: Mrs Taylor inquires if we would like the news.
21.05: We are the news! "A Molotov Bread Basket" breaks, apparently overhead, and distributes its flaming cargo all around the Post. Tom and the staff and a basket of sand are more than a match for Adolf's effort (even if they did fall headlong in the attempt and Tom lost his hat on every bomb). HE* bombs in Longdown Road and Links Road and an unexploded bomb in Kingsdown Road.
3 October We learn of an HE dropped near the county hospital which does no damage, missing everything by inches.
5 October £2 was received today for the Spitfire fund, collected from the sightseers at the 'hole' Adolf made in Longdown Road. It was passed on to us in recognition of our fire-fighting display on Tuesday night.
10 October News received from Warden Dickens that the bomb is about to be exploded and all residents of Kingsdown Road are to be evacuated immediately. Bomb now reported to be the size of a dustbin and ticking!
11 October Kingsdown Road continues to keep its own secret. One time inhabitants meet at odd corners in various stages of wardens' uniform and express indignation at the world in general, but nevertheless seem to find something to laugh at.
12 October Life is just one big unexploded bomb!
13 October The bomb still unexploded but the residents definitely are not.
15 October 21.00: News that the bomb is to be exploded tomorrow.
21.30: News that the bomb is to be exploded on Wednesday. Royal Engineers proceed to sandbag bomb with a thousand sandbags.
16 October Again the bomb is to be definitely exploded. Again the College Ward windows are flung wide. Again we await the bang. Did nothing happen? No - nothing happened!
17 October The bomb in the news again. Royal Engineers try a new method. After a day's heroic work on an unknown and live bomb, it is painlessly extracted by drilling holes and driving out the TNT with water. Bomb removed having caused no damage.
19 October Shops display notices 'More Open than Usual' and 'Another Blasted Nuisance'.
23 October Bomb fell in 'The Cedars' just as the builders had got ready to make it into a new First Aid Post.
24 October Earplugs distributed to inhabitants of Borough.
27 October To date 11 killed and under 30 injuries; the Borough seems as surprising as it is merciful.
Bomb Damaged House
30 October A lovely lunch (and all for six pence) is provided by the morning staff.
6 November 06.10: A bomb whistles overhead and lands. Wardens start search in pitch dark; later, as light dawns, the bomb is traced once more to Wallace Farm.
22.45: A bomb in Waterloo Road and casualties reported.
7 November Warden reports McCormicks house is hit and casualties. Post 44 loses two wardens.
11 November The day dawns on many evacuations. College Ward is no longer considered a nice place in which to live. Unexploded bombs in Ewell, Downs Road, Links Road and many HEs in the vicinity of the Post. Mercifully no casualties.
23 November Great shortage of staff owing to the rush for 'summer' holidays.
25 November I'm back - staff holidays come to a close!
* HE = High Explosive Bomb

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Hilda Andrews
Hilda Andrews
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Hilda Andrews
Hilda Andrews
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum


Mrs Andrews's CV

1936 Came to live in Epsom.
1936-38 British Red Cross Society ('BRCS') Merit Medal. Instructor's Certificates in First Aid, Home Nursing and Chemical Warfare. One of the first in the Borough to obtain Local Air Raid Precautions Certificate - qualified to lecture on Chemical Warfare.
1938 Assistant Commandant to Borough First Aid Services
1939-45 Lay Superintendent of First Aid Post which became a centre of instruction in First Aid, Home Nursing and Chemical Warfare. Together with two other First Aid Posts, responsible for staffing ambulances of wounded from front line on shuttle services between Epsom Downs and Tattenham Corner stations and local hospitals.
1940 Part- time Civil Nursing Reserve nurse at Epsom Cottage Hospital.
1944-46 Anti-gas officer to BRCS Detachment. Assistant Divisional Secretary BRCS in charge of Youth.
1946-49 Vice-Chairman Epsom Ratepayers' and Residents' Association. Election agent during Local Government and County Council elections.
1948-51 Member of District Nursing Association Committee.
1949 Chairman of Women's Advisory Committee and Vice-Chairman of Epsom Divisional Conservative Association.
1952 First woman Chairman of Epsom Division Conservative Association.
1956 Awarded OBE for political and public services. Vice-President of Epsom Division Conservative Association.
1957 Appointed Justice of the Peace for the County of Surrey.
1957-62 Member of Cottage Hospital Committee.
1965 Certificate of Institute of Advanced Motorists.
1964-67 Chairman of Epsom Juvenile Court.
1966-69 Deputy Chairman of Epsom Bench.
1967 Member of Quarter Sessions Appeals Panel
1970-73 First woman chairman of Epsom Bench.
1970 Appointed to Surrey Magistrates' Courts Committee and General Purposes Committee.
1972 Appointed to Surrey Magistrates' Finance and Establishment Committee and Justices' Training sub-committee.
Hilda Andrews
Hilda Andrews
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum



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