In the UK, the official dates of the Battle of Britain are 10 July to 31 October 1940, but the heaviest fighting took place from early August to mid-late September. Caught between London and the south coast targets of Portsmouth and Southampton, Surrey suffered heavy casualties during the night raids between August and October 1940.
Bombers returning over south London dropped their remaining loads over a corridor of north Surrey to enable speedier flight past our defences. Kingston, New Malden and Surbiton were badly hit as were areas near the easily-identifiable London to Portsmouth railway line.
Surrey also had its own targets – the airfields at Croydon, Kenley, Dunsfold and Brooklands were of strategic importance. The Germans also knew about the Vickers-Armstrong factory at Brooklands, Weybridge, where the assembly sheds concealed work on the Wellington bombers and Hurricanes. Brooklands endured repeated attacks. By 4th September 1940, 83 workers had died and 419 been wounded.
The Battle of Britain, the defence of the skies, was watched anxiously by many residents and recorded in diaries and scrapbooks. These extraordinary events are described side by side with ordinary day-to-day activities. For civilians, war on the Home Front was now part of daily life.
In September 1940, Auxiliary Fire crews were called to the East End and the Docks. A crew from Dorking worked for 24 hours alongside pumps from all over the Home Counties. After an unforgettable night and day they returned to their civilian jobs after just a few hours sleep.
Although some rivalry existed between trained professionals and these eager volunteers and even between the units themselves, together they created an extraordinarily effective defence machine.