Aerial bombardment of Great Britain first occurred during World War One. Zeppelins dropped bombs on Croydon in October 1915 and on 13th October 12 bombs were dropped by Zeppelin L13 on the St.Catherine’s area of Guildford. The sole casualty was one swan. The Second World War saw the first sustained bombing of Great Britain.
Even during World War II, aerial bombardment was comparatively unsophisticated. The German Air Force had few heavy bombers, their flying range was short and finding a target was often difficult. This led to important targets being missed and aircraft dumping bombs in order to increase the chances of getting home.
The main types of bombs used were high explosives and incendiaries but from 1944 the V.1 appeared. These were generally known as ‘doodlebugs’ or flying bombs. The target was usually London but many fell short or went astray as they were still largely untried and guidance systems were crude. Godstone, for example, received 95 hits. These stray bombs caused considerable damage to non-strategic targets such as schools and houses.
Evidence of bomb damage in Surrey is rapidly disappearing and physical evidence of bombing is mostly long gone. The first World War II bomb damage occurred 70 years ago. The number of people with personal experience of these events declines by the day. Personal memories also naturally blur with age. Contemporary accounts in local newspapers often lack detail because of wartime censorship. More recent newspapers sometimes include reminiscences but these are difficult to track down unless dates have been recorded or cuttings made. Reminiscences also appear in local history publications such as ‘Bramley’s Home Front’ and ‘Guildford: the war years’. Many counties have considerable published work on the Second World War but comprehensive accounts on Surrey have yet to be written.