Winton Forum


Wartime Charminster 1939-45

Evacuation Zone

Considered a relatively safe area, almost as soon as war broke out in 1939, Bournemouth received busloads of children evacuated from Southampton. The first to arrive and be put up in the Winton area were pupils from St Anne's Girls Secondary School who were Poilus rescued from Dunkirkaccommodated at Talbot Heath. Next came pupils from Taunton's Secondary School who were to share the newly opened Bournemouth School for Boys.

Taunton's was the largest school in England to be evacuated, and among the children was future comedian Benny Hill. He always spoke of the kindness shown locally to the evacuees. Over the coming months, many of the children returned to their home town.

The next wave of evacuees came in early June 1940 as the German army swept across France. Over a period of several days, the area suddenly found itself host to hundreds of French soldiers who had been ferried across the channel to avoid surrender at Dunkirk. The first to arrive in Bournemouth were billeted at Malmesbury Park and Alma Road Schools. Many were invited to share meals and hospitality with local families.

There were queues for baths at Stokewood Road. The Frenchmen were showered with gifts and barbers even gave them free shaves and haircuts. By June 12 they had all been moved to camps elsewhere and life returned to normal.

Between 19 and 26 June the same operation was repeated - this time it was mostly British soldiers who had been fighting a rearguard action to protect the Dunkirk evacuation. They had been shipped across the channel from Dieppe and Cherbourg.

wartime blackoutThe Blackout

The blackout was introduced in July 1939. The idea was to make towns invisible to enemy aircraft at night time, but it had a side effect of causing road accidents in the darkness.

Street lights were switched off, headlamps were masked and all widows were sealed at night with lightproof material.

Traffic lights were switched off across Bournemouth. They were left on at only seven locations. One of them was Winton Banks, and another was Cemetery Junction. The blackout was not relaxed until the autumn of 1944. The majority of street lamps were still gas.

Air Raid Precautions (ARP)

ARP wardens were familiar figures with a number of responsibilities including issuing gas masks, checking that lights were covered during the blackout and dealing the the effects of bombing. Garages, sheds, shops and other buildings served as ARP warden posts. The Fiveways Hotel Garage was one of them

Air Raid Sirens

The authorities expected to get 22 minutes warning of approaching enemy aircraft. Within ten minutes the alarms would sound an alert and ten minutes later wardens would be on patrol (or taking cover at their posts). When the danger was over, an "all-clear" would be sounded. The sirens audible in Winton were on the roofs of the Fire Station, Bournemouth School for Boys and at an ARP post in Richmond Park Crescent. At the start of the war the sirens were operated manually, but by the summer of 1940 they had been converted to remote control through the telephone lines. Tests were carried out on the first Monday of every month at 2 in the afternoon.


A,la Road school bombed
Wreckage of the Alma Road School

Brunswick Hotel bombed
A battered Brunswick amid the debris of Malmesbury Park Road
on 16 November 1940

Bournemouth had its share of bombing during the Second World War. More than fifty air raids left 219 people dead and 726 injured. Two thousand two hundred and seventy bombs rained down on the town, destroying around 250 buildings. Another 13,590 needed repairs.

The area's worst raid was at 3.30 in the early hours of the morning of November 16, 1940. A member of the Home Guard on duty at Moordown bus depot claimed in the moonlight to have opened fire on an aircraft with Italian markings. Records suggest this was a purely German attack - there were no Italian units in flying distance. The enemy aircraft dropped flares, incendiary bombs and parachute mines.

Parachute landmines landed on the Alma Road, St Leonards Road and Malmesbury Park Road areas. More than 50 people were killed and around 150 injured in the raid which also hit other parts of the town, including the house that had once belonged to Robert Lewis Stevenson. Sixteen properties were destroyed around St Leonards and Malmesbury Park Roads.

Alma Road School was destroyed by a direct hit and a number of houses were flattened in and around Kings Road. Pupils from the Alma Road infants and junior classes shared lessons at Malmesbury Park School while the Alma Road Senior girls shared classes with the Porchester Road senior boys.

The Fitzharris Avenue Methodist Church had its windows blown out and the weather cock on top of the Winton Banks Plaza cinema was never the same again.

Services and Sunday School for the Methodist congregation were provided at the St Lukes Church Hall until the chapel had been repaired. Local people made homeless in the raid were offered help at the Winton YMCA in Jamieson Road.

Here's a summary of the rest of the raids that Charminster and Queens Park suffered:

  • October 21, 1940, 4.39PM. Ten bombs dropped by a tip and run raider. Ten people injured and 212 properties damaged. Numbers 24 and 26 Shaftesbury Road were destroyed, other houses in Avon Road and Queens Park Gardens were damaged.
  • March 15 1941. 2.05AM. One bomb damages 19 properties in Gerald, Grafton and Iddesleigh Roads . Three people suffer minor injuries. Two others land in the cemetery and damage an ARP warden's post.
  • March 27 1941. 12.20PM. Three people injured and 101 properties damaged as bombs hit Lowther and Methuen Roads. Houses in Alma Road are evacuated because of unexploded bombs.
  • May 10 1941. 0.45AM. Incendiary bombs fall on Fernside Road, Strathmore Road and The Avenue, Moordown. No damage.
  • August 12 1943. 1.10AM. Thirteen people killed and more than 1400 buildings damaged as bombs fall on various parts of Bournemouth including Shelbourne Road, Charminster Avenue and Strouden Avenue.
  • November 1 1943. 5.45PM. One person killed, 27 injured and 1284 (final estimate) buildings damaged as a pair of Ju88 aircraft dropped around 25 bombs on Heron Court, Gerald, Howard, Avon, Chatsworth, Bennet, Orchestron, Shaftesbury and Shelbourne Roads and Queens Park and Cecil Avenues. Bombs also blew craters in the Queens Park golf links. In Avon Road the Laundry and Haydens Engineering Works were temporarily closed because of unexploded bombs in the street. Two of the houses hit in Queens Park Avenue, 89 and 111, were being used by the army. A French Canadian Major was killed in no 89. Number 135 Queens Park Avenue was also wrecked - the family survived only because they were in their Morrision shelter.
  • April 24 1944. 2.17AM. Two people died, seven were injured and 156 properties were damaged in the area's last air raid of the war. There were incendiary and/or unexploded bombs in Charminster Avenue and Stour, Avon, Strouden, Beatty, Portland, Gresham, Shelbourne, Sutton, Malvern and Holdenhurst Roads.

Here is the initial official ARP report of the raid on November 1, 1943

Air Raid - Bournemouth November 1st, 1943.

An air raid warning was received at 17.20 hours, bombs were dropped at 17.45 hours. White received 18.29 hours.

Believed two planes J.U.88 came in over Purbeck Hills, and flew over town and out South to sea.

Bombs were dropped at the following points:-

Junctions of Heron Court & Gerald Roads 1 H.E 500kg
Cemetery 1 H.E 500kg
Cecil Avenue 1 H.E 50kg
Howard Road 1 H.E 50kg
Queens Park Avenue 3 H.E 50kg
Campbell Road 1 H.E 500kg
Borthwick Road 1 H.E 500kg
Queens Park Golf Links 4 H.E 50kg
Avon Road 4 U.X.B 50kg
Bennett Road 2 U.X.B 50kg
Chatsworth Road 1 U.X.B 50kg
Orchestron Road 1 U.X.B 50kg
Shaftesbury Road 1 U.X.B 50kg
Shelbourne Road 1 U.X.B 50kg
Allotment St George's Avenue 1 U.X.B 50kg

Damage all in residential areas. One Laundry, and Haydens Engineering Works out of action for 24 hours owing to U.X.B.

Only one gas main was fractured in Gerald Road. Owing to heavy rain there was a shortage of tarpaulins, further supplies were obtained from Dorset.

6 Rest Centres were opened soon after the raid. 112 people slept in Rest Centres during the night. They were all billeted the following morning. By 1800 hours November 2nd the first 8 U.X.B.s that had been discovered were cleared, and people evacuated were able to return to their homes. On the 3rd November a further U.X.B. was discovered which was cleared the same day, and on the 5th November another one was discovered which was also cleared the same day.

The morning following the raid the Public Information Service at the Town Hall and Billeting Officers were available.

All Incidents were closed the same evening as raid, except the areas with U.X.B.s.

No mutual assistance was required. Public Morale was unaffected.

Morrison Table Shelters were the means of saving a number of people from serious injury.

The casualties were as follows:-

Seriously Injured
Slightly Injured

Housing Damage:-

Necessary for demolition
Slight damage

Post Warden T. Dunn deserves special mention, in that, although his home was badly damaged he carried on with his duties and was an inspiration to all Wardens at the Post.

For some time an anti-aircraft gun battery was stationed in Queens Park.

Fighting the fires

The full-time fire brigade was supported by the volunteer Auxiliary Fire Service which had been created just before the war. Bournemouth was split into seven AFS zones. Charminster was in Zone Seven, with its fire station at the disused chapel in Nortoft Road.

A number of large emergency water tanks known as Static Water Supplies (SWS) were constructed around the area to feed the fire pumps.

Family Air Raid Shelters

Morrison ShelterThe Anderson shelter consisted of pre-formed corrugated iron walls and sides which were either buried or covered with earth in your garden. By the end of 1940, millions had been distributed all over the country.

The shelters were free if you earned less than £250 a year, but you had to pay a £7 charge if you were on a higher income. The rusting remains of Anderson shelters can still be found in some local gardens.

Named after Minister of Home Security Herbert Morrison, the Morrison shelter (left) was introduced in 1941 and supplied on a similar cost basis to the Anderson. It was essentially a bombproof steel mesh cage which a small family could just about sleep inside. Normally erected in the living room, it doubled as a table. They took up a lot of room, but Morrison shelters were only officially allowed to be removed in 1945.

Communal Air Raid shelters

Public shelters were constructed for people who did not have their own shelter, or were in transit at the time of the alert.

Air Raid Shelters in the Charminster area (February 1942)
Location Type Accommodation Classification Bunks
Fiveways Hotel, Charminster B 50   9
Cemetery Junction S 200   0
21 - 23 Charminster Road B 167   24
280-288 Charminster Road B 200 Dormitory and Canteen 36
Winton Recreation Ground S 150   0
B = Basement Shelter      GF = Ground Floor Shelter   S = Surface Shelter

Rest Centres

After a raid, a number of people could be expected to have had their homes either destroyed or rendered temporarily uninhabitable. This could be simply because of a ruptured gas or water main in a nearby road. To help these people, "Rest Centres" were established. The ones serving the Winton population were at :

Lowther Road School St Albans Church House, Charminster Charminster Senior School, East Way
Porchester Road School Bournemouth School for Boys, East Way Stokewood Road Baths
Malmesbury Park Junior and Infants School, Shelbourne Road

Auxiliary Rest Centres were at:

Charminster Road Congregational Church Hall
Gymnasium, 516 Charminster Road
Winton Recreation Ground Bowls Pavilion St Augustines, Nortoft Road
St Francis of Assisi Church Hall, Charminster Road St Andrews Church Hall

These were the official instructions issued to bombing victims in 1942:

  • ARP rest centreIf you have been rendered homeless, and you are not able to go to friends or relatives or make other arrangements, you should go to the nearest Rest Centre or Auxiliary Rest Centre. The Air Raid Wardens and Police will direct you if you are in doubt where to go.
  • Rest Centres and Auxiliary Rest Centres in any locality where an incident takes place will be opened. If the raid should be a heavy and sustained one all Rest Centres and Auxiliary Rest Centres will be opened.
  • At Rest Centres and Auxiliary Rest Centres you will be able to shelter and rest until other arrangements can be made.
  • At Rest Centres sleeping accommodation and food will be provided.
  • At Auxiliary Rest Centres hot drinks will be provided, but not sleeping accommodation or food.
  • Clothing: Supplies of emergency clothing will be available at Rest Centres and Auxiliary Rest Centres.
  • 48-hour billets: Representatives of the Women's Voluntary Services will attend at the Rest Centres and Auxiliary Rest Centres which may be opened with lists of billets to which homeless persons may go for a short period (not exceeding 48 hours). Homeless persons who may be willing to go to such billets will be conducted or taken there by the Women's Voluntary Services representatives.
  • Official Billeting: Official billeting officers will attend at the Rest Centres which may be opened (but not at the Auxiliary Rest Centres) to billet homeless persons for whom such accommodation may be required. The payment of billeting allowances is intended to be a temporary measure operating only until the homeless persons are able either to return home, or to obtain accommodation of their own or to make their own financial arrangements with their hosts. Except in the cases of persons who are in receipt of an allowance from the Assistance Board or Supplementary Pension, Billeting Notices will in the first place be issued for a period not exceeding two weeks. The question whether a billeting notice should be reissued after this period will be for the billeting authority to decide according to the circumstances.
  • Information: Information Officers will attend at the Rest Centres and Auxiliary Rest Centres which may be opened to give information and advice.
  • Travel Vouchers: If you can make arrangements to go and stay with friends or relatives you will be given a free travel voucher if you cannot get to them without help. Enquire about this at the Rest Centre of Auxiliary Rest Centre to which you may go.
  • Have your plans ready. If you have not already done so, you should try to make plans now to go and stay with friends or relations in case your house is destroyed. They should also arrange to come to you if their house is destroyed. The usual billeting allowances will be payable in such cases.

Rationing and food

Most forms of food were rationed by the middle of 1941 and it became an increasing problem to cook meals with any variety.

Meals eaten at restaurants or industrial canteens, on the other hand, did not require the use of any precious ration coupons. This in part led to the popularity of self-service "British Restaurants" run by local authorities as a means of preparing good but cheap meals for a large number of people.

Bournemouth's first British Restaurant was in Winton. It was opened in August 1941 in the repaired former Girls School building in Alma Road.

You could buy a three course meal for less than a shilling (5p) and it rapidly became very popular. Originally seating 200, it ended up serving around 500 lunches a day.

Run-up to D-Day

Thousands of troops were stationed in and around Bournemouth in the final preparations for the Normandy landings. Military vehicles took advantage of the cover provided by tree-lined avenues. They were parked head to tail around Queens Park where American troops were temporarily camped.