The war years: 1939 to 1945
It is still possible to see where the Estate was hit during the Blitz.
On the Sunday after war was declared, volunteers from among the Estate residents dug trench shelters at the Country Club, shielding them with sandbags.
Over the previous decade, Acton had become a very important industrial centre. With the advent of war, the railway goods marshalling yards at Acton Main Line Station, always busy, became a hive of activity distributing foodstuffs, fuel and war supplies. The noise of shunting filled the air. Not surprisingly, therefore, Acton and Ealing were to suffer their share of attacks by enemy aircraft. But while bombs fell all around, the Estate itself was relatively unscathed.
Understandably and wisely, and with the younger able-bodied men away on military service, many mothers and children found refuge in the quieter towns outside London and in the countryside. On occasion, therefore, a number of homes on the Estate were unoccupied.
When the German armies overran Europe during the first months of the war, several empty houses on the Estate were taken over by the authorities for a few months to house Belgian refugees. Residents were asked to give, and readily gave, clothing and furniture to them. Some houses were requisitioned by the Council. The tenancies of a number of houses and flats were taken over by people bombed out in other parts of London.
ARP staff were equipped with tin helmets and gas masks. One of their main tasks was to patrol the area at night to ensure that no lights were showing which might attract enemy aircraft. This could be a hazardous exercise when shrapnel was raining down from anti-aircraft gun shells. The ARP service also organised the night-time "fire-watching". Volunteer residents did 6-8 hour shifts, armed with a whistle to summon aid. On a number of occasions, incendiary bombs fell on the Estate, to be put out through the prompt and brave action of wardens, firewatchers and residents, by covering them with sand. Those fires that caught hold were tackled by stirrup pumps and buckets of water, backed up where necessary by the local fire brigades assisted by volunteer firemen. Still more hazardous, in the war, were the exploding incendiaries.
1940: Ealing Abbey was bombed during the Blitz. Some 50 high explosive bombs fell on Hanger Hill and one parachute mine. Even though the suburbs were less badly hit than some parts of London, 217 civilians were killed in Ealing during the Blitz (Bomb Sight)
Perhaps the heaviest local bombing occurred one night at the end of 1940, during the sustained bombing of London that became known as the Blitz. A high explosive bomb demolished the row of houses at nos. 41, 43, 45 and 47 Princes Gardens, together with number 49. A man and a woman were killed.
On another occasion a bomb fell on the allotments about 50 yards to the west of Thanet Court, blowing in windows in the vicinity. Yet another serious night locally was when the whole of the Park Royal Industrial Estate was just like daylight, with pieces of charred material being blown across the whole of the Hanger Hill Garden Estate. Later in the War, a string of landmines parachuted down across the Borough, one landing at the western end of Madeley Road, the second at the junction of Queens Drive and the North Circular Road (where Eden Court is now) and the third in Acton. Flying bombs (doodle-bugs) were seen on the horizon but none fell on the Estate; the most remembered is the one that destroyed John Sander's store in Ealing Broadway.
Interestingly, during the 1939-45 war the old Alliance factory resumed its association with the aircraft industry. In 1940 it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Aircraft Production and taken over by the De Havilland Aircraft Company, to be formally leased to the Ministry's 2nd Aircraft Group in 1942. During these war years, fuselages were made for Avro Anson aircraft and wings and aileron flaps for De Havilland Mosquitoes.
Since the war, when the Ministry relinquished the factory, the site and such of the original Alliance buildings that remained have been used by a variety of companies, some with household names (see 'The story of Acton Aerodrome'). So the 1939-45 war came to an end, with the one abiding memory of all who lived through those years being the great spirit and comradeship that existed then.
Soon after the war had ended, the five bombed houses in Princes Gardens were rebuilt. With the shortage of timber, the row of houses at nos. 41 to 47 had to make do without external Tudor timbers and internal ceiling beams: no. 49 was given external timbers to match with the rest of its row.
Next: The 1950s