Harwell in Wartime - I
When war broke out in 1939, people in Harwell were very apprehensive about the proximity of the new aerodrome, which had been built on the Downs south of the village; they feared bombing raids but fortunately none dropped on the village. One string of bombs straddled the depots at Milton and Didcot, and the railway line north of the village, falling on a barn at Milton Heights and in a cabbage field by the Abingdon path in the northern part of the parish.
The villagers were very conscious of the activities at the aerodrome, and the roar of the heavy bombers often disturbed their sleep. The gliders all congregated at the aerodrome for the Battle of Arnhem in 1944. No wonder the boys on the "Drome" called it the camp of sighs: "Ha! Well." The folk in the village were not complacent. They had a very active Home Guard and Air Raid Precaution Unit; after a day's work they turned out to patrol the streets at night when there was an alert. The First Aid Unit met at Miss Clewes' house (Rosemead), for instruction in bandaging, splinting and so on. The blackout which was in force throughout the country made little difference, as street lighting was almost non-existent. For a while church Evensong was held during the afternoon, as the church was difficult to blackout.
Women who had young children worked in Mr Greenwood's yard by the old Harwell Brewery, camouflaging tents and tarpaulins, and permeating the air with the smell of -acetone. As labour was short at this time, Italian prisoners of war were employed on the Grove fruit farm, and many stayed on after the War to make their homes in the neighbourhood. Later, German prisoners camped at the same spot at the top of the Grove Road. All was not gloom: each week a dance, known locally as "Charlie's Hop", was held at the Village Hall, to which many airmen came, and where many a romance blossomed. What joy it was when at last the church bells were able to ring again to welcome our boys home.