Puffed Wheat and Parachutes
Letchworth in World War II
By John Baker
Puffed Wheat was being made in the Golden Block factory, next to Irvings during 1944-45. About every half hour, the wheat having reached a certain temperature exploded. Hearing it from the goods yard it sounded as though it was being done in a big tin can!
About 1943 I think, a German aircraft, which was probably lost, released 3 magnesium flares, which landed on what is now Campfield Way. It contained wheat stubble which promptly caught fire. Various fire watchers, children (including me) managed to stamp the fires out before the fire brigade arrived. I had hoped to get a parachute, but no chance, they were all burned.
In about 1941, a German plane came out of low cloud over Baldock Station and machine gunned the station. It carried on following the railway line anda was shot at by the Bren gun on top of the Spirella building, but I don’t think they hit it. The local children in Westbury School were panicking – some running into school and some running out. I was hiding under a hedge! The plane carried on and dropped a bomb on the de Havillanad factory at Hatfield. The pilot was a former de Havilland apprentice. He was shot down over the Thames and died the following day.
My father built an air raid shelter at the botom of our garden. When I was about 9, I used to go down there with my mates to have a smoke. One day, my mother came rushing down the garden and threw aq bucket of water into the shelter, wetting us all and of course putting out our cigarettes. ‘ Oh dear’, she said, ‘I saw smoke coming out of here and thought it was on fire!’