Welsh Guards Memorial Day

Today at Imber we hosted the Welsh Guards Memorial Day remembering the attack by a German Flying Bomb that occurred at Imber on the 30th June 1944 taking the lives of many Guardsman. For further detail of events of that tragic day please see the the blog titled Doodlebug Alley

Our Manager, Michael Kerslake attended the ceremony today and has been presented with a plaque by the Welsh Guards in thanks to our staff and members for our ongoing support and care of their memorial which is set in our grounds.

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‘Doodlebug Alley’

Our Manager Yogi was a guest recently of the Welsh Guards where he attended their parade and following which he was entertained and well looked after in the NCO’s mess.

So why was he invited? It is all to do with the history of Imber Court and goes back to the 2nd World War. The local area was known as ‘Doodlebug Alley’ and often the German V1 ‘Doodlebug’ Flying Bombs on route to London would fly overhead.

Unfortunately on the 30th June 1944 one such bomb fell onto Imber Court and killed 20 members of the Welsh Guards Training Battalion who were enjoying the facilities at Imber and competing in their regiment’s annual sports competition.

A memorial to those soldiers is in the grounds at Imber, and every year in June a service of remembrance is held.

I have lifted a more detailed description of that day (including an eye witness account) from the Kings School Canterbury Roll of Honour commemorating 2nd Lieutenant George Alan Hill BAKER (312981) who was one of the 20 who died and was aged only 19 years of age.

“He was born in London on the 10th of November 1924 the only child of George Baker ARCM a baritone singer and Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society and his second wife Katherine Hill (formerly Convers nee Miller) (singer) who used the stage name of Kathlyn Hilliard of St John’s Wood in London.

He was educated at Arnold House School, London, and at the King’s School Canterbury from September 1938 to December 1942, where he was in School House. He was appointed as a House Monitor in January 1942, was a School Monitor, Hon Secretary of The Cantuarian, Hon Secretary of the Music Club, cataloguer of the library and was a Lance Corporal in the Junior Training Corps achieving War Certificate A at Bodmin on the 24th of November 1942. He was an exceptional runner and was awarded his athletic colours.

From King’s he went on the Trinity College, Oxford, having won a Ford Exhibition in History. He competed for Oxford against Cambridge in the 220 yards and was elected to the Centipedes Club which was the wartime equivalent of a half “blue”.

In July 1943 he underwent officer training and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards on the 24th of March 1944 and visited the school a couple of days later. He was then posted to the Welsh Guards Training Battalion which was based at Sandown Racecourse at Esher in Surrey.

On the 30th of June 1944 he was competing in the regiment’s annual sports competition at Imber Court Metropolitan Police Sports Ground at Thames Ditton. A 100 yard race was in progress and a band was playing which drowned out the noise of the air raid sirens as they sounded the approach of a V1 “Doodlebug” flying bomb.

George Baker, who had just won the half mile, was walking with the other competitors to the start of the quarter mile when the bomb fell amongst the group and was blown to pieces. The only runner to survive was Lieutenant Paget who suffered very serious leg injuries but survived after a two hour operation.

An eyewitness, also from the Welsh Guards Training Battalion described the events that day as they unfolded:-

“So now it’s summer and on this day, I believe it was the 30th June, the Welsh Guards were having their annual sports and fete down in Imber Court Park. This was a large sports ground with a large single storey stand on one side. I was sitting in the front row of the stand and to the left on the edge of the sports field the Regimental Band was playing a selection of music. Imber Court, Esher and Sandown Park were in what was then called ” Doodlebug Alley.” This day was no different to any other. We heard the familiar warbling sound of one coming over and looked up. Then it’s motor stopped and it headed straight for the stand in which I and many others were seated. A mad dash out of the stand and into the middle of the sports field. The band continued playing. Then the motor of the ‘Doodlebug’ restarted. Another look skywards. Now it was heading straight for the middle of the field. Abrupt about-turn and a headlong dash back for the stand. I dived beneath the first rows, helped on my way by the blast from the explosion. When I collected my senses and crawled out from below the stand I saw an unimaginable and truly horrific scene. The Doodlebug had landed smack on top of those of the band who had not managed to get out of the way of the bomb quick enough. Dead and badly wounded soldiers and WRAC lay all over the field. I believe 18 were killed and scores wounded that day. The scenes were too frightful to describe.”

Casualties were suppressed by the government but twenty people had died, eighteen of who were from the Welsh Guards Training Battalion, with an estimated one hundred injured.

His Housemaster wrote:-

“Alan Baker’s death came as a very great shock and loss to me. The impression I always carried about with me from the time he first came to School House was that of vitality and quickness. I have never met a schoolboy who had a quicker or more nimble mind than his, he thought rapidly, spoke rapidly and acted rapidly. He was moreover a splendid runner and none of us will ever forget his play on the left wing in a very vital house match. He was versatile as well as a gifted boy. He inherited his father’s love of music and his mother’s skill in action and I can still see him getting up the end of term house plays, acting in School plays, singing in concerts or “breezing” about the choir. He was also a skilful debater and had a keen wit. His powerful and creative mind was a joy to deal with and it is an appalling tragedy that a boy whose talents had so obviously marked him out to play an active and perhaps important part in the general work of post war reconstruction should himself be cut off in the prime of early youth.”

The Alan Baker Musical Appreciation Prize was created in his honour.

He is commemorated in the Welsh Guards Roll of Honour in the Memorial Cloister at the Guards Chapel, Birdcage Walk, London.

 

 

The Bulldozers are at Imber

At long last the work has started on the Rifle Range to make the area suitable for use as a Children’s Nursery. The work is expected to take up to about 10 weeks and after its completion we can then start the work on building the Nursery. Exciting times for us.

We will see this year a complete transformation of our rear gate area , coinciding of course with the flowering of the 500 Daffodils at the roundabout planted by one of our committee members and Imber Volunteer,  Jim from the Dog Club.

The rifle range was used for practice shooting up to the late 1990’s. However  following changes in legislation (The Firearms Amendments Act 1997) brought in as a result of the tragedy at Dunblane Primary School, the range was closed.

The site has remained fairly much derelict since then and now this year will reopen as a Children’s Nursery.

Dispelling The Myths & Rumours

Imber Court is being sold to build a new Housing Estate!

Imber Court is to be become a ‘Free School’

Neither are True.

In August 2015 we signed a 35 year lease to guarantee our occupation at Imber Court as a sports and recreation club. We are here until at least 2050

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Imber Court is a Club for Police Officers only

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Absolutely Not True

For a number of years Imber Court has welcomed local residents as members of our Club. At the last count there are over 500 individuals, partners and families at Imber who are local residents. We have a real diversity of membership.

Imber Court is a Club with a police heritage which we are proud of. You will notice this as you use the Club House, the facilities and grounds as there are many artifacts, pictures etc reminding us of the heritage. The club is also home to the Metropolitan Police Rugby, Football, Cricket and Bowls Clubs. However due to our extensive facilities, football for example, we can also claim to be home to other football clubs such as Weirside Rangers FC and Maori Vets FC.

In respect of our history the land was purchased in 1919 with the original purpose of providing a training centre for the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch.  However not all the land was required and in the early 1920’s much of the land and meadows were turned into playing surfaces with monies that police officers donated themselves. A donation from The National Police Fund also paid for the building of the main clubhouse.

The Club was officially opened on 11th June 1929 by H.R.H. Prince George and has operated as a sports and recreation facility since then.

Over the intervening years the Club has operated (as it still does today) as a non-profit making entity. This means any profits made (through our commercial activities) are always ploughed back into the Club, enhancing the facilities for its users.

Becoming a member at Imber Court is a straight forward process and if you are interested pop in and talk to our staff, visit our website www.imbercourt.com or ring the office on 0208 398 1267 x 4 and ask for Julie our membership secretary.