1. The Blitz.
Ockham played its full part in WW2. Many families from London were evacuated during the Blitz. Ockham took its fair share with families billeted in May’s Green, Martyr’s Green, Bridge End and Church End.
2. Bombs and V2 rockets
Several families in Ockham and Hatchford suffered tragic civilian deaths when Hitler launched his V2 rockets towards the end of the war. One mother in Pointer’s Road arranged her daughter’s birthday party but the night before a V2 bomb landed nearby. It blew in the windows and sent a shard of glass into her thigh. She bled to death. The community rallied round and took in her children.
A bomb which landed near the school in School Lane failed to explode. The army detonated it and it was thought safe. A crowd of children gathered around to examine the site when it went off. One lad was buried alive and was fortunately dug out unharmed.
3. Land commandeered for the war effort
Many tenants of the Ockham Park Estate surrendered the leases on their land in order to permit the grass airstrip to be built. Several families had to move out of their homes which were demolished to make the runway and control tower. The government said it would take the land for the duration with an option to retain it for five years after the war. It gave an assurance that the land would be restored to its pre-war condition and returned after the war. After the war Vickers asked to retain the runway so that it could fly out the planes it was building in its factories in Brooklands and Weybridge. When finally the land was offered back to the former owner of the freehold under the Crichel Down Code it went back to the freeholder. The leaseholders never got their leases back.
4. Wartime sacrifices and broken promises
Because of WW2 and Ockham’s contribution to the war effort land which had formed several different farms and smallholdings was consolidated into one holding. The government only partially honoured its wartime promise. It removed all the buildings. But it failed to pull up the runway.
5. Green Belt
The land is now known as Three Farms Meadow. It has always been agricultural land and it has always been actively farmed. It forms a sandy plateau between Ockham, Hatchford and Wisley Heaths which are special wildlife habitats. To the south the geology turns to clay before reaching the chalk of the north downs south of the Horsleys. Farming over the past thousand years has formed a beautiful and irreplaceable landscape.
The land has formed part of the Metropolitan Green Belt for many decades. This has protected it from development on several occasions. A proposal to create a commercial airport was thrown out after a lengthy enquiry by the Conservative government in the early 1980s. That was considered a major endorsement of the Metropolitan Green Belt. Any buyer of the land has purchased it in the full knowledge that it is Green Belt land and subject to the limitations which the Green Belt imposes. Green Belt status is conceptually similar to a restrictive covenant which runs with the land. The Metropolitan Green Belt is and was intended to be permanent and to protect London.
The land is now known as Three Farms Meadows. It is no different from the other agricultural land on either side of the A3 except that about 25% of its area is still covered in concrete. There is no reason why Ockham’s wartime sacrifices should be used as a pretext for development and for destroying the legacy of a thousand years of history.
For the history of this former wartime airstrip readers might consult Wikipedia (click to link) or paste this link into their browser