Most people, especially its long suffering residents, are familiar with the John Betjeman poem ‘Slough’. Betjeman published his poem in 1937, when creeping industrialisation and hemmed in housing projects made Slough appear to him to be cramped and sterile, while the factory managers were portrayed as oppressive and crude and the clerks and their familiesÂ as facile lovers of modernity who had lost touch with the natural world, in favour of labour saving devices and crass popular culture.
‘Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air-conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.’
How ironic that a ‘friendly bomb’ really did fall on Slough,Â damaging the aluminium factory thatÂ was atÂ the centre of his little rant.
On 15 July 1940,Â Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Cyril Newall, the Chief of the Air Staff, opened Churchill’s War Cabinet meeting by reporting that a pilot had admitted that, while returning from a mission on July 13, one of his bombs had fallen out of his plane and had scored a direct hit on the Aluminium Works at Slough.
This blunt statement caught my attention while I was preparing the UK War Cabinet twitter feed, which reports on the progress of the Second World War using the minutes and memoranda of Churchill’s War Cabinet in ‘real time’ tweets reported 70 years on. Intrigued, I decided to find out what I could about the case and why it was that nobody seemed to know about this most famous of ‘friendly bombs’. Continue reading »