MUCH has been written about the days when Basingstoke was hit by German bombers 63 years ago, but what happened afterwards?

The Second World War still carried on for another five years and the restrictions and rationing imposed by the government meant much hardship until well after the war ended.

So how did the local folk cope with life during those years?

When Hitler’s Stuka bombers came out of the sky and bombed Church Square and Burgess Road on August 16, 1940, it shook the people of Basingstoke to the core, for they never realised that their market town with its small population of 15,000 would be attacked.

In the following months further air raids took place, and by the end of November that year, 15 people had been killed and dozens injured.

As 1941 progressed with very few air raid warnings for the town, Basingstoke tidied up its damaged buildings. Very little reconstruction could take place due to restrictions in building materials.

A bomb crater in St Michael’s Church rectory’s grounds was filled in by parishioners, and another hole in Budds Meadow at Brambly Grange was also dealt with.

Children who had been evacuated to Basingstoke found the town quite an adventure playground, when they were not at school.

Large water tanks, placed around the town for the fire brigade to use in case of fires, became swimming pools for the youngsters, although warnings were pasted up telling them that they were dangerous to swim in.

The ruined houses in Church Square provided “cubby holes” to play in until the local council cleared the land.

The rationing of food, petrol and clothes was a problem for most families, but a few people managed to overcome this by using coupons given to firms as an allowance.

One businessman in the town was fined £2 for driving his child to school using the firm’s petrol coupons, while an outfitter was fined £5 for failing to take coupons from customers.

Clothes rationing ended in 1949 and petrol rationing ended in 1950.

The problem of not getting enough petrol brought about the formation of Hampshire Dairies, based in Vyne Road behind the Great Western Hotel. This company was formed by pooling the resources of all the local dairies so that only one vehicle would deliver milk in each road, thus saving petrol.

Even sweets were rationed, although in August 1942, the amount allowed was increased from two ounces to four ounces.

But children did have the benefit of being given free milk at school, orange juice and cod liver oil. It was said that youngsters were given a better diet than before the war, and received better medical care.

As the war brought about Hitler’s change of ideas in attacking Russia, so Britain felt that certain wartime rules and regulations could be eased, but the relaxing of lighting regulations was still not permitted.

Various firms in Basingstoke were warned to keep their black-out curtains over their windows in case any German bombers should appear over the town.

On the railways, restaurant cars were withdrawn to provide maximum accommodation for passengers, and the removal of station signs, indicating the name of the town, gave travellers problems until the last few months of the war when they were replaced.

Although the town was free of any bombing, there was a period when explosive objects were dropped into the town. A schoolboy at Kempshott received injuries to his hand when he picked up one item left in the road.

In September 1944, a VI “Doodle-bug” plane flew across the town and fell at West Ham, damaging several houses, but that was more or less the end of the war as far as Basingstoke was concerned for, by the start of 1945, the end of the conflict was in sight.

In May that year the town celebrated the victory in Europe, and Basingstoke could really get down to living a more peaceful life.

Concrete tank blocks could be removed, pill boxes were demolished and black-out material thrown away.

Basingstoke folk, like the rest of Britain, were united during the war years, and proved to the world that they could take anything that was “thrown” at them. That wartime spirit is what keeps us going in times of crises and we should be proud of that.