This Sunday will mark the 80th anniversary of Basingstoke’s worst bombing event of WW2. On that day in 1940, a small group of twin-engined German bombers flew from the south, dropping bombs in Church Square.

Continuing northwards the bombers crossed the railway line where more bombs were dropped in Burgess Road, South View, just north of the railway line. In total, 11 people were killed. The Hants & Berks Gazette, under censorship rules, reported ‘Bombs fall on Hampshire Town’.

Before then, Church Lane, Elbow Corner and Church Square were a mix of houses. In Church Square, were some large houses, home to Dr Leslie Housden and Dr H Radford Potter and of dentist Mr Carey. Mrs Kate Wells, a dressmaker lived here as did two sisters, the Misses Poulter, who were recorded as calmly taking tea in their back room, after the front of their house had been destroyed.

The parish church of St Michael already bore scars from musket balls from the English Civil War on its south side. During the long siege of Basing House, skirmishes between Royalists and Parliamentarians were frequent.

St Michael’s housed both horses and gunpowder which blew up, destroying the windows. But on this day in 1940 much more damage was done – the recently completed WW1 Chapel of Remembrance on the north-east corner was badly damaged, all but one of the windows were blown out and 2 small stained glass windows commemorating the two Simmons brothers killed in the Great War were destroyed. Damage from the bomb blast is still visible on the outer wall of the church.

On the other side of Church Street, where the entrance to Festival Place is now, was another church, this one Wesleyan Methodist, which dated from 1905, when it had replaced an earlier chapel, now in Cliddesden. This church too, was severely damaged. It was repaired but demolished in 1965 during town development.

By 1947, St Michael’s church had been repaired; the damaged WW1 Memorial chapel rebuilt, and the windows dedicated to the Simmons’ brothers were remade. Basingstoke Heritage Society provided an interpretation sign in the gardens of Remembrance in Church Square, unveiled on December 4, 2019.