My Memories Of Elveden In Wartime 1939-46
The Sunday that war was declared my Father, Mother and I were met at Redneck House gate by Ted Crane who had come to tell us that at 11 a.m., war was declared - we had been at church praying that it would not happen!
Some of us in the village went to the Red Cross classes, held in the Reading Room about one evening a week. I have certificates for passing in First Aid, Hygiene and Home Nursing. These are dated from July, 1940 - June 1944. Lady Elizabeth More O'Ferrall was our Commandant and Miss Swarbrick was our Secretary. I do not remember the names of the other people who came to the classes.
The 'Home Guard' came once or twice, to join us in our classes - to give us some practice in dealing with various injuries, make believe ones, thankfully. We had to practice bandaging heads, arms and legs and also how to put a leg in splints etc.
We were on parade on Sunday mornings in front of Elveden Hall along with the Americans stationed there and in numerous huts in the Park. It was the HQ of the 3rd Bombardment Wing. We all noticed we kept in step better than the Americans did! They looked a smart lot though - in particular the WAC's all well 'turned out'.
At sometime or other there were airmen from the Bomb Dump at R.A.F. Barnham - 94 M.U., using the village hall at Elveden for their sleeping quarters and as they had no canteen there, myself and some other people, Olive Rolf, Nelly Budden (her sister), Ivy Ashen and one or two others, I cannot remember who they were, ran a canteen for the men. We were able to provide tea, coffee or cocoa also something cooked, thanks to being able to get food coupons from Mr. Dannatt the Food Officer at Mildenhall. Most evenings there was a choice of eggs, bacon, sausages or beans; also some home-made cakes.
A Nursery School plus all their staff came from Tottenham to live in the servants' quarters of Elveden Hall - bringing with them numerous cots, beds, potties, etc. We all felt very sorry for all these tiny children from 2 years to five years of age to suddenly be taken away from their parents and homes in the East End of London to this unknown place. I got to know one of the teachers called Margaret Kirkman - who eventually married my brother Ian Dow in 1941, after he had joined the RAF. When they got to know each other he was working in the Farms' Office under Victor Harrison the manager.
The evacuees left Elveden Hall sometime in 1942 and moved to Braunston Manor near Oakham in Rutland. When they had moved out the Duke of Gloucester's Regiment came there for a time before the Americans came to take it all over.
By this time I was working in the Estate Office with Miss Swarbrick and for Mr. Harrison, the work was mainly to do with cattle records. Miss Swarbrick was also secretary to Lord and Lady Iveagh. Victor Harrison was the Farms' Manager.
One of my jobs was to keep the large record books up to date, to enter milk yields, calves etc., and I regularly had to go to the Gardens Cottage to bring the stock tickets up to date, the farms the animals were at etc., so that Lord and Lady Iveagh could see at a glance where all the animals were. This was always done ready for their stay at the 'Cottage' and any mistake was soon noticed by them!
I quite enjoyed doing this in very pleasant surroundings and always had a chat to Arthur and Connie Turner who lived there and looked after Lord and Lady Iveagh when they were in residence there. I usually had a cup of coffee and a piece of lovely home-made sponge sandwich cake, Connie was a very good cook!
I remember at one time that we had an officer from the RAF billeted at Redneck House for a week or so, and another time after that two Army officers were in the house, with a batman to look after them. I believe it was a Major Boyne and Viscount Allenby, this was probably just before the Invasion of Europe started. I recall one particular night immediately before that - they more or less took over a large part of Redneck House and we were aware of people going in and out of the front door all night, another part of our 'war effort'! By the number of empty bottles we guessed they had a little something to keep them going to face the dangers that were imminent once the invasion had started. We had been aware that there was the noise of heavy lorries, tanks etc moving along the main road all through the night.
One of my last memories are of a nazi bomber flying very low, having come out of a cloud, over Redneck Farm dropping bombs that landed near Chalk Hall Farm, this of course, was quite early on in the war. Then in the last part of the war in Europe, on a lovely summer morning I remember seeing gliders being towed by large planes to Holland, Belgium and no doubt France, probably carrying men from the Parachute Regiment.
Through my father having to go to the General's office at the Hall, he got to know some of the staff, in particular a WAC girl and her friend, Ken, and we used to see them quite a lot, as they enjoyed coming down to the house at Redneck - they always brought something from their PX - probably tasty bits we could not buy. They liked to drink the lovely fresh Guernsey milk from the farm. I had letters from Olga at Christmas until she died about three years ago, Ken and I still exchange Christmas cards - he must be 80 something by now.
Later on when the 'Yanks' had all gone there were some Polish soldier troops and Italian P.o.W's living somewhere on the Estate, some of the P.o.W's worked on the land.
There was a great sadness in the Village when we were told that Viscount Elveden and his batman had been killed by a flying bomb in Holland. In the Far East also some families had young men taken prisoners of war, not at all well treated. A man called Walter Layte and Dick Fulcher from Elveden were two that I remember and they suffered from the effects of all this when they were released and came back home - not much in the way of counselling for the traumatic experiences they had been through - very different now I believe.
When it was all over my husband, who had been in Egypt and Palestine with the R.A.F, came back to England. My brother Ian was also home from the R.A.F. and eventually my other brother Fleming, who had been away in the Army came home; both of them in North Africa and Italy and various islands in the Mediterranean. They actually met up at one time in North Africa. My middle brother, Bill, was working as a student at de Havilands at Hatfield when war broke out in 1939, and was employed there and worked there for many years after that. In the meantime it changed from Hawker Siddley and then to British Aerospace, he retired from there aged 65.
One more memory that has come to me. During the war King George V1 came to review the troops in the Park and we were allowed to go into the Park to see him. He actually noticed Mr. Tom Turner, the Head Gamekeeper, from shooting at Elveden on several occasions on the Estate and went to shake hands with him.
It was a great relief to everyone when the war ended in Europe and also in the Far East and we could all try to cope with what had taken place during the war years. I was married by now and we went to live in South East London - a big change from the lovely countryside of Norfolk and Suffolk - we were at least very near Dulwich Park and could get out into Kent, where I live now.
©2000 Peggy Iles
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