Lidgate in World War II
Lidgate At War

Lidgate was far from a quiet rural retreat during the Second World War. East Anglia was in a direct line between Germany and the Industrial Midlands. Although no one from the village was killed in enemy action as in the Great War nevertheless villagers contributed, as everyone else, to the general war effort. Villagers recall those challenging days:

Will Day:
  1. "I recall a roadblock near the Chapel which checked on people going through. They had the old brake of Will Leaches standing in the road to stop cars getting through and also a road block at the New Bridge. I was in the Home Guard and was out all night. When we were expecting the invasion we had to get up at 3.30 a.m. to watch out for aeroplanes coming over to drop people. They had a dummy airfield all along the Upend road with searchlights and there was one at Gesyns. This was to deflect enemy aircraft from nearby Stradishall Airfield. There was a Home Guard cannon emplacement near the pond. When they were getting ready for the invasion during the war, the tanks all stood from the Red House right through the village almost touching one another. Most of them were American. At Dalham they were all under the trees and and so were camouflaged. Unless you had an identity card you couldn't get through there."

  1. "It was a foggy morning. I was shaking the mats out at Cherry Tree Cottage, where I lived at the time when the German plane went over - it came quite low and you could see the men and the swastika and it went down where the TV mast is now. Will's cousin rushed up the road and took my sisters' bike and I took mine and we peddled up there to see where it had come down. The men came across the fields with their pitchforks. We stopped at the side of the field and watched."

  1. "They were no trouble capturing them. They covered the plane up with sheaves so they couldn't tell what plane it was."

(The bomber a Dornier Do 17 Z. had been hit in the port engine by ground fire on its way to Germany from factory attacks. It dumped its bombs prior to a forced landing at Spring Wood at 9.20 am on 23rd August 1940. Oberlt H Hellmers (Staffelkapitan -Squadron Leader), Overfr G Wagner, Fw A Dietl, and Uffz P Seidel were captured unhurt. The aircraft was a write off.)

Humphrey Foreman:
  1. "“Bombs were dropped near us. One was dropped just the other side of Hammond's field, some on my sister's land up Bury Lane and some on fields behind the church. We were nearly evacuated but luckily none of the bombs went off."

  1. "The times were hard because it was harvest time and the men on top of their work had to get up at 3.30 a.m. to do this work. They then had to practice one night every week I was a lieutenant and had to go away every week to Bury."

  1. "I went to work for Mr. Boyce on the land as did all the women - potato picking etc. I did harvest work. The worst thing for me was Will Leach's old horse. It was so shaky and we had this tumbrel on which we had to load the sheaves and I was terrified because the horse would keep moving - I would rather have had a tractor!"

  1. "Things were difficult as your couldn't have lights on and there were no signposts."

  1. "The best bit was when we cycled to Newmarket for Saturday nights at the pictures. You couldn't have much light on your bike. One night when we werebiking home my brakes went at the top of Ashley Hill. I was going down there and a crowd of airmen were coming up the other way and I went through the middle of them as I couldn't stop."

  1. "The airmen used to walk in gangs from where they were billeted to the pubs they wanted to go to. They used to get the beer into the pubs at the weekend for them. A lot used to come to 'The Star' and some settled here and never went home. There were soldiers at Ousden Hall and we used to have a dance in the school and the soldiers used to come and it was crowded."

  1. "We had some fun in the war. We hadn't got a lot of food - the farm labourers got extra cheese. Those who didn't want it all used to change it for something else. They also had a little bit extra meat as well. You had two ounces of butter a week. What puzzled me was that after the war my brother who was in the regular army abroad - when he came home we were still rationed, but he could bring home a great big joint of beef and ham or pork. They could buy it over there. They weren't allowed to bring it home raw, so he used to get it cooked in the cookhouse and bring it home that way. When he was in Egypt he sent us sultanas one Christmas to make a pudding. He was a great one for sending parcels. You just had to make the best of it in those days."

Winnie Church:
  1. "It wasn't too bad getting by with rationing. The men could get extra margarine and cheese. The allotments and gardens helped out. We always used to keep a few chickens back Chicken food was rationed and we had to look for scraps."

Humphrey Foreman :
  1. "They wanted volunteers for the home-guard. Raker and I were the only ones to sign on at first and then the farm hands came in. We went to Dalham to be sworn in. We had uniforms supplied. Mine was a bit baggy and I took my own gun to practice with to present arms. Crisp was our instructor. Then later we had army rifles to practice with. We had a shooting range at the chalk pit. I don' t think I hit the bull's eye. As it began to look serious we had to go on guard. I went up with John Turner from the Red House to the top of 'The Belt' Hill and we could see the sky lit up with the bombs falling on London. I remember my wife helped me on with my clothes when I was called out. Once I had to go up The Belt on guard with my gun and ammunition alone in the day time. As Crisp's men were at work he did not send them - which wasn't very fair. I wonder what I should have done if a German had come down."

The Dewing family contributed much to vigil life. The Danes gave the General a horse called Lilliput that was forever escaping down the village street.

  1. "General Dewing, whose family had moved to the Old Rectory went into Denmark with Monty. Denmark sent parcels to Lidgate during the war and anyone who had been in the forces got a parcel after the war thanks to the General. After the war he ran the horticultural side of Chippenham Park."

William Dewing:
  1. “It became normal for my mother to hear the sound of the lorries in the middle of the night, and to wake to find a battalion of soldiers camping in the field and under the cedar of Lebanon, their transport among the trees, hidden from the air, their tents erected against the barn, their men eating breakfast. Most of them were pleasant and well mannered, but one particular English regiment was less that welcome, not least because they had erected their cookhouse against the three hundred year old wooden barn and spread their rubbish far and wide. It was to be their misfortune, because at ten o'clock an army staff car swept up the drive, complete with a British General who had thought he would call on Nell as he was passing, and ten minutes after he left another staff car arrived, this time with two Canadian Generals, one of whom was my Godfather. It was the only time I ever saw him, but it was well timed - no battalion has packed up and moved on more quickly than that one!

  2. After that we were left alone, maybe because the invasion took all the troops away to France, but I liked to think that it was because the word went round that we were dangerous hosts. Meanwhile the aircraft streamed overhead; Flying Fortresses by day, Lancasters, Halifaxes, and Sterlings by night in a continuous stream that never stopped. I, as a small boy, could identify a single engined fighter at twenty thousand feet almost without a glance, and in the run up to 'D' Day I was to count over two hundred aircraft in sight above us at the same time."
Two brothers from Lidgate have recently met in the Middle East. They are Sapper Cecil Rose R. E. And Sergeant Harold Rose R. E. M. E sons of Mr. F. Rose. Sgt. Rose went to the Middle East in January 1941 and went through the Greece and Crete campaigns, escaping with shrapnel wounds. He was at Larissa when the big earthquake occurred and helped in the rescue work. Sapper Rose went to the Middle East in May, 1942. His wife and baby son reside at Lidgate.