The War At My Door Book Cover.

The book 'The War At My Door' is a collection of wartime experiences of ordinary local people in the East Anglia region of England.

The many fascinating accounts of everyday life during the war years are recorded in this book by local author Dick Wickham, just as they were told to him.

In Dick's own words: 'It is hoped to convey how the war years were seen by the East Anglians, how it effected their every day lives. Living each day not knowing what dangers they might be presented with. Some had dramatic experiences, some sad, others had very humorous experiences. Through it all the feeling of togetherness, the helping of one another, the caring for each other, knowing that they all shared the same circumstances and coming through it all by pulling together.

The civilian through many sacrifices and hardships developed an attitude of lets make the most of what we have got.

To a teenage boy like myself, growing up during all these times, it left a profound effect on my views and outlook on life. I am not sure whether that feeling which was shared by my generation will ever be felt again.

Most of Norfolk and Suffolk during World War 2 was covered with airfields, mostly American, and a lot of the peoples' memories recorded here, are, of incidents concerning these airfields. I myself have many memories of these. A great friendship and affection grew up between the local people and the men from the bases, the airfields always attracting many schoolboys, who became well known by the airmen. The colourful names on the aircraft will always be remembered by them, as will the large formations of aircraft seen flying in the East Anglian skies.'

I hope you enjoy the following excerpts of accounts taken from my book. If you would like to read the full text of the book, copies can be obtained from the address at the bottom of the page.

Dick Wickham's signature.

Dick Wickham.

The War At My Door contains 64 pages of the wartime experiences of the people of East Anglia together with a number of illustrations.
Some of the contributors are:

Airfield Panorama.

Mrs. Mary Hovells.

The wartime years are remembered quite vividly by most people who lived through them. Even though over forty years have passed since then.

There are many things that stick out in their memories, Mrs. Mary Hovells has lived at School Farm Ilketshall St. Lawrence since 1935. She recalls an exercise held just before the outbreak of the war, it was to co-ordinate the duties of the Air Raid Wardens, Special Constables and the Ambulance Services.

The village hall was to be the casualty clearing centre after a supposed Air Raid.

Mrs. Hovells husband had been appointed as Chief Air Raid Warden, she herself, was to be the Ambulance driver, the Ambulance itself being her van that she collected eggs in.

The school master's wife being in the Red Cross at that time was in charge of the nurses, Casualties were volunteers from the village, each wore a label stating their injuries when brought into the village hall.
Mrs. Hovells remembers a young sixteen year old lad being brought in on a stretcher, the lady in charge of the nurses upon reading the label on this particular casualty, said to the other nurses, "Right a broken hip, now the first thing we must do is to remove his trousers". Upon hearing this the startled lad leapt from the stretcher announcing that no one was going to remove his trousers, and fled from the hall.

Another casualty, the Post Master, who Mrs. Hovells said fancied himself as an actor, played the part to the full, he had covered his face with flour and Tomato Ketchup and was groaning, once in the hall he said he was going to be sick, where upon he was told firmly by the nurse in charge that if he wanted to be sick he would have to go outside, as he could not be sick in the hall.
Apparently his make up was so effective that with the poor lighting in the hall, this being oil lamps, one of the helping nurses was so over-come by it , she passed out.

The exercise was to finish at nine o'clock at night, Mrs. Hovells says that after she and her husband had arrived home, there was a knock on the door. At the door was a Special Constable, he said that there was, as he put it, "A Dead Un" still at the village hall, upon being told by Mrs. Hovell's husband to tell the silly old devil that the exercise was over, and to come out, the constable said, "This man was informed of this", his answer was that dead men don't walk and they would have to go and get him, so out had to come the egg collecting van to bring him back!

A Formation of B52 Bombers.

David Bacon.

David was a farm worker when war broke out, he lived at Clay Common Frostenden. The first air raid he remembers he thinks could have been the first on East Anglia. He says "The aircraft seemed to be coming over all night, dropping parachute flares, they dropped a land mine at Wisset, there was a terrific explosion and we felt the blast here at Frostenden. We got under a table indoors for protection but I don't think it would have saved us had we have been hit".

He would stand outside and watch what was happening during these air raids. This turned out to be rather dangerous, a searchlight was stationed at the bottom of Primrose lane near to his home, the German bombers would shoot down the beam of the light, trying to put it out. They would also drop any remaining bombs they had before crossing the coast on their way home.

Being a farm worker he was classed as being in a reserved occupation, this meant that he was exempt military service. This did not however prevent him being sent to work at other farms. One farm he was sent to work on was Brook Farm at Sotherton. He worked the farm with the owner, an old lady and sometimes a couple of Land Army girls.

Some of the land bordered Holton airfield, here David would watch the American Thunderbolt fighters taking of f and landing, "They looked very big and heavy to me, not at all like our Spitfires and Hurricanes" he says.

Liberator bombers replaced the Thunderbolts at Holton, he remembers the gunners in the waist position in the bombers waving to him as they took off, "I would try to count the bombers as they went out and count them as they returned, to see how many had been lost. Many I saw crash land with their undercarriage shot away in a shower of sparks. Then I'd watch as the ambulances would take away the dead and injured. Some poor old boys in a bad way."

Airfield Panorama.

Bob Barber.

Bob lived at Stockton during the early war years. Setting out for school one morning with his friends they heard an aircraft come out of the low cloud, they also heard machine gun fire which had them diving into a near by ditch for cover. It was
a German aircraft. Another one of Bob's friends was also setting out for school. He was getting his cycle out of the shed when a bullet hit the window frame near to him. The bullet ricocheted off the window frame hitting his father, who was eating his breakfast near the window, in the elbow, the bullet passed through his elbow and struck the wall behind him. Upon arriving at school this lad proceeded to relate that his father had been shot by the Germans. He was also quite proud of the fact.

A Formation of B52 Bombers.

John Archer.

Sunday evening, October 1st 1944, John was on one of his usual cycle rides around the local American Air Force bases. The last base on his Journey was Hardwick, home of the 93 rd Bomb Group.
Heading for home, which was within about a mile of Flixton airfield, he heard a tremendous explosion to the North West, in fact in the direction of Hardwick!

Windows were shattered over a wide area as blast waves sped through the countryside. Apparently a V.2. rocket had come down at Sycamore Farm Bedingham, it had landed very close to Hardwick's base hospital, leaving a big crater. Looking back, John reflects, that had he have delayed his return, he would have passed the impact point of the V.2. at a very bad time indeed!

Airfield Panorama.

Len Bartrum.

The night time raids on Norwich were seen by Len from his home, watching the searchlights picking out the German aircraft, the flashes from the the guns, the explosions from the bombs and the glow in the sky from the fires.

Being taken to Norwich by his brother one day after a previous nights' air raid he goes on, "I was amazed at the damage and the smell of the burnt out buildings."

As with all boys during the war, it was the practice to collect pieces of crashed aircraft, ammunition and any souvenirs that could be had. Len stored all his bits and pieces in the garden shed, his mother, afraid that something was liable to blow up. As his collection of ammunition was diminishing he suspected his mother of throwing the ammo away, down the well in the garden, she later confessed of doing just this. His biggest worry was that the ammo had contaminated the water. Incendiary bombs were added to his collection, after a German aircraft had dropped hundreds of them one night on a local farm. He goes on, "We spent the next day digging the unexploded ones up not really considering the danger had one exploded!"

A Formation of B52 Bombers.
The War At My Door contains 64 pages of the wartime experiences of the people of East Anglia together with a number of illustrations, it is published by:

Dick Wickham - BECCLES, Suffolk, England

Email: thewaratmydoor@org2.com

Airfield Panorama.

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