TIMELINE PART 6.   1935-48.  WARTIME and AFTER.

Timeline 6 and its Stories are mainly based on information collected from Villagers past and present; some written, some from donated photographs and some from documents of the time. The work of the late Roy Silverlock has been particularly valuable.

Additionally, the Heritage Group is indebted to those villagers, past and present, who have provided documents and artefacts for our use.

Stories highlighted in blue are available to read. The others in black are still being researched or written.  Please feel free to contact us if you feel something is incorrect or missing, or if you would like to contribute more information.

You can contact us at lakenheathheritagegroup@outlook.com

General acknowledgements:
Second World War posters are reproduced by permission of The Imperial War Museum under the IWM Non-Commercial Licence.
General information has been taken from Wikipedia and other sources as cited in the text.
Aeroplane Crashes. Cited by R A Silverlock Dec. 1997:
                   Chorley, W R. R.A.F. Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Vols 1,2 and 3.
                   McLachlan, I.  Final Flights. 1989.

                                                  ……………………………………………………………….

This part of the Timeline begins at 1935, to allow a recent village discovery to be included

C. 1935         

A fossilised vertebra of a prehistoric reptile was found on Lakenheath Fen.

 

Read about:          Jonah Rolph and the Ichthyosaur

1935

*Machinery was being installed at the ‘Home Grown Chicory’ factory near the railway station at The Hiss. By 1943 production was in full swing and a number of villagers were employed who were trained by Belgian workers brought in by the owner M.Charles Augustave de Cock, a Belgian entrepreneur who had first established the company at St Ives in 1930. The purpose-built Lakenheath factory was seen as the start of a new industry which had the potential to supply chicory to the whole UK market.
Financial difficulties led to M. de Cock being declared bankrupt in 1937.
Later the bankruptcy order was lifted and production continued until 1981.
M. De Cock died in 1941.
In 1940 his eldest daughter, Nellie Rachel Paula Cecile Hortense de Cock married the Lakenheath GP, Dr J Barr, whose surgery was at The Yews, High Street.
*The Bury Free Press, 27 July 1933.

1937                

The Maids Cross tumulus (mound) was still to be seen.
‘It was then a clear mound set in an area of heathland, the latter being considerably pitted with depressions (probably for sand excavation), on the other side of a plantation known locally as ‘The Covey’. Some of the depressions were considerable, and one had sycamore trees growing in it.
The Tumulus was surrounded by three large stones, two greyish and one brown, and were clearly visible from far away. Although I am not sure of it, I presume that the land belonged to the estate of Sir Carlton Briscoe. [There is some doubt about ownership. It may have been The Elveden Estate owned by Lord Iveagh].
During and /or just after the second world war, the West Suffolk branch of the War Agricultural Committee was engaged in maximising food production, and this entire area of land, previously uncultivated as far as I know, was ploughed up using a very large machine (which I think was referred to as a Gyrotiller………………. Anyway, the tumulus was flattened with everything else. I presume that the large stones were buried in the existing pits. My understanding is that when Lady Briscoe heard of this desecration, she asked for the mound to be restored, and the Gyrotiller duly obliged’.
From a letter from Prof. Ray Bonnett. 2018.


Brian Bonnett on the restored tumulus in 1947.
Photo courtesy of Prof. Ray Bonnett.
Captain Kidner rented the land and grew asparagus there for several years but the soil was too sandy to be really successful.

1937-8              

Fleeing from the Nazis.
The 1939 National Register shows 20 *German Jewish refugees aged around 20, living and working at the Chivers Factory on Sedge Fen. Five were female. It’s thought that they arrived in the country in 1937-38. There was a married couple there on the National Registration Day. In 1940 another married couple and their daughter arrived. They have been identified as Lola Orbach, her husband, and Stella. Lola was made responsible for feeding the young men and their welfare. After the war they remained in the country, living in London.
We hope to be able to tell more of their story in the future.
In Germany, Nazi persecution of Jews had accelerated, leading many Jewish people to flee the country and Great Britain allowed refugees into the country through a gradually tightening visa system.  Later **Enemy Alien internment camps were established. 
* Possibly Austrian also.   
**Not to be confused with POW camps.
Two of the refugee workers, Karl and Franz later became members of the Lakenheath Home Guard.          

1937

Captain Kidner who lived at 81 High Street, was the Village’s Head Air Raid Warden.    

1938

In March 1938 Germany annexed Austria heightening the risk of war, making even more urgent Britain’s rearmament. In the skies above the village increasing numbers of bombers from Feltwell and Mildenhall were active, and on the *Warren some quite hair-raising experiments were going on with gas filled balloons.  These were the barrage balloons which later became familiar in the skies over industrial areas and docks.
*See “War Work”.  J C Morley in Times Remembered.

1937-39              

The government was well aware of the likelihood of airborne attacks and invasion and began to prepare the population for war. Involvement of the population in the ‘war effort’ was recognised as being vital in the defence of the country. In the event of war, citizens were going to be expected to play an active part by joining a national volunteer organisation and these became increasingly important as the war progressed.
With the exception of the Observer Corps, (founded in 1925), the others were formed between 1937-39.
                                     1. The Lakenheath Platoon of The Home Guard.
                                     2. The Lakenheath Auxiliary Observation Unit: The British Resistance.
                                     3. The Women’s Land Army.
                                     4.  Lakenheath Auxiliary Fire Service.
                                     5.  Air Raid Wardens. (ARP)
                                     6.  Women’s Voluntary Service.
                                     7.  Royal Observer Corps.
There were ten Special Constables in the village.  They were:
Henry Flatt, George Sitford, Frederick Drew, Frederick Smith, Albert Rolph, Percy Bailey, John Sitford, Mark Plamer, William Brown and William Mackender.

The National Register 1939. Research by Ken Turner.
Undley Common was enclosed, ending medieval commoners’ rights there.

 

A collection of Stories: Civilian organisations in the village.
1. The Lakenheath Platoon of The Home Guard
2. The Lakenheath Auxiliary Observation Unit: The British Resistance.

3. The Women's Land Army
4. Lakenheath Auxiliary Fire Service. Sub-Station 13.
5. Air Raid Precautions Wardens.
6. The Women's Voluntary Service

7. Volunteer Observer Corps. (VOC). Later the Royal Observer Corps. (ROC).

1939 

The War Agricultural Executive Committees. (War Ags.). First established in WW1
These important supervisory committees were re-established to control land usage and the crops to be grown in the event of war. Importantly for Lakenheath farmers the existing drainage grant was increased.
Before the war it was expected that evacuees, the unemployed, conscientious objectors and children would be sufficient to replace agricultural workers who had ‘joined up’ but numbers recruited were insufficient. This led to the immediate re-establishment of The Women’s Land Army.
The National Archives. The Cabinet Papers.

1939

In June the Women’s Land Army was re-formed having been originally created in 1917.  At first girls volunteered but in December 1941 conscription was introduced.  Lady Grace Briscoe of Lakenheath Hall was Chair of the West Suffolk Land Army Committee. 

1939

On 24th August the Emergency Powers Act was passed giving the Government wide ranging powers which enabled detention without trial, requisitioning of land for military purposes and the imposition of defence regulations such as air raid precautions and the formation of the Home Guard. Compulsory rationing of a wide range of commodities was envisaged. In practice this meant that the government could control almost every aspect of life.  By 1940 “persons [were required] to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of His Majesty”.  Not a single person was unaffected by the Act and for many the changes were life-changing.
parliament.uk

1939

POW Victoria Camp 85.  Amongst the Government’s preparations for war was the building of prisoner of war camps. At some time in 1939 Victoria, camp 85, first using tents, was built at Codson Hill on the A1065 Barton Mills to Brandon road. The site is now occupied by an Anglian Water treatment plant. The camp closed in 1947 having at various times held Italian, German and Ukrainian prisoners who were usually put to work on the land.  After 1947 it was used for a short time to house people who had been bombed out.


                                              
The Camp in the 1960’s.                                                                       The Chapel created by the Italian POW’s.    
 There’s more about the POW camp at 1947.
                                   ‘Repatriated Landscape’.  https://www.repatriatedlandscape.orgengland.pow-camp
                                   ‘An Archaeological excavation at POW Camp 85 Victoria, Eriswell Site Extension Scheme, A1065, Eriswell,
                                   Suffolk’. Oxford Archaeology East.    https:www.//library.oxfordarchaeology.com

1st Sept              

The ‘black-out’ came into force. No lights could be shown from any building. All vehicles had to be fitted with light reducing deflectors and traffic lights were modified. Torch lenses were to be covered with tissue paper to reduce the light and they had to be pointed downwards.  Before long cycles had to show a red rear light.

Getting about in the black-out could be dangerous, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists were particularly at risk.


      

‘WOMEN WANTED FOR EVACUATION SERVICE’.© IWM ART PST 5873. Imperial War Museum.
The first phase of evacuation (Operation Pied Piper) from towns and cities began.
The first families arrived in the village on the following day when a coach arrived in Undley carrying mothers and young children accompanied by lady officials (probably from the WVS). Ken Turner’s dad accepted a mother and two daughters who had come from Tottenham.
*Households which had room to spare had to accept evacuees or else face quite a stiff fine. (£50).
 * Ken Turner. “My First Sixteen Years”.
NOTE.**In 1939 an agricultural labourer earned roughly £2 for a 50 hour week = £100 per year, with the only holidays being Christmas and Boxing Days. In 1940 the average UK wage was £248.
**James Holloway (2017) in pocketpence.co.uk
 

3rd Sept.              

Britain and France declared war on Germany following the German invasion of Poland on 1st September.

8th Sept.              

The Ministry of Food was established by an ‘Order in Council’. Such an Order is made by the Monarch acting on the advice of the Privy Council, in this case under The Emergency Powers Act.

8th Sept.               

Petrol Rationing was introduced and in 1942 it was withdrawn from private use and many private cars were ‘laid up’.


     
Petrol coupons for a 20 hp car.  Jeffery Serjeant.

29th Sept.            

Friday was National Registration Day. The details of everyone together with their location on the day of registration were recorded exactly. On the 30th September 45 million cards were issued.  People in the armed forces were registered separately.  This gave the Government an accurate picture of the population and the information necessary for security purposes. It also assisted the introduction of rationing. Adults had to carry ID cards at all times.



CARRY YOUR IDENTITY CARD ALWAYS’.  © IWM Art. IWM PST 3372 Imperial War Museum.

                                                     

                 

There were different colours of identity cards.
Brown – All cards up to 1943.  Children’s cards remained brown or a buff colour.
Blue – Adults after 1943.
Armed forces personnel were issued with special identity cards.  Yellow cards were issued to people conditionally allowed in the country.

Wikipedia
As the war progressed the movement of military personnel increasingly affected rail travel and bus services. The population were exhorted to economise on travel and to avoid travelling at certain times.

1940

Food rationing was introduced on the 8th January. A loaf of bread cost about 8d in 1940. Neither bread or potatoes and vegetables were rationed but some vegetables were often in short supply even if you grew your own.


   
Grow Your Own Food’   © Art. IWM PST 2891.  Imperial War Museum

1940              

The national loaf was introduced in 1942 in an attempt to reduce the dependence on white flour. It’s taste and colour were unpopular and it was said to be mushy
Wikipedia. 

 

Read about:                   Changes To Daily Life: Food Rationing and Make Do and Mend.

1940

Early June saw the evacuation from Dunkirk of the British Expeditionary Force and not long after the LDV was renamed The Home Guard. By 1944 it had 1.5 million members. It was disbanded in 1944.

1940

‘On June 13th 1940 the order was given out on the wireless that Church and Chapel bells must not be rung except for air-raids’.
Halesowen Parish Church Ringing Society, West Midlands. AGM 1940

In 1943 ringing of Church bells was again permitted but many churches must have been short of ringers and so a full choir of bells was unlikely.

1940

The Village was holding a ‘Spitfire’ fund raising event. The estimated cost of a Spitfire in 1939 was £8,897, 6 shillings and 6 pence.
quora.com


      
The Lynn Advertiser Sept. 6th 1940.

1940              

Towards the end of the year a decoy airfield complete with flare-path lights and dummy Wellington bombers was made on Eriswell Low Warren to the east of the Mildenhall to Brandon road. This was intended to give protection to Mildenhall and Feltwell RAF station.

1941

In February Double Summer Time was introduced making agricultural work possible until around 11.00pm. It also gave more time for householders to grow their own vegetables.
www.historic-uk.com

1941

The Women’s Institute played an important part in the life of the village.


 
The Bury Free Press. Sat. Feb. 22.  1941

              

You can read recollections of the war years in the village in ‘Times Remembered’.
Ken Turner.    ‘Life in Lakenheath’.
Robert Kidner. ‘Upbringing During War Years’.
J C Morley.   ‘War Work 1939-1946’.
and
*Marie Laflin.   ‘Growing up in Lakenheath: Home, school, work, village life, RAF, POW’s, and sugar-beet pudding’.
* An audio recording by the Suffolk Archives aided by the Heritage Group.

1941

Bulldozers levelled the Warren in preparation for a new airfield which opened in mid 1941.
Silverlock in ‘Lakenheath History topics’ Vol 3.
‘RAF Lakenheath- Brief Notes’. Author unknown.

1941

Clothes rationing began on the 1st June. Textiles were essential for equipment like parachutes, back packs and webbing as well as uniforms.  The number of pleats pockets and buttons on clothing was restricted to save fabric.

1941

From the middle of the year Italian POW’s began to arrive. They were mostly regarded as willing workers and it is said that towards the end of the war some were living in a building at the back of the former Lloyds Bank on the High St. No evidence of this has been found however.
This language tutor book was produced for Italian POW’S.

 

“L’INGLESE PARLATO”
“AI PRIGONIERI DI GUERRA ITALIANI”.
“For Italian Prisoners of War”.

                                 
      
Donated by Jeffrey Serjeant  
 

1941             

Three bombs fell on the Chicory factory in January. One man was killed and two injured. An unexploded bomb was left behind.
More details of the bombing in and around the village are in the story ‘Civilian Volunteers’.

1941

On 13th October the Dr. Barnardo’s Children’s Home in the old Wangford Hall was bombed. The Home was very close to the perimeter of the airfield. Its ruins can still be seen. The children were regular attenders at St. Mary’s and each Sunday were ‘crocodiled’ from the Home along the old Brandon Road past Maids Cross and along Cemetery Road to the church.

1942

*In January RAF 149 Squadron had moved from the grass runways at Mildenhall to Lakenheath. The first ‘Thousand Bomber Raid’ was launched against Cologne on the 30th May.
The tragedy of war was brought home to the village. Doris Ditchburn, ne
é Rolph had only been married for only two weeks before her husband, Philip Wedgewood Ditchburn, was killed in action whilst mine-laying, having taken off from Lakenheath.
*‘Action Stations’. Author, Issue date and publisher unknown.

There were a number of aeroplane crashes in the immediate surrounding area of the village.

 

Read about:                   Plane Crashes and a Village Hero.

1942

Furniture rationing was introduced in November because of a serious timber shortage. The airframe of the Mosquito fighter-bomber was made of wood. Sale of furniture was restricted to newly-weds and ‘bombed out’ victims.  Even second or third hand furniture was hard to come by.

1942             

The Battle of El Alamein (23rd Oct-11Nov) in the Western Desert was a turning point in the War.

1942

The village pond, which was next to where the War Memorial now is at the bottom of Mill Road, was turned into a beach for the children and this made national news in a feature article in the Daily Mirror, July 16th 1942. In 2019 the Heritage Group asked Daphne Austin to interpret the scene as an art work which will eventually be placed in the Community Centre.

        

“The Sea Side at Lakenheath”.  Daphne Austin.

1942              

Sgt. Parsons in a POW Camp in Germany. He was taken prisoner in Greece In 1940.



The Bury Free Press. Sat. December 19th 1942.

1943             

Dr. Alfred Joseph Pickworth JP died having served the village as its GP from 1884 to 1926.

1943

The 149th and 199th Squadrons attacked the German V weapons at Peenemunde.
*The history Heraldry and Heritage of the 48th Fighter Wing.

1944

In the early months of the year 149 Squadron was flying supply drops to Resistance groups on the continent in preparation for D-Day.

1944

In May the RAF squadrons left the base for Methwold where they re-equipped with Lancaster Bombers.  RAF Lakenheath became an aircraft equipment depot before being closed for rebuilding to become a very heavy bomber station for the USAF B-29 Superfortresses. The heavier planes needed much larger runways which required the diversion of the A1065 Barton Mills to Brandon road to the east. The old Lakenheath to Brandon road which ran past Maids Cross continued through the airfield, the perimeter of which was which was left unfenced. For several years it was normal for villagers to walk on the old road via Wangford village through the air base on the way to Brandon.
ttp://www.raf.mod.ukbomber command/s40.html    

1944

‘Operation Overlord’. The D-Day landings began on 6th June.

1944

The Home Guard was stood down on 3rd December.

1945

A sports and social event was planned to take place at RAF Lakenheath. 
his advert appeared in The Bury Free Press on Friday 4th May.




Later to be followed on by The Bury Free Press Friday May 11th

“The Public will appreciate the Postponement of these Sports because of the Thanksgiving Services.”

1945             

  VE Day Victory In Europe -  8th/9th May.
  This is Marie Laflin’s memory of VE Day, written at the time when she was 13.


*Marie or her typist has confused the two Victory dates.
**Raymond Bonnett aged 15, later Professor Bonnett, Queen Mary University, London.

            

The ending of blackout regulations which had been in force since the beginning of the war meant that lights could be shown safely for the first time in 5½ years.

1945

VJ Day. Victory over Japan. 15th August.

 

                                               
The Fancy Dress Parade.  The photos are taken on the grass opposite the Village Hall.

1947             

RAF Lakenheath became the site of the Bomber Command Signals School.

1947

Towards the end of March the village experienced the ‘great floods’ which followed earlier very heavy snow falls. A sudden thaw combined with continuous heavy rain and high spring tides meant that the Little Ouse sluice gates, including the main Denver gate, could only be opened for short periods. 3000 acres of the fen were swallowed up by flood water which was rising at 12 inches per hour and gales reached 100mph. The land remained flooded for two months.
East Anglian Film Archives-Fen Floods 1947.

    
       
    Floods in Lakenheath.                                            Floods at Sharpe’s Corner.                                       At the back Rookery farm.

             

In July a Parliamentary question from an MP concerning the measures taken was answered by the Minister of Agriculture. 
“……..500 men, 40 drag-line excavators and other plant began to assemble at Lakenheath in June.

Hansard. 28th July 1947. Vol 441 cc20-1 

1947

Three POW’s from Woodstock POW Hostel, an annex of Victoria Camp 85, were charged with the burglary of at least twelve properties which included houses in Eriswell and Lakenheath. A revolver, taken from a house in Barton Mills was recovered during their capture. A wide variety of items, including money, clothes and alcohol, were taken.  In a plea for leniency it was suggested that the men were hoping to assist their escape back to Germany. Despite occasional problems, by this time POWs were allowed considerable freedom of movement and a number of long-term relationships including marriage and friendships were made.
The Bury Free Press. Friday, July 18th, 1947.



This photo, from the wedding of a Ukrainian ex POW and a local girl, was taken at the Victoria Camp.

1947            

A Beauty Contest was held at the Land Army Hostel.



The Bury Free Press. Friday Aug. 15th 1947.

1948             

USAF base construction at RAF Lakenheath was begun. The base became a training airfield for USAF training in Europe.
Information about RAF Lakenheath from RAF LAKENHEATH- BRIEF NOTES. Author unknown

1948

The National Health Service began ‘treatment fee at the point of use’ on 5th July.  In 1946. Dr.Balfe was the Village GP.                            
For the next few years the village was served by a series of locum doctors until in 1953 Dr.G Garlick arrived. The surgery was at The Yews, High Street and there were 2727 patients registered.

Dr.Colin Dring (2004), Mildenhall. Information from Lakenheath Surgery. (2020).



Mr. J Bennett received this important notification

            

Rationing of food, with some variations as supply improved, continued until 4th July 1954 but sugar was taken off the ration in 1953.  Many of us living now can remember our delight when sweets became readily available in the 1950’s.