Did you know that a German aircraft machine-gunned Brandon school children while they were outside on their lunch break? Did you know that Brandon had a top secret guerrilla unit, hiding in underground bunkers and ready to take on the enemy should the town ever be invaded and occupied? Want to read about a plane crash just outside of Brandon, days before war was declared? Bet you didn’t know the Royal Train stopped at Brandon and the King and Queen got off, walked along the platform and took a car ride to Weeting! For more information about all these, and more, just click on the links below.
Brandon – The Town
SCHOOL LOG – Throughout the war the school headmistress kept a log book of events that affected the school – unruly pupils, pupils’ missing gas masks, concerns over the pupils’ air raid shelter, the nit nurse and of course when the school was machine gunned. Here are extracts from that book.
THE ENEMY MACHINE GUNS THE SCHOOL – On February 27th 1941, a German bomber machine gunned the school just off the Market Hill. It was lunchtime and the children were playing outside. Miraculously the only injury was that of a dinner lady who was hit by flying stones and the bullets hit close by. I have recorded several eyewitness accounts of the aircraft, from it entering the town, to the shooting at the school, and its departure.
AIR ATTACKS ON BRANDON – Although no Brandon resident was killed by enemy bombing, one person came very close to being blown up in his bed. The enemy could often be heard in the skies at night, especially in the early war years of 1940 and 1941. Most bombs dropped harmlessly in farmers’ fields, perhaps intended for the ‘dummy’ airfield near Lakenheath. However on two nights bombs landed in the town – one night along Bury Road and another night along Thetford Road.
AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS (A.R.P.) – The volunteers of the Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) ensured Brandon was protected as best could be from enemy bombing. This included spotting for enemy aircraft and sounding the siren on the police station, reporting location of any bombing, casualties and damage, assisting in putting out fires, ensuring the town was ‘blacked out’ in hours of darkness, sending messages within various groups – Red Cross, Home Guard, etc; on sighting enemy aircraft above. Below are a few details of Brandon’s A.R.P.
BRANDON’S HOME GUARD – Dozens of Brandon men volunteered to serve in the Home Guard, some even progressed into the Regular Army and saw active service. The Home Guard were very visible in town – marching, shooting and carrying out drills; and would be called upon to attack the enemy if needed. Here I list names from the 1940 roll.
AUXILIARY UNIT – Brandon had a top secret guerrilla army, of trained in demotion, sniping and living off the land. Their role would be to attack the enemy in the event of occupation. They signed the Official Secrets Acts and operated from hidden underground bunkers in the forest. A few residents recall seeing their antics in town, but few knew the real reason for them.
ROYAL VISIT – In September 1941, the King and Queen visited troops at a military hospital in Weeting. En route, they arrived at Brandon railway station, met dignitaries, and departed from the station building. Here are a few images of them at the railway station.
BOMBER CRASHES NEAR BRANDON – Just days before war was declared a RAF bomber crashed at Botany Bay, a Forestry Commission plantation, just outside Brandon. One of the aircrew was flung against the inside of the aircraft and killed. This was at a time before war, before it became a common occurrence and before wartime censor. The subsequent inquest heard full details of the cause of the crash and the moments leading to it going down.
THE SUFFOLK REGIMENT – Many Brandon men joined the Suffolk Regiment, with some caught up in Dunkirk in 1940, others landing on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 and many getting caught up in the fall of Singapore in 1942.
SINGAPORE – When Singapore surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army, a number of Brandon men were taken prisoner and held captive for over three years. A few did not survive harsh treatment.