Les Bond in his Home Guard uniform
are extracts from correspondence with Les Bond, an
ex-Brandonian who now lives in Australia. Les
was aged 14 at the outbreak of war. (Part 1)
The outbreak of war
I only have my own reaction to the outbreak of the war. At
that time the Government was going to raise the school leaving
age from 14 years to 16 years so my reaction was that it would
be a good thing if the war lasted for at least one year so I
that could leave at 14. Never in my wildest dreams did I think
that it would go on so long that I would be in the Army for the
last year of the war.
Well I was virtually still
a school boy and not
understanding the seriousness of it all, but I do remember a
lot of soldiers being billeted in the Maltings at the
time. They had no equipment and all of them seemed at
a loss as what to do with themselves, but that all seemed to
get sorted out fairly quickly.
Military activity in
Brandon was the hub of quite a lot of military and air force
- London Road Camp,
R.E.M.E. and Engineers I think.
- Santon Downham Road
Camp, Pioneers & the ammunition stacks.
- The searchlight unit on
Thetford Road where the chalk pit is now or very close by.
- The prisoner of war camp
- Not forgetting the
- A well known film star
of the time (Richard Green) was seen getting of the
train at the Railway station. He was an officer in
the tank corp. and was on his way to the Battle
Area. That caused a bit of talk in the town.
"I can't recall soldiers billeted in the town, maybe because we didn't have any near
us. What I do remember is that soldiers stationed in Brandon
used to find lodgings for their wives.
The Home Guard
Not being very good at specific dates, the dates I give you
will be more or less guess work.
I joined the Home Guard in
1941, aged 15 or 16, as a messenger boy running messages from
our section to the Headquarters and I had to supply my own
bike. Our section was positioned anywhere but our
Headquarters was always in an out-building behind the Flintknappers
Pub. By the way, the date given above comes from the
fact that I have a certificate from Capt. Frank Holmes that I
was entitled to wear three little red service stripes, one for
each year in the Home Guard. I must be honest we
only joined to have a bit of fun.
|In the Home Guard we used to
have weekend exercises up at Lingheath, Brandon Fields and in the town
and at the firing range on some weekends. I think the firing range was at
Elveden but don't quote me on that one. Some times we were taken
by truck to Newmarket to watch training films and propaganda stuff and
at one time I remember doing training with the Northover
gun that fired bottles filled with phosphorous and was supposed to set
Tanks on fire. Then we had a Sten Gun that was a 'roughie'!
You had to be careful how you held it otherwise it would chop your
When we were in our Home Guard uniform us youngsters used to use the
N.A.A.F.I. which was in the Paget Hall, I cant remember the older guys using it though. I can also
Home Guard certificate
Les in Home Guard uniform early 1940's
one occasion of a parade on the meadow opposite the Railway Hotel. There that an
ex-Guardsman, an ex old soldier probably of the Welsh Guards, anyway he wanted to urinate badly (probably
because he liked his pint a bit too much) being a true Guardsman he didn't fall out, he calmly did his
business down his trouser leg. I don't think I should give you his name but suffice to say he was a
Welshman and there were not too many of them in Brandon!
One weekend we were on some
sort of skirmish and our section was billeted in the shop
opposite Eddie Bilverstone's second hand shop on the Thetford
Road, at one time it was a betting shop but the last
time I saw it, it was a builder's hardware shop. Getting
back to the skirmish. Our enemy was what you called the secret
unit (Auxiliary Unit) we knew them as the 'Home Guard
Commando's'. One of
the Home Guard Commandos got onto the roof of this building we
were in and put a hand grenade down the chimney of a pot belly
stove we had and blew us all up. Our section sergeant
was Herbert Field from Thetford Road and he used to be a
gardener amongst other things for the Rout family. Will
Murrell and Jack Inns were other members of the
The town pit on Thetford Rd
had a pill box on the edge of the south-east corner and there is
still one just over the bottom fence of 149 Thetford Road,
put it this way facing the pit from Thetford Road it was in
the top left hand corner, facing the pit.
At the time they were built (by
the Wing Bro's ) steel reinforcing was impossible to get so they
used old bike frames & iron bedsteads that I remember as plain
I just remembered another
thing - Bert Kidd was teaching some of us the Morse code as we
were to become signalers, you see, I had been promoted
up from message boy.
Machine-gunning of the
I do also recall a lone German
aircraft machine-gunning just before lunch. I was
working for F.J. Mount & Son in their chalk quarry at
the time and two of us got under the tip truck we were
loading as quick as we could as we thought we were being
Another occasion of German
machine gunning was another lone plane one evening before
dark the noise came from the area of the river or railway
line behind the council houses on the Thetford Rd. It
was Bill Inns' house that caught the brunt of the Bomb on
Thetford Road and if my memory is correct that same night
the damage to their pantry spoilt some food so they got some
extra ration coupons from the Ministry of Food to replace
it. The house I lived in, 149 Thetford Road, still has
a pock mark from shrapnel of that bomb, also our linen line
that ran down the garden path was multi strand wire and one
place on it shrapnel had cut it so only one strand was
Then I was called up at 18
years old and spent 1 year in the Army before the war
Blitz on Norwich
When Norwich was blitzed we could see the red glow in
the sky at night from the fires, albeit faintly, nonetheless
it could be seen.
VE & VJ days
I'm afraid I was posted in Germany at that time and know nothing about Brandon during VE day, though we were all relieved that it was over. We had a non fraternisation order from Montgomery that we
were not allowed to speak to the Germans, not even to the German children. We also had to keep our eyes
open incase the Russians started anything as we had also met up with them and we were told not to mix with
them. Though we did raid a few houses trying to commandeer some schnapps so we could celebrate.
VJ day was also a 'fizzog' for me. I, with others, was put on a draft to be sent to the Far East, but
because I did something silly, when I cut my arm rather badly, I was put into a Canadian Military Hospital in
Belgium. That's were I was on VJ day. But the draft only got to Gibraltar before the war in the
Far East was over so I would have been lucky either way.