our Sergeant-Major and Herbert Field was a Sergeant.
The military would come along sometimes and take us on
parade when we were put through our paces and there was
We had a
special unit that would go out and gain intelligence.
For example they would try to get past sentries and
guards to test them. I joined when Lt. Rodney Rought led it and we would go find
out when there were maneuvers nearby and we would hide, and
then try to take prisoners.
We used to go to Rought’s house at night times and
have a supper before we went out.
We had weekend maneuvers and keep away from home for
Our headquarters for the Thetford Road platoon of the Brandon
Home Guard was at what used to be the old shop at the front of
other Brandon units had theirs at ‘Tip’ (Town Street) and
Bury Road. We
would have to go to the Infants School for our meals and bring
them to our Headquarters.
One Saturday night we were all in our HQ and there was
supposed to be a guard on duty outside.
Well I don’t know what happened next but we had a
little stove there for warmth and the chimney from this stove
came out into a little yard.
Then all of a sudden there was a hell of a bang.
One of the ‘specials’ had dropped a firecracker
into the chimney. You’ve
never seen anybody move so fast!
Of course one of Phillip Field’s gang who had seen us
all in there and decided to give us a fright.
went out to creep around Thetford Forest to see if they would
get caught and try to penetrate our lines.
bombing of Thetford Road
On the odd night, now and again, you could hear the German
bombers flying over because that was a different sound to what
our ‘planes sounded like. It
was a droning noise. There
was nothing different about that night. The siren went, we
heard the siren, and father, who was in the Fire Service got
up and said, “Look, be careful, the siren’s gone off.”
We were about to make our way to the Morrison shelter
in the living room. The
next thing I know is that I couldn’t get out of bed.
The window in my room at the back of the house had
blown in, the ceiling had come down and there was glass
came into my room to see if I was all right and said that we
had been hit. I hadn’t even heard the blast!
gas stove in the kitchen at the back of the house had been
blown across the house, nearly to the front window, the pantry
was down and all the ceilings were down.
Of course, there was no light so we had to feel
ourselves around the house and when daybreak came we saw the
outside toilet had been knocked down and there was another
bomb crater in the garden.
The two bombs hit within 50 yards of each other.
The toilet had been demolished and it blew one side of
the house in, also the bomb killed our two dogs and five
rabbits. I think
there are still splinters in the wall today.
about 9am the next day the R.A.F. turned up from Feltwell and
they dug around the garden crater and they found shrapnel.
I remember an officer saying to me, “Well boy you are
very lucky. If
they had been High Explosive bombs then you would not have
been here today”. He
told me that as far as he could tell they were ‘splinter’
type bombs used for strafing runways. As far as I know there was 4 bombs dropped that night, the
first one on Lingheath, one on our toilet, one in our garden
and one near the railway sidings.
will say that the people of Brandon in those days rallied
around for us. If
you ever wanted anything you only had to ask.
We never locked our front or back doors, it was a
different era then. Mum and Dad lived downstairs and we boarded at Aunts and
Uncles until the repairs were complete.
The best thing to come out of this was that our house
was the first in our street to have a flush toilet after they
turned our coal shed into a toilet and they built us a new
Military activity in
war was declared the military starting to come onto Brandon.
There was an ammunition dump in Nissan huts from Santon
Downham to Brandon, another at Warren Wood (now Centre Parcs),
camps at Pinewood Drive, Santon Downham and what are now the
Industrial Estate and a military hospital at Weeting.
There was never really any trouble from the squaddies
and they seemed quite friendly.
In the pubs the atmosphere was very good, there would
be a piano in there and we would all have a really good night.
There were no bad feelings at all.
Americans used to come in convoys taking their munitions from
the railway to Warren Wood and although I can’t remember
anyone getting knocked down it was a bit hazardous trying to
cross the road at times.
I knew a lot of them caught at Singapore.
‘Gunny’ Royal, ‘Smoker’ Palmer, Jimmy Malt,
Bertie Branch, Tom Dyer, Donnie Field and others. I knew them before they went, but a lot got killed.
My brother volunteered for the Territorial Army along
with these men at the start of the war when they were
recruiting on the Market Hill.
We did not know what was happening to them, we did not
up for service
I could have decided not to go into the Armed Services because
I was in agriculture and it was a reserved occupation, but I
said, “Well if it’s time for me to go then I’ll go.”
I went to Cambridge for a medical before my 18th
birthday and then got called up after my 18th
birthday. Once we were given our service number we were ready, but if
our number was even we would go into the coal mines as a
‘Bevan Boy’, if it was odd then we went into the Armed
Forces. Mine was
odd and went into the Army.
Three or four from Brandon went to the mines. When I got called up I had to report to Inverness, Scotland
for 6 months training. I
was then tested to see if I was suited to the
Engineers, Signals, etc.
I was posted to the Royal Engineers were I did another
month on a Sapper’s course.
After that I was posted to France, via Dover, then into
Belguim, then Nijmegen in Holland, then from there I was
posted over to Hamburg in Germany.
in what was known as the ‘TNT stores’ where if a unit
wanted supplies, such as a Baily Bridge then we would load it
onto a lorry and send it to the frontline and as the
frontlines moved we had to move along with it. The people in
Nijmegen were very, very nice, you could not wish for better.
The bridge at Nijmegen had been partially demolished by
the Germans. A
gap of about 20 yards had been blown and we put a Bailey
bridge across the river there.
There were more Canadians there than English and we had
a good time with them.
was in Hamburg I saw nothing but chimneystacks for miles and
was absolutely flattened.
We were told not to talk to any Germans; it was called
I spent 4
or 5 months at Hamburg at the end of the war.
Then we were sent back to Scotland to cover for the
dockers’ strike at the Glasgow docks, working on the King
George V docks, and then when that had finished we were sent
back into Hamburg.
Jack taking aim in the
foreground and to his left is Brandon lad and Jack's
friend, Les Bond. Picture taken in Antwerp,