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[19] John (Jack) Wales: War preparations and Soldiers from Dunkirk

I am Jack Wales and what I remember about Earith during the war was that, at the beginning of the war, there was a great spirit in the whole of the village and the community all worked together, everybody joined something.

My father belonged to the fire service, which was run by Mr. Gunnel who was the manager of Jewsons, with people like Lou Barns and George Barns.

Other men joined the special constables which included George Boughton and Owen Hadder.

Others were air-raid wardens, my mother was with the WVS and lots of the other ladles joined the Red Cross, people like Miss Edwards and Mrs. Gunnell.

A Spitfire turning awayThe first thing we had to do was blackout the houses.

We did have a couple of bombs dropped on the village.
I can remember, I was doing my homework from school on a heavy dining room table, similar to the one we are sitting at now, when, all of a sudden, my mother was sitting in the armchair and there was a crump outside and the table tilted up, mother’s chair lifted up.
I ran outside and my father and Uncle who had been standing by the front gate were just picking themselves up from the ground.

The other thing I remember is that we were surrounded by aerodromes, close by was Wyton, Warboys, Sutton and the other side of the county Kimbolton and at night the sky used to be literally black with all the bombers forming up.

You could see them going up in their half squadrons, or whatever it was, in threes and the threes would make up into nines and they all just kept circling round until they were all lined up and then off they’d go.

And then next morning when we were going to work on the farm, you would see them come limping back, some of them with only three engines, one just feathering and not going at all.

On our way to school one morning we got to Wood Farm along the Needingworth Road and a Stirling bomber had crashed there — he didn’t quite make it back to Oakington, so we had to divert to get round it.

You perhaps remember that at the time of Dunkirk, when the soldiers came back, the Kings Own Scottish Borderers suddenly turned up in Earith one evening.

And I can see them now, the ladies and Mother was up at the hut with the WVS making tea and they were being processed as they had just come straight across the channel and they stood up against Albert Maile’s garden wall, opposite our house, and they were standing up asleep, these Scotsmen, some had got axes, some had got great coats and some hadn’t, and they kept moving up and, eventually, went into the hut to be processed and to see who had returned and so on.

That’s when two or three of the local girls chatted to these soldiers and eventually married them!

(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)

 

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