- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Joe Oldfield, Johnny Stiles
- Location of story:
- Over Haddon, Derbyshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 September 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Odilia Roberts from the Derby Action Team on behalf of Joe Oldfield and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
I have a vivid memory of the onset of the war as it almost scuppered our summer scout camp. As it was, instead of pitching up at Minehead we were diverted to a more local venue at Loosehill Hall, Castleton.
Our Scout Troop was lead by Mr Johnny Stiles who threatened to call the whole camp off if we had to bring along the gas masks we were issued. However, the local warden insisted that we must carry them, so to avoid our camping trip being totally ruined we all agreed to keep them hidden until we reached our campsite when, we hoped it would be too late for Mr Stiles to do anything about it. It was a close run thing but he relented.
I was born in 1924 and lived in the cottage attached to The Lathkill Hotel until about 1938/39 when all our family moved to Mona View Farm (now known as Oldfield Farm) in Main Street, Over Haddon. When war broke out I was 15 years old and became a member of the Home Guard as soon as I reached the age of 16.
To begin with the Home Guard HQ hut was used as a ‘look out point’ and was situated on top of Castle Ho, a field to the Bakewell side of New Close Farm. This Home Guard post was equipped with a hand cranked field telephone and had to be manned an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunset.
Home Guard duty also involved being on patrol or guard from 10pm Saturday to 6am Sunday in and around Bakewell. Patrols would consist of two people and could mean patrolling between Bakewell and Ashford-in-the-Water or Bakewell and Hassop Station or Bakewell and Over Haddon. We were not required to patrol the A6 towards Matlock as the regular army were stationed there.
The best posting to get was guarding the Telephone Exchange situated above the Post Office in Bakewell. (The Post Office was then situated in what is now the shop at the junction of Bridge Street and Anchor Square opposite the Nat West Bank). It was always
better to be inside on a cold or wet evening with the opportunity to get some sleep!!
For some reason, probably well founded, the Home Guard had a reputation for being ‘trigger happy.’ We were issued with a rifle and a block of 5 cartridges. The rifle was supposed to be loaded but the safety catch was kept on in case of accidents. The reasons for these safety precautions became apparent one night as we played cards in Home Guard HQ (situated in the loft of a building adjacent to Bakewell Infant School, Bath Lane). As we all concentrated on the cards we had been dealt there was an almighty explosion as the rifle went off and embedded a bullet just above our heads in a corner of the loft. After that, the person responsible was only allowed to patrol with a bayonet!
As I recall, and this may not be complete list, the other Over Haddon villagers in the Home Guard with me were Joe Pearce, Warren Pearce, Jack Thurlby, Joe Sherratt, Jim Mellor and Jim Taylor. Joe Sherratt eventually enlisted in the army; other residents who joined the forces were Doug Glossop, Maurice and Renee (my brother and sister).
My sister Sadie on the other hand went to work at Rolls Royce in Derby and would travel by train. Not a straightforward route, involving travelling to and from Derby via Chinley.
One evening, having completed her journey as usual on foot from Bakewell to Over Haddon, she entered the house all tattered and torn. It turned out that whilst changing trains at Chinley on the way home she had been’ caught short’ and had managed to become locked in the ladies powder room, in a desperate attempt not to miss her connection back to Bakewell she climbed over the doors. Well… in those days the doors to the ‘loos’ were set atop with nasty spikes, which made mincemeat of Sadie, her clothes and stockings.
At the beginning of the war all farmers had to plough 10% of their acreage to grow crops. The first year it was mostly oats that were grown and after the ground became more workable other crops were grown, such as potatoes, swedes and ‘green’ crops (these consisted of the likes of kale and cabbages), ‘green’ crops were used to feed cattle as there very few sheep in Over Haddon at that time.
Some people in the village kept a pig during the war years and fed it on household scraps. Around about Christmas time a butcher would come and kill the pig for home consumption. I think that having this ‘perk’ meant that you had to give up your bacon ration.
The only way to Bakewell was to walk. As you walked down from Over Haddon you could see the barrage balloons all around Sheffield and at night the sky was lit up with searchlights.
As the air raids went over Sheffield the noise was terrible with bombs exploding and the sound of the anti aircraft guns. The sight of the city burning after these raids presented us with a terribly awesome spectacle.
The Bomber that came down in Lathkill Dale.
During the war allied planes could often be seen above Over Haddon as the bomber squadrons stationed in Lincolnshire set off to bomb Germany. Going the wrong way you may think, but no. The heavily laden bombers needed to fly inland before setting off in order to gain sufficient height for their raids over Europe.
However, on one occasion the village shook with the sound of a Wellington bomber crashing into Lathkill Dale, close to Conksbury Bridge, having lost it’s way returning from a raid. It was amazing that in no time the entire entire site was cordoned off by the military and cleared of any debris.
One of the airmen, however, parachuted out and came to earth in the area now occupied by the allotments. He found his way to Mrs Nuttall who lived at Manor Cottage in Monyash Road. She promptly delivered him to Bill Bibby, a Special Constable, who lived in what is now White Rock House (or Uncle Geoff’s), where he was held at gunpoint as a suspected ‘enemy’ who talked with a funny accent and was trying to pass himself off as an Englishman!! The ‘enemy airman’s’ bacon was saved when another member of his crew, who had also parachuted from their stricken aircraft, showed up to explain that his companion was a Scotsman!!
About the same time an allied airman bailed out at Chatsworth Park and having heard of the ‘trigger happy’ nature of the local Home Guard has stayed hidden up a tree, until daylight could make it clear he was friend and not foe!!
Talking of ‘Friends and Foe’….
Prisoners of war used to cultivate the land and perform other community projects were a regular sight around Over Haddon. They also worked relentlessly to clear the snows that were particularly severe during the winter of 1947. Snow cleared one day was quickly replaced by further falls, creating what must have been, cold and monotonous work.
On a personal note - prisoners of war working at hoeing crops at a field close to Noton Barn Farm were almost the death of me! I was working at New Close Farm when I was sent to fetch some hose from Noton Barn Farm. On my way I walked through the field of toiling prisoners and hopped over a wall into the next field, I found out later that as I jumped their guards had trained their rifles on me as they thought I was a prisoner attempting to escape. Thank goodness they weren’t the Home Guard.
There were also a number of evacuees from either Sheffield or the London area staying with families in Over Haddon. At Mona View we had Mrs Sullivan and her two sons staying with us, they did not leave us until VE or VJ Day, I’m not sure which. What I do remember is Mrs Sullivan coming to say goodbye as I helped build a celebration bonfire on the ‘grass flat’ opposite Yew Tree Cottage and Huntsfold Cottage, there being no lamppost in those days!
At the end of the war a number of bonfires were built, including in the field just past The Lathkill Hotel, to signify cessation of hostilities.
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