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15 October 2014
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Service on the Home Front with the Home Guard and the Signals

by BBC Cumbria Volunteer Story Gatherers

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Contributed by 
BBC Cumbria Volunteer Story Gatherers
People in story: 
John Henry Park (Harry), George Frearson, Mr Hodgson of the Meeting House, Cartmel Fell
Location of story: 
High Newton and Greenodd, Cumbria (formerly Lancashire)
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A6819609
Contributed on: 
09 November 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Dr. Edwina Davies on behalf of Mr J.H Park and has been added to the site with his permission.

Preface
I was born at High Newton in 1924 and then moved to Seatle. I attended High Newton School and then when my father bought Newton Hall Farm, we moved back to High Newton. I left school at fourteen and when war broke out I was working for my father on the farm

War is Declared
The war was declared on the Sunday and on the Monday I was walking across the field called 'The Croft' to feed the hens. I looked across towards Biglan. Suddenly, these nine planes, Tiger Moths appeared, flying low over Bigland Heights. They were hedge hopping across the Cartmel Valley towards High Newton. We'd been hearing about what would happen when war came and knew what had happened in Poland. I was afraid, when I first saw them, not recognising them as Moths, thinking they might be going to drop bombs. I ran and hid under a wall. The 'planes flew up, over the quarry and then over Newton Heights. My father was on the Heights and he watched them go over Winster and fly north up the valley.

A few years ago I heard a lady on Radio Cumbria tell how she had flown a Tiger Moth with a group, which on the first day of war had made their way to Carlisle and I wondered if it was the group which I had seen.

With Newton Home Guard
By 1940 I had been called to join the Home Guard, as all those who were not away servicing were called to do. Newton Home Guard met at the Crown Inn which was the platoons headquarters. The pub landlord was the first to get any message coming in and he would come and tell me and I'd tell two others and so on and that way the message was spread. George Frearson was the Sergeant and Mr. Hodgson from the Meeting House at Cartmel Fell was the platoon commander. We used to drill and after one parade, Jim Wright and I were both made up to corporal, but later I gave up my stripes and began training for Signals.

I went on a number of manoeuvres with the Home Guard. Various forays were organised. On one occasion, in the early hours of the morning, we had to attack the Flying Boat station at Troutbeck. The Flying Boats were a sight. They used to come down the Lake. They reckon one chap who flew them came from Ulverston and he used to fly so low over the chimneys there, you could only get a family bible between his 'plane and the chimneys!

Sometimes we went on manoeuvres with Lindale Platoon in the role of enemy, over Newton Heights, up by the reservoir and over to Cartmel Fell.

Once we attacked Grange! One of our men was hit several times by dummy hand grenades but kept on refusing to play dead.

In the Signals
Later I was transferred, at my request, and trained for the signals.

We met at the Old Institute at Greenodd. I was picked up in an army utility truck to go there.
We practised sending messages and sometimes went on patrol. The wireless sets were unreliable and the batteries often went down.

One afternoon we had a practice emergency call out. All the platoons were supposed to be practising throwing hand grenades on Hampsfell at the time, but a lot had not turned up, so the commander decided to do a practice call out again that night. I remember my father missed being called and got in trouble for not turning out.

On one occasion I went down with a signals officer to the slag banks at Ulverston where they were doing shooting practice. Our job was to report back the number of hits on the targets and then return to the firing point but we kept getting hit by bits of slag which were sent flying by the bullets. The officer reckoned it was too dangerous so we became spectators instead.

We were occupied part of the time and entertained watching a chap on the prone position firing one of the heavy rifles, a little slender chap, and at each firing he was knocked back several feet and down the slag bank. But, each time he crawled back up the slag bank and fired again,

The area division had its last parade at Ulverston at the Coronation Hall when it was stood down. I was in the guard of honour.

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