- Contributed by
- Ken Porter
- People in story:
- Ken Porter
- Location of story:
- Spondon, Derbyshire
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 17 February 2004
War preparations began early in 1939, including a distribution of gas-masks at The Old Farm on Church Hill to all Spondonians. Even babies were provided with an ominous rubber enclosure with a large window, and a hand pump for an operator. After my sister Janet was born in 1940 we got one for her. I became an Air Raid Precautions messenger boy, and one of the Spondon House school buildings was used as an ARP Post. From there we were expected to take written messages to other posts, using our bicycles if the telephone system was destroyed. A Royal Air Force Balloon Barrage hangar was built alongside the Raynesway arterial road, and anti-aircraft gun emplacements were prepared in our village fields to protect the approaches to Derby from bombing raids.
The Royal Artillery stationed heavy anti-aircraft artillery batteries on Longley Lane and Dale Road. A Bofors light anti-aircraft battery was placed on the allotments on Gravel Pit Lane. Men and women soldiers became a familiar sight in the Village. With the crisis and the feeling of an impending war came the beginning of National Service Registration for everyone. The carrying of identity cards was made compulsory and I still remember my personal number RCYW-103-4 that was given to me. My brother Stan enlisted in the Territorial Army and attended drills in Derby. In our home, khaki, brass buttons and equipment webbing became familiar sights. The chance to hoist Stan's rifle, to sight down it, and hear the click of the trigger was a thrill to a thirteen-year old boy.
Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 and the war began. After the dispatch of the British Expeditionary Force to France a kind of phony war ensued, ending with the German blitzkrieg attack on Belgium in 1940. After the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk, a unit of Local Defence Volunteers was formed and these were based at Locko Park where they occupied the West Lodge and performed drills. Eventually they were incorporated into the Home Guard.
Everyone was united in a spirit of patriotism and grim determination that we would eventually prevail against the evils of Nazism and Fascism. Every human activity seemed to be part of a huge war machine and arsenal. Teenagers too young to enlist in the regular forces joined the Air Training Corps and the Army Cadets or the Sea Cadets and spent evenings and weekends in military pursuits. The reality of what might happen to us came home as we paraded to the church, and joined in memorial services for young Spondonians killed in the battles of the newest and greatest war the world had ever seen. Other villagers were captured by the enemy in the fall of France and at Singapore,and died in captivity. After our own North Africa victories of the Eighth Army, Italian prisoners of war in chocolate brown uniforms were seen working on Spondon farms and walking through the village.
Following the Allied victory in 1945, our own prisoners of war came home from Germany and the Far East, and the veterans gradually returned. Demobilization of the armed forces was stretched out over the next three years of uneasy peace. Wars of independence for former colonies involved some of Spondon's soldiers but life began to brighten greatly as rationing and other hardships were ended. When my wife and I emigrated with our young family from Liverpool to Canada in 1956, the Middle East war between Israel and Egypt had erupted, and Britain and France were preparing to intervene to capture the Suez Canal. Sand-coloured trucks and tanks were being moved to the docks as we left. Wars and rumours of war never end.
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