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15 October 2014
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Early childhood amongst the forces in Huntingdonshire

by cambsaction

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People in story: 
David Cook
Location of story: 
Ellington Thorpe, Huntingdonshire
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Contributed on: 
21 December 2005

We lived in Ellington Thorpe, which was a tiny hamlet after my mother had to leave Cambridge when my father died of TB. So we moved in with my grandparents and that is how I came to spend all my early years in the middle of bomber territory. We had fairly basic conditions at that time, with no electricity and no running water: we lived in a typical thatched cottage, two up and two down, with a traditional cooking range. But, for all that simplicity, it turned out during the war that we were situated in the middle of several bomber bases and that was to give us some extraordinary experiences. There was a specific concrete target area where the aircraft used to circle and attempt to aim their incendiary bombs. Also the spitfires went up on a regular basis, with training pilots, and we would watch them learning their dive-bombing techniques. In fact, it became commonplace to us. One of them crashed nearby and on our way back from school we came across a recovery tem, with plastic bags to collect the pieces of the pilot. Then on one day, I remember the sky being filled with aircraft and gliders, circling Molesworth for a hour or two; they congregated in this area, before leaving, I imagine, for to join the D Day landings.

In fact, it was around this time that I saw a black man for the first time: they were often to be found as drivers for the American Forces who were based locally, at Molesworth. In addition, on a particular day in 1943, the Americans turned up to escort us, from school, in an armoured truck, to a Christmas Party at their base: there was one American to every one of us and it was their job to ensure that we each enjoyed ourselves. All I remember is that we thought they gave us ‘funny food’. They were obviously around a good deal, along with the other British armed forces.

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