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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Wartime Memoirs, David Stedman

by Hitchin Museum

Contributed by 
Hitchin Museum
People in story: 
David Stedman
Location of story: 
Luton area, Bedfordshire
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A6402476
Contributed on: 
25 October 2005

I left school at 16 in 1940 at the time of Dunkirk and joined the Home Guard (then the LDV) as a 'runner' (not really knowing what this might mean).

I worked through the summer at Stopsley Holes Farm getting in the harvest and then thought seriously of finding a job. Everywhere I went it was 'there's a job here but only till Mr ... comes out of the forces!' I was offered and turned down a clerical job at Hitchin Station at 12/- (60p) a week. Eventually in November I joined Vauxhall at 17/6d a week.

I remember the American rifles for the Home Guard which were packed in grease and which we cleaned in the old stables at Kings Walden. By now I was trusted with a rifle. We went to the sand pit at Chapelfoot to try them out. We trained in the Parish Room at Kings Walden Tuesday and Thursdays and at the Pump House at the top of Church Road on Sunday Mornings.

It was when going home from the Parish Room on Tuesday April 8th 1941 around 10 p.m. that I heard a plane overhead and machine gunning. Suddenly there was a flicker of light and the roar of a plane engine. The plane came down in flames in a power dive and crashed and burnt in the Bendish direction. I decided to go and have a look.

When I got past Frogmore towards Bendish Lodge folks in the road told me a person had parachuted down in the Park. I fixed my bayonet and went to see. In the darkness and excitement I did not recognise Geoffrey Shackelford who came from the Whitehall direction. The airman was unconscious with parachute attached and groaning. I cleared his clothing round his neck, taking off a throat microphone which I still have. A number of other people gathered round, including soldiers who brought a truck to Frogmore. With myself one side and a soldier the other we practically carried the man to the truck. He was taken to Taylor's house, Whitehall Farm which was being used for Army manoeuvres.

35 years later through someone researching for a book I was given the German's name and address. I contacted Julius Tengler and received photographs taken in the war and more recently. [See story ref A6370085]

I later joined the Vauxhall Home Guard where all-night duties meant fewer parades and allowed me more time to study.

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