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The Lighter side - Life in Darsham

by Ipswich Museum

Contributed by 
Ipswich Museum
People in story: 
Peggy Youell
Location of story: 
Suffolk
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3298980
Contributed on: 
19 November 2004

A friend and I were still schoolgirls just entering our teens and staying
with my uncle and aunt in Great Yarmouth when war was declared. That same
night the sirens sounded and we girls were bundled under the dining table,
scared silly by the elders discussing what to do if gas bombs were dropped.
Very soothing! Next morning we were put on the train home to the country. I
arrived to find four tents full of soldiers installed in the garden and an
anti-aircraft gun in the adjoining field. Rations were meagre and the men
had no cooking facilities so my mother, with the help of the so-called cook
(an elderly soldier called Joe as I remember) cooked meals on her cooking
range and oil cooker for about three months. Among these men were several
from Ipswich who would now be well into their eighties if living.

The Air Force arrived. Their billets were about quarter of a mile down a
lane close by, camouflaged by a wood, and their work place was the Radar
station about the same distance the other side of our house.

We came to know several of these people - the local farmer left milk for
their 'cuppas' at our house for the RAF personnel to collect on their way to
night duty and my Mother worked in the N.A.A.F.I at the camp. Some would
come in and play cards or darts and one or two played the piano for a sing -
song. Several kept in touch with my parents after the war. Several had
previously been stationed at Bawdsey.

The village in the meantime became full of soldiers - the two large
residences having been commandeered for the purpose - who were in training.
Mum was an 'organiser' and arranged many concerts, dances, socials and so on
for their entertainment in the Village Hall. I well remember the Scots
Fusiliers teaching us some of their reels and flings - not exactly elegant
in Army boots.

Although we feared enemy activity because of the radar station being so near
we were extremely fortunate and the most noise came from the A.A. guns when
planes went overhead on their way to Norwich.

Our little cottage accommodated several wives, husbands, fiancées of the
service people for a night or weekend so they could spend a little time with
loved ones.

I wonder if any of these soldiers or airmen remember our little village. I
know I shall never forget some of them, but I am afraid there may have been
many who did not survive the war.

One of the village lads who joined the Navy as a 'boy' early in the war
asked me to write to him which I did. He was 'in the thick of it' and had a
very different war seeing action in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and on
Russian convoys, and then around Burma. I am glad to he came through it all
(not without some repercussions) and we were married in 1946 and had fifty
four years together happily married. He left the Navy in 1954 when we moved
to Ipswich where he had obtained employment.

I'm not sure if any of these memories will be of any interest to you, but I
feel extremely lucky to have been living where I was at that time and having
some really very enjoyable memories of the war years.

I do have a few less enjoyable ones but I prefer to reminisce on the better
ones.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - The lighter side - life in Darsham

Posted on: 30 December 2005 by radaroperator

Peggy,
After reading your article and doing a brief paragraph linked with it in 'discussion', I decided to write an article myself entitled 'A WAAF Radar Operator remembers RAF High Street, Darsham, Suffolk 1944-1945.'
I hope it brings back a few more memories of Darsham to you.

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