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Childhood Memories, Sutton Hoo

by suttonhoo

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Raymond Jacobs and Patrick Smith
Location of story: 
Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 November 2004

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Nancy Waterfall, Learning Officer at the National Trust at Sutton Hoo on behalf of Mr Raymond Jacobs and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I lived near Sutton Hoo, as did my friend, Patrick Smith, during World War II. I lived in the Red Cottages and my father worked on the Sutton Hoo estate. I was 7 when war broke out and I attended Melton School. At school, when there was a diphtheria scare we had to gargle with a purple mixture. I remember that Mrs Pretty, who owned Sutton Hoo and was instrumental in getting the Anglo-Saxon ship burial there excavated, used to give me an Easter Egg. I remember going with Peter Buckle, one of the under gardener’s sons to purchase cigarettes for the British troops from the nearby Railway tavern! Patrick was born at Heath Bungalow and like me was a young boy during the military activities. Patrick’s mother sewed some stripes onto an old jacket. One day when he was wearing it, some of the troops said “Come along, Major” and the nickname stuck. Patrick went on a trip with some of the soldiers, in the rear-gunner’s position, an experience he still remembers vividly.

The entire Sutton Heath area was a restricted zone. Pillboxes and searchlights were located throughout the area. At the search light battery, the soldiers had a craft club making items from perspex. I remember one incident concerning a pillbox very vividly — I was returning home from school with my brother when a salvo of shells went off. So we hid in the pillbox until firing stopped and then ran home. Shrapnel fell around Red Cottage, so it was as well that we were in the pillbox.

There were anti-glider ditches criss-crossing the area, which several excavators dug. The machines used buckets on cable lines and they threw up even sized mounds of earth either side of the ditch in an alternating pattern. These anti-glider ditches were dug right into the area of the burial mounds themselves, and their imprint can still be seen today. Other defence measures included railway rails set in concrete along the Hollesley and Sutton roads, together with old cars that had been stripped down and placed on the long golf fairways. The threat of German glider invasion was very strong. Later on, during the war, there was tank training actually on the mounds. Live ammunition and shells rained down on them.

The airfield at Bentwaters was operational from 1942 onwards, and Woodbridge Airfield, more commonly known as RAF Sutton Heath, became operational in November 1943. During the early part of the war, the area was used by the RAF to practise low level bombing, and with the arrival of the USSAF it became a high level bombing range. Both services used smoke bombs and there were observation towers along the Bawdsey Road to monitor hits. As D-Day approached the whole area was used for training in preparation for the landings.

One Sunday in either ’41 or ’42 hundreds of workers from Ipswich, where they worked in factories, came up to Sutton Heath in double-decker buses. The police had a roadblock and were checking all buses and passes. My father decided to go and see what was happening, so we trundled our bikes along the bridle path, emerging onto the road after the checkpoint. When we got to the entrance to the Woodbridge base we could see hundreds of men and women on the higher ground. They were watching various manoeuvres and demonstrations including watching a tank shelling a machine gun post.

During the early years of the war, a Jewish School was at Little Sutton Hoo and some of the children were billeted in Bromeswell.

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