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I worked for Tappendens shop in the bake house with Mr. Morris the baker.
He got to work at 5 am to make bread by hand.
I went to work at 6 am to cut the dough and weigh each loaf large and small. I would then put two at a time on large trays.
After they had risen they were put in a coal fired oven which the baker lit. The bread was baked for 45 minutes, in that time I came home for breakfast and came back when the bread was baked. The baker would have his breakfast in the bake house. He made a pot of tea by putting an old saucepan of water on the red hot coals to boil.
The bread was removed from the oven with a peel, which is a wooden shaft with a blade on the end. I tipped each loaf out of the tins wearing thick gloves I then stacked tins and bread ready to cool so that my father who was a rounds man for the shop, could deliver bread, grocery and paraffin bottle gas, to other villages and farms like Bodsham, Elmstead, Stowting, Stelling Minnis, Stone Street also to Petham, Waltham and Wye.
After the bread was cleared, we started on making cakes; we supplied a variety of cakes in flat wooden boxes to three army camps, Big Coombe Search Light Unit, Eastwell Towers and Wye Petrol Dump Army boys.
My day ended at 10 pm I had a half day on Wednesday and Saturday. My sister Connie worked in the shop counting coupons for her husband Claud, who also worked on rounds delivering bread, cakes and groceries etc. In addition to that he did A.R.P (Air Raid Precaution) and fire watching at night in villages.
Jean Bowes [- submitted from Bodsham School Pupils] (nee Jean R.F. Link)
The day the ceiling fell down
Jean Bowes was only one year old when the war started so she did not remember anything then; the age that Jean remembers is six years old.
The memory Jean has is when she was six. She remembers being at school which was Bodsham Primary, one time at 12 oclock which was lunchtime Jean and her friends were in the canteen at the Vicarage collecting their lunch.
They sat down at the wooden tables to eat their lunch.
Suddenly a fortress came down above Court lodge, Hastingleigh, the vibrations brought the ceiling down, A huge bang came from the ceiling, just as they were about to eat their rice pudding.
We were all sent home after this, in those days we all walked to school so we had to walk home again.
Beryl Langston Field [- supply teacher at Bodsham School] (nee Beryl Langston)
I lived in Folkestone when war broke out and I was 19.
I had just finished teacher training — I was on a supply job in Elmstead and Hastingleigh it was the summer of 1940 and I was in a second-class school. It was the summer holidays and one teacher had to stay in case of an invasion, so the children could be evacuated. I stayed for the first half of the holiday into August.
My landlady, Mrs Mac suggested we could go for a nice quiet picnic one Saturday afternoon. I phoned my 18 year old brother and together with my landlady’s niece we planned our route. On the Saturday morning Mrs Mac packed a picnic with bottled water and a kettle for tea. It was a wonderful day — very sunny and clear, the sky was so high it was hardly any colour at all, just a pale silvery blue. We set off on bikes and went along dusty country lanes for about 20 minutes until we heard an air raid siren from the coast, Canterbury and Ashford so we knew something was coming in but we were not sure what. We were not worried as up until then there had only been odd planes coming over. There had been no big raids. We heard a distant rumble which was far off and very faint, we looked up into the sky and we could see planes but they were so high we could only see little pin points of light when the sun caught them we weren’t worried at first but we were anxious because of the numbers. Suddenly there was a roar of aircraft engines and our planes flew in to intercept them, which was followed by a rattle of machine gun fire. We threw down our bicycles and jumped into a ditch, which was at right angles to the road, headless of the brambles and stinging nettles. In front of the ditch was a pile of telegraph poles about 3 foot high which offered some protection. The sky was full of the roar of planes engines and screams as they swooped down and manoeuvered, the rat-a-tat-tat of the machine guns and the clatter of the shell cases hitting the trees and ground. Then there was a terrific whoosh and a plane nose dived into the field we were in and exploded into a cloud of black smoke. Shortly after another plane came down in the field but this time in pieces like sheets of cardboard floating down. Gradually the noise subsided all was quiet when we heard the sound of footsteps approaching. The thought went through my mind and probably through the others too — ‘is it a German approaching, had he got a gun? Would we be shot or perhaps taken hostage?’ the footsteps stopped and after a few moments I peered over the top of the telegraph poles, standing on the road was an old man of about 80 with an Old Father Time Scythe on his shoulder. “That was some battle” I said “Ah” he said “I thought you were some of those bloody Germans I was gonna give the buggers what for”. We climbed out of the ditch and gathered up our scattered sandwiches, water and bent kettle and picked up our bikes down towards the coast we could see a number of the old mushroom parachutes being carried south on the wind. We got on our bikes and rode home in silence.
I was 14¾ years when war commenced, having left Bodsham School at the age of 14 years and was working on the family farm and this I continued to do as farming was a reserved occupation as the country needed all the food that could be produced.
We used to sit in the kitchen having our meals during the Battle of Britain and see the German Bombers coming over the S.E. in waves.
One day in February 1941 a hurricane which had been hit crashed only yards from the farmhouse, it spun down like a leaf in the wind, the pilot had managed to bale out earlier. For most of the war a search light was situated on the farm. The fuel for this unit was delivered by lorry, but one winter the snow was so deep that the lorry couldn’t get through so the soldiers made a sledge and they borrowed our cart horse and my brother or I used to go with them to lead it to collect the petrol and their rations from the main road nearly two miles away. This was always about 7.30 p.m. in pitch dark, no lights allowed.
One day I was ploughing one of the fields and when I went back the next day there was a hole in the field where a bomb had dropped, we reported it to the authorities who came to inspect the crater, they said it was made by a 250 lb bomb which were usually dropped in twos but a second one has never been found.
When we were cutting corn one day we saw a parachutist land in an adjacent field, he turned out to be an American Pilot who was delighted that he was on dry land as he thought he was still over the channel.
One day I went to cut some Lucerne to feed our bull and found the body of an airman whose parachute had failed to open.
We were threshing corn one year when a glider which had become detached from its plane landed in a neighbouring field.
Farm work was important, so especially at harvest time members of the armed forces were sent to help. Sailors were helping on the stacks one time but whenever doodle bugs came over they used to throw themselves to the ground. We also used to have Land girls who went from farm to farm making thatch mats to cover the stacks.
When I was about 16½ I joined the Home Guard and used to go on exercise and guard duties with them, the latter was mainly from the mid forties when we used to guard the railway at Westerhanger.
John Young [ - submitted from Bodsham School Pupils] (1926-2014 son of Alf Young, the blacksmith at Bodsham)
LIVING IN THE COUNTRY
I was 13 years old when the war began and lived in the village of Bodsham. I had to ride my bike every day to Ashford to the grammar school, we only went to school for mornings during the war. One day when riding home from school a plane crashed in a field nearby and I fell off my bike into a ditch. The pub in Hastingleigh, The Bowl Inn had a bomb come through the roof, luckily it did not explode and no one was hurt. On another occasion a bomb was dropped in the village and a haystack was set alight. On V.E day there was a big party at the pub and all the women danced on the tables.
Edna Young [ - submitted from Bodsham School Pupils] (nee Edna Netherwood 1925-2011)
My Experience as a Land Girl
I was 14 years old when the war started and had just left school. I lived in Wakefield with my father, mother, four brothers and three sisters. For the three years I lived there we had no air raids. We sometimes heard the sirens but the ‘all clear’ followed very quickly and so we never needed to use the air raid shelter in the garden. I was called up at the age of 17 having never been away from home before. I went into the Women’s Land Army and ended up in Newchurch on the Romney Marsh in a Women’s Land Army Hostel. This was only a summer hostel and so we had to go into winter digs in Bodsham, Kent. I worked on the threshing machine in the winter and during the summer months worked on Bodsham Farm picking fruit, vegetables and hoeing. We were each given a bike as our only means of transport and went to Wye for dances. Sometimes friendly Army soldiers would offer to throw the bike in the back of their truck and drive us home.
One of my memories is of a particular day when I was threshing wheat on the top of an English threshing machine with a huge knife hanging from my wrist by a leather strap with which I cut the sheaves of corn. We suddenly heard this terrific noise in the sky and we saw hundreds of planes going overhead with huge gliders being towed behind them. We then saw one of the gliders unhook itself from the plane and we watched it come down and down and saw it land about 200 feet from our threshing machine. We dashed down from the stack and raced to the glider. The doors opened at the back and out came about half a dozen soldiers and the first words spoken to me were “I thought I’d landed in Germany”. This was the day of the D. Day landings. It was a truly marvellous site seeing so many planes travelling overheard, the noise was just one great hum in your head and the planes seem to appear from nowhere. It was a bright clear day and the countryside was very peaceful. It is something one never forgets.
On another occasion I was cycling home from work when I heard a plane coming down very low and firing at me and I just threw myself into the wood and I was O.K.
While I was living in the village of Bodsham I met my husband. He had an old Austin Seven and was allowed petrol because he was a threshing machine driver and he sometimes took me into Canterbury to the pictures at the Regal where I enjoyed watching all the old love stories. After the war we married and I lived in the village of Hastingleigh for 53 years which is the village next to Bodsham where I spent a number of war years.
The Top Secret underground Auxilliary Unit for Hastingleigh, Wye and Elmsted was the 'Haricot Unit' and details of it's members and bunkers can be found on the following
external website (Click) with further information available on (Click).
If you have further information about any of the auxilliary units of WW2 in the Parishes of Kent, please contact these two websites to add to their research.
Without your input this important historical information could be lost for good. Few official records were kept.
Update 2014: The last of the Hastingleigh Haricot Unit, Ron Martin, long time resident of Hastingleigh and later of Wye, and contributor to the websites researching the Auxilliary units of WW2. http://www.coleshillhouse.com/latest-news-and-blog/remembering-ron has passed away.