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Lenham.net with thanks to Lenham Focus  

The 2nd World War Remembered

(from April 2002)
Before D Day the Americans moved into the airfield at Egerton with their P47 Thunderbolt fighters. We often saw them in the evenings in their Jeeps coming into The Square to visit the local pubs. One Saturday we lads cycled up to see the smoking remains of a flying fortress that had crash-landed, caught fire and burnt out at the airfield.

D Day came and as our forces advanced further into Europe the doodle bugs ceased and the Americans left the airfield, leaving a great deal behind. We would cycle down in the evenings, and rummage into the damaged remains of planes and spares; lots of very light flares which were used to signal planes. We would take them to pieces to get the small parachute out then light the flares along the road home, making red and green smoke. I remember somebody lighting a pile of cordite (taken out of shells) in the brick dummy window ledge that is now the Nat West door, and lighting up Church Square.

One Sunday afternoon I saw a lot of planes going over quite low at the time of the Arnheim drop. It was much quieter as we advanced further into Germany, just a few rockets coming over which we only heard about.
N. Colbran

(December 2001)Tanks rumbling down the High Street
The Sixth Guards Tank Brigade and the Seventh Armoured Brigade had moved into Otterden Place, Bunce Court and surrounding areas. If you go up the road opposite the Harrow Inn, turn right by what was the Handy Shop into Bunce Court Road you will notice the concrete road which was laid for the tanks and all around that area corners of the roads are reinforced with concrete.

The tanks came to Lenham Railway Station and unloaded at night and you would be woken by them as they rumbled down the High Street on their way to the Bunce Court area before daybreak. We saw our first Doodlebug in 1944 and the noise of the engine is a sound you never forget. Like the Spitfire Engine, it had a note of its own. I was in Court Meadow when I saw my first one - it was weird with noise and the flame coming out of the rear.

The following day, whilst working at Gowers Garage, we heard this weird noise. Farmer John Barr, Mr. Gower, Fred Filmer and myself went outside to have a look. On seeing what it was, we all rushed back inside and fell over each other and the Doodlebug still went on its way. The noise we later discovered was the new warning rocket that the Observer Corps on the opposite side of the railway bridge had fired. This went up quite a way before exploding to release a flare on a parachute and was intended to pinpoint the Doodlebug to any fighter plane near it. The Doodlebug flew in a straight line and gave the fighter a chance to catch them.

The Tempest was the only fighter that could really catch them but as they fired their guns the recoil would slow them down and you could see the gap between the two increase. This was before the first jet fighters came into service.
N. Colbran

(September 2001)Some time in 1943 I joined the Army Cadet Force. We would meet every week at the Scout Hut over at Harrietsham not far from the Church, and at weekends for Training. Later on the Army erected a large wooden hut for us in Lenham at the top of Maidstone Road on the right just before joining the A.20. We were issued with uniforms plus the old Canadian Ross Rifle, which we brought home with us (Can you visualise 16 year olds bringing a rifle home today!).

We learnt Map Reading, Field Craft etc. plus 'Square Bashing' and Arms Drill. In the sandpits on the back road to Harrietsham was a Firing Range, which we would visit and also scale down the sides to train as a real Soldier. The aim was, in the event of an invasion, to help the Home Guard as runners etc. We attended large Church Parades in Maidstone always with a Band leading. We would catch the bus over to Harrietsham and one night my pal Fred Filmer got on the bus and as he turned round his rifle, which was over his shoulder, went through the large back window with a crash. In those days you got on at the rear of the bus, which was all open - no doors, the conductor took it all in his stride as "just another accident".

We would get blank ammunition from the Soldiers to fire in our rifles whilst walking home from Harrietsham - absolutely illegal but we never got caught! In the summer of 1944 we had a week's camp with the Army, under canvas, in an old bell tent at Sturry Golf Course near Canterbury. It was up in the morning, P.T., cold-water wash then training in all sorts of Army life. In August 1945 we camped at Reculver Towers near Herne Bay. It was while we were there that the war with Japan ended - we all went into Herne Bay in the evening and the sea front was crowded with people singing and dancing. Everyone was going mad with excitement -a sight I have never forgotten.
N. Colbran.

(From August 2001)

When my father went on duty at the Observer Corps Post at 2am in the morning my mother would wake me. We put our coats on and went next door to our neighbours, the Harding family, pulled the string through the letter box, got the key on the end and let ourselves in and went down to their cellar, which was damp and cold, to sleep the rest of the night.
They had two adjoining cellars, one lower than the other and I remember one night, Mr. Harding who was the local Blacksmith, went down into the lower cellar only to find he was in nearly a foot of water. His yell woke everyone up with fright!

Mr Hulland, the owner of the Ever Ready Garage (now the Texaco Garage), had his machine shop taken over by the Ministry and converted into turning out vital parts for the War Effort. Local people were directed to work there, women being directed and trained to work in factories whilst other local tradesmen went into Rootes, Maidstone to work on military vehicles.

An aircraft spotters club, which I went to, was held once a week over the top of Couchman's Garage, Maidstone Road (now demolished). This was organised by the Observer Corps showing slides of different views of aircraft in flight.
A 'Wings for Victory Week' was held in Honniss (?) old grocery shop (now the Chemist). A display of the RAF model planes, uniforms etc. was held, the object being, to induce you to save money to help the War Effort and buy more fighters etc. Later in the War with troops stationed around the Parish, a Canteen was set up by the W.V.S. in the Old Billiard Room at Grove House, this is the building on the left as you enter. It was open every evening for tea and snacks and somewhere for the troops to relax and get away from the camp.

Dances were held in the 'Institute' (now the Parish Hall) most Saturdays; there was no limit to numbers in those days. If you were lucky you might have half the floor for dancing, the rest of the floor was packed tight, standing room only. Music was provided by Tommy Matthews, a local man, who formed his own band. He played the violin, Jackie Thompson the piano, another on drums and one on bass, the evening usually ending with the last dance to the music of 'Goodnight Sweetheart'. N.Colbran.

During the Battle of Britain we would often stand out in the open to watch the vapour trails as the planes fought overhead and on one occasion two planes came over at roof top level firing as they went by. Another time an ME 110, which had been shot down, made a perfect pancake landing at Old Shelve Farm. New Zealand troops arrested the crew who had unsuccessfully tried to destroy the plane with an incendiary bomb, which was picked up by Peter Gurr. Fortunately a member of his family saw it and before he could take it to pieces made him dispose of it at a safe distance! He also had to hand over the plane's radio because in those days every boy was out to collect souvenirs and pieces of shrapnel!

One afternoon we heard the engines of a plane and suddenly there was a noise like falling tiles, we ran down to our cellar together with a customer of my father's (my father was a barber) still with the hair cloth around him. It was then that the bombs fell on what is now Robins Avenue. On another occasion about 20 German bombers flew over our house, as they disappeared, the air raid siren sounded (better late than never I suppose!).

My Father, who was an Observer, was on duty at the Observer Post behind the Old School (now Old School Close) when Jack Hughes the Postmaster (also in the Observer Corps) came in and gave him a revolver as he had been told 'things look like happening tonight'. Just as well nothing happened, Father had never held a gun before!


The Royal Observer Corps : 1925-1992

Towards the end of the Battle of Britain, late one afternoon, a German plane shot up a train at Lenham and finished up by spraying the Village with its guns. I think we ran nearly as fast as the bullets going overhead. During The Blitz on London when the German Bombers flew overhead we heard the different sounds their engines made and once we saw a plane caught in our searchlights. By this time the Somerset Regiment had moved into Chilston Park under canvas and later on Bofor Ack Ack Guns were stationed in the Park for a short period.

N Colbran

From Lenham Focus for Lenham.net

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