The Siren

In searching recently for Christmas items in our collection, we came across this curious typescript magazine from Christmas 1939, which is full of humorous poems, stories, articles and puzzles (D/DU 948/1). The tone for the magazine is set by its title page – a play on the double meaning of ‘siren’ as both an air raid warning and an attractive (scantily clad) woman.

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The Siren was put together by the staff of the Civil Defence Control, the part of Essex County Council which was in charge of civil defence during the Second World War.

The Civil Defence Service was charged protecting people and property from injury and damage. Following general schemes laid out by central government, there were three main strands to their work:

  • Preventative – evacuation, air raid shelters
  • Alleviative – rescue
  • Remedial – clearing of debris, first aid, restoring vital services

The nerve centre of the system was the Control Room, based at County Hall in Chelmsford.

Reading The Siren not only gives an insight into the work of the Civil Defence staff, but also shows that they had a strong sense of humour, poking fun at each other in poems, stories and songs.

The magazine opens with ‘The Cuties of the County Control’, a song about the glamour of the young women who staffed the Control Room:

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‘A Disrespectful Ditty’ on one of the following pages begins with a ‘bereavement’ – ‘We’ve lost the deep respect for our betters once we bore’, which has become lost in the blackout.

It goes on to reference various staff members, including the first County Archivist, Frederick Emmison, ‘relentlessly efficient in the middle of the night’, and steadfastly avoiding getting tipsy at the staff party.

Other verses poke fun at two of the Deputy County Controllers – Major J Meikeljohn and Mr H.P. Jamieson – before another verse spares other managers the same treatment: ‘But on these exalted persons may depend our daily bread, So you can’t expect us to rush in where angels fear to tread’.

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Later in the magazine we find a ‘Prefatory Alphabet’, which gives a wonderful insight into what was on people’s minds, such as:

‘G is for Gas-mask. Alas for humanity –

Visibly sign pf social insanity.

K is for Knitting, nocturnal and endless;

Those making the garments will certainly spend less.

M is for Molotov, Soviet minister,

Whose machinations have lately been sinister.

R is for Rota that grimly enmeshes you;

Think of the coffee that nightly refreshes you!

V is the Volume of work that oppresses

The people whose job is to clear up the messes.

W’s the Warden, ensconced in a helmet,

Who moans of the light ‘twixt the curtain and pelmet.’

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Some of the pieces do not relate directly to the war, but provide some escapism, such as this (slightly cheeky) meditation on a day out in Epping Forest:

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Even though the staff of the Civil Defence Service were engaged in serious, vital work during the war, what comes through in The Siren is a strong sense camaraderie amongst the staff. The magazine was clearly supposed to provide some light relief at a dark time; as one of the couplets of the ‘Prefatory Alphabet’ says:

‘U are the reader. We hope this experiment

Will bring you good cheer and the odd spot of merriment’

We have only been able to just begin to lift the lid on these people and their work – if anyone out there has any more information do get in touch.

Winter in Wartime

Throughout December, the ERO’s Learning from History service will be offering a special session for primary schools investigating what Christmas was like during the Second World War.

Children will start with what they know. The session will begin by inviting them to suggest what they need for Christmas. As items are suggested they will be placed on a table. We will then look at these items one by one and think about whether people had them during the Second World War, using the archive at the Essex Record Office as evidence. Fairy lights will prompt a discussion about blackout restrictions and bombs dropping. Presents will lead to thoughts about shortages and include a craft activity where children create their own toys from clothes pegs. Thoughts of Christmas dinner will be compared to the realities of rationing. One by one the items that they think represent Christmas will be removed from the table.

American airmen host a party for local and evacuated children in Lindsell, 1944

American airmen host a party for local and evacuated children in Lindsell, 1944

Through this process the children will understand how Christmas was different and why, and empathise with children from the Second World War. Knowing what they can’t do, they will start to ask what they can do. We will try and find out from sources at the Essex Record Office what people did to have fun and end with playing some party games.

Cost: £75 for one session, for a class of 30 pupils (subsequent sessions on the same day are £60)

When: Book any day between the 8th and 18th December [1st-7th now fully booked]

Timings: Recommend an hour per session, but timings can be adapted to fit in with the school day

Where: In your classroom

Bookings and further information: please e-mail heritage.education@essex.gov.uk or telephone 033301 32500

Chelmsford Then and Now: The Saracen’s Head

In the second in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at the Saracen’s Head Hotel. Find out more about the project here.

The Saracen’s Head was first recorded on the site of Number 3 High Street in 16th century parish registers. Remarkably the Saracen’s Head continues to occupy the same site today, having served as a popular and well frequented establishment for nearly five hundred years.

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The Saracen’s Head today at the north end of Chelmsford High Street

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Extract from the 1591 Walker map of Chelmsford. The Saracen’s Head is the third building down on the eastern side of the High Street, opposite the old Market Cross, where the market and court hearings took place. The property backs onto ‘Saracen’s Head Meade’ (D/DM P1).

John Walker’s map of Chelmsford includes eleven inns dotted along the high street in the 16th century. On the site of 3 High Street sat The Saracen’s Head inn; a large, two storey property constructed from timber. Chelmsford was ideally situated on the road to London and therefore made a welcome resting point for weary travellers. The survey which accompanies Walker’s map tells us that Richard Brett was in charge at the time:

The Sarazens Hedd – an Inn with buildings, gardens, curtilages, and orchards, Richard Brett also holds a piece of waste in front of the Sarazens hedd in length “xv foote of assise and in breadeth Easte and West vj foote, for moveable stalles to be used in the market time.”

 

The Saracen’s Head grew into one of the largest inns on the high street, boasting an impressive 18 hearths according the Hearth Tax Assessment conducted in 1671.

Chelmsford’s growing prosperity and increasing trade facilitated the redevelopment of the property in the early 18th century. Owner Thomas Nicholls took a second mortgage out on the Saracen’s Head, describing the property as ‘lately erected and new built’ in 1724. Development came at a price and unfortunately Nicholls was unequipped to pay it. He defaulted on the mortgage repayments and the property subsequently passed to William Taylor. Despite Nicholls’ personal financial shortcomings, the Saracen’s Head continued to prosper into the 19th century. We are fortunate to have a beautifully written will belonging to Saracen’s Head innkeeper George Lake which reveals the growing wealth of the town’s tradesmen. Lake was able to bequeath twenty pounds each to his mother and sister as well as an annuity of thirty pounds to be paid over their lifetime. While many of the original Tudor inns were either demolished or replaced by various retail establishments, the Saracen’s Head continued to thrive and proved itself a profitable establishment.

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The will of Saracen’s Head innkeeper George Lake in 1845. (D/ABW 137/1/144)

From the late 18th century, inns increasingly provided an important social space in the heart of town. The Saracen’s Head, as one of the largest inns on the high street, was a popular venue of choice and hosted a whole range of activities, clubs and events.

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Photograph taken from the north end of the High Street in the late 19th century. The Saracen’s Head can be seen just behind the Sebastopol Cannon which has since been moved to Oaklands Park.

The Chelmsford Beefsteak Club met once a month at the inn where they had their own cellar reserved. Every summer the inn accommodated the Flowerists feast and prior to the construction of the Shire Hall in 1791, the Saracen’s Head hosted various concerts and balls. Advertisements were frequently placed in local newspapers announcing the events which attracted visitors from across the county.

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The Chelmsford cycling club posing outside the Saracen’s Head in the 1890s (I/LS/CFD/00006)

The Saracen’s Head was equally popular with local residents, who perhaps appreciated the long history of the ancient establishment. Mayor of Chelmsford Frederick Spalding recalled:

“…the little back room, which I remember very well, was what one might call a club room, because every seat in it during the evening was occupied by some well-known resident of Chelmsford… If you were at any time permitted to go into this room and happened to seat yourself on any particular chair you would be politely told that at 7 o’clock, when Mr. – came in, you would have to vacate it.”

During the Second World War, the Saracen’s Head opened its doors to the American Red Cross. Known locally as the ‘American Club’, the hostel provided sleeping accommodation for up to 30 men as well as providing meals for up to 300 soldiers per day. The hostel was kept separate from the Saracen Head’s main bars and even had its own entrance. The Chelmsford Chronicle hastened to reassure residents that the opening of the American Club ‘would in no way affect the bars, which will be carried on as usual’.

The American officers were a visible and constant presence on the High Street during the war years. The photograph below captured in 1942 depicts numerous American officers, dressed in full uniform, posing outside the Saracen’s Head. A large sign reading ‘American Red Cross Service Club’ dominates the main entrance, while an American flag flutters overhead.

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The Saracen’s Head Hotel during the Second World War when it was used as a club for the American Armed Forces. (SCN 552)

 The hostel also acted as an important social hub where American soldiers could relax and mix with the locals. In the photograph below numerous American officers can be seen relaxing inside the hostel, clearly enjoying the comfortable and even homely interiors.

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The Saracen’s Head provided hot meals for up to 300 American soldiers per day. (SCN 547)

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Over 150 women from the Chelmsford area volunteered their services at the new American Club. (SCN 548)

The American officers reportedly enjoyed their time in Chelmsford with a survey conducted by the Chronicle establishing that 32 out of 40 American soldiers very much liked Chelmsford, although all were excited to ultimately get back home. A young American Lieutenant is quoted:

“Your town is much bigger, and has more services than we expected… We have been very agreeably surprised. Many of our boys are now almost members of some Chelmsford families, who took the initiative in the early days of our arrival and made us so much at home… Most of us think that Chelmsford is a real swell place, with grand people in it.”

The ‘American Club’ came to represent a period of harmonious relations between Britain and the US. Over 150 young women in Chelmsford volunteered to work at the club and countless Chelmsford residents interacted with the American soldiers socially on a daily basis. Such was the legacy of these relations, both in Chelmsford and Essex as a whole, that the Essex Anglo-American Goodwill Association was created to foster continued relations and perhaps engage with Americans who were sent here as soldiers, but who might one day return as tourists.

By the end of July 1945, the ‘American Club’ closed, although the Saracen’s Head did not officially resume pre-war functionality until 1948. In January of that year the Essex Newsman warmly declared ‘Welcome back the Saracen’s Head!’ noting that after the long period of war service the hotel was at last able to come into its own again.

Many inns have disappeared from the High Street since the creation of the Walker map in 1591, but the Saracen’s Head continues to operate under the same name and from the same site as in the 16th century. This extraordinary achievement is a testament to the popularity of the premises in question. Nonetheless, the nature of the business has changed a great deal over time. Originally a resting point for weary travellers, the Saracen’s Head increasingly became a social establishment, providing an entertaining venue for visitors and residents alike. Today the Saracen’s Head is a popular social destination for a whole new generation of Chelmsford residents.

If you would like to find out more about this ancient building, try searching for the Saracen’s Head on Seax. Alternatively see Hilda Grieves’s detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows in the ERO Library.

Under Fire: Essex and the Second World War

Ahead of his talk at ERO to launch his brand new book on Essex in the Second World War, we caught up with author Paul Rusiecki to find out more about his research. Join us for Paul’s talk at Dark Days and Dark Thoughts: Morale in Wartime Essex, 1940-41, on Saturday 9 May. See our events page for full details.

 

How did you come to write Under Fire?Under Fire cover

It was a natural progression after writing The Impact of Catastrophe [Paul’s book on Essex during the First World War], as I wanted to compare and contrast the county’s experience of two world wars. I had already done a lot of work on Essex in the inter-war period, but I chose to ignore chronological conventions, leave a book on 1918-39 to another day, and jump forward to the Second World War. I was already very well acquainted with the resources that were available, having spent the best part of twenty years researching various aspects of the county’s twentieth century history.

 

What sort of sources did you use to write your book?

Secondary works are always an essential starting point so I spent a great deal of time in the libraries at Colchester, Chelmsford, Southend and Stratford.  The Essex Record Office is a fantastic treasure trove of information on all aspects of the war and is matched only by the details which can be found in the county’s newspapers. Aided by my wife and son (both trained historians) I also visited the Imperial War Museum, the National Archives and the Mass Observation Archive at Sussex University, where we spent four days during a grim January. So far I have not made much use of the internet, as I prefer to use books rather than unauthenticated articles.

 

Did anything surprise you during your research?

I think that the honest answer must be no. In the last 40 years some historians have spent time trying to debunk the idea of Britain as a completely united nation engaged in total war and fighting for its survival, especially in 1940 and 1941, spurred on by the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and the ‘Spirit of 1940’. In fact most people who lived through the war did not have this rosy view of things. I was not surprised to find a great deal of evidence of a positive, patriotic and courageous attitude in my researches, just as I also expected to find that people could be selfish, nervous, defeatist, or that they engaged in criminal activities. I expected to see all forms of human behavior being exhibited, and I certainly did!

 

Are there any stories that you found during your research that have particularly stuck with you?

Naturally the stories that stick in the mind often come from the time of the Blitz, or the attacks by V-1s and V-2s. How a direct hit on an Anderson shelter meant that a Dagenham warden had to collect body parts with a shovel and a sack. At Colchester when a laundry was hit, a dustbin lorry was controversially used to carry the bodies away. I also found out that when Severalls ‘Mental Hospital’ was bombed in 1942, many patients were killed. There is evidence that some residents of the town felt that the bomb could not have fallen in a better place as the people there were sub-normal. Then I discovered a note to the Essex War Agricultural Committee from a man who could not come to work because his ‘dear young daughter’, a patient, had been killed there. It brought a tear to my eyes, I must admit, and it also made me cross-reference my thoughts as to what was happening in Germany at this time.

 

Do you have any family connections with the Second World War?

My father was serving as ground crew in the Polish Air Force when it was practically obliterated in the first few days of the German blitzkrieg of 1939. He and others retreated from the advancing Germans and evaded capture by the Russian invaders. They made their way across Slovakia, a German protectorate, aided by local people, and then travelled through Rumania, including hanging on underneath trains. Having reached the coast they were picked up in secret by British agents who ferried them to Egypt, and from there to France. He had not been there long when the Germans invaded in 1940 and he was evacuated from a west coast French port. Once in England he joined the Free Polish Navy, and crewed Motor Torpedo Boats during the war. My mother’s family lived in south Yorkshire and remembered the severe bombing of Sheffield in December 1940, when the night sky to the south was lit up a deep red from the blazes.

 

Is this your first book?

I wrote a book called The Plough and The Pick, about the two coal mining villages I grew up in Yorkshire. I’ve written many articles in various journals. My second book The Impact of Catastrophe: The People of Essex and the First World War, was published in 2008 by the Essex Record Office.  I shall shortly be working on an occasional paper for the Essex Society of Archaeology and History, which will be a sort of guide to anyone interested in researching the impact of the German air war on Essex 1940-45. In the long–term I will be continuing to dig into Essex in the inter-war period, but I also hope to publish a history of the county from 1945 to about 1975.

 

Are you a full-time author?

Since I retired in 2009 I have more choice in when I can do my research, but as everyone who has ever retired says, how did I find time to fit in work?? Certainly as a retired teacher the huge never-ending commitment to preparation and marking has gone. So it is easier, but to be honest – full-time work, even leisure work – of any sort – never again!

 

What is your connection with Essex?

I married my wife who was born and raised in Colchester, so I have known the town and gradually more and more of the county since 1972. We returned here when our first child was born in 1978 and have lived here ever since. I did my PhD at Essex University and spent the last 4 years of my teaching career at Colchester County High School for Girls. I have been Programme Secretary of the Essex branch of the Historical Association since 2002, and that, and much of my research, takes me a lot to Chelmsford.

 

Where is your favourite place in Essex?

I love Blackpool so naturally I love to go to Clacton or Walton. Colchester’s Castle Park is a simply wonderful facility right in the heart of this busy town, it’s beautiful and quiet, if you avoid the children’s playground! And of course there’s the Essex Record Office. My second home!

 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of writing a history book?

Always check first to see what’s been written. No sense in re-inventing the wheel. This applies whether you have a very in-depth, highly focused project in mind, or a more general, wider study. Always take advice from people who have expertise and knowledge, never be afraid to ask for help. People are usually immensely generous with their time. Keep an open mind about where you might find resources – that way you might not overlook some obvious ones. Look at how other people write. Historical writing is first and foremost about communicating the past to people in simple, elegant and easily understood language. That doesn’t mean talking down to people. It means avoiding both jargon and writing which is so convoluted and obscure that it is hard to follow and understand. If you come across any history book like that, even by an eminent historian, or a ‘TV historian’, chuck it in the bin!

Document of the Month June 2014: Map of Tilbury showing plans for Operation Overlord

Each month a document is put on display in our Searchroom. Our document for June has been chosen by Archivist Allyson Lewis to reflect the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which began on 6 June 1944.

This month we look at Essex’s involvement in Operation Overlord, known as the D-Day landings.  Eastern Command, which included Essex, was to provide for 104,000 men and their equipment embarking through Tilbury and London Docks.  Tilbury was a Marshalling Area for collecting men and vehicles for the D-Day landings.

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Marshalling Areas (MAs) were intended to hold 40,700 men and 6,500 vehicles prior to embarkation, load them and send them out as part of the initial landings, and then to embark 4,000 men and 600 vehicles per day for as long as necessary after D-Day itself.  Once sent for embarkation, the troops had to be provided with food and drink so any postponement of the operation posed a serious logistical problem.  The MA was arranged in 8 sub-areas located at Orsett Golf Club, Tilbury, Purfleet, Thorndon Hall, Belhus Park, Warley Barracks, Weald Park, and the Halfway House Inn on the Southend Arterial Road.

Planning began in February to identify suitable sites for camps field hospitals, ammunition dumps, petrol dumps, bakeries, rail heads and traffic routes.  This map (C/W 3/4/9) shows the location of the camps in each sub-area and the routes traffic should take to reach the embarkation points.  Most of the vehicles were parked up on the Southend Arterial Road.  They had to be waterproofed before being loaded onto the ships.  During March camps were constructed and roads strengthened, and by 1 May the area was ready.  Postal censorship began on 1 April and by the end of May all camps were patrolled to prevent contact with the local population.

Embarkation of troops and vehicles was a four day process: three days to waterproof the vehicles and get them aboard and to issue supplies and load the men, and one day to clear the area and get ready for the next detachment.  Y-Day was the name given to the day when everything would be ready to go.  Any long delay at this point would mean that men would have to be disembarked and sent back to their camps.  However, the weather improved sufficiently on 5 June for Operation Overlord to commence on 6 June 1944.

Information from http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/showthread.php?11999-SECOND-WORLD-WAR-D-Day-Marshalling-and-Embarkation-Areas

31st May 1944 – Just another mission

Neil Wiffen, Public Service Team Manager here at ERO, writes for us about a bombing raid that took off from Essex 70 years ago today…

Seventy years ago the skies above Essex would have been filled daily with the aircraft both of our own Royal Air Force but to a much greater extent by the massed forces of the Eighth and Ninth United States Army Air Forces.

By April 1944 there were eight Bomb Groups of Ninth Air Force Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers and three groups of Douglas A-20 Havoc light bombers in Essex, totalling over 700 aircraft with many thousands of personnel and their supporting units. These aircraft and their crews were tasked with ‘softening up’ the German defences and associated transport infrastructure in Europe in order to facilitate a successful invasion and liberation of occupied territory, something dreamed of, and planned for, since the dark days of June 1940.

Some of these Bomb Groups had been in Essex since the summer of 1943, such as the 387th BG based at Chipping Ongar and the 322nd at Andrew’s Fields (Great Saling). Seven groups were relative newcomers, only arriving ‘in theatre’ in 1944. One of the more recently arrived was the 394th Bomb Group with around 64 B-26s who were based at Boreham, flying their first mission on March 23rd when 36 aircraft set out to bomb a Luftwaffe airfield at Beaumont-le-Roger in France.

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A B-26 Marauder of the 394th Bomb Group (at Boreham?) This was taken sometime after D-Day as evidenced by the worn black and white invasion stripes which can be seen under the wings. Note what appears to be aircraft’s Auxiliary Power Unit under the port wing. This was used to ‘power-up’ the aircraft before main engine ignition. (A10950 Box 1 ‘Book 1’).

Bombing raids were run as regularly as the English weather allowed, with as little let-up as possible, and with sometimes two raids a day. With the date for D-Day set there could be no relaxation for the planners in endeavouring to give the assault troops as much assistance as possible before they hit the beaches. This meant that the Allies’ combined air forces had to keep on pounding away whenever they could.

The 394th was tasked with carrying out one such raid on this day 70 years ago. Their target for what would be their 53rd mission since arriving at Boreham was a bridge in Rouen (J.G Ziegler, Bridge Busters: the story of the 394th Bomb Group (Phoenix, Arizona, 1993), p.38.) This was to be the 10th mission in the last eight days, such was the intensity of the air campaign to date and with only a week to go for the planned launch of D-Day on the 5th June.

One of the 36 Marauders that was designated to fly the mission that morning was being piloted by Lt John Connelly of the 587th Bomb Squadron. Connelly was 11th in line to take off (S.D. Bishop & J.A. Hey, Losses of the US 8th & 9th Air Forces: aircraft and men 1st April – 30th June 1944 (Bury St Edmunds, 2009), p.543). Taking off for a heavily loaded combat aircraft was always a crucial time but especially so for an over loaded twin-engine Marauder. Fat with fuel and armed with two 2,000lb bombs the loss of an engine on take-off could have devastating consequences, and was something which Connelly was about to experience first-hand.

Lt Jack Havener of the 344th over at Stansted later recounted his experience of losing an engine after take-off: ‘We had just taken off…and were about halfway through the first turn to join up…when the right engine started sputtering and losing power. As we frantically clawed the…controls, trying to get some life back into the engine we realised we had a serious problem…By the time I had trimmed for single-engine operation we were still losing altitude, so I gave Sgt Skowski the order to pull the emergency bomb salvo lever…He immediately reached up and pulled the lever and greatly relieved the tension in the cockpit when he yelled out: ‘We got a haystack, Lieutenant!’ Havener and his crew were able to land back to their base – just (R.A. Freeman, B-26 Marauder at War (London, 1978), p.120).

Connelly decided, however, against dumping his bomb load as he decided that opening the bomb-bay doors would cause too much drag and force his Marauder to crash. Trying to regain the runway he was not able to stay aloft and crashed short of it into one of the extensive orchards that once surrounded Boreham airfield. Of the six man crew all survived wounded but Connelly and his co-pilot, Flight Officer Preston Fulgham, received major injuries.

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Two views of the Connelly’s Marauder (Serial number 42-96069). How any of the crew survived is unbelievable. Note the bomb lying on the ground. (A10950 Box 1 ‘Book 3’)

As with all things that fell out of the sky, be they enemy bombs or friendly aircraft, the local authority civil defence system sprang into action. Even though this was an American aircraft and it fell within easy distance of all the US emergency services there were two very large bombs and several hundred gallons of high octane fuel that had been spilled over the Essex countryside. Around mid-day a message was reported to Essex County Control that ‘Waltham Rd. [was] closed from Russell Green to Little Waltham. Houses in the immediate vicinity evacuated on the instruction from American Police’ (ERO, C/W 1/11/3). Shortly after 1pm the road was re-opened and residents allowed back to their properties. While all this was going on the raid that was launched earlier was carried on with – just one more day in a long war.

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The Crashed Aircraft Report for 31st May 1944 with the details of the crash from the British viewpoint. (ERO, C/W 1/11/3)

Using the description I wondered if it might be possible to pinpoint the exact location of the crash. The orderly rows of fruit trees show up very well on aerial photos and Looking at am image held at ERO, taken immediately after the end of the war, there does appear to be a scar in the landscape (circled on map), so very close to the runways at Boreham that Connelly nearly made. Seventy years on, I wonder if anyone remembers this event and can confirm the crash site?

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Boreham Airfield post war. The runways, taxiways, hardstands and accommodation areas, along with the orchards, are all shown. Circled is the suggested area of the crash. (OS TL71SW, 1:10560)

 

Recording of the Month, February 2014: Courtship and romance in the Second World War

The next monthly highlight from our Sound Archivist Martin Astell…

Courtship and romance in the Second World War (Mrs Duddy), Acc. SA673

Valentine’s Day provides the excuse for our February recording to focus on love and courtship. This month’s recording is an extract from an interview recorded in 1988 with Mrs Audrey Duddy (née Carver) who was born 1924 in Tottenham and died in 1991. During the Second World War she was evacuated, along with other pupils from Tottenham High School, to Saffron Walden. She later joined the Women’s Land Army and after the war went on to become a teacher, finishing her career as Head of Department at Saffron Walden County High School.

The extract we have selected for you to listen to below is the part of the interview where Mrs Duddy talks about going to dances as a young woman with a group of her Land Army colleagues, the interesting ways in which they negotiated their dealings with young men, and how this led to her meeting her husband.

The Essex Sound and Video Archive holds a wealth of recordings relating to the Second World War, particularly reminiscences of experiences on the Home Front. We have a Sources List which will help you to identify some good examples of recordings covering subjects such as evacuation, rationing, air raids, the Home Guard (and other Civil Defence work), the Women’s Land Army, Dunkirk, war work, the Royal Navy and other military service, the US Air Force and American troops, prisoners of war in Essex, airfields, health care, D-Day, VE Day and VJ Day, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, Women’s Voluntary Service and Women’s Auxiliary Police Service. Click on the following link to download the source list: ESVA Second World War sources

 

New Accession: 2nd Rayleigh Scouts log book, 1924-1944

Katharine Schofield, Archivist, writes for us about an interesting new arrival at the archive…

A log book of the 2nd Rayleigh (Holy Trinity) Troop of Boy Scouts was recently deposited and digital images are now available free of charge on Seax (D/Z 608/1). 

The troop was started in 1924 and the log book begins with the first parade and details of patrol leaders and the colour of the scarves.  The volume is particularly notable for the many photographs of camps and other activities of the Scouts.  These include photographs of the Essex Jamboree of Whitsun 1927 held at Priory Park, Southend and attended by Lord Baden-Powell (image 17).  Later that year the summer camp was held at Soligny in France, although the camps were more normally held in the Rayleigh area or at Heybridge Basin. 

Essex Jamboree of Whitsun 1927 held at Priory Park, Southend and attended by Lord Baden-Powell (D/Z 608/1 image 17)

In May 1935 to celebrate George V’s Silver Jubilee, the troop prepared a beacon as part of the Scout Beacon Chain in a meadow off Crown Hill opposite the Mount and the volume includes photographs of this.  Having made such a good job of this, they were then asked to prepare a bonfire to mark George VI’s coronation in 1937. 

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Building a bonfire to mark the coronation of George VI in 1937 (D/Z 603/1 image 54)

When war was declared in 1939 the troop were engaged in War Service distributing posters calling up the reserves and staffing Council Offices with messengers 24 hours a day for a week ‘until the powers that be decided that no one under 16 could act in that capacity’ (image 66).  Thereafter the log book becomes much less detailed.  The Scouts were engaged in bill posting, waste paper collection, the collection of scrap metal and helped to put up more than 100 Morrison Shelters for Rayleigh Urban District Council.  As the war continued the log book records those who left to join the Armed Forces; sadly three former members of the troop lost their lives serving in the RAF.

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A thank you letter to the Scouts for their help in putting up a Morrison shelter (D/Z 608/1 image 69)