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WORLD WAR II

PERSONAL TESTIMONIES

People still living in Bingham have been interviewed and given a chance to record their reminiscences of the war years. Two of them were children during the war, two others served in the armed forces. Frank Hardy also provided an account of a day in the life of his parent during the war.

Frank Hardy
William and Fay Hardy
Markham Dawn
John Krupa
Henry Marchewicz
Olive Starbuck

More personal testimonies can be read in the book Bingham’s Children of the Twentieth Century by Catherine Haynes and Hilda Smith (ISBN 1-904102-03-4)


Frank Hardy

During WW2 Frank lived with his parents and sister in Castle Hill bungalow to the north of Bingham near the Fosse Way (A46). His parents housed Irish farm workers who came to work on the fields at harvest time, there were also four child evacuees. Food was scarce as was money but Frank remembers a happy childhood playing in the countryside with lots of other children. When he was 9 or 10 he inherited a farm from a relative and his parents used the rent to send him to Southwell Minster school as a fee paying student. Frank is of the opinion he would not have got a scholarship.

Frank’s entrepreneurial skill came to the fore when, being offered the sweet ration coupons of one of the Irishmen he asked the others and ended up with two pounds above his ration. At school he raffled the coupons and was soon earning up to £3 per week. He also started a project buying second hand bicycles and renovating them for resale.

Italian POW’s worked in the field next to the bungalow. Frank, ever the opportunist, managed sell one of them a suit. Where it came from he did not say.

One of the evacuees staying with them, Desmond, was from Sheffield. When they heard that there had been a major bombing raid there Frank and Desmond got on their bikes and went to see if Desmond’s family were alright, returning the next day. Children certainly had more freedom during that time.

One evening a German aircraft, following returning bombers to Newton dropped a string of bombs near the bungalow narrowly missing the house, shrapnel peppered the wall and the dogs kennel disappeared, miraculously no one was injured, not even the dog. The blast from the bombs knocked an air raid shelter down near the market square in Bingham. The Irish labourers went home the next day.

After the war Frank and his family moved across the road to Burrowsfield and progressed steadily.


William and Fay Hardy

Frank Hardy provided two personal accounts of a day in the life of his parents during World War II

William Cecil Aubrey Hardy

“Get up at 5.45 am to milk the cows
Breakfast
Leave home at 6.30 am to cycle five miles to work
Arrive at 7 am at Aslockton

Take the lorry out to collect milk from the farms (12 gallon churns). Deliver to the Co-op Dairy in Nottingham.
Offload churns then reload with empty churns to deliver to the farms when picking up milk the next day.
Arrive back at Aslockton and offload churns.

Lunch

After lunch go to railway sidings and start to fill 1 cwt sacks with coal.
Afternoon spent delivering the coal.
Finish in the evening.
Wash down the lorry, then reload with the churns for the next day.
Cycle home. Get there between six and seven.

Meal

Milk the cows
Book keeping.
Bed

Repeat five days.

On Saturdays and Sundays milk had to be collected, but there was no coal delivery. This only took half days, so he was allowed to bring the lorry home.

There was complete blackout, so in the winter the early morning work was done in the dark. Even the lorry headlights were covered and you had only a 6” x 3” slot to drive by. Bicycles also had very restricted light. Outside work was carried out with paraffin lanterns. Life was hard.”

Fay Hardy

“Get up at 5.45 am to cook Dad’s breakfast.
Start breakfast for me and my sister, the two evacuees and any Irish lodgers we had. Usually there were between three and five.
We all lived in a three-bedroom bungalow with no electricity, gas and tapped water. The toilet was an outside bucket that had to be emptied by hand. There was no bathroom. We used a tin bath in front of the kitchen fire. The lodgers used the outside washhouse. All clothes were washed by hand in a dolly tub. They slept two to a bed.

After the children had gone to school and the lodgers to work Mum did the housework, then went out to feed the pigs and chickens etc and start churning the milk to make butter.

Back in the house to start the evening meal and make the beds.

The only consolation that we had living as we did was we had plenty of food. We filled our own pigs, snared our own rabbits, milked our own cows, made our own butter, stored our own apples, plums, pears, damsons and our own vegetables. Mum made lots of jam. In fact we caught so many rabbits, we used to sell them to our friends.

Mum even used to make our own wine.

Today, looking back from where I am now I look back with nostalgia and happiness and the greatest respect and love for my parents that anyone could have. Did I think I missed out because we were poor? No, I look back and I think I was privileged to have such a wonderful family and enjoyable childhood.”


Markham Dawn (age 80 in 2011).

Markham was 8 when war came to Bingham. An active child, he was much involved with the community both as a hindrance (?) and a help. He and his friends did Perspex sorties on crashed aircraft and used what they found to make brooches etc. This activity was curtailed for a time when, caught by Rev Reay doing a “wheelie” in Chancel Row he was grounded and his bike was confiscated for a time. The RAF was quick to guard crashes soon after, much to Markham’s disgust. His source of Perspex had dried up. One aircraft, a Wellington, he recalls crashing at Whitefields Farm on Tythby Road. He remembers that the aircraft was more or less intact and from research we know the crew survived.

He and his two evacuee friends, Johnny Johnson and his sister, did tours of the sweet shops to see what they could buy. This was just before rationing and the owners operated their own control. To come away with a ¼ lb of sweets or a bar of chocolate was a great result.

Markham assisted his mother at the forces canteen (in the Methodist Hall), by clearing tables etc. He was most impressed by the Land Army girls who came for meals. They lived to the west side of Tythby Road and made their way to the hall.

When King George visited Bingham en route to Newton for a medal ceremony in 1942 Markham remembers the excitement and pride of all to see the monarch. He also got a day off school!

RAF Langar was built by American Pioneer Corps and he remembers being impressed by the speed of the trucks bringing the soldiers to Bingham Station for their trips to Nottingham for R and R.

Two of his friends, Benny Bucken and Gordon Foottit found that they could be well fed by sneaking into the POW Camp by Saxondale roundabout for breakfast but Markham missed out on this one. Just shows how ordinary people get together.

For a time the Senior NCOs from Newton were forced to come to Bingham for their food because an unexploded land mine had landed in front of the Sgt’s Mess and it was out of bounds. One Sgt got fed up with the journey into Bingham and put it in a barrow and moved it. He was disciplined and then given a medal. Job done.

Markham built up a rapport with both the airmen from Newton and the POW’s and is still in touch with the Grandson of a German POW who is currently serving in the German Military and an ex airman’s family who is currently in Canada.

He started work for Bingham Rural District Council in 1943 and can remember a German POW coming to register the intention of marrying a British girl. Markham forgot he was there and came across him 3 hours later, patiently waiting.

Markham’s schooling started at what is now Robert Miles Infants and finished at the Old Church House. His Mother who lived in Nottingham Road was the daughter of Harry Starbuck, the last known keeper of The Pinfold and the family lived in Pinfold House, since demolished.

His father, Walter was Sovereign’s escort in the Horse Guards. In France in the First World War he was tasked with leading two horses, while riding his own, and coming to a hedge one of them, a big black one, stopped. Walter fell nearly biting through his tongue. This was duly stitched up without anaesthetic. He was wounded in the trenches on his 21st birthday, 20 Sep 1915. After that war he worked at Saxondale Hospital only to be shot at in the Second one while cycling home from work by a German aircraft, which had found its way to Newton. His First World War training helped him avoid harm. He dived into the roadside ditch.


Jan Krupa

Jan Krupa of Chestnut Avenue was born near Radom in central Poland, and escaped to England through Czechoslovakia, Hungary and France, eventually getting a lift in a “collier” sailing out of St Jean de Luz, near Biarritz, bound for Liverpool. To obtain the lift, Jan & his companions were obliged to surrender their weapons, a small price to pay to escape to freedom! Following several months of training, Jan was posted to a Polish flying school at Hucknall, and thence to Newton as Chief Mechanic on “A” Flight (Airspeed Oxfords) as a Sergeant. Jan’s story is told in a book written by Phil Barton in the series “Memories for the Millennium” by the Nottinghamshire Living History Archive Millennium Award Scheme. The book is called “White Eagles- A Collection of Memories from the Nottinghamshire Polish Air Force Community”. Copies of this fascinating book are available through the Nottinghamshire County and Nottingham City libraries.

At the end of the war Jan retrained on jet engines, but by this time he was married to Alice, one of the daughters of the Smithson family, owners of the café on the Long Acre/Cherry Street corner (now Regency House. As there was no married accommodation available, he reluctantly left the R.A.F. Jan tried for jobs in Nottingham to no avail, as by this time, 1948, any available jobs had been taken up by returning British servicemen. Jan, whose in-laws lived next door to the District Surveyor (Cyril Kendrick of 8 Cherry Street), got a job with the Bingham Rural District Council, initially repairing waste-water pumps at the Council pumping station at Radcliffe on Trent. It was whilst Jan was with the R.D.C. that he became involved with the squatters camp at Langar, helping to make the old Nissen huts habitable and laying on water and electricity.


Henry Marchevicz

From the end of the war until the early 1950’s, the U.K. suffered a period of austerity, Rationing continued, and building permits were required for building materials. It was in this climate that many ex- servicemen returned to civvy street. One of these enterprising gentlemen was the late Henry Marchewicz, whose widow Doreen lives in Church Close. Henry, a Polish fighter Pilot, served through the war with great distinction, and even lost part of his nose whilst being “strafed” by a German ME 109 during take-off from a dispersal field at Bolt Head near Torquay. A German cannon shell exploded in Henry’s instrument panel and tore off his nose! His Spitfire crashed into a patch of blackberry bushes.

The German aircraft were still firing as Henry was dragged out of his fighter. His mangled nose was rebuilt by plastic surgeon pioneer Sir Archibald McIndoe. Doreen said she preferred the new nose to the old one. Henry met Doreen at the Palais de Danse on Parliament Street, Nottingham where she had gone with a friend following their shifts as telephonists at the old G.P.O. Telephone Exchange on Broad St. They married during the war, and lived in rented accommodation at various camps.

IMAGE LEFT: Inside Doreen Marchewicz’s home in Langar in the 1940s. This was one of many military buildings of British airfields converted to homes during the housing shortage that followed the Second World War. Photo by permission of Doreen Marchewicz.

However, on demobilisation they were faced with the problem of where to live. There were several deserted Nissen huts on the by then disused airfield at Langar, and so the enterprising Henry became one of the first “squatters” on the site (long since disappeared , but was on the right hand side of the road between Langar and Harby , just past what is now the John Deere depot , but toward the old hangars). By salvaging materials from other buildings, Henry made what looks to be a comfortable home (see photographs of Doreen “at home”).

Eventually, aid was forthcoming from the R.D.C. in the form of piped water and electricity. Henry eventually got a job as Projectionist at the Globe cinema near Trent Bridge and so Henry and Doreen left Bingham to live in Edwalton. However they later returned to Bingham to live in Church Close. Sadly Henry died in July 2003, shortly after granting me this interview. When building regulations were relaxed in the 1950’s most of the remaining “squatters” were housed in new housing in Bingham and Radcliffe-on-Trent.

IMAGE RIGHT: Doreen Marchewicz inside her home, a converted military building on Langar airfield in the 1940s.
Photo by permission of Doreen Marchewicz


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