- BINGHAM: AN OVERVIEW
- HISTORY OF BINGHAM
- STUDY OF OLD MAPS
- BUILT HERITAGE
- CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
- FARMING IN BINGHAM
- BINGHAM AT WAR
- BINGHAM'S RAILWAYS
- ORAL HISTORY
- NATURAL HISTORY
WORLD WAR II
Recollections of the war originally gathered together by Eric Sharp have been added to by Jim Johnson.
They cover several aspects of the war:
More detail, including several personal testimonies can be found in the book Bingham’s Children of the Twentieth Century by Catherine Haynes and Hilda Smith (ISBN 1-904102-0304)
At the outbreak of War on 1st September 1939 there was a certain amount of panic. Bernard Whyley of Tythby Road whose father was the village postmaster at Newton, recalls watching the early flights at Newton from his back garden. Bernard was a junior clerk with the Bingham Rural District Council (an area bounded by Leicestershire to the South, Lincolnshire to the East and the river Trent to the West). This far-flung empire was run by only a handful of employees and until 1938 was housed in the Market Place in what is now the “Go Sing” Chinese restaurant. In 1938 the offices were moved into Haden House, which had been a private school, run by a Mr Fraser.
At the start of the war the old Council Offices, i.e. the present” Go Sing” premises, became the Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P) post from which all “firewatching” stations were controlled. Young Bernard remembers that after firewatching sessions he would have a bath in what was a large bath for its day, being some 6 ft. in length, however as one was only allowed to use water to a depth of 3inches, the whole thing was rather incongruous.
The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) crew
on standby in Bingham in 1940. These were the Bingham
by a trailer-pump that could be towed to a fire by a Bedford
At the time their fire station was in Station Street.
Photo: by permission of Greg Franks.
During the war years, many evacuees were given shelter in Bingham and the Vale of Belvoir. On the 31st August 1939 an urgent message was received by the Council to expect evacuees the following day. The first to arrive, on 1st September 1939, came from Sheffield. Bernard Whyley was tasked with gathering sheets, blankets and mattresses to provide emergency dormitory accommodation in what was the old Church Hall (next door to the Wheatsheaf on Long Acre). This building, formally known as the Coffee Room, had been leased to the British Legion since 1932, and was also known as The Legion Hall. Mrs Edith Sharp of Fosters Lane, the first lady Councillor in Bingham, was nominated “Billeting” Officer, and so all was ready. The first train-load was from Sheffield, and consisted of one child, one helper, and one doctor. Later of course it was a different story with refugees from London, Great Yarmouth, and Littlehampton pouring in. Evacuees came from a variety of home environments, and some brought problems with them. One resident recalls having curly blond hair as a child, but her parents took in an evacuee with head lice, which of course were passed on, and the curly blond locks were shorn, never to return. Another gentleman recalls an evacuee urinating in the corner of his parents lounge (known at the time as the “front room”). At least one of the evacuees was adopted by his carers, but there were probably many more.
These early problems help to explain the experiences of one of the many, Olive Starbuck whose story can be read by clicking here.
Mrs Francis Slater of Long Acre (the widow of Len Slater who had a cycle shop, firstly in the Market Square, and later on Long Acre) recalls that at the outbreak of war she was on holiday in the Northeast. Not wishing to be away from home at such a time, she caught a train home to Bingham, and remembers walking out of the station onto Station Street, which was packed with young children, clasping their carrier bags, and each with a cardboard box containing their gasmasks strung across their backs. Mrs Sharp paid warm tribute to the co-operation she received, and the great kindness shown by the people of Bingham in taking these frightened children and distressed parents into their homes, people whose outlook and habits were so very different from their own. Many of the evacuees remained in Bingham after the war and some still live here.
Referring again to the Legion Hall, it is worth mentioning that on 14 February 1942 the premises were requisitioned by the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Medical Services as a cleansing centre for the Bingham First Aid Post. Several ladies remember evening meetings at the Hall where they spent their time assembling gasmasks.
At the outbreak of war, the government ordered the immediate internment of all German nationals resident in Great Britain. I personally recall a pork butcher on Hyson Green (Nottingham), a kindly old gentleman called Miller (originally Mueller), being taken away by the police, much to the distress of his English born grown up son & daughter who worked with him in the shop. At the time, the risk of espionage was considerable and so internment was understandable .A similar occurrence happened in Bingham to a German gentleman named Zigmund Gross who lived in a flat-roofed house on Tythby Road. He was said to be an eccentric who had little to do with anyone in the community. His house was the last one on the right going up the road, just before the railway bridge. People accused him of spying on trains, and he was interned, probably to the Isle of Man. He had no family.
In addition to the Legion Hall or Coffee Room as it was known, there was also a popular cafe on the western corner of Long Acre and Cherry Street. On the opposite corner (now Dane Cottage) was a jewelers shop run by a Mr “Ticker” Johnson. The cafe was a popular venue for anglers, and was also a favourite “watering hole” for the Nottingham Cycle Club. B & B accommodation was available upstairs. The cafe was run by Mrs. Harriet Smithson, whose husband Ernest was the signalman and crossing keeper at the level crossing on Kirkhill. On the formation of the Womens Land Army (W.L.A.), the first two ladies to arrive in the area were lodged at the cafe. Both ladies worked at Starnhill farm, and on a recent visit to the Church Flower Festival, which was held in Bingham parish church of St. Mary’s and All Saints in August 2002, one of the ladies asked after “young” Peter Lamin. He is of course now retired and his son Chris runs the farm. Both ladies now live in West Bridgford and it was obvious that their efforts during the war had not harmed their health, both looking exceptionally well.
At a later date hutted accommodation was built for the W.L.A on land behind what is now 34, Tythby Road. After the war the Land Army huts were used by the British Legion as a clubhouse, with a bar, billiard table and other amenities, but eventually closed for lack of volunteer help.
Bingham appears to have escaped any air attack except one raid on 16th January - the year could be 1940, 41, 42 or 43 - but it was Frank Hardy’s birthday! A lone German Bomber dropped a stick of 12 bombs on Castle Hill, by High Westing Farm. No one was hurt but in a field by the Fosse Way a gate was blown off the cattle pen and all the animals were let loose. A water trough that had been by the cattle pen was blown quite a distance, finishing up by the main road. Keith Hammond, who lived at the farmhouse in Newgate Street remembers the family crowding under the kitchen table when the air raid warning sounded.
On another occasion, Walter Dawn, an ex WW1 veteran, was on his way home from work at Saxondale Hospital when, on Nottingham Road, he was targeted by a German aircraft. His training took over and dived into the roadside ditch and despite a broadside of machine gun bullets he survived. Enemy aircraft would follow our bombers home and endeavour to damage the air bases. Presumably, this was one of those.
Jill Kendrick remembers going with her father, who was the Chair of the Works Services department of the Invasion Committee, on his inspections of damage in the area. She cannot remember when this was, but one occasion, a mine had been dropped; they were amused by the farmer’s wife emptying her teapot in the crater.
There were a number of aircraft crashes in the area, mainly on training missions, but so far only two have been located within the parish boundaries. One in particular, a Wellington Bomber, took off from Cottesmore at 7.40 am on 21 December 1942 on a Navigation Training mission. A fire broke out in the starboard engine of such intensity that it burnt through its mountings and fell off. The aircraft crash landed at Whitefields Farm just west of Tythby Road at 10.30 am. The crew of five, Sergeants, Boyle, Tomlinson, Brown, Gray and Woods were all injured but survived the landing.
Tim Kendrick remembers this crash clearly. He lives in Canada now, but sent an email about it:
“I vividly remember watching from our house on Cherry Street as this aircraft passed low overhead, descending with its fabric-covered fuselage on fire along one side – an awful sight. I immediately jumped on my bike and found the crash somewhere beyond Mill Hill. By the time I reached it there was no sign of the crew who must have been taken away fast, dead or alive. The aircraft was by then a completely burnt-out wreck with some live .303 ammunition scattered around.”
His sister Jill remembers going there with him and in another email he says:
“The Wellington had an unusual construction: a geodesic aluminium alloy framework covered in fabric. This would explain why, although we must have arrived at the site soon after the crash, almost everything was completely burned to nothing.”
There are no photographs of this crash, but on 31st April 1941 another Wellington crashed outside the parish near Newton, but did not catch fire and is pictured here.
Another crash in Bingham Parish was an Oxford that came down near the railway station on 24 July 1945. So far, no one has come forward with memories of this one.
Throughout the war the W.I. raised money for the local comforts fund by holding weekly whist drives and dances. The fund, administered by a joint committee representing Bingham & Saxondale, provided parcels for every Serviceman and woman from the two places. After the war each received a gift of £ 4 : 4s.
Other activities centred on the W.I. were annual egg collections for the Nottingham General Hospital, a potato growing scheme for the hospital, and numerous whist drives, dances etc., in support of the large number of charitable and welfare institutions which relied upon voluntary effort. Other notable events were National Savings campaigns, “Salute the Soldier” and “Wings for Victory “ campaigns, all in response to the Governments call for more and more savings.
A salvage drive involving
collecting almost anything that could be recycled for
effort was a characteristic of the Second World War.
retrospectives showed that some of the materials
not be used but the act of collecting it was excellent
in the community at large.
Photo: by permission of Greg Franks.
In June 1943
Wings for Victory week was devoted to raising money to build aircraft for the
war effort. People were encouraged to buy War Bonds and National Savings Certificates.
Raffles, concerts and other events were staged all over the country to raise
money. It was a bleak time in the war and though the money was needed the boost
to morale that this sort of communal effort provided was probably more important.
Photo: by permission of Greg Franks.
There was a small Prisoner of War camp at Saxondale crossroads, opposite the garage (later to become a squatter site), and a very much larger one near Belvoir Castle. Several German and Italian POWs were detailed as farm-hands in the area; concrete roads were laid with their help and a potato store was built by them at Starnhill Farm, the first of its kind in England. I (Eric Sharp) remember going out to Tythby Grange farm for a week in 1945. I was at school in Nottingham, and we were collected from outside our school every morning at 6 a.m. by bus, and brought out to the farm where we spent a very long day pea picking and potato picking. I recall quite clearly there were two Land Army girls, and two Italian Prisoners of War. The reason I remember so clearly is that whilst we were breaking our backs picking peas, or even worse potatoes, the Italian Prisoners-of-War spent their time chasing the Land Army girls around the barns, and all we got was 6d. an hour and 9d. an hour for overtime. But most of all we got a sense of worth, and plenty of fresh air!