Residents Recollections – Wartime
As we remembered the war
A fascinating collection of memories provided by the people of Sprowston. One must remember that for most when they experienced war were only children who often saw the events through children's eyes. Alas many of the contributors are no longer with us so any anomalies in their individual memories can now longer be verified so the statement of many times and locations of events may not be entirely correct. This said it gives a telling insight into what life was like.
Recollections of Sprowston Hall during World War Two
The military began to take over the hall and grounds in 1939. and to my recollection the first to arrive was an anti¬aircraft and searchlight battery. One of the first duties of the newly formed 'Local Defence Volunteers' (later the Home Guard) to assist in guarding the site, top end of Blue Boar Lane. The Royal Norfolks began to take over using it as a holding base with many types of vehicles and stores. Also motor cycles complete with training of dispatch riders. The Norfolks had some talented entertainers based there and the troupe, all in the army, did a round of tours throughout the county, calling themselves the 'Norfolk Turkeys.' The two main stars were a Griffiths Jones, a dramatic actor, enjoyed one-man set pieces. Starred in many films, one being "Wicked Lady" filmed at Blickling Hall. The other, John McHugh, Irish tenor. Singing the full range, opera to popular songs of the day. He mainly appeared on the London stage -and radio. The rest of the troupe were not of their status. I wonder if anybody can remember the 'Turkeys’ performing on three occasions at Sprowston at the then central school.1940. Troops from many nations were stationed there on a short term basis, although at one time a unit from Newfoundland were in there for a year slightly offended if called Canadians. One odd event that I witnessed with my father, was a German bomber flying unopposed in reasonable weather from the Thorpe direction, towards Sprowston hall almost parallel with blue boar lane, dropping about eight bombs and remarkable that it failed to hit anything. It turned east and sped off. The bombs exploded in blue boar woods and the last two in the present day Tesco supermarket car-park. Having seen a German bomber target map for that area recently, I am convinced the real target was Barnards, but having made a mess of the approach, had no option but unload and head home. At the end of the war and for some time afterwards the ministry of food had an office there. This may have been due to Norwich office suffering severe bomb damage. I remember that a special eastern counties bus was laid on for the staff only. This rankled with the Sprowston bus regulars, but obviously. A good reason for this special service.
Memories from Vivean Leigh
On 13th August 1942 she was coming up the road at the end of Plaford Road and Mousehold Lane when a plane came up from the city. All houses in Mousehold Lane caught the blast. Baedeker raids were immense in 1940/41 — they bombed every night in Sprowston. Barnards was bombed very badly one lunch-time. One day she hid under the stairs at her house on Mousehold Lane, and a bomb from Salhouse Road broke the front door. She was 11 when the war finished. From school they would hide in the shelter on Gertrude Road. There was machine-gunning one day as she was walking down Mousehold Lane — all the way down the lane, and her father threw her over the hedge. There were several plane crashes on Mousehold — GB and German. They would count the planes going out, and watch the gaps coming back. She would sleep in the air raid shelter at the top of the garden, down 6 steps, bunk-beds, sugar, tea, night-lights. It was very boring. 13th August — mother giving birth to brother at 8pm in the shelter. Bomb whistling. She said "He's just come into this world, and now he's going to go out".
Memories from Murial Yarnall
She was on Fire watch at Blyth for Dad's Army. 2 girls and mistress on nights. Sept 3rd 1939, "We are at War.." on radio. Everyone came outside into the street. They often spent all day in the shelters at school from 1940-41 when it was at it's worst. After Battle of Britain they felt they had gained the upperhand. Women 18+ would either go into the forces, munitions factory or war-work (man's work). There was a feeling of liberation for the women... They felt independent, and didn't want to give up the work: lots of marriage break-ups occurred at the end of the war. Due to separation of war — the distance it put between couples. A nurse friend went into Belsen. Said only "you don't want to hear about it", and has never spoken of her experiences. The Norfolk Regiment was in the front line on D day. There were heavy losses. They had been in Burma and Singapore and regrouped for D-day.
Memories from Diana Harrold
Near the Dungers house on Cozens Hardy Rd there was a pond. A bomb fell in and coated all the walls in mud. In Edwards Road there was a direct hit on the shop. All sheets/ clothes/ furniture had a label called "utility". There were still coupons in 1955. 1953 £2.50 housekeeping. You couldn't get bananas. David's brother took fruit from Africa and brought some bananas to a sick girl in Allen's Avenue in response to a national request (they were thought to be good for jaundice). The worst casualties occurred when there was a bomb on Mousehold Lane which came after no siren. Lot's of children ended up staying in the rest centre (the school hall on Recreation Ground Road), which was for people who'd been bombed out. Kitchen attached with tea and coffee and blankets — you slept there if you didn't have a home.