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The Welney Website

Raymond James

page created 1st August 2010, amended/updated Friday, 12 November 2010
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'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at' '
From a BBC history archive page – article by Raymond A. James. Contributed on: 08 June 2004

“I was born in the small country village of Welney in Norfolk on a hot Saturday afternoon. The date was the 4th of May 1929. My life was very good until I was 5 years old and my brother, Gerald was born. About this time my father (who had been a professional sportsman) started having serious health problems. Things got worse and he was in and out of Addenbrooks Hospital [Cambridge]where he was diagnosed with having stomach cancer. He died a few weeks before the war started. My mother had a very hard time trying to provide for two small boys. I have nothing but praise for what she achieved.

My first wartime memory was on the day war was declaired. I was visiting my grandmother, who incidently lived to be 108. She said I must sit down and listen to the radio as the Prime Minister was about to make a speech. He started his speech dead on 11o'clock. He told the people we were now at war. The moment he aid "at war", my grandmother jumped up and pushed me in a cupboard under the stairs and shut the door. She said, "Stay in there and you will be safe."

The next memory I have was the arrival of bus loads of evacuees from London. They came from Hackney Downs and Upton House High Schools. I don't think that they had ever seen the countryside before. While they were here we had to share school with them, we locals taking the school for half the day and they took the other. They didn't settle at all. The only family who did was a rather noisy one, the children cried all day. The mither was a heavy drinker and smoker. Definitely not a quiet village lady.

For some time it was as though there was no war. Having said this we did have two incidents.
No 1. German planes tried to bomb the Welney Suspension Bridge. They missed, dropping two bombs each side of the Hundred foot River.
No 2. A German plane dropped a landmine on the farm of Mr. Clayton. The mine did not go off as it got hooked up in a tree. Of course all the local boys wanted to see if they could get any soveniers.
Another memory was of the Home Guards, they used to have Church Parades with the ARP, Firemen and St. Johns. One Sunday they had a mock battle with Airbourne soldiers. This turned into rather a bad tempered affair. About this time I joined the A.T.C. (Air Training Cadets) 272 Squadren. I went with the cadets to an RAF bomber station just outside Downham market. I think it was called Bexwell. We were instructed that after it was dark we were to watch the bombers prepare to bomb the German towns. The Gunners in the Lancaster bombers started test firing the machine guns. This gave us all a very real scare. We then had to count the planes as they left. We got up early the next day and we counted the planes as they landed. Sadly quite a number did not return. I can still feel the terrible shock this gave us.

I have left my best memory until last. On Sunday mornings I used to cycle across the Wash Road to get the milk. On this particular morning to my surprise I suddenly saw an Areoplane in the washes. When I got to the plane I realised that it was a crash landed German Junks 88. I could see that I was one of the first to get to this plane. I started looking for keepsakes, I got one or two then suddenly I saw a revolver on the Pilot seat. I picked up this gun, tucked it in my coat and started for my bicycle. Unfortunately for me is that I saw Mr. Charlie Ray, the local school headmaster and Home Guard Captain. He said, "What have you got?" Naturally I said, "Nothing," but he didn't accept that and searched me taking the gun away. I feel sure that he kept it. The final twist to this story is: The Pilot walked all night around the village looking to find someone to give himself up to. It then came to light that there had been a Home Guard Wedding on the Saturday. Apparently they all drank rather a lot and then they all slept through the night - in their hut.”

Related pages on this website
Junkers aircraft crash, May 1941
Welney Home Guard
Welney in WW2
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