|Chapter 2 Peldon during World War 2 1939-1945
Surprisingly, such a momentous occasion as Neville Chamberlain's broadcast to the nation concerning the declaration of war with Germany on 3rd September 1939 is not commented on in the neighbourhood column for Peldon but it's clear that preparations for war were well underway earlier in the year.
On 14th January 1939 the neighbourhood news reported the first of a series of six Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) lectures to volunteers from Peldon and Wigborough in Peldon School. About 40 were present and first aid demonstrations were given by the St John's Ambulance. Following the lectures exams were held in April and certificates gained by 4 women and 7 men. In the same month lectures on Gas [it was feared the Germans would subject the British population to gas attacks] were given to 20 workers representing Peldon and Wigborough. More successful candidates passed the A.R.P exams in July that year a Mrs Wenlock from Wigborough achieving marks of 100%!
Evacuees Within two weeks of war being declared the first evacuees arrived. Apart from the two entries below, evacuees are not mentioned again. [footnote]
[footnote] It's clear from the story of Langenhoe School ( Peter Wormell Called to the Classroom )
that a lot of evacuees returned home after a few weeks when it seemed there wasn't going to be an invasion or air raids, the so called 'Phoney War'. It's also clear from other sources that as the bombing raids increased that children were evacuated from this area as we were in direct line of fire. Further research with regard to Peldon is needed.
LONDON CHILDREN BILLETED When school children were evacuated from London and it appeared that Peldon
had been denied its part in the scheme there was a general feeling of disappointment and intending hostesses were stocked with surplus supplies of bread etc which had been taken in to feed the little visitors at the weekend. During the following week however an overflow party of 29 boys arrived from Rowhedge, all pupils at Water Lane Council School, Stratford and three of the masters who came with them were billeted at the Rectory. The boys have settled down happily in their several homes and they spend the time in gathering the blackberries, playing football or helping in farm work. On Sunday morning they were made welcome at the Parish Church, Stratford choir boys sitting side by side with Peldon choir boys, and a special address was given by the rector (Rev J R Wilson). Later in the day some of the boys' parents visited them. On Wednesday when the Church of England day school was re-opened, accommodation was found for the London pupils.
Essex County Standard 16.9.1939
TREAT FOR EVACUEE CHILDREN Stratford boys evacuated to Peldon have had a good time during the holidays. On Dec 28th they were taken by special bus to Colchester Hippodrome to see the film 'Stanley and Livingstone'. On the following days the boys were joined by local children at a party held in the School some 50 being present. After a bountiful tea and several lively games, a Christmas tree from the Rectory garden proved a great attraction and Mr N O R Sergeant, [People's Church warden, lay reader and A R P warden] in the role of Father Christmas distributed gifts to each guest. The sum of 30s had been allotted by the London County Council and local subscriptions amounted to £1.16.6 Cakes, butter and sugar were provided by the ladies of the parish and Milk by Mr E H A Scales [the Farmer at Harvey's Farm]. The rector (Rev J R Wilson) who is also the evacuation officer, thanked all who had contributed to the success of the evening.
Essex County Standard 6(?).1. 1940
Some things change ...
... COTTAGE MEETINGS In connection with the closing of the Parish Church and Methodist Chapel on Sunday evenings because of the war and war-time lighting restrictions, it has been decided to unite in holding a series of old-fashioned cottage meetings during the winter months. By invitation of Mr Harry Smith, 86 year old church warden, the first was held at Forge Cottage on Sunday, Rev J R Wilson presiding. The People's Hymnary was used, the company being free to call for the hymns of their choice and to take part in the discussion which followed a reading by the rector. For the second meeting an offer of hospitality by the Methodist Trust Steward, Mr W Greenleaf, had been accepted.
Essex County Standard 14.10.1939
'TILL WE MEET AGAIN' Cottage meetings held during the winter months were terminated on Sunday there being now sufficient daylight for evening services at the Parish Church. Members of the Church of England and their Methodist friends have attended regularly since the second Sunday in October. Essex County Standard 16.3.1940
The first confirmation service in St Mary's was held in 27 years. The chancel of the church could not be used for the service as it has become unsafe and will have to be entirely rebuilt. This work of reconstruction will involve heavy expenses and must wait for better times, although a start has already been made
Essex County Standard 13.4.1940
NO SHOW DURING WAR In January 1940 it was decided there would be no 5 Parishes Show until after the war and a balance of £20 would be put into War Savings.
... but life goes on ... Church services, fundraising, the loan club, parties and teas all continue and some things start up for the first time.......
WOMEN'S INSTITUTE The first meeting of the Peldon Women's Institute was held on Monday at The Plough Inn, by kind permission of Mr and Mrs Hedger ... A letter of welcome from Lady Denman to the 5834th branch was read by the chairman ... [After a secret ballot for the committee] it was found
that the ten names were as follows:- Mesdames W Baldwin, Butt, W Fenn, Gilmour, Goldsworthy, Greenleaf, L Harvey, Pullen, Scales and Walker. The next business was the election of a president and it was unanimously agreed that Mrs Gilmour, who had taken the initial steps towards the forming of a local branch should be invited. The invitation was accepted and Mrs Gilmour, after expressing thanks, stated that there were already 50 members. During an interval preceding tea a whistling competition was held, prizes going to Mrs Fenn and Mrs Wilson...It was decided to meet on the second Monday [footnote] of each month.
Essex County Standard 31.10.1942
[Footnote] This was generally during the afternoon
Despite the suspending of the 5 Parishes Show during the war years the WI put on three flower shows.
With the closure of the school December 1942
SCHOOL BECOMES VILLAGE HALL ... the decision of the school managers ... to hand over responsibility to the entertainments committee with the addition of representatives of other village organisations. There is a balance in hand of £7, together with stage properties, chairs and crockery ... A wreath was placed on the grave of a former [school] master, Mr A Green and a souvenir was presented to the oldest 'old boy' Mr H Smith who in his 90th year, is still a
churchwarden. Essex County Standard 20.2.1943
Food Production and Cooking
CANTEEN There was a crowded attendance at a meeting held at the Rectory on June 18 with the object of making suitable arrangements for the running of a canteen ... It was decided to make use of premises every evening ... Generous offers of facilities included Games ... a wireless set ... a table ... and a postbox.
Essex County Standard 29.6.1940
A public War-time cookery demonstration attracts a large and appreciative audience in 1941 and the newly
formed WI holds cookery demonstrations for tasty war-time dishes and War-time Christmas cakes and puddings.
Members of the Mothers' Union staked out claims on land recently acquired in Peldon Garden Field. [footnote] Some have already finished
digging operations and seeds are being sown Essex County Standard 29.3.1941.
[footnote] I believe this is where the old allotments used to be on land behind houses on the North side of
Lower Road [source Kay Gilmour Peldon In Essex. Village Over the Marshes]
Even hedgerow food became important and in November 1941 Some 60lbs of rose hips collected by members local branch W.V.S [the Women's Voluntary Service] have been sent by
Mrs J R Wilson [the vicar's wife] to manufacturers of babies food and again the following year
9 stone of ROSE HIPS and 11lbs of Chestnuts collected by members of the W.V.S. were conveyed to Colchester by the vicar's wife.
RABBIT CLUB The Peldon Rabbit Club, in its first year has produced 1319 lbs of meat for the approved buyer to the Ministry of Food, in addition 356 skins and a good number of does have been sold to improve the club stock. This splendid effort by a small club of only 12 members compares well with other village activities. The secretary is Cyril Christmas of Purlu, Peldon. Essex County Standard 20.2.1943
Meat Pies The sale of meat pies in Peldon is first reported January 1943. Three months later the sales record is 160 per week and the funds raised go to the Merchant Navy Comforts Fund. [footnote]
[footnote] East Anglia At War by Derek E Johnson tells us that in East Anglia in July 1941 a Pie Scheme was introduced. The idea behind it being WVS members made meat pies and took them out to agricultural workers in the field, saving valuable time for the workers and supplying much needed food rations. The reports of the Peldon scheme just mention the funds raised.
Advice is given at the WI Show in July 1943 as to how to improve the bottling of fruit and storing jam
Land Army The women's land army hostel was the building now derelict and hidden by the hedge and dense growth of blackthorn on the North side of Wigborough Road adjacent to land at Harvey's Farm. [footnote]
[footnote] On Monday 9th March 1942 the first Women's Land Army girls arrived [in Peldon]. [ E J Rudsdale's Journal of Wartime Colchester ]
Perhaps not as well-known as the Women's Land Army were the Welcs [footnote].
WOMEN'S LAND CORPS Members of the Women's Emergency Land Corps, known as the Welcs, are said to be earning their badges, local farmers having expressed themselves well satisfied with their help in weeding, thinning and harvesting.
Essex County Standard 22.8.1942
[footnote] These were usually local women (many from groups like the Womens' Institute) who worked as volunteers as and when they were able, half a day here, evenings or a weekend there. The Peldon vicar's daughter, in her memoirs (see file in church) described her mother, Mrs Wilson, as marshalling all the ladies from the Mothers' Union into work on the land, pulling up mangel wurzels, hoeing and helping with all manner of jobs. Locally, the term that came to be applied to these women was 'Mrs Wilson and that lot'.
Wherever help could be got it was welcomed
PUPILS HELP HARVEST At the conclusion of three weeks' camping at Sampson's Farm, 21 pupils of West Ham Grammar School left for home on Saturday August 21, looking fit and well after assisting at the in gathering of the harvest. Essex County Standard 27.8.1943
The new residents in the Land Army Hostel were a lively addition to the village and they were included in church services and parades and held several parties with live music at the hostel.
LAND ARMY CONCERT There was a crowded attendance at the Land Army Hostel on July 15th when a concert was given by members of the Land Army resident at the Hostel and visiting members of HM Forces. Items by the land workers included popular tunes on the piano by Mrs Marriott, a violin solo by Miss E Furnoll, and monologues by Miss R Doree. Impressions of famous radio and screen stars were given by Gunner Manny Coken and there were other impressions by Gunner Langley. Vocal solos were rendered Gunner Tommy Forster, accordion solos by Gunner Patrick, and ukulele items by Gunner Floyd who also acted as compere. The sum of £8 was raised towards the purchase of instruments for the R A band whose contributions during the evening were highly appreciated.
Essex County Standard 25.7.1942
Defence and First Aid
In 1942 a series of five weekly lectures was held at the Rectory which included training and advice covering
'general first aid', 'incendiary bombs and gas' attack and 'WVS in Emergency' and again in 1943 First Aid classes began at the Rectory. Two blood donor sessions in the village are reported.
The Home Guard are mentioned as attending various church services and parades. [footnote]
[footnote] In A Short History of The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin Peldon written by the
Reverend Anthony W Gough we discover the Home Guard were on observational duty at the top of St Mary's Church
Tower. There is a posed photo outside the Peldon Rose of the Peldon Home Guard with all the members named
- see MMC_P668_001 .
A knitting meeting was convened in March 1940 to knit socks, mittens, helmets etc and to address each parcel to a Peldon man serving in the Army, Navy or Air Force, a personal letter to be enclosed with every one.
LUCKY SOCKS At the last knitting meeting held at the Rectory it was decided to send one pair of socks to every Peldon Service man and two pairs each to the four men just back from Dunkirk, who have lost all their kit It was also decided to use the money at present in the collecting box to put some little trifles in with the socks and to pay for the postage of the parcels. All the other comforts which have been made, such as helmets, mittens, scarves etc are to be sent to the local depot at Colchester for troops serving in colder climes. Bed jackets and shirts for the Red Cross have also already been made by the members and Miss Serjeant received names of volunteers to make pyjamas.
Essex County Standard 15.6.1940
KNITTING FOR VICTORY...the fortnightly meetings had produced socks, a pullover, helmet, scarf, mittens and a greeting card for all Peldon men serving in H M Forces which had all been sent before Christmas 1940.
RECOGNISED ... It was announced in April 1941 that the Peldon Work Party [knitting group] was now recognised by the Ministry of Home Security as an official work party affiliated to the Essex County Committee for the Civil Defence Comforts Fund
WAR WORK At the Peldon Knitting Meeting held at Kemp's Farm on January 13th by invitation of Mrs Wooldridge, the leader Miss M Serjeant gave details of work done by the members during 1941. The total number of garments knitted was 211 and the contents of 26 Christmas parcels sent to Peldon men serving with H M Forces included 22 pairs of socks, 23 pairs of gloves or mittens, 20 scarves, 17 helmets, 18 pullovers, and two pairs of sea boot stockings.
Essex County Standard 17.1.1942
In December of that year 'KNITTED COMFORTS' were given to families by the Knitting Party to send to their loved ones in their Christmas parcels to cut down on postage and lessen the work of postal authorities. A 5s book of stamps for each man was included. These parcels resulted in letters of thanks from the men in the forces in the New Year.
Fundraising During the war the village was quite relentless in its fundraising for the war effort.
There was a War Savings Group who raised enough to 'buy a Bren gun and a stretcher'.
The first instalment of contributions from Peldon residents towards the Lexden and Winstree Spitfire Fund
was handed in on September 29th 1940. Collection boxes were at The Plough and Post Office. And the inevitable whist drive is held to raise funds.
In 1940 there was an appeal for contributions to the Methodist War Emergency Fund for the restoration or rebuilding of Methodist places of worship.
Then there were the national government initiated weeks, War Weapons Week was July 6th - 12th 1941
WAR WEAPONS WEEK 25 Peldon men are serving with the Forces and it is up to Peldon to assist with the supply of arms etc ... it was decided to aim at the sum of £750. Numerous attractions will include a concert by members of the Forces, a dance, whist drive, baby show entertainment or sports programme for children, competition for the best collection of fruit and vegetables and a jumble sale to be run by the Mothers' Union.
The first item in the official programme will be a church parade on the Sunday morning with a service at the Parish Church but this will be preceded by an informal gathering around the village pump on the Saturday evening. [the week's activities raised £2331.12s 9d] Essex County Standard 28.6.1941
There was a Russia Fund with Peldon's efforts eliciting a letter from the prime minister's wife, no less!
MRS CHURCHILL'S THANKS Displayed in the porch of the parish church is a letter of thanks sent by Mrs Churchill from 10, Downing Street, to Mrs J R Wilson, together with a receipt for the sum £9 collected during the first ten weeks of regular house-to-house calls for the Red Cross penny a week aid to Russia Fund.
Essex County Standard 31.1.1942
Warship Week was held 14th - 21st March in 1942
WARSHIP WEEK Warship week was inaugurated on Saturday March 14th, with a social evening at the Women's Land Army Hostel where there was a crowded attendance. In the unavoidable absence, through indisposition, of the hostel supervisor (Mrs Francis) guests were made welcome by the assistant supervisor, (Mrs Godley), and a programme of music and games arranged by Mrs J R Wilson, was successfully carried through. The chairman of the the Celebrations Committee (Captian N O R Serjeant) reminded the company that the target for Peldon was £500, and he urged all present to do their utmost not only to reach it but to double it. On Sunday morning there was a church parade of members of the Home Guard, Civil Defence, A T C, V A D and the Land Army. The sermon was preached by the rector (Rev J R Wilson B A Lth) and lessons were read by Capt. Serjeant and Lieutenant I Pullen, O C Home Guard.
Essex County Standard 21.3.1942
Peldon more than doubled its target of £500, the total sum raised being £1,200. There was a crowded attendance at all the functions, each of which took place at the Women's Land Army Hostel, a dance on the Wednesday, whist drive on the Friday, and by way of winding up, a social gathering on the Saturday when Capt N O R Serjeant, chairman of the Warship Week Committee announced the highly satisfactory financial result. Mr J Walker, chairman of Parish Council, voiced the thanks of the company to the hostess, Mrs Francis (supervisor of the hostel) and to all others who had helped. Appreciation of local workers was emphasised also in the words of a song written and sung by Capt Serjeant which included members of the Home Guard, air raid wardens and the women's services.
Essex County Standard 28.3.1942
The Wings For Victory week made £2,919 in July 1943
Then in 1944 Salute the Soldier Week was held with a target of £2000, the opening feature of which was a baseball match on June 17 1944 between Canadian and American teams. There was also a football match Peldon v The Army and a concert at the Women's Land Army hostel given by the Searchlight Highlighters. The total of the week's fundraising was an impressive £3995.
Other Collections included Lifeboats, Red Cross Agriculture Group, Waifs and Strays Society, 'Their Day' (serving men and their dependents), Essex War Welfare Flag Day, The Womens' Land Army Benevolent Fund, RNLI, Dr Barnardo's, Alexandra Rose Day, Food parcels for prisoners of war,
Merchant Navy Comforts Fund in which 'ship halfpennies' were collected [footnote], National Children's Home, Soldiers' Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association. There was a book salvage drive in May 1943 and 700 books were collected.
[footnote] A new issue of the bronze half-penny coin with an image of Francis Drake's Golden Hind on the reverse was released in 1937 upon George V1's accession to the throne.Pre-1937 Britannia's image was featured on the back. At the time of these fund-raising collections the ship half-penny would have been new - and appropriate for the Merchant Navy Comforts Fund.
The ubiquitous whist drives were held to raise money for local charities, the District Nursing Fund, the village hall, the fire services, The Knitting Party and the Peldon Air Brigade.
The War Agricultural Committee
NOTICE TO QUIT OWN PROPERTY Peldon Protest
There was a large attendance of residents at the Rectory, Peldon, on Thursday May 6th, the object of the meeting being, as explained by the rector, Rev J R Wilson B A who presided to protest against a notice received by Mr Ellis of Pete Tye Farm to leave his house on July 31.
Although when filling in the form sent by the Agricultural Committee Mr Ellis had expressed his willingness to surrender the land for wartime cultivation, retaining only sufficient to enable him to keep cows and continue in business as a milk retailer, he had received notice to quit the house which is his own property.
It was resolved to draw up petitions against the order and to send one to the Prime Minister, and one each to Mr Oswald Lewis MP and Mr Tom Driberg MP.
The petitions have since been signed by a very large percentage of electors and other residents.
'WINGS' EFFORT HITCH A meeting in connection with Wings for Victory week, arranged by the Parish Council was held in the Village Hall, Peldon, on Tuesday. The rector,(Rev J R Wilson) announced that the date fixed was June 19 - 26.
Captain N.O.R Serjeant suggested that it might be wise to postpone for a short time the formulation of any plans for the week's activities, there being at the present juncture a feeling of strong resentment at the action of the local War Agricultural Committee in serving Mr Ellis of Pete Tye Farm with a notice to leave his home.
Proposed by Mr Prior and seconded by Capt Serjeant, a resolution was drawn up as follows 'Resolved that this meeting be adjourned owing to lack of enthusiasm on the part of the residents of Peldon in relation to the actions of the Local War Agricultural Committee until we hear the outcome of our appeal to the Prime Minister'.
Essex County Standard 15.5.1943
See also Farmer's evictions
12. 6.1943 A Wings for Victory meeting is held (no further mention of Mr Ellis's problem) £1500 is given as the target.
Annual blood donor sessions are organised by the vicar's wife.
25.8.1944 BLOOD DONORS 'Peldon aided by Wigborough has gained top marks of all the villages which have been visited'
Missing Or P.O.W
MISSING AT SEA The shipping office has reported that Second Engineer (Merchant Navy) Officer Charlton Cyril Mason second son of the late George Mason of Peldon must be presumed lost at sea. Engineer Mason had a lucky escape round Narvik but lost all belongings there. He was afterwards taken prisoner by the French in Algiers and was six months in captivity, but was finally released and sent to Gibraltar, joining his ship in January 1941. He afterwards left for America.
Essex County Standard 10.5.1941
NAVAL OFFICER REPORTED MISSING Lieut. Hugh Serjeant of the Royal Navy serving with the Fleet Air Arm is officially reported 'missing'. According to the German radio he is wounded and in hospital as a prisoner of war.
Essex County Standard 16.8.1941
PELDON MAN A PRISONER Mrs Hodson of Sunnyview, Peldon, has been officially notified that her son Signalman John Hodson, who was reported missing on June 20 in the Middle East is a prisoner of war. [footnote]
Essex County Standard 7.11.1942
[footnote] from the research of Ted Sparrow, a file of which is in Peldon church, John Hodson lost his life on
14th November 1942 less than a week after his mother received notification he was a POW. John was captured in
Tobruk and transported as one of 815 commonwealth POWs on board the Italian ship the SS SCILLIN. On their way
from Tripoli to Sicily they were sunk by the British submarine HMS SAHIB. The submarine was only able to rescue 26 British POWs , one South African and 35 members of the Italian crew.
GOOD NEWS OF RECTOR'S SON Ronald David Wilson of Peldon Rectory, Cadet in Merchant Navy, has written to say that he is a prisoner of war in Japan and is in excellent health. He just went to sea at the age of 17 years in April 1941 and his ship was reported missing twelve months later. His parents Rev JR and Mrs Wilson, his sisters and all Peldon residents are rejoicing in the good news and the family feels profoundly thankful that the Red Cross, through whom the news came, can form such links with boys of the services even in such a distant country as Japan. David's postcard, which was dated Dec 19, 1942 arrived at Peldon on Monday June 7.
Essex County Standard 12.6.1943
Another letter from the Rector's son arrives on Christmas Morning in the best of health and hoping to be home
soon. Essex County Standard 31.12.1943
CHRISTMAS MESSAGE a postcard arrived at the Rectory on Christmas Day from the rector's son
by a strange coincidence the last one arrived on Christmas Day 1943.
Essex County Standard 29.12.1944
SAFE RETURN Residents have heard with pleasure of the safe return of Lieut. Hugh Serjeant of the Royal Navy, who in the summer of 1941, whilst serving with the Fleet Air Arm, was reported as missing., and later as wounded and a prisoner of war in a German camp. This popular young officer is the son of Capt' N O R Serjeant, churchwarden and lay reader at Peldon, who left the village twelve months ago.
Essex County Standard 25.5.1945
MESSAGE FROM RECTOR'S SON after an interval of 18 months the rector receives a message on July 21 1945 written April 16, 1944.
In September 1945 the rector receives a cable from his son.
NEWS FROM RECTOR'S SON Cadet David Wilson, of the Merchant Navy, in a letter to his father, the Rector of Peldon, has revealed that on April 1, 1942, his ship was torpedoed by a Greman raider, which subsequently took him aboard with others of the crew. They were well-treated by the Germans but after falling into the hands of the Japs in the following August life was sheer misery. Diet consisted chiefly of red rice, and work was on railways and in factories. Fourteen of the men died through lack of food and medical treatment and all were put in the most dangerous places when Allied bombing was in progress. Only five Red Cross parcels reached them during three years. On Saturday September 22 a seaman who had flown from Manila, reported that David was well and would be coming on by ship.
Essex County Standard 28.9.1945
By the beginning of December 1944 money is being raised and meetings held for the WELCOME HOME FUND
Peldon History Project
Thanks to Mike Watson and Pat Wyncoll
Thanks to the Essex County Standard for permission to use the newspaper material