ID PH01_INV / Elaine Barker

TitleWW2 - Peldon's Preparations for a German Invasion
AbstractWorld War Two - Peldon's Preparations for a German Invasion.

In Peldon, training for local Air Raid Precautions wardens had begun in January 1939 - well in advance of declaration of war in September. Together with volunteers from Wigborough Peldon's men and women received lectures in First Aid and gas attacks following which they took exams to ensure their suitability for the job. It was not just, however, attacks from the Luftwaffe that the country had to prepare for.

In May 1940, with pressure mounting, the government instigated the setting up of Local Defence Volunteers throughout the country. The LDV, later known as The Home Guard was only part of the preparations.

As the prospect of invasion loomed, the government issued information leaflets to the entire population. The first of these, a leaflet headed If The Invader Comes was released on 18th June 1940. Over fourteen million copies - one for every household - was distributed during the next three days.

In it the government lists seven rules for the population to follow in the event of invasion.

1. Stay put

2. Do not believe or spread rumour

3. Keep watch and inform the authorities about anything suspicious, be calm, quick and exact

4. Do not give anything to the Germans, hide food, bicycles and maps and disable cars and motor bikes

5. Be ready to help our Military but do not block roads.

6. Factories and workplaces must organise defence at once Remember always that parachutists and Fifth Column men are powerless against organised resistance

7. THINK BEFORE YOU ACT. BUT THINK ALWAYS OF YOUR COUNTRY BEFORE YOU THINK OF YOURSELF

On 22nd June 1940 France fell to the Nazis and the invasion of Britain was expected daily; our East coast was deemed to be particularly vulnerable.

A second leaflet Stay Where You Are was distributed at the end of July 1940 in order to clarify that people were required to stay put unless told otherwise by trusted ARP wardens, police or military.

STAY WHERE YOU ARE

If this island is invaded by sea or air everyone who is not under
orders must stay where he or she is. This is not simply advice; it is
an order from the Government, and you must obey it just as soldiers obey
their orders. Your order is 'Stay Put', but remember that this does
not apply until invasion comes.

The leaflet, which went through several drafts before the wording could be agreed upon, made it quite clear that people fleeing in large numbers would block the roads and could face being machine-gunned from the air as had happened in Belgium, Holland and France. The advice was to stay in shelters at home allowing the military and Home Guard to fight the enemy. Men were also urged to join the Home Guard. Finally it makes an appeal to the population's bravery and patriotism.

Stay put.
It's easy to say. When the time comes it may be hard to do.
But you have got to do it; and in doing it you will be fighting
Britain's battle as bravely as a soldier

A third leaflet, Beating The Invader, was distributed in May 1941. This leaflet begins with a message from the Prime Minister and in the event of battles on British soil reinforces the instruction to 'Stay Put' by highlighting the fewer civilians or non-combatants in these areas the better - apart from essential workers who must remain.

Those who are required to leave and move to a place of safety must STAND FIRM but those who are far from the audible sounds of battle must CARRY ON. With the production of vital supplies, including munitions, of the greatest importance, Churchill went on to write

Meanwhile all work must be continued to the utmost and no time lost'.

The leaflet answers a list of questions the public is likely to ask and describes how information will be disseminated; advice is given not to stockpile food and details of how to disable cars are given

remove distributor head and leads and either empty the tank or remove the carburettor.

The leaflet ends

GIVE ALL THE HELP YOU CAN TO OUR TROOPS
Do not tell the enemy anything
Do not give him anything
Do not help him in any way

In Peldon, in October 1940, a local Volunteer Fire Service was set up and the Parish Council instructed the Clerk to arrange for the Parish Pump to be put in order as a reserve water supply in case of emergency. The Fire Party's headquarters were in a Nissan hut situated on the corner of St Ives Hill where the Hosplant building stands now.

At a Parish Council meeting in January 1942, the rector, The Reverend Wilson, reported to the Committee that the authorities had promised 60 blankets and 55 mattresses and local houses which could be used in an emergency where casualties could be treated were listed.

It was decided that the houses should be as large as possible instead of small cottages. The following were selected (by kind permission of the owners) Mrs Booth (White House) [now Sampton Wick] available for twenty, The Rectory, thirty, The Lodge, twenty, The School, thirty, Brick House, twelve, also if it should be necessary for additional accommodation the Hostel could be used. [By March that year the Hostel was taking in its first Women's Land Army girls].

The meeting was also told that there were 95 men between 16 and 65 living in the village, 103 women between 16 and 65, and 97 habitable houses in Peldon.

The Warden reported the following tools available in the Parish.

Picks 44, shovels 88, wheelbarrows 27, ladders 26, stirrup-pumps 13, sandbags 26, buckets 152, stretchers 4, cars 20

It was at this Parish Council meeting in the schoolhouse in January 1942,that the Parish Invasion Committee was officially set up. Chaired by John Walker of Haxells Farm, the committee comprised the Rector, the Reverend Wilson (food organiser), and his wife, Lucie, (Women's Voluntary Service), Percy Golding from Peldon Lodge (Veterinary First Aid) and his wife, Gracenia, (First Aid), Edward Scales, from Harveys Farm, (Warden) and Leslie Harvey (Ives Farm), Chief Fire Officer in the Auxiliary Fire Service in the Peldon area. Mrs Butt was the representative of the Rural District Council. A representative of the Home Guard, Basil Ivan Pullen, landlord of The Rose, and PC Webb, representing the police, completed the committee.

In the event of invasion, Brick House was to be the Distribution Centre for Milk and Potatoes.

Church bells, which had hitherto been silent during the war, were to be rung if German parachutists landed in the Parish and all cars except those exempted for official business would be immobilised. Exempted vehicles would carry Emergency Labels

Thereafter the Invasion Committee seems to meet monthly throughout 1942 and the minutes are recorded along with Parish Council minutes in the same book.

In March 1942 it is agreed that there should be emergency rations held at both the First Aid point and The ARP wardens' post.

In April Mr Pullen agreed to set aside a night a week for the Home Guard to train ARP wardens in bayonet fighting and rifle drill, this military training was extended to the Fire Party.

By November 1942 between 5,000 and 6,000 gallons of water from the mains was used to fill the well, (located opposite Brick House Farm) for use in the event of fire. The same month it was agreed that in the event of severe air raids the information centre for Peldon should be at the Rectory.

By 1943 Mr and Mrs Golding had moved to Mersea and the Chair, John Walker, to Tiptree whereupon Mr Butt became Chair; Mr Greenleaf of Newholme, Lower Road, as Chief Warden, was invited to join the committee. Replacing Mrs Golding, Mrs Scales took over as leader of First Aid and 'Tiny' Prior the postmaster was also asked onto the Committee.

The last entry for the invasion committee was December 1943 by which time the fear of invasion had receded although danger from the air was still very much cause for concern.

Also in 1940 a secret force, sometimes referred to as 'Churchill's Secret Army' and a true 'underground resistance' was set up. Locally, there was an Auxiliary Unit (as they were called) at Layer de la Haye, and there are still the remains of their bunker in Chest Wood, Layer. There was another Auxiliary Unit at Fingringhoe. At the point of the invasion, these highly trained saboteurs would disappear from their homes and settle in their underground bunkers. These bunkers were equipped with food, water, explosives and weapons. The men were locals who worked on the land, were familiar with firearms, had a thorough knowledge of the area and an ability to live off the land. No one knew of the existence of these Units, not even family members. In the event of invasion, their mission was to wage guerrilla warfare, sabotaging German communications and military installations until caught. The story of local Units in Layer and Fingringhoe can be read in Auxiliary Units in WW2

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Project

Sources
MINUTES PARISH COUNCIL 1894 - 1955 Essex Records Office D/J 75/1/1

Read more:
Auxiliary Units in WW2

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum
IDPH01_INV