WORLD WAR TWO IN EVERTON
Everton played a vital role during the war. Most locals were unaware of it. They weren’t meant to. There was an airfield at the bottom of the hill from where the Special Operations Executive flew secret missions across occupied Europe. Details of this story can be found in Bernard O'Connor’s ‘Tempsford Airfield’.
Because of the secrecy, you needed a permit to go down the hill. Farmers were told what to grow and needed a special permit from the War Ag to grow sugar beet. An official from the “War Ag“ used to come round with a measuring wheel and work out the acreage of vegetables, potatoes and Brussell sprouts. There were fines if you grew more than your allotted acreage. If the farm was not worked properly the War Ag confiscated it. The farm on the right when you take the road to Sutton at the Deepdale Crossroads was taken over due to bad husbandry and given to Major Tommy Ream.
During the war those that did not get called up had to join the Home Guard, the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) or the Special Police. There were about a dozen men in Everton who had to join the Home Guard. They had to look after Potton, Gamlingay, Sandy, Sutton and Everton. They had to be on duty once a week. It started at 1800 and finished at 0500 hours which left just enough time to cycle home, grab a piece of toast and then go to work!
There was one story where the Home Guards were being given a lecture on the use of spigot mortar bombs. They were gathered round one pegged into the ground in a field by Sutton Cross Roads in what is now John o' Gaunt Golf Course. It was a twenty-pound bomb weighted with sand to make it realistic. “Do we pull the trigger?“ one of the men asked. “Don't be ridiculous“, said Lord Gort, the man in charge. “It's a dummy“. What happened next was unexpected. The cartridge was loaded and it went off throwing the bomb high over the fields to land near St. Mary's Church in Potton!
Another area they went to was Carthagena Wood near Sutton Crossroads where they had hand grenade practice. The sand pits were used for practising tossing hand grenades into. Some were phosphorous grenades which led to some men getting burnt. One Everton man was reported to have said that he would shoot at any parachutist trying to land. “What would happen if he was one of ours bailing out?“ he was asked. “It'd be their bad luck,“ was his response.
One common duty was guarding the “fly-over“ in Sandy. This was the local name for the railway bridge on Sunderland Road where the Bedford line ran across the London line. Local men had to cycle to Potton where they would be picked up by a truck and taken to Sandy. They felt it would be far quicker to cycle to Sandy direct. Jimmy Nottingham who lived of Church Road asked Major Reams if they could. The request was refused. However, one day they all decided to do it anyway and met up with the others in the car park at the Conservative Club in Sandy. When they all stood in line at parade Major Reams ordered every one who was not from Everton to step forward. He then had the Everton men reprimanded by the sergeant and warned that they would be imprisoned for such disobedience if they did it again. Their punishment was having the task of night duty by themselves at the “flyover“.
Another exercise was a Sunday route march in full gear . They walked over Everton Heath, round to Potton and back to Everton. One of the duties was for eight of them to guard the road at the top of the hill between Potton and Wrestlingworth. They took turns with four on watch for two hours whilst the other four slept in a hut beside the road. One older ARP man used to join them on the way and used to hide his bike in the hedge afraid that it might get pinched and walked the rest of the way. On his way back he used to pick up his bike and then go to the pub.
Dick Hull recalled hiding in the gorse bushes when he was on duty one night on the Heath and when a man came up on his bicycle he jumped and nearly “frit him to death“. “Halt! Who goes there?“ was the command and if there was not a reasonable response the Home Guards were ordered to shoot. Most people were off the road just after 2000 hours when the pubs shut. Another Everton man did not like Home Guard duties and wanted to get fired. One time he decided to walk along the railway line firing his rifle into the air. He only got a reprimand. They used to march in pairs along the railway line at night with a pocketful of detonators.
There was one story where the Home Guards were being given a lecture on the use of spigot mortar bombs. They were gathered round one pegged into the ground in a field by Sutton Cross Roads in what is now John o' Gaunt Golf Course. It was a twenty pound bomb weighted with sand to make it realistic. One of the men asked “Do we pull the trigger?“ “Don't be ridiculous“, said Lord Gort, the man in charge. “It's a dummy“. What happened next was unexpected. The cartridge was loaded and it went off throwing the bomb high over the fields to land near St. Mary's Church in Potton!
One local man was said to have stated that he would shoot at any parachutist trying to land. “What would happen if he was one of ours bailing out?“ It'd be their bad luck.“
The local women and girls were mostly employed at Papworth Industries. They were picked up in a bus every weekday morning and taken to a barrage balloon factory in the grounds of Papworth Hospital. In those days it was used for TB sufferers. Two girls who were engaged as land girls in planting, harvesting and threshing. They used any excuse to walk across the fields to Sutton where some attractive Italian POWs were engaged on the fields. German POWs who were kept in camps on the base, at Woodbury and Tetworth, were considered good workers. Dick Hull recalls taking a cartload of beets to Sandy Station with one and was told not to help him fork them into a waiting truck. The POW had to do all the work.
They used to march in pairs along the railway line at night with a pocketful of detonators.
When the R101 from Cardington used to fly over local children used to run to the top of Warden Hill to watch it and try to catch the ropes that dangled underneath it.
Polish airmen were based at Hasell's Hall.(Conversation with Dick Hull, Everton 1999)
Have you any wartime stories?
Copies of Bernard O’Connor’s ‘Tempsford Airfield – Now the Story can be Told’ can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org (A4 version @£10.00 excl. P&P)