Childhood Memories of Wartime Bottesford
My father had given notice at a rented farm in East Leake and bought a farm in Orston. There was a six week gap between leaving East Leake at the end of March, 1940 and taking possession at Orston. My grandfather had some rented land at Bottesford so my parents rented some rooms at Beckingthorpe House, near the church, so that my father could work on that land and avoid conscription.
I remember the concrete causeway being built across the Devon near the church to take the heavy traffic to the airfield being built off Normanton Lane. When some repairs were being done at the house a young man who was mixing concrete had left his farming family to go into the building trade. He was Bill Roberts
Aged nine, I went to the school. At that time there was a bank, a police station and a gasworks in use, also a weekly auction market in the Bull yard.
The major event during our stay was the death of a Duke of Rutland, I believe the grandfather of the present Duke. War or not he had a stately funeral in Bottesford church. I remember hearing the muffled bells.
We left Bottesford on May 10, the day Hitler launched his westward offensive. The Dunkirk evacuation was about a month later. I had aquired a bicycle so was able to go to Bottesford for haircuts et cetera. A habit at that time was to visit bomb craters. The first I went to was a cluster of small craters, near the old railway, where Little Jack’s Farm is now.
The Government took over a great block of land, either side of Longhedge Lane between Little Jack’s and the level crossing towards Orston to be a petrol dump. A wooden army camp was built where the Industrial Estate is now, a network of narrow gauge railway was laid all over and huge stacks of canned petrol were built, dotted about all over. There were sentry boxes built at the level crossing and the village end. They were usually unmanned and there was free passage through but from time to time things were toughened up for a while and passes demanded.
The Bottesford Airfield hosted British bombers for a while but was later occupied by the Americans who flew towed gliders from there. They were major players in the D-Day landings.