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Normandy At War


Second World War Poster c1941Here are a few examples of the contribution the village made to the services during the Second World War. Charles Crooke of Passengers Farm and Meadowside, Bailes Lane was in the RAF during 1930 to 1935 and was recalled at the outbreak of war. He served in France, leaving several weeks after the evacuation of Dunkirk and was demobilised in 1944. Norman Palmer joined the RAF in 1938 and his postings included Rhodesia and Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. Desmond Lipscombe enlisted at the age of 17 and served in the Tank Corps in North Africa and Italy. Bob Hammond joined the Royal Engineers section of the Territorial Army and later served with searchlights in the UK and France. He was evacuated from Dunkirk and was later posted to Burma with the Royal Scots. His father was a founder member of Normandy Royal British Legion and Bob, until he retired, had been standard bearer since 1949. He received a bronze statuette in 1998 in recognition of his long service in this capacity. William Fooks joined the RASC in 1940 and served in India where he met up with his brother-in-law, Les Halton, who was in the Royal Engineers and served in the Azores, the Middle East, Palestine and South India. Bill Goodchild joined an Anti-aircraft regiment in Guildford in 1941 and he later took part in the Salerno landings in Italy. Harold Moreton served with the Long Range Desert Group behind enemy lines in the Western Desert and lost a leg in 1942. Stanley Sharp joined the RAF in 1940 as an engine fitter having previously worked in garages. Cyril Dyson was with RAF Transport Command. Phil Potter also served in the RAF. The Chant brothers were called up one by one and sister Edie was left to keep the family transport business running. John Coussmaker was commissioned immediately on the outbreak of war and served for seven years in the UK, North Africa and Ceylon rising to the rank of Major. Another professional soldier who lived locally was Major George Barnes who joined the Cheshire Regiment and later transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). When he was stationed in Kent he narrowly escaped with his life when the house he was in was demolished by a flying bomb. He received shrapnel wounds, which necessitated the insertion of a plate in his skull. He was a founder member and President of the Normandy branch of the Royal British Legion. Kathleen Gardiner, who later bought Westwood Farm, qualified for her pilot's licence at the age of 23 in 1940. She flew with Amy Johnson who was a personal friend and during the war she was in the Civil Air Guard ferrying Mosquitoes, Spitfires and Lysanders and also co-piloted Wellington bombers. Her husband, Marcel, was an engineer who designed improvements to Barnes Wallis' "Bouncing Bomb" which was used by the "Dambusters".

A searchlight unit was established in huts opposite the telephone exchange (now the United Reformed Church) in Glaziers Lane and an anti-aircraft unit in a field opposite Christmaspie Cottage, manned by gunners and ATS girls. The AA guns were frequently in action and several enemy aircraft were reported hit. The personnel went to Briar Patch next to Vaglefield Farm to have baths, presumably with males and females on different nights.

Westwood House was requisitioned and used as an Officers' Mess for a company of Royal Engineers but was soon released. Irene Coussmaker was allowed to stop on in the house and a farm survey taken in 1940 shows that she had the remnants of the poultry farm, two horses and a goat.

Combined Normandy and Wood Street Home Guard
Combined Normandy and Wood Street Home Guard
The unit is grouped behind the Normandy headquarters which was a wooden hut which stood where the cricket pavilion is now. Some members are missing including the DR section led by Paddy Johnston.
Back Row L-R Bishop, Bob Codling, Nye, Kennedy, unknown, Mairs, unknown, Les Goodchild, unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown.
Second Row L-R Walter Emery, Joe Duffy, Chennell, Hibbert, unknown, Gamms, H M Smith, unknown, unknown, Herbert Applebee, Charles Barrett, Newlands, Milton, Dearsley.
Third Row L-R Doug Roberts, Tommy James, RSM Arthur Stock, Lt.Pratt, Col.Marriott (Normandy CO), Col.Adair (Wood Street CO), Capt.Dennis Parks, Capenhurst, Kit Wells, Tom Marshall, Harry Woods.
Front Row L-R Williams, Percy Woods, Brian Pickford, Bob Stannage, Tom White, Nunn, Dick Bosley, William John Woodcock, Alex Mitchell, Laycock,
If you know any of the others in this photo please let us know

In May 1940 events were not going well for the Allies and the War Minister, Anthony Eden, called for a new defence force to be set up. Recruits were to be between 17 and 65 years and "capable of free movement". The response was enthusiastic and within a week a quarter of a million men had volunteered. The force was known as the Local Defence Volunteers but in July 1940, by which time the numbers had doubled, it was renamed Home Guard at the suggestion of Winston Churchill. Their task was to keep watch on the coasts, public buildings, roads, railways, etc for signs of enemy invaders who might come by parachute as well as by sea-borne landings. They also did important work in rounding up enemy airmen who had been forced to bail out from aircraft.

Home Defence Poster c1939After the fall of France, there was a real possibility that this country would be invaded and the Ministry of Information issued a leaflet entitled "If the Invader Comes" which gave advice on what to do if the worst happened. Mindful of the experience of Holland and Belgium where refugees had choked the roads and prevented their own forces from engaging the enemy, the advice was to stay put until told to evacuate an area. The Home Guard assumed an important role in the life of the countryside. They were at first poorly armed (the early units had only shotguns, pitchforks and other primitive weapons) but the force grew into a dedicated body. Although lampooned as "Dad's Army", many of the members were veterans of World War I and had not forgotten their soldiering skills. Old cars were requisitioned for roadblocks and obstructions set up in fields to stop gliders landing. The Normandy Home Guard was linked to that of Wood Street. Their first Commanding Officer was Major Darby who lived at Orchard Dene. Colonel Marriott, who lived at Hunts Hill House succeeded him, and his officers were Captain Parks and Lieutenant Pratt and Lieutenant Doug Roberts. They assembled for parades in the grounds of the British Legion and their headquarters were in a wooden hut, used by a digging company of Royal Engineers, which stood on the common where the cricket pavilion is now.

In the early days when ammunition was in short supply those with shotguns were issued with 12 bore cartridges with a five eighth inch ball bearing in place of the lead shot. It was decided to try one out firing at a builder's plank and it not only split the plank in half but also tore off the metal reinforcement at the end. What it would have done to an enemy does not bear contemplation. On another occasion, the unit was being taught to throw live grenades from a slit trench at the Guards Depot at Pirbright and when a nervous member threw his grenade it struck the lip of the trench and rolled back on to the floor. The unit beat all records for getting out of that trench!

During the early part of the war, an area of the heath north of Pirbright Road and opposite the house called Springhill was used to train the Home Guard in the use of the bazooka anti-tank weapon. They fired towards Whitepatch Hill on which there was a pile of 50-gallon oil drums. In 1943-44 this area was utilised for hundreds of carrier pigeons housed in three or four tier double-sided boxes which stretched for 100 yards. There was a pistol range on the common south of the road near Old Thatch. Firing was into the hill towards the road. George Wopshott was in charge.

Normandy Fire Brigade
Normandy Fire Brigade
The Group is pictured on the occasion of the Brigade winning the cup for Fire Drill in 1945.
Back Row L-R Bill Brown, Tom Honeybourne, Alf Godwin.
Front Row L-R Albert Sweet, Jim Marshall, Charlie Storr, Charlie Collier, Sam Gunner.
The prizewinning team were Sam Gunner, Charlie Store, Charlie Collier and Jim Marshall.
No less dedicated than the Home Guard was the Normandy Fire Brigade. It was formed soon after the outbreak of war with fifteen men and was based at Manor Fruit Farm sharing the ARP post with the wardens. Their equipment consisted of a civilian car with a trailer fire pump supplied by the Fire Service. Although several bombs, including incendiaries, were dropped in the area, the Fire Brigade was seldom called to action, except to put out heath fires. Early in 1945 the station was transferred to the Open Road Garage which was on a site opposite the former Anchor pub. Better facilities were provided and the equipment was increased to two pumps and two towing vehicles. A former member, Sam Gunner, recalled a practice operation when they were required to go to the top of one of the gasholders at Aldershot Gasworks. Halfway up, the lift they were in jammed and they were stuck there for over an hour before they could be rescued. On another occasion the Brigade on a practice exercise set fire to the old Stud Farm in Flexford which was then derelict. They thought that they had put the fire out but in the night it flared up again and it was only at the insistence of the ARP that it was infringing blackout regulations that the Brigade put it out again. Known members of the Brigade were Bill Brown who worked for Guildford Council and lived at 4 Willey Green Cottages, next door to The Duke of Normandy P H, Tom Honeybourne who lived at Wyke Avenue, Alf Godwin the landlord of The Duke of Normandy, Albert Sweet a local postman, Jim Marshall from Clasford Bridge Estate, Charlie Storr who was the local florist and lived opposite the Anchor, Sam Gunner who lived at Sunnyside, Guildford Road and later farmed at Grove Farm, Frog Grove Lane and Charlie Collier who lived on Dolleys Hill. In 1940 Normandy Fire Brigade won the Guildford Civil Defence Committee's Cup competing against 12 strong crews.

Normandy ARP Wardens
Normandy ARP Wardens
Back Row L-R:
Mr. Beer, Albert Norman, unknown, unknown, Bert Douglas Young, unknown, Alfred Pudduck, William Wiltshire, Dick Halton, Mr. W J Beer, unknown, unknown, unknown.
Front Row L-R: Bill Rodgers, unknown, Richard Beer, Arthur Milton, Capt.Johnson (Head Warden), Bill Olley (Deputy Head Warden), Mr. Steele (DR), Mrs Bevan,unknown.
If you know any of the others in this photo please let us know
Another important unit was the Air Raid Wardens. They wore blue overalls, and a steel helmet emblazoned with a white "W". Their duties included supervising air raid precautions, issuing gas masks and enforcing the blackout. An air raid post was set up in the area as early as 1938 during the Munich Crisis and the blackout began on the night of 1 September 1939. People rushed to buy suitable material such as heavy curtains, black paint, cardboard and black paper. The Normandy unit's post was at Milton's barn in Glaziers Lane. The Chief Warden was Captain Johnson and his deputy was Bill Olley. Other known wardens were Bill Rodgers, the Beer brothers, Mr Milton of the market garden, Mr Steel a Civil Servant, he was the dispatch rider, Mr Norman the rose grower, Alfred Pudduck who had a fish round, William Wiltshire who had a smallholding and workshop at Lynthorne near the Anchor, Dick Halton the messenger boy, Mrs Bevan, Martin Barlow who was the manager of Hawkins butchers shop, he was also duty butcher for killing air raid damaged cattle and was called to the crash at Merrist Wood and Mr Worster who kept the grocery store. There were also the Fire- Guards who were the junior members of the Civil Defence services. Volunteers of both sexes in the village were trained and controlled by Sector Wardens. Compulsory registration was introduced in 1943, the strength was increased and they were organised as a separate service under their own officers. They were disbanded in 1944.

Other groups such as the WVS were active and the Army, Sea and Air Cadets provided eager young men with a basic training before they went into the Forces. Many women joined the Women's Land Army, among them John Coussmaker's sister, Elizabeth. His aunt, Violet Allott, became the Commandant of the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley near Southampton. Sir Philip Henriques was Chairman of East Surrey Civil Defence.

The Wyke and Normandy Women's Institute rose to the occasion by contributing over 1000lbs of jam to the National larder. They also played a part in a Pie Scheme and knitted garments including many for refugees in Europe. Thousands of swabs were made for the hospital and voluntary workers helped in wards.

As the conflict wore on, the dogfights of the Battle of Britain period gave way to sporadic raids. The Royal Aircraft Establishment was bombed on a few occasions and there was some damage done in Guildford and Aldershot. It was estimated that about thirty large bombs dropped within the borders of Normandy parish. However, only minor damage occurred in Normandy. A string of four bombs was dropped south to north, the first one landing near the British Legion hut. The next one cleared the houses and fell behind some kennels. The third ended up in a field and the last in a wood without exploding. A report stated that an aerial torpedo was dropped on the western side of the stream going under Glaziers Lane. This failed to detonate but was found 25 feet down in the earth. What a torpedo was doing so far from the sea was not explained. A land mine was dropped near Tunnel Hill on the ranges. John Mullard recalled that the explosion lifted his bed off the floor but when he asked his father what he should do the reply was "It's a bit late now, go to sleep". He was told later by the village policeman that the land mine had felled a swathe of pine trees of about half a mile in diameter fanning out from the centre of the explosion. Finally, what was reputed to be the second Doodlebug (flying bomb) to land on British soil ended up in the sewage farm near Elm Hill, an appropriate resting place for such a weapon.

Several aircraft crashed in the area including a Dornier bomber that came down near the Anchor but the most tragic incident occurred in 1941. On the night of 10 March, a Halifax bomber returning from its first raid on enemy territory was hit by "friendly fire" and the wreckage crashed at Merrist Wood just inside the parish boundary. Four of the crew were killed but two survived by bailing out. In 1996 a new golf course was being laid out and a rescue operation recovered an almost intact Merlin engine and other parts from the aircraft. The spot is marked at the 14th green on the golf course by a plaque.

A memorial service was held in March 1997 when the plaque was dedicated. Among the guests were three local people who, as children, visited the site shortly after the crash and were able to help in pinpointing the exact spot where the aircraft crashed.

As the fortunes of war began to turn in the Allies' favour, preparations for the invasion of the continent were made. Military units were moved into the area and there was much activity with Army vehicles. The Hog's Back was lined with tanks and a force of Canadians were encamped in a field opposite South Lodge in Westwood Lane. The Avenue between Westwood Lane and Glaziers Lane was jammed with vehicles. At last D-Day dawned and the sky was black with aircraft, many of them towing gliders, en route for the other Normandy. Richard Dimbleby made a broadcast announcing the invasion from a BBC blockhouse that had been built at what is now the junction of Culls Road with Christmaspie Avenue and is commemorated by a plaque.


The appeal on the wireless was answered
The locals foregathered that night
The Defence Volunteers were started
And arms were brought to the light.

"Form fours" - we found that dead easy
Till an order from Council decreed
That threes were the ones that were needed
But no one was able to lead.

Bisley we had for one forenoon
Crack shots we intended to seek,
Bad marksmen, however, were many
But improved by the end of the week.

One night, in September '40,
Our church bells were heard to ring,
We mustered in twenty-two minutes,
Our arms slung about us with string.

We guarded the posts till the morning,
Taking the smooth with the rough,
We stuck it till "fourteen-thirty"
And then called the enemy's bluff.

Enough of the German invasion,
The Home Guard were taking the lead
With Monty in charge of our tactics,
What more could Normandy need.

Then training was started in earnest
Twelve sorts of rifle to sight,
Grenades from Molotov cocktails,
To things that went "bang", if worked right.

The Assault Course now fills our horizon,
Fire, water, smoke, shouting and mud,
Any hanging about in the tunnel
The NFS nipped in the bud.

Training all sorts, shapes and sizes,
Good, bad, indifferent and fair,
Till the Company at last assembled
Right here on our own village square.

Addresses and thanks in profusion,
To say nothing of clothes we might keep,
But what the Home Guardsmen were after,
Was a night out, with the lads, once a week.

For writing this very poor doggerel,
We apologise now to you all,
But when you feel cross and disgruntled,
Remember, we answered your call.


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