Rocklands, Norfolk

The Villages of Rockland All Saints and Rockland St Peter

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We shared our school with London evacuees

Wayland Road, Rocklands.

On Sunday, September 3 it was my sister's birthday. It was a beautiful summer's day and as usual we went to church. The rector, the Rev Crichton, told us he would start the service and that Freddie Brown had stayed behind at the rectory to hear the prime minister's speech. The church was quite full with villagers on one side and the evacuees, who we had seen arrive in coaches on the day previous, September 1. Shortly after 11 o'clock, Freddie Brown arrived and took a message to the rector who then told us that war had been declared. To an eight- year-old it was all very exciting and the weeping of the evacuees left me quite unmoved.

In the next few weeks we were issued with our gas mask, identity card (TSEYS/4 was my number), and eventually ration books. We shared school with the London children, going mornings one week and afternoons the next. Some of the evacuees soon returned to London but one brother and sister stayed with the same family until after the war ended. Another batch of evacuees arrived early on in 1940 and these were in very bad condition, having survived some very heavy bombing.

Throughout the war, the WVS met every week and knitted socks, gloves etc for the troops. The Home Guard and Civil Defence were on duty every light in a room at Wayland House, previously the old workhouse. On the day of the funeral of Mr Dudson (the founder of the British Legion in the village), August 1940, the Germans machine-gunned the village. Later on in the war, a plane from RAF Watton crashed on a field in the village and the pilot was killed.

Throughout the war, fundraising weeks were held, namely Wings for Victory week and Salute the Soldiers week etc. During these weeks, concerts, dances and whist drives were held. A large heap of old iron was continually collected in the street, near the White Hart pub, the collector being a gentleman who was often to be seen the worse for drink singing Any Old Iron, much to the children's amusement.

Early in the 1940s, one summer's day, tanks and lorries etc came into the village and parked on every available grass verge and corner and they stayed almost a week. Nobody knew why they were there but: it was obvious they were there for some reason.

For many war years, Rocklands had a good dance band, the leader being Jack Beales. The band went for miles around playing and all the dances were well attended.