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War memories of Gwyneth Hopkins

© Braunton_Memories

Contributed by Braunton_Memories
People in story: Gwyneth Hopkins and Family
Location of story: Woolacombe
Background to story: Civilian
Article ID: A4804850
Contributed on: 05 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Jacqui Clayton from Braunton Memories Team on behalf of Gwyneth Hopkins and has been added to the site with her permission.

My first recollections of the war, was a Search light being placed in my fathers field at the top of Challacombe Hill, they were there for 12 to 18 months, occasionally it would go up and we thought there was a plane about, after that the American arrived and took over our field for a ammunition dump.

I was still at school then , but I remember meeting large tanks and lorries coming along the lanes, about once a month they had a big manoeuvre, a lot of soldiers were brought in from Saunton in Ducks another lot would march along the road or over the fields, they would meet in around our farm house and there a battle would commence.
They could hide in the barns and pinch the fresh eggs, and as soon as the guns commenced we had to check the hens for eggs.

On one occasion when the weather was bad, the ducks turned over and several of the troops were drowned near baggy point.
If Mother saw 2 or 3 soldiers near the back door, dripping wet (which most of them were) she would bring them in and make them hot chocolate. And they would dry up near the fire, I remember them steaming from the heat of the fire.

On one occasion one of the soldier fell getting over a hedge, he had to brought into the farm and wait until he red Cross turned up, to cart him off. We could go to bed at night and the field was empty, in the morning there could be lots puppet tents in the fields, and also Hospital tent erected at the top of Challacombe Hill.

My Aunt Flo Hopkins who lived at Landscape House and she had an American Transport officer who was Billeted with her and worked at Morthoe Station dealing with troops coming into Woolacombe , there was a lot of camps around, We kept in touch with him until about 3 years ago when he died, he brought his wife over to met us after the war was over, she was called Mabel and he was called Normand .

My father had various POW working on the farm, one in particular was with us 9mths
We became quite attached to him, he was a lovely fellow (Johann Bergmann), the POW camp was at near Bray ford, and the day he was told he would be repatriated he walked to Barnstaple Station, caught the train the Morteho Station, they he walked about another miles and a half the Road way Farm just to say Good bye!!!! Then back to camp again, Mother checked his box one day, was to see what rations they gave them (He always ate with us) there was 2 rounds of bread with a tiny piece of Meat in and a tin with a small amount of Coffee for mother to make his coffee. A few years after the war he came back, with his wife Martha and son Roland. We kept in touch until he died about 6yrs ago, we stayed in touch with Martha until she died about 3rs ago.

My family also took in evacuees from Swansea, my mother knew The sister in law of a family, who asked if she would take the mother and 3 girls in, she said for a month while they look for some where to live, they stayed with us for 2 yrs and 3 mths, and we are still in touch, in fact one of the girls married my cousin and they now live at Lee.
Source: BBC WW2 People'st War. WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.