To the disbelief of many, especially those who had fought in the First World War, on the 3rd September 1939 this country was once again at war with Germany in a conflict that would escalate into the Second War and cost the lives of over 60 million people worldwide. The conflict touched all parts of Great Britain even quiet villages like Tadmarton where the way of life had not changed much since the end of the First World war which saw 6 men of the village losing their lives.


Mrs Freda Mullins, of High Meadow Farm, Lower Tadmarton, writing in "The Link" in 1987 :

" In those days we had no electricity and mostly spring water carried by hand. We used oil lamps for lighting and if they smoked how they showed up the cobwebs! Most of the cottagers kept a pig and a few hens to help out with rations. Wild blackberries from the hedges and apples from the old orchard. There were no tidy lawns and flower beds, we grew vegetables wherever possible, so I suppose we were lucky in Lower Tadmarton"


At least the villagers were safe from German bombing although they would have seen and heard the terrible onslaught on Coventry. Damaged or lost aircraft were known to drop their bombs on the countryside, and a couple of bombs fell on Swalcliffe. There was reported to be an unexploded bomb behind Tadmarton school, now the village hall, a hundred foot deep pit being dug after the war, but nothing was found. Bob Padbury, who lived at the Lampet Arms during the war, has shed some light on this. He writes:

The "bomb"  was caused by water subsidence. It was evacuated by German POWs down to stone about 15 feet deep, through sandy soil. I think they left metal in the hole as Bomb Disposal used metal detectors and had it all dug out again at a later date."


One of the first things to affect village life was the evacuation of all children from Britain's large cities. The country into three areas: evacuation (people living in urban districts where heavy bombing raids could be expected); neutral (areas that would neither send nor take evacuees) and reception (rural areas where evacuees would be sent). Just before the outbreak of the Second World War the government decided to begin moving people from Britain's cities to the designated reception areas. Some people were reluctant to move and only 47 per cent of the schoolchildren, and about one third of the mothers went to the designated areas. This included 827,000 schoolchildren, 524,000 mothers and children under school age, 13,000 expectant mothers, 103,000 teachers and 7,000 handicapped people. The first evacuations began two days before the declaration of war in 1939. During the period known as the "phoney war" when the expected onslaught on our towns and cities failed to materialise many children were taken back to their homes.


One result of the waves of evacuations was that middle-class people were exposed to levels of child poverty from the industrial cities that most believed had disappeared after Victorian times. There was a huge uproar concerning the condition of some city children that, despite the strictures of war, Churchill commissioned the Beveridge Report which laid the foundations for the welfare state. 


 "Tadmarton had its share of evacuees, a few of whom are still in the district" wrote Freda Mullins, showing that for many children life in the country was a wonderful experience. For others, who missed their parents and home life, it could be a miserable time and abuses took place, some farmers choosing fit and healthy boys as cheap labour.

Another  change to village life was the formation of the Tadmarton and Swalcliffe Home Guard. The Home Guard (initially Local Defence Volunteers or LDV, or in humorous slang, Look, Duck, Vanish, hence the name change) was a defence organisation of the British ArmyOperational from 1940 until 1944, the Home Guard— comprising 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, usually owing to age, hence the nickname 'Dad's Army' or in reserved occupations such as farming. They acted as a secondary defence force, in case of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany and their allies. The Home Guard guarded the coastal areas of Britain and other important places such as airfields, factories and explosives stores. Many of those older men who served with the Home Guard had seen service in World War One and at one time the Tadmarton and Swalcliffe platoon was commanded by Major Eric Crossley a veteran of that war and whose son Nigel died serving his country in 1939 ( see page on HMS Gipsy).

Another volunteer in the Home Guard was Robert Padbury, landlord of the Lampet Arms. Before moving to Tadmarton he had served as a Private in 2/6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He is pictured in the centre below, on the tower of Tadmarton Church.

One of the duties of the Home Guard was to guard the decoy station and railway yards at Lower Tadmarton built to lure German bombers away from the goods yards in Banbury, where materials vital to the war effort were transported. It consisted of breeze block sheds and used the sidings from the railway at Bloxham, which ran to iron-ore quarries near Lower Tadmarton, to marshal trucks. There are no reports of the Germans being fooled by this decoy, one of thousands built across the country, indeed as Freda Mullins recalls:

 "Our rough field of about 15 acres, mostly bushes (one of the best "draws" in the Warwickshire Hunt) was commandeered by the Ministry of Defence and a false railway station built on it. There were sheds with doors half open and windows not properly blacked out. The generator for electricity was in a Nissen hut on the late Mr W.R. Lovesey's farm-himself a veteran of the First World War-and only three men to guard it! The first night it was lit up we all thought we would be sitting ducks. However, after about a week Lord Haw-Haw announced on the radio that he knew all about the sham railway station at Tadmarton, but they still went on lighting it up at night"  

Did the Nazis have a fifth columnist in Taddy? No signs of the decoy station remain although Dave Lovesey tells me he occasionally ploughs up bits of breeze block from the site.

The skies above Tadmarton pre-war would have been quiet compared to today, with private flying and air travel not so prevalent. After the declaration of war, however, the skies were crowded. Two RAF airfields were opened within five miles of Tadmarton, RAF Edgehill at Shenington , was opened in 1941, and was a satellite to Moreton-in-Marsh and home to 12 and 21 Operational Training Units, teaching crews to fly bomber aircraft. It also acted as an emergency landing strip for both RAF and USAAF bombers returning from raids over Germany. RAF Barford St John also opened in 1941 and was home to 16 Operational Training Unit amongst others. other airfields in the area included Chipping Warden, Chipping Norton, Upper Heyford and Enstone most primarily involved in the training role. The greatest demand for air crews after the Battle of Britain was for Bomber Command, who were to take the war into the heart of Germany, and air crews were introduced to the bomber via the Vickers Wellington before moving onto the "heavies", The Avro Lancaster, Short Stirling and Handley Page Halifax.

                      Vickers Wellington

                                  Short Stirling

                        Handley Page Halifax

                              Avro Lancaster

The training programme took its toll on aircraft and aircrew, with over 50 crashes in this area with over a hundred airmen killed. The reasons included bad weather, faulty aircraft and equipment, navigational and pilot errors, only primitive radar and sometimes just sheer bad luck. Tadmarton had a Wellington crash witnessed by a number of children in the village, a traumatic event for them.

There was a lighter side of the war in the air. Don Tovill remembers that Mrs Taylor's son at Bankhouse Farm in Lower Tadmarton was a Spitfire pilot and he used to frequently fly low over the farm to salute his mother. Michael Crossley, a fighter ace and son of Major Crossley at Highlands used his squadron "hack" to fly in to visit his parents, one one occasion reportedly crash landing in a nearby field.

  

                       Avro Anson

                    Airspeed Oxford 

                    Bristol Blenheim 

                 Hawker Hurricane 

              De Havilland Mosquito 

         Boeing B17 Flying Fortress 

                Supermarine Spitfire 

                  Bristol Beaufighter 

There was one aircraft  that appeared in the skies in 1942 that  was like nothing ever seen before. One farmer's wife phoned the authorities to report a plane making a strange noise was about to crash as it had no propeller. This was Britain's first jet aircraft the Gloster E28 powered by Frank Whittle's jet engine. The aircraft was tested at Edgehill and Barford St John in great secrecy. Eric Kaye, author of "The Story of RAF Edgehill, who has lived near Shenington all his life, recalls:

 “I was walking in a lane close to the airfield with my grandad—I think I was about four or five years old, Suddenly, these military looking types  shouted us to move on and keep our heads down, they went about their business very seriously. We had no idea a jet was being tested on the runway or was about to fly above our heads but the noise it made was certainly very different to anything we’d heard before.” 

Great changes would  have been seen in farming, which still mostly used heavy horses for motive power. There was a huge effort to increase food production and to this effect marginal land, parks and playing fields were turned over to agriculture. In Tadmarton some of the hallowed greens and fairways of Tadmarton Heath Golf Club were sown with cereal crops. Freda Mullins remembers:


 "After the Ministry of Defence had finished with our land the Ministry of Agriculture insisted we pull out all the scrub and trees on the "Bush Ground" and grow corn- no conservationists then!"


More tractors and other farm machinery were brought into use to speed up production and release young men for military service. The picture below, supplied by Bob Padbury, shows a traction engine threshing machine in action near the village during the war years.

As the prospect of war became increasingly likely, the government wanted to increase the amount of food grown within Britain. In order to grow more food, more help was needed on the farms and so the government started the Women's Land Army in June 1939. The majority of the Land Girls already lived in the countryside but more than a third came from London and the industrial cities of the north of England. Land Girls were a common sight in Tadmarton and many were housed in Preedy's Barn.

From 1942 American soldiers  started arriving in this country to prepare for the ultimate invasion of Mainland Europe. In Tadmarton in mid 1942 the site of the decoy railway station along with the golf course, heath and the Mullins top fields were taken over by the Americans for tank training. Mrs Mullins recalls:


" Enormous tanks on our narrow roads and they seem to enjoy smashing hedges and trees, they were here for about six months"

The war in Europe ended on the 8th May 1945 with the surrender of Japan following on 2nd September.


The war memorial in Tadmarton gained two more names to add to the six lost in the First World War.

 

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