The Second World War Era
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR
Nothing much happened during the first few months of the war though everyone in Europe was holding their breath.
Everyone in England was issued with a National Identity Card, which had to be carried at all times. Gas masks had been issued to every man, woman and child, and these had to carried when one left the home or place of work.
There was the same surge of patriotic feeling in the parish as had been the case in 1914. Young men rushed to join the Armed Services and older men joined the Home Guard, the Auxiliary Coastguards, or the Royal Observer Corps. Once again confident utterances were heard, such as, ‘We’ll just have to teach Hitler a short sharp lesson!’
‘LISTENING STATION’ AT KNITSON
As early as 1936 a radio listening facility had been constructed on Nine Barrow Down on land belonging to Knitson Farm at the north-eastern corner of Langton Matravers Parish. Tall masts were erected and three ‘Nissen’ Huts were buried under reinforced concrete on the top of the Down and a third in the side of the hill. Electricity had as yet not been laid on to the local cottages but a supply was brought to this listening facility some twenty-five years before it was provided for local inhabitants. Two more Nissen Huts, an ‘Arcon’ prefabricated hut, and a latrine block were constructed in a tiny field beside the farmhouse. These provided living accommodation for the technicians working the centre.
This was nominally a Royal Naval site but Army, RAF, and civilian personnel were also employed there. Later in the war, as D Day approached, USA personnel also joined the staff. Clearly this was a most important communications centre but, nearly seventy years after the end of the war, no-one has been able to find out from the authorities any details of what went on there. The site was relinquished in 1947. One of the Nissen Huts and the latrine block are now used as garden sheds at Knitson Old Farmhouse. The Arcon building was later given a brick skin and is now the bungalow known as Meadows. Another of the Nissen Huts is the shed in the garden of Meadows. The bunker on the hill-top and the site of the masts have been taken over by a private communications facility with its own modern mast but the site of the original masts is still marked by two massive steel girders.
This was definitely not anything to do with the Radar establishment of Langton, neither was it, we are assured, anything to do with Project Y, an ultra-high-security radio listening network. However, it must have been of considerable importance during the war.
THE HOME GUARD
The headquarters of the Home Guard was in the north-west corner of Coles ground and it was here that they had their weapons and ammunition store in a building with a domed roof. They regularly trained in Coles ground. Although they were often ridiculed, (such as when one of the squad took two shots at a British plane overhead before he could be restrained, believing it to be German; or when the same man with a mortar shot down the power cables which pass through Coles ground, plunging part of the village into darkness), this unit would have been essential if the expected invasion had actually taken place, and local people knew this.
The Colonel Commander was Mr Arthur Gilbert. The Captain was Arthur Davis; the Sergeants were Bert Audley and Bert Harris; the Corporal was Frank Ball. Others included George Porter, Arthur Porter, Cecil Porter, George Audley, Harold Foot, Bill Lucas, Les Lucas, Harold Gordge, Geoff Wall, Reg Cobb, Arthur Harris, Jim Ball, Andrew Crabb, John Horlock, Harry Wharton, Hedley Lander, Walter Haysom, Harold Hunt and Arthur Price.
The Auxiliary Coastguard Station was on the cliff-top just to the west of Dancing Ledge. It was surrounded by a huge roll of barbed wire. Those on duty there were armed and had strict instructions to shoot dead anyone seen on the south side of the barbed wire entanglement which lined the cliffs. All the cliff-side quarries and coves were, of course, out of bounds to all civilians. The Coastguards had to log all shipping seen in the Channel. These volunteers included Bill Bradford, Herbie Hooper, George Bower, Harold Sadler, Frank Bower, Tom Lovell, Hedley Lander, Bill George, Alan Weeks and a man named Pullinger who lived at Gallows Gore.
ROYAL OBSERVER CORPS
There were at first two Royal Observer Corps Posts: one on the footpath running along the top of the Wares above Dancing Ledge; the other on the road to Worth Matravers just beyond the parish boundary. The first mentioned was rather like a sports pavilion, with a veranda. When enemy planes came in low, as they did to avoid detection by radar, they only just missed the roof so the occupants flung themselves to the floor and missed the immediate opportunity to telephone the information inland. It was, therefore, closed down after a few months. Those who manned the remaining post were David FW Saville, Walter Haysom, Jack Inge, Godfrey Hooper and Alphaeus Brownsea Bower. From Worth Parish there were in addition Ted Pushman and James Duncan.
WOMEN’S VOLUNTARY SERVICE
Miss Dymond organized a Langton Branch of the WVS and she was its President until she fell and broke her leg, after which time Mrs Margaret Nichols took over as President. There were twenty-five members and a group photograph has survived, though without the two Misses Sage, and Miss Croome who had returned to Canterbury before it was taken. The remaining twenty-two were: Miss Dymond, Mrs Nichols, Mrs Florence Town, Mrs Daisy Rowe, Miss Emily Curry, Miss Lilian Harris, Miss Elsie Farwell, Mrs Ballard Marsh, Mrs Ivy Hunt, Miss Ruth Wingate, Mrs Marjorie Duncan, Mrs Margaret Wellman, Mrs Cecily Bower, Miss Vera Chedd, Mrs Nellie Bower, Mrs Lock, Mrs Knock, Miss Olive Bower, Mrs Eileen Calkin, Mrs Amelia Eastment, Mrs Bessie Marsh and Mrs Alice White.
Miss Audrey Hesketh of the Women’s Land Army arrived in the village to be a farm worker at Langton Manor Farm. She later married the farmer’s son and remained as the next farmer‘s wife.
RED CROSS CADET UNIT
The Langton Unit was Number 2494 and its Commandant was Mrs Anderson of Harry Warren House in Studland. Other officers were Miss Barbara Smith of Swanage and Mrs Smale of the Peveril Point Hotel in Swanage. The cadets were: David Saville (Sergeant), Brian Collins and Keith Harris (Corporals), Jim Bradford, Derek Bower, Rodney Oliver, Angus Smith and Les Hobbs. The unit went camping on Kingston Hill and in the grounds of Harry Warren House.
The first real disruption in the village came when the little boarding school called Garfield, run by Mr and Mrs Crawshaw was requisitioned for evacuee families from London. Shortly afterwards an entire Secondary School from Loughborough Road in London was evacuated to Swanage and Langton with its teachers, and classrooms were taken over for its pupils’ continuing education. Some of Langton School’s pupils were then taught in the Methodist Sunday School Room (the 1843 Chapel) and the Anglican Sunday School Room (the former National Schoolroom).
Twenty-four of this evacuated school’s pupils were billeted with Langton families. Their hosts and hostesses thereafter always spoke very kindly of them and there was no trouble of any sort. When one thinks of the vast differences in life-style and outlook between these city children and the village boys and girls the fact that there was no trouble clearly demonstrates a tolerant and kindly attitude on the part of both groups.
There were, of course, other evacuees whose families or close friends lived hereabouts and to whom they had fled from the bombing of London, Portsmouth, Southampton, Bath and Bristol. One such, who later became famous on the television and as an actress, was Sheila Hancock who was billeted with the Barry family at Seaspray near Dancing Ledge. Some of these evacuees stayed in the village for the rest of their lives.
The experimental scientists, called AMES, had a large camp just west of the village of Worth Matravers. When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister he ordered that the large number of these scientists should be separated into three groups for safety reasons: one in Swanage, one in Langton Matravers, and the third remaining at Worth. So two more Boarding Schools of Langton were requisitioned: Leeson House School for Girls and Durnford Preparatory School for Boys. The Durnford boys were transferred to The Old Malthouse School.
Both of these requisitioned properties were surrounded by huge barbed-wire fences, and there were armed guards at the gates. Meanwhile the top-secret work to perfect radar and precision bombing went on at break-neck speed in the three establishments. No-one in the village knew what was afoot. Had they known they would also have guessed that the presence of these scientists made the village hugely vulnerable to German attack. No photographs of the sites exist, as no photography was allowed in the entire area at this time.
Some of the famous scientists who worked at various times at Leeson House or Durnford included AP Rowe, Sir Robert Watson Watt, Sir Alan Hodgkin, Sir Bernard Lovell, Sir Edward Appleton, Sir Martin Ryall, Dr William Penley and Henry Wimperis.
Some important guests came to the two establishments, including Air-Commodore His Royal Highness Prince George, Duke of Kent, Air Chief Marshal Sholto Douglas, Air Marshal Dowding, Sir Henry Tizzard and Sir Philip Joubert (Note 162).
THE BOMBING OF LANGTON VILLAGE
When the raid on Bruneval captured secret documents and the Enigma Machine which were then painstakingly decoded it was learnt that a raid to destroy the radar headquarters in Langton was planned for a certain date. So the chief scientists secretly left, taking with them their discoveries so far, leaving the rest of the staff to sit out the bombing; for if they had also left, the German High Command would have known that the Enigma machine’s code had been broken. The attack came in the middle of a night in May 1942. Several huge explosions were heard, but there had been no Air Raid Alert. The boys of The Old Malthouse School were quickly brought downstairs in slippers and dressing-gowns and regaled in the dining-room with cocoa, biscuits, and funny stories. At dawn the amazed villagers saw that the craters, which were enormous, were situated immediately south of the line of the village, just missing Leeson, the village, and Spyway School. The only casualty was Whitefoo’, one of the horses of Putlake Farm, which died after a large piece of shrapnel went into its side.
Local men laughed at what they perceived as a shortage of good German bomber-pilots so they had had to resort to using older men with thick spectacles who mistook the shadows of trees for those of dwellings.
Actually nothing was further from the truth. Many years later two of the pilots of that mission told the story whilst on a nostalgic visit to the north aisle of Langton Parish Church where they, two sons of a German Baron, had sat on many Sunday mornings as pupils of Durnford School, listening, as they said, to very boring and seemingly endless sermons. They had been ordered to blast the village off the map but could not bring themselves to do this to a place where they had spent a very happy childhood, so had dropped the bombs very near but where they knew they could do no serious damage.
The loyalty of former pupils of one of Langton’s boarding schools had thus saved the very existence of the village!
BREAK-THROUGH IN CENTIMETRIC RADAR
The remainder of the radar establishment had, of course, left the area at daybreak after the bombing. The actual break-through in Centimetric Radar was, however, achieved at Leeson House, where there is a plaque recording this on the wall of the east front, beside the window from which a submarine in Swanage Bay, its direction, and speed, were detected on the radar screen. Work was also done there on other inventions which greatly helped to win the war, includng Oboe, a device fitted to planes to ensure pin-point accuracy in bombing, and Gee’, which gave a fairly accurate position of a flying aircraft (Note 166).
BARON LANGTON MATRAVERS
Another Old Boy of Durnford School to whom a great deal was owed was Admiral of the Fleet Jack Tovey who was responsible for the sinking of the Bismark. When asked what title he would like on his elevation to the peerage, he surprised King George VI by saying ‘Baron Langton Matravers, for some of the happiest days of my life were spent in that village’. After his retirement he came to live in Swanage and regularly came to Matins at Langton Church, until one Sunday when the time of that Service had been brought forward to allow the Parish Communion to come after it. The Baron arrived just as Matins was coming to its end. He stood at the south door and shouted that the change was unacceptable and that he would never darken the door of the church again! It was insensitive not to have warned him of the change, and his outburst was exactly the reaction which could have been expected from his adored former headmaster, Tom Pellatt.
After the Baron's death his banner as a Knight Commander of the Bath, which had previously hung in Westminster Abbey, was sent to Langton Church and was hung on the west wall. Later still the little bell from Kingston Old Church was purchased and hung in Langton Church Tower in memory of him.
CHURCHILL’S SECRET ARMY
What the parish did not know was that there was yet another Unit, the existence of which was highly secret, training for highly dangerous action in the parish in the event of invasion. This was the local Auxiliary Unit of Churchill’s Secret Army, which actually had no existence in law. Army Lt Wheeler visited the parish from Coleshill and chose Mr Fred White, the baker, to be the Sergeant in charge of the Langton Unit. Sgt White was left to choose the six other members of the Unit, who had to be responsible men who could be trusted not to tell anyone, even their own families, about the Unit and its ultimate uses. Men who had served in the Forces in the First World War were preferred as they would already have a sense of duty and responsibility and would already be familiar with a rough lifestyle. They wore army battledress so were thought to be just members of the Home Guard, though their function was quite separate.
Mr White chose Hedley Lander (a milk roundsman), Charles Haysom (a baker’s assistant), Maurice Dallenger (a shopkeeper, who replaced Haysom when he enlisted in the Army), Bert Audley (a baker’s roundsman), and quarrymen Douglas Norman, Nelson Burt and Charles Coleman (Note 163).
This unit had a secret underground bunker in a private woodland called The Wilderness, situated in the valley north of the village and in the curtilage of a house by the same name as the woodland, owned by Mr Arthur Gilbert who was the Colonel commanding Langton’s Home Guard. The bunker was approached singly by members of the unit through fields to the south. It had been constructed by a Unit of Army Pioneers brought in at dead of night in a lorry from much further north. There were no lights at all, of course, so the men would not have known where they had been taken. The bunker’s trap-door was covered with grass, earth and branches when not in use. Inside it resembled a very large Nissen Hut with brick ends, divided into three compartments. These compartments were fitted out as sleeping-quarters, eating-quarters, and store-room. There were bunks, mattresses, blankets, chairs, table, cupboards, oil-stove, water-tank and drain. Fresh air came in through a series of pipes resembling field-drains. In the store-room there was an enormous amount of explosives of various kinds, weapons, ammunition, knives, compasses, camouflage kit and other camouflage material, a quantity of morphine and a large jar of rum.
Sometimes the men of the unit were picked up by truck at a pre-arranged point on the Valley Road and conveyed to Duntish Court, a large mansion in Buckland Newton near Sherborne. Here they received intensive training in night-manoeuvres, sabotage and murder by stealth. The ultimate function of these units (there was, unknown to the Langton Unit, one other in Purbeck, at Creech) would come into operation only after invasion had happened. The men were then to leave their homes altogether and ‘go to ground’ in the bunker, emerging only at night to observe enemy positions and details, and then to sabotage the enemy fuel dumps, aeroplanes, tanks and other vehicles, killing silently (with a knife if possible, otherwise by breaking the spine) any enemy personnel whom they came across, or who came across them. Each auxiliary carried a suicide pill in case he was captured, and this he had to swallow before any interrogation could take place.
In retrospect, it is obvious that such a tiny unit would not have lasted out for any great length of time so these seven men were expected to put their lives at great risk in the same way as front-line troops. The unit was put on General Alert on several occasions, particularly when enemy E-Boats were sighted in the Channel south of Dancing Ledge. The code-word for the general ‘stand-to’ was Cromwell. Mercifully the threatened invasion, which was thought by most people in England in 1942 to be a certainty, did not happen as the German High Command delayed for various reasons and the RAF then won the Battle of Britain.
The bunker is still there, though now empty and partly flooded. Mrs Alice White, who had two young sons, was outraged when, after the ‘stand-down’ of the unit which came in November 1944, she was told that the boxes under her bed, which she had been given strict instructions not to move under any circumstances, had contained gelignite
SERVING LANGTON MEN AND WOMEN
In 1940 Langton School issued the following list of former pupils who were already serving in the Armed Forces:
Fred Burt, George Harris, Arthur Crabb, Jackson Howell, Stanley Hooper, Arthur Harris, Edward Cattle, Ronald Bower, Wilfred Suttle, Ronald Samways, Leslie Turner, Gerald Ball, Howard Burt, Edwin Corben, George Bower, Gordon Hobbs, Harry Flockton, Laurence Eastment, Arthur Rendall, William Lander, Frank Bonfield, John Downton, Albert Bower, James Harris, Thomas Ibell, Albert Smith, Arthur Smith, Reginald Smith, Charles Dowland, John Wellman, Ross Bower, John Reed and Robert Turner.
However, some of these names were of lads from Worth Matravers, as the school served both villages.
More names were to follow, including
Sidney Walbridge, Alec Walbridge, Sidney Grant, Walter Burt, Len Travers, Fred Wellman, Henry Wellman, Bob Hansford, Nelson Bower, Edgar Bradford, Ted Eastment, Philip Bower, Bob Bridle, Ken Suttle, Maurice Suttle, John Studley, Charles Haysom, Bob Audley, Ken Ball, Frank Edmonds, Sidney Croft, Roger Tadman, Jack Hobbs, Charlie Hooper, Bob Flockton, Harry Lucas, Charlie Lucas, Dave Edmonds, Arthur Frampton, Fred Porter, Brian Guy, Thomas Bower, Glen Bower, Fred Grant, Eddie Flockton, Arthur Lucas, Leslie Lucas, Richard Eastment, John Davis, Ivor Hadrell, Gerry Hatchard and Reg Saville.
This list of seventy-five may, even now, be incomplete.
Then there were the Langton girls who served:
Nurses Marjorie Burt and Doreen Burt; ATS Sergeant May Bower;
WRAF Sergeant Winifred Edmonds BEM; and WRAF Margaret Edmonds.
Chief Petty Officer Arthur Newton had joined the Royal Navy as a boy in May 1914. He was discharged in 1937, but recalled in 1939 and was not finally discharged until September 1946. He is the only known Langton man to have served throughout both World Wars.
AWARDS FOR LANGTON MEN
Several serving men of Langton received awards.
Lance Sergeant Ernest Wilfred Suttle of the Royal Engineers was awarded the George Medal on 30th September 1941 for (1) successfully removing a 250 kilogram bomb from the Test Laboratory and Transfer House of the English Electric Company in Stafford in October 1940 (2) when one of two 250 kilogram bombs exploded in the Aeroplane Assembly Shop of Humber Hillman in Coventry in November 1940, killing two of the working party, Sgt Suttle volunteered to continue working and successfully dismantled the second bomb, and (3) for entering a deep crater in Birmingham in December 1940 and saving the life of one of the working party who had fallen in and was overcome by fumes. In the latter incident he refused to be drawn up himself until the unconscious comrade had been saved, though he had also been severely affected by the gas (Note 164).
RAF Warrant Officer Laurence D Eastment was awarded the Air Force Cross ‘for distinguished service in non-combatant operations’ in October 1944 which had involved climbing out on to the wing of an operational plane in flight. He had previously been Mentioned in Despatches in September 1943.
In March 1945 Staff Sergeant Edgar G Bradford of the Pioneer Corps was sent a Citation from Field Marshall Montgomery recording ‘outstanding service and great devotion to duty’ during the campaign in north-western Europe. By that time Sgt Bradford had already taken part in three assault landings, in Sicily, Italy and Normandy (Note 165).
Petty Officer (Telegraphist) Herbert Thomas Brown of HMS Keren was Mentioned in Despatches in August 1942 ‘for conspicuous good work under the command of General Wingate’.
Major Roger J Tadman, RASC, was Mentioned in Despatches in December 1945. He was later taken prisoner but was released by advancing British troops.
Flight Sergeant GH Smith was Mentioned in Despatches for ‘devotion to duty’ in August 1944.
Captain Roy Eastment (Gurkha Regiment) was also Mentioned in Despatches.
RENEWED THREAT OF INVASION
The invasion scare had been very real. After the retreat from Dunkirk morale was low, forces depleted, and Britain stood alone except for certain distant colonies and the depleted forces of a few European Governments in exile. The entire Atlantic seaboard from the north of Norway to Oporto was in the hands of the enemy.
Nevertheless the words ’defeat’ or ’losing the war’ were never heard in the parish of Langton Matravers. The grim-faced folk went about their duties in the certain knowledge that one day decency and right would prevail. They were, of course, greatly encouraged by Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous broadcast speeches.
Many years after the war, when formerly secret documents were made public, it was discovered that the German Sixth Army was to have been shipped from Cherbourg to Weymouth and the coastal areas east of that town: so Swanage beach would most certainly have been an invasion point.
Langton’s only remaining church bell, the tenor, cast in the early Fifteenth Century, was silenced during the war unless invasion happened when it would be used to alert the local population. The same applied to the Langton School bell. However, Winston Churchill did allow them to ring out on 15th November 1942 in honour of the great victory at El Alamein in North Africa.
All county road signs were removed, together with any other signs or notices which might tell an enemy where he was; even the Automobile Association’s yellow and black sign on the wall of The Old Malthouse School, which read ‘120 miles to Hyde Park Corner, London’.
AIR RAID SHELTERS
Langton School’s first Air Raid Shelter was remarkable. On the east side of the school premises ran a narrow footpath with high stone walls on either side, leading from the High Street to the tiny settlement of Mount Pleasant. Corrugated iron sheets, covered with a load of earth, were laid on top of the walls across the path. When the warning sounded the children and their teachers walked out in single file with their gas masks into that path. Any nearby bomb would probably have caused the dry stone walls to collapse, burying them all. Later a properly-made shelter was built in the front playground.
Durnford and Leeson had enormous underground shelters to accommodate first the many scientists and later the many RAF personnel who took over these premises after the scientists had left. The Old Malthouse and Spyway Schools also had their own shelters.
Some families accepted an Anderson Shelter, but many preferred to go under the stairs of the house to sit out the raid for when pictures of a bombed house were shown invariably the staircase was left standing. Many years after the war, when 71 High Street was being renovated, the reinforcements which the Ballam family had constructed under their stairs came to light.
THE HOME FRONT
On the Home Front Langtonians excelled themselves. Boys were very assiduous in collecting wheelbarrow-loads of small items of scrap metal and bottles. Both girls and boys collected an enormous amount of silver paper and a list of thirty-eight of their names was published in the Parish Magazine. The collections of paper, card, rag and string were assembled at the Rectory Stables. Old batteries, tins, rubber, bones and smaller metal objects were assembled at the Bartlett and Nichols Garage next to the King’s Arms. The metal objects then became so great in number that a collection point was established at the north end of the plantation which stretched along the west side of Durnford Drove. To this enormous amount were added the railings from around the Serrell Tomb, the Railings from the front of the Churchyard, and the two broken bells from the tower of the Parish Church.
Langton hauliers Arthur Lucas, Ernest Oliver, Arthur Coleman and Bill Lucas regularly took loads of scars from the quarries of Langton and Worth to refurbish the runways of local airfields, particularly those at Hurn and Tarrant Rushton. The latter airfield was extensively used in the D Day operation.
In ‘Salute the Soldier’ Week in July 1944, Langton raised £2364 in savings, £700 over their target. Again a year later, all of the nine collectors exceeded their targets producing a total of £1372.00. The Village School did extremely well with its Savings campaign and also its Essay and Poster campaigns (Note 166).
The village also sent parcels to parishioners on active service overseas, and several messages of gratitude were received such as those from Sgt Nelson Bower serving in the Middle East and from Pte Fred Wellman in India.
Langton folk were very patriotic. They were therefore extremely shocked to learn that three pro-German spies had been arrested in South Purbeck, two in the village of Worth Matravers (Mr Gorman and his mother), the other on the Valley Road (the Princess Trubetskoy, who had attended Morning Prayer at Langton Parish Church on two occasions).
TROOPS STATIONED IN THE PARISH
There were troops stationed in Langton Parish, and also others who passed through on manoeuvres.
Searchlight Battery S31 No.4299998791A was billetted at Jasper Cottage (120 High Street) and had their headquarters in Nissen huts at Mount Misery (now Castle View) and Toms Field. The Anti-Aircraft Artillery Unit was just over the parish boundary near the sign Welcome to Swanage. There was a 20mm cannon situated at Dancing Ledge and a light anti-aircraft Gun on the upper ledge there. Another 20mm light cannon was situated on the western parish boundary near Seacombe.
For a brief period in 1942 some personnel of the Eighth American Tactical Army Air Force were encamped at Durnford. In April 1944 the First and Second Battalions of the USA Cannon and Anti-Tank Companies arrived in fields and woodlands to the north-east of the village. Some young village lads visited the camps and came away with sweets and souvenirs. The Commanding Officer of the troops in Leeson Wood was Colonel John FR Settz who had served in the Sicily Campaign. Other USA Units were in Yards Brake and Quince Hill Wood. When these troops left suddenly five days before D Day they dumped a considerable amount of food and equipment in the Old Marble Quarry, including tins of pineapples, plums, and apricots, which boys of the village retrieved and gleefully took home for such items had been unobtainable in the village for several years.
Then there were troops who briefly visited the parish.
These included the earliest commandos who were delivered by lorries on the east side of Corfe Castle village, had to find their way to Asker’s Hill in Langton Matravers, run down its steep bank through gorse and bracken, crawl under a large piece of netting fixed over very boggy ground, jump the stream which flows in a deep trench, run up through the steep incline of Talbot’s Wood, then climb a 3m high wall of logs, drop down the other side, and then run through undergrowth for about fifty metres whilst encountering live ‘enemy’ fire (live rounds fired over their heads) and booby-traps, until they eventually arrived at a high concrete wall which had to be scaled at a point where the Parish Cemetery is now located.
There was also a simulated commando raid on the radar establishments at Durnford and Worth Matravers which did roughly the same ‘course’, except that the squad attacking Langton arrived in the village, running up Smoke Alley and East Drove during the night. These simulations proved that the radar establishments were very vulnerable to attack. The Sergeant-Major in charge of this operation, CSM Frank Selman, a Yorkshireman, later settled in the village and became a teacher at the Village School and a quite famous citizen later as a leading member of the Church Choir and Chairman of the Parish Council.
During the build-up to D Day there were many exercises in the Langton area. Tanks were also often seen in the village street. When these troops had all gone a tremendous amount of discarded equipment was discovered in local fields by boys of the village. The parish then suddenly became very quiet, almost deserted, except for children going to and from school.
ROLL OF HONOUR
The final list of those parishioners who had given their lives in the Armed Services in the Second World War was as follows:
John Wellman (Army) Henry Wellman (RN) Frank Bower (RN)
Richard Eastment (RAF)Charles Dowland (RN)Arthur Smith (Army)
Thomas Bower (RAF)
This number is miraculously low, considerably fewer than a tenth of those serving from the parish. There were no civilian casualties in the parish and no damaged buildings, so the parish can be said to have come out quite well from the conflict, compared with other places of similar size.
YEARS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE WAR
On Whit Tuesday 1945 a Victory in Europe treat was arranged for all the children of Langton Matravers and Worth Matravers by a group of ladies under the leadership of Mrs Cecily Bower. In the Sunday School Room about two hundred children sat down to a tea which included blancmanges, jellies, sandwiches and cakes. A good number of mothers were included as they brought children aged under five. After tea some of the RAF friends, led by Sgt Watson, gave an entertainment with songs, dances and cross-talk. Finally, each child was given a Savings Stamp and they then all went over to Durnford to enjoy a film organized by Flt Lt Thoroughgood of the RAF. Headmaster Peart thanked the organizers, subscribers,and helpers, especially the RAF personnel, on behalf of the children.
In the Spring of 1946 the village, led by its Parish Council under Chairman Cllr Leonard Nichols, organized its own Welcome Home celebrations, though not all of the serving men had yet returned. The war was still being waged in the Far East. Several servicemen serving in Italy were also not sent home until early in 1947 when everything of the various Unit Headquarters and GHQ there had been completely dismantled and removed.
On 8th June 1946 King George VI sent a message to all children in Britain in which he said,
‘I know that you will always feel proud to belong to a country which was capable of such supreme effort; proud too, of parents and elder brothers and sisters who by their courage, endurance and enterprise brought victory. May these qualities be yours as you grow up and join in the common effort to establish among the nations of the world unity and peace’.
One of these messages is preserved in the Langton Parish Museum.
After the peace treaty with Japan had been signed and the troops came home from the Far East things began to return to normal peacetime activities in the village. However, for one young war-widow, one bereaved girl-friend, and seven pairs of parents things were not going to be as they were before. The Anderson Air Raid Shelters and gas-masks were returned. Other types of such shelter were demolished. The thick black-out curtains were removed from doors and windows, and the sticky brown tape from panes of glass.
Many of the older folk were anxious for things to return to exactly as they had been in 1936 but it soon became clear that this would never happen, as so many had travelled great distances and now had new ideas having seen how things were done elsewhere. Every household now demanded hot running water, a bathroom, a flush-toilet, a radio, extra bedrooms if there were several children in a household, fitted carpets, cleaning-aids, a refrigerator, a bank account, and a paid holiday every year involving travel to other parts of Britain or even overseas.
In October of 1946 the Parish Council wrote to the Rector and Churchwardens asking for the names of those who had died in the conflict to be added to the War Memorial Shrine.
In January of 1947 the entire Parish Council was invited to attend the inauguration of Langton Youth Club. The Council was still pressing for a water supply and electricity to Acton, Blacklands, Acton Field, Coombe, Gully and Castle View. In January 1949 the Council was outraged to discover that a water-pipe had been laid to Acton Field to serve a cattle trough, though not the homes there.
The most important outcome of the war in village life, however, was that those with money, who still had it, and were just as loath as ever to part with it, could no longer use it as an excuse to ‘shout the odds’, be as rude as they wished with total impunity, and tell folk with less money exactly what they might or might not do. Such people were now just laughed at or ignored, much to their chagrin.
166. All the details of the Home Front have been taken from relevant issues of the Parish Magazine and local newspapers such as the 'Swanage Times' and from personal reminiscences.