We travelled out of Essex across the border into Suffolk to make a rendezvous with history, it was fifty years ago this weekend that Kentwell was last used by the military.
We drove up the approach road to Kentwell (the pot-holes were many and massive, had the artillery been using live ammo.?) After getting our I.D cards we proceeded to the gate but before we reached the gate we were asked to show our I.D cards by the sentry at the barrier, once in, 1945 was around us.
Everywhere were military vehicles and troops moving about, there were many ambulances as the upper floors of the large house were being used for men recovering from wounds. Periodically the air was filled with the sounds of explosions as the artillery practised, also the `plop' sound of the mortars. In a later conversation with the base chaplain, he explained that this practice was essential to aid the men in action.
A `spiv' tried sell my Mum a pair of french knickers made from parachute silk, they were too small so he offered her a pair of nylons for 2/9d (13½p) my mum tried to barter and offered 2/6d but he caught sight of a `copper' and was off like a shot.
Security was tight, and it needed to be what with German P.O.Ws on site and troops about to join the battle in Germany. It was that security that had confiscated the photographer's camera. We had seen him taking photographs earlier and I was surprised to see him without it later while I was chatting to a member of the concert party. It was during this chat that he told me that a paratrooper who was still recovering from wounds he had received at Arnhem, had in his confused state climbed on to the
roof of the house to practice his jumping skills. The photographer had tried to record the event and promptly had his camera confiscated.
I had a long chat with a American M.P, he was from Florida and was looking forward to getting home, although he had not seen action it had been a tough year. At this point a group of evacuee children filed past on their way to the station, I said to the M.P "I'll bet you Americans were popular with the kids with all your chocolate and sweets","Yeah" he said "and the gals with the nylons". I could see what he meant, I only saw one girl with eye-brow pencil seams all day.
I was asked by another member of the concert party if my wheelchair was made from aircraft parts, I told him it was and had been built by an inventor who was a family friend, he asked what his name was, I told him it was `Hush hush', he seemed to understand, so we ended up talking about the Doodlebugs and V2s.
It was a lovely warm and sunny day, but the event had not been kept secret enough, so it was packed. There was a period ice cream bike with an enormous queue by it, as I passed I said "That's the trouble with this war; you have to queue for everything". Nobody laughed though.
After eating our recreated wartime `Kit-kats' we repaired for tea in Lavenham just round the corner from `Lovejoy's' place.
Ralph `I've got black-market oranges' Edmunds