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Hethel has one WW2 grave in its churchyard (below), although no name was added to the memorial in the church. Squadron Leader CHARLES MICHAEL HORSFELL served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Service No.75544) and died on 21st November 1942 at the age of 53 and was buried on 24th November by the Rector of East Carleton. His wife, Margaret Arnold Horsfell, lived in Wisborough Green, Sussex. Little else is known about him, or why he was buried in Hethel, but he may have been a PE Instructor.
There is one name on the Bracon Ash war memorial: Private ALFRED HENRY SPINKS. The as yet unsolved mystery is why the memorial in Bracon Ash church records a William Spinks.... Alfred Henry was born and baptised in Barnham Broom in 1918, the son of Sidney Henry & Gertrude Blanche Spinks. The family were living in Hawkes Lane, Bracon Ash in the 1930s (at no.3 Council Houses in 1939). He enlisted at the No1 Infantry Training Centre, Warley Barracks on 17/10/1940 and joined the Ist Battalion Essex Regiment (Service No. 6029291), serving with them in North Africa. He died 28 Oct 1941 and is commemorated on the Tobruk War Memorial in Libya (ref. 6.P.4). Tobruk, a Mediterranean port with a deep-water harbour, was an important target. in January 1941 British forces captured it from the Italians, but was under siege by Rommel's army from April to December 1941. Alfred Henry Spinks was one of many who died keeping the Axis forces at bay.
But there are other men who lived in Bracon Ash or Hethel who are commemorated on memorials in other villages:
CLIFFORD ARTHUR KEDGE, Private, No. 5776378 of the 4th, Bn. Royal Norfolk Regiment was born in Mulbarton, Norfolk on the 7th January, 1919, the son of Richard and Eliza Kedge. Early in 1941 he married Clara V Flint and they lived at The Retreat, Bracon Ash, Norwich, Norfolk. Before his enlistment into the army his occupation was a Gardener. The 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions of the Royal Norfolk Regiment served in the Far East as part of the 18th Infantry Division in the defence of Singapore and Malaya against the Japanese advance. After the fall of Singapore on 15th February 1942, Clifford was held first in Changi Prison Camp and then taken to Thailand to work on the notorious Burma Railway. He contracted malaria in September 1943 and was admitted to the hospital in Chung Kai POW Camp. He died 13th October 1943 and is buried in Chung Kai Cemetery - now a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery located on the same spot as the Chung Kai POW camp used during the construction of the railway line and the bridge that spans the River Kwai. He is commemorated on the war memorial in Mulbarton Church. Following the death of Clifford, his widow Clara married a widower Percy Arthur Butler in 1949 in Tonbridge, Kent; they had two children. (Research and information kindly supplied by Martin Thurlow).
From Ted Moore: Country people were caught up in the war because the Germans were bombing Norwich. I remember the night German fighters came back with the Hethel bombers, and they didn't know they were there. They shot them up as they landed. There was a search light behind the King's Head , Ashwellthorpe, and I saw the German fighter plane go down that searchlight and he came out of it. Nobody had an air raid shelter - we sat under the table! It was a great experience - I hope not to be repeated.
You can read of Ted Moore's wartime memories here:
From Gladys Watling: After telling how the Red Cross unit was re-formed in the area, (see Watling) she writes....
'As time went on there was the threat of war again and some more classes were formed with instruction ranging from First Aid to the advancement of gas. An amusing expression was given by our lecturer when he spoke of treatment of wounds and he said 'You know the use of spirits is effective - in fact some people prefer to drink the whisky and breathe on the wound!'
From the 1939 Register it is obvious most active residents of Bracon Ash and Hethel who were not called up joined the Home Guard, ARP and/or WVS.
Photos of First Aid training for ARP wardens at Bracon Lodge or Woodlands, October 1939. One of the key organisers was Captain J S Granville Kay who lived in Cuckoofield Cottage (near what is now the roundabout). He rose to the rank of Captain with the Royal Fusiliers in WW1 and commanded the local Home Guard. Featured in most of the photos is a trailer stretcher-carrier he built using a front axle from an Austin 7. After it has taken ARP and AFS equipment to the scene of a 'raid' it can be used to transport a casualty.
The Home Guard
'Dad's Army' (well, in Bracon Ash it was Captain Kay's army!)
Land Girls appear on local farms
Brenda Ford (nee Collins) whose father worked for Peter Finch at Woodlands, Long Lane, grew up in a bungalow in the grounds of the 'big house'. Her father was in the TA so was called up even before the war began and was away for almost 6 years. During that time her mother accommodated some of her own family who had been bombed out in Norwich and a landgirl working for Mr Betts. She also remembered the plane that crash-landed in a field between Woodlands and Bracon Lodge: 'A Stirling bomber crashed in the early hours of the morning very near to our bungalow, cutting off electricity and causing enormous damage to trees nearby. Fortunately the airmen all managed to survive without too much injury and armed guards were placed near to the crashed plane until an enormous truck came to take the remains of the plane away.' Some men went out when they heard the crash - somewhat cautiously, not knowing whether the plane was friend or foe and if any survivors would be armed. The airmen were taken to Woodlands and Brenda's mother helped to patch them up with makeshift bandages until the emergency services arrived. The truck that came for the plane was a 'Queen Mary' and getting that onto the land from Long Lane, through the mud, was quite something, it seems! What a shame no-one took photos!
Beryl Hague was a Norwich girl who was bombed out of her home at the bottom of Grapes Hill in April 1942. After a second night of heavy raids, '...my dad thought I should be evacuated into the country, so I went to my Uncle's farm, Corporation Farm at Hethel, near the new American Air base.... I attended a small school about a mile away from the farm which I had to walk to after helping to milk cows at about 6am, and at about 7.30am I would have to take a basket of eggs to the American base kitchen and the cook would give me some candles or chewing gum. When I got to school it was poorly heated with one stove in the middle of the classroom which we could not feel if we were near the wall or windows, and I had to keep my heavy coat on for many lessons.' [From 'Wartime Childhood Memories 1939-1945 by Museum Members' - E Anglian Aviation Heritage Centre, Flixton, Suffolk]