History Of Mareham-Le-Fen

Mareham During World War Two
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A collection of written records
and
anecdotal information from numerous sources.

including from people still living in the village, my parents, my late sisters university dissertation for her local history degree and my own memories.

The war probably did not effected Mareham to any great extent until the Dunkeque evacuation in May 1940, although nearby RAF Coningsby was already under construction but In June of 1940 the first army unit in the form of the Gordon Highlanders arrived in the village.

So what did the Army find at Mareham-le-fen in 1940?
It was very different to the Mareham-le-fen of today, there were only 3 or 4 cars in the village, agriculture was still using horses to plough and pull the binder at harvest time, the corn stacks were thrashed using steam powered thrashing machines hired from Rundles or Eptons of New Bolingbroke, the corn, if it was wheat, was put into 12 stone 75Kg bags and carried to the granary, no health and safety rules on lifting then
Potatoes were dug using a spinner which threw the tate's out of the ground; these were picked by gangs of women and sometimes children.

The number of inhabitants was lower than today BUT there was a garage (Goslings) with a bus service, and an accumulator charging service for the radio's (120v HT battery, 9v grid bias and an accumulator for valve filament),The only bus driver I remember from the 1940s was a lady by the name of Ginny Vickers who would sometimes drive a bus named the Mayflower which had slatted wooden seats, this bus is now in the museum at the old East Kirkby aerodrome.
What is now the fish and chip shop was a Cobblers shop, past the row of cottages, a small sweet shop(house stands there now)then Myers the bakers/grocers,(private house now)
Across the road from this, was the Chapel now largely demolished ,the Post Office next to the Mill, which still ground corn but not by wind power, then on the north side again Dawson's shop, drapers,/hardware/grocers/wellington's/ paraffin etc, (this is no longer a shop).
A little further along the Foresters Arms Pub usually known as Stivs,(now a private house)like the other pubs in the village the toilets where outside, behind the pub was Jack Newstead Wheelwright and Undertaker.(now housing)
Across the end of Horncastle road (usually referred to as Roberts lane) Gants the butcher, now Clarks, then Watkins the vet, with Dr's Mr & Mrs Taylor next door.
On the right down shop hill was Paul Brown the blacksmith/farrier who was also the band conductor and as children, we considered it worth going to listen to the band, just to see Paul Brown conducting.
Back to the main road, Hipkin 's the Baker ( now a private house ) followed by Harry Johnson 's fish and chip shop (which no longer exists) ,opposite this the village hall, which was sometimes used as a NAAFE by the army .

The Royal Oak on the right, run by Mrs Smith until the late 1970s, on the corner of Fen Lane, Codd 's grocers/tailors/drapers, this is now Borrows store/post office, a little further on, Butcher Smith now Phipps, opposite to this, Cabon's Saddler/ Shoe maker,(now a private house) Just a little further on the south side of the road Freddy Effield timber merchant.,(house and yard no longer there)
Back to the North side, a house and one time Granary known as the VIC, Mr Applewhite lived in the house, the granary was used as a billet for soldiers, just past this the White Horse Pub usually known as Tyes Place (now a private house).
Travel a little further and on the left another farm building used to billet soldiers, on the right Joe Kirk's(WW1 veteran) Bike Shop, where in his spare time he built bikes using steel tube and a paraffin brazing lamp, he also repaired bikes rebuilt wheels etc, during the spring /summer/autumn he worked for my father on the farm, during the winter months both my father and Mr Kirk dug land drains for other farmers.this was done at a fixed price and involved digging a trench and laying in clay gripping tiles(flat bottomed pipes)about a foot long which had to have only a few inches fall over a distance of a chain(22yds) all leveling was done with sight boards.
Just before reaching Moorside turning, Mr Applewhite's Petrol Pumps, the remains of which are still there, next is what is now the last house on the main road Fred Hubbard farmer/tatey Merchant, in the 1940s the last house was on the left a few hundred yards past the end of moorside, there was also a milestone not far from the house, the other one in the village being near Goslings garage.
On Moorside, Art Hodson Farmer, who's house had a room used by Doctor Mc-feeters as a surgery, further down Moorside, John Robert Dawson gamekeeper. Charlie Wilkinson known as Wag, (a WW1 veteran who lost is leg in the war), a pig slaughterer, butcher, who was called to houses and farms where people kept a pig, he killed the pig and butchered it, Mrs Wilkinson helped with putting it away
Where the road turns towards the Rookery ,the field which is now a soft fruit farm was part of Sewels farm,behind this was my parents farm "Toft Hurn",the farm house is now known as Primrose cottage.
A quarter of a mile from the moorside corner is an area known called the Rookery the first house,on the north side was a house built from two railway carriages,where Tommy Gosling (a WW1 veteran and known as soldier Tommy) and his wife lived ,their son is one of only two soldiers from Mareham who are buried in Mareham cemetery having died from wounds, next is Cherry Holt, both arable and dairy farm 200 yards towards Watery lane Mr Chester a small holder lived in Foresters Rest a one time beer house, then Mr Peacock Photographer who took most of the photographs that are in the early part of the album on this site, just past this Anne a seamstress which was the last house on the rookery and no longer exists.
South East corner of Fieldside /Watery lane, Bert Major timber merchant/carpenter gates/posts/tumbrels, now bungalows, on Watery Lane there were only 6 houses in the 40s including two farms, Hodson’s where the monkey puzzle tree is, was both arable and dairy and Sewels who's yard was where the housing estate now is, were arable only , both family's are still farming in the village but are no longer based on watery lane,

Continuing along Fieldside,what is now the football field was a grass field with a row of poplar trees along the roadside, crossing Horncastle road, the Police House on the right with PC Saunby, just past this on the right John Effield timber merchant,another business which ceased trading.
Turn down school lane for the C of E school followed by Dick Brown timber merchant and then past this was tinker Evison.both of these business's have now gone
There was also a Dr Shirky who lived in the village and was part of the Dr's Taylor,(Dr Potter of Revesby) practice, Elwoods farm, where it still is today on fieldside followed by Chapman's farm,
One of the main electrical contractors for the aerodromes was Hall and Stintsons who had a depot on Church lane at the home of their forman, Bill Raven, also on church lane was Effields wood yard both business's are now gone.

Apart from the things mentioned above there were other differences people relied on wells for drinking water, usually rain water for washing, there was no mains sewage, most toilets were outside, few houses could boast a bath.
Electricity did not come to outlaying parts of the village ie Moorside until mid 1956, There was no street lighting, the village Green (where the phone box is) had mud and stud cottages built on it ,there are photos of these on the photo album
Celebrations and fundraising was something that was often achieved with a garden party, where children competed in fancy dress, races etc while the adults played games such as pig pelting and skittles
Almost everyone in the village knew almost everyone else and at pig killing time it was traditional to take a fry to your friends
Revesby corner housing estate did not exist, many of the buildings from 1940-50 have now gone and a large number of new houses built.
The Gordon Highlanders
having arrived in June of 1940,stayed in the village for four months during their time here they trained the local home guard, and undertook training to meet the expected invasion, they left on October 21st 1940, with RAF Coningsby becoming operational in November

The Green Howard's
arrived in January of 1942 and stayed until mid 1944, one of their duties was manning the search light in the field on the south of Fieldside west just before the first house on the south side from Watery Lane end, were they fetch water from and have been described by the house holder as a cheerful and friendly bunch of men, there was also a listening or signals post on Moorside/main road field, the search light on Fieldside was used in conjunction with one at Cold Harbour.
This is the story of one of The Green Howards
The Story of Bill Cheall

By November 1941 the Battalion had more important areas to defend, so
once more we were on the move and ended up in Lincolnshire - guess what? -
we were among sand dunes again at Donna Nook, but we covered an area
with strange sounding names, North Somercoats, Marshchapel and North
Coats; we were constantly on the move. We eventually ended up at a small
village called Mareham-le-Fen.

From Mareham our Platoon was detailed to take its turn doing coastal
duties on Skegness Pier.
Weapon training played a very important part in our activities at Mareham because most of the lads had only ever fired rifles on a firing range. Now they were going to learn all there was to know about any weapon which they were likely to come into contact with and to respond instinctively to commands.
Emphasis was also placed on section and platoon training.
Another thing which was new to us happened one night, we were taken twenty miles away in transport where section leaders were given a compass and compass bearing, then we had to find our way back across country without cheating - it was a challenge accepted in good heart by us all.
Three days after that episode my platoon leader asked me if I would accept a stripe and become a section leader; this took no thinking about and the deed was done.
I took my promotion seriously and got on well, the lads were my pals, anyway, and we all worked well together.
I still have my notebook containing the names of the soldiers in my section, which was number two.
Mareham was only a village. Consequently, during the evenings, there was little we could find to do as a diversion other than going to the local pub and here cash was always the problem.
A great deal of time was passed playing cards on our beds - we didn't have a table.

Copyright Paul Cheall.

After 1940 to the end of the war
RAF Aerodromes were built all over Lincolnshire including some which were just airfields such as RAF Spilsby, closest to Mareham was RAF Coningsby now home to the Typhoon fighters.
Woodhall one time Home to the Dambusters approx 5 miles away and RAF EastKirkby call sign SilkSheen 4 Miles away later this became an American aerodrome

Munitions including bombs were brought by rail to Tumby Woodside Station (2 miles away) and were stacked on the roadside down Birkwood lane ,and Fen Lane . Farming changed dramatically, with hedges being removed dykes filled in, pasture land ploughed up woodlands felled.
Grass fields which had been Highland rigs and furrows for perhaps centuries were flattened (The word Highland refers to the fact that the rig and furrow system was copied from the Scottish Highland crofters)
That was not the only change to farming ,the Land Army was something new, girls from the city's coming and working on the farms in Mareham and some of them stayed and married local men.
Not only RAF Coningsby but also the munitions on Birkwood lane, standing corn and the timber attracted German bombing , the standing corn and woods had incendiary bombs dropped on it they also dropped butterfly bombs, "a 4 lb anti-personnel bomb" there were warning notices on the wood gates for several years afterwards.
During the last days of the war some HE bombs were dropped at the corner near Scott's Fruits they did not explode so the following day bomb disposal came across to by parents house told my mother to put curtains across the windows and keep my sister and I at the back of the house,in due course the bombs where detonated, at least we were allowed to put on our Mickey Mouse gasmask's.

After the end of the war there was still rationing although in many ways rural areas didn't go as short as some parts of the country, most people kept pigs or chickens grew veg etc but the more important thing, at least to children were sweets remained on ration
In 1947 we had the big freeze, snow several feet thick frozen hard enough to walk on, they tried to use the snow clearer's from East Kirkby aerodrome the main road that they used to clear runways without a great deal of success, the milk at school froze in the bottles and we could either have frozen milk or have it from the crate near the stove
for the most part roads were cleared with shovels but when the thaw came It came rapidly ,snow and ice melting so fast it caused localized flooding.
There was one memorable time in 1947-48 for school children in Mareham, we had canteen meals for the first time, By 1950 .there were a number of farms using tractors although horses were still used on the smaller farms binders were still in common use ,sugar beet was still taken up by hand and tates were still picked by hand
Both Church and Chapel gave Sunday school prizes to those who attended but more importantly you got a Sunday school trip to Skegness in the summer