World War II (1939-45)

Pillboxes

Pill Box London St 1989During WWII it was feared that the Germans would launch an airborne attack on Britain and especially target this area partly because of the numerous airfields in the area such as Watchfield, Kelmscot, Brize Norton, Kingston Bagpuize and Shellingford.

Pill Box Radcot Rd 1989A series of defensive systems were set up in the locality such as searchlight sites; tank traps; anti-tank ditches at strategic crossing points; posts and ricks of hay and corn in open fields to deter glider landings; concealed spy-holes to observe an enemy approaching; and road blocks.

Pillboxes were built along the River Thames to defend against a river borne advance or the landing of aircraft on the adjacent grass plains, and also on important roads. These latter to be defended with Bren guns and anti-tank guns. The local pillboxes were built by A. E. Baker & Sons.

The photographs above, taken in 1989, are of a pillbox at the top of London Street past Sudbury House and a concealed pillbox under the statue in Faringdon House grounds on the Radcot Road.

Pill Box Radcot Bridge1989Pill Box Radcot River 1989

The photographs above, taken in 1989, are of a pillbox near Radcot Bridge on the River Thames and another one further up river towards Kelmscott. There are many many more, strung out all along the river.

Evacuees

Rialto Cinema 1940sIn 1939 the Government arranged for evacuees to come to the countryside to escape the expected bombing of the big cities. These evacuees on the whole did not stay for long as the expected bombing did not take place. However there was a 2nd flood of evacuees in 1940. Faringdon and area received its fair share including whole classes of children from their city schools. Everyone found it quite difficult to adjust, both the evacuees from their urban areas and the families who received them.

Photograph 1939-45. In front of the Rialto Cinema are teenagers Lewis Boffin, Harry Thomas, John Moody, and Fred Hughes with a WWII evacuee in front. Lewis Boffin later became a police constable in Palestine after the war. Then he worked in his father Thomas’s butchers shop in Faringdon, first next to the White Hart pub on Gravel Walk and then from 1977 on London Street. He passed away on 27th May 2018, aged 91 years.

Evacuees Faringdon House 1940In 1940, a group of evacuees at a meet of the Old Berks Hunt at Faringdon House. Lord Berners is on the steps with Mrs Penelope Betjamin and her white horse ‘Moti’.

Local Defence

Fred Newman Ww2 C1940War Reserve Police Constable Fred Newman of Great Coxwell. He was killed in October 1942 while riding his motorcycle in the blackout. He was in collision with a Bedford 3 ton tender which was transporting a signal beacon to its site near Badbury Woods overlooking Great Coxwell.

In order to have units of men who would be willing to defend the country in the event of an emergency a force, known as the Local Defence Volunteers and consisting of men who were not in the Armed Forces, was formed in May 1940. In July 1940 the name was changed to the Home Guard. At first only volunteers were called for but participation became compulsory in November 1941. The main responsibilities were observation and information but, in case of invasion, it would be as an initial response force. The Faringdon Home Guard drilled on Sunday mornings in the local Marine camp, now Marines Drive, and manned a post in the Services Club where there was an Air Raid warning siren. The Faringdon Home Guard area stretched to the River Thames at Buscot and Radcot. The Home Guard units were stood down in November 1944.

Extracted from: The Changing Faces of Faringdon and Surrounding Villages – Bk2 p40-55. By Rosemary Church, Jim Brown, Millie Bryan and Beryl Newman. Robert Boyd Publications.