ID: ML2014_012_P66 / Ron Green

TitleMersea Past - Mersea Island during the War.
AbstractI am often asked what it was like to be on Mersea Island thoughout the war.

As a schoolboy, my answer is that mainly it was good fun. Our parents had all of the worries but for us there was always something going on of interest.

There were aircraft going over and they were not always 'One of ours', but during the long summer school holidays we were usually out playing in the fields, just popping in for something to eat and then out again. There was no fear amongst us of getting shot at by an enemy plane and we knew very well not to go on the mined beach, it was well fenced in by barbed wire anyway.

I and my family moved from Barfield Road, where I was born, to a new bungalow in Suffolk Avenue in August 1939. The surrounding fields now covered by Windsor Road, Garden Farm, Norfolk Avenue etc. hadn't seen the plough for many years. Farming had been at a low ebb brought about by cheap foreign imports of grain from overseas. Now with the fear of U-boat attacks on convoys bringing in food from abroad there came the urgent need for home grown food.

The surrounding fields were covered with mature brambles and hawthorn trees and work began on clearing. The government set up a body generally refered to as the 'War-ag'. With many of the younger men away in the services it was down to the older men, many of them older fishermen and old farmworkers to carry out this work.

Then there was the Women's Land Army - the Land Girls. Several of them were local girls but there were a number who came along from the Romford area and had previously worked in a factory. Although they were kitted out with uniforms, jumpers and overcoats they found working out in the open fields in the winter was not very pleasant and after the first week they were off home and returned for the next week's work armed with extra woollies. We liked the land girls, they were good fun. Some lodged with local families and some were at Orleans, the big house by the church. During the 1930s there were only a few tractors on the island but there were soon more coming in - some new ones, including a brand new D4 Caterpillar with my uncle Frank Richer as driver.

This was a great magnet for me and I could often cadge a ride. On the odd occasion I was allowed a short drive until I turned too sharply one day with a trailer load of land girls on to back. Their screaming and the men shouting somehow put and end to my tractor driving.

This month's picture shows the Caterpillar tractor with some of the land girls on board. It was taken when the lower fields of Bower Hall Farm were being cleared.
The picture from David Green's collection.

Article published in Mersea Life December 2014 issue.

AuthorRon Green
PublishedDecember 2014
SourceMersea Museum