Recollections of Sheepy, Leicestershire, in World War II by Christopher Rigg
(Note: Sheepy is a civil parish in the Borough of Hinckley and Bosworth in Leicestershire, England. It contains the villages of Sheepy Magna, Sheepy Parva, Sibson, Wellsborough, Upton, Pinwall and Cross Hands).
We moved to Sheepy from Sheffield on 12 July 1942. One morning when we came up from the cellar the nose of a shell had come through the roof of the scullery. Probably early in 1942, I went out of our back door and saw that the houses at the back had been flattened by bomb blast, like a pack of cards. My parents had lost two children in China in 1933 and the bombing raids on Sheffield must have been involved in my parents’ decision to move to a country parish.
There was a telephone in the hallway but only the Home Guard was allowed to use it until the end of the war. The back wing of the huge Rectory (29 rooms) was locked up and used by the Home Guard. We continued to call it the Home Guard room after the Mother’s Union moved into it after the war. In earlier times, it must have been the servants’ kitchen and working room.
Then there was a bakery–laundry, below which was a tank of soft water, which drained from the roof. We used that soft water for clothes washing and one of my Saturday jobs was borrowing the key and carting six or eight buckets of soft water to a tub in the scullery for the wash. I got a farthing for every bucket. The soft-water tank also collected leaves, mud and grime, and it was a huge operation pumping and ladling it empty and cleaning it out every few years. One wall of that room was lined with a rack full of rifles, and a Sterling gun stood in the middle of the room.
The Home Guard used to practise their rifle shooting in the backyard where the Rectory Mews now stand. On Sunday morning during the morning service Mr Mayo, their sergeant, sometimes practised on the Sterling gun in the adjoining field, the First Stony Close (now under housing); he had nothing to do with the church! In the back yard I used to collect the brass cartridge cases and give them to Mr Mayo. After the War, he emptied the poultry shed on the west boundary of the property adjoining one of Emery’s fields of all the hand grenades and phosphorus bombs. I think he enjoyed destroying them in the pit (pond) through a gate into the field as much as I enjoyed watching. For years afterwards, the yellow phosphorus could be ignited by throwing a stone into the pit.
Occasionally when we were in the school playground, we would see a lorry road of prisoners of war being taken somewhere or the remains of a crashed aeroplane passing through. The back of the school was protected from bomb blast by a breeze-block wall. Luckily we used to see the dog fights in the air and imitated the Spitfires in our play, arms outspread. There had been a couple of bombs in 1941. One destroyed Pinwall Lodge, leaving a large crater, and blowing the roof and attic off Elm Farm. The raider was probably aiming at an anti-aircraft gun near Pinwall Grange.
I perhaps should also have mentioned Wellsborough. The Natsopa (National Society of Printers & Operators) Home became the HQ of the Labour Party during the war and was very secretive. I can’t remember whether Gopsall Hall was occupied by prisoners of war or the military.
Another aspect of the war was the refugees from Birmingham. About 30 of them and their teacher stayed at Sheepy Lodge and used to crocodile through the village to the Memorial Hall for lessons. I think a few of the children at the village school were from families who had escaped Brum and Cov to live in the village. A lot of the village men escaped military service because they worked down the pits such as Grendon and Baddesley.