Wickhambrook Local History Society

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Crime updates for January

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Wickhambrook Local History Society Reports

Four members of the society tackled the subject of' War Stories' in very different ways,
making for an engrossing evening to start the year.

Andrew Blaza and his wife visited the USA recently and while exploring the coast ofNorth Carolina they saw a sign saying 'British Cemetery' near the village of Ocracoke. They found the beautifully kept graves of four of the crew HMS Bedfordshire, a Lowestoft trawler. Andrew was intrigued by this and did some research which he shared with us. During the Second World War, Hitler sent U-boats to harass the shipping along the east coast of America, to interrupt the supply of goods to Britain. There were not enough warships to defend this stretch of coast, so twenty-four armed British trawlers were converted and sent across the Atlantic to help patrol the area. One of them, HMS Bedfordshire, was torpedoed and sunk on 11th May 1942 and such was the damage that from a crew of 38, only four bodies were eventually recovered , washed up on the shore. A fifth was washed up some miles away.

The name 'Lowestoft Trawler' is misleading as Lowestoft trawlers were smaller and those sent to the US probably came from Grimsby or Hull, but all the recruitment and administration for this part of the war effort was done from a shore base called HMS Europa in Lowestoft where there is now a museum and a monument to the sailors from there who died on active service.

Each year on 11th may, there is a service in Ocracoke, where the cemetery is now maintained by the local US Coastguard station.

Gillian Cooper has done some research in to the career of her father –in-law who served in the Royal Engineers. She had some excellent advice for those who would like to learn more about their family members , including useful websites and how and where to get access to information.

Joyce Draycott told us of her maternal grandfather who was a country boy from White Coppice, a beautiful village in Lancashire who found himself in the thick of it during the First World War. He was involved with transporting goods to the front line, and as anyone who has read or seen 'War Horse'will know, this was a harrowing time. His beloved horse, Red Dick,was blown up, with nothing left but his head. This brave man was also wounded and doctors thought he would lose a leg but he battled through and came home to rebuild his life with his family.

John Norton was a small child during the Second World War. His mother died in childbirth and his father was away at sea, so he was brought up by an aunt. He gave a nostalgic talk about what life was like at school and how ordinary people coped with rationing and air raids. Women had to take on the jobs traditionally done by men and life was tough all round.

John learned to speak German as there were POWs in Yorkshire where he lived and soon he will go off to give guided tours of Auschwitz , sharing his knowledge and understanding with the next generation. He pointed out that the world has not learned much from the dreadful conflicts of the past. The ongoing struggle in Syria is an example of that.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 18th February at 7.30pm in the WI Hall when Ashley Cooper will talk on 'Captain Oates in the Antarctic'. Captain Oates is buried in Gestingthorpe, thus the local connection.

For more information on the History Society, please call Gillian on 820052

Dorothy Anderson

Events and News

Tuesday 20th February
Local History Society - Our next meeting is on Tuesday 20th February when Sarah Doig will talk on East Anglian almshouses. All welcome. Look out for posters or check the village website.


Baileys of Wickhambrook

This poem was given to Dorothy by one of our members and is to be included in a book later this year
Poem | Baileys of Wickhambrook

Wickhambrook Parish Records

The Wickhambrook Parish Records are currently being digitised and updated.  If you have any information you may be able to add or help fill in some of the gaps, please contact Paul Saunders.

View the Parish Records document here

Photos and Press Cuttings

We have had some fascinating photos and press cuttings sent to us which you can see by having a look at the pdf group images in the gallery

View Gallery

Dorothy Anderson is awarded a Diamond Champion - read more here

Short Straw by Jennifer Bell

At the launch party at The Cherry Tree on 20th September, Jenny Bell told us how she had found diaries and notes written by her father-in- law Frances Bell and realised that this would make a wonderful book. It has taken her several years to produce but the finished volume makes fascinating reading for the people of Wickhambrook and Stradishall. Frances was the younger brother of Adrian Bell, the well-known writer of Corduroy, Silverley and The Cherry Tree among others. His books were very popular in the thirties and forties for their depiction of farming life in East Anglia. Frances went off to Argentina when a young man and learned much about land use and farming there before returning to this area where he worked for the charismatic fruit grower Justin Brooke, a major employer in the area. He ended up running the fruit growing side of the business, marrying and bringing up a family here, before differences between him and his employer caused him to leave and try his ideas elsewhere in the region. The book is much more than just a farming memoir. Frances was a real character, very popular with the men who worked for him,and enjoyed a glass of beer and played the accordion. It was lovely to see so many former employees of the Brooke empire at Clopton Hall chatting and reminiscing with members of the Bell family. Martin Bell ,the journalist, who is a cousin of the author's husband, has written an introduction to the book and he spoke at the book launch too. The Cherry Tree pub, former home of the Bells, laid on a lovely teatime spread. The book is available in local bookshops or from Larks Press, Ordnance Farmhouse,Guist Bottom, Dereham NR20 5PF for £10 and is an excellent read.

Local History Society photos

History Society visit to

Our Committee

For information about the Society or events please contact either the Secretary or Events Secretary.

The main committee is as follows:

Chairman Dorothy Anderson
01440 820376
Secretary &
Events Secretary
Gillian Cooper
01440 820052
Treasurer Pam Miller
01440 820696

Members Information

Membership costs £8 per year payable in April  plus 50p for each meeting.

Guests are always very welcome - £2 per occasion.

Meetings held at 7.30pm in the W.I. Hall.

Library - The library is now all set up at the Primary School. Please let us know your views on this. (Little Bradley trip - we have bought Wendy Barnes' book for the library).

Adobe pdf document Discover the Paintings you Own - The Hidden Heritage of Suffolk Revealed by the Public Catalogue Foundation

and now for some interesting Historical Facts from the 1500's ...

2017 Reports

2016 Reports

2015 Reports

2014 Reports

2013 Reports

2012 Reports

2011 Reports

2010 Reports

2009 Reports

2008 Reports

2007 Reports

2006 Reports

2005 Reports

2004 Reports

Useful links and information


link Suffolk Observatory

link Suffolk Family History Society

link Suffolk Local History Council

link Suffolk Surnames - Information, help and advice for anyone researching their Suffolk Roots

link I have had a letter from the East Anglian Film Archive with details of DVDs which may be of interest to you. You can look online at archivefilmshop.co.uk and type HISTSOC into the discount box. Their Phone no. is 01603 251744. Please tell them which Hist Soc you belong to when you call (Dorothy)

link Many will know that The National Archives gives regular talks on various aspects of family history at the PRO in Kew. Less well known is that they're now available to replay online. Very easy to listen to, providing you've got broadband.

link The Family and Community Historical Research Society

link The Archive CD Books Project

link Doctors who practised in Wickhambrook up until 1900 - Suffolk Medical Biographies website - type in 'Wickhambrook' in the 'place of practice' box and then 'search'.