DATA BASE REF: I 1020

BETTY DUNHAM – WARTIME CHILDHOOD

Betty Dunham nee Sherborne lives at No 2 The Green Castor. She moved there in 1992, from Thorpe Road, Longthorpe, when her husband George Dunham died. As a child, she lived at the Ferry Lodge Milton Park.

 

Family:

She came from a farming family from Chewton Mendip in Somerset, on the Mendip Hills.

 

 

Henry Sherborne m Heather                                    Jack m Rosa

 

 

                        George Sherborne m  Iris Edwards

                        b. c 1897

 

 

                                                Betty Sherborne m George Dunham

                                                b. 1929

Seagry Mill

 

 

 

                        Joseph Dunham

                        b. 1964

 

George Sherborne, Betty’s father, served in the 12th Lancers during the Great War. He never spoke about the war, but used to say he felt sorry for the horses on the Somme. George Sherborne came to Milton Estate, Castor to work for Major Peacock in 1938, when Betty was about 9 years old. The family lived at the Ferry Lodge, and Betty lived there until she left home as an adult. Major Peacock lived at The Ferry House. The war started when she was 10 years old. Betty’s husband George Dunham owned a tailors and gentlemen’s outfitters in Peterborough.

 

The War:

 

There was dug-out in the field at the back of Major Peacock’s for the bombs. Betty remembers one night, her mother waking her and saying  that Peterborough was alight, the siren had gone. They all rushed up to the shelter. But there were no bombs. It was only a very bright moon coming up. Peterborough was only bombed once, when the Pool, the Cathedral and Robert Sales were hit. There were ghastly guns at Westwood Aerodrome, and gunfire used to land near the Ferry. There was a barrage balloon across the first gate going over to the Lynches at Alwalton.

Milton Hall became a headquarters for the Maquis (It was where the Jedburghs trained). Famous visitors including Churchill visited the place. As a child she, and the others, all knew something secret was going on at Milton. Apart from anything else they had a Polish captain billeted on them at the Ferry Lodge. Then they had a major somebody billetted. It was either that or evacuees. It was very exciting to think what was happening at Milton. At night men would come down to the river to practice, and then return to Milton with their boats on their heads, passing Ferry Lodge on the way. At one stage, a Major Fairbrother and his wife stayed with them., and lovely food was sent down from Milton where they had a chef who used to work at the Savoy Hotel. Betty remembers seeing Americans in their strange shin length boots. They also had a Polish engineer, who had fought I Warsaw, who was involved in planning for the taking of Casino. His name was Pion Skonski (phonetic spelling).

 

It was all really very exciting; they all joined the St John’s Ambulance Brigade, including Rene Goode (later married Arthur Foster) and Stella Mossendew’s sister-in-law.. they had to take first-aid exams. They were allowed to go into hospital and help. Betty’s mother joined the WVS, but did not go to help in the Services Canteen; instead Betty used to go to help at the one in the Market Place. They had lots of American boyfriends. She remembers that chappie called Montain, was hidden his in his bedroom by his mother in his house in Clay Lane Castor throughout the war; he had run away after being called up for the services.

 

They had a spy at Castor – an Englishman. He was caught sending messages on the radio at the top of the hill. An Australian called Woods was shot down. He had a party at the Ftizwilliam Arms, and eventually married a Sandes girl (the Sandes lived in Clay Lane Castor).

Betty remembers the Prisoners of War (POWs), both Italian and German. The Italians were in Longthorpe, and some of them made beautiful wooden toys. They wore khaki uniforms emblazoned with a big diamond. Some stayed at Sibson and some the other side at Stanground. They were brought into the village to work in the fields. They were pretty free to come and go as they wished. People had them in for meals and the lot. People hoped that our own boys who were prisoners-of-war would be treated the same way. When Betty and her family  went on a skiing trip to Sallbach in Austria in 1952, they called into see a POW there. Betty’s aunt was in Vienna during the war, as she had married an Austrian before the war in 1938.

 

The Sherborne’s old house, Ferry Lodge, was moved to make way for the Castor by-pass. It lay empty for several years, and much of the stone was robbed, It used to have a 17th or 18th  century roof.

 

These notes were made by William Burke , while talking to Betty Dunham 16 May 2002 .