Sergeant Longman - The First Soldier From Wickford to Die in the Second World War.
And Other Memories of The War.
The first soldier from Wickford to die during the 2nd World War was Sergeant Longman. He was serving with the 514 Searchlight Battery at Yelverlon. On that fateful night, their searchlight picked out a German bomber and followed it across the sky. One of the avoiding actions a hostile plane could make was to dive bomb the light, and this is what the pilot did, machine gunning all the way down. He killed all the battery crew, including 27 year old Sergeant Longman. His grave can be seen in St Catherine’s Churchyard.
The Home Guard.
During World War II the Wickford Home Guard carried out exercises with Billericay Home Guard. Both sides wore red or blue armbands and Peter Hall remembered sitting on top of an old shelter and hitting a piece of weatherboard to imitate rifle fire. Their hand grenades were little bags of flour.
Memories of American Soldiers.
I remember during World War II seeing the American troops waving to us out of the back of their trucks. As children, we used to call out “Got any gum chum!” and they would throw out handfuls of sweets.
Living near us, in Rawreth, were two girls who used to go out with the American soldiers, and, as children, my brother and I used to pick flowers from a neighbours garden and give them to the soldiers for the girls. In return the gave us American badges, which were nearly as highly prized as shrapnel.
During the War, practically everything was on ration, including shoes. One day, at Rawreth School, we were each given a pair of green Wellingtons which we were told had been sent over from America. With over a two mile walk to school each day it did not take us long to wear them out.
Memories of the War.
During the Second World War my grandfather, who had been a prisoner in the 1st World War, used to keep chickens, ducks and a nanny goat. He worked in London all week and only came home at weekends, and so it fell to my brother and me to look after the animals.
Granddad thought it was about time our nanny goat did its bit for the War effort and give us some milk. The goat kicked like mad as he held it against the wall and tried to milk it but it refused to give us any. Granddad liked a drink and went up to the Carpenters Arms to discuss the problem with his farmer friends. Their laughter could have been heard all over Wickford. Finally, they told him “It has to be mated first!” Later, our goat had a kid and contributed to the War effort by giving us plenty of rich creamy milk.