Happisburgh at War

THE GREAT WAR 1914 – 1918

Photo: No.1 Troop of the Rough Riders training on Happisburgh beach.

Many of the troops stationed at Happisburgh were billeted in private houses. The Rough Riders were cavalry drawn from various parts of the country.

Trenches were dug along the cliff top. The only enemy action to touch our villages was when a zeppelin dropped a bomb at Walcott Hall, killing two horses. Mr and Mrs George Gibbs and their family took shelter under the kitchen table.

Out of 93 Happisburgh men who served in the forces during the Great War 10 did not return.

Many Happisburgh women made garments for the men overseas and bandages for the wounded.

The Second World War 1939 - 1945

Preparations for Invasion at Happisburgh

Coastal defences were installed: the beach was mined and out of bounds and high coils of barbed wire lined the cliff top. Pill boxes were built; the first line of defence on the cliff edge, the second a few hundred yards inland, with road blocks in readiness for quick assembly. A gun emplacement constructed in Beach Road was moved later beyond the Church, and a Radar Station was built near White's Farm.

Travelling to and from the coast was curtailed and identity checks made by Army and Air Force personnel

2nd November 1939: Three German airmen who were washed ashore and buried with military honours, are now in Cannock Chase Cemetery.

The Army requisitioned several houses including St. Mary's (Happisburgh Manor), The Monastery (where the WRVS ran a canteen) and The Old Rectory until it was bombed. The Royal Air Force manned the Radar Station.

The Happisburgh Section of the Home Guard, originally called the Local Defence Volunteers, consisted of 1 Lieutenant, 3 Sergeants, 3 Corporals, 7 Lance Corporals and 58 Privates. Their primary role was to defend the village in the event of invasion. They met weekly on Sunday mornings when practice included parade ground and battle drill, small arms firing and camouflage.

Eight Happisburgh Men lost their lives during the WW2 ( can we name them ?)

Civil Defence
(Originally known as Air Raid Precautions)

For Civil Defence purposes Norfolk was divided into small areas. The Bacton Group consisted of the parishes of Bacton, East Ruston, Happishurgh, Ridlington, Walcott and Witton.

Happisburgh had 12 Wardens, 6 Fire Fighters, 42 Fire Watchers, 28 Auxiliary Fire Watchers and the Head Warden of the Bacton Group.

One of the responsibilities of Civil Defence was to arrange for Emergency Rations of biscuits, beef, sugar, soup, milk, margarine and tea to be stored in the village. These were kept at Fairview, The Forge and Manor Farm.

In 1939 members of Civil Defence issued respirators to all in the village – 504 altogether.

Photo: B.E. Trett

Photo: Five Wardens from the Bacton Group
Mrs N. Lawson, J. Sculfer, Miss D.Everitt & J. Hubbard

Wartime Food Rationing

FOOD RATIONING began in 1940 and ended in 1954. It was tighter after the War – bread was not rationed until 1946. It varied slightly; in 1941, one of the worst years when many ships in food convoys were sunk in ‘U Boat Alley', just off Haisbro Sand, it was as follows:

2oz Butter 2oz Lard 1 Egg
1oz Cheese 4oz Bacon 2oz Tea
8oz Sugar 2oz Sam 1s.6d. Meat
2 slices Cooked Meat    

Reconstituted egg and dried milk from U.S.A. were unrationed. Villagers who kept a pig were allowed to retain half when it was slaughtered, but had to sell half to the Government. Babies received free Rose Hip Syrup to provide Vitamin C. (Children were paid for picking the hips from the hedgerows.)

There were no oranges or bananas. When a cargo of oranges was washed ashore in Christmas 1949 there was great excitement, and all the village enjoyed an unexpected treat.

The following are extracts from Happisburgh WW2 Civil Defence Logbook

October 27th. 1940 18:04hrs.
First Enemy Air Raid on Happisburgh – no warning received from Control. Fighter bombers attempted to bomb Norwich but were intercepted and driven off by British fighters. One Enemy plane ... dropped three sticks of bombs ... including 5 on Church Farm buildings, 4 by the road, 3 in Churchyard (ricochet near porch), 1 or 2 on Old Rectory and portion demolished, 1 in field near old Lifeboat House. 2 Casualties (minor), both Military. 1 horse killed at Church Farm. Damage: Church – all windows on south side completely blown out, all others badly damaged.
Old Rectory – partly demolished.
Manor House – back roof stripped.
Fairview – north and west windows blown cut.
Church Cottage and Albion Cottage – north and east windows out. Chimney stack lifted, roofs damaged, telephone post cut through.
Danegate – front windows out.
Reported immediately.

May 6th. 1941 00:20hrs
4 H.E’s exploded near Coastguard Station…. Extensive damage to Coastguard Cottages, Cliff Houses and others – about 42 premises affected
One slight casualty to soldier at St. Mary's (Happisburgh Manor).
Incident reported before sound of explosion reached Control at North Walsham.

October 16th. 1941 05:15hrs
British fighter crashed in sea in flames off Hasbro' Gap about 100yds out. Reported immediately....
Cromer Lifeboat picked up one dead airman; the other washed ashore Oct. 19th.

October 30th. 1941 11:00hrs
Land mine exploded by sailor at Cart Gap. One killed, another shocked.

December 18th. 1941 08:13hrs
Enemy plane, believed Messerschmitt, dropped two H.Es (500kg). One exploded at St. Mary's (Happisburgh Manor), the other 150yds. in field near Beach Lane.
Casualties: All Military – 2 dead; 4 stretcher cases, one serious; 5 or 6 slight cuts by flying glass. Damage: Back portion of St. Mary’s ... and one wing demolished ... approx. 50 other dwellings damaged... Reported to Control immediately.

August 4th. 1943 00:27hrs
One Enemy Raider dropped 3 containers of A.P. bombs in field and meadows around Old Mill Farm, Lower Hasbro' and two 50kg H. E’s. near Lessingham School.
(92 anti-personnel bombs dropped; 51 unexploded. Search conducted by 5 police and 4 wardens.)
(Last entry)

August 5th. 1944 08:55hrs
USAAF Liberator bomber crashed but did not catch fire. All crew baled out. Happisburgh Sands Estate.