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Eye witness accounts 1939-1960

The following extracts are taken from stories gathered by the BBC during 2003-2006 as part of a project entitled 'WW2 Peoples War' which aimed to record personal memories of life in WW2.
 
'I remember my father bringing home parachutes (he worked for the Air Ministry) and my mother would make clothes for us - Father also made us shoes by plaiting rope (bright red and orange) and used the material from barrage balloons cut into strips and sewn to make straps to fasten them. We thought they were lovely and now in 2004 I still have some of this coloured rope!' Sylvia Baker (nee Roberts) Clapham, Bedford
 
'When we lived in Acacia Road, I would go up in our bedroom when there was a lightning strike because if they didn't get the balloons down quickly enough at Cardington they would explode. Sometimes they got free. They would send a fighter to shoot them down. One got free and bounced around at the back of Moulton They camouflaged the balloon sheds to look like big apartment blocks.' Michael Darlow, Bedford
 

'One of my sisters was making the barrage balloons in the fabric shop and the other one was in the Drawing Office where they used to do the designing of the balloons and that. Towards the later part of the war they not only made barrage balloons but they also made tanks and guns of fabric. Blow up tanks and guns as decoys in Europe. On the Front Line they would be quite effective I suppose from the air...' Gerald How, Bedford
 
'We used to listen to Lord Haw Haw broadcast on the radio and he was pretty well clued up, they were the Germans as to what was going on because one thing in particular was that as you go from Bedford to Cardington, towards Shortstown there used to be a bridge that you'd cross and at that time they were doing some road works on it, rebuilding it - and do you know, Lord Haw Haw announced that on the radio!' Gerald How, Bedford

This photograph shown with kind permission of Mrs Margaret Cox who still lives in our village shows she and other ladies who worked in the canteen on the camp during WW2. In her own words....
 
'This photograph was taken outside the civilian canteen around 1942-1945 although the work was hard we had some great times. During the morning we would go over to the Offices and Fabric Shop with a trolley with tea and coffee for the workers, then at lunch time meals were served. I worked in a small room come shop off the canteen selling different chocolates and sweets when available as there was still rationing. I met my husband while working in the canteen. He was an MT driver working at 25 MT Hartelbury. He used to come to Cardington regularly. We moved and came to live in Shortstown in Oct 1955 - he got a transfer from Hartelbury"
 
Thank you Mrs Cox!

Margaret Cox canteen teamSM

Below are a few extracts taken from an account by Mr Colin Crane in the BBC WW2 Peoples War archives recounting his childhood memories of RAF Cardington.
 
''RAF Cardington - My home (a fairly new council housing estate of 1937/8 on the Cardington Rd) was located en route and very near to RAF Cardington and it was usual and very common for us lads to stand in the street waiving to several very large canvas back lorries that were often full of military/RAF personnel being transported to and from RAF Cardington. This was the case well in to the early 1950’s.

Other grey/blue lorries transported extremely large ‘Gas Bottles’ that the local kids always believed were ‘bombs’. RAF Cardington was a local base where enormous barrage balloons were made and repaired/tested. The gas bottles were used to fill these barrage balloons.

This base was also a major local civilian employer, many men and women from my area were employed at ‘The Drome’ (Aerodrome) as RAF Cardington was known locally. I cannot remember anyone owning a car and all people I knew would cycle to and from work , many came home to lunch too as most workers did of that era.
 
Cardington ‘Hangars’ Planes and Parachutes - Formations of several planes still flew overhead, sometimes ‘bombers’ from East Anglia as well as other planes, as often seen in old films these days. Spitfire style prop planes also flew to and from RAF Cardington and the local boys watched in awe. We would sometimes walk or cycle to the boundary fence to watch the balloons being winched or planes taking off etc.

My schools (Kingsbrook School for 7-11 year olds) also the Silver Jubilee infants and secondary schools were suitably located just a mile, as the crow flies from RAF Cardington and we would sit in classes and spot parachute drops from tethered balloons, also prop planes flying to and from the grass runways at Cardington several times a day, every day.''

These must have been very exciting times for young boys back then!

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