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I recently had a chat with two of our few original inhabitants. They were both children living in Bale during WWII and had some interesting stories. Several involve bombs and strafings; Bale was too near the coast not to earn the attentions of German aeroplanes occasionally. There was a bomb shelter in the Spinney, next to the church, and another down the Sharrington road. But apparently they were not used much. The whole sky would be lit up over Norwich during bombing raids there.

Mostly surplus bombs would be dropped randomly by German planes on their return journey. One, a landmine, was dropped near the main road on the hedgerow in Rivett’s farm in Sharrington, and blew up, causing one leg of a bed, which was occupied at the time, to go through the bedroom floor into the room below, in a house in Bale.

But much more damage was done by one bomber. It dropped a high explosive bomb on the stack yard belonging to Manor Farm, then went on to drop 8 incendiaries on the old gravel pit, where unfortunately several of the farm horses were kept. The high explosive bomb made an enormous crater, and earth fell on the Pit Row houses. Illustrated is a piece of shrapnel which was kept as a memento. Windows round about were smashed, including one in the church, but luckily not much harm was done because of the protection of the stacks. The Germans must have thought the stacks were huts in a military camp.

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A more frightening attack, because it seemed more personal, was made on two 11 year old girls towards the end of the war. They were cycling home from the Astley School in Melton Constable, and had reached just past Pig’s Grave, when a German aeroplane came swooping down all of a sudden – and “ratatat” – they were being shot at. They threw their bikes down and dashed into the ditch. A similar incident happened earlier on; one Sunday some soldiers billeted at the rectory were present, because the wife of one of them was lodging with next door. The children were playing outside in the yard. Suddenly the soldiers pushed them to the ground, as a low-flying bomber passed between the houses, spraying them with machine gun bullets. Luckily no-one was hurt. This plane turned round and later dropped a bomb on Melton Constable railway station.

Memories of Bale in those days, in spite of the fear that these incidents inspired in the children, are of a small community where everyone cared about each other, helped out, and shared. There were only 4 cars in the village, belonging to the vet, the parson, Mrs Hammond at Manor Farm, and the shop keeper and draper, Lake. Most people were hard up, some as the result of injuries, or loss sustained in WWI; life was not easy, but perhaps people were better off in other ways. Sharing, rather than consumer envy, was the way of life then.

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