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Herbert Denney



Red Lion c1920


Unlike most youngsters re-located to a place of safety during the war, I was fortunate to have relatives in Hockwold which, although surrounded by busy bomber bases seemed, on the whole, to escape the notice of Herman Goering's Luftwaffe.

My first stay as an evacuee from Croydon, South of London, started at the beginning of the German air raids on London and the south of England when I came to stay at the "Red Lion" run by my Grandparents Jane and Herbert Denney. Grandad also had a smithy adjoining the pub but demand for traditional skills had waned, the forge was seldom lit and the tools of the trade hung around the walls gathering cobwebs.

The pub was very busy in those days with the service people's custom even though its public bar only had a brick floor and high backed narrow oak seats around the walls. A dartboard hung on one wall and if you wanted something more exciting you could ask Herbert to get the dominoes out! The beer cellar was deep underground and as he did not believe in serving beer that was not fresh from the barrel he was up and down those steps with every order! I guess the Yanks thought this was "a real quaint olde English" pub?. At the end of the public bar was a small room, much more comfortably furnished known as "The Snug", a relic of the old days when ladies would not dream of going into the public bar.

One of the regular events at the pub was the arrival of the draymen who kept the liquid supplies topped up. All the beer barrels, (great oak monsters, none of your girly aluminium kegs in those days), were carefully manhandled off of the lorry and slid inch by inch down a specially shaped slide disappearing into the ground through a large hole usually sealed by two heavy trap doors. The barrels were then sat on cradles vacated by the empty ones then left to settle for a day or two. Try to tap a barrel too soon and much of the contents would be sprayed up the walls and over the floor, this catastrophe, (and loss of profit), seldom occurred as Grandad always pressed his ear to a barrel before tapping. That was one of his trade secrets so I never
did find out what he listened for!

The spare rooms at the pub were used by aircrew and their families to be together for extended visits if married quarters were not available. This worked well for most of the time but it also had its downside when an R.A.F. officer, usually a Padre, came to tell a wife that her husband's plane had not returned from last nights mission and the plane and crew were classed
as missing in action, or worse still that it was known, by crews who had returned, that the plane had been seen to be destroyed. When the air raids on the south of England died down I returned to Croydon and my parents who had come through the blitz unscathed.


When Hitler started to bombard the south of England again, this time with his unmanned rockets, (V1 and V2?s), my father, (Cyril Denney), had been called into the army and to save him worry as to our day to day safety, my mother, (Ruby Denney), and I returned to Hockwold. It was a lucky move because shortly after we moved out a V1 rocket hit the next house to ours, flattening it and blowing out the back of our empty house.

For this stay in the village we lived at Winton Cottage in South Street with Dora Denney and her son Michael. Harry Denney, (dads brother), was also serving in the army so the two wives were company for each other. I don't recall too much of that visit, I remember that our headmaster was a Mr. Bramley ("Bushy" when out of earshot). He lived next door to Winton Cottage so he had his beady eyes on us more than most kids.

Things I do remember are the time when two bombers on a night training exercise collided and crashed on the land between South Street and the river opposite Winton Cottage. I don't think any of the crews survived but thankfully they had no bombs aboard.

To finish on a happier note I remember a group of Italian P.O.W's being housed in some cottages somewhere near the centre of the village. They seemed to be very happy working on the land and out of the war. No guards or barbed
wire needed there, I wonder if the village constable counted them occasionally? It would not surprise me if some of them stayed on after the war.

I hope these memories will be of some interest to a few people and if they get publishes on the Internet I send my best wishes to all my cousins and other relatives in East Anglia and the W.W.W.

Allan Denney

  Last Update: Tuesday 29 March, 2022 21:03
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