Adventures of Bob Simmons

This is the combined recollections of my brother John Simmons (better known as Brian in our school years, although for clarity I’ll refer to him as John throughout these memories) and myself Bob Simmons of our life as children during the war years of 1939-1945 in Little Plumstead, Norfolk.

Living through our childhood in those wartime years we probably got away with adventures that would be frowned upon today but we knew nothing much of pre-war life so all the happenings of war seemed quite normal and provided us with plenty of excitement if at times it got a bit scary. In my child’s mind, though, I never ever thought it possible that we could lose the war; England could never be beaten. I suppose those thoughts were planted in my mind by our parents. Looking back now it all seems a bit unreal.

I (Bob) was born in July 1936 in my grandfather’s house – an old property on Post Office Road set back on the left going toward the post office from the main road – although I lived my school years in the last of a group of houses on Salhouse Road, just past Post Office Road travelling toward Wiley’s farm and the School Road.

Beside going to the local school I also attended the Sunday School which was held in the Mission Hut. I was also in the church choir. Considering that most of the time I mimed the hymns it’s a wonder I wasn’t removed, however I guess they needed the numbers to swell the choir so I was with them when we sang in Norwich Cathedral in a gathering of choirs from other Norfolk villages.

During winter months when choir practice was held by Mrs. Wiley at the farm house (it being too cold down at the church) the main attraction for me, apart from the warm fire, was that we could get there early and were allowed to play with Gerald Wiley’s toy Hornby train set, which was quite a big one. Obviously this was to get us boys to attend choir practice.

In summertime choir practice was held at the church. The attraction at the churchyard was trying to get eggs from the crows’ nests built high in the trees near the gate with the lions on the entrance pillars. Another was trying to look into the hole at the bottom of the church tower to try to see the owl sitting on its nest way back in the hole. Being young and small I didn’t find it easy to pull myself up to take a look. You also had to be careful that the bird didn’t fly into your face should it decide to fly out.

Little Plumstead School
One of my happy memories is of being in the infant class when the teacher was a Mrs. Dunham who lived in Blofield and cycled to school every day. She used to bring her little pug dog with her in a basket attached to the handlebars and it would sleep in a basket by the fireplace. Apart from the children’s paintings around the walls of the infant room, the memory of Mrs. Dunham’s pug dog stays most vividly in my mind to this day.

The school gardens
Rosemary mentioned earlier about the school gardens. I was one of the boys who had one of those small allotments on which we grew our vegetables such as carrots and the like. To this day I have an ongoing memory of those gardens as I have what I call “my war wound”, a capped front tooth. During the war we had children at the school who were evacuated from London to the country and some of these children were billeted I believe with the Knights family and possible the Crisp family who also lived on Witton Green. One of the girls I recall was June Crisp. When the evacuees arrived at the school we were told to make them welcome and were showing them our gardens when one of the boys ran all over mine kicking out the newly planted vegetables which resulted in a fight with the two of us rolling around on the ground.

I was made to feel the fight was all my fault and was sent into the main classroom to stand in front of the headmistress’s desk (a Mrs. Phillips, I believe) to await my punishment. It was then that the boy with whom I had fought walked past behind me into the classroom and pushed my head down onto the back of a chair, breaking my front tooth. I am reminded each morning when brushing my teeth of that fateful event and am ever cautious that I take care of the now capped tooth having since had it replaced several times.

The dentist’s visits
Rosemary has already described those fearful visits. We would be forewarned when two older boys were sent out to the playground to open up the fence near the police house corner of the playground to allow the dentist van to be driven in next day where it was always positioned under the chestnut trees. The dentist was quite a big man, which didn’t help to overcome the fear of dental inspections especially if you required a filling. As the drill was operated by him pedalling with his foot to drive the drill, the harder he pressed with the drill the slower he pedalled. There was one occasion when the dreaded dentist van was left in the school playground for about six weeks because the dentist was away sick with a poisoned hand after one of the distressed children bit him.

Religious visits
These were visits to the school by the local Plumstead church vicar, I think his name was Mr. Hanham, and we later had another vicar from Witton, a Mr.Church – an appropriate name for a priest. They would give us religion lesson first thing in the morning. The Plumstead vicar’s lessons were dull and boring but the Witton vicar Mr.Church used to make his more exciting. On the subject of religion we had for a time a head teacher by the name of Mrs. Briggs whose husband Capt. Briggs was in the Salvation Army. I believe he spent quite a lot of time down in London during the war years. I remember on visits back to the school he sang and played “Onward Christian Soldiers” accompanying himself on a concertina with much vigor; the hymn has always stayed a favorite with me.

Conkers
A popular game played when the horse chestnuts were ripe on the trees in the playground was conkers. We first threaded string through the centre of the nut. Then one would hold up his conker by the string while the opponent would attempt to strike it with his. If he missed, it was then his turn to try to strike his opponent’s conker. This carried on until one was broken. Note: it was against the rules to bake the nuts to harden them.

Woodwork
Rosemary mentioned the boys going by taxi for woodworking lessons at Blofield school where the woodwork master was a Mr.O’Brian. Somehow I went to woodwork a term before I should have and I recall his first words to me were: “ If you’re as good as your brother [who was four years older than me] at woodwork you can continue to come to the class”. I must have been reasonable as I did continue, although in adult life my woodworking skills have failed me on occasions. Later the lessons were held at Reedham School and we were transported there by bus. I still have my first attempt at woodwork which is a shield made from English oak, something I treasure greatly from my school years.

The concerts at Plumstead Hall (Hospital)
Plumstead Hospital, or as we called it ‘The Hall’, was were I recall going to see annual Christmas concerts performed by the staff and patients. I loved these shows with the music and singing. Although the acts would have been all amateur, it was a special event for the village.

School nature walks
These were a great escape from the classroom when we would collect and bring back to school various leaves or berries to sketch in our nature books.

PT lessons in playground R-Y-G-B
Physical exercise seemed to entail standing in four lines (teams) in the playground wearing a coloured ribbon, either red, green, yellow or blue. Under the instructions of the teacher we would jump up and down, throwing our arms and legs about… up, down, out, sideways, and running on the spot. It all seems very comical now.

Life out of school
Scrumping (or nicking) apples, plums or strawberries from Wiley’s fruit fields was always a good adventure providing you didn’t get caught. On one occasion John (Jackson) Sarsby and I were caught redhanded in the apple orchard opposite the Wiley’s farmhouse driveway by Mr. Wiley. We took off and ran down to the front gate only to be met there by Mrs.Wiley. Jackson was in more trouble than I was as his father was head horseman on the farm and the adventure didn’t go down too well with him. On that occasion Jackson threw all his apples away as we ran but I managed to keep mine in my battledress jacket. Poor old Jackson unfortunately had a bit of an accident in his trousers out of fear of being caught.

Harvest time…rabbits
This was a great time for the kids especially when the binder cutting the crops would have a field nearly finished by the time we came out of school. We would surround the bit of crop still standing and as it got smaller the rabbits and hares would run. The fun was trying to club them as they ran from the crop to escape the binder.

Riding “hold-gee”
This meant riding the horse pulling the tumbler from one shock (stands of sheaves) to the next in the field. Once that tumbler was full we would go to the one following behind. A bigger boy or one of the farm men would then take the loaded cart to the stack which was being built for threshing later in the year. Starting the horse we’d call out “gee-up”, with a little nudge from our knees, or to stop him “hold-gee”.

Thatching Time
Another job at harvest time was pulling wet straw out from a pile to be carried up tall ladders to where the roof of the stack was being thatched. We always reckoned Wiley’s stacks were the best in the area as they were built with rounded ends, not square. Albert Sarsby was the stack builder.

Threshing time (with steam engine, drum and elevator)
By the time we came out of school the threshing of the stack would be nearly finished. As the stack reduced in height the mice and rats which had been living there would run out. But they couldn’t escape because of a low wire mesh fence that had been placed all round the stack about 3 feet away. The fun was seeing how many of them we could kill with our sticks.

Fruit-picking time
During the black current picking season it was possible to earn some pocket money after school (with one’s mother supervising!). It seemed to take ages to fill a basket to carry over  to old Mr. Fred Lawson who would weigh them and give you a ticket to collect your earnings later. He usually complained because much of my pickings were squashed and had too many leaves among the fruit – through lack of interest, I guess. Children weren’t allowed into the strawberry fields at picking time for obvious reasons.

Cycle Speedway

The track was located on the right off the Salhouse road just past the Brick Kilns pub. This was a great sport racing pushbikes in the same way as the real speedway. There was a dump just inside the wood near the track where the Florida Shoe Factory, I believe, had dumped some steel shoe patterns. I thought it a good idea to fix a couple of the plates to my shoes to help slide my foot round the track bends. It didn’t work as my foot kept sliding off the pedals.

Haircuts
I wonder how many of the boys recall having their hair cut by Mr. Kenny Rice, who lived on the Brick Kilns Corner opposite the pub. He would sit you on a chair in the garden for the haircut – a very nice garden from what I remember.

Arthur Reeves icecream
A clear memory just before or at the start of the war was pleading with my mother to buy me a cornet from Reeves Icecream [later known as Dairyland] which came round on a horse-drawn cart with a twirling post at each corner supporting the roof. But probably due to the cost I had to make do with a thin wafer. The man on the cart used a dispenser with a lever that clicked into either of two levels – a thin icecream or a thicker one. A wafer would be placed in the holder, then a layer of ice-cream with the other wafer placed on top. That’s the only icecream I remember having until after the war. The cart never came again as I believe Arthur Reeve went away into the army. We sometimes played with his sons Colin and Peter and saw the icecream carts stored at the back of their house.

Picnic at Salhouse Broad…Hemsby
On one occasion mother allowed us to go with Colin (Scrapper) Reeve to Salhouse Broad for a picnic on our bikes (mine was a small blue one). However we didn’t get to the broad but somehow managed to finish up at what I think was Hemsby Beach. We were climbing on the anti-landing frames on the beach (which I guess would have been mined) when we were shouted at and guided off the beach by a warden or guard. We had to wait on the porch of a house near the beach while he went inside to report us so were very late arriving home to find very annoyed and frustrated parents. Needless to say the pedals were removed from our bikes and the bikes were tied up in the roof of father’s shed as a punishment.

Broad Pit (Crows Loke) – Peter High, Audrey Howes, Harold Plumbley
I guess a few of the boys would remember how we used to play in Broad Pit placing drums, tins, bits or whatever we could find to make a bridge out into the middle. Parents today would have nightmares if their children played in such dirty water although I can’t recall any of us ever becoming sick from the adventure.

Blacksmith – Great Plumstead
On Saturday I would sometimes go with the farm horses from Wiley’s farms to the blacksmiths at Great Plumstead to have them re-shod. It was fascinating to watch the blacksmith heating the shoes in the forge then shaping them to fit the horses’ hooves. Once the correct size was made he would burn them into position on the hoof (this made quite a bit of smelly smoke) before nailing them on. The sound I liked was when, after he had heated the shoe iron in the forge, he would shape it, tapping the anvil first then hitting the red-hot iron…tap-bang…tap-bang…tap-bang…happy memories!

Policeman Ben Hardesty and John’s feet on the ground
John recalls the time he was stopped by “Old Ben” the village policeman for failing to put both feet on the ground at a stop sign while balancing on his bike waiting to cross the Brick Kilns corner. John was riding his own bike while pushing his “track bike” (speedway bike) with his other hand so didn’t feel he needed to put his feet on the ground. However “Old Ben”, who unknown to John had been following him, had other ideas so he was pulled over and got a ticking off from our friendly policeman who put him right about the rules of the road. Thinking about Policeman Ben and the road rules, my rear lamp never worked very well so it was always a bit of a worry about being caught without a light on your bike.

Carbide cycle lamps
Many a time when our family cycled down to visit our Aunt Ivy and Uncle Ben in Holly Lane, Blofield, the lights father had fitted to our bikes, being of the carbide type and not very reliable, would flicker quite a bit before going out. Then father would ride and push me along with his hand on my back to help keep me going. A strong memory of visiting Aunt Ivy’s was after the war ended and she held a farewell party for our cousin Joan and her husband Bob who were emigrating to Africa. We had been playing the card game Newmarket and cousin Joan gave me all her winnings…how rich was I!

Gas mask testing at Plumstead Hall (Hospital)
Another strong memory is of when we schoolchildren had to have our gas masks tested. This meant a walk to the hospital grounds where a large van was parked. Wearing our gas mask we had to walk through the van which one would assume was filled with a substitute for gas to test our masks. I recall a feeling of fear, hoping that I would come out of the other end of the van safely not having died on the way through. I was very proud of my gas mask as it was blue and in the shape of Mickey Mouse unlike the plain black version adults had. I wish now I had kept that mask for a keepsake.

Returned wounded servicemen
When we were playing round by Blofield Corner we would often see out walking wounded servicemen from the Margaret Harker Hall where they lived while rehabilitating from their war injuries. They were dressed in light blue uniforms with red ties. I recall at the time the sight of some of these poor fellows frightened me.

Rackheath USAF Airbase
I have a vague memory of seeing Rackheath Airfield when construction of the runways first started. My father took us to see where they were levelling the ground, which would have been off the Rackheath Road near Salhouse. For anyone interested look up details on the following wikipedia site: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Rackheath. We kids would often go to the airfield to see the Liberator bombers stationed there. In particular there were two planes parked on the perimeter close by the Rackheath Road which were named “Bugs Bunny” and ”Herbert Hare” and were quite accessible by climbing through the fence. I must confess to climbing into the belly of what was my favorite plane “Bugs Bunny” and pinching the empty cannon shell cases strewn on the plane’s floor after it had returned from a raid. I believe some of the the empty shell cases ended up being made into cigarette lighters.

On one occasion we managed to remove some live shells from the side turret gun ammunition belt to take back home. We’d grip these in the jaws of dad’s bench vice to pull the bullet from the shell case then use the cordite to make a trail on the ground, setting it alight pretending to blow up a dinky toy at the end of the trail. One of the bullets was a white tipped shell and on the way back we tried to pull the projectile from the case by nipping it in the hinge of the railway crossing gate on the Reeves Corner to Rackheath Road but panicked when it started to hiss so threw it into the field opposite the signal box. I guess if you went with a metal detector you’d find it buried there. I still have two of these shells but would point out that they are no longer “live”.

Green flare
On another occasion we picked up – or “obtained” for want of a better word – a live flare. On the way home from the aerodrome, between Reeves corner and Hewitts Farm, we lit the flare and the whole area was bathed in a green light. I wonder how many people puzzled over that at the time.

Collecting empty cigarette packets
A popular pastime was collecting and swapping empty cigarette packets as there were many different brands smoked by the American airmen – plus all the many different English makes. A popular one I recall was “Lucky Strike”

Aircraft emergency landing
A big event for us was when a pilot whom I think was Polish landed his aircraft in the field next to our house. We had waved to the plane as it circled around and were the first on the scene when it landed, tipping its nose into the ground before carrying on down the field then turning round and coming back towards us. Just as we got closer to the pilot after he got out of the plane Mr. Smith (who lived on the Post Office Road) came dashing up with his hand in his pocket pretending it was a gun – pointing it at the pilot and ordering us children back. The plane was in the field for about three weeks while it was being repaired. My brother John recalls that the pilot was apparently lost and the Americans at Rackheath Airfield refused permission for him to land there because in wartime it would have been considered a security risk. Further excitement came when the pilot had to take off again, just clearing the chimney pots of our house. We had been told to leave the house and go to the bottom of the field in case the pilot failed in the take off. The plane started its run across the field from the Blofield Road corner crossing over our house diagonally opposite. The take-off was successful and it went on to land at the Rackheath base.

Air-raid shelter
Our Anderson air-raid shelter was dug in under the apple tree in our front garden. I recall the excitement of helping father to dig what I thought then was a big hole. Unfortunately being beside a ditch it often had water in it so we weren’t that happy to use it.

Air raids
On one occasion when the siren had sounded and the German planes were coming over several of the village men had gathered on the corner of the Post Office Road and Sandy Lane where Fred George lived. He was leaning on a brick pillar by his gate with a cigarette in his mouth and I remember someone shouting to put that “fag” out. Obviously not a good idea to draw on a cigarette with German planes overhead.

Searchlight and Lewis gun
There was an army searchlight along with a Lewis gun based in the field on the left on the Salhouse Road just past the Brick Kilns pub. It was just behind John Rice’s house (he lived on the corner block). I recall going round on the platform of the searchlight.

My narrow escape
Being scared of the size of the army trucks that passed our school I was racing down the hill on my bicycle to get to our house before one, but as I turned across the road the bike skidded in the silt on the roadside and I fell off in front and under the middle of the truck – fortunately between the front wheels. One of the soldiers picked me up and carried me to mother who had come to the gate. I would imagine her relief that I wasn’t hurt but I remember I was in trouble for for falling off in front of it.

The Brick Kilns pub
This was a favorite place for the Americans from the Rackheath airbase. The US Military Police would be seen there at times with their truck to pick up any servicemen who got into a fight. Returning American servicemen’s bikes to the airfield main gate would get us comics or chewing gum. When you met an American airman you always asked “got any gum, chum?” and they most always gave you a packet. The stable at the side of the pub was the place where old saucepans etc. were left for collection for the war effort. Phillip Cork was the landlord at that time. Mother and father would go down to the Brick Kilns on a Saturday night sometimes and we would be “smuggled” into the snuggery and be given a shandy with some crisps to keep us quiet.

Dad’s Army – the real thing
The Home Guard brought about a regular “event” in our house on a Sunday morning when father would get dressed up in his uniform to go for training. Getting him dressed was a bit of an adventure with him struggling into his overcoat. The job of us kids was to stand on the arm of a chair so we could reach and fasten up those little hooks below his chin as he in no way could ever hook them up himself. I don’t know whether Hitler would have waited for him to get into his uniform had he invaded. His rifle was kept behind the front door curtain ready for action. They were only issued we believe with one clip of five bullets so he would have had to aim straight first time! This brings to mind the events of the night when it was thought that a German invasion was on. Father, who worked at the Norwich Motor Company where they built parts for Churchill tanks and aircraft, was as usual late coming home after working long hours. So I guess he wasn’t too impressed when some time after we were all in bed stones were thrown up at his bedroom window by the Home Guard. When he opened the window to see what was going on they shouted for him to get up as “Hitler was coming”. Father’s reply rolled out: “Let him bloody come – tell him I’ll see him in the morning”. It was a favorite tale mother often repeated. Sometimes on a Sunday morning we would go to the sand pit on Sandy Lane, just past the council houses but on the opposite side of the road, to look for rifle bullets after the Home Guard had been there for gun practice, although I can’t remember finding many. After rifle practice they would head for the Brick Kilns. It was probably around 2 o’clock when father and the rest from our way in the village could be seen coming home down the road on those sit-up-and-beg bikes of the day.

V2 rocket

The nearest miss for the village was when a German V2 rocket landed two fields behind Hewitt’s farm on the Norwich/Plumstead Road. I was standing by our shed door when we looked up to see an American bomber flying overhead. Then we saw what appeared to be something falling from the aircraft but it was in fact a V2 Rocket most likely meant for the USAF base at Rackeath. I remember my mother throwing me onto the shed floor as it exploded. It certainly made the biggest hole in the ground I had ever seen.
Hewitt’s farmhouse was only a short distance away and the blast blew all the windows out of the front of the house but didn’t break any at the back, which was the side of the explosion. The woods up on the Plumstead Road near where the V2 landed was one of the places we used to play and that’s where we found a part of the rocket which had many plastic wires attached. Once word got out it was taken away (after we had cut off some of the wires). There was also a cylinder with green smoke coming from it and this the army buried but we later found where that was – in the middle of the woodland near where the Highs lived – as the green smoke was still coming up out of the ground. Plastic-coated wire from such wartime finds was valuable to us kids for swapping as some of the girls used to make wrist bangles from it. Likewise we were happy to find any pieces of perspex from crashed aircraft windows which we would cut into shapes such as hearts and polish them up to trade with other kids for cigarette cards or comics.

Control bunker
There was a bunker built in the corner of the field opposite the woods that are before Hewitt’s farm on the Plumstead Road. Brother John tells me this was the control centre for switching on dummy lights in fields in the area which, seen from an enemy aircraft, would appear to be Norwich Thorpe Station so they would drop their bombs harmlessly into the open countryside. The bunker had a door at the end of a tunnel entrance and also a manhole hatch on the top, which was undoubtedly an emergency escape hatch. I recall us making attempts with various keys we had collected to try and get in to have a look at what was in this mysterious mound of earth. We never did succeed. (Note) I see that where the bunker stood is still visible on Google Earth (52°39′ 38.81N  x  1° 24′  31.33E) and doesn’t appear to get ploughed over. It’s probably still Government land.

Blenheim bomber crash landing on Joe Wiley’s park.
There were guards placed around the plane to stop us getting near it but I still managed to find a piece of the perspex window and a small piece of metal. John was at choir practice at the church when that plane crash landed.

Wartime souvenirs
These were parts of airplanes, shell cases, shrapnel, military arm stripes and cap badges, rocket fins – anything from the war.

Dogfight (war planes)
One night mother, father, John and I were standing outside by the kitchen window looking up at a dogfight between our fighter planes and the German overhead when a piece of shrapnel fell from the sky putting a hole in the window close by father’s head. He was very lucky not to have been hit. Another time we were standing outside watching and waiting when a doodlebug (flying bomb) came over and the engine cut out. I have no idea how far it glided before crashing but I suppose it had been intended for Norwich.

Bombs hit houses on Plumstead Green
John and I were woken one night when we heard the whistle of German bombs dropping (if you heard the whistle you knew the bombs would miss you). There was a loud explosion and a small oil nightlight in our bedroom was blown out. Next morning we went up to the Village Green to see the house that had been bombed killing two older people. I don’t know their names but the wall of Peter Barton’s bedroom next door was blown out and he and the bed slid out onto the rubble. The Andrews lived on the house the other side and escaped injury. John tells me that four bombs fell that night around Joe Wiley’s farm.

Boobytrap warning
A lecture at school, presumably by an army officer, warned us of the dangers of picking up boobytrapped toys etc. which German planes would drop over the countryside. I seem to remember someone finding one of these disguised as a box of matches and getting his arm burnt when he struck one – although this could just have been an example given in the lecture.

Machine gunned going to school
This happened to Trevor Highe and my brother John as they were going past what was then the Wiley’s fruit-picking hut on their way to school. A German plane returning home to its base started firing at them. The boys thought at first it was a motorbike but quickly dived into the ditch for shelter when they realised the danger they were in. When we heard the noise of machinegun fire at home my mother pushed me under the table.

Despatch riders & bren-gun carriers
These were often seen going through the village past our place.
Bomber planes
A strong memory is the sound of massed bombers going overhead as they headed for their raids on Germany.
Silver foil
We would sometimes find bundles of strips of foil that had been dropped from planes to confuse radar

 

Rockets in ditch behind our garden
On one occasion rockets fired at enemy aircraft landed in the ditch at the edge of the field at the bottom of our garden. They must have been collected by the army as some may still have been live. I’m sure given half a chance we would have had them for souvenirs.

Our Cousin Willy
A sad time for the family was the death of our cousin Willy who was killed in a Wellington bomber crash. When father came home and told mother the sad news they stood and wept together in the kitchen for a while not knowing I was watching in the doorway not understanding why. The words I remember was: “Doris isn’t going to see Willy as he can’t be recognised” So much for war! I was sent to fetch John home to hear the news.

Victory celebrations…to end on a happy note
A picture very easy to recall is the night standing with John on our front lawn and seeing coloured vary light signal flares being sent up into the sky like fireworks by the American servicemen at Rackheath Airfield to mark the end of the war. Our village celebrations included a huge bonfire with an effigy of Hitler on top built in the meadow next to Charlie Williams’s house, which was on the left down Post Office Road just before the post office. For me the end of the war came in with a bang as that was the first time I’d every seen or heard loud fireworks. Charlie Williams (he was a butcher in Norwich) had acquired these bangers called Little Demons and Cannons. When he arrived at the bonfire he had obviously been celebrating long before getting home and was in a rather “unsteady state” as he swung his car into the driveway, hit the gatepost and ripped its wing off. To add to my happiness a Spitfire or Hurricane flying overhead did a Victory Roll as it flew past.

To Rosemary
Thank you for making these memories come to fruition by launching the Little Plumstead web page on the net. It has given me a chance to put down in print some of our adventures if only for the benefit of my own and John’s children and their children in turn. It was by pure chance I happened to come across http://littleplumsteadhistory.norfolkparishes.gov.uk/ while one night I was looking on the net for people I might have known and entered the name of my old schoolmate John Sarsby (now sadly deceased). He was mentioned in one of your stories. To any school friends who may read this I send you my best wishes from our home in Perth, Western Australia.

Bob Simmons
April 2013
email: bobtsim@bigpond.com

FRIENDS REUNITED

Rosemary Turner writes: – In September 2016 Bob and his wife Brenda* journeyed from Australia to spend three weeks in their home county, Norfolk. It provided me with a great chance to reunite Bob and his brother Brian with John Oakley and my brother Rowland and for everyone to meet their respective wives – June, Sheila and Margaret. Afterwards Bob emailed: “The time we spent with you and our friends from schooldays was such a memorable and emotional event for me. After all the years gone by I’d never imagined it possible to ever get together with Rolly and John and recall our childhood adventures in Plumstead. This trip back ‘home’ is really something special for us and I’m trying to store every moment of our time into my memories ‘hard drive’ to be able to replay it all once we’re back in Australia. The marvel of the ipad is helping me greatly with that.”

*Brenda Appleton, as she was before marriage, was born in Worstead but then lived at Crostwight Common in Honing from where she attended North Walsham Girls’ High School.  Her uncle owned  the former Appleton’s  Sweetshop on the Hoveton side of Wroxham Bridge.

From left:  Brian Simmons, John Oakley, Bob Simmons, Rosemary Turner and Rowland Hardesty

 

BUGS BUNNY BY ITS PILOT’S DAUGHTER
On October 7, 2017, Steve Andrews, who lives in Wroxham, emailed: Hi Rosemary, I was directed to the Little Plumstead History site via the Wroxham one. I was reading about a crash site and the link led me to Bob Simmon’s memories and his mention of the Liberator he used to investigate called “Bugs Bunny”. By one of those amazing coincidences the daughter of the pilot of that plane had just posted pictures of the aircraft on Facebook. It was on a page set up by a local man focusing on Rackheath Airfield and USAAF Group based there. In fact they are opening a history room in a small local aviation museum.  I would love to share Bob’s memories with her about her father’s aircraft. Would this be OK? Steve told me the pilot’s daughter was Ann Wescott Method, who has an active Facebook page, and lives in Drummond, Michigan, USA. Bob and I were both delighted that she would be able to read about his clandestine adventures and see her pictures on my site.

Ann wrote: My dad, Wells L “Bugs” Wescott, was the pilot of the B-24 “Bugs Bunny”. The plane was named in his honour or so the story goes. The 10-man crew formed a pact that the first-born child would be nicknamed Bugs or Bunny and, according to my dad, there were seven “Bugs” and three “Bunny” births. I was a first- born and still am called Bunny by family and close friends. I have a very interesting letter* from my dad to his mother talking about signing for the plane. He lists the cost, the serial number, how it was named and talk about the plane mascot “Doc”. He was stationed in Rackheath with the 467th Bomber Group – Heavy. He flew 30 missions and brought his entire crew home every time.

Dad, right, and his plane,  “Bugs Bunny” from the 791st squadron – and  one of his crew, left

 

 

I’VE JUST BOUGHT A B24!

*An extract from the letter to his mother dated Friday February 25, 1944, written from Herington Army Air Base in Kansas. He ended it: “If you don’t hear from me for quite a while, think nothing of it because I will be on the move. “ He was soon on his way to Rackheath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which reads: “I had quite a thrill today as I bought a B-24-H airplane serial number 42-52530 and four Pratt and Whitney engines, one bomb sight, one automatic pilot and a sundry of small less expensive items. The total cost amounted to about $300,000 – so you see I signed for quite an item. I suppose you wouldn’t consider my signature the same as buying an airplane but the army considers it mine and has no ties on it. Everything that goes wrong has to be taken care of by me – of course at the government expense. “

He went on to write:-

“Oh by the way we named our plane “Bugs Bunny”. You’ve probably seen him at the movies in the cartoons. We have a picture of him leaning on a bomb eating a carrot with a sly look on his face saying “Er-oh… What’s up Doc?” [You can see Bugs Bunny painted on the fuselage in the picture above.]

 

One Response to Adventures of Bob Simmons

  1. Well I’m Robert Simmons’ daughter, Kathleen (known as Kay), in Perth Western Australia. I’m happy to say that I’ve given myself quality time today and been able to enjoy every single word of Father’s stories, beautifully recorded on this website. I’ve heard from Father about Rosemary and her starting this site and am so grateful she has made this opportunity for Father to recall and keep on record for all of us the antics, tales and reality of childhood in Wartime Norfolk. My partner Kevin and I visited Norfolk in 2014 and loved being with Dad’s brother, John Simmons, with whom he shared many of these adventures. I did muse over the piece Father wrote about Uncle John being scolded by the Policeman for not putting both feet on the ground at an intersection when riding his bike. Thank you Father for the many hours you must have put into this writing. I’m lucky to have Father and Mother (Brenda) now living in Perth too. I know my children enjoy hearing of their Grandparents’ stories, so I’m sure their being recorded like this will be a lasting treasure for them too.
    with love and thanks
    Kay

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