Memories of the War and the soldiers stationed in Brook

 

A few months later came the real war, and then the Battle of Britain. No bombs fell on Brook (two fell harmlessly between Compton Farm and Compton Grange). In fact, Erica Browitt (Newbery) remembers:  everyone saying Brook would not be bombed as the reflection of moonlight on Brook Hill House and the Orchard House in the walled garden of Brook House were too useful to the bombers as a guide out to the Channel. I do remember people saying there were a couple of spies in the village who were monitored very closely by the army...

On August 18th 1940, Oberleutnant Muller Freidrich was captured on Brook Down after bailing out of his Messerschmidt. A week later a Heinkel III Bomber crashed into the sea off Hanover Point. The crew were picked up by a German Air Sea Rescue Launch (see photograph below). 

Throughout World War II troops were billeted all around the village, in the barns, the larger houses, in the school and, in summer, they camped in the fields. Soldiers were on armed guard at the top of Brook House drive and in Brook Chine. Brook House was full of Canadian soldiers, Compton car park was full of huts housing soldiers from Jersey.

Along the top of the cliff, a number of brick dugouts looking out to sea were manned for two hours at a time.This meant that the people living there were under military control and had to show their identity cards to prove who they were before getting home.  The soldiers used the old Lifeboat House as a guard house. Every time Maisie Minot (Bull) arrived home on her bike or got off the bus, she was challenged by the words, ‘Friend or foe?’ even though they knew who she was. She remembers how: Mother made a pitcher of tea and I would take it along to the old lifeboat house for the men who were on guard duty. 

As well as their base in the lifeboat house, the army had a number of concrete and brick look-outs and dug-outs in woods such as Bush Rew and along the cliffs at Brook and Compton. Maisie Minot says that as far as she remembers the first troops to occupy Brook House were the Somerset Light Infantry, after that came the Devonshire Light Infantry.

 Mrs Myrtle Lewis (Newbery) has vivid memories of growing up in Brook in wartime: The soldiers were stationed at Brook House.  I was only little and it was towards the end of the war, we used to see the troops cross the field behind Little Brook and go into Bush Rew where they had dug outs. Rosemary and I would go and play in the tunnels - until they became unsafe. There were tanks parked under three elm trees opposite the engine house (at the side of the walled garden). One, a Churchill tank, was given to me for my birthday, I remember a soldier lifting me up onto the tank while my father looked on. On duty at the Lodge gates was a sentry officer who was billeted at the Red House. On our return home from Newport one day, the sentry asked my father for his pass, he did not have it, the sentry was a new one and did not know my father, so he put him in the guard room until my mother returned with the pass.  

Erica recalls the time when Brook House and its grounds were commandeered by the Government: Soldiers lived in the house and the wooded land was used for the storage of fuel, ammunition, guns, tanks and other vehicles.     

When the war came in 1939, Joe  Hulse joined the Army. He earned £2.19 shillings and was stationed on the Isle of Wight, manning the searchlight at the bottom of Hoxall Lane. A young Brook girl called Edie Morris, come rain  (she often got wet through) or shine, came along to see the soldiers. She had no interest in any of the other soldiers but only had eyes for Joe. This was the start of a romance and then a long marrriage.  

After the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, the soldiers were dispersed across southern England. The remnants of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers were stationed in Brook and Hulverstone and some were billeted in one of the classrooms at Hulverstone School. Sometimes at weekends a lorry would take the soldiers to Newport to the pictures or the pub.

The most serious loss was on April 17th 1942, when several army officers were killed by a direct hit on a hotel at Brighstone Grange and this tragedy is recorded in the Hulverstone School Log.