Archive for the ‘rotherfield’ Category


Just as it appeared the village was being defeneded not without some skill, a disturbing incident occered jarring the confidence of the very soul of the villagers.  Headmistress Ms. Featherlake and glamourous farm hand and village tease Daisy Woods had not spoken since the young student walked out of school to “chase her dream” and take up with bad boy Reynolds. Featherlake viewed it as a personal betrayal from one of her most brightest students. “The slap cut across the sound of gunfire” SW Motors mechanic James Arnold was heard to say as the 2 set about each other in a cat fight of the most unseemly manner. Woods was already under suspicion after her miraculous escape from the Germans early on in the barn. This event just added fuel to the fire.

It was a particularly disappointing turn of events as the German appeared to be getting desparate with half the day already gone. News of their flagship the Scharnhorst being sunk by mines while manoeuvring into Folkestone harbour was having an adverse effect on morale as it would inevitably delay the arrival of reinforcements.  This added to the tenacity of the defence was beginning to show.  Pte Godfrey who had moved to Hornshurst Woods arrived in the nick of time to despatch a small german patrol moving toward the village.

Sherrifs Lane, the scene of heavy loss to the Germans as they were caught in a crossfire between the hedgerows

Sherrifs Lane, the scene of heavy German loss as they were caught in a crossfire between Reynolds and the American regulars

Reynolds and the troops from the USEF exacted a heavy toll on a group of paratroops attempting to enter the village from Sheriffs Lane although they still managed hold a small foothold and account for a couple of the American defenders.

Back on the West side Rotherfield Stores’ Edith Finlay had taken over the defence of the South stream. The Germans sensing a reduction in the firepower levelled against them launched another attack. Expending all her remaining bullets, Finlay despatched another 4 germans before being overwhelmed. Another tragic loss and the school drive was now in German hands. Fierce hand to hand fighting continued in the cricket pavilion where Home Guard Pte Fraser was also killed in action.

At the surgery, Doctor Greystone managed to patch up the farm hands and Pte Pike who had been injured earlier on but the list of people requiring medical attention was reaching critical point.

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With 3 German Regts now closing in on the village (7th Falschirmjager, 5th Jager & 1st Infantiere) assaults were simultaneously launched from 3 sides involving over 100 troops. The bulk still came from the West but in the South, Reynolds and Thorncroft ably defended their sectors inflicting casualties although Thorncroft was wounded.

From the relatively quiet East side, the Rotherfield Womens Institute Amazons Shooting club reported over 25 paratroops moving towards their position at the road block by the Police Stn. Urgent calls were sent to the church for Mainwaring to release more small arms to allow this group to defend themselves adequately.  Nearby, Rotherfield Primary School Head Ms. Featherlake had been working with James Arnold of SW Motors burying a large device under the main road near the garage. Arnold telling villagers nearby rather cryptically “Its ARMED.” What exactly was armed would remain a secret for the time being.  The adjacent Surgery was now full with wounded Home Guard and villagers, Doctor Greystone having to send for extra supplies of bandages and pain killers from the Pharmacy on the High St.

Home Guard volunteer Sgt Wilson - Knocked the enemy for 6 as they tried to cross the South stream

Home Guard volunteer Sgt Wilson – Knocked the enemy for 6 as they tried to cross the South stream

The main action still took place in the West and North with Sgt Wilson wiping out a flank attempt over the South stream and the East Kent’s holding out in the School outnumbered by more than 7 to 1.

Up by the cricket pavilion Pte Fraser shot down a few Germans advancing from the bowls club.  The surviving members of the cricket club equipped with just their bats were engaged in a life or death struggle of hand to hand combat and just as it looked that they would be overwhelmed, Pte Godfrey (Home Guard) who had been secreted behind the score board let fly with an accurate volley of Mackeson Milk Stout bottles causing the Germans to retreat in disarray. In the adjacent orchard the Teachers avenged the loss of the pub regulars by eliminating the last few troops in the orchard.

The village was still predominantly in British hands with half the day gone. But the list of wounded was increasing at a worrying rate and reports of heavier enemy troop build up meant the battle was still in the balance.


IMG_3377 (800x600) As midday approached, events took a sinister turn, First Capt Mainwaring was warned that there was now strong evidence to support the fact that one of the villagers was in league with the Germans and acting as a fifth columnist. At present unidentified, he/she was accordingly codenamed “Chaplin.” As if that wasn’t enough a 3rd German light infantry division the 1st Infantiere was reported approaching from the hitherto relatively quiet Eastern sector while the paratroops of 7FJ and infantry of 5J continued a heavy build up in the North West. Lord Thorncroft of the Manor House and poacher Brendan Murphy alias Reynolds appeared to be ruled out of the list of Chaplin suspects as they put their differences aside to fight the common enemy. putting to flight the German troops who had accounted for Home Guard volunteer Sponge in Hornshurst Wood.

Rotherfield school drive approach from the German position. Here over 50  German troops from 7FJ & 5J were involved in heavy fighting with a handful of East Kent regulars, the East Sussex Hunt putting the Vickers to full effect and the redoubtable Mrs Finlay.

Rotherfield school drive approach from the German position. Here over 50 German troops from 7FJ & 5J were involved in heavy fighting with a handful of East Kent regulars, the East Sussex Hunt putting the Vickers to full effect and the redoubtable Mrs Finlay.

On the west side of the village, heavy fighting ensued by the school, the drive approaching it and the apple orchard to the north. Both sides inflicted and took casualties in the course of the fighting but after another hour the school was still in possession of the villagers. The Vickers mg effectively put to use once more by the Sussex Hunt. To the North, Pte Fraser (cricket pavilion) and the Teachers & pub regulars ably led by the Breakfast club staff armed with shotguns, test tubes of acid, pool cues and darts continued to engage paratroops in the Orchard. Then disaster struck as the pub regulars fuelled by one pint of Harveys Best bitter too many, became too emboldened and leaving the relative safety of the Kings Arms, charged the enemy. In a matter of seconds they were cut down enmasse, a salutary tale if ever there was one concerning the negative effects of alcohol.


As the Germans concentrated their assault from the West with a feint from the North, Policeman Sgt Drake defending the bridge at Town Row Green kept the Germans at bay until his ammunition ran out. Reinforcements in the guise of the East Kent’s based at Crowborough Camp rushed to his aid but sadly it was in vain as Drake was overwhelmed becoming the first known British named casualty of the battle as well as allowing the Germans to capture the strategically important bridge.

The relentless pressure was beginning to tell as Aussie reporter Drayden Fox and a number of the surrounded farm hands joined Walker as walking wounded. The Farm Hands however managed to break out after eliminating the paratroopers who had pinned them down from the South.

Rotherfield cricket pitch - German troops had attempted to  cross from the far side before being stopped in their tracks after the firestorm unleashed on them by Cpl Jones  proficient use of DeGaulle cocktails

Rotherfield cricket pitch – German troops had attempted to cross from the far side before being stopped in their tracks after the firestorm unleashed on them by Cpl Jones proficient use of DeGaulle cocktails. The white building in the distance, the pavilion, scene of Pendrake’s robust defence and vicious hand to hand fighting.

As Bank Manager Arthur Pendrake galvanised the cricket team into a cohesive force from the pavilion, Home Guard volunteer Cpl Jones was covering the cricket pitch, armed with just a crate of DeGaulle cocktails (petrol & flammable spirit based bottles) he spied a couple of squads advancing over the pitch. In a sharp engagement he managed to stop the german advance in its tracks although the cricket wicket was irreparably damaged (much to Arthur Pendrake’s despair). Vicious hand to hand combat ensued around the cricket pavilion and the orchard to the West where more paratroopers were attempting to advance from. Despite inflicting some casualties on the Germans, a number of the cricket team and pub regulars were killed or wounded, unable to continue fighting. Bank Manager Pendrake leading the cricket team and Daisy Woods were also both wounded but fortunately able to continue. A fair exchange for holding onto the pavilion and keeping it free of enemy for another hour.pic661440_md[1]

To the South, 5th Jäger regt units moved out from the Copper Kettle newsagents but were cut down when caught in the open by a withering crossfire from the East Sussex Hunt equipped with the Vickers M.G. Sadly Pte Sponge patrolling Hornshurst Woods  was killed when about 10 troops from the 5th Jagers rushed his position.

The Germans now had a firm foothold on the East of the village outskirts but with the pubs and schoolhouse still in villagers hands the situation was far from hopeless despite an increasing number of wounded villagers.


IMG_3375 (800x600) Clement weather had assisted the debarkation of German troops with the 5th Jager Regt landing at Cuckmere Haven and racing towards the developing battle in Rotherfield. Meanwhile the German paratroopers began to increase the pressure on the western side of the village.  This time 5 squads attempted to cross the stream from the south side concentrating their fire on Walkers improvised defence position.  Despite wounding him he remained at his post until relieved by village Bobby Sgt Drake.

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Entrance to Eridge Lane from the School Drive. Here, German Paratroopers crossed the road in the open only for a number to be cut down by the valiant Edith Finlay

The paratroopers were however unaware that Rotherfield Stores owner, widower Edith Finlay had taken up position covering the entrance to Eridge Lane. Caught in the open she couldn’t miss using her beloved husbands old Webley service revolver and very soon the lane was littered with dead and dying germans. Drake using a Springfield caused more grievous casualties to another group of Paratroopers attempting to flank the bridge from the north. For the moment the Germans were being kept in check but then the arrival of advance elements of the 5th Jager Regt threatened to upset the apple cart. Entering the village outskirts unopposed through the marshy waterlogged fields of Horsegrove Farm they successfully cut off the farm hands who were holed up in the barn observing the southern approach. Notorious “brass” Daisy Woods fortuitously managed to extricate herself moments before they arrived.

0900-1000hrs. The tactical situation from of the eastern side. 7th FJ and 5th J elements advance threatening to cut off the farm hands in the Old barn and flanking the School Drive. cutting off the farm hands in the process

0900-1000hrs. The tactical situation on the eastern side. 7FJ and 5J elements advance threatening to cut off the farm hands in the old barn and flanking the School Drive.

The farms hands would have to decide whether to make a stand or break out. Almost cut off they were unaware of the morale boosting news that a squad of regular allied infantry had entered the village from the East to support the inhabitants. The 1st United States Expeditionary Force (who were billeted in Tunbridge Wells) had arrived.

 


Vigilant Home Guard Volunteer J. Walker was the first to spot the first German units approaching the village.

Vigilant Home Guard Volunteer J. Walker. First to spot German paratroopers approaching the village.

As news reached the Home Guard of an imminent invasion the church bells of St Deny’s church began to peel.  Local residents were warned to be extra vigilant especially for anything suspicious such as German paratroopers disguised as nuns. Capt. Mainwaring took on the role of organising the village defence. A temporary sandbagged pillbox style defence was erected covering the western approaches from the village side of the bridge. Small arms equipment stockpiled in the church crypt began to be issued until it was discovered that some of the weapons had apparently been tampered with rendering a large amount unfit for use.  With the added complication of the possibility of a Fifth Columnist at large in the Parish, tension reached fever pitch.

IMG_3373 (800x600)At 0600 hours, LDV Pte J.Walker patrolling the bridge noticed movement by the North stream.  Studying the area closely he spotted what were later identified as 4 German Paratroopers about to attempt to cross the stream. Walker fired a warning shot over their heads and challenged them but there was no reply except for an increased urgency in their actions. At this point Walker decided that they were indeed enemy troops and he began lay down a suppressing fire in their general direction. The first shots in the battle of Rotherfield had been fired.

IMG_3370 (800x600)Meanwhile, nearby in the Kings Arms and Catts Inn pubs, a motley group of pub regulars who had been sleeping soundly within from the previous nights lock-ins (celebrating or commiserating themselves on what could be the last hours of freedom for the village) were galvanised into action. Arming themselves with an assortment of improvised weapons and still full of dutch courage from the previous nights drinking they made their way down Station road before recklessly charging over the stream taking the German troops by surprise thanks to the ferocity of their attack. Within seconds, 4 German paratroopers lay dead or dying. Checking their papers, they were identified as reconnaissance paratroopers from an Aufklärer unit of the 7th Falschirmjäger Regt.

The war had arrived in Rotherfield.


The day before the storm - Rotherfield's St Deny's church basking in the sunshine

The day before the storm – Rotherfield’s St Deny’s church tower basking in the sunshine

After the allied debacle in the Battle of France and the subsequent Luftwaffe’s victory over the RAF during the aerial campaign against England, German e-boats are spotted laying down a carpet of mines over 2 broad areas in the English Channel. Inside the cordon, merchant ships, ferries, barges and other German naval vessels are seen preparing to embark troops while Junkers Ju-52 tri-motor transport aircraft are concentrated on Northern French airfields. Operation Seelöwe is about to begin!

Leaflets delivered to all residents in Southern England a few weeks earlier.outh

Leaflets delivered to all residents in Southern England a few weeks before the actual invasion.

Meanwhile on English soil Churchill delivers a grim speech in the House of Commons All his (Hitler’s) preparations for invasion on a great scale are steadily going forward. Several hundreds of self-propelled barges are moving down the coasts of Europe from the German and Dutch harbours to the ports of northern France, from Dunkirk to Brest, and beyond Brest to the French harbours in the Bay of Biscay”

For the residents of sleepy Rotherfield a storm approaches dressed in Feldgrau and spitting 7.92mm rounds. Will they and Mainwaring’s Home Guard be up to the job and able to defend this green and pleasant land?

Watch this space