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Mrs Eileen Polson  (May-June 1998)

Eileen was born in 1918, six months before the end of the Great War, to Florence Marian and William James White. Her mother always told her that she remembered bombs being dropped on the heath around the time that she was born. The family was living at number 41 High Street having returned a few years earlier from Bournemouth in order that Marion and William could care for her father Thomas Andrews. Eileen's brother Roy, 8 years her senior had been born in Bournemouth. Eileen's father was, at the time of her birth, in the Norfolk Regiment. Sadly he died in 1926 at the age of 41 from peritonitis.


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Baby Eileen

William James White - father

William, Florence, brother Roy and baby Eileen.

The family has, since the house was built in 1728, lived at No. 41 and Eileen's son Richard has researched and produced a family tree dating from that time which hangs proudly in the living room. The gardens and yard (purchased in the early 1800s by Grandfather Andrews) have seen many changes what with the addition of various extensions to the main house and the demolition of various surrounding cottages which used to be lived in by farm workers. In total six small cottages have, over the years, disappeared from the site, two from the back of the house which suffered bomb damage during WW2 and 4 from the yard. The small building attached to the yard side of the Pet Shop in High Street was originally a Quaker Meeting House before becoming a Butchers. After that it was a sweet shop and then, when Eileen was born, it was a General Store run by a Miss Prior. Miss Prior was from East Dereham and she worked originally for Barley Porter before striking out on her own. She lodged with the Banhams and rented the building from Grandfather Andrews. Some time later she went into partnership with Mrs Banham (Prior & Banham) and then, when Mrs Banham died her daughter Mrs Llewellyn took over (Prior and Llewellyn). Eileen remembers one particular incident when she was playing in the garden with her dolls and one of them broke. When her Grandfather heard the crying he immediately took her hand and walked her round to the store to buy a new one. Needless to say the tears stopped immediately.

Sadly, in 1924, Grandfather Andrews died and the airbase took most of the farm in 1934. The land left, which is where Vincent's Close is now located was let to Mr Doy, the Butcher, by Eileen's mother. Mr Doy also took over the family coal business that Grandfather had started. As Eileen's father William was a Tax Inspector the farm left the family.

Eileen recalls that when electricity came to Feltwell in 1935 each house was allowed three lights and one socket. Entertainment was home grown or provided by the radio which was powered by accumulators. These accumulators had to be recharged and Eileen remembers going to get this done at, firstly, Mr Fletchers, which was where the fish and chip shop now stands, and then when that closed, to Mr Pilon's shop where the Greengrocers is and also at Mr Basil Vincent's shop, now Mr Chandler's.

Like all children in the village at that time Eileen went to the Infant School when Miss Knight ran it. She remembers that before you could leave for lunch Miss Knight asked each child a 'tables' question. If you got it wrong you had to go to the back of the line. Learning was repetitive, there where no exercise books to take home. Eileen's best friend at the time was Betty Doy. Girls got off lighter, they could play rather than work which is what the boys had to do after school. Eventually she moved to the 'big' school and then, having passed the 11 plus, she went on to Thetford Grammar. She lodged with Mercy Edwards and Betty and Peggy Cock having to take a taxi to the railway station at Lakenheath on the Monday morning and then get one back on the Friday night. In 1935 she completed her education and after a few months without work she got a job as tutor to Ian Naismith, one of two sons of Doctor Naismith, where she stayed for nearly three years. When the war started a vacancy became available at the 'big' school in Feltwell. Eileen applied and this event marks the start of a career as a relief teacher that took her to schools in Hockwold, Boughton, Methwold and Attleborough until she married.

She met Ernest Bruce Polson at a dance in the Coronation Hall on May 3rd 1940. He was originally from Dublin and was stationed at Feltwell as armourer. The Rev. Couldridge, who had just returned from France, married them on the 10th February 1941, in Saint Mary's Church. They moved in to No. 41 and lived with Eileen's mother. Eileen, herself, had to give up teaching when she became married. Her brother Roy joined the RAF as a wireless operator but was unfortunately posted missing in action on the 4th July 1943 when his plane was never heard of again.

One wartime event which she remembers particularly vividly (and no doubt others will remember it as well) occurred whilst she was cycling home from the railway station. A single Dornier flew over Feltwell and dropped a number of bombs, one exploded in the orchard on the farm, one in Tommy Llewellyn's shed the other side of the garden wall and one on Maggs' farmhouse. The repair to the wall can still be seen and the two cottages standing in what is now the back garden had to be demolished as they were severely damaged by the blast. There was no anti-aircraft fire from the base. She also recalls a Morrison Shelter being installed in the kitchen in 1942 and a Pill Box being located in the grounds of what is now Park House.

Ernest left the RAF in 1945 and took a job with Hyams the baker. He did not like this and left after a week. This was followed by a job as Assistant Barrack Warden on the base and then on to a job with Lignacite in Brandon. In 1954 he left there and established "Polson's Precast Concrete" on the land that Mr Doy had previously rented. Some Polson blocks can still be seen in the village, for example in Mr Darby's wall. At some time in the 1950s they sold 9 acres of land on the fen, which had been in the family since 1777, to Archie Spencer who eventually sold them on to Weasenham Farms. In 1959 the business was closed and Ernest went into partnership with Malletts of Kings Lynn. Together they turned the block-making site into a caravan park to provide much needed accommodation for the airfield and Ernest became the site manager.

Eventually additional housing was built on the Base and the business tailed off. In 1960 Ernest sold his half share to Mallett who installed Billy Vincent as the site warden. (Not the one after whom Vincent's Close is named). Ernest retired in 1982 after a series of salesman jobs and selling Calor gas. He died in 1995 leaving Eileen, Richard and Elizabeth all of whom still live at No. 41 High Street. Marjorie and family live at Kings Lynn.

When asked about the biggest change she has seen in her life in Feltwell Eileen replied "the expansion of the village and the disappearance of the shops. And the Thetford Salvation Army Band playing at Christmas on the Chequers Green. It's all got so impersonal, there's not the contact between the people."

Eileen, thank-you.

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