LITTON CHENEY IN WARTIME
For Litton, as for the country generally, the First World War was somewhat remote, only materially affecting the village in its demand for men (nine were killed), shortage of food and the struggle to increase the agricultural output. A detailed diary of the first world war in Litton Cheney can be read here Those with memories of 1914-18 soon realised in 1939 that this time things were going to be very different. In the first eighteen months the threat of invasion loomed large. The nucleus of the troops’ billets were 28 Nissen huts in the two fields east of the school (there were then no houses in the lane, other than the schoolhouse). This was supplemented by the taking over of the bams at the Rectory and at Court House. The Youth Hostel (as popular during the 1930s as it is today) became a sick bay and general H.Q. office. The buildings and yard of Cross Tree Farm (where Moxom’s factory was) was commandeered for workshops and stores and a general assembly area. The Foot family who owned the farm continued to run it from their other farm at Long Bredy. Litton, in fact, was to become the centre of training for a succession of units both British and American for four years. The 8th battalion of the Essex Regiment was stationed in the area and had its H.Q. in the village. The 257th Battery, Royal Artillery, trained here before active service and many of that unit lost their lives at Dunkirk. The entry of the U.S.A. into the war brought American troops into the area which became involved in the preparation for the D Day landing in Normandy. Litton had a distinguished visitor in 1943 when General Eisenhower, the Allied Commander in Europe, decorated men who had come back from the invasion of Italy. The investiture took place in Cross Tree farmyard but for security reasons did not become generally known until after it had taken place.. One must not forget the Home Guard. Both Litton and Long Bredy had small platoons right from its early days, generally under the command of officers or N.C.O.s who had First World War experience. Gradually, through 1940 when invasion seemed imminent, it gained in organisation and efficiency so that by 1944 it was considered part of the line of defence. One can however, remember experiences of those early days such as being taken to Kingston Maurward to fire two rounds from a rifle “to get the feel of it”. For the Home Guard platoons the invasion scare in 1940 meant assembling in the evening in Puncknowle school, each with just one clip of five rounds for his rifle, ostensibly to back up the regular units defending the beach. With the successful invasion of Europe, troops were gradually withdrawn from the south coast area and the Bride Valley no longer had the visitors it had entertained for almost four years. In Litton.  The camp in School Lane was demolished save for the two Nissen huts which had been the sergeants’ mess. These were to serve the school as a kitchen and dining room for another 23 years. The fine bam in the grounds of Court House had, however, been burnt down never to be rebuilt. Litton gradually regained its peacetime calm but of those who served five did not return, their names being added to those on the 1914-18 memorial in the churchyard - details here
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