Duramform Memories

Most of the time I was away at school and actually spent only a total of 9 months living in the house although my parents were there from approximately 1944 -1947.  The most vivid memories concern two main areas:

  • the War

  • the Ghost(s)

doodlebugThe war memories related to the V1 the so-called Doodle Bug, and Sedlescombe was located on the flight path as they flew over Hastings on their way to their targeted area - London.  This flight path was known as Doodle Bug Alley and Duramford seemed to be right in the middle of it.  There would be many an occasion when we would hear the dreaded noise of the flying bomb's engine approaching and the even more terrifying silence that followed, signifying engine shutdown and one praying and hoping it would not land on top of you

Often, spent shell-casings would land on the roof and in the garden ejected by the cannon and machine guns of the aircraft trying to shoot them down.  This was a formidable task as the top speed of a V1 was in the vicinity of 400MPH and only the latest generation of allied planes could catch them.  These included the Spitfire MK X1V and, in July 1944, our first operational jet aircraft, the Gloucester Meteor.

Spitfire

One of the tactics used by the R.A.F fighter pilots, to bring down the v1s' with minimum damage to property and civilian populace, was to try and flip them over open countryside.  They would formate on the V1, place a wing under it, roll the aircraft and try and tilt the V1 in the opposite direction.  Hopefully this manoeuvre would de-stabilise the gyro guidance system and cause the flying bomb to crash.

On one occasion my brother and I were playing in the rock garden, east of the main house, when we witnessed what was probably the most spectacular sight I have ever seen.  It took place about a quarter of a mile north east of the house and involved a Tempest, flying alongside a V1, attempting to carry out the flip over tactic mentioned earlier.  Suddenly, there was a massive explosion, a gigantic fireball appeared and, once the smoke, etc, had dissipated, no sign of either of the machines.  Apparently, the Germans had got wise to the Allied pilots tactics and had decided to put explosive charges on the wing tips of the V1.  Once contact was made, this resulted in the aforementioned explosion.

The other event concerned a Spitfire that crash landed in the field.  Unfortunately, I was away at school when all this happened. so the information is second-hand.  The aircraft approached from a north-westerly direction in a wheels up configuration, belly landed and skidded across the field hitting the tree.  One of the wings was ripped off, causing the plane to cartwheel and finally coming to a stop.  A neighbour rescued the pilot who was not seriously injured and fortunately for both of them nothing caught fire.  a salvage crew was dispatched from the closest airfields and after my mother had made copious amounts of tea, the aircraft was dismantled for recycling.  As a memento of the crash my brother was given the 20mm canon covers which were painted with the names of the pilot's girlfriends, Margaret and Phyllis.

Now we come to the mysteries of the Duramford Ghost(s).  My bedroom was located at the top of the main staircase and there would be many a night when I used to hear footsteps slowly climb the stairs and stop outside my door.  Terrified, I would bury my head under the bedclothes and try and will whatever it was to go away.  Imagine my consternation one night, my head buried, something landed on my bed, thank God it was only the cat, and I think that was probably the moment I started to lose my hair!

My mother was a keen believer in the supernatural and appeared to develop a certain artistic ability during her time at Duramford.  One of her experiences was seeing a monk-like figure, whom the thought was my uncle who was staying in the house at the time, standing in the bathroom.  When they talked about this later, it was discovered that it could not have been him as he was still in bed when she was the apparition.  Also, our two sausage dogs, Dachshunds, were very reluctant to go into one of the bedrooms and if they did, appeared agitated and their hackles would rise. 

In order to help out with food supplies during the war I was designated to shoot as many rabbits as possible to supplement our very meagre meat rations.  Something that was easier said than done, as the only weapon I was allowed to use was an ancient air rifle.  In order to guarantee a kill with such a gun you almost had to press the muzzle against the rabbit's head which meant I would spend hours stalking my prey in order to get as close as possible.  This early training turned me into a crack shot, and during my National Service I did competition shooting at Bisley for the R.A.F

We kept chickens in the barn by the river, and another of my chores was the rather unpleasant job of skinning and gutting the rabbits, as well as killing, plucking and eviscerating the chickens.  As I sit here typing that dreaded smell has come back to haunt me.

One final note, during our last visit to Sedlescombe I called into the village shop to try and ascertain the whereabouts of Duramford and having had a very interesting conversation with the owner, who incidentally was most helpful, ended up buying the book describing the history of the village.  Imagine my surprise when I read about my forbears who appeared to have played a fairly prominent role in that history and are buried in the local graveyard.

We paid a visit to the church and while there looked at the Roll of Honour of the men who gave their lives in the Great War.  A weird feeling came over me when I read the first name on the list.........Boyce Anthony Combe, killed in Ypres in 1915.  My full name is Boyce Anthony Combe

Written by Tony Combe