The Denbies Home Guard

 WORK IN PROGRESS

Tracking down those who were in the Home Guard or served on the Home Front during the War is no easy task, and so this page and its companion They Also Served (World War 2) are very much a work in progress.  Facts have been jotted down in various ways and at various times as they came to light (often while researching another family member). so there is, therefore, often inconsistency of treatment, which will be addressed in time.  Also, sources have not yet been listed, but again this will be remedied in due course,

It is hoped that more information can be added to this page as it is discovered.  If you have information to add or correct, or photographs of these or other people who served on the Home Front at Denbies or Ranmore Common, please contact us.

WW2_Defence_Medal cropped

THE HOME GUARD

Denbies had its own Home Guard, but the House and the gravel pits at the eastern end of the Common were used as a regional headquarters and training centre, run by Major Hugh Pollock (husband of Enid Blyton).  There is a fascinating list of the courses held at the training centre on the Dorking Museum website https://www.dorkingmuseum.org.uk/wartime-at-dorkings-mansions/

When the Denbies Home Guard platoon was formed, the gamekeepers (Walter Hitchcock and Arthur Walder) would take along their  guns, the others having to parade with pickaxe handles (very “Dad’s Army”), according to the late George Mackay, MBE,  estate worker and assistant gamekeeper.  He also said that their code name was “The Blackberries”.

The photograph  below shows some who served (many wearing medal ribbons from the Great War).  Many of the names and occupations were supplied by George Mackay shortly before his death, and we are very grateful to his daughter Norma for letting us have them.  It would be wonderful to put names to the unknown face; if you know, or think you know, who they are, or have more information about the named men, please contact us.

The Denbies Home Guard (Ranmore Archive)

The Denbies Home Guard

Back row:  James Buckland, A. Birtin?, George Royal, Arthur Haynes, Unknown (? farmworker), Jack Francis, Bob Young
Middle row:  Bill Edworthy, Jack Griffiths, Jim Green, Unknown (? chauffeur at Ashleigh), Unknown, Arthur Walder, Alfred Hamilton, Fred Hodginson
Seated: Nelson Moore,  …Woods, Sidney Westbrook, Walter Hitchcock, Harry Hylton-Foster, William Harry Stemp, I.Luff senior
Front row: S.Hamilton, Frank Merritt,  Harry Jones, … Wood, George Mackay

Details are given of the men as far as is known:

A. BIRTIN

 James (“Jim”) BUCKLAND, younger brother of Frederick Buckland of the War Memorial. Served in The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) in WW1, according to his daughter Muriel Rice.  Lived No 2 Dairy Cottages. Buried 1966 aged 68  with wife Margaret Annie (1970 aged 74) in St Barnabas churchyard (grave D15).

Bill EDWORTHY, head groom to Lord Ashcombe

Jack FRANCIS, gardener

Jim GREEN, gardener to Mr and Mrs Hylton-Foster, Old Dene, Bagden Hill, Westhumble

Jack GRIFFITHS, gardener to Miss Eileen Blake (Chapel Croft, now Chapel House, Westhumble)

Arthur HAYNES, cowman 1939 Register, living Dairy Cottage. forester/estate worker (George Mackay). b. 1899. Married Constance …

Alfred R. HAMILTON, carter in 1939 Register, b. 1900, married Alice L.Wakeford, living 1 Bakehouse Cottages, Ranmore 1939. Died ? 1966 Midhurst, Sussex.

S. HAMILTON, ? farmworker

Walter HITCHCOCK, gamekeeper 1911, Estate bailiff towards the end of his working life. No. G 2323 , Quarter Master Sergeant of The Queens.  prev. reg 8 RWS . British and Victory Medals.  A/WO. Cl II.  Married Rachel Eliza..  During the war he and his wife lived at one of the two Fort Cottages, as they had since 1919, still being registered there in the 1945 Electoral Roll.  He is reputed to have been very military-minded, so maybe it suited him to live in a one-time military establishment. Later he lived at Keepers Cottages, and then Old Dene Cottages. Buried 1983 aged 91 with wife (1987 aged 98) in  St Barnabas churchyard (grave Q9).

Fred HODGKINSON. Living Garlic Cottages at death.  Buried 1954 aged 71 with wife Eliza Louise (1963 aged 79) in St Barnabas churchyard (grave J19).

Harry Braustyn HYLTON-FOSTER (later Sir Harry), barrister, MP from 1950. Knighted 1954 on becoming Solicitor General.  Speaker of the House of Commons 1959 until sudden death in 1965.   His wife  Audrey was given a life peerage (Baroness Hylton-Foster, DBE) in his honour. Lived  Old Dene, Bagden Hill, Westhumble, also Westminster at death.  Buried 1965 aged 60 with his wife (2002 aged 93)  in the churchyard at St Barnabas (grave H15) .

Harry JONES (DCM and Bar), cowman

ISAAC LUFF (senior), member of an old Ranmore family. b. 1881, son of Henry and Jane Luff  of Badgen Farm.  Pony boy at Denbies at the age of 12, then worked in Denbies Gardens. Married Amelia Dennis, lived Rose Cottage,   No 2 Lime Tree Cottages, and West  Cottage (at death). Clerk of Parochial Church Council or Verger 1901 to 1957. Buried 1955 aged 74 with his wife (1963 aged 81) in St Barnabas churchyard (grave L15)   See They Also Served World War 2 for his son Isaac Henry Luff (junior).

Garlic Cottages today. No 2, on the right, was the home of George Herbert Royal and family. No 1 usually seems to have been the Denbies Estate blacksmith's house. for example, Albert Charman, farrier in

Garlic Cottages today. No 2, on the right, was the home of George Herbert Royal. No 1 usually seems to have been the home of the Denbies Estate blacksmith, eg Albert Charman, farrier in WW1.

George Mackenzie MACKAY (MBE), assistant gamekeeper, then estate worker working with cows and other animals. Married to Florence May. Both living at Pinehurst, Box Hill at their deaths. Buried  1997 aged 85 with his wife (1999 aged 88)  in St Barnabas churchyard (grave Q23).

Frank MERRITT, water engineer to Ashcombe Estate.  Living 31 Ashcombe Road at death.  Ashes interred 1963 aged 69 St Barnabas churchyard (N8)

Nelson MOORE, electrical engineer (presumably to Ashcombe Estate  – “Private Power Plant in 1939 Register), Widower in 1939, when living No 2 Station Terrace; address on death “Denbies”. Buried 1973 St Barnabas churchyard (aged 91 on burial register but ? 93)   (grave H 17)

George Herbert ROYAL, farm labourer, b. 1883, wife Emily Louisa nee Hedger, six daughters. two sons.  Served WW1, Private T/205749, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), previously 6107, 1/4 RWS. Served India, Living Garlic Cottages at death. Buried 1972 aged 88  with wife (1964 aged 81) in St Barnabas churchyard (? grave  I 18).

William Harry (Bill) STEMP, general labourer (1939 Register),  forester (George Mackay), Living Golden Ring Cottage 1932 (on marriage to Ruby Alice Hazeltine, cinema usherette in 1939 Register), 9 Chalkpit Terrace, Dorking (1939), 17 Ashcombe Road at death. Buried 1953 aged 49 St Barnabas churchyard (grave O 18)

Arthur Albert WALDER. senior gamekeeper at Denbies. Living No 2 Yew Tree Cottages at death. Buried 1970 aged 86 in St Barnabas churchyard (grave H 20).

Sidney Charles WESTBROOK, head gardener, Ashcombe Estate, b. 1899, West Dean, Sussex. Living North Lodge, Ranmore (1939 Register). Married Frances Helen Hamlin, d. 1988 Grantham, Lincs.

… WOODS, ? gardener

Bob YOUNG, farmworker

 

WARTIME ON RANMORE

A large bomb crater on Ranmore, near the dairy yard, Dorking

A large bomb crater on Ranmore, near the dairy yard (Dorking Museum)

Ranmore Common saw some wartime activity.  A bomb fell near Dairy Cottages and there was a gun pit near North Lodge, the entrance to Denbies off Ranmore Common Road.  There was a searchlight near Lonesome Cottage. 

A gun pit by North Lodge. One wonders who owned the

A gun pit by North Lodge. One wonders who owned the terrier? (Dorking Museum)

On the western edge of the Common in a barn at Dunley Hill Farm a sentry box was discovered, and there are still remains of Nissen huts in the fields.  Units of the Canadian Army – possibly the 6th Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars) – were encamped over most of the North Downs including Ranmore in preparation for the invasion of France on 6th June 1944 (D Day). When they left Ranmore, they did not take with them some of their equipment which was not serviceable including tanks and troop carriers.

 

THE BURIED TANKS

 

The "Covenanter" tank after excavation in 1977 (Ranmore Archive)

The “Covenanter” tank after excavation in 1977 (Ranmore Archive)

In the 1970s a cruiser tank (the “Covenanter”, the first such tank to be given a name) was dug up on  Bradley Farm, then a pig and cattle farm, now Denbies Wine Estate vineyard.  It was only ever used for training because by 1943 its armour was considered too weak to deal with new German tanks.  It was one of four tanks buried when the Canadian Army left in 1944.  Former gamekeeper and Estate bailiff, Walter Hitchcock (see Home Guard  picture above),  identified Its place of burial.  It is now in the Army Tank Museum at Bovington.

In 2017, five feet down in the chalk rubble under Denbies Wine Estate vineyard, the burial site of a second Covenanter tank was identified by Manchester tank enthusiast Rick Wedlock, using his magnetrometry equipment and a small digger.  The digger’s bucket first struck the gun turret, then uncovered the front armoured louvres and the driver’s observation hatch.  This second tank was excavated on 23rd May 2017.  Possibly there are others still buried, as well as some  other  military relics.

For more detailed information on the Covenanter tank and more photos when excavated, see this page on Craig Moore’s fascinating website http://tank-photographs.s3-website-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/a13-cruiser-mkIII-mkV-covenanter-tank-bovington.html

 

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