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Maisie and Charlie Baker Part 2

This month we continue Charlie and Maisie Baker's story, focusing on Charlie. The year is 1941 and a 22-year-old Charlie has joined the Home Guard unit down on the Fen.

"The canteen manager, Mr Scase, was the lieutenant in charge. He lived on the fen and I remember we had rifle and granade training. One night, whilst putting out a peat fire I could see the light from a burning Norwich which had just been bombed. The other side of the road from the Plough Inn, just before Whitedyke Farm, was a POW camp that had Italians in it. (See last month's Railway Map-ed.) The cross in St Nicholas was carved by a POW out of bog Oak. Two tractors and trailers used to bring about 40 POWs to work on the land under guard supervision. "

The end of the war arrived and Charlie qualified as an Agricultural Engineer. He stayed at Weasenham Farms until 1956 when he went to work for Jack Branch of Waterbeach. They had the grounds maintenance contracts on the airfields and Charlie worked as a mechanic on the machines. "I travelled miles because I had 9 aerodromes and the battle area to cover. I did 35 000 miles a year. One of the vans I had did over 200 000. I stayed with this job for 20 years until I retired in 1984 by which time the contract had been bought out by Landscape Maintenance of Dorset."

Sport has always been a large part of Charlie's life and he was involved with the football club for 37 years starting in 1960 until he retired last year. The team met originally at the Oak and in 1963 Charlie was elected as Chairman, a position he held for 33 years. The club originally, when it reformed after the war, played friendlies on the Starn Acre but when Charlie joined they had moved to the playing field.

Charlie was also a founder member of the post-war cricket team. He was the Chairman for 10 years and oversaw the move from the Starn Acre to the playing field were they played on a concrete wicket covered with coconut matting. With the help of Tom Spencer he made a grass wicket giving up one week of his holidays to do so. After a two year wait they finally got to play on it a year later Charlie broke up the old concrete strip. They bought a roller for 5 from the estate of Dr MacDonald.

Away games for all teams were played as far afield as Newmarket and Swaffham with a Towlers' bus being used to transport about 30 people to and from the game. "The back had one or two beers in it for the journey home." "I never did see him!," Maisie joked. She used to wash the shirts and got 6 shillings for two sets.

In 1985 the NCFA awarded him a certificate in recognition and appreciation of his 25 years with FFC. Charlie's finest moment was when he lead the football team out onto the pitch in 1989 when Feltwell played Stalham reserves at Carrow Road and beat them 2-0. Three busloads went from the village, one of players and two of supporters.

Charlie was also a Special Constable for 25 years having joined in 1951. He retired as a Special in 1976 at the age of 57. There were two regular Police Constables in Feltwell, one lived on Wilton Road and the other at the entrance to Munsons Lane. In addition the village also had 9 Specials who didn't get paid for their time but were expected to attend lectures at Swaffham, Downham and Thetford. "At Christmas time we used to patrol the farms to stop chicken rustling. I remember one Saturday night we'd had some trouble with the wire around the Cricket Square so I stayed up till the early hours of the morning watching and waiting. Eventually I went home and by 9am on the Sunday it was all down again. I reckon I was being watched whilst I was watching! The others were Basil Vincent, Tom Cooper, Ben Banham, High Vincent, Robert Cole, Alan Ryan, Ted Baker, my brother and Roy Willett. I was sworn in at the court in Methwold and the local inspector was Inspector Churchyard.

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