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Feltwell's Royal Navy Connection 1

Anyone who has ever read our Roll of Honour will know that a number of Feltwell's men served in the Royal Navy during WW2.  In this article Mr Bill Land explains how he got to serve his country

First let me tell you of my connection with Feltwell. It began one day in early September 1929 a week or two after my 7th birthday, when I came to Feltwell as an orphan from the Council home at Thetford. I was fostered by a Miss Willingham, a spinster of around 60 years of age who lived in the end house at the top of the Borough.

I attended Feltwell School, leaving in August 1936 at the age of 14. On leaving school, I went to work on the Manor Farm for 10s 6d per week (52.5p in new money!), which was then owned by Mr. J. T. Storey, the grandfather of the present owner.

In February 1940, Miss Willingham passed away. I was then 17 years of age and went to live-in on the Farm. I wrote to the Royal Navy recruitment office to volunteer but was told to apply again when I was aged 18. On attaining the age of 18, I registered for National Service and asked for an early call-up only to receive a letter informing me I was in a reserved occupation and would not be called into the Services.

After years of annoying the local War Agricultural Committee, they eventually informed me I was released for National Service and I joined the Royal Navy in early 1944. After initial training I volunteered for Service in Submarines and became the 6th member of the Service from Feltwell I think this is probably unique as I believe the population of the village in 1939 was just under 2,000. I wonder if any other village of this number had 6 of its population in the Submarine Service during the War?

The 6 men were:- Ray WALDEN who was lost on HMS Salmon; Bruce BEAVIS (?) (who was known as Jack HALL whilst at school); Jim CORDY, the son of the village policeman; (these 3 were all peacetime sailors); the 4th man was Frank CURTIS who sadly passed away on 31st January 2004; no. 5 was Percy LEMON and myself no. 6 (all volunteers).

I have obtained a photo of H.M.S. SALMON, courtesy of Royal Navy Submarine Museum (copy enclosed), which was taken with the crew on the casing on return from a patrol in December 1939, during which she sank a u-boat, a cruiser and severely damaged another cruiser. I believe Ray WALDEN is one of the men on the left of the photo.  Confirmed by Ray's nephew that he is second from the left, in the long jumper.