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Southwold and Reydon's dramatic history captured in memoirs

PUBLISHED: 14:39 28 February 2012 | UPDATED: 17:13 28 February 2012

David Moyse from Reydon who has written a book about his memories of the village.

Picture: James Bass

David Moyse from Reydon who has written a book about his memories of the village. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

IT is a rural community a stone's throw from Southwold where time ticks by at a slightly slower pace.

But the village of Reydon also has a dramatic and poignant history, as one life-long resident has discovered.

David Moyse has recorded the moments which define the place he calls home in his first collection of memoirs, The Village Where I Went to School.

The book traces his life from boy to man while capturing the wartime events and farming revolution which helped shape the community that exists today.

His journey into the village’s past began several decades ago when he first laid hands on a collection of old photographs.

But in 1986, this personal passion became the inspiration for a public presentation when he used dozens of pictures to create a historical slideshow to coincide with the switching on of the Reydon Christmas lights.

And, 26 years later, his eye-opening and nostalgic lectures are still capturing the imagination of the local community.

But Mr Moyse admitted the decision to put pen to paper did not come until recently. Despite a plea from local people to record his memories in print, he resisted, claiming he just could not find the time.

He said: “After doing the commentaries on the slideshows people began to say to me ‘why don’t you write a book?’

“I just used to tell them that I didn’t have the time, but a couple of years ago I decided I had to jot all these memories down.”

He added: “I just love the village. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Even if someone offered me a million-pound mansion I wouldn’t take it. It is just my village and my home and it is where I will stay.”

Mr Moyse was born in the Blacksmith’s Cottage, Reydon, in 1937, which was later renamed Smithy Cottage in tribute to his father’s profession.

But a year later his father, Alfred Moyse, closed the blacksmith shop and his mother went to work in Southwold where she took a job as a cleaner for a number of years, including a stint with chemists Mr and Mrs Webb of 57, Pier Avenue.

Mr Moyse used to accompany his mother on her jobs in this early period and, on February 13, 1943, when he was only six, he was drawn into a catastrophic event which shook Reydon to the core.

While at the chemist’s house, he told his mother he wanted to use the toilet, which was located in a squat building outside. But she told him to wait while she attended the fire – a decision which would ultimately save his life.

As she returned to the kitchen where he was waiting, a low-flying aircraft dropped a bomb on the house, causing the windows to implode, the ceiling to collapse and blowing the doors off their hinges.

Meanwhile, the garage outside had been swathed in fire and the toilet had been destroyed by dozens of tiles which had fallen from the roof.

“At once there were hundreds of soldiers swarming all over the place,” Mr Moyse writes in his book.

“They came from the Grand Hotel which was close to where we were. The tiles from the roof of the house had come crashing through the toilet where I would have been if my mother had taken me there when I said I wanted to go.

“As I stood in the kitchen, I looked up and, although there was the second floor, and the attic above me, I could see the sky. On a table beside me there was an aluminium tea pot. Something had fallen on it and it was as flat as a pancake.”

Regardless of the destruction waged upon the house, no one was killed, but one lady was scarred for life as the explosion caused a window to shatter in her face.

But this striking event was only overshadowed by a horrifying encounter which laid bare the fragility of human life during those dark and difficult years.

“I was standing on the green at the junction of Wangford Road and School Lane watching a formation of Flying Fortresses coming home when I saw one was trailing smoke,” he writes.

“…I thought it was going to fall on our house or the school but it turned at the last minute towards the church. By then four parachutes were coming down on marshes north of Reydon Smear. Then another one appeared but the plane was then too low and the man fell in a tree and was killed not too far away from where I was. Fire was in the rear of the aircraft and it began to burn quite fiercely and eventually burned through the fuselage and the tail broke off and the plane plunged into the ground killing the remaining crew.”

Speaking about the event in the comfort of his bungalow barely a minute’s walk from Smithy Cottage – where his son Geoffrey now lives – he still recalls the fine nuances of that eventful day (when the Flying Fortress Blue Girl crashed on February 3, 1945).

“I turned and went towards the church and the plane hit the ground with a great explosion,” he said.

“As I went into the field there was body parts on the floor. That stuck in my mind. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of that.”

Mr Moyse, 74, of School Lane, Reydon, is a retired engineer who worked at Zephyr Cams in Lowestoft. He has a wife, Joan, two sons, Geoffrey and Graham, and two grandsons, Philip and Matthew. His book was published in December by Southwold Press and can be purchased from Wells of Southwold or Boyden Stores, Reydon. It costs £7.

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