Ken Brown's story -continued page2

On another occasion, during our lunch break at school, about a dozen of us boys went up Wood Lane near our school to a large straw stack. We had spread quite a lot of straw at the base and we used to dive twenty feet into it. Suddenly the gamekeeper appeared and said ‘Come down and stand in a row.’ When he got to me, he said ‘What’s your name and where do you come from?’ I said, ‘I’m Tommy Robinson and I’m from London.’ He nearly blew his top and said, ‘With an accent like yours, you are local and I can see you’re one of Charlie Brown’s children from Salthouse.’
Time was rolling on now and I was ten or eleven years old. The General Election was on, and the Tory candidate was Sir Thomas Cook. The village hall was packed. He started his speech, telling his audience in a very highbrow accent, ‘Now, you must all adopt the crop rotation system and use fertilisers et cetera et cetera.’ At this stage, the oldest lady in the village, Ruth Holman,* stood up and said in a very broad Norfolk accent, ‘Why don’t you shut your big gob, you can’t even sow a tannup!’ She nearly brought the place down. The meeting broke up and Sir Thomas moved on to Cley.

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The war years were approaching fast. In 1938 I was working as a plumbing apprentice at Weybourne Camp. The army had laid on a meeting of ‘bigwigs’ from Germany et cetera to observe the launch of the ‘Queen Bee’, a pilotless aircraft. The idea was that it would be shot down by the 3.7 guns. Foolishly, myself and another apprentice had got inside one of the huge water-tanks which we were installing. When the guns opened up, our ear-drums almost burst, and we stayed in that tank for almost an hour with our hands over our ears. The guns fired like mad and could not hit the aircraft. Over fifty shots were fired, and then a loud cheer. The aircraft crashed into the sea. Afterwards we were talking to the soldiers who were operating the radio-controlled aircraft. One of them said his orders were to deliberately crash the plane if the gunners failed to hit it.

1939—the war had started and we were told to join the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers). Everyone aged 16 to 80 was asked to attend a meeting at the parish room about two days after the war had started. We were told to bring guns, pitchforks, hedge-slashers etc. etc.—anything which would harm a German. Our name had now been changed to the Home Guard. We were on parade outside the parish room; Mr Ronald Deterding was our Commanding Officer, and he was inspecting us. When he got to Robin Cooke (quite a character was Robin), he looked down the barrel of Robin’s twelve-bore gun and said, ‘Robin, you have not cleaned your gun in years!’ Robin replied ‘Kill a bloody duck, kill a German!’ When you look at ‘Dad’s Army’ today, the things they got up to were very similar to what we did ourselves in the Home Guard. I remember once when we were on parade near the post office, our Sergeant in charge was Jack Dawson, who had lost his foot in the 1914-18 War. He shouted ‘Right turn, quick march!’ and we progressed about 100 yards when he frantically called out ‘Stop!’ He couldn’t keep up with us because his foot was missing. During this time, Salthouse was bombed several times, once in daylight and several times during the night.


I joined the Royal Air Force at eighteen, and when I was twenty-one I volunteered to go abroad. I was in a convoy when I was in the Mediterranean, when we were attacked by a Junkers 88 carrying torpedoes. Several ships in the convoy were sunk. Again, the date was November 8th.
After the war I got married, and once again ‘The Nest’ became my home when we moved back to Salthouse. It was still without running water or toilet facilities. Our first-born was Shirley, who arrived the same day as Princess Anne (15th August 1950). We received a very nice letter from the Queen. Our second daughter was Wendy—(wait for it)—born November 8th, 1955.
I started working for myself in 1949. Four years later, in 1953, we were heavily involved in the great floods. I lost my car, trailer and all my tools

My workshops were the two garage doors between the post office and the Crab Shop today. My landlady was Mrs Middleton who was drowned in the floods. In 1954 we moved to Holt to be more central for materials et cetera and to be among more people for the business. In the 1960s I was awarded the contract to install twenty-five basins at Sandringham House. I still have a copy of the account which was rendered by us direct to Buckingham Palace.

My story is a very brief outline of my life in Salthouse. On re-reading I realise I have missed so much out, I feel I could easily write a book. But that would really be another story.

This old postcard view of 'post-office corner' before the 1953 flood, actually shows Ken on his motorbike and side-car outside those double garage doors. The Rocket House is just visible in the distance on the left.

Kenneth Brown 2003


Val Fiddian 2004