World War Two

        Sawtry and District played their part in World War Two. Sawtry had a Prisoner of War camp situated on the north side of Woodwalton Lane opened in the 1940's. It held German and Italian [prisoners. Some of the inmates worked on the land for local farmers and also did gardening for local people. They made wooden toys and models to occupy thier time. In 1945 there were over a thousand men interned. They had a library with more than 700 books in English and German. There were two pot stoves in each hut for warmth. They had lectures and discussion groups. After the war they were repatriated although some chose to remain in this country and married local women and had families and businesses.
        Sawtry also had a Land Army Hostel situated in Slough Lane, now the bottom of Green End Road. Young women from all over the country arrived to work on the land to replace the farm workers that had gone off to war. The wooden building, that stood where Cotton Close now is, was their living quarters. After the land Army vacated it at the end of the war it became a school for the local infants for a time before being demolished in the 1960s.
         Conington was home of the 457th Bomb Group although it was known as RAF Glatton. One evening in the late summer of 1942 the peace of Conington was interrupted by an American convoy weaving its way through the village and   set about putting up tents. This was the arrival of the 809 engineers whose task it was to build an Airfield along with the main contractor Taylor Woodrow. The Airfield was completed in late 1943. The 457th Bomb Group (Heavy) moved in on the 21st January 1944 with their B17 Flying Fortresses. The first mission was on 21st February 1944 and the last one on 20th April 1945. In all 83 aircaft and 333 men were lost and 17,000 tons of bombs were dropped. Many villagers remember seeing the some of the planes limping home, some crashing locally as they returned to base and remember seeing the green field ambulances with the big red cross on the side, leaving Conington after a crash knowing that there had been fatalities and they were taking the bodies to Madingley Cemetary.
         The Pubs in Sawtry were popular places in their down time. Oddfellows Pub was particularly popular as it was one of the closest to the Airfield and the Airmen usually arrived on bicycles. One story that has always been told is of a certain gentleman who used to steal the bikes,repaint them and sell them back to the unsuspecting owners who were in need of a bike after a good nights drinking   After the war RAF No 3 Group arrived flying Lancasters and Liberators to the Middle East.
Holme had Site H which was part of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) a forerunner of the CIA. The OSS packed cannisters for the Resistance and, starting in January 1944 and completed two months later it was the biggest in the European Theatre with 18 officers and 326 men. As well as packing containers that were to be dropped behind enemy lines, it also trained Agents and worked the triangle of Holme, empsford and Harrington where many agents took off in absolute secrecy to be dropped behind enemy lines in France.
Read more on our memories page of personal accounts of wartime by people who lived in Sawtry during WW2.