Introduction to the activities in Bures during World War Two



Memorial Plaques inside
St Mary`s Church, Bures
bures bridge

Like most other locations on the East Coast, Bures constructed defences in the event of an invasion by Germany.

The majority of defence works were built to resist invasion chiefly by an army equipped with armour and artillery. In 1940 it was considered the most effective method, was through using defences that made use of the natural contours of the land. At the height of construction, a pill box was erected every 20 minutes in the UK.

Bures Bridge Pill Box 2004.

The roadbridge in the centre of the village was mined with explosives on its cast iron supports, these would to be detonated and the bridge destroyed in the event of an approaching German Army. Two concrete tank traps were placed either side of the bridge in its centre making the roadway single lane.

In order to defend the bridge across the river at Bures, a concrete pillbox was built inside a saddlers shop, now the entrance to Chambers bus yard.

left photo:- clearly shows the Queens Head to the right.
right photo:- Gun emplacement exposed during demolition
As the Enemy stormed over the river it was planned that "regular troops" would be in position inside the shop. This housed a large artillery gun ready to fire directly at the bridge.
Acquiring such armament was not unusual, throughout the country many guns from World War one were pressed into service, usually firing 13 or 18lb shells.

Supposedly, the front wooden facia of the shop would drop down on hinges and the enemy blasted off the bridge. ?
What happened if the enemy unfairly came around the corner from Nayland Road, is unclear !!!

This was manned by a unit of about 10 - 12 regular soldiers who were billeted behind today's Post Office in Nayland Rd.
The pillbox was so well constructed, it made the shop useless.
The shop/pillbox were demolished in 1973.
However, when the structure was demolished no evidence was found of any hinge mechanism, so how did it fire then

Further snippets of information from local residents.........................

Charlie Martin the local Blacksmith from Hamlet was killed in a road traffic accident on July 9th 1944 with a UK Army lorry. He was looking in the window of Arthur Beamonts radio shop in the High Street, when he stepped back into the road just as a lorry came around the corner. He was fatally wounded by the impact. The lorry driver was only about 20 years old, completely innocent but badly shaken up by the incident.

Large convoys of soldiers were a common sight passing through the village. They included Canadians, Australians and Americans.
The air raid hooter (not siren) was located on top of the Dye Works in Nayland Rd.
At the end of the Croft near to the Scout Hut there is an expanse of Poplar trees, These were owned by Mr Deaves (purchased 1930) who installed a saw mill to deal with the timbers. During the early part of the 1939 war, the sawmill was commandeered by the armed forces to supply them with timber. The Garrison engineer increased the width of the Croft to accommodate the larger vehicles

Although Bures was a rural village, it did not escape the attention of the enemy. Sadly a plaque inside St Mary`s Church lists the names of four residents ( Willingham family) who lost their lives in the village.
During the night of 6th November 1940, approximately five bombs were dropped from German aircraft landing in the fields between Nayland Rd and Colchester Rd leaving several large craters.
One fell on Nayland Rd causing a hole the full width and some 9 - 12 ft deep.
The main theory behind this random attack seems to be the German aircraft was being harassed by a Spitfire. To lessen the load it jettisoned its loads of bombs over Bures..
Today these houses have been re-built as No`s 29/30 Nayland Rd.

Incendiary bombs fell on the Cemetery , St Edmunds Hill and land at Lt. Bevills. V1 rockets were not only confined the major cities, one fell on farmland between Bakers Hall and the railway line, breaking numerous windows.
Another rocket fell on Catleys Farm near Daws Cross causing a substantial crater in a field.

There was also a search light position on the hilltop looking up towards the Lt Cornard TV masts, along the Sudbury Rd.

(a)Regrettably, we also suffered losses not by the Germans but inflicted by our own side. One day, a rogue anti-aircraft shell fired from Colchester landed on the abattoir in Cuckoo Hill, injuring several and killing Mr Drury, the slaughterman.

(b)Gordon Drake was treated at St Leonards Hospital in Sudbury for his injuries when a stray antiaircraft shell hit the slaughterhouse on October 19th 1942. One man, Reginald Drury was killed and another two, including Walter Smith, admitted to hospital. The shell was reported to have come from Colchester.

To keep morale high in the population, men arrived in the village to cut up iron railings and gates from every property without even asking for the owners consent. The intended destination for all this scrap was to be melted down and turned into munitions. Like a lot of other villages found after the war, it was just dumped and made no use of whatsoever. Another source of raw material was aluminum which was required to manufacture aircraft, Aluminum saucepans were the ideal candidate and were readily handed over by housewives.

The bridge spanning the river brought back memories as I remember soldiers coming to pack dynamite under the bridge in case it needed to be blown up if the Germans came.   For light relief the soldiers used small bits of explosive to blow up the fish swimming beneath the bridge - Richard Cooper


All roadside signposts were removed to hinder the enemy, if they were ever to invade. This was not common to Bures but all over the south & east coast.

However I have seen photographic evidence that the Germans photographed every square inch of the British Isles to such high definition that houses, roads, bungalows can easily be defined.-
I doubt very much whether the enemy would have relied too much on our signposting.

It is thought that the collection obtained by the Germans is now held in an American Library.



The recreation ground was deemed to be an ideal landing platform for German paratroopers. Consequently, during 1941 it was protected by barbed wire authorised by the War Office. In 1945 the Parish Council were left to arrange removal. The cheapest quote by a local contractor was agreed at £8, with the contractor retaining the posts and wire
The Parish Council subsequently made a claim from the War Dept for the reimbursement of this expense. No parish records indicate that this money was forthcoming

Bures Hall (now Nether Hall next to Bures Mill) had rooms around the rear to accommodate a few German Prisoners of War.
These were employed on the farm such as Milking the dairy herd.
Additional German POW`s were held at the Tannery (see below)
November 9th 1945 - the USAAF are pulling out of Butlers Farm and Bakers Hall the following Monday.

World War One:- June 25th 1919 (Essex and Suffolk Free Press)
On Tuesday evening a fatality occurred in the Stour at Bures. In the village there is a prisoner of war camp and the men were taking part in bathing at a place called " The Jump", one of the prisoners got into difficulties and was brought to the bank and given artificial respiration by his escorts and comrades, then another man was discovered missing, his body was recovered some time later. He was a Hanoverian named Karl Volker.

Note:- POW`s were housed in the Tannery, the "Jump" was the bridge in the centre of the village.

Fred Staples recalls he came across an unexploded bomb on land owned by Secretaries Farm at the Lamarsh end of the village. He quickly returned to report the incident, but it was initially greeted with some scepticism.
The bomb disposal unit later turned out to defuse the
A dam was built across the River the recreation ground side of Bures Mill to prevent the Germans using it as a means of transport. Remains of this construction can still be seen when the water level is low. (2008)

Mark Curteis - Heritage Services, Essex County Council
`E.A.D.T & Bury Records Office
Arthur Beaumont.
Gordon Pilgrim. Nigel and Yvonne Drake
Saw Mill - L Mills(dec)
updated 04/08/2014 re slaughterhouse