Paxtonvic’s Blog

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A farewell – and war time in Diddington

I have been very humbled tonight to watch on BBC2 two programmes – one about Henry Allingham and one about Harry Patch the last of our World War One veterans who died in July. It was Harry Patch’s funeral today at Wells Cathedral and in the second programme we saw how Andrew Motion, the former poet Laureate,  developed his ideas for his ” Poem for Harry” .

Harry, who died at aged 111 ( Born  June 17 1898 in Combe Down, Somerset) was a quietly spoken man with a lovely west country accent and when Andrew interviewed him some months ago and asked him about his war memories  Harry’s silence was as eloquent as any words would have been.

harrya and motion

If you are interested, this link hopefully will take you to a video of Andrew Motion reading  ” A poem for Harry” – I was very moved by it. I think the poem marked Harry’s  109th birthday.

Now, those of you who dont know my part of the world wont be able to guess where this 2nd world war picture was taken:

hospital at diddy

Apologies that it hasnt come out very well – it is a photo from the marvellous book which Dave Dodman from Diddington compiled a few years ago called  “Diddington- The People and their Memories”

You can just make out a make-shift hospital ward – and during the  2nd  World War, to the north of the church on the estate land of the Thornhills was a Military Hospital for American servicemen known as USA2nd Evacuation Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the country at the time.

In Dave’s book, Sam Malt writes about this remarkable time in little Diddington’s history. Here are a few brief facts about it:

*Early in the 2nd world war the Ministry of Defence took over Diddington Park – the first construction was the building of workmen’s huts and Nissan huts along with water, sewage and electricity connection.

* By mid 1942 the hospital was well established treating not only USA Servicemen but some local people as well. Some local residents used to clean the nurses quarters. There was a cinema on the camp.

* Bing Crosby and Bob Hope visited the camp and entertained the troops.

* Patients and casualties of war were transported to the hospital byAmbulance from Buckden or Huntingdon railway stations.

* The workman’s huts housed German and Italian Prisoners of war – some worked on farms in the area.

* Between 1945-1947 the Polish Army were billeted at the camp. Two of these men died during that time and are buried in the churchyard:

diddy stone 1

W. Gura aged 48 years died March 11th 1947

stone 2

A. Dziegielewski aged 47 years died 17th August 1946.

*Between 1947 and 1949 the Camp was used as a Displaced Person and Maternity Hospital for Polish Women – with in excess of 200 births at the camp.

* In Spring 1949 a RC School for Polish Children was set up and ran till 1953. 500 children attended the school. There was a RC church under Father Borynski who also taught at the school as did Flora Sandes. Alan Burgess wrote a book wich tells the story of Flora inclduing her stay in Diddington.

Well, if you go and stand quietly in the churchyard and look towards the camp site now  you would have no idea of the huge amount of  human drama that was acted out during the war  years. Why Diddington Park was chosen I dont know – but it had never before seen and maybe never will again see so much activity as in those years.

diddy book

If I have whetted your appetite for Dave’s book – then he has some on sale – and he can be contacted on 01480 812880.

August 6, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Hallo Annette.

    Thank you for this web site/ blogg. I have been searching for information re the Polish No 6 Hospital at Diddington for a long time now and finally found your blogg, which mentions Dave Dodmans book on Diddington.
    My interest stems from having been born at Diddington in the No 6 hospital on the 22/11/47.
    I shall be contacting Dave with a view to purchasing his book, in the hope there is information, history and possibly photos of the camp and hospital at Diddington.
    God Bless

    Yours Joe.

    Comment by Joe Musialowski | November 13, 2009 | Reply

    • Hello Joe, good to read your comments on Annette’s web site. In fact I am putting together a Historical Display in Diddington Village Hall in combination with our village Fete on Saturday, 25th June from 1.00 p.m. onwards – the Fete which is held on the Playing Field behind the Hall starts at 2.00 p.m.

      If you are interested the display will include items from past scholars at the Polish Modern School here in Diddington.
      Did you know that there were 1073 babies born in the maternity unit on the Camp? I have managed to obtain the names and dates of birth of all those registered here which will be on display.

      Dave 01480 812880

      Comment by Dave Dodman | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  2. I was checking my birth certificate and it also shows my birth to be in the No 6 Polish Hospital, Diddington, St. Neots District. Born: 07/20/47. I’m interested in the book as well.

    Comment by Andrew Jagusiak | February 22, 2011 | Reply

  3. I too was born at No. 6 Hospital. On 7/20/47. I live in the U.S. now but I would be interested in the book.

    Comment by Andrew E Jagusiak | February 23, 2011 | Reply

    • Dear Andrew
      Many thanks for making contact thorugh my blog – I will pass on your e-mail if I may to Mr Dave Dodman who wrote the Diddington Book and Hopefully he will get in contact with you about getting a book to you.
      Diddington reamins a very small village with c 80 residents but during the war years it was a very busy place indeed not least with the polish hospital.
      Greetings from Diddington to you – and look out for an e-mail from Mr Dodman
      Kind Regards
      Annette Reed, Vicar at Diddington

      Comment by paxtonvic | February 23, 2011 | Reply

      • Hi their Andrew,

        I thought you would like to know that I will
        be giving a Historical Display at Diddington Village Hall in conjunction with the village Fete on Saturday June 25th from 2.00 p.m.
        The Historical display will cover the time of the Polish Resettlement Camp and Maternity Hospital – indeed I have managed to get the names of all the 1073 babies born here and they will be on display.

        If you are interested and would like to come along we would love to see you.


        Comment by Dave Dodman | May 28, 2011

  4. Diddington by David Dodman a must for all you need to know about the traumas during WW2. Also good on local history.

    Well Done David.

    Comment by Peter Norman | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  5. I am just wondering if there is an entry for Stefan Danielczuk as a displaced person/ex soldier? He mentioned Diddington but spoke very little about it. He also mentioned the a Brick company where he worked before coming to Bradford, meting my mother etc etc……


    Comment by Helena Danielczuk | May 28, 2011 | Reply

  6. Hello Annette
    re: Paxton Park
    I am trying, with little success (along with a friend) to find out more about Paxton Park Maternity Home in the years between 1945-55, the most important for me being 1947, which is when and where I was born.
    My mother lived in S.W London some 85-100 miles from L.Paxton, and it seems very odd that she should have been sent so far from home. I have David Broad’s book about the village etc., but it all just does not add up. I know, that other than a health issue, there were no “sinister” reasons why she should have gone there. I have tried to find out if there are any records of “PP” at various authorities archives, with a blank result. This, therefore, is the reason for writing to you in the hope you, or anyone in your lovely little village may have any recollections of that time. (We visited there in April this year). I did speak to the occupier of West Lodge, who was amazed at the history they were in fact ‘sitting on’.
    Look forward to your response, or anyone reading this blog.

    Comment by Diane | August 8, 2011 | Reply

    • Dear Diane
      Firstly huge apologies for not having got back to you before now.
      Paxton Park was indeed a maternity home during the 2nd world war and as I travel round Little Paxton village still meet people who were born there.There is a book by David Broad with a whole chapter about the history of the house ( which is now demolished) and a section within it about Paxton Park when it was a meternity hospital. The hospital officially opened on 3rd September 1939. The book contains pictures of staff and the interior of the house when it was a maternity hospital. If you would like me to send you a copy of the book I would be pleased to do so.
      It costs £7.50 plus £3.50 for postage. Sorry Im not sure where you live….. if you are near Little Paxton maybe you could pick one up from thje vicarage. Unfortunately the building is gone now and there are several streets beginning with ” Park” covering the land where it stood.
      All good wishes
      Annette Reed
      01480 211048

      Comment by paxtonvic | September 1, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Diane
      Sorry, I have just read through your e-mail again and see you have the book and have visited recently.
      So, a mystery why your mother was sent to PP for your birth.
      It didnt close as you know till 1955 and was obviously in full swing until then. Maybe there was a shortage of beds where mother was?
      Could they have provided some specialist treatment for her if it had been required?
      You can understand people coming there during the war but why after? Sorry at this point I havent any answer to your question but I will keep my ears open for any suggestions.

      Comment by paxtonvic | September 1, 2011 | Reply

  7. Is it still possible to get a copy of David Dodman’s book about Diddington? A friend of mine was born in the Polish maternity hospital and It would be excellent to acquire a copy for him. Thanks for your very interesting blog as well, best,

    M. Adams

    Comment by madams16 | October 25, 2014 | Reply

    • Dear M Adams
      Many thanks for your comments about the blog.

      Please do ring Dave Dodman on 01480 812880 and I am sure that he will arrnage for a copy to be sent to you.
      If you are ever in the area, again do ring Dave and he would be happy to show you round the church and area where the hospital was.

      MAny thanks
      Annette Reed

      Comment by paxtonvic | October 25, 2014 | Reply

  8. Hello, I was born at No. 6 Polish General Hospital in Diddington on January 10, 1947 to mother, Anna (Coa) Lewandowska, father Miecyzlaw Lewandowski. He served in regiment of Silesian Lancers, part of 14th Armored Tank Brigade under British Army Command, fought in Monte Casino after which he met my mother in Italy, married and settled in Diddington where I was born as noted above. I would love to see if not too late to secure a copy of your book. I live in Delaware, USA. Thank you for any assistance.

    Comment by Barbara Sherwood | October 30, 2015 | Reply

    • Dear Barbara
      Many thanks for contacting me via my blog and sorry it took a while to get back to you.

      Yes, we have done a lot of research into the Diddington Polish Camp and have a lot of material about it.

      The history book has a lot of pictures of old Diddington and there is a little bit about the polish camp towards the end.

      The book costs £10.00 and if you would like me to send you a copy let me know – with postage I would say £20.00 in UK money.

      we hope to create a web-site about the camp and its history and if you were interested in contributing stories that would be great.
      I look forward to hearing from you

      All good wishes
      Annette Reed
      Vicar of Diddington

      Comment by paxtonvic | November 15, 2015 | Reply

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