Saturday, 2 July 2011

Diddington Fete

On Saturday afternoon the tiny village of Diddington held it's annual fete. So did hundreds of other villages in England, so of course, rain was to be expected. Luckily the rain was all finished by mid-morning and a quorum of volunteers from the Friends gamely fought with our marquee to get it assembled by the kick-off: The score was Marquee 5: Friends 6 by lunch. We won!

This was a special fete because it celebrated the village's connections with the British Polish community.

You see, back in World War II, Diddington was at the centre of the biggest air-born offensive force ever, with newly built bases stretching from Kent to Aberdeen. The village was swamped by the second largest military hospital in the UK which was administered by the Americans and largely consisted of Nissen huts. It was surrounded by airfields and was actually cut in two by the A1 road. What a lot of people may forget is that it was also served by a railway.

Volunteers' treat.

I met a lady who was born in pre-war Poland. The Russians annexed her part of the country into the Ukraine and she was shipped along with her mother to Siberia. After the war they became "displaced persons" and were sent to a camp in Iran then to a hostel near Arusha in Tanzania. I have no idea why. It's horrific that innocent women and children were moved around the world like lost baggage. What moved me most was to think that these things still happen to people on a daily basis in 2011.

Happily, the story ends well. While Mum and Daughter were being shipped around the planet, Dad was fighting against the Nazis. After being injured, he found himself in hospital at Diddington where he made a full recovery. From here he traced is family and set up a home for them nearby.

On a more prosaic level , we like to attend local events like these for two reasons: our members and supporters expect to see us there, and we can reach those local people who perhaps never come into our visitors' centre. For myself, it's about finding a genuine connection with our neighbours.

If you want to find pictures of war-time Diddington, just look in Google Images for Diddington Hospital.