Sunday, 24 June 2012

Diddington Fete 2012

As progress has been made on the northward extension to the reserve, our relationship with the village of Diddington has become an important one, so we were very pleased to be invited to Diddington Fete for the first time last year. On that occasion there was a reunion of people who remembered the Polish Settlement Camp that was there after WW2. We heard several touching stories of miraculous escapes and re-unions following the Soviet take over.

This year we delved further back in time to when the Diddington Military Hospital was the biggest of its kind in the UK. There was a memorial service in the church, attended by quite a few Americans who's parents had served as nurses or who had been treated here.

An incredible amount of work had gone into preparing the village.For example, the Village Hall was sand-bagged and the windows taped up ready for an imaginary air raid and the era was brought back to life by enactment groups from all over the country who brought their US Army Jeeps, ambulances and trucks along and circulated among us wearing authentic 1940s clothing. What a fabulous photo opportunity! Even the catering was done in 1940's style; we even had a power cut.

When we arrived to set up I was a bit apprehensive as we were the only charity represented. Our marquee wasn't the correct colour of khaki and we weren't even wearing period clothes (although Kati Page's hair-do looked about right to me and John Knight's suit was pretty close.)

The public came through in a steady stream and circulated the living-history groups before getting to us. The troops, officers, nurses and wartime profiteers who greeted them were extremely sociable and enjoyed communicating with the public about all aspects of the period. This put the visitors in a chatty frame of mind so everyone stopped to talk with us too. Most of them bought something from us and no-one escaped from Ann Scott without a recruitment form.

We had so many interesting visitors to our stand, I can't tell you about them all, but the Mayor of St Neots got a membership lecture from Ann and a lovely, enthusiastic Californian couple gave us a donation of £20. The best selling item was Paxton Pits Honey at £5 a jar. Get yours before we run out.

On behalf of HDC and the Friends, I'd like to congratulate the organisers and all of the participants in putting on a really worthwhile and memorable day. Thank you.