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Villages remember wartime evacuation

PUBLISHED: 07:11 19 May 2008 | UPDATED: 19:21 10 March 2010

IN 1942, the small Suffolk villages of Sudbourne and Iken were suddenly evacuated. The 650 residents had just two weeks to find a new place to live as the area was turned into a Second World War battle training ground.

IN 1942, the small Suffolk villages of Sudbourne and Iken were suddenly evacuated. The 650 residents had just two weeks to find a new place to live as the area was turned into a Second World War battle training ground.

It was not until six years later that everybody was able to return, and that momentous moment was relived on Saturday - 60 years on.

A party was held at Sudbourne Village Hall, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and arranged by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and Orford Museum.

More than 70 former evacuees attended, including brothers John and Charles Brown, for whom the event was extra special. They were both celebrating their birthdays.

John, who now lives in Framlingham, was celebrating his 71st birthday and Charles, from Orford, his 76th. The men, who were born on the same day five years apart, were young children when they were evacuated from Sudbourne to Chillesford with their parents and two sisters.

John said: “My grandmother, Hannah Brown, was one of the first to go back to Sudbourne. I can't remember much about it.”

He added: “Saturday was a fabulous day. There were one or two school friends I hadn't seen for several years.

“I went in a '40s Army costume and when we opened the door, I've never heard such a cheer - it was as if Ipswich had scored a goal! My wife and I won the best-dressed competition.

“It was just like turning the clocks back. It was a very enjoyable evening and a lot of hard work had gone into it.”

Villagers evacuated from Sudbourne and Iken, near Woodbridge, were given just two weeks to find somewhere else to live and move out their furniture.

They made way for the Orford Battle Area, which was established to prepare tanks for D-Day and invent ways of clearing minefields and crossing ditches.

They were promised they could come back after the war but this did not happen until they petitioned Parliament. They finally returned in 1947 and 1948.

The weekend event was part of a project to remember and record war-time experiences and to help the younger generation understand this part of their history.

Among the activities on Saturday were performances based on Second World War songs and Dad's Army sketches, entertainment by the Orford Amateur Dramatic Society, tug-of-war and children's races and an evening 1940s inspired dance.

There were also commemorative mugs for sale and an exhibition of work by Orford schoolchildren.

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