The War Years 1939 -
For its size the village played a very important part in the war effort becoming home to Headquarters No 3 Bomber Group which controlled squadrons based on airfields across Eastern England. The nerve centre was based in a group of inconspicuous houses in the village centre, which later attracted a purpose built communications centre and telephone exchange. No doubt plans laid at Exning were responsible for a major part of Bomber Commands campaign on occupied Europe. An Air Vice Marshall and Senior R.A.F. Officers took up residence in Exning House other ranks were billeted with village families. Landwade hall housed a number of W.A.A.F.'s who worked in the Operations Room of the HQ.
For a period the village also became home to the Air Ministry's No 3 Works Department which was responsible for the survey and construction of airfields from Cambridgeshire to the coast. This department occupied a large racehorse trainer's residence and issued contracts for the construction of buildings and runways, which at one stage ran into millions of pounds daily.
Various units of the Tank Corps camped in the grounds and stables of Beechwood House and were engaged in training manoeuvres around the surrounding villages. Tank repair workshops were formed in stables adjoining 'The Yews' in Church Street and in a barn off Chapel Street.
Ernest A. Webb Ltd of Exning foundry on the corner of Chapel Street and Swan Lane with its then 130 employees (inc 40 ladies) quickly put their engineering expertise and experience to the war effort producing well over 250,000 3 inch unfilled mortar bombs and 14,850 component parts for Bailey Bridges besides numerous snow ploughs, road surfacing equipment and gritting machines for runway and dockland construction.
Enemy attacks on the village were few, however a lone Heinkel bomber gunned a train on the Cambridge to Mildenhall line of Exning Halt resulting in several casualties and incendiary bombs fell in a field to the east of the village opposite the then isolation hospital in Fordham.
R E Bye -
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