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Information about the Fountain Inn during World War II can be found in our book, beginning on page 37, but here we write about the wider role that Parkend village played in the war.

 

The Forest of Dean made an important, although often overlooked, contribution to the Allied war effort. While aerial warfare had advanced significantly since WWI, the threat from air raids was still much lower on the western side of the country. This, together with the Forest’s relatively low population, well-developed rail network and resilience to aerial reconnaissance, quickly marked it out as an ideal place to store munitions and accommodate troops.

 

Sadly, due to the secretive nature of WWII military sites, few photographs from the time exist. Their temporary nature, and rapid removal at the end of the war, also means that, in many cases, physical evidence of these sites has also largely disappeared. 


The Dean Field Studies Centre is the tall stone building in the centre of the village. It had originally been built as part of Parkend Iron Works, but at the start of the war it was in use as a forestry school. It was requisitioned by the government early on in the war and used as a training centre for Land Army girls from 1941. The women, known as 'Timber Gills', were taught forestry work and techniques and much of their training took place in the Nags Head reserve. The brick bases of some of their sheds can still be seen there.

 

From 1942 the larger part of the study centre was then given over to the United States 9th Air Force Service Command, as a command centre and officers’ quarters. Many more British and American troops were subsequently stationed in make-shift camps that were constructed in the woodland surrounding the village.

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Timber Gills, stood in front of what is now the Dean Field Studies Centre.

 

The village's central location and significance to the war effort resulted in a fire station being established next to the Fountain Inn. It was operated by volunteers of the Auxiliary Fire Service and, although this was a civilian organisation, the government provided them with a standard design prefabricated RAF shelter, known as a Handcraft Shelter. The building is still standing and is now in use as a farrier’s workshop. It can be seen at the far right-hand end of the pub. 

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Volunteer members of Parkend Fire Brigade.

 

An A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) body was also established in the village, which used to meet and train in the Fountain Inn's old club-room, above what are now rooms 8 and 9.

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Parkend ARP, photographed in 1940 or 1941, outside Parkend Cricket Club's pavilion on the sports field.

 

Back row (standing); Tom Edwards, Frank Brown, Tony Wright,  ? , Rene Bowery,

Beryl Baldwin, Doug Cox, Walt Russell, Harry Morse, Charlie Morse, Arthur Brown.
Front row (seated); John Carter, Joyce Ward, Margery Turley, Oliver Davies, Jess Ward,

Nelly Applegate, Sheila Meredith, Harry Hook.

 

Parkend was bombed by the Germans with incendiaries on the night of 22 October 1940. It seems that the intended target was New Fancy colliery, on the edge of the village, but either the bombing run overshot the target, or the pilot mistook part of the village for the mine. 

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Mike Webb's mother, Margaret, recounted to him how people living on Woodland Road went out to cover the bombs with soil to put them out.

The photo shows a tail fin from one of the incendiary bombs which was recovered from the site.
 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Mike Webb. 

In preparation for an Allied invasion of France, the Government activated Ammunition Depot 0-660 in September 1942. It was named Cinderford Depot, but incorporated sites across much of the Forest of Dean and soon became the second-largest ammunition storage facility in the country. Marsh Wharf Sidings in Parkend was never formally requisitioned by the government, possibly because of its importance to civilian business traffic, but it was specifically listed as part of the depot and made an important contribution to the role played by the Forest of Dean during the Second World War.

 

Huge quantities of British and American munitions, including drums of poisonous gas and pre-filled gas bombs, were transported along the railway branch line, past the front of the Fountain Inn, and unloaded at the wharf before being secretly stowed away, out-of-sight, beneath the tree canopy.

Customers sitting in the bay window of the pub at this time would have had an interesting, if not somewhat disconcerting, front-row seat to the activity. In the late-spring of 1944, when munitions and troops began to move in the opposite direction, they would also have had privileged insight into events that were to follow.

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Marsh Wharf, photographed a few years before the war.

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A crane hook dated 1940, recovered from the site of Marsh Wharf.

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Two locally-found WWII chemical ordnance tags, highlighting a darker side to wartime activities in the village.

 

Thankfully, poison gas was never used during WWII and the chemical ordnance stored in the Forest was decommissioned soon after the war ended. No evidence has ever been found to support the claim, but rumours persist to the present day that some of it was disposed of in the worked-out mines surrounding the village.

 

Six men from Parkend lost their lives in the Second World War and the village’s memorial hall, which had been built to honour those who fought and died in the First World War, was re-dedicated to include the casualties of this latest conflict. Their names can be found inscribed on a stone plaque to the left of the hall’s entrance. 

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