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The Lost Village: Little Staughton and World War Two

Written by Brenda Foster and Jeanette Atkinson 

Before 1940 Little Staughton was a picturesque rural village with an impressive Georgian Baptist Chapel seating 500 people. The postcard below shows St Margaret’s (now All Saints’) Church with its newly restored spire in about 1910, the Post Office on the High Street, a view of thatched properties at Top End and The Bushel and Strike Beerhouse, which lay opposite to the widely known Georgian Baptist Chapel on Colmworth Road.

Postcard of Little Staughton Z1665_7

Little Staughton c.1910 [Z1665/7]

Such relative tranquillity was shattered by the Second World War; children from London were evacuated to Little Staughton and by 1944 an airfield was built in Cambridgeshire on the ‘clay table’ of Little Staughton to the east of the village. Little Staughton Airfield (which lies in Cambridgeshire) became an operational RAF station on the 1st March 1944. It was home to the Pathfinders of Group 8, the 109 and 582 Squadrons. 

To make way for Mosquito and Lancaster bombers taking off in the direction of Little Staughton, all the buildings that lay at the end of the two runways (to the south west) were eventually demolished. This included the Baptist Chapel (the roof having been damaged in 1944 by the undercarriage of a Lancaster), two cottages and the Bushel & Strike Public House. These buildings were all at the south-west end of the cross-field runway. Cottages at Top End were demolished as was the Shoulder of Mutton Public House to make the north-east/south-west runway safe. The only remaining buildings on the above postcard by the end of 1944 were the Post Office on the High Street and the church! There was a public outcry as two areas of the village - Colmworth Road and Top End - were devastated. Some very elderly folk were made homeless and the community lost their beloved and historically important Baptist Chapel. By the early 21st Century the Post Office building was also demolished to make way for two residential properties, leaving just Saint Margaret’s (now All Saints) Church shown on the ‘Greetings from Little Staughton’ postcard.

In spite of the loss of the village buildings, Little Staughton is now recognised for the bravery of all the RAF Pathfinders of Bomber Command who flew from the airfield. The War Memorial on Colmworth Road at the entrance to the Airfield recognises the bravery of the airmen of 109 (Mosquito) and 582 (Lancaster) Squadrons, 8 Group, Bomber Command. Medals awarded to the 109 Squadron include 1 Victoria Cross, 27 Distinguished Service Orders, 112 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 1 Distinguished Flying Medals and 1 Croix de Guerre. The 582 Squadron were awarded 1 Victoria Cross, 4 Distinguished Service Orders, 69 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 20 Distinguished Flying Medals. The Victoria Crosses were awarded to two pilots, Squadron Leader Robert Palmer and Captain Edwin Swales, who flew from this airfield. These awards plus the many others will always mark the extreme sacrifices made by the brave young men and women who served from Little Staughton from 1944 to 1945.

War Memorial 2018

War memorial wide angle 2

The War Memorial, April 2018 (Copyright Brenda Foster)

In spite of the enormous changes brought about by the war, there are still several Grade Listed properties still standing. These include: