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Desford in World War II

In 1939 the population of Desford was 1163. During the war there were 120 servicemen and 10 servicewomen from Desford. 11 men lost their lives.  


The conditions were similar to every other village. People carried identity cards and gas masks and observed the black out; signposts were removed, church bells were silent (until 1942) and many areas of pasture were ploughed.

The Air-Raid Precaution (ARP) Wardens’ post was at Ivy House on High Street. The Head Warden was Mr Williams and the 12 wardens worked from 10pm – 6am on a rota.  There was also a telephonist.

The Home Guard, led by Major Alan Ward, had their HQ at the centre cottage of Hill Entry on Newbold Road and Sergeant Shepherd would drill the men in the paddock now occupied by Manor Gardens. The only incident of note was when a German plane came down at Roes Rest (off Peckleton Lane, Leicester Forest West). The Home Guard pursued the pilot and crew who were eventually captured.

German Bomber at Roes Rest, 1.JPG

Miss K Smith of Vine Cottage on Main Street was a voluntary helper for the Scheme for the Provision of Food and Shelter for Persons rendered Homeless as the Result of Enemy Action. 

The Desford Land Fertility Association was set up in April 1940 at the instigation of William Rippin, who lived at Sunbreak on Little Lane. They obtained seed potatoes from Scotland and organised the distribution along with fertiliser, to encourage people to grow food as part of the Dig for Victory campaign.
See article: Land Fertility Association by Mollie Rippin.pdf

In 1940 there was a Salvage Drive when iron was collected and sent to the munition factories. The railings around the Pickard Recreation Ground and Strict Baptist Graveyard were removed.

A ladies’ group was set up to tear up strips of old material for bandages. They also made bags of toiletries for wounded soldiers; knitted socks and balaclavas. Sales were held to raise money for the war effort and the village was top of the Red Cross Rural Penny-a-Week Fund.
View Red Cross Certificate pdf

A small number of people, including Mollie, daughter of Mr Rippin, supported the County Herb Committee by collecting plants from gardens and hedgerows for use as medicines. See article: Herb Committee by Mollie Rippin.pdf

There was an Infirmary Committee who raised money to endow a bed at Leicester Royal Infirmary by holding events including an annual Carnival Parade.

ARP Wardens 1939-1945.jpg

 Desford ARP Wardens

The Red Lion. After 1950.JPG

 Red Lion pub with air-raid siren 

The air-raid siren was mounted on the roof of the Red Lion and was only removed in 1985.


Meat pies from Melton Mowbray, which cost 4d each, were distributed twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays to about 400 homes in the village. This was organised from The Chimes by Mrs Goulton. School dinners were started at this time because so many fathers were away in the Services and mothers were out all day on essential war work either in factories or on the land. 


In 1942 a Wings for Victory week raised £14,150.10s.6d in Desford. The events included a Sports Day, football matches, a whist drive, processions and a dance. 

The Desford Troops Comfort Fund had a dual purpose of raising money for luxuries but also to send a Newsletter to keep the serving men and women in touch with life back home.  From these we get snippets of information such as Petty Officer George King was awarded the DSM; Private Tom Poole was a prisoner of war in Italy: Private George Pallett returned home after being a prisoner of war. In the Christmas 1944 edition, there were 100 small photos of Desford servicemen.

One of the regular fundraisers was a weekly dance at the Miners Institute, with music played by the Melody Makers Band from Desford Boys School.

Desford Aerodrome was taken over by the RAF as an Elementary Flying Training School. On weekday evenings the YMCA arranged for the Miners Institute to be available for servicemen who were stationed at the airfield.  The local ladies ran a canteen from 6.30 – 9.30 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 

Annual Parade for Leicester Royal Infirmary.jpg

 Annual Carnival Parade 


Further information:



Desford in the Second World War by Caroline Wessel (History Series)

Desford in the War: No.7 EFTS Desford by Reg Emerson

Working for the County Herb Committee in Wartime by Mollie Rippin (History Series)

Desford & District Land Fertility Association by Mollie Rippin (History Series)

Desford Troops Comforts Fund: in the archives we have the minutes and accounts books, several Newsletters and many letters of thanks written by the servicemen and women who received gifts of money.

Pie Distribution books in the archives.

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