Emneth war veteran told Germans to go and surrender to somebody else - Bill talks of his life at a Home Front memories event in Cambridge.

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge. Bill, Gay, Beverley Young and Sheila Von Rimscha (volunt

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge. Bill, Gay, Beverley Young and Sheila Von Rimscha (volunteer) - Credit: Archant

A 95 year old Emneth man told his war story as part of a living history event in Cambridge.

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge - Credit: Archant

Bill Barnes joined the Home Front marquee at the Big Weekend event where people learnt about the lives of those affected by conflict.

The stories are being compiled for a book due to be published in Autumn.

The event saw Mr Barnes join Age UK Cambridgeshire, the BBC and the Museum of Cambridge, where he spoke about his life.

Mr Barnes said: “People have been so kind. It’s been amazing. I really hope people found it interesting. I’d love to do it again.”

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge. Group photo with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner.

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge. Group photo with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner. - Credit: Archant


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Born in London Mr Barnes worked as a clock and watch repairer.

He was conscripted in 1940 and was medically discharged from the army in 1946.

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He said: “I didn’t like being in the Infantry, as I didn’t want to have to kill anyone. Then I was transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), which I preferred.

“On one occasion we met some Germans with their tunics round their waists and their hands on their heads. They wanted to surrender to us. But we told them to go and give themselves up to someone else, as we didn’t want to be bothered with all that.

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge. Group photo with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner.

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge. Group photo with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner. - Credit: Archant

“One sad day, I came across four Canadian soldiers lying down. I went over to speak to them and then realised that their tunics were all ripped because they had been shot in the back. At that moment, I thought of their families back home, who didn’t realise yet that they were dead.

“At the end of the war, when I was discharged from hospital, I felt bewildered. It was like being released from prison. I could get up, shave, go out, come back and go to bed when I wanted. I was a free man.

“Anyone coming home from the war was seen as a hero, but more often than not, the jobs we had left when we joined the war had gone. Times were hard,” he said.

Big Weekend Home Front activities included a 1940s Music Wagon, two period musicians, a tea tent, a 1940s exercise class, vintage bicycles, Lindy Hop, an exhibition and reminiscence pieces.

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge

WW2 Memories at The Big Weekend Cambridge - Credit: Archant

There were also workshops on gardening, rationing, butter making, wash day, and make do and mend.

The memories book will be available in Autumn. To order a copy call 0300-666-9860.

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