(South Notts Miners, England’s Last Hope)

A batch of secret wartime documents was recently released by the Government and surprisingly Newstead village is mentioned in one of them. Those from Newstead and Annesley who had prior knowledge were, of course, sworn under the Official Secrets Act not to divulge what they knew; but now the story can be told. When France fell in 1940 England lay at the mercy of the German Army. The German High Command quickly made plans for the invasion of England, but what they did not know was that their secret code had been broken by British Intelligence and their every move was known by the War Cabinet in London. The German plan was to land on the South Coast near Dover, and, having established a bridge-head, two panzer divisions were to break out and drive North, by-passing towns like Northampton, Leicester and Nottingham and re-grouping at the Hut Hotel. The panzers would then drive Westwards along the undefended Newstead Abbey Drive, cutting off the coal supplies from the Leen-Valley and then drive further West to the Rolls Royce works at Derby to cut off aero-engine supplies for the RAF. It was a bold plan and, if successful, would mean defeat for the Allies. As Churchill later said, “It was our darkest hour”. The War Cabinet knew that it would be too dangerous to draw Army Units from the South coast and they took one of their most difficult decisions of the entire war. The panzer division must be stopped at all costs and the area around Newstead railway station would be the site of this vital battle. This meant that the Newstead Home Guard would have to be the unit to bring about the destruction of the German division. When the orders arrived at Newstead GHQ, instructions were quickly given for the three wooden rifles and the Diana air pistol to be made ready. The Commanding Officer decided that the German attack would be made during darkness, on the assumption that the panzers would not want to get involved in fighting with the day shift coming off and the afternoon shift going on duty. The agonising decision as to who should man the fortress Newstead during the hours of darkness fell on Val Hitch and Bob Kendrick. It was to these two warriors that Britain looked for its salvation. Whilst the inhabitants of the village slept, the two men, bristling with armour, kept their lonely vigil in the waiting room of the railway station. There was nothing more that could be done but wait for their hour of destiny.

As the world now knows, the invasion never came and there has been much speculation as to why. One theory is that the Germans knew of the Allied plan for defending the country and they would therefore, know of Fortress Newstead. Did the Germans think that the names ‘Val’ and ‘Bob’ were new secret weapons ready to be launched against the invaders? We may never know. But then again…….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


PHOTO Another Wartime Story PHOTO

Newstead Colliery Home Guard pictured in Newstead Pit yard – in World War II
Back Row left to right: Walt Mills (surface/village maintenance), Bob Green (surface electrician), John Murden (face man), Albert Fields (undermanager).
Front Row left to right: Frank Beet (underground ostler), Joe Beardsley (safety officer/training officer).

This is part of the Newstead Home Guard that would have had to face the German Army – please note they look to have only 3 guns between them. They were made of stern stuff, having to work a full shift underground and then spend half the night preparing to fight the Germans.

All these men not only worked at Newstead but also lived in Newstead Village. Undermanager Albert Field became Newstead Colliery’s first Manager under the NCB regime in 1947. He left Newstead Colliery in 1951 to manage Swanwick Colliery, Derbyshire.

Bob Collier.