Bramdean during the Second World War was, for the majority of the time, a very peaceful place. The village school (on the site of the present village hall) was used as an issue depot, and free handouts (which were financed by the government) were presented to the village families for their children, these included various food stuffs, for example small bottles of orange juice. Mrs Tudor-Owen (who lived at Woodcote Manor) sold meat pies in the school for a small fee.

Many of the houses in the locality were used for the benefit of the war effort, for example, Hinton Ampner was used for the Portsmouth Days School for Girls, Pursers in West Meon Woodlands housed some 60 old ladies from both Portsmouth and Southampton, Basing Park House in Privett was used by the navy, and Bramdean Lodge in Wood Lane was used for making spitfire engine parts.

Bramdean was infinitely smaller than its present form, there was no Wood Lane Close, the land opposite Jordan House was empty, and the village remained more or less as it had for the past 50 years. The largest houses in the parish were occupied by various interesting characters, Woodcote Manor was home to the Tudor-Owens, who occasionally held parties at the house, and Captain Tudor-Owen’s army guests would camp in the park. Bramdean House was the residence of Sir John and Lady Capper, who also held many parties, and had occasional displays of tanks lining up in the park opposite.

Prior to 1943 (when the A272 was widened in preparation for D-Day) the main road through the village was a quiet route, used by travellers on their way between Winchester and Petersfield. There was very little traffic on the road at that time. There were two shops, Manchester House (run by Mrs Pat Read), and Jordan House (run by Oliver and Kate Cammell). Post Cottage in Wood Lane was used as a post office, and was run by the Griffin family until 1955.

Woodcote Manor, Hinton Ampner, Brockwood and Bramdean House’s parklands were used primarily for grazing land, as was Bramdean Common, which was significantly more open than it is now. There were less employees on the large estates and farms at that time, and so many struggled in their day to day running. Many of the farmstead’s barns housed things that would be of great surprise to us today, for example, some were used for the storage of precious objects from museums, whilst others, such as the ones at Manor House Farm in Bishops Sutton, contained things such as torpedoes.

Various bombs were dropped in the parish, one, behind the Church of St Simon and St Jude was so powerful that it destroyed the southern window of the nave, which was later to be replaced with plain glass in 1949. Another, located in a field to the south west of Woodcote Manor blew up, and subsequently shattered the leaded windows in the gables of the house, and also some of the windows on Woodcote Cottages.

There was a Prisoner of War Camp at Brockwood Dean. It consisted of various wooden buildings, surrounded by a high wire fence with barbed wire top, and several raised observation boxes skirting the perimeter. The prisoners at the time were both largely German and Italian, the latter were allowed out often, and some were sent to work in the area both on farms and in the woods. In Bramdean for example, Wood Farm was home to some of the prisoners, living in the farmhouse and also in the now demolished Long House.

The American soldiers would walk to and from the village quite often, as did the Italian prisoners when they would travel to the Griffin’s post office to send letters home.

Life in the village was very pleasant at the time, the usual main road traffic consisted of the essential vehicles like milk lorries that would travel from the farms and deliver the milk to the main depots. The farms still relied largely on the use of horses, and many a time they would travel to the River Itchen at Cheriton where they were used to collect water for the farms. Each house had its own means of collecting water, either by a private well, or by the communal water pumps that were located to the east and western ends of the village.

After the declaration of war in September of 1939, each inhabitant was issued with a ration book, so as to cut the amount of food that each person could have. The rationing of food only ended in 1954. Each adult was only allowed, for example, just 50g of butter, 3 pints of milk, and 1 fresh egg per week. Although some took to breaking these rules, as the American Troops would often scour the farms looking to trade things, there was a black market with petrol and food, they always wanted fresh eggs and meat, and even swapped their uniforms for things, and as clothing was rationed it would have been a tempting ploy!

When a plane crashed at Wood Farm, the Bramdean Home Guard managed to detain one of the pilots, who according to one account, spoke English very clearly. He was taken to The Old Rectory, where according to rumour, Major Tarhourdin entertained him with a good meal before he was taken away by the authorities.

Although I am yet to understand how the village celebrated the end of the war, I know that on Victory over Japan Day in 1946, the villagers celebrated with a large bonfire held in the field opposite Jordan House, and although no fireworks were available, they made do with a pistol which fired up red signal flares into the sky.

With help from various sources, including some of the older inhabitants of the village.