I had always understood from locals that the Cut, as we call the Chitterne Brook, was excavated and lined during the second World War by Italian prisoners of war. Now I have doubts. Could the work have been carried out by conscientious objectors?
TF thinks so. His father was a conscientious objector (CO) who spent time in Chitterne working on the Cut and the roads in 1943. This was all news to me, but welcome all the same. It’s always good to hear firsthand accounts of happenings in Chitterne’s past.
According to TF:
…a lot of work in 1943 was done on the roads and on the Chitterne ditch, by conscientious objectors from 10 Company Non-Combatant Corps, who were billeted for a while in Upton Scudamore and in the old Tisbury Union workhouse (now gone and under a group of houses at the top of Union Hill).
I can testify to my father’s own experiences as a CO in this unit. These non-combatants were working for Wilts CC as labour gangs to repair roads and to prepare hard standings around the Plain for Nissen hut erection and the arrival of US troops. The National Archive has now released the official War Diaries of the various Non-Combatant Corps and these confirm the works done around Chitterne during 1943. Supervision of objectors/non-combatants was by men of the Pioneer Corps. COs wore Army fatigues but without badges, so were often “invisible” to local folk who would have seen troops around all the time then. Because they had chosen not to bear arms and had all attended courts martial to argue their case for exemption from military service, conscientious objectors were ‘available’ to do certain tasks like road and building construction, or mining and forestry. They worked really hard, partly to justify their stance of course and weren’t always the most popular of folk with local people, who might have had their loved ones away fighting the war. The so-called War Diaries now released by the National Archives include letters from Wilts County Council, expressing gratitude to the non-combatants for their hard work on Wiltshire’s roads.
So there you go, another piece slotted into the puzzle. I pass this on to all you folk interested in Chitterne’s history as TF says: “I hope this little snippet might be of interest to the people of Chitterne, even if the Cut still floods now and again!”