We had Italian Prisoners of War in the area where I was. Where they were billeted, I don’t know. They weren’t billeted in the village, but they used to turn up on a lorry, and then go off to the different farms where they were allocated. We never saw any German Prisoners of War.
Just before D-Day the soldiers were all issued with French currency, and my mother was given two of these franc notes, which I have in my collection. And then, at Christmas, some soldiers sent my mother Christmas cards, which I’ve got in my collection too. One reads “To Reggie, Michael and Alan,” that is, the children in the household, “with best wishes, John”. And this from the 20th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery: “To our good friends of Cowplain, with every good wish for Christmas and the New Year from the Gunners of Spring, 1944.” That phrase, “the Gunners of Spring”, suggests that soldiers were in Cowplain earlier than I thought: if D-Day was in June, they must have been in the village at the back end of spring.
So there was one air-raid when we were all summoned there, and the other ones were dummy runs. And you had to put your gas mask on, and they were the most unpleasant things going, because they would steam up in no time at all. I would hate to have to wear one in a gas attack. Any rate, it never happened, thank goodness.
Further reading: http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/defence/horndean-s-wartime-past-1-6573671 – source of Tanks in Horndean and Home Guard pictures.