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The Age of Global Wars

In the 1960's & 1970’s Thetford was home to the TV series Dad’s Army.


Thetford had significant connections to both World Wars including the first field trials for the tank, the Desert Rats training nearby and the presence of 17 mainly USAAF airfields. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the TV series Dad’s Army was filmed in and around Thetford. Today visitors can enjoy a trip to the museum in Thetford as well as the statue of the infamous Captain Mainwaring.

Notable in no small part because the comedy series ‘Dad’s Army’ was filmed in the town, Thetford’s real World War Two experience was very much that of many small English Towns. Passed over by the bombers of the Blitz, the townspeople prepared to fight off any German Invasion.

This time there was little heavy industry in Thetford to contribute to the war-effort. At the start of the war in 1939, 2,000 evacuees arrived at Thetford and were housed throughout the town, safely sheltered from the oncoming Blitz.

The military base near Thetford was inundated with American Servicemen as well as British troops, preparing for the re-capture of mainland Europe.

Following the war, Thetford was earmarked as one of the towns that could provide an over-spill for the population of London. Tens of thousands of homes were constructed to house new residents, and the population ballooned. The Thetford that was to emerge after the Second World War would be utterly different, almost unrecognisably so, from that which left the First.


The 4th Norfolk Rifle Volunteers

‘G’ Company of the 4th Norfolk Rifle Volunteers was formed entirely of young men from Thetford, who not only trained for battle at the base at Snarehill but participated in civic ceremonies. In 1908, the old volunteer services were scrapped in favour of a new Territorial Army.

Thetford in World War One

The war memorial erected in 1921 bears the names of over a hundred men from Thetford who lost their lives in the Great War, while a total of almost 700 men left their town to fight for King and Country.

Many women took jobs previously held exclusively by men, such as Flossie Clarke who replaced her father John as Thetford town crier, while the workforce at establishments such as Burrell’s was transformed by the hiring of female labour. A picture taken in spring 1918, at a time when the German Army was making its last great offensive, shows a man touring Thetford encouraging people to buy up National War Bonds, as the country’s exchequer was drained by the continuing cost of the war. A ‘Boom’ week in May 1918 saw the Thetford townspeople give over £57,000.

On the 11th day of the 11th month 1918, an armistice was signed between Germany and the Allies, halting hostilities. In Thetford, as in many other places around the country, church bells rang and people took to the streets in celebration, as Florrie Clarke announced the end of four years of bloodshed.

The Military Bases

Driving around Thetford today you will notice the signs around the Breckland Scrub attesting to the military training sites. During World War One, both tanks and aeroplanes were tested and worked over on these sites – tanks in secret at a base near Elveden, planes at the Snarehill aerodrome. The army base in Breckland was where some of the major innovations in twentieth century warfare took place.

In 1912, two years before World War One erupted across Europe, a series of military manoeuvres were held outside of Thetford on the heath land with 30,000 troops taking part.

After war between Britain and Germany was declared on the 4th of August 1914, large numbers of soldiers passed through and grouped at Thetford on their way to the front line.


Thetford Forest (Desert Rats and Cromwell IV)

Charles Burrell Museum

RAF Snarehill

Bridge Station site

Dad's Army Museum

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