Despite the rather primitive conditions, life in the camp was really quite pleasant and – especially for the children living there – almost idyllic.
The camp was situated on the Duncombe estate, a short walk from the stately home owned by the Earls of Feversham. It was strung out over a distance of nearly a mile along the top of an escarpment overlooking the river Rye and largely hidden from view by mature deciduous woodland. The accommodation consisted of fairly randomly arranged Nissen huts of different sizes, with extra large huts for the church, messing facilities and theatre. The camp had previously been occupied first by British and later by Canadian military units, but in 1946 it was taken over by the Polish 4th Armoured Regiment, of which Zbigniew Dudziński was the CO.
The huts had no inner lining or insulation, so tended to be cold in winter and noisy – the sound of rain could be deafening! In summer, on the other hand, they were stifling. Every hut was equipped with a coal-fired round stove, which would often glow red-hot.
After the severe winter of 1947, which lasted well into March, the summer was warm and pleasant, and it was often possible to sit outdoors among the huts, or go down to the river bank for a picnic and a swim. The only negative aspect was that in high winds the big trees used to creak dreadfully. In fact, there were at least a couple of incidents of trees falling across huts – fortunately, without anyone being killed or injured.
George was duly enrolled in the primary school in Helmsley that stood close to the gates leading into Duncombe Park. In the morning it meant a walk of three-quarters of a mile or so. Most of it was downhill, and the trip to school became almost pleasurable after he was given a scooter! The return home was less enjoyable, being all uphill; but, fortunately, there was quite a lot of military traffic going back up to the camp, so he was often given a lift – being the “boss’s” son did have some advantages!