A Basildon Park story
Like many state homes, Basildon had a role to play during world war II, in fact, this house played two roles. It was a base and a training ground in the first part of the war, and after D day it became a prison for German and Italian soldiers.
Apparently, it wasn’t a lousy prison at all, and the prisoners were mainly busy working on the farm around. Although the war ended in 1945 Basildon prison continued to function until 1948, and even when it was closed some of the prisoners asked to stay. A couple of the German soldiers received letters from their family telling them that there is nothing for them to go back to. The time these war prisoners spent in the farms sparked few love stories. One of the volunteers who talked with me mentioned that her Gardner was the grandson of one of these soldiers…
The story of the single tree in front of the house is related to the first role this house played during the war. It was the base of the American 101st airborne division have used its grounds to train to D-day.
The soldiers trained very hard, but they also enjoyed some free time which they used to spend arranging big dancing parties on the second floor of the house. You can not have a good dance without some girls to dance with, so they used to invite the local girls… As you can imagine, like with the prisoners, some love stories sparked between the walls of the house, and our story was one of them.
She was the daughter of a farmer, and he was one of the soldiers. They decided they would get married after the war, but as it happens, he did not come back from it. He became one of the first casualties among many at the beaches of Normandy. The girl did not know what happened to her soldier, so she waited and waited… and never got married. When the national trust started to manage the house, she was one of the first people who came to volunteer. She spent many years guiding people around the house, telling them the various stories the house hid. Did she tell them about her own story? I don’t know, but I do know she kept volunteering until she died.
Her last wish was that her body would be cremated and her ashes are buried under the single tree in front of the house.
Why did she choose this specific tree? What happened underneath it? This is one of the secrets Basildon house will keep hidden forever. The national trust granted her the wish, and she will always be part of Basildon.
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