Last man from lost village of Tottington dies
PUBLISHED: 17:16 31 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:04 03 January 2019
The last person believed to have survived after being evicted from the village of Tottington by the army during the Second World War has died.
Donald Balls, who was 98, was serving as a signalman for the Royal Air Force in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) when he was told by his family they were being forced out of their home near Thetford in 1942.
The army took over control of the land to use the village as part of the Stanford Battle Area used to train soldiers for combat in 1942 and reneged on promises to allow residents to return after the war
Never allowed to return apart from the odd coach tour, Mr Balls was forced to leave behind his mother’s grave, sat only six feet away from the village church after she died in childbirth.
His step-son, Ian Manser, said Mr Balls could never get over the fact he could not see his mother’s grave whenever he liked.
He said: “His mother had a baby six months premature and then a few days later she died of Sepsis and they were buried in Tottington Church.
“The cross marking the grave is still standing there about six feet away from the doorway. He always wanted to get to his Mum’s grave and he never could get over the fact they couldn’t go back. That sort of bothered him.”
Mr Balls’ family moved to Tottington in 1930, with his father taking over the blacksmith shop of his uncle. Wilfred Herman.
Eight years later, when Mr Balls was 18, he joined the RAF and spent eight years serving in the air force, surviving the Second World War.
Following the war he became a postman, working in the Quidenham and Eccles area of south Norfolk, and lived in a former war shed at the back of Eccles Hall.
“If he knew it was one of the children’s birthday,” said Mr Manser, “instead of just posting the letter through, Don would knock on the door and whistle happy birthday, he really was a fantastic man.”
Later on Mr Balls moved to Wilby, where he lived for the rest of his life, with Mr Manser described his step-father as someone who did not worry about what he did not have.
He said: “He was the sort of bloke who didn’t worry about what he didn’t have and he was happy with what he had.
“He just loved people and he always used to say, ‘if something doesn’t go right here, just step back, leave it a little while and come back and you will find it exactly how you want it.’”
Mr Balls is survived by his wife, Muriel Manser-Balls, 79, his step-son, Ian Manser, 50, and his two step-grandchildren Stephen and Michael Manser, 24 and 22 respectively.