Posts Tagged ‘World War Two’

Knight of the Skies

April 23, 2017

Last year, cows started appearing all over Guildford. In Brighton it was snow dogs. In Lincoln it is Knights.

Bomber Command Memorial is rarely open, as work is still ongoing. Today was one of those special days when open.

Today a very special visitor, Knight of The Skies, kitted out as aircrew in WWII Bomber Command.

Designer of Knight of the Skies Rosie Ablewhite could not be present. Had she been, I would have complimented her on her interpretation.

I will not describe, other than to mention the sword, look carefully and will see it is the Spire, look again, and will see it is the same as the wingspan of an Avro Lancaster.

The sword is covered in corten steel, same material as the Spire and the concentric Memorial Walls.

Knight of the Skies is signed by the sole surviving member of the Dambusters Raid.

Knight of the Skies will move. He will be found at the top of Steep Hill, in Castle Hill, outside Lincoln Castle where he will be part of the Knights Trail.

Lincoln Knights’ Trail – 36 knights across Lincoln city centre – to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln and the sealing of the Charter of the Forest.

According to Professor David Carpenter:

The Battle of Lincoln, one of the most decisive in English history, meant that England would be ruled by the Angevin, not the Capetian dynasty.

The Knights in Lincoln, cows in Guildford, snow dogs in Brighton, are part of a much larger project, Wild in Art.

St George’s Day at Bomber Command Memorial Spire

April 23, 2017

When I last visited Bomber Command Memorial Spire, it was an unpleasant cold March afternoon. Today, by pleasant contrast, although a chill in the air in the morning, a pleasant warm sunny afternoon, especially if got out of the wind.

Daffodils were still in flower. The variety I learnt, a very pale yellow, almost white, is Lady of Lincolnshire.

There are areas of grass intended to be regularly cut, others are of rough grass. I would strongly recommend, the rough areas, sow wild flower seeds and manage as a traditional hay meadow. Allow the grass to grow tall, wait until seeded then mow some time late June. It may even be possible to find a farmer who will be interested in the hay. Then once the hay cut and removed, mow regular, but not short. Ideally once cut for hay, graze animals, rare breeds

There needs to be access to the South Common. If not open access, then a fence or a wall, with a gate, that leads direct down from the Spire, where a path runs along and a path or steps leading down into the common, all it would require are steps leading down to the path.

Today we were honoured with Knight of the Skies, one of a series of Knights dotted around Lincoln. He will then, I was told, move to Castle Hill, top of Steep Hill, outside Lincoln Castle, where he will form part of the Knights Trail.

Bomber Command Memorial was due to officially open in September. That date has now been put back to next year, when it will coincide with 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force.

Bomber Command Memorial

March 19, 2017

Bomber Command Memorial, at the top of Canwick Hill, overlooks South Common, with stunning views across the Witham Valley, over Lincoln, and on a  clear day, as today, over the Trent Valley.

The site is quite eerie, consisting of a central spire, which represents two wings of a Lancaster Bomber, and concentric walls.

The spire and the walls are made of rusting iron, or maybe steel, I assume to represent Lincoln once the city of heavy industry, with foundries, sadly long gone, skilled jobs replaced by low paid temporary McShit jobs.

The spire, not apparent until close up, is hollow.

The walls, are covered in names, cut into the walls both sides, the names of airman who died during World War Two. I was told 56,000, though I did not count.

Not yet open to the public. Today was an Open Day. I was an invited guest.

Also on site and as yet unfinished International Bomber Command Centre and a wooden shed.

Inside the shed, a long table half way down one side, with half a dozen veterans signing books and limited edition prints and answering questions.

One end serving tea and coffee, the other end a few books for sale.

Signed limited edition prints of paintings by one of the veterans.

I was surprised by the number of people there.

Everything run by volunteers, all pleasant and helpful, with two exceptions.

A man thrust a bucket in my face and more or less demanded I put in some money. I had no money, I expected an empty site.

Whilst looking at one of the books, I was told they are for sale not for looking at. He then bragged to an associate that he worked in a charity shop where he tells customers that books are for sale not for looking at.

One thing is needed, and hopefully there will be, when the site is officially open, a way up from South Common, otherwise a long trek round.

There needs to be path and steps leading up from South Common to the Memorial. Then if on the Common, can walk up, or, if at the Memorial and a pleasant day can combine with a walk on the Common.

Children’s experience of the Bombing War

January 25, 2017

In the interwar years, the theory was, all out war, total war. Destroy the cities, destroy the factories, destroy the workers, kill the means of production, destroy morale and the will to go on.

Aerial bombing may have had impact on Arab tribes, possibly because the experience was alien to them

Off the scale was kill millions, wipe out the cities.

Whilst this may be possible today, with the exception of Guernica, which even horrifies today, and Dresden, it was not possible.

Analysis of aerial footage, showed only about five percent of the targets were hit, and from British experience, it was known it was possible to recover very quickly, even when factories were damaged.

Each bomber produced had on average a lifetime of fourteen operational sorties. How best to make use of limited resources?

It was decided to change tack, destroy the housing, an easier target to hit. If the workers had nowhere to live, they would be demoralised.

But again, what basis was there for this?

It was decided to carry out a survey of children, what was their experience of bombing, the 1942 British bombing survey.

Two cities were chosen, Birmingham and Hull. The children were asked to write essays, the essays were then analysed to see what understanding could be drawn from those essays.

The children aged 10 to 12 years old, were asked to write an essay What Happened to Me and What I Did in the Air Raids.

Mrs Ingram got an incendiary bomb in her back bedroom and my father and brother put it out.

…there was a little bang and my brother said that he would have to go out as it was a firebomb and he would have to put it out. While he was putting it out a bomb dropped and blew him inside the shelter again.

When we got into the house there wasn’t half a mess. I started to tidy up and then I lighted [sic] the fire and made my mother and the two other children a nice hot cup of tea.

I was glad that I could do something to help, for there was a lady who came into our shelter who was very frightened. She had a little child of one and a half years. The lady was trembling, I took the little baby, and every time a bomb came down I threw a pillow over myself and the little girl, who was called Sheila. She kept crying but at last I hushed her to sleep.

What these essays showed was the children were coping, the families were coping. They show  the normality, life went on, a bomb may have dropped, put it right with a nice cup of tea.

Dad may be working during the day, on fire watch at night. If injured, he came home, was patched up by Mum and went straight back out again.

Brother helped put out the fires.

Mum looked after the household possessions, tidied and cleaned up the house after a bombing raid.

Sister helped Mum keep order, looked after the little ones, made a nice hot cup of tea.

They coped.

They saw after the initial horror of the bombing raids, the city was not destroyed, they could cope, life went, you kept on smiling. You may be afraid, but that was normal to be afraid.

If the intention was to reduce productivity capacity, or destroy morale, it failed.

This then questioned the effectiveness of bombing German cities.

It also raises question of why the policy of evacuating children from the cities to the countryside.  No only were they able to cope, they actually provided a support mechanism for the family.

And we know, when children were evacuated, they very quickly returned home.

A fatalistic attitude, if we are going to die, we may as well all die together.

We see this today in Syria. Assad does not control the countryside. The only way he controls the cities is by reducing to rubble.

And Assad does not cow the people. When they are finally forced to leave, they are still defiant, the children are defiant. The children even go on-line and record their experiences to let the world know.

The only main difference between Syria and WWII, is that WWII, very clearly defined roles between men and women, whereas in the north of Syria there are very effective Kurdish all-women fighting units.

A future research project, ask the children from  Aleppo to write an essay  What Happened to Me and What I Did in the Bombing Raids.

An excellent talk by Dr James Greenhalgh, senior lecturer, at University of Lincoln Riseholme Campus.

Dr James Greenhalgh is author of a forthcoming book on this topic.

Filming of documentary on bombing raid

December 30, 2016

Filming of a documentary of a World War Two Bomber Command bombing raid from the viewpoint of a Lancaster crew.

Interviews with veterans, film footage of raid.

The film, title not yet known, may be crowdfunded, possible available as DVD and streamed on vimeo.

A taster will be posted on vimeo and youtube.

Filmmaker Andrew Panton.

Christmas Party for Lincoln University archive volunteers and veterans

December 16, 2016

At the Riseholme Campus, Lincoln University held a Christmas Party to say a big thank you to all their volunteers and WWII veterans.

The centre, IBCC Digital Archive,  maintains a record, mainly digital, of first hand accounts of the Second World War, not only from a British perspective, but also from Europe.

The centre will go live on-line hopefully sometime next year. It will be an important source of original material for historians.

A good selection of eats and drinks.

Two veterans of Bomber Command attended, and thanks to the volunteer drivers who brought them.

A third veteran was unable to attend, too busy in his new found hobby of painting, but he did kindly send three of his paintings, which he had donated to the centre.

Harry Parkins was presented with Honour d’Legion, the highest award from the French President, with a letter of commendation from the French Ambassador to the Court of St James

A brief mention of the archive and its work, with a special mention of one of the recent acquisitions, a beautifully  illustrated  diary of an English Prisoner of War held in a German Stalag.

Within the diary, a recipe for a Christmas cake, made one assumed with the Red Cross rations.

It was not at all clear what some of the ingredents were, for example fruit and biscuits. Hazard a guess, and a little experimentation, assume dates something like digestive biscuits.

The lady who baked all the eats, also kindly baked the Prisoner of War Christmas Cake.

What was it like? PoW rations, it cannot be good.

It was nothing like a modern day Christmas cake, but then maybe during WWII, Christmas cakes were different.

To everyone’s pleasant surprise, the Stalag Christmas cake was excellent.

Thanks to the lady who baked the Stalag Christmas cake, and all our delicious eats.

I suggested, publish the recipe  and maybe have  a chat with Curtis, an excellent local independent baker and butcher, and ask them would they like to bake and put on sale with a small donation for each cake sold.

Finally, a big thank you to all the volunteers, who were each presented with a  certificate to thank them for their work.

‘After 36 operations and a mid-air collision, I made it to the end of the war’

November 11, 2014
Lancasters dropping food over Holland in Operation Manna

Lancasters dropping food over Holland in Operation Manna

Operation Manna

Operation Manna

Harry Parkins Bomber Command veteran of 39 ops

Harry Parkins Bomber Command veteran of 39 ops

Lancaster bomber flight engineer Warrant Officer Harry Parkins recalls his role in the world’s first humanitarian aid mission more than seven decades earlier with remarkable candour and detail.

On April 29, 1945, Bomber Command dropped tons of food over the west of Holland to alleviate the suffering of three million people. A million were officially classified as starving.

Over the next 10 days, Harry was involved in six special missions from RAF Fiskerton, east of Lincoln. It was part of Operation Manna, which saw US Air Forces and RAF aircraft parachute more than 12,000 tons of vital food supplies into the stricken area.

“After 36 operations with 630 Squadron out of East Kirkby with a New Zealand and Australian crew, I made it to the end of the war and even survived a mid-air collision with another Lancaster,” he said.

It was while he was training new flight engineers in early 1945 that Pilot Officer ‘Chips’ Fry begged him to go to RAF Fiskerton back on operations.

So he did three more with 576 Squadron before the first of six flights to Walkenburg, Delft and Rotterdam, dropping food.

He said: “Because the German troops were also starving, we could also see them and heard later that they’d also been taking up the bags of flour. Some had burst on the huge poles the distrusting Germans erected in the fields to stop us landing.”

Post-war, after meeting his future wife Mavis in her native Lincoln soon after, he chose to stay on in the county.

Now living on Trafalgar Court, Mr and Mrs Parkins – who have a son, daughter and two grand-daughters – had a shock last week when their phone rang.

“On Tuesday I got a phone call from Mrs Ella Howlett, who was in tears.

“She was thanking me and the crew for dropping the food which saved her life and many others. She was a girl in Holland and said many of her friends and family died. She was only 16-years-old at the time. And in 1948 she married her husband who was a soldier and came to live in England.

“It was a very emotional call because her family survived even though they had been eating tulip bulbs and making stew out of potato peelings.”

His 630 Squadron crew at East Kirkby held the record for the longest Lancaster mission – more than 2,000 miles over the Alps to Munich on April 24, 1944. The aircraft ran out of fuel on landing back at base 10 hours 25 minutes later.”

The final airlift on VE Day meant that Harry and his pals could pack up and go home – eventually.

But it was not before he was involved in repatriation flights for Allied prisoners-of-war held in camps in Brussels and Italy – during which he had a chance encounter with his uncle Len, whom he had not seen since boyhood.

Originally published Lincolnshire Echo, republished on Medium

D-Day 70th Anniversary

June 5, 2014
marking D-Day in  Aldershot

marking D-Day in Aldershot

D-Day was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany when the allies landed on a beach in Normandy.

The scale of the operation is hard to comprehend.

Bomb Site

December 7, 2012
St Paul's surviving Blitz of WWII

St Paul’s surviving Blitz of WWII

One of the iconic images of London during the German Blitz of World War Two is St Paul’s Cathedral surviving in the midst of bombed out ruins.

Winston Churchill had ordered that St Paul’s be saved no matter what the cost, even if it meant all the surrounding buildings were burnt to the ground.

He issued this order because he believed that if St Paul’s was destroyed, the morale of Londoners would collapse.

What was not reported at the time for obvious reasons, morale was close to collapse, and had the German bombing raids continued, it would have collapsed.

Bomb Site maps all the bombs that fell on London during the Blitz.

You can pick a day, or the entire period of the Blitz, and it will map where the bombs fell.

With Bomb Sight you can discover what it was like in London, during WWII Luftwaffe Blitz bombing raids, exploring maps, images and memories. The Bomb Sight web map makes use of bomb census maps, previously available only by viewing them in the Reading Room of The National Archives.

You can interrogate and learn more information. You can type in a specific location. You can go to an area of London for example Hackney, or an area within Hackney for example Dalston or Hackney Central, see where the bombs fell, see pictures, read accounts of the time. But what does not seem possible, is once in one of these areas move around the map, though you can do this from the main map, by moving around, then zooming in.

The London Blitz took place from 7 October 1940 until 6 June 1941.

Bomb Site only went live 30 November 2012. They had not expected the level of interest and the server is unable to cope with the demand. Be patient.

More information on this project, a joint project between the University of Portsmouth and the National Archives, can be found on their blog, Mapping the Blitz Bomb Census.