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Author Topic: Pee Cee's World  (Read 106934 times)

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Offline Lyn L

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #111 on: February 27, 2014, 15:08:11 »
Smiler.... I'll give that a try  :)
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Offline smiler

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #110 on: February 27, 2014, 14:51:28 »
peter and Lyn it was said on BBC news a couple of weeks ago if you cant get a tune/song out of your head then sing/hum God Save the Queen and it goes , never tried it but give it a go  :) :) :) thanks for a very good read.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #109 on: February 27, 2014, 12:55:45 »
Here is the detail of the nightingale and bombers event – Paragraph 15:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2093108/

Here is the recording. The bombers start to come in at about 2min 15 sec
http://www.scoop.it/t/460-squadron/p/1147526169/2012/02/08/nightingales-sing-in-1942-as-raf-bombers-fly-overhead

Since the plug was pulled on the live broadcast I must have heard about it after the war, or perhaps the BBC broadcast a recording later.

But I definitely remember the planes going over one night, although probably a different one – such was the density of the stars on a clear moonless night that an aircraft low enough to have any ‘size’ appeared as a ‘black hole’ in them.
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Offline Lyn L

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #108 on: February 27, 2014, 12:18:08 »
 :) Nor me PC, and brings back some good memories of my old Dad.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #107 on: February 27, 2014, 12:13:52 »
Thanks :)
I wasn't aware of the origin of 'Mairseytotes' but recall that after the first line it went:

"If the words seem queer and funny to your ear,
A little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing 'MARES EAT OATS and DOES EAT OATS and LITTLE LAMBS EAT IVY'
So - Mairseytotes....."

And so on; nonsense even when translated. But it helped to liven up the times and it was a catchy tune - having posted it here, I now can't get it out of my head!
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Offline busyglen

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #106 on: February 27, 2014, 11:37:04 »
Another great chapter PC.  :)
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Offline Lyn L

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #105 on: February 27, 2014, 09:22:36 »
Thanks again PC  :)

I was brought up on the song Maizy Totes, my Dad was forever singing it , and I'm talking the 50s , must have struck a chord with him  :) ( and yes , I do understand ALL the words )

Just seen chasg's response so he saved me the trouble of of explaining  :)
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Offline chasg

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #104 on: February 27, 2014, 09:20:08 »
the nonsense song called ‘Mairzy Totes’ that went “Mairzytotes an doezytotes an liddellams eeteyevee, kidseleeteyevytoo, woodentchoo”. Who can translate that into English?

I gather it was originally a demonstration by an American professor of English (could there be such a thing?) of how the English language could be mangled by an uneducated American. It translates as "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid will eat ivy too: wouldn't you?"

Offline peterchall

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #103 on: February 27, 2014, 08:39:49 »
Part 15
Back to 1942, with the Japanese having spread themselves across much of eastern Asia and western Pacific, the German armies in Russia on the Volga at Stalingrad (Volgograd), and Rommel halted at El Alamein in Egypt (Part 13 - Reply#97, P7). Having looked at the night air raids for 1943 and 1944 (Part 14 – Reply#99, P7), let’s set the scene to continue into other aspects of life in 1942 and 1943:
In the Far East the Japanese soldier, while still unbeaten, had at least stopped beating us. The Americans scored a major naval victory at Midway, the first in history in which the opposing fleets never sighted each other – all the fighting taking place between carrier borne aircraft and the ships. The German offensive at Stalingrad failed and the Russians began to push them back. In Egypt Rommel failed in his attempt to advance further (the 1st Battle of El Alamein) and in October 1942 the 2nd Battle of El Alamein saw the rout of the Afrika Korps and its long retreat across North Africa. Allied landings in North West Africa in November 1942 meant that the Germans became ‘Piggy in the Middle’. In May 1943 the Axis forces in Africa surrendered at Tunis and the Allies landed in Sicily in July. After landings on the mainland, Italy surrendered in September and declared war on Germany! But, already having forces in Italy, the Germans simply ‘occupied’ it and the long slog up the Italian mainland, from one fortress line to another, began.

So here is how we lived in the Medway Towns and viewed the events of the wider world, to the best of my memory:

As well as my Saturday afternoon pictures with Mum, we also went in the evenings. One of the features was looking at the screen through a haze of cigarette smoke. I now recall Mum’s habit of commenting on the film – a violent scene would provoke a comment like “Oh my God”, and the hero kissing the heroine brought forth “You naughty boy” – I tried to look as if she didn’t belong to me! Although there may have been appropriate noises from elsewhere in the audience anyway. Not that love scenes were particularly erotic – I believe there was some rule that actors had to keep one foot on the ground, and shots of a man and woman lying on the bed, however near to fully dressed, were a no-no. However, I think newsreel shots of violence became less inhibited and one that comes to my mind as I write is of an explosion in a hedgerow and a body rolling out onto the road. Winter conditions on the Russian front were illustrated by a shot of the bodies of German soldiers being loaded on to trucks, frozen solid.

It took a while before it became apparent that El Alamein was a major victory but, when it did, church bells were rung for the first time since they had been banned in the summer of 1940. As always Churchill warned against false hopes, saying “It is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning”. Later events showed that it really was a turning point – before El Alamein the British army never won a campaign, but after El Alamein it never lost one.

At some time the 14th Army in Burma had become know as the ‘Forgotten Army’ although I don’t know why because we remembered it as the army that was always on the run. Perhaps they were just forgotten when decent weapons and equipment were being handed out. Things changed when its new commander – General Slim – decreed that it would no longer retreat when the Japanese used their favourite tactic of outflanking through the ‘impenetrable’ jungle, but would stay put and be supplied by air if surrounded. The ‘Chindits’ operated miles behind enemy lines. The Japanese soldier was being played at his own game. It was probably about now that we heard about POWs being employed on the construction of the Burma Railway, and it was disturbing.

The Russians surrounded the German 6th Army at Stalingrad and we saw astonishing newsreels of lines of German prisoners stretching apparently for miles, thinly clad in the Russian winter. It became apparent that the war in that theatre was nasty, with atrocities on both sides.

Nevertheless, things were looking up!

Derek and I ‘acquired’ a dog. He was a big black and brown Labrador type who suddenly came up to us in the street one day wagging his tail, and followed us wherever we went. From then on it was the same every time he saw us, until either we went indoors or he decided it was time to go and just trotted off. He was a familiar sight in the area but I think we were the only ones he latched on to, and I think he lived in Church Street – he seemed to be well cared for and, according to his collar, his name was ‘Prince’.

When Italy surrendered and changed sides it was, of course, all soon going to be over, except that the ordinary German soldier didn’t agree, and newsreels and newspaper photos of the Italian front in the winter of 1943/44, with everything bogged down in the mud, were reminiscent of Flanders in WW1.

There were WRNS girls billeted in some of the big houses in Watts Avenue, and on warm summer evenings they would sit in the open windows. Derek and I, with all the panache of our 14 years, chatted them up and were rather surprised to learn what they would like to do to ‘little boys’.

Apart from the cinema the usual entertainment for the light evenings was the pub and walks, and for Derek and me it was just ‘milling around’ – the Back Fields and the footpath round the flooded field (an EWS source) by the river were favourite haunts, as was the Castle Gardens - it was surprising how much we could find to do. Watching Sunderlands flying from the Medway and Stirlings from the airport was another pastime. We played various ball games and the lady in the end house of Queen Street made us wash down her garden wall after we’d chalked something on it. With Double BST sunset was after 10pm in June.

In winter it was mostly messing about indoors for us, or joining the adults in listening to the radio, playing games, or in the pub. As previously noted, we were not bothered very much by air raids in 1942 and 1943.

However I was once at school at Holcombe when there was the noise of a diving plane and gunfire, and the teacher told us to get under the desks. Apparently a lone enemy aircraft had dived out of the clouds, and by that stage of the war the sirens were not sounded for lone raiders.

In May 1943 came the famous Dambusters raid, and we got the impression that the whole of German industry was flooded. Our bomber offensive began to make itself felt (although we believed that had always been the case) and city after city was devastated, so it would all soon be over…..! However, Churchill had made it plain that there would be no compromise, and nothing less than unconditional surrender would end the war.

I remember one night there was a continuous roar as our bombers passed over at low level, and occasionally one could be seen against the starlit sky. The BBC played a recording of nightingales singing against the noise of massed bombers going over – I think it was made somewhere in southern England and wonder if it was the same occurrence..

Large formations of American bombers went over Kent on their way to targets in France and southern Germany in daylight, going out in perfect formation and coming back later in not such perfect formation. Mum got as near as she ever did to praying when she said “Please boys, all come back safely” – unfortunately a vain hope! A 4-engined US Liberator made a crash landing at Rochester airport and slid onto the Rochester-Maidstone Road near where the caravan site is now. We went to look at it and were shocked at the bullet holes all over it.

American servicemen appeared on the streets of the Medway Towns – I don’t think any were stationed nearby, so were probably sightseeing, especially Rochester. But we couldn’t help but be impressed by the quality of their uniforms. There was a song called ‘The Yanks are coming….The Yanks are coming over there’, which gave rise to the complaint that they were ‘Overpaid, over sexed, and over here’. But all that was compensated for by the presence of Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in the UK, bringing his ever popular music.

As well as the Americans there were many foreign and Dominion service people, but while some of them wore their national uniform for a while when they first arrived, they eventually all wore British uniform with a shoulder flash showing ‘Canada’, ‘Poland’, and so on.

The V-for-Victory sign crept in. I think it started as a mark of defiance in occupied Europe, with the letter ’V’ chalked on walls but it also appeared in the UK, and as a poster simply stating ‘V for Victory’. Churchill started its use as a hand signal, putting up the first and second fingers, but with the palm outwards to avoid giving offence! It also manifested itself as the Morse code letter V (dot-dot-dot-dash), which formed the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, played by the BBC as the introduction to some programmes.

It’s ironic that a piece of music by a German composer should have been used by the British for propaganda purposes, but another case of music becoming used by both sides was the song ‘Lilli Marlene’. It was broadcast on the German forces programmes in southern Europe and listened to by our troops in Egypt – it was about a soldier having to leave his sweetheart to go and fight, thus striking a chord with soldiers of all nationalities. It was translated into English and became popular in the UK.

Other songs of the times tended to be more wistful than those in vogue at the beginning of the war (See Part 6, Reply#54, P4). ‘When they sound the last all clear’, ‘When the lights go on again’, and the immortal ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ come to my mind as I write this. Then there was the nonsense song called ‘Mairzy Totes’ that went “Mairzytotes an doezytotes an liddellams eeteyevee, kidseleeteyevytoo, woodentchoo”. Who can translate that into English?

Other memories are of getting a ride up Star Hill on a Churchill tank, with several other kids, after an army-v-Home Guard exercise one Sunday morning. Actually we had watched the ‘battle’ from further up the hill and saw the tank ‘destroyed’ by a Home Guard lobbing a bomb (a bag of flour!) on it from the flat roof of a shop on the street corner. Another memory is of a landing craft tipped off its trailer and coming to rest against the alms-houses at the top of Star Hill. (Unlike another one I can think of, this one was definitely due to taking the corner from New Road to Star Hill too fast!)

It was either in 1942 or 1943 that Dad moved from the Gun Wharf to the newly opened Ordnance Depot at Darland – See Part 7 (Reply#56 on P4)

As stated in the part about my education (also Part 7) I was at the Tech school and not due to take my leaving exams until I was 15, in 1944, whereas Derek was at Troy Town School and left at 14 in 1943, to take a job as an apprentice bookbinder at a printers (Staples?) in Love Lane, Rochester. My memory is a bit vague but I think I may have become restless at seeing him earning money, or I just wanted to ‘grow-up’ and go to work, or Dad just heard of the vacancy. Whatever the case, he got me a job as a trainee electrician with the Royal Engineers and I left school at Christmas 1943, much against the wishes of the headmaster and without any qualifications.

But that is for the next part…..
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #102 on: February 24, 2014, 12:04:52 »
The irony is that my father was in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in WW1 and fought the Turks, yet he never said “The only good Turk is a dead one”, although I do know that he stuck a bayonet in one. I think it was just that he saw Germany as starting both world wars and it was an expression that ‘came out’ in an argument.

Regarding the different parts of Germany, I was once on a coach outing from Munich and the guide explained that “In Bavaria we work to live, but in the rest of Germany they live to work”.
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Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #101 on: February 24, 2014, 00:36:53 »
Very interesting about the things your Father said about you cheering and aircraft down. My Dad was told the same, same kind of incident, almost word for word by his Father who also survived the horror of the Great War. My Grand Father maintained that there was no such place a Germany in truth because it was made up of several Principalities like Saxony (he liked Saxons and had learned the Saxon dialect in the trenches), Bavaria and Prussia and the best thing would have been to dissolve the German unity.

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Offline peterchall

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #100 on: February 23, 2014, 21:21:22 »
Thanks.  :)  I hope I’m succeeding in presenting things as we saw them at the time, even if later accounts prove some events wrong

Part 14
Some of my clearest memories of living in James Street are of standing in the garden during alerts at night and talking to neighbour Mrs Briggs and her son John, a bit younger than me. I don’t remember a Mr Briggs, so he may have been in the forces or Mrs Briggs may have been a widow. So I’m going to give that bit of my story a section of its own, and to set the background I’ve consulted Rochester City Archives, Front Line County and Blitz on Britain for details of attacks during 1943 and 1944 up to the advent of the flying bombs (All night attacks unless stated):
1943
•   17th January: Raid on London by 118 bombers, considerd big for the time.
•   20th January: Low-level daylight raid on London by 28 fighter-bombers, a few of which broke away to make a diversionary raid on Maidstone.
•   21st January: Fire bombs and UXB on open ground, Rochester
•   3rd March: Raid on London.
•   4th March: Fatal incident at Chatham.
•   16th, 18th, 20th April and 16th May: Attacks on London by high flying fighter-bombers. During the 16th April attack 4 FW190s mistook West Malling airfield for their home base and either landed there or crashed in trying to!
•   15th September: HEs on farm at Cuxton
•   Undated in October: Raid on London.
•   22nd October: Fatal incident at Hoo
So only 11 nights recorded, although attacks on other towns may have caused alerts in Medway, even though no activity resulted there.

1944
What came to be known as the ‘Little Blitz’, with the introduction of the Heinkel 177 bomber, the 2500kg (5500lb) bomb – the biggest ever used by the Luftwaffe – and a more powerful explosive. Beginning on 21st January there were 2 attacks on London in January, 9 in February, 4 in March, and the last ever manned aircraft raid on London on 18th April. There were also 9 raids on Hull, Bristol, and Portsmouth, ending with the last manned aircraft attack anywhere in the UK, on Plymouth on 30th April.
Locally there were incidents (summarised) at:
•   21st January: Incendiaries, open fields, Rochester.
•   29th January: Incendiaries, fields and foreshore, Rochester. Incident at Gillingham.
•   3rd February: Incendiaries, Rochester
•   18th February: Parachute mine, Strood – much damage
•   2nd March: HE, Strood. Heavy damage in Station Road.
•   22nd March: Incendiaries, Strood
•   19thApril: Parachute mine, Strood (Actually night of 18/19 April, the last attack on London)
.

Nothing was bad enough to make us sleep in the shelter because the attacks were always short - none of the all night alerts of the 1940/41 blitz - but they did result in loss of sleep, compensated for by the ‘social life’ of the back garden. We also knew of the frequent low-level daylight bombing and strafing attacks on coast towns, which is why we didn’t go to the seaside.

Here is what I remember, in no specific order:
•   The blinding flash and ear-splitting noise when the AA guns fired. I think the only ones we knew of was the battery at Fort Borstal. Later, when flashless propellant was introduced it was quite startling to have the noise as the first thing to happen.
•   The noise like an express train when the rocket battery at Beatty Avenue fired
•   Going down the shelter if there were AA shell bursts nearby because after a  few seconds there might be the ‘clank’, ‘clank’ of the  ‘shrapnel’ – as we incorrectly called it – coming  down.
•   For some of the time at least there was a searchlight in Fort Clarence, and stray light from that lit up the streets like daylight, tending to make us feel quite exposed with an enemy overhead.
•   A flare from an enemy plane slowly falling almost above us, also lighting up the streets like daylight. Since the plane that dropped it was obviously looking for something, Dad thought it prudent that we went into the shelter.
•   The astonishing sight of the night sky on a clear moonless night.
•   The twinkle of AA fire in the distance. Even today I can’t watch the bursting of rockets in a firework display without thinking of that.
•   Listening to a plane passing over and saying “It’s one of ours” – then the guns  opening up. An enemy only made that ‘whoom’ – ‘whoom’ noise if the pilot had de-synchronised the engines.
•   The smell of smoke from the smoke generators that were placed round the town to hide the dockyard. (See note)
•   I’ve put this on KHF before but make no apology for doing so again, because it was my defining moment of the war. A plane was passing over when there was a ’burr’ of cannon fire, and a moving light, which gradually got bigger, appeared  above us. It suddenly burst into 2 or 3 pieces and went down towards Strood. I shouted “Yippee, they’ve got one” and Dad said “Just shut up, there’s men in that”. Suddenly those flaming pieces said everything about the awefulness of war.
•   Similarly, we were watching an enemy plane caught in searchlights, weaving with shells bursting all round it. Dad said “Poor buggers!” What had happened to his belief that the only good Germans were dead ones?

Note: For part of the war smoke  generators were positioned round the towns -. In my neck-of the woods it was along Corporation Street, Star Hill, New Road, and Chatham Hill. They consisted of an oil burning furnace and chimney on a trailer towed by a 15cwt truck with an oil tank, and generated stinking black smoke, they parked up somewhere during the day and came out each evening just before dusk.
More details here for those interested: http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=4296.msg34933#msg34933

To be continued…..
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Sirenetta

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #99 on: February 22, 2014, 19:05:34 »
Well done, PC, that really brings history to life!

Offline peterchall

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Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #98 on: February 21, 2014, 21:42:59 »
Part 13
To set the scene:
By mid-1941 the Germans had occupied Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, and Crete, and by the beginning of 1942 the German armies in Russia were at the gates of Moscow and were laying siege to Leningrad (St Petersburg). In North Africa the long ding-dong campaign between the 8th Army and the Afrika Korps (and its Italian allies) had begun, with first one and then the other gaining the upper hand.

As 1942 got under way it seemed an unmitigated disaster. The German armies advanced across southern Russia as far as the Volga, the Battle of the Atlantic was at its height (and we weren’t winning), and we had to send aid to Russia via the Arctic convoys and through Persia (Iran).

We watched with disbelief as Malaya and Singapore fell and the Japanese pushed up through Burma. The battleships ‘Prince of Wales’ and ‘Repulse’ and a large part of our Pacific Fleet was sunk by just a few aircraft. Japanese armies occupied the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), most of the western Pacific islands, and Borneo – no one would have been surprised had they landed in Australia. The ‘Zero’ proved to be a superb fighter plane and the Japanese soldier was unbeatable - or so it seemed at the time.

It really was the low point of the war
.

At home in the Medway Towns, 1942 was much like peace time. Rochester City Archives don’t record a single incident during the whole year and Front Line County lists only one fatality in the area – at Cliffe on 24th October, due to a plane crash. While there was lots of activity near the coast, and Canterbury merits a mention of its own, elsewhere in Kent there were just 4 fatal incidents – 3 at Ashford and 1 at Tonbridge.

So here are my personal memories. As before, they are not necessarily in the right order:
The big one was the move to 2 James Street (see photos in Part 11, Reply#81), although I can only date it between Pearl Harbour (8/12/41) and the Dieppe raid (19/8/42). I don’t remember why we moved – perhaps the rent was less, or 23 Ross Street had some bomb damage. Nor do I remember how we moved – presumably by a removal firm, even though it was only just round the corner. It was smaller than Ross Street, with a front room, living room, and kitchen downstairs, and 3 bedrooms upstairs. We still had electric light but the big downside was that the loo was right outside, not in the back door porch like Ross Street. There was no cellar and we had an Anderson shelter with a fully enclosed ‘shed’ about 8 ft square round its door – that gave some protection from the weather and some storage space, and could even be heated with an oil-stove. But until the coming of the V1s we slept indoors again.

But however ‘normal’ life seemed, there was always the worry for families with members in the forces about what was happening to them. To hear that “Mrs X’s husband has been killed” or that “Mrs Y’s son is missing”, was common. It was relatively joyful to hear that someone previously missing was now confirmed as a POW – unless he was a prisoner of the Japanese, that is. We began to hear accounts of how they were being treated, but I won’t go into that here.

A favourite haunt of Derek and I was the footbridge over the railway yards along Blue Boar Lane, from where we could watch shunting and see right into the cabs of the locos, as well as watch the steam trains passing on the nearby main line. Derek’s father worked as a panel beater/paint sprayer in a  garage in Blue Boar Lane, opposite the Casino, and we sometimes earned a couple of bob there ‘rubbing down’ and helping to prepare a car for spraying. Labour was short and, even though it was not essential war work, his dad worked long hours. While the ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ meant that people helped each other when there was genuine need, there was often a drop in standards of service, and any complaint brought the response “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

What a horrible life it became in another way – they stopped making Dinky Toys! In fact, I think they stopped making most toys except model aircraft kits, and balsa wood was always available in sheet or rod form. I made model ships by gluing sheets about 1/16” thick together to get ‘depth’, and shaping them – well, sort of – to make hulls and superstructure, to a scale of about 200feet to an inch. I built docks on a sheet of plywood, again using balsa sheets glued together to give depth to quays and buildings. Then, having been scared stiff by real life air raids, I had fun bombing them with Dinky Toy aeroplanes! The Dinky Toys I remember are the pre-war Mercedes and Auto-union racing cars, London taxi, a pre-war army tank, and a gun with its towing vehicle. Aeroplanes were the AW Ensign airliner and the Short Mayo Composite, and there were liners and warships. Derek and I started to build our own model plane in his garden shed, consisting of cardboard ribs and stringers, intended to be covered with paper, but it didn’t get far.

In February the German warships Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen, which had been holed up in Brest, made a run for home, actually passing through the Dover Straits in daylight under our noses. Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde won a posthumous VC for leading 6 Swordfish torpedo-bombers to attack them from Manston – all the planes and crews were lost.

Even as kids we sensed that the country was becoming restless and the phrase “What a way to run a war” was often heard. But we plodded on and Mum and I still went to our Saturday afternoon pictures and we slept soundly in our beds on most nights. The ladies struggled to provide appetising food and the Ministry of Food gave all sorts of advice about making a ‘silk purse out of a sow’s ear’. We were introduced to powdered egg, spam, and even off-ration whale meat (rather like liver…err…leather). Bread, though unrationed, was made of more-or-less unrefined flour. The menu may have been boring, but we never went hungry. Sweets became rationed, to the good of our teeth! British Restaurants opened to provide cheap wholesome meals that helped out the rations. Newspapers were reduced in size to (I think) 2 sheets - 8 pages - of poor quality paper

We got boosts from the occasional Commando raids – on the Lofoten Islands in Norway and on St Nazaire – although I think we realised that they were only pin-pricks that did little towards actually winning the war. (But the St Nazaire raid did put the only ‘battleship sized’ dry  dock on the Atlantic coast out of action, thus preventing Tirpitz being based there and threatening our Atlantic shipping). The German Battleship Bismark was sunk after a chase that we followed on the news every day, from Norway, across the Atlantic and almost back to France – sweet revenge for her sinking of HMS Hood a few days earlier. On 30th May came the 1000 bomber raid on Cologne. Wow, that was paying the blitz back with interest – no nation could withstand that sort of thing for long. Except that it wasn’t repeated. (Later I discovered that the 1000 bombers were only scraped together by using aircraft from training units, and it was intended by the new head of Bomber Command – ‘Bomber’ Harris -  only as a one-off demo of what could be done if he were given enough bombers)

The Cologne raid provoked a series of retaliatory raids on our historic cities – Bath, Exeter, Norwich etc. The raids became known as the Baedeker raids and the centre of Canterbury, my grandparents’ ‘home’ town, was flattened at the beginning of June.

Mum, Dad , and I must have gone for a walk or bus ride on the evening of Saturday 21st June because I distinctly remember sitting outside the front of the Luton Tavern (Now the ‘Oriental Delight’ takeaway) when Dad came out with our drinks to say that the landlord had said Tobruk had fallen to Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Tobruk had become a major prize in the desert campaign, and to lose it was seen as another major defeat in the desert war (I looked up the date – my memory is not that good!)

With Russia bearing the brunt of the land war and America still reeling under the Japanese onslaught, there was a feeling that were weren’t pulling our weight and a campaign for a Second Front – an invasion of western Europe from the UK - began. Graffiti appeared, saying “Open the Second Front NOW”. So when during the day of 19th August it was announced that a major battle was taking place on the beaches of Dieppe, it was assumed that the Second Front had opened, only for it to be discovered next day that it was a large scale raid. Not only was there that disappointment, but there was no hiding the fact that it was a defeat even of that limited objective, with  heavy casualties – especially to the Canadians.

How much worse could it get? Even as a kid I knew that the government only just survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the conduct of the war, probably because Churchill said that he had never claimed that it would be easy – vide his ‘blood, toil, tears, and sweat’ speech when he became PM.

One Saturday afternoon in October Canterbury was bombed and its crowded shopping centre (or what was left of it from the Baedeker attack) was machine gunned by low flying fighter-bombers, causing heavy casualties. A few days later Mum and I and my Grandmother went down by train to visit my ‘Uncle Harry’ – my Gran’s brother - who worked in a garage there. I can’t remember whereabouts in Canterbury it was, but I do remember his graphic description of that afternoon, including a boy laying on the pavement opposite with his leg ‘orf’ (in his East Kent accent). It was my Gran’s first visit since the raid in June, and she was almost in tears when she saw what had happened to the city of her birth.

In the desert Rommel’s troops had chased the 8th Army all the way back to a previously unheard of village by the name of El Alamein, only about 30 miles from Alexandria, far farther into Egypt than they had ever penetrated before. There they halted because they had outrun their supplies. We probably didn’t realise it but Erwin Rommel, never one for missing an opportunity, had only to regroup his forces more quickly than the 8th Army and the way to Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and who knows how much further, was open.

Perhaps it was a case of ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ but, despite everything, I honestly cannot remember any talk of us possibly losing the war.

To be continued…..
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

John38

  • Guest
Re: Pee Cee's World
« Reply #97 on: February 18, 2014, 20:51:54 »
We watched from Llanelly (Llanelli), and shortly after I was evacuated to Queenborough on the Isle-of-Sheppey  just in time for Queenborogh school to get bombed

 

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