Britain at War 2011-07 - PDF Free Download (2024)

FREE MEMPHIS BELLE DVD FOR EVERY READER*

WORTH

£12. 99 Pay only £1 .96 P&P

*

Issue 51

JULY 2011

£4.10

BRITAIN’S BEST SELLING MILITARY HISTORY MONTHLY*

BATTLE OF BRITAIN COMBAT !n IN W ited Editio

Lim Print Signed by Bomber Command Veterans

5

BAW 400TX

6

BAW 400TX

BAW 400TX

9 771753 309030

WW2 SUBMARINE SAVED BAW

35mm

MONT Y’S AUTOGRAPH BOOK

6A

5A

WW1 SOMME FLAMETHROWER

ISSN 1753-3090

07

4

REVEALED! BRITISH PLANS TO LIBERATE CHANNEL ISLANDS IN 1943 BAW

35mm

4A

BAW

35mm

jerseywartunnels.com

s e d i s o . y Tw r o t y s r to eve Discover the true story of the German Occupation of Jersey at the award-winning attraction where history runs deep!

1 March - 27 November 2011 • 10.00am - 6.00pm daily • Last admission to main exhibition 4.30pm

Jersey War Tunnels, Les Charrières Malorey, St Lawrence, Jersey. Telephone 01534 860808

Notes from the Dugout www.britain-at-war-magazine.com Should you wish to correspond with any of the ‘Britain at War’ team in particular, you can find them listed below: Managing Director: Editor: Assistant Editor: Editorial Correspondent: Australasia Correspondent:

Andrew Todd Martin Mace John Grehan Geoff Simpson Ken Wright

General Enquiries: For general enquiries and advertising queries please contact the main office at: Britain at War Magazine, Green Arbor Publishing Ltd. Unit 7 Woodman Works, 204 Durnsford Road, Wimbledon, London, SW19 8DR Subscriptions, Binders and Back Issues: Britain at War, PO Box 2068, Bushey, Hertfordshire, WD23 3ZF Email: [emailprotected]

Subscriptions, Binders and Back Issues Hotline: 0208 955 7079 Editorial Enquiries: Britain at War Magazine, Green Arbor, Rectory Road, Storrington, West Sussex, RH20 4EF. Advertising Enquiries: For all aspects of advertising in ‘Britain at War’ Magazine please contact Toni Rossano, Advertising Director, Tel: 0208 971 8468 email: [emailprotected] Cabbell Publishing Ltd, Unit 7 Woodman Works, 204 Durnsford Road, Wimbledon, London, SW19 8DR Tel: +44 (0) 208 971 8486 Fax: +44 (0) 208 971 8480 ‘Britain at War’ Magazine is published on the last Friday of the proceeding month by Green Arbor Publishing Ltd, Unit 7 Woodman Works, 204 Durnsford Road, Wimbledon, London, SW19 8DR ISSN 1753-3090 Printed by Acorn Web. Distributed by Seymour Distribution Ltd. (www.seymour.co.uk) All newsagents are able to obtain copies of ‘Britain at War’ from their regional wholesaler. If you experience difficulties in obtaining a copy please call Seymour on 0207 429 4000 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part and in any form whatsoever, is strictly prohibited without the prior, written permission of the Editor. Whilst every care is taken with the material submitted to ‘Britain at War’ Magazine, no responsibility can be accepted for loss or damage. Opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor or Green Arbor Publishing Ltd. Whilst every effort had been made to contact all copyright holders, the sources of some pictures that may be used are varied and, in many cases, obscure. The publishers will be glad to make good in future editions any error or omissions brought to their attention. The publication of any quotes or illustrations on which clearance has not been given is unintentional.

“What did you do in the war?” must be one of the most used and abused phrases, but one that is now heard less often. Yet almost everyone in the United Kingdom and in the Commonwealth was touched by the great wars of the twentieth century and this inevitably included people who later became famous personalities. The politicians, film stars and sporting heroes of later years were the privates, sergeants and officers in the front line when their country was fighting for its survival. In this current era of reality shows where fame can come overnight and where some celebrities live in gilded isolation, it is sobering to consider that the personalities of earlier times landed in Normandy on D-Day, as Richard Todd of the Parachute Regiment did to capture Pegasus Bridge, or witnessed the shocking scenes relating to Belsen Concentration Camp as Dirk Bogarde did. Spike Milligan was a gunner; Enoch Powell became the youngest brigadier in the British Army and one of only a handful of men who rose from private to brigadier. In our new regular series, “My War”, which can be seen on page 58, we will be examining the military or wartime experiences of just some of those many famous characters who served their country. It should make for some fascinating reading. Martin Mace Editor

COVER STORY

UNLUCKY THIRTEEN

By the renowned artist Philip E. West, this month’s cover image, entitled “Summer Victory”, depicts a representative scene as Spitfires of 609 Squadron overfly a downed Messerschmitt Bf 109 during the Battle of Britain. The pilot suffered the same fate as that which befell Feldwebel Walter Scholz on 30 September 1940 (see page 78) – being marched into captivity. For more information or to purchase a copy of this limited edition print, please telephone 01747 828810 or email: [emailprotected]

© Green Arbor Publishing Ltd., 2011

www.britain-at-war-magazine.com

BACK ISSUES

Fill the gaps in your collection! Call +44 (0) 208 955 7079 or visit

www.britain-at-war-magazine.com (Front cover: *WHSHS Epos figures, December 2010)

32

11

27

18

Features

45

27

73

contents

32

CONVOY ATTACK

41

ISSUE 51

Editor’s Choice

JULY 2011

67

45 49

61 67

LAYING CHURCHILL’S EGGS To stop ground forces crossing an area, the laying of mineswascommon practice in the Second World War. But how could Britain defend itself from aerial attack? By laying a minefield in the air? Dr Alfred Price explains that this is exactly what the RAF tried to do as the Luftwaffe intensified its attacks on the UK.

McNAMARA’S VC His colleague had been forced to the ground and he had gone to his rescue. But with the enemy closing in Frank McNamara found that his own aircraft could not take off. Tony Pay tells the dramatic story that led to the award of Australia’s only aerial Victoria Cross of the First World War.

REACHING THE GOAL

Many of us, at one time or another, have kept an item autographed by someone famous, and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was no exception, reveals James Luto.

BREATHING FIRE We examine how an archaeological excavation on the Somme, which uncovered the remains of a British First World War flameprojector, has led to a new exhibition opening in France.

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE See main picture above.

THE LITTLE RED LIGHTS

The situation was deteriorating. Merchant shipping losses were mounting and valuable and experienced crewmen were being lost at sea. Answers had to be found and as John and Rupert Eastell explain, it was John’s father who devised one solution.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: CONVOY ATTACK

The large German convoy was en route to the beleaguered enemy garrison on the island of Crete. Somehow it had to be stopped, so the order was passed down to the RAF. Chris Gosstells the story of the mass attack that followed.

73 78 97

OPERATION SIDECAR: TRAINING FOR D-DAY The quiet of a spring morning in rural West Sussex was disturbed by a team of US servicemen who placed flares across the fields. Then, on 18 April 1944, the sky filled with dozens of aircraft and gliders.

UNLUCKY THIRTEEN

At around 13.30 hours on 30 September 1940, Feldwebel Walter Scholz taxied out for take-off. As Andy Saunders reveals, within a short time Scholz would suffer a premature end to his mission.

VISITING THE SOMME To mark the 95th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme – the first day of which marked the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army – First World War historian Jon Cooksey presents his impressions of what the Somme means to him following his many visits.

Regulars 6 14

18 19 22 58

BRIEFING ROOM

News, Restorations, Discoveries and Events from around the UK.

NEWS FEATURE

Jersey’s occupation records from the Second World War, have been added to UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World register.

NEWS FEATURE

The effects of the use of gas and chemical weapons on the Western Front continue to be felt in France.

NEWS FEATURE

On 10 June 2011, a new attraction was unveiled at Dover Castle.

FIELDPOST Your letters.

‘MY WAR’

Doctor in the House made him a star. We explore the wartime experiences of Dirk Bogarde.

49

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE

60 66

FREE GIFT

Hard to believe though it may seem, Winston Churchill and Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Chief of Combined Operations, planned an operation against the Channel Islands in 1943 which, had it been implemented, might have resulted in the almost total annihilation and destruction of the islands and their people. Danielle Whelan reveals the details of what might well have been one of the most tragic events to have befallen the British Isles during the Second World War.

Free Memphis Belle DVD for every reader.

FREE PRIZE DRAW

The sources of some pictures that may be used are varied and, in many cases, obscure.

84

CAMERA AT WAR

87

RECONNAISSANCE REPORT

92

DUSTY ARCHIVE

94

DATES THAT SHAPED THE WAR

106

WHAT I WOULD SAVE IN A FIRE

The opportunity to strike a devastating blow at the enemy’s maritime capability on 15 June 1944, was one that could not be missed. A look at some of the new publications and products that are available. Guilty Verdict: How one file at the National Archive reveals the story of a war crime that occured in March 1945. Seventy years on, we chart some of the key moments and events that affected the United Kingdom in July 1941. Cressida Finch, exhibitions manager for the Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast, reveals which object she would reach for in the event of a disaster.

SUMMER SUBSCRIPTION SALE: 25% EXTRA FREE! Subscribe now and enjoy 15 issues of Britain at War for the price of 12 A saving of up to 20% - that’s 82p an issue!

OPERATION TELIC ENDS

RAMC VC REMEMBERED AT FORMER SCHOOL

A PLAQUE has been unveiled at Lawn Primary School, Northfleet, Kent to commemorate a former pupil who earned a posthumous VC.

ABOVE:

The ceremony to mark the conclusion of the UK/Iraq Training and Maritime Support Agreement. (© UK MoD Crown Copyright 2011)

OPERATION Telic, the name under which all British military operations undertaken in Iraq since 19 March 2003 have been conducted, came to an end on 22 May 2011. This followed the expiry of the UK/ Iraq Training and Maritime Support Agreement which trains Iraqi sailors. Britain’s combat forces, primarily based in the southern city of Basrah, withdrew from Iraq in July 2009. However, since then, at the request of the Iraqi Government, the Royal Navy has continued to train the Iraqi Navy to defend its territorial waters and offshore oil infrastructure at their main naval base in Umm Qasr. Brigadier Tim Chicken OBE, the director of the Iraq

Training Assistance Mission (Naval), said: “Although conducted out of the limelight, the work of British forces in Iraq since the end of the combat mission two years ago, spearheaded by the Royal Navy, has achieved significant results. We have led the development of the Iraqi Navy, seeing its growth from the most rudimentary of capability into one that stands at the cusp of taking complete responsibility for its territorial waters and critical offshore oil infrastructure.” A total of 179 British Armed Forces personnel died serving on Operation Telic between the start of the campaign in March 2003 and July 2009; 136 in hostile incidents and the remaining forty-three under non-hostile circ*mstances.

NEW MEMORIAL FOR DAMBUSTERS SQUADRON

Lance Corporal Henry Eric Harden, known as Eric or “Doc”, was 32-years-old and serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to 45 Royal Marine Commando, at the time of his action on 23 January 1945, at Montforterbeek in The Netherlands. Wounded men were lying in the open on snow covered ground. According to one of them “Doc” Harden was on his fourth venture into the open and had been wounded himself when he was killed, probably by a sniper. He had previously been ordered to remain under cover. The award of the Victoria Cross was gazetted on 8 March 1945. In Eric Harden VC, a book newly published by Tommies Guides, Julia Harden, his daughter, who attended the unveiling ceremony writes: “My father was subsequently described as a ‘fearless soldier’, but I cannot agree with this. Having read his letters, especially his description of being trapped in (a) cornfield in Normandy, I believe that like the rest of his comrades, he must have been terrified. Real courage we are told is mastering fear, not in being without.”

IN the centre of Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, wartime home of 617 Squadron, “The Dambusters”, stands a memorial in the form of a breached dam. It commemorates the names of those members of the squadron who gave their lives during the Second World War. However, since the end of that conflict over thirty additional members of the squadron have died serving their country, either with the squadron or other units. To remember these postwar casualties, the No.617 Squadron Aircrew Association will erect a second memorial on a site adjacent to their wartime monument. The memorial will take the form of a three-metre high black granite pyramid, its form echoing the wing form of two of the aircraft flown post-war by the squadron – the Vulcan and the Tornado. A projecting triangular pediment will carry the squadron badge and the following inscription: “In Memory of all members of No.617 Sqn RAF who gave their lives since 1945 in the service of their country. We will remember them.” Planning permission has been obtained and the No. 617 Squadron Aircrew Association is now launching a public appeal to raise the £25,000 required to bring this project to completion. Donations may be made to “No.617 Squadron Aircrew Association” and sent to: Group Captain D.G. Robertson, Chairman, 617 Sqn Aircrew Association, 8 Thorold Way, Harmston, Lincoln LN5 9GJ.

6

JULY 2011

BATTLE OF BRITAN PILOT’S NAME CHANGES THE spelling of a pilot’s surname needs to be changed on official Battle of Britain lists seventyone years after the fighting took place, writes Geoff Simpson. “R.A.L. Duviver” appears on the RAF Roll of Honour, in the book Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G. Wynn and on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the National Memorial to The Few at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent, as well as the Battle of Britain Monument in London. Now a nephew has come forward to point out that this referencerelates to Pilot Officer Reginald Albert Lloyd Du Vivier. The spelling is confirmed in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Debt of Honour list and in the archives of the Worcestershire public school, Malvern College, which Du Vivier attended together with his three brothers. The family is British but has Belgian origins. Du Vivier flew Hurricanes with 229 Squadron in 1940. He survived the Battle of Britain but disappeared during a patrol on 30 March 1941, aged 26. It is believed that he collided with another aircraft flown by Flying Officer J.M.F. Dewar, another veteran of the Battle, with both Hurricanes falling into the sea. Du Vivier had studied architecture. He joined the RAFVR as an airman u/t pilot in January 1938. The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust is considering whether it will be possible to change the spelling of his name on the Memorial Wall at Capel-le-Ferne. * The death of Alan Bennison (below), who served in the Battle of Britain as a Sergeant air gunner in Blenheims with 25 Squadron, has also been reported. After the Battle, Bennison remustered as a radar operator when the squadron was equipped with Beaufighters. He was born in Ashburton, on the South Island of New Zealand, on 5 March 1918. Volunteering for aircrew duties early in 1939, Bennison arrived in the UK in June 1940, joining 25 Squadron on 21 September. Later he served with 89 and 46 Squadrons in the Middle East and was an instructor in the UK. Commissioned in 1944, he returned to New Zealand that year and went on to the Reserve. He served in Reserve capacities for many years and received the Air Efficiency Medal with two Clasps. In 1956 he was promoted to Flying Officer.

JULY 2011

LEFT:

Pilot Officer Reginald Du Vivier’s name on the Memorial Wall at Capel-le-Ferne. (Courtesy of Group Captain Patrick Tootal)

BELOW:

Sergeant Alan Bennison.

FALKLANDS VETERAN PREPARED FOR FINAL VOYAGE

ONE of the last ships still in service to have taken part in the Falklands War is being prepared for her final voyage – to the breakers yard, reports Nick Hall. Bayleaf was accepted into service by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) on 25 March 1982, and following brief sea trials at Portland made her maiden operational voyage to the South Atlantic under the command of Captain A.E.T. Hunter. Her tanker duties with the Task Force included refuelling the liner Queen Elizabeth 2 and supporting the aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes. She returned to Devonport at the end of August. The RFA Bayleaf was originally ordered from Cammell Laird at Birkenhead as the mercantile tanker Hudson Sound, but her owners went out of business before they could take delivery. Renamed, she was chartered by the RFA and fitted with Replenishment at Sea (RAS) rigs. She was finally purchased by the Ministry of Defence in 2001. In addition to her peacetime duties Bayleaf was employed in supporting Royal Navy and coalition warships in both the first and second Gulf Wars. The vessel also spent a total of twelve years in the Gulf Region on the Armilla Patrol (the Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the Persian Gulf ) and then as the Arabian Gulf Ready Tanker. During her thirty-year career which officially ended when her RFA ensign was lowered for the last time on 20 April 2011, Bayleaf sailed an estimated 1.4 million nautical miles, equivalent to circumnavigating the globe forty-seven times. (Image courtesy Nick Hall)

7

FROM NORTH WALES TO NORMANDY VETERAN UNDERTAKES PILGRIMAGE TO PAY RESPECTS TO WAR DEAD HE was left injured after the bomber in which he was a rear gunner was attacked in a friendly fire incident; he dodged enemy sniper fire after landing in Normandy; witnessed the true horrors of people being evacuated from Belsen Concentration Camp and saved the lives of civilians who came under attack from a German night fighter. These are just some of the remarkable memories and stories recounted by veteran Donald Baker as he undertook an emotional pilgrimage to the places where he served or saw action during the Second World War. The 88-year-old from Rhuddlan, North Wales, returned to France on 4 June 2011, on a trip funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s (BIG) multimillion pound Heroes Return 2 programme. Donald Baker volunteered to join the Royal Air Force at the age of 18 in 1941. On one fateful evening in 1942, the Vickers Wellington he was onboard was attacked in a friendly fire incident. “We were coming back from firing exercises and it was really misty,” Donald recalls. “We were coming up the coast up towards the River Ouse near King’s Lynn when, all of a sudden, this Merchant Navy ship opened fire on us thinking we were the enemy. The

aeroplane’s hydraulic systems were damaged in the incident and hydraulic fluid leaked all over my legs. It was nasty stuff ; my legs were covered in ulcers and I had to go for regular treatment.” The injuries to Donald’s lower legs were such that he was permanently grounded. He was transferred to the RAF Signals Branch in 1943. In due course he became one of a four-man mobile signal unit, part of the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force during the preparations for Operation Overlord. It was on D+12 when Donald’s team sailed from Portsmouth for Normandy. “It was truly an amazing sight ...” he recalls. “It was the sheer size of the convoy and what was going over that was so spectacular.” Don landed at King Sector on Gold Beach, near Arromanches. Having survived the threat of snipers in France, Donald’s next experience of battle came in late 1944 during the strategic battle for Walcheren Island. His post was established in the small Dutch fishing village of Breskens. “It had been decimated, there wasn’t a building standing and it was a sea of brown mud with dead animals everywhere with their legs up in the air. The whole place stank like hell. “We set up our signal station by the old harbour in the village. About two hundred yards from us there was a whole Brigade of Royal Marine Commandos with landing craft ready to attack Walcheren Island which was three miles across the estuary and held by the Germans.

(Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie/Canadian National Archives)

“I watched that battle

8

ABOVE:

A portrait of Donald Baker during his service with the RAF.

LEFT:

Donald Baker planning his return to the battlefields in Normandy.

from a gun post with a pair of binoculars. It was so bad we couldn’t put a tent up to sleep in so we had to sleep in the back of the signal wagon. We were getting shelled by the Germans on the island with high velocity rounds. “The corporal mechanic who was sitting in the back of the wagon with me at the time got hit in the stomach with a piece of shrapnel from one blast. I put his arm round my neck and I half carried him and half walked him to the big medical centre.” The Heroes Return 2 programme provides grants of between £150 and £5,500 to enable Second World War veterans to return to the battlefields and cemeteries across Europe. More information and details of how to apply for a grant are available by calling 0845 0000121 or visiting: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn

JULY 2011

MUST HAVE MESSERSCHMITTS...

schmitt Bf1 ser 09 s e

A02048A

A1 2

E

The E-1B became the first operational Bf 109 fighter bomber. The E-3 was replaced by the E-4 which was different in some small details, most notably by using the modified 20 mm MG-FF/M wing cannon and having improved head armour for the pilot.

esserschmitt B M f10 2A 9 00

A05122 1:48 scale Messerschmitt Bf109E-1/E-3/ E-7 Tropical Following the experiences of the E-4 the E-7 was the next major production variant, entering service and seeing combat at the end of August 1940. One of the limitations of the earlier Bf109 E interceptor fighter was the short range of 660 km (410 miles).

A12002A 1:24 scale Messerschmitt Bf109 E The Me Bf109 E was the Luftwaffe’s main fighter during the Battle of Britain when it was pitted against the new fighters of the RAF.

A0 51 22

109 E t Bf t i hm rsc e s es M

A02048A 1:24 scale Messerschmitt Bf109 E More Messerschmitt 109s were produced than any other aircraft type in WWII. The 'E' version was the first massproduced variant, being used extensively by the Luftwaffe in the first three years of the war.

www.airfix.com and all good retail stockists Join the AIRFIX Club www.youtube.com/officialairfix

www.twitter.com/airfix

www.facebook.com/officialairfix

FOR SCHOOLS AND ALL YOUTH ORGANISATIONS

E

A05120 1:48 scale Messerschmitt Bf109 E-1/E-3/E-4

M

OUT NOW!

THE FACE OF COURAGE TO celebrate the re-opening of its art gallery on 10 June 2011, the Royal Air Force Museum London has unveiled an exhibition of portraits by the renowned wartime artist and sculptor Eric Kennington. Eric Henri Kennington served in France as a private in the 13th (Kensington) Battalion London Regiment where he first sketched the men around him. He was a soldier painting soldiers. Kennington was wounded and discharged as unfit in June 1915. During his convalescence he produced The Kensingtons at Laventie, a painting of a group of ten men, with one asleep on the ground, standing in exhausted attitudes under the weight of their equipment in a battered village. When exhibited in the spring of 1916, its portrayal of these battle-weary soldiers caused a sensation. In 1917 he returned to the trenches as an official war artist. Employed by the War Propaganda Bureau, Kennington was commissioned to produce pictures of the Western Front; his paintings at this time include Gassed and Wounded, The Die-Hards and Back to Billets. For his military service, Kennington was awarded the British and Victory Medals although these appear to have been returned for adjustment, perhaps because they, like the card itself, showed his middle name as Henry, rather than Henri? Kennington quickly became a much sought-after portrait painter, admired by the likes of Winston Churchill, Bernard Shaw and, in particular, T.E. Lawrence who became a close friend. Kennington travelled to Arabia and he produced the illustrations for Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He was a pall-bearer at Lawrence’s funeral. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Kennington again became an official war artist on behalf of the Ministry of Information – one of a few who undertook this role in both conflicts. Indeed, it is a number of the portraits from the period 1939 to 1945 which are being displayed at the RAF Museum.

10

Amongst his output were the fifty-two portraits contained in Drawing The RAF which was published in 1942. A similar series of portraits was used to illustrate John Brophy’s character study of the LDV and Home Guard that was released in 1945 soon after the latter’s stand-down. Kennington even painted a Lance Corporal Jones – though this time it was Lance Corporal Melvin Jones of the 9th Battalion Monmouthshire Home Guard, a miner when off-duty! Kennington also travelled around the country painting the ordinary people of the emergency services. This is reflected in the new exhibition which includes about three dozen works covering all of the Armed Services, the Auxiliary Services, London Transport and some notable civilians. Pictures have been loaned by the National Portrait Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, the National Army Museum, the Tate, the National Maritime Museum, the Ministry of Defence and by Kennington’s family and other private lenders and art dealers. Portraits of the British at War, 1940-45 is the first exhibition to focus specifically on Kennington’s Second World War art. The event seeks to re-assess Kennington’s significant contribution to British war art and to acknowledge his undoubted standing as one of the great British portrait artists of the Twentieth Century. Eric Kennington died in 1960 after a long illness. He was 72. For more information on the exhibition, or to view a portfolio of Kennington’s portraits · which are available for purchase, please visit: www.rafmuseum.org.uk

ABOVE LEFT:

One of Kennington’s portraits that can be seen in the new exhibition – a pastel of Coastal Command’s Wing Commander Geoffrey William Tuttle OBE, DFC that was completed in September 1941. (© Trustees of the RAF Museum)

ABOVE RIGHT:

Completed in 1942, this is Kennington’s pastel on paper study of Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Frederic Algernon Portal DSO & Bar, MC. (© Trustees of the RAF Museum)

LEFT:

An example of Kennington’s many other works was his involvement with The Soissons Memorial. This structure commemorates almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who have no known grave. Unveiled by Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon on 22 July 1928, the sculpture on the memorial was crafted by Eric Kennington. (Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

JULY 2011

news feature...news feature...

SECRET WAR FLIGHT DISASTER REMEMBERED A GROUP OF SCHOOL CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED IN A PROJECT TO RESEARCH THE LOSS OF A DE HAVILLAND FLAMINGO IN APRIL 1942

WHEN an aircraft carrying a fact-finding mission crashed into a field near the Yorkshire village of Great Ouseburn at 17.25 hours on 30 April 1942, it prompted high-level questions about whether the aircraft involved had been subject to sabotage, writes Steve Lumley. The aircraft in question was a de Havilland D.H.95 Flamingo – a pre-war design for a high wing, twinengine civilian airliner of all-metal construction. Described in February 1939 as “a design of the newest formula”, just sixteen examples (one prototype, twelve civilian and three military)

were built. The Flamingo which crashed at Great Ouseburn, serial number R2764, had passed its final test flight at Hatfield on 10 February 1940, and was requisitioned by the Air Ministry some eight weeks later. It was operated by 24 Squadron, a communications and transport squadron which flew a wide range of aircraft. The object of the flight on 30 April 1942, was to take four representatives of the Russian Military Mission on a tour of inspection and fact-finding mission ahead of a top-secret visit by the Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov. Also on board were six RAF personnel. Earlier the same day, the Flamingo, flown by 35-year-old Pilot Officer Iain Ramsay, had flown to East Fortune via Kirtonof-Tealing. The Accidents Investigation Branch’s report into the crash provides the follow ing account of subsequent events: “At 16.25 hours the Captain took off from East Fortune to fly back

JULY 2011

to Hendon. When approximately 3½ miles north of Great Ouseburn, Yorks., and flying at a height of about 2,000 feet a defect developed in the starboard engine which caused No.7 cylinder to become detached from the crankcase. A fire broke out almost immediately in the neighbourhood of the starboard engine nacelle and was of sufficient intensity to cause the starboard wing to break off at a point just outboard of the engine bearers and also to cause the starboard engine to break away.” “The fuselage, port wing and port undercarriage unit fell to the ground and burst into flames. All the occupants were killed.” Debris was scattered across the Yorkshire countryside as far as three miles away. The nature of the squadron’s work and the passengers carried in its aircraft prompted concerns about the Flamingo’s safety. Indeed, just

LEFT:

The starboard wing of de Havilland D.H.95 Flamingo R2764 pictured where it fell to earth near Great Ouseburn in Yorkshire. (National Archives)

BELOW:

When the crash site was examined recently a sheet of scorched aluminium and the instrument face from a fuel gauge (seen here) were recovered. (Courtesy of Richard Allenby)

11

news feature...news feature...

seven days before the crash Flamingo R2766 had carried the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, and two days earlier the same aircraft had transported Lord Louis Mountbatten (the pilot was Pilot Officer Ramsay). Churchill himself had twice travelled in a Flamingo in 1940. On one occasion he was accompanied by Charles de Gaulle – the pair flew in the very aircraft that plummeted to earth at Great Ouseburn in April 1942. Perhaps it was with this in mind that Churchill wrote to Sinclair on 6 May 1942, and asked: “… Is the Flamingo considered a safe aircraft for leading people?” Seven days later the Prime Minister was assured that it was. The crash is just one event that fifty schoolchildren are examining as part of a three-year education project called “Hand on the Past”, organised by the Thornborough Trust and supported with a £40,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Air historian Richard Allenby, who has spent many years researching wartime aircraft crashes throughout Yorkshire, is also helping this particular part of the project. Last November he and fellow air historians Ken Reast, Albert Pritchard and Eric Barton set about tracing witnesses to this crash. One of those who came forward was Margaret

Stead of Moortown, Leeds. Now aged 84, Margaret lived in Great Ouseburn during the war. She recently visited Boroughbridge Primary School as part of the “Hand on the Past” project, and spoke to the children of the events of 30 April 1942. “When the ’plane crashed, we were having our tea”, she recalled. “There was suddenly the most peculiar noise in the air above. It sounded as if it was coming right over our heads and was very frightening. “We rushed outside and there was a big bang, then I just saw pieces of metal flying everywhere down the village street. I picked up a piece of twisted metal and kept it for several days afterwards as a souvenir, but these men kept coming back and searching in the fields so I decided to give it back.” Through the testimony of the eyewitness, official reports and contemporary photographs, Richard Allenby and his colleagues were able to locate the crash site. With the permission of the landowners, a number of small fragments of the aircraft were located. “The crash report refers to the wreckage being taken to RAF Linton-on-Ouse to be inspected

ABOVE LEFT:

This piece of wreckage shows a de Havilland part number with the “95” prefix; the Flamingo design number was the DH95. The piece also carries a de Havilland inspection stamp. (Courtesy of Richard Allenby)

ABOVE RIGHT:

The Flamingo’s starboard engine with the top section of the port rudder in the background. (National Archives)

BELOW LEFT:

An annotated view of the main area of wreckage. (National Archives)

by both the Air Ministry and the Russians which suggests that very little was left at the site at the time”, Richard said. “What I think we found was a small crater which was backfilled with odd bits of wreckage collected after the RAF had left the site and then soil thrown on top. It was certainly close to where the front end of the aircraft crashed – the instrument face was one clue, but there were lots of tiny bits of varnished plywood in the area. The Flamingo had a cabin interior of such a finish.” Richard added: “Rumours abound that the Russians were buried in a Harrogate cemetery but there’s no evidence for this. I find it likely that their bodies were returned home but research is ongoing.” During the investigation that followed the crash, it was noted that “special importance is attached to this accident” because of the presence of the Russian personnel. In order that the Russian government should have no reason “to suspect that anything was being hidden from them”, permission was granted for two officers to attend the RAF Court of Inquiry. Both men were encouraged to question witnesses through an interpreter, and were shown the wreckage which had been collected together at Linton-on-Ouse. They were also taken to No.16 M.U. where they studied the remains of the starboard engine. “It must be recorded,” ran the words of one report, “that the relations with the Soviet representatives were most cordial throughout the proceedings and they seemed to accept readily the findings of the Court ...” The Russians, it seems, concurred that the events surrounding the crash were not suspicious; it had been a tragic accident. ■

12

JULY 2011

3rd Dec. 2011 31st March 2012 30th June 2012

TOY SOLDIER

SHOW LONDON The Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, London, England WC1H 0DG (5 minutes walk from Kings Cross, Euston and Russell Square Undergrounds)

Booking, Enquiries & Information Tel: +44 (0) 1388 818882 Fax: +44 (0) 1388 814407 Wed: www.thetoysoldiershow.com Email: info@ thetoysoldiershow.com Early Bird (7:30 - 8:30am) £10.00 • General Admission (10:00am - 3:00pm) £5.00 • Children under 14 - FREE

news feature...news feature...

JERSEY’S WARTIME HISTORY RECOGNISED OCCUPATION records from the Second World War, held by Jersey Heritage, have been added to UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World register which was launched in 2010, reports Geoff Simpson. The collections included as part of the nomination were the Bailiff ’s Chambers Archive, the Feldkommandant’s Court Files and the Occupation Registration Cards. The files of the Bailiff, Alexander Coutanche (later Lord Coutanche), record in detail the administration of the island during the occupation, as well as the relationship between the local authorities and the German authorities. The Bailiff was the head of the Superior Council, which was established on 24 June 1940, and acted as a buffer between the occupying army and the civil population. The Superior Council consisted of the Presidents of each of the States of Jersey Departments and the Crown Officers. The collection contains over 2,500 separate items and covers areas such as deportees, imports and exports, licencing, entertainment, departmental orders and correspondence, requisitioning, the Red Cross, police and prosecutions, war graves and rationing. The Feldkommandant’s Court Files contain details of the activities of the Field Command Troop Courts between 1940 and 1945. Usually islanders would appear in the Royal, Magistrates or Police Courts. However, for the majority of the Occupation, four other courts existed in Jersey at which islanders could have appeared. Included in the files are cases that relate to nearly 750 individuals. Each set of case notes gives names and addresses, the offence and sentence.The files include a variety of cases, from those that could be described as resistance against the German authorities to common traffic offences. Those infringements coming under the heading of “resistance” include: breaches of curfew; listening to and owning a wireless; taking unauthorised photographs; dissemination of anti-German news; insulting the German forces; and prohibited attempts to leave Jersey. After their invasion, the German authorities made it compulsory for islanders to be registered under the Registration and Identification of Persons (Jersey) Order, 1940. This process required the collation of personal details concerning everyone within the island. Every islander was then issued with his or her

ABOVE:

The wartimeregistration card of Albert Bedane (1893-1980) who hid a Jewish woman, Mrs Mary Erica Richardson, for nearly two years from June 1943.Healso helped escaped Russian forced workers and in 1965 was presented with a gold watch by the Soviet government. Twenty years after his death he was named “Righteous among the Nations”, the State of Israel’s highest Holocaust honour.

BELOW LEFT:

Part of the trial papers of Mrs LouisaGould.Gould hid a fugitiveRussian, Feodor Burryi, and also kept an illegal wireless set. This was reported to the authorities by her neighbours and she received a two year sentence for her “failure to surrender a wireless receiving apparatus”.Initially sent to France, Gould was eventually transported to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp where, on 13 February 1945, she waskilled in a newly erected gas chamber. One of Louisa Gould’s sons, SubLieutenant Edward Gould, had been lost when the light cruiser HMS Bonaventure was sunk in the Mediterranean on 31 March 1941.

BELOW RIGHT:

A documentfrom the Bailiff ’s Chambers Archivegiving instructions to Jersey people on the surrender procedure in July 1940.

identity card whilst the German authorities kept an official set and it is this collection of over 31,000 cards that is now held at the Jersey Archive. The specific information collected included name, maiden name, address, date and place of birth, occupation, any militia experience and distinguishing features. Children under the age of 14 were recorded on the back of their father’s card. Cards were updated regularly with details added if people moved or had more children and as soon as children reached the age of 14 they were issued with their own card. Linda Romeril, Head of Archives and Collections at Jersey Heritage, said: “We are thrilled that UNESCO have recognised the importance of Jersey’s Occupation archives. The Occupation Collections are a unique reflection of Jersey and the wider Channel Islands’ status as the only part of Britain to spend five years under German rule during the Second World War. “If these collections were lost our understanding of this period in both Jersey and Great Britain’s history would be immeasurably damaged. The archive material holds tremendous significance on a local and national scale.” This announcement means that Jersey’s Occupation Collections have now joined the Charter of William the Conqueror to the City of London and letters from George Stephenson as representatives of the most significant documents in the United Kingdom. the material in the UNESCO award is available for inspection · Allby researchers. The material is catalogued and the catalogue can be searched on-line at: www.jerseyheritage.org

14

JULY 2011

news feature...news feature...

SECOND WORLD WAR SUBMARINE SAVED

IT WAS announced on 30 May 2011, that the appeal to safeguard the future of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum’s HMS Alliance had been boosted by the award of £3.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). HRH Prince William of Wales is the Royal Patron of the HMS Alliance Appeal that aims to raise the £6.5 million that the conservation work is budgeted to cost. Over £5.8 million in funds and pledges has now been raised, including the £3.4 million award by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A further £1.5 million is required for a new Alliance gallery. Some of the HLF award will be used to repair HMS Alliance’s bow and stern and address extensive surface corrosion. The £3.4 million award was a share of a total of £11million of funding for heritage projects. The four other beneficiaries were Wakefield Cathedral, Penarth Pier, Wentworth Castle, and Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge. * Ordered as part of the 1943 Emergency War Programme, the A-class submarine HMS Alliance was laid down at the Vickers Armstrong yard at Barrow-in-Furness on 13 March 1945. Designed for service in the Far East, where the size of the Pacific Ocean made features such as long range, high surface speed and relative comfort important, HMS Alliance, the tenth in her class, was launched on 28 July 1945, but not commissioned into service until 14 May 1947. The third Royal Navy vessel to carry the name, HMS Alliance was launched with the pennant number P147. Then, in May 1961 the pennant numbers of British submarines were changed so that all surviving submarines completed after the Second World War were now numbered from S01 upwards. Alliance was given the number S67.

The A-class boats were the first submarines built of an all-welded form of construction. The change from partial to completely welded hulls speeded up the construction period – which had previously averaged eight months per vessel – and enabled them to be manufactured in large prefabricated sections. These were then welded together in sequence on a slipway. As well as benefits in construction time, the additional structural strength obtained by welding the hulls allowed the A-class submarines to dive much deeper. HMS Alliance enjoyed a distinguished twenty-eight year career which lasted until she retired in March 1973, becoming the static display submarine and classroom at the HMS Dolphin shore establishment. In 1978, the decision was taken to prepare her for permanent display and she was passed to the Submarine Museum in Gosport. The first stage in this journey came in August 1979 when she was towed to Vosper’s yard at Southampton to have her keel strengthened so that she could be lifted out of the water. In 1996, HMS Alliance was added to the UK’s historic ship’s register, alongside the Cutty Sark, Mary Rose, and HMS Victory in the Core Collection list. She is the only remaining Second World War submarine in the United Kingdom that is open to the public. The project is the First Sea Lord’s top naval heritage priority, and for good reason. Exposed to sea water over cradles by the Museum quayside, the outer structure of HMS Alliance has corroded so badly that parts are literally in danger of falling into the sea below in a rusting process that has proved hard to arrest due to difficulties of access.

MAIN PICTURE:

HMS Alliance on display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. (Courtesy of Paul Appleyard)

LEFT:

An image which shows just how important the recent HLF award and the HMS Alliance Appeal are – corrosion to the submarine’s stern photographed in 2008. (Courtesy of Paul Appleyard)

JULY 2011

15

news feature...news feature... a massive boost and will mean that we can start work very soon.” Since 1981, HMS Alliance has served as a permanent memorial to the 4,334 submariners who lost their lives on service in both world wars, and to the 739 officers and men lost in peacetime submarine disasters. This is a fact not lost on Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement, Chairman of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

As well as the physical conservation, at the heart of the project is a new education programme and dynamic interpretation scheme which will bring Alliance “back to life” for all visitors. Improvements will include dressing the accommodation spaces to reflect the decades of Alliance’s service from the 1940s through to the 1970s with interactive soundscapes that illustrates how the submarine looked and felt whilst on operation. It is planned to reclaim land beneath the submarine using a cofferdam and backfill. This will also provide easy access for future maintenance (preventing a return of the corrosion problems) and new viewing platforms for visitors. It is planned to open up the conning tower and casing The Museum will also be taking the project to the local community with an outreach programme featuring a range of fun and engaging events. It is hoped that volunteers will play an important role in all these activities as the project aims to clock up to 2,500 hours of volunteer time over its life span. Bob Mealings, Acting Director at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, said: “It comes as a great relief that our ambitious plans to restore and conserve HMS Alliance has been seen as worthwhile by the Heritage Lottery Fund. We are extremely grateful to all our staff, volunteers and supporters across the country that are working so hard to raise the money that we need. This grant is

Following the announcement of the HLF award, he said: “As the memorial to all the submariners who have fought and died in service, it is so important that she is saved and brought to life for future generations to have the opportunity to understand and learn about ‘the silent service’ that has been in operation for over 100 years protecting our nation.” • Fundraising still continues at the Submarine Museum which is open every day. For more information on HMS Alliance and how you can get involved, contact the HMS Alliance Appeal Office on 023 9251 0354 (ext 244), or visit: www.submarine-museum.co.uk

ABOVE LEFT:

HMS Alliance pictured in 1951 leaving Fort Blockhouse to attend the memorial service for HMS Affray. (Courtesy of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum)

ABOVE RIGHT:

One of HMS Alliance’s torpedo tubes. The submarine was equipped with six 21inch bow torpedo tubes (including two external dry close fit) and four 21-inch stern torpedo tubes (again, this included two external dry close fit).

RIGHT:

Part of HMS Alliance’s control room. (Courtesy of Paul Appleyard)

BELOW:

An artist’s illustration showing how HMS Alliance is expected to look once all the conservation and interpretation work has been completed. (Copyright Royal Navy Submarine Museum)

16

JULY 2011

news feature...news feature...

FRANCE REVEALS PLANS TO DEAL WITH FIRST WORLD WAR CHEMICAL WEAPONS

DESPITE the passing of more than nine decades, the effects of the use of gas and chemical weapons on the Western Front continues to be felt in France, writes Alexander Nicoll.

because of unexploded ordnance. It is stated that the grounds of The Canadian National Vimy Memorial, for example, still contains one unexploded munition for every square metre.

As a result, on 30 May 2011, the French Ministry of Defence announced that it had selected the firm Astrium as its prime contractor for the continuation of the SECOIA (Site d’Élimination des Chargements d’Objets Identifiés Anciens) programme – a reference to the specialised facility built by the French authorities for the destruction of unexploded chemical weapons discovered each year on former battlefields in northern and eastern France.

Until 1994, such munitions were transported to a site on the coast of northern France. Here they were destroyed in controlled explosions, irrespective of the type of munitions and their content. By 1997, increasing awareness of the environmental implications of this procedure were the driving force behind the construction of a new plant at an isolated military camp at Mailly-le-Camp, fifty miles south of Reims. It is the day-to-day operation of this site that Astrium will undertake.

The contract is scheduled to last over twenty years. This period comprises of two main phases: an initial period of a little more than four years to complete the design, construction and commission of the plant, and the operational phase that should last more than fifteen years. The programme is part of France’s commitments within the framework of the Chemical Weapons Convention which came into force on 29 April 1997. Currently, these munitions are stored in the French Interior Ministry depot at Suippes. It is reported that the stockpile that has being gathering in anticipation of the start of the SECOIA programme already amounts to more than 250 tonnes.

It is anticipated that the automated works at Mailly-le-Camp will be capable of destroying some forty-two tonnes of chemical weapons per year beginning in 2015. The facility will make use of specially adapted equipment, and all weapon handling operations will be entirely remotely controlled. Pyro-chemical safety measures will also be implemented for the entire process, from the initial unloading of the weapons through to their final destruction. ■

BELOW:

One of so many: A British officer inspects a “German ‘dud’ on top of the trenches at Thiepval”. (HMP)

The scale of the problem still facing the French authorities is illustrated by the fact that it has been estimated that for every square metre of territory on the Western Front, from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border with France, a tonne of explosives, fired by both sides, fell. As many as one in every three or four of these shells (the exact figure is all but impossible to estimate with any degree of accuracy and varies from account to account) did not detonate. A total of 50,965 tons of pulmonary, lachrymatory, and vesicant agents were deployed by both sides of the conflict, including chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas. Official figures declare about 1,176,500 non-fatal casualties and 85,000 fatalities directly caused by chemical weapon agents during the course of the war. Of the chemical shells fired, some 20% were duds. Following the Armistice, approximately thirteen million of these shells were left in situ – many thousands ofacres of the French countryside had to be cordoned off at the end of the war

RIGHT:

A small part of the “Iron Harvest” that is given up each year on the Western Front. This batch of unexploded munitions, mainly British high explosive shells and Mills grenades, was photographed on the Somme on 19 May 2011. It clearly illustrates the danger of such objects – don’t touch being the only advice to be given! (Courtesy of Simon Jones)

18

JULY 2011

news feature...news feature...

EXPERIENCE DUNKIRK at DOVER CASTLE OPERATION DYNAMO, THE EVACUATION FROM DUNKIRK, IS THE THEME OF A NEW VISITOR “EXPERIENCE” AT DOVER CASTLE ON 10 June 2011, a new attraction was unveiled at Dover Castle. Visitors can now walk through the tunnels beneath the castle and see and hear scenes from the Dunkirk evacuation as they go, write Geoff Simpson and Nick Ames. Using state-of-the-art image projection, original newsreel and film footage, the exhibition shows how what Sir Winston Churchill called a “miracle

of deliverance” was achieved when 338,000 British and French troops were plucked from under the guns of the attacking Germans in 1940.

MAIN PICTURE:

Ramsay’s operations room at Dover Castle is depicted as it was seventy years ago, as are the events on the beaches across the Channel. Other parts of the base are recreated with 1940s telephones, plotting maps, exchanges and even cutlery bringing authenticity. “The myths, the reality and the legacy of Operation Dynamo will be the focus of an accompanying exhibition charting the history of the Dover Castle tunnels from Napoleonic times to the Cold War”, reveals a statement from English Heritage.

ABOVE:

English Heritage feels that Vice-Admiral Ramsay is in danger of becoming a forgotten figure and so an objective of the new experience is to pay tribute to him. Ramsay had been recalled from retirement to become first Flag Officer and then Vice Admiral Dover. He established his base in the easternmost tunnel of the complex which became known as Admiralty casemate. The adjacent two tunnels housed a coastal artillery operations room with a separate operations centre for anti-aircraft defences and other Army units. The main tunnels were partitioned to create offices, meeting rooms and operations rooms. When the order came to evacuate the exhausted Allied troops on 26 May 1940, he wrote: “I am directing one of the most hazardous operations ever conceived

JULY 2011

One of the tunnels beneath Dover Castle which are now open to the public as part of the new exhibition. An artist’s impression of how the new exhibition might appear. (Courtesy of English Heritage)

LEFT:

Operation Dynamo veteran Richard Sheen pictured at Dover Castle at the unveiling of the new exhibition.

and unless the good God is very kind there will be tragedies attached to it.” A naval officer described the scenes in the tunnels as “organised chaos” with endless telephone calls to the Royal Navy at Chatham requesting more destroyers, the Ministry of Shipping for merchant vessels, Southern Railway for troop trains and the Admiralty for tugs. Spare parts, ammunition, medical supplies and fuel were also being requisitioned along with rations as the operators worked throughout the day and night – with at first just four telephones. “No bed for any of us last night and probably not for many nights,” the Admiral wrote to his wife on 23 May adding, a few days later, “all my staff are completely worn out, yet I see no prospect of a let up”. By the end of the first day only 7,500 troops had

19

news feature...news feature...

ABOVE:

The re-created Operations Room beneath Dover Castle.

RIGHT:

The new displays include moving images and sounds which recreate the beaches under attack. Destroyers are seen moving into shore while the beleaguered soldiers fire at German aircraft as they scream overhead. Dialogue from soldiers is broadcast amidst the sounds of warfare as the timeline unfolds with the action projected onto the original tunnel walls.

BELOW:

Admiral Ramsay’s son, Major General Charles Ramsay, examines the reconstruction of the room from which his father directed the evacuation from Dunkirk.

been brought to safety. But this rate rapidly increased. Then on 29 May more than 400 Luftwaffe aircraft attacked the evacuation armada and beaches. One warship, HMS Grafton, was torpedoed as her crew attempted to take on board survivors from a previous attack. From his base in the White Cliffs Admiral Ramsay signalled: “Vessels carrying troops not to stop to pick up survivors from ships sunk but are to inform other nearby ships.” He told his wife: “Everyone is stretched to the limit. Officers and men cannot continue at this pace but all are doing their best.” The permanent exhibition blends state-of-theart special effects with vivid personal testimony. As a result, as part of the project English Heritage is collecting the reminiscences of those who escaped or were involved in the operation. One

to contribute is Richard Sheen. Now 92 and living in Wales, Richard was working eight hour shifts in the gunnery operations room at Dover. “We could see over the port and it was crammed with little ships and destroyers weaving about,” he recalls. “They had all come to aid in the evacuation. The next day, as if by magic, they had all disappeared. They had been ready, ready to go to hell – which is actually what they headed into.” Richard, who remembers chalking his initials on a wall in the tunnels which had been decorated with soldiers graffiti dating back to their first use in 1797 added: “This brings back so many memories – mind you there’s a lot more equipment here than there was back then. “When we were off duty we were asked to go and help the soldiers who had been evacuated from France. We were asked to help with their luggage – well those that had any and there was very little of it. They were a poor and sorry sight, those men, but all happy to have been rescued and get on a train and get away.” On the evening of 2 June 1940, Admiral Ramsay

sent ships to rescue the remaining soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force and the French Army. At 11.30 hours came the signal from Dunkirk: “BEF evacuated”. The following night a final effort; saved members of the French rearguard; the final number of those bought to safety exceeded the most optimistic forecast made at the start of the operation. Admiral Ramsay’s son, Major General Charles Ramsay, visited the exhibition before it opened and was able to inspect his father’s recreated desk and office – complete with family pictures. “It makes me very proud,” he said. “I think it is wonderful the way these tunnels have been developed with such hi-tech displays. It really tells people what it was all about. It shows the action, the ad-hoc nature of it all, the importance and in a sense the thrill of it too. “My father was a modest man but I am sure he would be quietly pleased and proud about this fitting tribute to the men and women of Operation Dynamo, whether soldiers, sailors, airmen or civilians – all those wonderful, skilled and courageous people who took part in the successful evacuation.” • For more information on the new exhibition, or to assist in English Heritage’s hunt for veterans, please visit: www.english-heritage.org.uk

20

JULY 2011

Paul Meekins

Military & History Books Vi s i t o u r w e b s i t e t o s e e o u r c a t a l o g u e s o r s e a r c h o u r b o o k s .

www.paulmeekins.co.uk Wo r l d w i d e m a i l o r d e r s e r v i c e

The Memorial Pegasus museum is dedicated to the men of 6th British Airborne Division. The 1st liberators to arrive in Normandy on June 6th 1944. Archive films, a guided visit and many interesting and authentic objects enable the visitors to relive this momentous time. The original Pegasus Bridge is on display in the park of the museum along with a full size copy of a wartime Horsa glider.

For thousands of books on military and socia al history from Roman Britain to the 21st Century

N New ffrom th the same author th Retro R t Makeup M k

A practical ti l guide id tto recreating ti hairstyles from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s using hundreds of colour photographs. Second edition, 2009

Open everyday from February to Mid – December

Tel: +44 (0) 231 781944 Fax: +44 (0) 231 781942

£21.00 incl UK P&P £29.00 incl UK P&P

Memorial Pegasus

A practical guide to makeup of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, inspired by famous women.. With step by step instructions.

phone/fax 01789 722434 email [emailprotected]

Avenue du Major Howard 14860 Ranville Normandy • France

www.memorial-pegasus.org

ONLY FIVE MINUTES DRIVE FROM THE BRITTANY FERRIES TERMINAL AT CAEN/OUISTREHAM.

Journeys of Remembrance & Battlefield Tours Explore, discover and remember the bravery and sacrifice of our forces. Join the Royal British Legion on one of our special Journeys of Remembrance to commemorate the Fallen, combined with an in-depth explanation of the events, actions and campaigns across the world in the two World Wars, accompanied by a Specialist Guide. Ypres, where the Allies held the Germans at Bay until the end of the Great War....................2 days from £199

The Great Pilgrimage Revisited To commemorate the Legion’s 90th Anniversary choose from two itineraries recreating the original 1928 Battlefield Pilgrimages. .........................5 days from £449

Singapore & Thailand – Surrender & Suffering Singapore’s surrender on 15 Feb 1942 was a humiliating blow to those who had fought so bravely ...........................................14 days from £2599

Western Front – Understanding Why An insight into the harrowing stories of the destruction, bravery and sacrifice of the infamous battles of the Somme and Ypres Salient ...................5 days from £459

Tours from only

£199 All tours are accompanied by the Royal British Legion Support Group who will help those who wish to make personal cemetery visits and Acts of Remembrance. All tours in association with 014490

Ypres – Cemeteries of the Salient

For full details and more tours, call for your FREE brochure or visit our website - it’s so easy!

0844 686 2429 or visit www.battlefieldtours-rbl.co.uk Terms and conditions apply. Please see our website for full details. Calls may be recorded for training purposes and your protection.

©

Men and women in the Royal Marines and Royal Navy serve their country, often at times of danger: the RNBT serves them and their families, at times of need, throughout their lives. Your donations and legacies help us to help them.

The Royal Naval Benevolent Trust Castaway House, 311 Twyford Avenue, Portsmouth PO2 8RN t 023 9269 0112 f 023 9266 0852 e [emailprotected] w www.rnbt.org.uk

‘Britain at War’ Magazine, Green Arbor, Rectory Road, Storrington, West Sussex, RH20 4EF. [emailprotected]

LETTER OF THE MONTH THE FILM “Q-SHIPS” SIR – I was most interested to see the Piece of History in Issue 50 touching on the subject of Q-Ships in the First World War, and specifically the photograph of a still from the film Q Ships. I thought that the readers might be interested in the following review of the film which was printed in the New York Times on 17 September 1928? “Thrilling and wonderfully realistic episodes in the campaign against the German U-boats during the World War, reproduced by the New Era Films, Ltd., of London, are to be seen at the Cameo Theatre in a picture called Q Ships. This production is presented in this country by Captain Harold Auten, who won the Victoria Cross as the commander of the Stockforce, one of the Q Ships, and he and several members of the original crew of that vessel re-enact in this film their roles of those eventful days of strife. “Q Ships is an expertly sketched drama of sea fighting, and although Britain emerges victorious, the courage of the rival forces is depicted with fairness. The welcome arrival of the United States destroyers is emphasized as one of the prime factors in defeating the hitherto successful efforts of the submarines by convoying ships through the danger zones. “This picture begins by dealing with the ravages of the submersibles before America entered the war, and there is a glimpse at the British Admiralty of officers discussing the sinking of food ships and another flash wherein Admiral Jellicoe himself appears, greeting an actor made up to resemble Admiral Sims. Thereafter is shown the gradual weakening of the U-boats and a daring

attempt of one of the German commanders to enter Scapa Flow.

telegraph and the torpedo strikes his ship under No.1 hatch.

“The U-boat’s manoeuvring is watched by British officers on an electrical contrivance which permits them to follow the craft as she is steering through the mine-field.

“Not long afterward, when smoke is seen coming out of the Stockforce’s bows, Auten gives the order for the panic crew to act their best and take to the boat. There is … the black cat, the seaman who was left and who has to take a dive into the sea.

“Another incident in this production depicts the success of the listening devices aboard destroyers and a U-boat resting far below the surface to keep away from the dreaded depth bombs. The stifling atmosphere aboard the submersible causes the officers and men to have difficulty in breathing, and one perceives, a little later, their relief, when they come to the surface, after the destroyer has sped on its way and they are able to breathe deeply of fresh air. “The most dramatic feature of this film is when the Q ships are introduced. Call the vessel the Stockforce [sic], as it was a vessel resembling that masquerader. The panic crew and the working crew are seen, and during the time that no submarine is in the offing the officers and men play cards, write letters, read books. “Suddenly comes the report of a periscope being sighted off the port bow. The producer then turns to the submarine, with the commander declaring that the Stockforce looks just about the size for a torpedo. He watches the Stockforce through the periscope and finally gives the order to fire the torpedo, and the only too familiar white line of those days is seen in the water as the engine of destruction speeds on its mission toward the steamer. Auten turns the engine room

“The working crew, hidden cleverly, go about the decks of the Stockforce on hands and knees, and officers are watching the submarine through craftily concealed periscopes. The U-boat Commander is wary about coming to the surface, but eventually he concludes that the Stockforce is harmless. Auten bides his time until he is sure that he can reckon with the submersible, and the manner in which this is done is most interesting …” It is also interesting to note that other than Captain Harold Auten VC, DSC, at least two other members of the crew of HMS Stock Force are named in the credits: William Butland DSM and Jack McEwan DSO. It was stated that details of the service and operations of German U-boats were provided by a former U-boat commander, Captain Auten was the author of the script of this production and also the technical adviser. The German details were supplied by a former U-boat Commander, Kapitänleutnant H. Roehn. Roy Woodbridge. By email.

BELOW:

An image taken from the 1928 film Q-Ships illustrating how a Q-ship in action might have looked. (Courtesy of the British Film Institute)

The author of the Letter of the Month may select a book of their choice (maximum value £25) from the extensive range of titles available at

www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

22

JULY 2011

‘Britain at War’ Magazine, Green Arbor, Rectory Road, Storrington, West Sussex, RH20 4EF. [emailprotected]

PRIVATE ARTHUR CARTER SIR – Following on from the correspondence in Issue 50’s Fieldpost entitled “Korea and Mons”, I would like to add that the question of Private Carter’s haversack [Ed – the image is once again reproduced here] is easily solved, since it is not an officer’s and was actually “regulation issue”. When List of Changes (LoC) Para. 14288 introduced Web Equipment, Pattern 1908, it was accompanied by LoC 14289 for Web Equipment, Pattern 1908, Haversack, Converted. No reason was given, but supplies of the correct web Haversack were augmented by older patterns being converted to be compatible with Patt. ’08. Accordingly, LoC 14289 was concerned with the addition of 2 and 1

time prior to the 1924 Edition. Interested readers can see more photographs of these Haversacks at: www.karkeeweb.com/patterns/1908/1908_ haversacks.html Another interesting point is that his Carrier, cartridge, 75 rounds, left. (Mark I.), is supported by an early issue Brace, which had crimped brass tips, not the eyeleted tips later fitted. The 1910 Priced Vocabulary also listed a Sling, rifle, brown, Infantry, 43 x 1.5 inches, which was fitted with a standing loop and runner. The sling was doubled through the upper sling swivel and through the standing loop. The other end was doubled through the butt sling swivel and was secured by a leather thong. By 1915, the Sling, rifle, Pattern 1914, 43.5 x 1.25 inches had been introduced, which was also brown, again with a fixed loop, runner and thong. Which sling the photo shows cannot of course be determined. As to Private Carter’s bayonet Frog, I think I can see a Patt ’08 version at his rear left hip, but not a scabbard. The profile of the Web Equipment, Pattern 1908, Carrier, intrenching tool, head can be seen on his right side - the regulation position – but with no scabbard on which to locate it, he appears to have left off the Carrier, intrenching tool, helve. To be fair, this looks like a “Look at me, Mum” photo, not one subject to the Sergeant’s close scrutiny!

HMS HOLLAND 1 SIR – In one of last year’s issues of Britain at War you featured a news piece on the wreck of HMS Holland 5. I have subsequently come across the following image in my collection of old photographs.

inch buckles to the Haversack, G.S., which had been introduced by LoC 12389, for service with Pattern 1903 Bandolier Equipment. This entailed cutting off the lightweight sling and re-using the material to make tabs and chapes for Mills Equipment Company buckles. In addition, the spigot half of a snap fastener was positioned centrally on the front face. This latter was to enable mating with the 1st Issue Web Equipment, Pattern 1908, Carrier, waterbottle. Original supplies of the all-web Haversack had the 1-inch buckles on the front face of the Haversack. These were for attaching the Diagonal Straps on the Cartridge Carriers. LoC 15048 modified the all-web Haversack to a 2nd Issue and the last paragraph reflected the same modifications for the Haversack, converted. This moved the base buckles from the lower corners of the front face and repositioned them on the rear face (rear seam in the case of the all-web Haversack). Private Carter has a Haversack, converted, 2nd Issue, which places the photo after 1 June 1910, when LoC 15048 was first published. The Priced Vocabulary of 1910 listed the Haversack, converted, which was italicised, showing it to be obsolescent, although the Priced Vocabularies of 1915 and 1920 still listed it. They were finally made obsolete some

JULY 2011

In early 1983 I was on patrol on the A.30 as a Rural Patrol Officer with the Dorset Police. I was returning to the Police Station at Sherborne when I saw an army convoy blocking one side of the east-bound lane outside a café at Over Compton. The Royal Corps of Transport vehicles appeared to be loaded with huge pieces of scrap metal. However, on closer inspection it became apparent that the large pieces of metal were in fact the remains of the Royal Navy’s first submarine – HMS Holland 1 – which had been reduced to moveable sections for the journey to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport.

The second photo in Mr. Barrett’s letter is familiar, though I cannot place where I have seen it and therefore its original caption. However, they too are wearing Haversacks, converted. More importantly they are wearing one-over-three Cartridge Carriers. These were Mills’ first versions, but a fifth pocket was added before LoC 14288 introduced the Pattern for the Regular Army. It is difficult to discern, but the soldiers appear to have Long Lee Enfields. Therefore these could still be 75 round Carriers, the lower tier pockets each holding two packets of ten rounds, the upper pocket being looped for 5 loose rounds and one packet of ten. The soldiers shown are therefore more likely to be Territorials, whose County Territorial Association budgets produced varying purchasing powers! Accordingly the Mills Equipment Company also produced three-in-line Cartridge Carriers (each holding 45 rounds in chargers) as an even cheaper option. They are also carrying Bottles, water, enamelled. (Mark V), which were marked as obsolescent in the 1915 Vocabulary. More complete details can be found at: www. karkeeweb.com/patterns/1908/carriers_cartridge. html R.J. Dennis, for Karkee Web. By email.

the first submarine in Royal Navy service. It joined the First Submarine Flotilla in 1902, and was finally taken out of service and decommissioned in 1913. Holland 1 was then sold for scrap for the sum of £410. By the time the submarine was sold she was considered so obsolete that she was purchased with all fittings intact, and the only requirement put on the buyer was that the torpedo tube be put out of action. It was whilst being towed to the scrap yard that a severe storm was encountered. The submarine sank about 1½ miles from the Eddystone Lighthouse. The wreck was located in 1981 and raised in November the following year. Taken to Devonport Dockyard, the remains were treated with anti-corrosives before being cut into three parts to be transported to Gosport. Alan Bradbury. Cornwall.

I managed to drive home, collect my camera and take one or two pictures of the convoy. On my return to the Police Station I casually mentioned that I had just seen a submarine on the A.30! Needless to say this was met with some rather strange looks and a number of caustic comments. Built at Barrow-inFurness in 1901, HMS Holland 1 was

23

‘Britain at War’ Magazine, Green Arbor, Rectory Road, Storrington, West Sussex, RH20 4EF. [emailprotected]

FORMER V-FORCE PERSONNEL SOUGHT

SIR – The Newark Air Museum is hosting its third V-Force reunion event on Saturday, 28 April 2012. The event is being organised by the same team as the hugely successful 2004/2010 events; and it will follow the same basic format. In 2012 the gathering of former air and ground crew will commemorate sixty years since the formation of the V-Force, with a special reference back to the Falklands Campaign thirty years earlier in 1982. The trustees of the Newark Air Museum are convinced that there are still more former V-Force personnel out there who might not be aware of this or previous reunions and they would like to try and contact them across the globe and in particular in areas around the ten designated V-Force bases at: RAF Coningsby; RAF Cottesmore; RAF Finningley; RAF Gaydon; RAF Honington; RAF Marham; RAF Scampton; RAF Waddington; RAF Wittering; and RAF Wyton. At the same time, no V-Force event would be possible without also mentioning RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and the various dispersal airfields around the world, too many in number to mention. Additional contact work will be tried around the various manufacturing sites for the Vickers Valiant at Weybridge; Avro Vulcan at Woodford, Chadderton, Bracebridge Heath and Bitteswell; and the Handley Page Victor at Cricklewood and Radlett. The Newark Air Museum, located in eastern Nottinghamshire close to the border with Lincolnshire, is the home to Vulcan XM594, which saw local service at both RAF Scampton and RAF Waddington, with 27, 101 and 44 squadrons between 1963 and 1982.

24

As before, the reunion side of the event is being organised by a team of former V-Force officers aided by the Newark Air Museum; the overarching aim is to bring together as many former aircrew and ground support staff as possible.

WAAF UNIFORMS

This team is keen to hear from any former personnel and full details of the activities planned and how to join the reunion can be gathered from their excellent reunion website: www.vforcereunion. co.uk Howard Heeley. By email.

From film footage and printed matter that show WAAF and ATS personnel in uniform, it clearly appears that their tunics are buttoned up the same way as that of the men’s – i.e. left-over-right. This is contrary to the usual feminine jacket style of being buttoned right-over-left, such as was the case with civilian clothing before and after the war.

Ed – The event is open to the public and it all looks set to be yet another tremendous weekend. Regular updates are now appearing on Newark Air Museum’s website: www.newarkairmuseum.org

I would like to know when this changeover took place and the reason why this decision was made? Presumably it was when these women’s services were introduced in about 1938?

ABOVE:

Incidentally, whilst reading a New Zealand booklet about the WAAF in this country, which started in 1941, their uniform tunics followed the usual women’s style of right-over-left – that is to say the opposite to the style employed in the UK.

Visitors and guests in front of Newark Air Museum’s Vulcan XM594 during the 2010 V-Force reunion event. (Courtesy of Howard Heeley - Down To Earth Promotions)

INSET LEFT:

SIR – I wonder if you or your readers can help me over a question concerning the Second World War uniforms of WAAF and ATS women’s services?

Co-organiser of the 2010 reunion event, Don Chadwick, “getting acquainted with one of the former V-Force adversaries” in the shape of a former Russian MiG-27 fighter. (Courtesy of Howard Heeley - Down To Earth Promotions)

Herbert P. Hall. New Zealand.

UNREWARDED COURAGE

RCAF was awarded a Mention in Despatches in the same edition. Although in no way comparable to the Victoria Cross, I do not believe it is completely fair to say the valour shown was not rewarded. Mark Hayco*ck. By email.

SIR – I enjoyed reading the article “Unrewarded Courage” in Issue 50, though I can add some additional information. W/O F.V. Watkins RNZAF was awarded an M.I.D. (Mention in Despatches) in the London Gazette of 13 June 1946, Issue 37598. Likewise, F/O W.E. McLean

Ed – If any reader is able to help answer these questions, please reply to the editorial office address or email and we will forward the information on.

JULY 2011

“I can carry on as normal” “Since having a stairlift fitted, I have to say the difference is astonishing. I can now go up stairs with ease and confidence whenever I like.“ Mr. Hellery, Hampshire

Adjust your home... ...not your life

Ŕ Free home trial Ŕ Rent or buy Ŕ Direct from the manufacturer

Ŕ Next day installation Ŕ Slimline fold-away design gn Ŕ Safe and reliable Ŕ Easy to use controls

Freephone: 0800 422 0654 www.acornlift.co.uk

Film footage, rationing, evacuation, gasmasks, land army girls, clothing, weddings, bomb disposal, shelters and THE LONDON BLITZ: SEE IT! FEEL IT! BREATHE IT!

Coaches drop off/ pick up outside A LOOK AT WAR TORN LONDON DURING WORLD WAR TWO

Acclaimed worldwide by press and television, including live coverage on ABC TV, CNN TV, Sky TV, BBC TV, ITV and the Discovery TV channel

Suitable for all Schools National Curriculum age groups “I thought I was back in the war - it was unbelievable; all children should visit this nostalgic and moving experience to see what it was really like for the ordinary people during World War Two” - Dame Vera Lynn

Voted UK’s top World War 2 attraction

Tel: 020 7403 3171 for group prices and bookings www.britainatwar.co.uk : [emailprotected]

64/66 Tooley Street, London Bridge

• • • • •

Daily standard tours available within the Ypres salient Bespoke tours Tours to the Somme, Notre Dame de Lorette and Vimy Ridge upon request Guides also available for coach and walking tours on request All prices include entrance to museums used on our routes

To book or view our daily standard tours visit www.ypres-fbt.be or contact us via email [emailprotected] CUSTOMER TESTIMONIALS: “We would like to thank you for making our trip to Ieper so memorable and interesting. We could not have had a better guide your depth of knowledge was truly amazing. However knowledge alone is not enough - it was the manner in which you, put it over - quite wonderful.” “We were guided in an exemplary way, with huge knowledge, a lot of information and also a taste of the famous British Humor. Without your guide’s explanations, for sure we wouldn’t have found the places we were interested in and it would have been much more difficult to understand what happened. We can recommend this tour and especially our guide to every visitor of Ieper, also in the hope that more German visitors will come to the battlefields. The information was without any partiality, and we could feel that there was respect for the soldiers of both sides. There was nothing to be made better, in our opinion, it was just perfect and shouldn’t be changed.” Contact:

Genevra Charsley & Jacques Ryckebosch, Boeschepestraat 29, B-8970 Poperinge, Belgium Telephone: 00 32 (0) 57 360 460

, SE1 2TF

LAYING CHURCHILL’S EGGS

To stop ground forces crossing an area, the laying of mines was common practice in the Second World War. The same applied at sea, with considerable success. But how could Britain defend itself from aerial attack? By laying a minefield in the air? As the Luftwaffe intensified its attacks on the UK, reveals Dr Alfred Price, this is exactly what the RAF tried to do.

I

n the 1930s the belief that “the bomber will always get through” pervaded much of the planning for the defence of the United Kingdom. It was considered impossible to stop every aircraft penetrating the aerial defences in the wide open skies above Britain. It was also thought that conventional fighter aircraft would experience considerable difficulty attempting to engage large bomber formations. It was argued that the defensive crossfire from twenty or more bombers in close formation might inflict heavy losses on the interceptors. Much thought, therefore, went into devising a method of breaking up the bomber formations to allow the fighters to pick off the bombers individually. One way of achieving this, it was considered, was to put obstacles in the way of the attackers – much like a minefield on land or at sea. If an aerial minefield could be laid across the path of an

JULY 2011

incoming enemy bomber formation it would be compelled to break up to avoid the mines.

produced. This really was a fully-fledged mine-field.1

The result was the “Long Aerial Mine”. This weapon, which weighed 14lbs, consisted, from top to bottom, of a supporting parachute, a length of shock-absorber cord, the explosive device, 2,000 feet of piano wire and, at the bottom, a second furled parachute. The whole apparatus was held in a cylindrical container which was fourteen inches long and seven inches in diameter.

When an aircraft struck the piano wire the shock wave ran up it, causing a weak link to break, releasing the main supporting parachute and the cylindrical container. As the container fell away the explosive device (actually referred to as an Apparatus, Air Defence Bomb) was armed and a small stabilising parachute connected to the weapon was released. Simultaneously, the shock wave travelled down the piano wire and caused the lower parachute to open. This took up a position behind the enemy and pulled the bomb smartly down on the aircraft.

After release from the aircraft the “mine” was deployed, the support parachute slowing its descent to a speed of about 1,000 feet per minute. So, if deployed at 20,000 feet they remained effective for about ten minutes before they dropped below the height at which they might snare an enemy aircraft. With the release of 120 mines from a single aircraft a curtain some four-and-a-half miles long and nearly half-a-mile deep could be

BELOW:

One of 93 Squadron’s Handley Page Harrows. Note the distinctive “Shark’s Teeth” nose art. (All images courtesy of Dr Alfred Price)

27

LAYING CHURCHILL’S EGGS

BRITAIN AT WAR LEFT:

Long Aerial Mine canisters in the bomb bay of a Harrow. As well as the damage caused to Harrow K6994 on the first operational LAM flight on 26 October 1940, faults with the device caused further problems. On the night of 21 November 1940, for example, Harrow K7020 was also damaged when deploying live mines after trouble with the “selfdestructive device”.

FAR RIGHT:

There was an obvious limitation to its use in that the bomb carried no self-destruct mechanism. Consequently, to prevent damage and injuries (or worse death) on land, the weapon could only be used over the sea. The Long Aerial Mine (LAM) was not ready for use during much of the Battle of Britain, becoming available by the time that the Luftwaffe had changed to night bombing in the autumn of 1940. As an effective night detection system had yet to become operational, it was decided to try the new weapon. It was clearly not necessary for the LAMs to be deployed from a high-performance aircraft, so a number of obsolescent Handley Page Harrow twin-engine bombers were formed into No.420 Flight at RAF Middle Wallop in September 1940. Under the codename Pandora, the flight was to carry out experiments on the new weapons. The mines themselves acquired the name of “eggs” and the process became known as “egg-laying”. Flight Lieutenant P.L. Burke took part in the

28

very first of these early trials. On 26 October 1940, he took off from Middle Wallop in Harrow K6994 at 18.13 hours and climbed to 19,000 feet. He was vectored onto an incoming enemy aircraft at 20.13 hours. “At 20.18, when the Harrow was to the starboard of the e/a fifteen miles away,” it was later reported, “the order ‘Port 90 and fire’ was given. The ground speed of the e/a was 210 m.p.h. The Harrow passed in front of the e/a when the separation was slightly greater than one mile.” Though all but four of the mines were deployed successfully ahead of the enemy aircraft – and the minefield was detectable on radar for twenty minutes after its deployment – the incoming bomber appeared to pass through the minefield unscathed. Unfortunately, two or more of the four mines that had not released correctly exploded inside the Harrow causing considerable damage. The following day, Burke, who was in charge of No.420 Flight, was visited by Pilot Officer Scott and Dr. C.L. Smith. The

One of 93 Squadron’s Douglas Havocs (note the tail of the Handley Page Harrow on the left). As the use of the LAM continued, the Havoc soon replaced the Harrow. Indeed, on 1 November 1941, it was stated that between the middle of December 1940 and the middle of March the following year, the Harrows had completed twenty sorties; in the whole of 1941 the Havocs carried out some 160.

BELOW:

A view of Long Aerial Mine Handley Page Harrows at RAF Middle Wallop. On 24 November 1940, No.420 Flight reported that it had five Harrows on its strength: K6993, K7020, K6994, K7005 and K6963. The same report went on to highlight the fact that, of the five, two were being repaired, one was at Farnborough awaiting collection, one was “serviceable but not stripped of equipment”, and the fifth was “U/S”. This last Harrow, K6963, was described by Flight Lieutenant Burke as an “old aircraft and hardly worth making serviceable”.

former was a sub-controller at the GroundControlled Interception (GCI) station at Worth Maltravers, a village situated on the cliffs west of Swanage in Dorset. The recently developed GCI system was able to provide height as well as position information to the Harrow pilots. Following his debrief with Scott, Burke wrote that “two enemy aircraft were approaching Worth, and that I was sent to intercept the first. The ‘curtain’ [of mines] gave an excellent

JULY 2011

LAYING CHURCHILL’S EGGS

BRITAIN AT WAR echo on the tube, and they were very satisfied with the interception.”2 However, the poor capability of the Harrows somewhat restricted the effectiveness of the minelaying. Though the design first flew in October 1936, it was quickly considered outdated. The Harrow had limited endurance at the height required for LAM deployment and in a bid to improve this situation the Harrows were stripped of all their armament, including the gun turrets. This, though, meant that in bright moonlight, where they might be spotted by enemy aircraft, they were extremely vulnerable. With time it was decided to gradually replace the Harrows with more modern Douglas Havocs. Meanwhile, the experiments continued and on 7 December 1940, No.420 Flight was expanded into 93 Squadron and the Long Aerial Mine went into full operational service. One of those who flew Harrows with 93 Squadron was Flight Lieutenant Dennis Hayley-Bell: “One flew alone in the Harrow, which meant that during the long climb to height and the subsequent wait for the enemy one felt rather lonely. The clumsy Harrow was not an ideal machine to go to war in. It was very slow and, because there was no heating and the co*ckpit sealing was often poor, very cold at high altitude. “When the radar controller saw a likelylooking enemy bomber coming in my direction, he would direct me on to an intercept heading to one side and about 1,000ft above the intended victim. At the critical moment I would receive the order to turn sharp left or right, so as to bring me across the path of the victim. Then I would start the ‘Mickey Mouse’ – the clockwork unit which released the bombs at the correct time intervals (just under one second) so they

JULY 2011

were strung out at 200ft intervals behind the aircraft. It took about 1½ min to drop one’s complement of mines. Then it was just a question of waiting.

two enemy aircraft. One was seen to fly into the “minefield” and its echo disappeared. The German bomber was assessed as “probably destroyed”.3

“If one was very lucky, one might see a flash to indicate that an enemy aircraft had hit one of the wires and dragged down the bomb. But usually there was nothing to be seen. The mines were always released some way out to sea, because any coming down on land might cause damage.

More success followed on 13 March 1941. The pilot in question was Flight Lieutenant Hayley-Bell. After taking off from Middle Wallop in a Harrow, he climbed to 17,000ft in an effort to intercept the Luftwaffe formations as they approached the South Coast heading north to attack Liverpool, Hull and Glasgow. Directed by the radar station at Sopley in Dorset, he was positioned about four miles ahead of, and 3,000ft above, an incoming bomber. At a point twelve miles south of Swanage he was ordered to begin releasing the mines.

“During one of the early operations the ground controller failed to make sufficient allowance for the wind, with the result that several mines landed near Bournemouth and the long wires shorted out overhead power lines in the area. Fortunately everyone blamed the resultant power cuts on the Germans, so we escaped any awkward questions.” Despite all kinds of problems, particularly with the release mechanism, the mines finally notched up their first victim. On 22 December, Flight Lieutenant Burke released a string of mines from his Harrow in front of

After a short wait Hayley-Bell saw a small explosion below him, followed by a much larger detonation – one that was powerful enough to shake the Harrow. Whilst the radar operators on the ground observed that the intended victim had missed the minefield, it appeared that another bomber in the area had picked up a mine.

29

LAYING CHURCHILL’S EGGS

BRITAIN AT WAR LEFT:

An air-to-air shot of one of 93 Squadron’s Douglas Havocs, ‘HN-F’ Frances, fitted with LAM aerial mine equipment and AI radar. (ww2images)

LEFT:

A representation of the Long Aerial Mine in action.

Hayley-Bell was credited with one enemy aircraft destroyed. Churchill, who loved novel ideas, was jubilant. “The ‘Egg-Layer’ pulled off another success last night”, he wrote on 14 March in a letter to the Chief of the Air Staff. “Only one was up but it got its prey. Now is the time of all others for the ‘Egg-Layers’ to reap their harvest.” Churchill continued this note with an observation about the continuing problems with the release mechanism: “I cannot understand how there has been this frightful delay in devising and making the release gear. Failing any mechanical solution why cannot a hole be cut in the floor of the aeroplane and a man lying on his stomach push by hand the Eggs, which are about the size of a Stilton cheese, one after the other through the hole?” His suggestion was not taken up!4 Between 11 March and 29 July 1941, 93 Squadron (still based at Middle Wallop but with detachments operating at various times from Coltishall, Hibaldston and Exeter) flew a total of 112 minelaying sorties. In the course of these its aircraft attempted fifty-nine interceptions; only sixteen were sufficiently promising to warrant the laying of a minefield. The outcome was one enemy bomber (Hayley-Bell’s) claimed “destroyed” and three more “probably destroyed”.5 Gradually, the remaining Harrows were replaced by Havocs and, by June 1941, 93 Squadron was fully equipped with the newer type. Even with these more advanced aircraft, the success rate of the LAMs did not improve. On 5 November 1941, the effectiveness of the LAMs was reviewed by Air Marshal William Sholto Douglas, the then Commander-inChief of Fighter Command. It was found that since December the previous year, 93 Squadron had conducted 180 sorties with the LAMs resulting in just the one enemy aircraft being destroyed with another five “probables”. In that same period the radarequipped A.I. Beaufighters flying out of the same airfield could count forty certain kills. The conclusion was obvious. “I therefore recommend that the LAM Squadron … should be abolished and that its pilots and aircraft should be converted to more profitable use,” Douglas wrote. “The LAM has today received last rites of burial,” one RAF commander is reported to have said in agreement. It “may henceforth be regarded as frozen meat”.6 n

NOTES

1. Alfred Price, Blitz on Britain 1939-1945, (History Press, Stroud, 2009), pp.120-1. 2. TNA PREM 3/314/4. 3. Alfred Price, “Clipping the Eagle’s Wings”, Aeroplane Magazine, August 2006. 4. TNA PREM 3/314/4. 5. The identity of these victims is unknown. Exact figures for the success of the LAM aircraft vary. David Monday, for example, states that “four or five kills were achieved (see British Aircraft of World War II, (Chancellor Press, London, 1994) p.126). 6. Alfred Price, op. cit., p.146.

30

JULY 2011

McNamara’s VC

His colleague had been forced to the ground and he had gone to his rescue. But with the enemy closing in Frank McNamara found that his own aircraft could not take off. Tony Pay tells the dramatic story that led to the award of Australia’s only aerial Victoria Cross of the First World War.

42 Squadron Royal Flying Corps and to attend the Central Flying School at Upavon, Wiltshire. Upon completing the course he was attached to 22 Squadron RFC as an instructor in Egypt before returning to duty with 1 Squadron AFC (there is room for confusion as the unit was also known as 67 Squadron RFC until 1918).

F

Whilst with 1 Squadron, McNamara flew both the Martinsyde G.100/102s and the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2cs from the squadron’s base in north-eastern Egypt which was known as “Kilo 143”.

McNamara Australian in January May 1916

The squadron had begun flying operations in its own right on 12 June 1916, although its three flights operated independently from dispersed airfields. Initially the squadron’s main role was aerial reconnaissance and its aircraft operated both out across the Sinai desert in search of Turkish forces and across Egypt’s western desert to monitor activity by the rebellious Senussi. Increasingly, though, its aircraft were involved in attacks against

rancis Hubert McNamara, always known as “Frank”, was an Australian schoolteacher and a reserve officer before the Great War. Called to the colours, he was promoted to Lieutenant and, in August 1915, he volunteered for flying training. McNamara’s first solo – in an antediluvian Bristol Boxkite – took place in September the same year, his wings being awarded in October.

32

was posted to No. 1 Squadron Flying Corps as an adjutant 1916 and sailed for Egypt. In he left for an attachment with

His first operational flight might well have been his last, for his ’plane was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire over Sinai, and, unknown to him, he flew home with his aircraft losing its oil all the way. Luckily, the Martinsyde G.100s flown by his squadron were renowned for their endurance of some five and a half hours.

Turkish ground forces. It was because of his actions on one of these flights that McNamara was to be awarded the Victoria Cross. After being reunited in December 1916, the squadron supported the British and Dominion advance into Palestine. It became a “jack of all trades” carrying out reconnaissance, photography, ground attack and liaison missions, in addition to having to fight off aggressive German adversaries. McNamara already had one near miss in a B.E.2c whilst undertaking a reconnaissance flight. The observer in the rear co*ckpit on this occasion, Temporary Captain T.C. Macauley R.A., had rudimentary flying controls, and noticing a German fighter approaching from astern, Macauley reached for his Lewis gun, intending to fix it on to his co*ckpit’s firing post, only to blunder into the joystick. McNamara, oblivious of the problems behind him, suddenly found himself in a spin. He managed to regain control and escape from the German aircraft when there was news of more trouble from the rear. This time, Macauley had injured himself on the gun mounting. Despite this, the pair completed their mission, Macauley sketching the enemy positions while McNamara flew through the anti-aircraft fire.

JULY 2011

A month later, on 20 March 1917, and still flying from Kilo 143 – probably just a kilometre post, on a road or railway, for the general area had been in part French – the squadron was ordered to attack an enemy railway line near Wadi Hesse at Tel el Hesi in Palestine. Two Martinsydes and two B.E.2cs were detailed to carry out the mission, but as the supply of bombs had run out, converted 4.5 inch howitzer shells were used. The shell weighed about 35 lbs, so each ’plane carried six of them, but with altered fuzing to give a forty-five second delay from when dropped. Lieutenants A.W. Ellis and McNamara were to fly the single-seat Martinsydes; Captain David W. Rutherford and Lieutenant Peter Drummond the B.E.2cs. However, as the weight of the make-shift bombs was the equivalent of the observer, the rear co*ckpits were not manned. McNamara’s machine bore the serial number “7486” and Rutherford’s “4479”. As they approached the operational area, a train appeared, so Ellis, the first to attack, chose this as his target. McNamara also aimed his first three bombs at the train, but decided to go for the railway track itself with the others. After all, hitting either target could wreck the train and put the line out of action. Unfortunately, McNamara’s fifth make-shift bomb hung-up and exploded while still in the make-shift rack. McNamara was seriously wounded in the buttock area – he had had surgery in that region not long before – and his Martinsyde was badly damaged, although it kept flying. McNamara later said it had felt “like being hit by a sledgehammer”.

Then, as he turned towards base, McNamara saw a distress flare fired by the pilot of one of the B.E.2cs, who had been forced down by enemy ground fire. He, and his comrades in the air, also saw “bodies of enemy troops hurrying to the scene from all directions”. In official reports, they added that “the country appeared most difficult” and there had been “no time to reconnoitre a suitable landing ground”. Despite his wounds and the problems with his own ’plane, McNamara immediately turned and landed near the downed B.E.2c. Again, those still in the air subsequently reported that “bullets could be seen striking Captain Rutherford’s machine and it appeared almost certain Lieutenant McNamara must be killed or captured”. Coming to a halt some 200 yards from the B.E.2c, McNamara yelled to his comrade to get onto the engine cowling of his aircraft, ahead of him, and hold on to the centre-section rigging. As soon as this was accomplished, he turned his machine into the wind for take-off.

It was not to be. Weakened now by loss of blood, McNamara found it impossible to keep his ’plane straight on its take-off run, particularly as the uneven ground was also sodden by recent rain. Suddenly, the aircraft veered off course. Its damaged landing-gear couldn’t hold it; the undercarriage broke away, the nose dug into the ground and the tail rose into the air. Now already some way from the Turks, but anxious to prevent the Martinsyde falling into their hands, McNamara used a shot from his revolver to hole its fuel tank and a shot from his Very pistol to set alight the fuel and the ’plane. The two Australians made their way back to the B.E.2c., determined to sell their lives dearly, and no doubt well aware of their fate should they fall alive into the hands of the Turks. The Turkish cavalry had by this time dismounted, and as the B.E.2c still had its observer’s machinegun, this seemed their best bet. As they arrived at Rutherford’s machine, McNamara’s Martinsyde exploded. The Turks withdrew a little. A quick look at the B.E.2c showed that a tyre had been ripped off its wheel, the wing centresection wires were broken, a fuselage

LEFT:

A portrait of Lieutenant F.H. McNamara at the Central Flying School, Point Cook, Victoria, in 1916. (Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial; DAAV00041A)

MAIN PICTURE:

The incident for which Lieutenant F.H. “Frank” McNamara was awarded the Victoria Cross – a painting by the artist H. Septimus Power. (Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial; ART08007)

JULY 2011

33

LEBANON

Mediterranean Sea Haifa

Damascus BRITAIN AT WAR

SYRIA

The Imperial War Museum’s example of a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c. (Courtesy of Max Smith)

Hadera Netanya Herzliya

Returning to the events of 20 March 1917, McNamara’s own log book entry detailing this two-hour long, drama-filled operation on 18 April included the following account:

Tel Aviv Bat Yam

Aza

A map showing the location of Wadi Hesse near Tel el Hesi, which in turn is south-west of the modern Israeli city of Qiryat Gat.

BELOW:

Nazareth

Ashdod Ashkelon

LEFT:

Jerusalem

Amman

Hebron

ISRAEL Sinai Desert

Dead Sea

JORDAN Petra

EGYPT longeron was cracked, and that, finally, an ammunition drum for the Lewis machine-gun was blocking the rudder-bar. The rudder problem was quickly solved, and realising his comrade was the only one of the pair capable of doing so, McNamara got Rutherford to swing the prop. Thankfully, the engine caught. Rutherford quickly scrambled into the observer’s seat, and McNamara opened up the engine for takeoff, now with the Turks closing in. Three times the ’plane became stuck in the mud: three times, McNamara gunned it out. “By the time he eased it off the ground, the Turks were practically on its tail,” Rutherford later recalled.

RFC aircraft flew a wounded trooper of the Imperial Camel Corps from Bir-el-Hassana in the Sinai Desert to the airfield. In normal circ*mstances, this journey, made overland, would have entailed a three-day journey – the flight took just forty-five minutes.

“Ellis started bombing railway and when a ‘Hun’ appeared turned his attention to it. I followed him dropping three on train and two on railway. No.5 exploded prematurely wounding me in the right buttock. Plane’s ripped about but engine unhurt. “Dropped two smoke bombs for other machines and started off home. Looked again at railway curve and saw Rutherford (2c) on ground with the smoke bomb out. Lots of smoke about. Turkish cavalry approaching 2c near railway. “Switched off, landed and taxied up to Rutherford. Latter trying to burn his machine at fuselage. Yelled at him to hurry. He ran up and climbed on to engine cowl in between centre bay. Opened up, turned around and started to take-off. “Right leg pretty dud. Machine doing about 35 mph on ground when started swinging to left. Could not counter with right foot. Swung around crashing prop, lower left plane and undercarriage. Got out, fired bullet into petrol tank followed with Very light. Rifle fire from the Turks. Started to Rutherford’s BE which was not on fire yet … “Just now the remaining 35lb shell exploded! Blowing Martinsyde to pieces. Leg pretty dud and bullets whizzing about. Reached Rutherford’s machine. Sat in pilot’s seat, enticed stuff from under rudder bar. Rutherford gave prop a swing – ‘Contact’ and she started. He jumped into observer’s seat. Turned machine around to take off. Opened up throttle.

Worryingly, Kilo 143 was some seventy miles away – about an hour’s flying. At times, McNamara’s speed fell to just thirty-five mph! Weakened by loss of blood, he knew his strength was nearly gone and that his senses were ebbing. Nevertheless, by putting his head beyond the windscreen into the cool fresh air, he somehow kept going all the way back to a successful landing at the airfield. Interestingly, Kilo 143 had seen a similar ground-breaking flight – the first ever recorded casualty evacuation flight – just a matter of weeks earlier. On 19 February, a 34

JULY 2011

McNAMARA’S VC

BRITAIN AT WAR RIGHT:

A Martinsyde G100 single-seat scout and day bomber. The G100 was originally designed as a long-range fighter and escort aircraft and was thus fitted with quite a powerful engine in comparison to aircraft of a similar size. When it was first deployed over the Western Front in early 1916, however, it proved sluggish in flight and was thus vulnerable to German fighters. It was subsequently re-employed as a bomber; its powerful engine meant that it could lift a significant bomb load, and it served in this capacity until early 1918. The size, lifting capacity and handling characteristics of the G100 led British pilots to nickname it the “Elephant”, but to Australian pilots it was the “Tinsyde”, a reference to its method of construction. (IWM Q57579)

BELOW:

A portrait of Captain Frank McNamara VC in AFC uniform in Cairo during the Palestine Campaign, 1917. McNamara finally received his Victoria Cross from the Prince of Wales at the Federal Government House in Melbourne on Thursday, 27 May 1920. (Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial; P00336.001)

McNamara’s description ended with the words: “Evacuated on hospital train 7.15 pm.”

However, in spite of this Lieut. McNamara, without any hesitation, landed – although by that time heavy rifle fire was being kept up by the rapidly approaching enemy and bullets could be seen striking all round Capt. Rutherford’s machine and it appeared almost certain that Lieut. McNamara must be either killed or captured.” McNamara was, he added, “already severely wounded, making his action one of most remarkable gallantry”.

Lieutenant Ellis reported afterwards that “the country appeared most difficult and from the air bodies of enemy troops could be seen advancing from all sides, there was therefore no time to reconnoitre for a suitable ground.

Another of the officers, Lieutenant Drummond, included the following in his report: “The rescue in his wounded condition required the every highest devotion and courage.”

“She stuck three times on soft ground, then lifted off ground. Just in time to escape rush. Nearly fainted on way back. Put wind up Rutherford. Took about one hour twenty min to reach 143. Landed alright – three bombs still on rack.”

BELOW:

Personnel of “C” Flight, 1 Squadron AFC, pictured in Egypt during May 1917. Captain Richard “Dickie” Williams (later Air Marshal Sir Richard), the OC, is seen in the centre. From the left, the other officers are: Frank Hubert McNamara; L.W. Heathcote; S.K. Muir; E.G. Roberts and L.J. Wackett. They are standing in front of one of the squadron’s Martinsyde aircraft. (Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial; A05340)

35

McNAMARA’S VC

BRITAIN AT WAR

RIGHT:

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr R.G. Menzies, visited the United Kingdom in early 1941. During April he toured the bomb-damaged streets of Coventry. He is pictured here photographing ruined buildings with Air Commodore F.H. McNamara VC, OBE on his right. (HMP)

LEFT:

Air Commodore Francis McNamara VC, OBE, greeting RAAF personnel soon after their arrival in the UK in April 1941. McNamara was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 1 January 1938, and promoted to Air Commodore the following year. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1945. (Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial; 006634)

Captain Rutherford himself wrote from his hospital bed on 3 April 1917: “During a bomb attack on 20/3/17 I was forced to descend … Lt Macnamara [sic] decided to land to my assistance … his was an operation of the greatest hazard as the country was most difficult … I consider that in view of this and the very heavy rifle fire from close range … the risk of Lt. Macnamara being killed or captured was so great that even if he had not been wounded, he would have been justified in not attempting my rescue – the fact of his already being wounded makes his action one of outstanding gallantry – his determination and resource and utter disregard of danger was worthy of the highest praise.”

With these reports, there could be only one outcome. The Supplement to the London Gazette of 8 June 1917, announced the award of his Victoria Cross. It added that the award was being made for the “most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during an aerial bomb attack upon a hostile construction train, when one of our pilots was forced to land behind the enemy’s lines”. Frank McNamara was the only Australian airman to receive the award in the First World War. Having recovered from his injuries, McNamara was promoted to Captain and appointed Flight Commander in April 1917, but his wound prevented further flying and he was invalided back to Australia in August that year. His arrival home was described in the following manner by a reporter for the Adelaide Advertiser: “Captain McNamara walked ashore with the aid of sticks owing to the wounds he received at the time he effected the thrilling rescue of a fellow airman ... The wounds are practically healed, but he is suffering from a badly burned foot.”

BELOW LEFT:

McNamara pictured whilst recuperating at the 14th Australian General Hospital, Cairo, in 1917. (Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial; P00228.056)

BELOW:

McNamara retired from the RAAF in November 1946 having become the Director of Education at the headquarters of the British Occupation Administration in Germany. He returned to the United Kingdom, where he passed away on 2November 1961. He was buried in the grounds of St Joseph’s Priory, Austin Wood, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. Following his death, McNamara’s VC was donated by his family to the RAF Museum at Hendon. (Courtesy of Greentool2002)

It was, the reporter noted, a “sad homecoming” for McNamara. “His father is lying critically ill in Castlemaine, and his mother is also in a precarious state of health.” The Adelaide Advertiser added that “a Light Horseman who served with Captain McNamara explained that upon alighting at the aerodrome after the famous exploit … McNamara became unconscious, and hot bricks had to be placed close to his feet to restore his lost circulation. Owing to a blanket becoming displaced one of his feet was terribly burned while he still remained unconscious.” Some contemporary photographs of this gallant airman show the injury described by the reporter, though many at the time were unaware of the cause. n 36

JULY 2011

! " "! # $

% " & '' (

"! """)* ) ! " # " $ $ !%

&! '( ) * % ! ! ! %

, ! ) - . +

& + %

- ) / 0'123 4 + 5 062123

7" + + /6( ) ) * / 5 869 :

+

"!

7" ;) - ) <

""")* )

!"# #

%$& ' ( )' * +,-,#. /0 ( )' * "+ -# ."

Britain at War Issue 50 June 2011

Issue 49 May 2011

Issue 48 April 2011

Issue 47 March 2011

Issue 46 February 2011

Issue 45 January 2011

Issue 38 June 2010

Issue 37 May 2010

Issue 36 April 2010

Issue 35 March 2010

Issue 34 February 2010

Issue 33 January 2010

Issue 26 June 2009

Issue 25 May 2009

Issue 24 April 2009

Issue 23 March 2009

Issue 22 February 2009

Issue 21 January 2009

SPECIAL OFFER!

Issue 1 May 2007

Britain at War Binders Keep your collection of Britain at War Magazines in pristine condition with one of our stylish binders. Each binder holds 12 issues of Britain at War.

BACK ISSUES:

UK £6.00 per issue Europe £7.30 per issue Rest of the World £8.95 per issue *

BINDERS: UK £9.99 Europe £11.50 Rest of World £13.00

5 for £20 offer available for UK telephone and post orders only.

ITEM PRICE QUANTITY COST ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________

Back Issues

Detailed contents of every issue are available to view online. Older issues also available to order online. www.britain-at-war-magazine.com

Issue 44 December 2010

Issue 43 November 2010

Issue 42 October 2010

Issue 41 September 2010

Issue 40 August 2010

Issue 39 July 2010

Issue 32 December 2009

Issue 31 November 2009

Issue 30 October 2009

Issue 29 September 2009

Issue 28 August 2009

Issue 27 July 2009

Issue 20 December 2008

Issue 19 November 2008

Issue 18 October 2008

Issue 17 September 2008

Issue 16 August 2008

Issue 15 July 2008

Please use the order form on the left and the prices below it to calculate the total cost. YOUR DETAILS PLEASE COMPLETE IN BLOCK CAPITALS (MUST BE FILLED IN)

n Mr n Mrs n Miss n Ms n Other Forename __________________ Surname _________________________________ Address ____________________________________________________________

YOUR WAYS TO PAY 1. CHEQUE

n I enclose a cheque/postal order, made payable to: ‘Green Arbor Publishing Ltd’, for the total cost. 2. CREDIT CARD n Please charge my Visa / MasterCard / Amex / Switch / Maestro for the total cost: Expiry date

Valid from

Security code**

Switch issue no.

nnnn

nnnn

nnnn

nn

**last 3 (4 if Amex) digits on the signature strip

____________________________________________________________________

Card no.

____________________________________________________________________

nnnn nnnn nnnn nnnn

____________________________________________________________________ Postcode________________ Daytime Tel no. ____________________________ Email ______________________________________________________________

Card Holder’s Name ________________________________________________ Signature ___________________________________ Date _________________ (I AM OVER 18 YEARS OLD)

Simply complete this form and send it to: Britain at War Magazine Back Issues, PO Box 2068 Bushey, Hertfordshire, WD23 3ZF or Call: +44 (0) 20 8955 7079 or Online: www.britain-at-war-magazine.com

s e c n e i r E e p U x E Q I n o i N U rt Break Aviat Sho

. . . d e d u l c n I hat’s

W

• Board and even fly in

Vintage Aircraft • Small, personal Groups • High Quality, full board Accommodation • Expert Tour Guides • 24 Hour Tour Manager • All entrance fees and information pack • All Tour Transportation

Make new friends in a friendly, sociable learning environment with us!

For more information please call: 01522 845060 or visit our website: www.runways-to-war.co.uk Unique Short Break Aviation Experiences

REACHING THE GOAL

Many of us at one time or another have kept an item autographed by someone famous, or even collected autographs as a hobby – and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was no exception. He kept a little book that he asked various people he came into contact with during the war to sign. James Luto reveals its contents.

G

eneral Montgomery took over command of the Eighth Army in Cairo at 14.00 hours on 13 August 1942. Six days later he was visited by none other than Winston Churchill who stayed the night with Monty at the Eighth Army Headquarters located at Burg el Arab, some thirty miles west of Alexandria. Before Winston departed the following day Montgomery asked him to sign his little autograph book. Winston, always the statesman, not only signed the book but added a typically Churchillian note: “May the anniversary of [the Battle of] Blenheim which marks the opening of this new command bring to the Commander in Chief of the Eighth Army and his troops the fame and the fortune they deserve.” Churchill returned to North Africa after

Montgomery’s victory at El Alamein and his successful drive through Libya. They met at Tripoli and Monty asked the Prime Minister if he could, once again, add a little something to his autograph book. This time Churchill the historian makes his mark, already viewing the little book as exemplifying the wider conflict. After mentioning the various successes of the Eighth Army, he wrote: “These memorable events fulfil the wish which I expressed on an earlier page and are just the prelude to a still more glorious chapter.” So it was that each page became not just a note in support of an autograph, it became another chapter in the story of Montgomery’s career – most of which, of course, was going to be written by Winston himself. Montgomery was also aware of the historical record he was gathering through the entries in his book for he wrote that “it seemed that they might well one day be of great interest”.

By the beginning of March 1943, the Eighth Army – advancing westward along the North African coast – had reached the Tunisian border. Rommel’s forces soon found themselves outflanked, outmanned and outgunned in an Allied pincer movement. The Eighth Army bypassed the Axis defences on the Mareth Line in late March and the US First Army in central Tunisia launched its main offensive in mid-April. The result was a squeezing of the Axis forces which continued until their resistance in Africa eventually collapsed. The surrender, yielding huge numbers of prisoners of war, came on 13 May 1943. In less than a month, on 3 June 1943, Churchill was able to add “Chapter III”, Montgomery having travelled to Algiers to meet the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Alan Brooke.

BELOW:

General Montgomery congratulating New Zealand and British troops who took part in the outflanking movement which forced the Afrika Korps to abandon its Mareth Line positions in 1943. (Mirrorpix)

JULY 2011

41

BAW 40

REACHING THE GOAL

4

BRITAIN AT WAR

ABOVE:

Montgomery, as the newly appointed commander of the Eighth Army, is pictured discussing tactics with officers from the 22nd Armoured Brigade during August 1942. It was at about this time that Churchill wrote “Chapter I” in Montgomery’s autograph book. (Mirrorpix)

ABOVE RIGHT:

Winston Churchill with Montgomery in Tripoli during February 1943; the period when “Chapter II” was completed. (Mirrorpix)

“The total destruction or capture of all enemy forces in Tunisia,” wrote Churchill in Monty’s little book, “culminating in the surrender of 248,000 men, marks the triumphant end of the great enterprise set on foot at Alamein ...” By the time that Montgomery and Churchill met again the Eighth Army had undertaken the next part of the Allied plan to attack the supposed “soft under-belly” of Hitler’s Fortress Europe – Italy. Sicily had been captured in just thirty-eight days by the Eighth Army and the US Seventh Army, and on 3 September the Eighth Army alone invaded Italy across the Straights of Messina. A week later, on 10 September, the US Fifth Army landed at Salerno on the west coast of Italy and eventually linked up with Montgomery’s forces. On 31 December 1943, Montgomery left the Eighth Army to return to the UK to take

42

command of 21 Army Group – the British group of armies being prepared for the invasion of France. That night he arrived at Marrakesh in Morocco, staying with Churchill. The next day, before he departed on the next leg of his journey home, Monty, keeping with what had become a tradition, presented his autograph book to the PM. This is part of Churchill’s “Chapter IV”: “The immortal march of the Eighth Army from the gates of Cairo, along the African shore, through Tunisia, through Sicily, has now carried its ever victorious soldiers and their world-honoured commander far into Italy towards the gates of Rome.” From the beginning of January until the end of May 1944, Montgomery was involved with the planning for Operation Overlord. The next entry in his little book was made just a couple of weeks before D-Day. Completed on 19 May 1944, this is how Churchill began “Chapter V”: “On the verge of the greatest adventure, with which these pages have dealt, I record my confidence that all will be well.” Montgomery carried his little book around with him and as some of the Dominion Prime Ministers were also in Britain that month he persuaded them to add their names. Thus Field Marshal Smuts of South Africa, Mackenzie King of Canada and New Zealand’s Peter Frazer followed Churchill’s example – particularly Peter Frazer who

wrote: “The New Zealand Division valued the leadership of General Montgomery. They admired and liked him personally. With their own commander, the intrepid General Freyberg, they trusted Montgomery and went forward to victory in North Africa, with confidence, determination and cheerfulness. Under his leadership they did great deeds and added to their fame.” Monty’s humble autograph book was developing into a valuable little document, especially when it was presented on 1 June 1944, at a conference of the senior officers involved in the D-Day landings. Having been cornered, the following men added their signatures to its pages: Lieutenant General Omar Bradley (Commanding US First Army); General George S. Patton (Commanding US Third Army); Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey (Commanding British Second Army); and General Henry Duncan Graham “Harry” Crerar (Commanding Canadian First Army).

BELOW LEFT:

Winston Churchill and Montgomery pictured at an Allied planning conference in North Africa on 5 June 1943, talking to the US Chief of Staff, General George Marshall. Two days earlier, Churchill had written “Chapter III” in Montgomery’s autograph book. (Mirrorpix)

BELOW:

On 15 June 1944, General de Gaulle visited Montgomery in Normandy and, of course, he was not allowed to leave until he had written something in the little book. Needless to say, the proud, staunchly patriotic Frenchman wrote his brief comment in French. (James Luto)

JULY 2011

REACHING THE GOAL

BRITAIN AT WAR

4A BAW 35mm

The list of notable people signing Montgomery’s autograph book continued to grow. By D+6 Monty had established his headquarters near the town of Creuilly in Normandy. On this day he was visited by Smuts and Churchill. By now, predictably, the Prime Minister wrote “Chapter VI”: “So it was in the beginning, so may it continue to the end.” To this, Field Marshal Smuts added: “And so it will!” This chapter in the story of Montgomery’s war was completed by the addition of the signatures of Dwight Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, and his C-inCs. Admiral Bertram Ramsey, the naval commander, Air Chief Marshal Trafford LeighMallory (Air C-in-C), Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham (Second Tactical Air Force), and Montgomery himself all signed the book at Portsmouth. Monty concluded this page with the comment: “The initial operations were very successful and a good lodgement area was soon got.”

JULY 2011

The next entry – “Chapter VII” – was not made until 6 November 1944, when Montgomery returned to the UK. Once again it was Churchill who brought the book up to date: “The supreme Battle of Normandy carried with it the liberation of France. The conquest of Germany remains ...” Montgomery was soon back at the head of his men and on 23 March 1945, that remaining objective, the conquest of Germany, began as Allied forces attacked across the Rhine. The Prime Minister was at Montgomery’s HQ in Germany to watch the first stages of the Battle of the Rhine and he wrote “Chapter IX” on 26 March 1945: “The Rhine and all its fortresses lie behind the 21st Group of Armies. Once again they have been the hinge upon which the mansion gates revolve. Once again they have proved that physical barriers are vain without the means and the spirit to hold them. A beaten army, not long ago the master of Europe, retreats before its pursuers. The goal is not

long to be denied to those who have come so far and fought so well under proud and faithful leadership. Forward all on wings of flame to final victory.”

ABOVE LEFT:

Eisenhower and Montgomery pictured together in Normandy in the summer of 1944. (Regional Council of Basse-Normandie/US National Archives)

ABOVE:

Eisenhower and his C-in-Cs all signed Montgomery’s autograph book on 6 June 1944. Writing after the war, Montgomery noted that “of all the three Cs-in-C, I am now the only one left alive”; Ramsey and Leigh-Mallory were killed in air accidents during the campaign in Western Europe”. (James Luto)

BELOW:

Winston Churchill pictured with Field Marshal Jan Smuts (far right), Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (second from left), General Sir Bernard Montgomery, and one other officer, in Normandy on 12 June 1944. (Regional Council of Basse-Normandie/US National Archives)

43

REACHING THE GOAL

BRITAIN AT WAR LEFT:

Montgomery reading the surrender terms to the German representatives at his HQ on Lüneburg Heath, May 1945. (HMP)

BELOW RIGHT:

A photograph of the actual surrender document signed by the Germans at 18.30 hours on 4 May 1945. The same signatures would be entered in Montgomery’s autograph book. (HMP)

BELOW LEFT:

The most memorable page in Montgomery’s autograph book. (James Luto)

After completing this entry, Churchill took a moment to locate a pen with red ink. In larger letters he then wrote the word “Germany” across the top of the page. The next chapter in Montgomery’s autograph book is possibly the most remarkable of all. Having crossed the Rhine the British Group of Armies continued to advance eastwards, crossing the Ems, the Weser and the Elbe. The British forces under Montgomery captured the cities of Bremen and Hamburg, finally reaching the Baltic Sea at Lübeck and Wismar on 2 May 1945. On 3 May 1945, with Hitler now dead, a German delegation went to Montgomery’s HQ on Lüneburg Heath to discuss the terms of surrender. The German delegation, which consisted of General-Admiral HansGeorg von Friedeburg, General Kinsel, Rear-Admiral Gerhard Wagner and Major Friedel, was told by Montgomery that there was nothing to negotiate. There were no terms. Surrender must be unconditional. The Germans had little option but to accept and at 18.30 hours on 4 May 1945, the instrument of surrender of all German armed forces in Holland, northwest Germany and Denmark was signed. “I had the surrender document all ready”, Montgomery later wrote of this moment. “The arrangements in the tent were very simple – a trestle table covered with an army blanket, an inkpot, an ordinary army pen that you could buy in a shop for two pence. There were two

44

BBC microphones on the table. The Germans stood up as I entered; then we all sat down round the table … I read out in English the Instrument of Surrender. I said that unless the German delegation signed this document immediately, and without argument on what would follow their capitulation, I would order the fighting to continue.”1 One by one, each member of the German delegation put their name to the surrender. Of course this was not the only document the German officers were asked to sign – as Monty had produced his little autograph book for them to add their names to the previous day. One can only wonder if they bothered to read any of the previous pages or if they really understood what they were signing. Nevertheless, it was a real coup for Monty and brought the story recorded in his little book to a satisfactory conclusion.

ran its words. “In loyal accord with our splendid American ally full and friendly contact has been made with the Russians advancing from the east. “The 21st Group of Armies, wheeling and striking to the north had the honour of liberating Holland and Denmark and of receiving and gathering as captives in the space of three or four days upwards of two millions of the once-renowned German army.” As Churchill had written at the top of the page – “At last the goal is reached.” n

NOTE:

1. The Memoirs of Field-Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, (Collins, London, 1958), pp.338-9.

There was just one more entry in the autograph book and, of course, it was made by Winston and it would not come as a surprise if the Prime Minister was the one who suggested this final entry. Montgomery had returned to Britain on 14 May, remaining there until the 24th. It was on the latter date that “Chapter X” was completed. “The terrible unconditionally

enemy has surrendered,”

JULY 2011

Employed on only eleven occasions during the First World War, ten of which were on the Somme, the fearsome Livens Large Gallery Flame-Projector has been generally overlooked by historians – until recent events have thrust it into the spotlight.

S

ome nineteen metres long and weighing 2.5 tons, the projector fired a 100-metre long arc of flaming diesel and kerosene. Operated by a crew of seven from the Royal Engineers Special Brigade – often referred to as “Z” Company – the flame-projector was therefore a very heavy piece of equipment and had to be broken down into its constituent parts for transport. No piece could be heavier than could be carried by two men. It took hundreds of man-journeys to move the projector. Designed by Captain William Howard Livens, the apparatus had the greatest range of any flame weapon used by the German or Allied armies. The weapon consisted of a long chamber containing the fuel, a fourteen-inch diameter pipe and a nozzle on the surface. A piston was pushed by compressed gas into a long chamber containing the fuel, which was in turn forced out of the surface nozzle, ignited and directed to the target. A ton of oil was reputedly required for each shot.

The floor of one of the saps or galleries used on 1 July 1916, was recorded as being ten feet below the surface of the ground; that of another was over seventeen feet. The differences in levels was accommodated for in Liven’s design as the heads of the projector, which carried the jet and the automatic lighting device, were capable, through the addition of extension tubes, of rising to a height of twenty feet above floor level.

to operate just sixty yards from the enemy’s front – well within the projectors’ range.

Just before the signal to fire was given, the pressurized gas used to propel the oil was also utilized to raise the head of the projector vertically upwards. The steel cutter which covered the jet was in this way forced through the last few remaining inches of soil. Though the opposing trench systems were about 200 yards away at this part of the line, the galleries enabled the flame-projectors

ABOVE:

It was whilst working on a book on the Somme in 2005 that historians Peter Barton and Jeremy Banning had the idea of attempting to locate parts of the abandoned projector. For the next five years, the pair consulted numerous archives investigating as many files as possible with regard to the production, testing and deployment of the The Livens Large Gallery Flame-Projector, the history of which is revealed in a new exhibition in the Historial de la Grande Guerre at Peronne. (Courtesy of Yves Gland. All images via the Historial de la Grande Guerre unless stated otherwise)

BELOW:

The excavation of the site of Sap 14 underway in May 2010. (Courtesy of Yazid Medmoun)

The range of any flame-thrower is limited by the distance it is possible to project a jet of oil before it was all burnt or broken up into spray or droplets which do not carry except with a following wind. To enable the projectors to be fired as close to the enemy trenches as possible, existing underground mine galleries were utilised for the purpose; the projector was fired from these tunnels or “Russian Saps” dug under No Man’s Land. In preparation for the opening of the Somme offensive, four projectors and sixteen portable machines were detrained at Corbie on 26 June 1916, together with sufficient trained men to handle them. An attempt was made to set up three of the weapons on the 18th Division’s front. Two were deployed successfully from tunnels just to the west of the Carnoy-Montauban road whilst a third was damaged and abandoned. The fourth was unused JULY 2011

45

ABOVE:

An example of a Livens Flame Projector awaiting delivery. (Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

RIGHT:

A remarkable discovery was made by the archaeologists when they uncovered the steps leading down to Sap 14 which had been constructed under No Man’s Land. (Courtesy of Yazid Medmoun)

BELOW LEFT:

A number of British sandbags were revealed as the dig progressed. (Courtesy of Yazid Medmoun)

BELOW RIGHT:

A number of the clamps and screws found during the dig. These clamps can clearly be seen on the illustration of the projector at the top of page 45 being used to hold sections of the pipe together. (Courtesy of Yazid Medmoun)

projector. It is only fleetingly referred to in the British Official History. “The idea was to force the Germans to keep their heads down long enough for your infantry to cross No Man’s Land,” said Peter Barton regarding the projectors’ deployment. “They were meant to scare the Germans. It didn’t kill that many people. The idea was just to make them so frightened of this horrific thing. The effect of the flame was utterly stupendous. Where they were used, the British captured the German lines with very little loss at all.” “The machine that really caught our attention was the one that was to have been fired from Sap 14 at a position in the British line between Bois Français and Mansel Copse on the 7th Division frontage,” said Jeremy Banning.

46

“The Special Brigade War Diary showed that on 28 June the machine had been brought up to the front line along a communication trench called 71st Street by a party of around 250 R.E. and Devons (8th or 9th Battalion) ...” The War Diary takes up the account of what happened next. At 02.00 hours on the morning of the 28th, the “long and heavily loaded carrying party of R.E. and Devons moving slowly through the communications trenches collided with a party of Pioneers with picks and shovels in 71st Street. Heavy hostile bombardment of trenches [then] occurred at this point.” The men struggling with the pieces of the large flame-projector were left with little choice. “Parts of flammenwerfer [flameprojector] dropped and men took cover.” As the minutes ticked by and the ground was churned over and over by the shells, a decision had to be made. At 05.30 hours, it was noted that the most important parts of flammenwerfer had been collected and placed in the entrance tunnel to Sap 14 by a group of the Royal Engineers. However, the inclined entrance tunnel was then hit by a heavy shell which sealed up the end of the sap for twenty feet, “burying vital parts of the flammenwerfer beyond recall”. “It was this tenuous but enticing line in the war diary that was the catalyst for the project,” concluded Jeremy. In what was to be the first dig on the Somme battlefields to be officially authorised by the French authorities, a party from the University

of Glasgow was invited to undertake the excavations at the site in May 2010. The University of Glasgow team, which was led by Dr. Tony Pollard (Director, Centre for Battlefield Archaeology) and Dr. Iain Banks (Executive Director, Centre for Battlefield Archaeology), was assisted by colleagues from the University of Artois. The project brief was to study Sap 14 and the nearby trenches, enter and survey the sap if possible, and to locate and recover parts of the 1916 flameprojector if still in situ.

JULY 2011

BREATHING FIRE

BRITAIN AT WAR

ABOVE:

Another of the readily identifiable parts of the projector – the gate valve. (Courtesy of Yazid Medmoun)

ABOVE RIGHT:

Peter Barton (left) and Jeremy Banning showing the location of the gate valve on an original photograph. (Courtesy of Yazid Medmoun)

BELOW:

Members of the excavation team pictured with a section of the pipe of the flame-projector recovered from the site of Sap 14. (Courtesy of Yazid Medmoun)

RIGHT:

The remarkable replica of the Livens Large Gallery Flame-Projector that forms part of the new exhibition at the Historial de la Grande Guerre. (Courtesy of Yazid Medmoun)

As site safety was of paramount importance, a geophysics survey was undertaken by Bactec International, one of the world’s leading Explosive Ordnance (EOD) and landmine clearance companies. “The dig ran throughout May and was attended by hundreds of people – locals and

JULY 2011

battlefield visitors alike,” explains Jeremy Banning. “The team adopted an ‘open house’ policy, and many people came to the site every day to watch our progress. On the second Saturday of the dig we had an official open day which was attended by several hundred people. Detailed presentations were given in French and English and we displayed many of the artefacts we had recovered.” The Royal Engineers had also agreed to undertake an unusual experimental archaeology project by creating a full-scale working reproduction of the Livens Large Gallery Flame-Projector. The purpose was to recreate and study the effect of a weapon not seen in action since 1917. The subsequent firing at Lodge Hill Camp near Chatham, Kent, was successful and hugely impressive.

walls of the museum. Aluminium, a lighter material, was thus favoured. That said, the result of the efforts of the staff and pupils of metalwork training centres in Picardy is truly impressive – as the images here show. Running until 11 December 2011, the new exhibition, “Breathing Fire – le Dragon de la Somme: The Livens Large Gallery Projector”, examines the entire history of the weapon and its deployment, looks at its inventor, and investigates the archaeological excavations undertaken near Mametz. ■ • For more information, please visit: www.historial.org

A full-size replica of the projector can also be seen in a new exhibition at the Historial de la Grande Guerre at Peronne, though it was felt impracticable to produce an exact copy of the device. Using original materials would have meant the flame-projector weighed several tons; this would have hindered its transportation and positioning within the

47

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE Hard to believe though it may seem, Winston Churchill and Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Chief of Combined Operations, planned an onslaught against the Channel Islands in 1943 which, had it been implemented, might have resulted in the almost total annihilation and destruction of the islands and their people. Danielle Whelan reveals the details of what might well have been one of the most tragic events to have befallen the British Isles during the Second World War.

T

he German invasion of the Channel Islands was undoubtedly a major boost to the morale of the Axis powers, enabling Germany to reinforce France from the Cherbourg peninsula, and maintain a strong defensive position and foothold if Germany decided to proceed with an attack on Britain. By mid July 1940 the Germans were firmly established on British territory and the dice seemed loaded in the enemy’s favour. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, reluctantly accepted the advice of the Chiefs of Staff that to defend the Channel Islands would have been futile and would consume resources that were necessary for Allied combat in the central European theatres of war.1 Though the islands had been demilitarized, British forces undertook a number of raids against these Crown territories. Inadequate planning, ambitious objectives and limited time scales to coordinate and conduct operations, however, resulted in risky and dangerous sea-borne missions. It was clear that operating with large teams of

personnel, given the geographic scale of the islands, would prove dangerous and counterproductive. However, Churchill pressed for their continuance. The following three years would result in numerous minor and major special operations coordinated by Combined Operations, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and a series of unnamed raids synchronised by facets of MI6 and MI5. Churchill and Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations from 1942, also considered major large-scale activities against the islands, some of which were implemented whilst others, thankfully, were left on the back burner. The largest and most ambitious of these was Operation Constellation which was conceived in immense detail. If implemented, the reverberations of this attack would have been felt at the very core of the

United Kingdom. In its wake, Constellation would have left the virtual annihilation and

ABOVE:

A German soldier on watch on the extreme south-western point of Jersey with a MG 13 machine-gun. The light house at La Corbière can be seen in the background. One of the Operation Condor landing beaches at Petit Port, identified by the British planners as L3, lies to the right of this view. (Courtesy of Damien Horn; Channel Islands Military Museum)

LEFT:

One of the two German 105mm coastal artillery casemates constructed overlooking the Royal Bay of Grouville on Jersey’s east coast. This casemate covers the northern sections of what the Operation Condor planners designated as Landing Area A1. (All images HMP unless stated otherwise)

JULY 2011

49

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE

destruction of the Channel Islands and their people. The narrative of intelligence on the Channel Islands is an integral part of the broader jigsaw puzzle of Allied intelligence gathering during the Second World War. It would be naïve to think that the Channel Islands’ special operations were in any way crucial to the central European theatres of war; however it is evident that British Intelligence was piecing its Channel Islands information together in the event that, at some critical stage, the information gathered may have been of some use. From the military perspective, pre-emptive intelligence on the Channel Islands was a precautionary measure for the British government, with the French coast little more than ten miles from the shores of Grouville in Jersey and even closer to the island of Alderney. The strategic relevance of the islands was never ignored but the Channel Islands would only feature in Churchill’s grand schemes if their geography benefited the war landscape. Fortunately the isles remained strategically unimportant and never experienced the repeated bombings inflicted upon the populations of Europe, Russia, Africa and the Pacific. Had Hitler not decided to push further East, or had it been necessary to open a second front to relieve pressure on Stalin’s eastern front in 1942, the Channel Islands

50

would be there waiting, their populations completely unaware that at any moment a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions might have been inflicted upon them. According to official Cabinet records, Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Operation Constellation was the proposed plan to recapture the islands and simultaneously open a second front in the Channel. Operation Constellation was the umbrella term that encapsulated three further operations code-named Condor, Coverlet, and Concertina. The operations were designed to recapture the Channel Islands through large-scale saturation bombardment, which would effectively result in executing total force on Alderney (Coverlet), Guernsey (Concertina) and Jersey (Condor). On 12 August 1942, the Prime Minister made a visit to Moscow. The trip was of particular significance to the Channel Islands and reveals the premature stages of the proposed plans to recapture the Channel Islands by force through Operation Constellation. The Allied powers were searching for a valve, one that would release pressure on the Eastern front. Stalin put the question to the Prime Minister whether it was possible to attack any other part of the French coast, apart from the Pas de Calais region. This would lie in the region where minimum air cover would be provided, whereas the opposite was evident for the Pas de Calais, which was more suited to air umbrella cover but retained shallow harbours.

BRITAIN AT WAR

ABOVE LEFT:

A view of one of the more isolated Condor landing beaches – L7 – which is located at the top of Fliquet Bay on the north-east corner of Jersey. The breakwater which projects out to sea from Verclut Point can be seen in the background. Only a visit to this location can provide a clear illustration of just how big a task the troops landing here would have experienced in attempting to link up with the remainder of the invasion force.

ABOVE RIGHT:

Located on the shoreline in the very centre of Fliquet Bay, and just south of L7, is Fliquet Tower (also known as Telegraph Tower). Dating back to the 1780s, the tower one was one three built to defend the island’s east coast from French forces. As this image shows, it was also put to use by the Germans to defend against a British attack. This photograph was taken before the castellation was reinforced with concrete by the Germans. (Courtesy of Damien Horn; Channel Islands Military Museum)

BELOW RIGHT:

Another view of Fliquet Tower, this time taken from the north looking south. A German sentry and his wooden sentry box can be seen on the roof. (Courtesy of Damien Horn; Channel Islands Military Museum)

BELOW:

Fliquet Tower today, looking north towards L7. Note the changes to the castellation undertaken by the German military authorities – the structure’s roof was also reinforced.

JULY 2011

BRITAIN AT WAR

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE

Stalin suggested a demonstration at Pas de Calais and a landing at Cherbourg. However, Churchill replied that “it would be a waste of seed corn. We would be on the defensive. It would be a running sore for us and not for the enemy. It would do more harm to us and not to him [Hitler], because it would eat into all of our forces destined for the big attack next year.”2 It was also reported that Stalin, after further discussion, had become restless and outlined that “a man who was not prepared to take risks could not win a war”.3 Understandably the urgency of a second front was top priority for the Russian leader, who was desperate for some form of relief on the Eastern front. The meeting in Moscow was the driving force for the proposed assault to recapture the Channel Islands which had also received initial support from the United States. It is evident that under Operation Constellation Churchill was prepared to take major risks with the Channel Islands and official documents prove the extremes and lengths British intelligence was willing to go to. Operation Constellation was just the trick. It was conceived for implementation in the summer months of 1943 and would operate as a sub-section of the larger proposed D-Day operation, which was originally planned for the Mediterranean.

JULY 2011

A report from the Planning Secretary to the Chief of Combined Operations on 6 February 1943, marked the beginning of the planning stages of Constellation. It outlined in detail the desirability of the islands, their topography and their positioning from the Cherbourg peninsula. It outlined that “our major strategy

ABOVE:

A small part of the enemy garrison – men who might have faced the Allied landings had Condor been executed. The camouflaged building in the background, located on St Ouen’s Bay, is the well-known Jersey landmark called “Seagull”. This structure was built to resemble a boat – hence it is also known as “The Barge Aground”. (Courtesy of Damien Horn; Channel Islands Military )

LEFT:

Diagrams showing how it was planned that the first four phases of Operation Condor would develop.

BELOW:

A German casemate overlooking the wide, open sandy beaches of St. Ouen’s Bay on the west coast of Jersey. Another of the German coastal fortifications on the bay, the southern sections of which were allocated as Landing Area A2, is home to the Channel Islands Military Museum. Open to the public, this museum allows the visitor to understand the challenges that the Allied attackers would have faced, as well as the scale of the defences available to the occupiers.

51

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE

ABOVE:

A view of Portelet Bay, or L1 as it was known, taken from Noirmont Point, the most southerly headland on Jersey. Not only is the island in the middle of the bay defended, but Noirmont Point was also the site of the Batterie Lothringen. In time, a total of four 15cm naval guns were emplaced here, along with associated personnel, ammunition and command structures – many of which can still be seen and visited. With a field of fire of nearly 360°, the guns here could have been brought into action against L1.

ABOVE RIGHT:

The coastal artillery observation post at La Moye, St. Brelade, which until August 1944 also doubled as the headquarters of the Second Battalion Army Coastal Regiment 1265. The building was camouflaged as a house, complete with painted windows and a dummy roof. At the time this picture was taken the bunker commanded views as far as Portelet Bay (L1) – this is no longer the case as today the structure is surrounded by trees. (Courtesy of Damien Horn; Channel Islands Military Museum)

BELOW:

Much altered by quarrying, this is how the beach at La Houle – L6 – appears today. The photograph was taken from Sorel Point.

INSET LEFT and RIGHT:

These two structures were part of the defences on Sorel Point, all of which overlooked the small landing beach below.

52

BRITAIN AT WAR

in 1943 is the development of the maximum offensive in the Mediterranean and we will be required to assist that strategy by a well timed offensive operation in North West Europe”. In effect, the assault on the Channel Islands would function as a diversionary measure to distract the Axis powers from the Mediterranean theatre of war.4 The documentary evidence of Operation Constellation reveals the meticulous detail of the planning stages of Constellation; letters between various War Office departments, battle plans and actual procedures for attacking the islands, military reports on the defences of the islands, the topography of the beaches and the availability of local supplies. Part of the operation was the recapture of Alderney and Guernsey under operations Concertina and Coverlet. The recapture of Alderney was of paramount importance if the operation was to yield any successes and it was a pre-requisite for a landing on the northwest beaches of the Cherbourg peninsula. In this instance Alderney was the priority island. Though the largest island, the capture of Jersey – Operation Condor – was desirable but by no means essential. Howard

Baker,

a

prominent

German

occupation researcher in the Channel Islands, explained that the Allied aim “was to regain a bridgehead for an assault on France and distract the German high command from its offences in the East. The retaking of Alderney, Guernsey, and Jersey were to serve as platforms for a full scale re-entry into mainland Europe via Normandy”.5 Constellation, it was said, would also boost British morale. A flamboyant, brilliant recapture of the islands would reassert Britain’s Empire persona and reinstate the integrity of British territory. There was, however, a cautionary note made at this time by Combined Operations staff. It was commented that “it must be anticipated that the Germans will infer from our capture of Alderney and Guernsey that this is the first step to a re-entry into the continent through the Cherbourg peninsula. It is anticipated therefore that they would strengthen the beach defences throughout the peninsula as rapidly as possible, particularly those on the western coast, at present the least heavily defended sector. That this will make a successful landing more costly it is impossible to deny”.6 This wise observation did not stop the planning process. For Alderney the

JULY 2011

Airbornec ricket.com Airbornecricket.com AUTHENTIC WARTIME WARTIME PRODUCTS FROM THE ORIGINAL BIRMINGHAM BIRMINGHAM FACTORY

Churchill’s invasion was stopped; the Occupation continued... In Toni’s Footsteps: The Channel Islands Occupation Remembered tells the stories of the only British citizens to live under Nazi rule and the soldiers who occupied them.

Original ACME Cr icket Cricket ) RUWKH¿UVWWLPHVLQFHWKH$&0(FULFNHWLVDYDLODEOH )RUWKH¿UVWWLPHVLQFHWKH$&0(FULFNHWLVDYDLODEOH DJDLQ0DQXIDFWXUHGLQWKHVDPH%LUPLQJKDPIDFWRU\RQ DJDLQ 0DQXIDFWXUHGLQWKHVDPH P %LUPLQJKDPIDFWRU\RQ WKHVDPHSUHVVHVDQGXVLQJWKHVDPHGLHV)RUDXWKHQWLFLW\ WKHVDPHSUHVVHVD QG XVLQJ WKHVDPH GLHV)RUDXWKHQWLFLW\ \RXZLOOQRW¿QGEHWWHU7KHVHDUHH[DFWO\WKHVDPHDVWKH \ RXZLOOQRW¿QGEHWWHU7KHVHDUHH[DFWO\WKHVDPHDVWKH RULJLQDOVWDNHQLQWR1RUPDQG\E\WKH RULJLQDOVWDN HQLQWR1RUPDQG\E\WKHst$LUERUQH'LYLVLRQ $LUERUQH'LYLVLRQ RQ''D\-XQH RQ' 'D\-XQH th

New price

£15.0 00 £15.00

Thunder rer Thunderer ::,,$FPH 7KXQGHUHUZKLVWOH:LGHO\ ::,,$FPH7KXQGHUHUZKLVWOH:LGHO\ XVHGE\DOOEUDQFKHV RIVHUYLFHLQFOXGLQJ XVHGE\DOOEUDQFKHVRIVHUYLFHLQFOXGLQJ 86VHUYLFHSHUVRQQHOWKHVHZKLVWOHVVHUYHG 86VHUYLFH SHUVRQQHO S WKHVHZKLVWOHVVHUYHG DYDULHW\RISXUSRVHVIURPHPHUJHQF\ D YDULHW\RII SXUSRVHVIURPHPHUJHQF\ ORFDWLRQDQGPDUVKDOOLQJWURRSVWR37 ORFDWLRQ DQG G PDUVKDOOLQJWURRSV WR37 WUDLQLQJDQGZDU]RQHWUDI¿FFRQWURO WUDLQLQJ DQG GZDU]RQHWUDII¿F ¿ FRQWURO ,,QQLFNHOSODWHGEUDVVDQGEHDULQJWKH QQLFNHOSODWHGEUDVVDQGEHDULQJWKH HYRFDWLYHGDWHVWDPSDQG:DU HY RFDWLYH GDWHVWDPS DQG :DU 0LQLVWU\EURDGDUURZ

£9.95 Air Ministry Wh histle Whistle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

£7.80 Artillery Officers Whistle WWII J Hudson whistle w by artillery made for use by RI¿FHUV%DVHGXSRQWKHRULJLQDO0HWURSROLWDQ RI¿FHUV %DVHG XS SRQWKH RULJLQDO0HWURSROLWDQ SROLFHZKLVWOHWKLV:DU'HSDUWPHQWEURDG SROLFH ZKLVWOH WKLV :DU 'HSDUWPHQWEURDG DUURZPDUNHGZKLVWOHLVLGHQWLFDOLQHYHU\ZD\ UURZ PDUNHG ZK KLVWOH LV LGHQWLFDO LQ HYHU\ZD\ WRWKHRULJLQDODQGZRXOGKDYHEHHQHPSOR\HG R WKH RULJLQDO DQG G ZRXOG KDYHEHHQHPSOR\HG E\DUWLOOHU\RI¿FHUVLQDOOWKHDWUHVRIZDU'DWH E \DUWLOOHU\ RI¿FHUUV LQ DOO WKHDWUHV RII ZDU 'DWH VWDPSHG WDPSHG

£9.20 AVAILABLE FROM M OUR WEB SHOP

www.a irborn necricket.com www.airbornecricket.com

Buy this original World War 2 documentary on DVD now for only 9.99 plus p&p.* Contrasting the horrors of war on the Eastern Front with the quiet of the Channel Islands, In Toni’s Footsteps is a remarkably personal account of a unique chapter in World War 2 history. *postage rates may vary, see website for more details. DVD & VHS available, running time 52min approx. Cheque & postal orders accepted, email [emailprotected] for details on how to order.

In Toni’s Footsteps

The Channel Islands Occupation Remembered

Order online: http://tinyurl.com/occupationdvd

£9.99

plus p&p*

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE

assault would include attacks by 500-600 heavy and medium/light bombers over two nights. This would involve six squadrons of medium or light bombers for diversionary bombing and sixteen squadrons of USAAF heavy bombers for the main attack. Its coastal reconnaissance would include one squadron of ASV (aircraft to surface vessel) aircraft and one squadron of strike aircraft – torpedo and/or bomb. Fighter aircraft would include an astonishing forty to fifty squadrons of fighters and at least two aircraft of the PRU. The consequences of such a plan were all too apparent. Indeed, official papers make the remarkable admission that “the islands cannot be taken without causing some civilian casualties. In the case of Alderney it is thought that the air bombardment will have to be on such a scale that all personnel on the islands will have to become casualties”.7

BRITAIN AT WAR

Bombing a small island like Alderney with such intensity would effectively end all opposition. Recapturing the largest of the islands, Jersey, would require a large amphibious operation. Bombing alone would not be enough. So it was planned that on the night of D-1 and D-Day the assault upon Jersey would involve aerial bombardment of the east and west coasts by 100 heavy bombers and strike aircraft. Parachute and infantry landings at St. Ouen and Grouville Bays would follow. Scramble landings by commando troops on the south-west coast would also have been implemented. The night of D-Day/D+1 would result in the landing of more infantry and artillery in Grouville and the enlarging of the beachhead to Noirmont Point, which would be, it was hoped, captured by the commandos. D+1 day would involve the landing of armour on the eastern beaches and a push north to take the whole of the east coast with the extension of the western beaches to high ground north of St Aubin’s Bay. The night of D+1/D+2 and D+2 day, would bring the assault onto St Helier by infantry from the east, whilst armoured and infantry units

54

would advance from the west. The day of D+3 and beyond would cement the joining of east and west beaches and pave the way for the complete re-capture of Jersey. The intelligence battle plans coordinated for Guernsey were similar to that of Jersey.

ABOVE LEFT:

German senior officers pictured during an inspection of the defences at Castle Cornet, Guernsey – the troops included the men of Grenadier-Regiment 582, part of 319. Infanterie-Division. (Courtesy of Damien Horn; Channel Islands Military Museum)

ABOVE:

A map showing the landing areas and beaches that were identified as part of the planning for Operation Concertina – the element of Operation Constellation that involved the invasion of Guernsey.

LEFT:

German motorcycle troops photographed heading out across the causeway to the light house at La Corbière. (Courtesy of Damien Horn; Channel Islands Military Museum)

BELOW:

Assistant Editor John Grehan looks down on L4 from the precipitous western heights of Plemont Point on the north-east corner of Jersey.

JULY 2011

BRITAIN AT WAR

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE delivered, with enormous loss of British lives, and failed. The irony in the planning for Constellation is that to justify the huge loss of life the operation had to be conducted on a massive scale to guarantee success and yet it was the very scale of the operation which would be the cause of the casualties. A number of contributing factors were vital to ensure a thorough and successful operation. Operation Constellation demanded exact timing with short five to ten minute intervals between the successions of bombings,

require consideration when the question of supporting action such as air and artillery bombardment is examined. There can be no doubt that support of this nature would cause some civilian casualties which might be heavy.”8 The evidence suggests that civilian casualties were considered as a necessary evil and part and parcel of the collateral damage. Given the amount of artillery and weaponry that was allocated for Constellation, the loss of life would have been horrifyingly, even catastrophically, high. It is clear and beyond all doubt that the outcome for the people residing in the Channel Islands in 1943 would have been disastrous. Therefore it was vital that if the operation was implemented and executed, it had to be successful. One can only imagine the political consequences if such an attack had been

FAR LEFT and LEFT:

The headland at Plemont Point was, like so many areas on the Channel Islands, heavily fortified by the Germans; many of these structures, or evidence of them, can still be seen today. This tunnel acted as a shelter for a searchlight. Running through the headland between two open galleries (one of which can be seen here), the tunnel and the rails within (also seen here) allowed the crew to cover the beaches on either side of Plemont Point.

BELOW LEFT and BELOW:

Another tunnel that can still be seen on the craggy promontory that is Plemont Point. With some of the original wooden fittings having survived in the recesses, this tunnel led to a Tobruk position (a small reinforced concrete defensive structure) that was originally fitted with a captured French tank turret which mounted a 3.7cm gun. Although the Tobruk position remains, the turret has long since disappeared. As our photographs shows, it is possible to see Landing Beach L4 from this position.

The civilian casualties would have been extreme and once the islands had been sufficiently “softened up” and heavily blitzed by air assault, a sweep and clear-up operation would commence, which would be executed by British ground troops. This operation, devised by British planners, would have a devastating impact on the islanders and the imported political prisoners, of which there were some 4,000 on Alderney by this stage of the war and as many as 10,000 in all of the in all of the Channel Islands. Surviving wartime files reveal that “some 35,000 British subjects remain in each of Guernsey and Jersey. The presence of these civilian populations will JULY 2011

55

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE

BRITAIN AT WAR inch) to 22cm (8.6-inch) which, situated well inland and heavily camouflaged, would have been difficult to locate. These big guns could also deliver plunging fire onto the landing beaches which were also covered by the 8cm (3.1-inch) and 10cm (3.9-inch) Czech-built Skoda field guns of the divisional artillery.

quick enough to prevent the enemy from rearming. The War Office files outlined that favourable weather conditions were paramount. It was envisaged that the entire procedure would take seventy-five hours, three days of saturation bombardment and two days to secure and import aid. Favourable weather and tidal currents were necessary for a period of five days.

The guns situated on the shore, with very few exceptions, were in casemates which did not face directly out to sea. Most were sited to deliver flanking fire across beaches or bays. They were additionally protected, wherever possible, by being built into rocky headlands, behind existing granite sea walls or concrete anti-tank walls.

The objective was that before any infantry landed, the islands were required to be sufficiently softened up. When the troops went ashore, a quick “sweep and clear” of the area would commence with the arrival of emergency aid for survivors. Yet we know from the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944 that even with prolonged heavy bombing it proved impossible to completely destroy the German defences – and the Channel Islands were the some of the most powerfully defended parts of Hitler’s much-vaunted “Atlantic Wall”.

The supporting infantry defences were deployed in great depth, with the main battle line being on the shore where a landing force was to be destroyed or hurled back into the sea. Here was the greatest concentration of bunkers situated to defend the most vulnerable points. In addition to the main gun casemates

The Germans had been building their main defences on the Channel Islands since 1941 and each of the larger islands had been classified as a festung – a fortress. Not only was it likely that the civilian populations of the Channel Islands would be badly affected if Constellation was approved, but also the British ground forces might suffer debilitating casualties. Victory in the Channel Islands, and Jersey in particular, would have been far from certain.

In addition the shore line was eventually protected by 7,397 running metres of antitank walls and 68,000 mines, with mile upon mile of barbed wire.

By 1943 the shores and fields of Jersey were laced by more than 100 reinforced concrete bunkers, many of which were on a truly massive scale. With walls in some cases more than twenty feet thick and mounting hundreds of weapons, the bunkers and stores held over 20,000 tons of ammunition.

Hitler had demanded that the Channel Islands should never be re-taken by the British and the various German commanders had prepared extremely well. An enemy attacking from the sea would first encounter fire from the flat trajectory guns of the coastal artillery, ranging in calibre from 15cm (5.9-

LEFT:

Evidence of the German occupation of the Channel Islands can be found almost around every corner. This German barbed wire stake is one a large number that still line the edge of the C105 road at Plemont, just south of the headland itself.

BELOW:

On the opposite side of Plemont Point from L4 was another proposed Landing Beach – L5. The rocky and inhospitable nature of this stretch of coast is evident in this picture. The camouflaged German reinforced field position in the foreground is built on top of an existing 19th-century guardhouse. A variety of machine-gun and mortar emplacements also existed in the area.

BRITAIN AT WAR

there were also personnel shelters where troops could lie in safety until required to emerge after the British bombardment had ceased. They would step up to man weapons in open positions or form mobile diversionary parties. St. Ouen’s Bay, with its long, flat sweeping shoreline, was considered to be one of Jersey’s stretches of coast most likely to be used in a British or Allied landing. It was here that the principle of “strength in depth” was most intensively applied by the Germans. There were no less than twelve strong positions, and defending the actual beaches were two coastal artillery batteries. Behind these was the second line of bunkers situated at the foot of every hill leading out of the bay, where anti-tank guns lay concealed in hidden blockhouses. Other “Resistance Nests” were equipped with heavy machine-guns and were situated to cover all the roads and open ground. All these positions were mutually supporting. Large bodies of infantry were also kept as mobile reserves and were sheltered in tunnels and other bunkers. These reserve troops would have left the safety of their quarters to man trenches and foxholes which lined the rim of the escarpment surrounding the bay. Needless to say, minefields, trenches, barbed wire entanglements and weapons in open positions were placed across every likely avenue of advance.9

JULY 2011

CONSTELLATION CATASTROPHE

Mountbatten was painfully aware of the extent of the German fortification of the Channel Islands. “Each island is a veritable fortress”, he wrote, “the assault against which cannot be contemplated unless the defences are neutralised, or reduced to a very considerable extent by prior action.” The battle for Festung Jersey would have been a bloody affair. * Perhaps because of the shocking prospect of killing so many islanders and the immense loss of life which the attackers would have suffered, no date for the implementation of Constellation was decided upon. In fact, the scheme was eventually overtaken by events and the planning for Operation Overlord moved to the top of the agenda. Indeed, when the Allied attack on France came in June 1944, it bypassed the Channel Islands altogether, despite their clear strategic value as a stepping stone. Though variations of Operation Constellation did become a reality for Cherbourg, Caen, St Malo, and Brest, subsequent to the D-Day landings, the Channel Islands were left alone, with much of the population feeling frustrated at being left on the periphery of the action. Little could they have realised just what Churchill and Mountbatten had in mind during the early months of 1943. Without a doubt, Operation Constellation would have been a catastrophe for the people of the Channel Islands. n

ABOVE:

One of the buildings from which the German defence of Jersey might have been directed should the order for Operation Condor to proceed ever have been issued. This is the Type 609 command post built at Le Coin Varin, St. Peter – one of only three such structures built on Jersey during the occupation. Note the fake wooden shutters on what appears to be a blocked-up window. In certain light conditions it is still possible to see the outline of the “window” that was painted on to help camouflage the structure.

BELOW LEFT and RIGHT:

A house converted into a gun emplacement on the harbour front at Gorey – and the same building today. The gun here faced south towards the landing area in the Royal Bay of Grouville. (Courtesy of Damien Horn; Channel Islands Military Museum)

NOTES

1. War Cabinet Report on the strategic importance of the Channel Islands, 11 June 1940 (TN, CAB 66/8/27). 2. War Cabinet Report: Prime Minister’s visit to Moscow. By direction of the Prime Minister, the report was circulated for the members of the War Cabinet, 23 August 1942 (TNA, CAB 66/28/3). 3. War Cabinet Report. Prime Minister’s visit to Moscow, 23 August 1942 (TNA, CAB 66/28/3). 4. Report from the Planning Secretary to the Chief of Combined Operations, 6 February 1943 (TNA, AIR 9/257). 5. Interview with occupation historian Howard Baker (28 July 2010). 6. Report by Planning Secretary for Combined Operations outlining the quantity of bombs required for the operation, 10 February 1943 (TNA, AIR 9/257). 7. TNA, AIR 9/257. 8. Operation Condor, 17 February 1943 (TNA, DEFE 2/650A). 9. Michael Ginns, Jersey’s German Bunkers (Channel Islands Occupation Society, Jersey, 2004), pp. 9-10.

57

month. For Bogaerde, his specific duty as a Photographic Interpreter (PI) was to analyze information of enemy positions and defences.

My War: DIRK BOGARDE

Bogaerde, whose nickname in the Army was “Pip”, landed in Normandy in June 1944 on D+4. As a PI assigned to 39 (RCAF) Wing, part of the Second Tactical Air Force, this was the start of a journey that led him across northern Europe.

58

Doctor in the House made him a star. It was the biggest boxoffice hit of 1954 and was seen by more people in its first year on cinema release than any other in British cinema history. Yet a decade earlier he had served in both the European and Far Eastern theatres. John Grehan relates the wartime experiences of Dirk Bogarde.

B

orn Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde in Kilburn, London, on 28 March 1921, he was the son of Ulric van den Bogaerde who was the art editor of The Times. He attended University College School and later studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. Bogaerde was just eighteen when war broke out but by this time he had already made his acting debut with the Amersham Repertory Company. In 1941 Bogaerde enlisted into the Royal Corps of Signals as Signalman 2371461. With time, he and a number of others were interviewed for possible selection for officer training. At the interview the fact that his father was in journalism may have swayed the interviewing panel – the officers wanted Bogaerde to arrange for the editor of Men Only to send some photographs of women

who usually featured in that magazine!1 Two years later he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant with the Queen’s Royal Regiment. In due course, by which time he had attained the rank of Captain, Bogaerde was posted to the Army Photographic Interpretation Section (APIS). Initially this organisation had been established to form part of the RAF’s Central Interpretation Unit (CIU), but still came under the direct control of the War Office. The joint service role of the CIU was completed by the addition of a small complement of Royal Navy photographic interpreters.

On the afternoon of Sunday, 3 September 1944, forward elements of the British 2nd Armoured Division entered Brussels. They were followed, the next morning, by Bogaerde and two colleagues. “Brussels, it has to be said, was marginally less hysterical [than Paris] because the Germans had pulled out. Marginally. Everyone had gone crazy. If not quite barmy.” Four months later, the streets of Brussels filled with fear once again when, on 16 December 1944, German forces launched their offensive in the Ardennes; the Battle of the Bulge had begun. One of the biggest

BELOW LEFT:

An Air Photographic Interpretation Section in Normandy, 19 August 1944. This unit was photographed at 12 Corps HQ. (IWM B9385)

BELOW RIGHT:

Dirk Bogarde, with trench coat, gas mask case and leggings, during the making of the film King and Country. Alongside him is fellow actor Peter Copley (left). (PA Archive)

During peak periods, the CIU staff had to expose and produce over 1,000,000 prints and 140,000 duplicates each

JULY 2011

advances made by the enemy almost reached the Belgian city of Dinant. By Christmas Eve, however, the improving weather conditions had allowed the Allied air forces to swing into action and the German offensive stalled. It was on this day that Bogaerde was ordered to travel to an American HQ near Dinant.

for food, clutching our hands, kissing the jeep bonnet, sobbing in gratitude, urinating down their legs as they stood, from sheer joy ... We were silent for a very long time after they had trudged away in the fading light. No one had ever warned us to expect this terrible sight.”

For Bogaerde, posted to the Driving through Half hidden in scrub and some Far East, the end the area around the city, sagging camouflage nets, crouched of the Second War came Bogaerde’s three Tiger tanks … Gun barrels World on a tragic note: team missed its destination. “In pointing straight, it would appear, “[On] VJ night in 1945 I drove the pelting rain,” at our tinny jeep. a jeep into a he later recalled, line of men – “and I confess, a nervous panic, we somehow had missed British Army deserters – on a road outside [it] … and bucketed on down a deserted Calcutta. I had wretchedly killed two people road to a river bank … There, before our in monsoon rain.” Although the subsequent appalled eyes in the spumy rain, only investigation exonerated him of all blame, half hidden in scrub and some sagging Bogaerde never drove again.3 camouflage nets, crouched three Tiger tanks … Gun barrels pointing straight, it During the war he put his artist abilities to would appear, at our tinny jeep.”2 use and he and and a close friend had a joint exhibition of their war paintings. This Professing to have never felt so exposed in event they attended in worn uniforms; the his life, Bogaerde spun his jeep round and paintings were soon all sold. After the war “skidding and lurching” in the mud, he tore Bogaerde’s acting career blossomed and, off back down the track up which he had on the advice of his agent, he changed his name to Dirk Bogarde. Nevertheless just come. his experiences in the war had a profound Eventually rising to the rank of Major, effect upon him. Bogaerde claimed to have been one of the first Allied officers to have witnessed “I was growing up quickly,” he once wrote, the reality of Bergen-Belsen Concentration “Germany saw to that.” In the late 1980s he Camp. He described what he saw in his still felt such revulsion with the scenes he had witnessed in the war that he wrote that autobiography, Cleared for Take-Off: he would “disembark from a lift rather than “We had heard growing rumours long ride with a German”. since, and a place called Auschwitz had been discovered by the Russians “My views were formulated as a 24-yearin Poland. Now we met the appalling, old officer in Normandy,” Bogarde later shattering evidence ... haggard, hysterical, explained. “On one occasion the jeep shaven-headed, weeping creatures crying ahead hit a mine ... Next thing I knew, there out to us in a babel of tongues. Begging was this chap in the long grass beside me.

JULY 2011

ABOVE:

Dirk Bogarde pictured soon after he resumed his acting career after the end of the war. (Mirrorpix)

ABOVE LEFT:

British officers pictured at the entrance to Belsen. (Mirrorpix)

A bloody bundle, shrapnel-ripped, legless, one arm only. The one arm reached out to me, white eyeballs wide, unseeing, in the bloody mask that had been a face. A gurgling voice said, ‘Help. Kill me’. With shaking hands I reached for my small pouch to load my revolver ... “I had to look for my bullets – by which time somebody else had already taken care of him. I heard the shot. I still remember that gurgling sound. A voice pleading for death ... During the war I saw more wounded men being ‘taken care of’ than I saw being rescued. Because sometimes you were too far from a dressing station, sometimes you couldn’t get them out. And they were pumping blood or whatever; they were such a wreck, the only thing to do was to shoot them. And they were, so don’t think they weren’t. That hardens you: You get used to the fact that it can happen. And that it is the only sensible thing to do.” Dirk Bogarde went on to feature in many well-known war films including A Bridge Too Far, They Who Dare, The Sea Shall Not Have Them, Ill Met By Moonlight, The Password is Courage, King & Country, and Oh! What a Lovely War. ■

NOTES:

1. Dirk Bogarde, Snakes and Ladders (Chatto & Windus, London, 1978), pp.22-23. 2. Dirk Bogarde, Cleared For Take-Off (Viking, London, 1995), p.10. 3. Sheridan Morley, Dirk Bogarde: Rank (Bloomsbury, London, 1996), p.27.

59

FREE

+£1.9

6 PO

T

he Memphis Belle achieved worldwide status as the first U.S. Army Air Force heavy bomber to successfully complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the United States.

STAG

E

“A Story of a Flying Fortress” is an incredible 1944 documentary film which ostensibly provides an account of the final mission of the legendary B-17 Bomber. And it can be yours for free (just pay £1.96 postage).

40%

OFF

RRP

OUR READERS CAN ALSO ORDER OTHER TITLES IN THE SERIES WITH A MASSIVE 40% OFF THE RRP so you can enjoy hours of watching your favourite documentaries. Other titles available in this History of Aviation series are; The Nimrod, The Shackleton , The Dakota and Battle of Britain Memorial DVD.

HISTORY OF AVIATION ORDER FORM How to claim: Online: Visit www.shop4online.co.uk/bawh0a & pay by Credit or Debit Card. Post: Complete the coupon below & send a cheque or postal order for the correct amount (made payable to ‘History of Aviation Offer’) to: History of Aviation, PO Box 142, Horsham, RH13 5FJ. Tel: For orders over £2.99 call our Order Line 0845 130 7778 History of Aviation Offer

Code

RRP

Offer Price

The Memphis Belle

1622

£12.99

Free

The Shackleton

1623

£12.99

£7.99

The Nimrod

1624

£12.99

£7.99

The Dakota

1625

£12.99

£7.99

Battle of Britain Memorial

1626

£12.99

£7.99

Total Price

Qty

Postage Total

£1.96 £

BAWHOA

Payment Method (please tick appropriate box):  I enclose a cheque or postal order made payable to ‘History of Aviation Offer for £_________ Or - Please debit my card for £________ Card number _________/_________/_________/_________ Start Date _____/_____ Expiry Date ______/______ Sec code _________ Name as stated on card __________________________________________

Title _____ First name_________________ Surname___________________ Address__________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ Postcode__________________ Country______________________________ Telephone number_______________________________ Email ___________________________________________ Delivery Address (if different to billing address) Title ____ First name_________________ Surname____________________ Address__________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ Postcode__________________ Country______________________________ Telephone number_______________________________

Terms and conditions. Orders for the FREE* ‘Memphis Belle DVD only must be submitted by post or online via www.shop4online.co.uk/bawhoa and received by 24th July 2011. Postal orders must be submitted with a completed coupon and a cheque or postal order for £1.96 to cover postage. Only one FREE* ‘Memphis Belle DVD per reader and multiple applications will not be accepted. All orders for the additional titles will include the FREE* ‘Memphis Belle DVD and must be submitted with a completed form and correct payment. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer. Allow 28 days for delivery from closing date. Offer subject to availability. In the event of a title being unavailable, we reserve the right to send an alternative title. We can only provide refunds for damaged or faulty goods. Open to UK residents only. Promoter - Robell Media Promotions, PO Box 142, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 5FJ.

online.co.uk

THE

LITTLE RED LIGHTS The situation was deteriorating. Merchant shipping losses were mounting and valuable and experienced crew were being lost at sea. Even when crew members had survived the sinking of their ship often they could not be found in the vast turbulent expanses of ocean by the rescue ships, particularly at night. An answer had to be found and as John and Rupert Eastell explain, it was John’s father who devised a solution.

T

he Battle of the Atlantic was one that Britain could not afford to lose. Yet throughout the early years it was the Kriegsmarine that held the upper hand, its submarines proving highly effective against the almost defenceless merchantmen and difficult for the Royal Navy to hunt down. All merchant ships were considered to be enemy vessels and their crews treated as such. “Rescue no one and take no one with you,” RearAdmiral Karl Doenitz is reported to have told his U-boat commanders in November 1939. “Have no care for the ships’ boats. Weather conditions and proximity of land are of no account. Care only for your own boat and strive to achieve the next success as soon as possible. We must be hard in this war.”

JULY 2011

It was against this background that the British government came under increasing pressure to respond. In particular, it had to be seen to be improving safety at sea for the merchant ships. Having quickly introduced the convoy system, it also stepped up the use of intelligence from Bletchley Park for tracking U-boat movements to give more protection to the ships. It also introduced better radar for search and rescue aircraft.

LEFT:

The survivors of one Merchant Navy crew are rescued after their ship was sunk in October 1940. In the Second World War, German U-boats sank nearly 14.7 million tons of Allied shipping, which amounted to some 2,828 ships (around two thirds of the total Allied tonnage lost). The United Kingdom alone suffered the loss of 11.7 million tons, which represented 54% of the total Merchant Navy fleet at the outbreak of the Second World War. (Mirrorpix)

61

THE LITTLE RED LIGHTS

BRITAIN AT WAR LEFT:

Eric Eastell in 1944. (Courtesy of John and Rupert Eastell)

RIGHT:

Majorie Eastell, Eric’s wife, pictured whilst testing a prototype of a new design of life jacket light in 1943. (Courtesy of John and Rupert Eastell)

of a ship. There were also concerns regarding the use of white lights, these being the same colour as those on life rafts. There was plenty of press coverage of the issue at the time and several individuals picked up on this and began to develop their responses. The frontrunner in this endeavour was Eric Eastell, a businessman who ran a company called Electrical Auto Services (Easco) in Brixton, South London. The company’s business at that time was to rewind dynamos and magnetos for cars, vans and taxis.

In addition, a number of specific initiatives were set up to focus on improving safety at sea. These included the development of more reliable waterproof flares, the introduction of provisions into lifeboats, and more effective life jackets. The basic life jacket issued by the Board of Trade had consisted of a hollow vest with blocks of cork, front and back. This design was found to be quite unsatisfactory and carried a real risk to the wearer that jumping into the water could lead to their neck being broken. The solution suggested at the time was that the wearer should lower themselves into the water rather than jump! In turn there came the introduction of a waistcoat made from Kapok fibre that was the forerunner of the modern type of life vest. One specific subject that had to be addressed was the problem of rescuers not being able to locate life-jacketed survivors who had drifted from their boats. This issue was becoming more significant as the Kriegsmarine’s tactics were evolving towards the use of “wolf-packs” to attack convoys, particularly at night. There was some support for the wider use of designs of sea-proof torches that were already available, a response that was encouraged by the well-known campaigner for seamen’s safety, Miss Bridget Talbot. However these were not practicable to use in such situations of distress and immersion in water that may have followed the sinking

RIGHT:

Eric Eastell’s Easco Life Jacket Light. This example was manufactured under licence by Valbania Limited. (HMP)

62

In December 1939, Eastall began to develop a prototype life jacket light that could clip onto the shoulder of the person in the water. It was a very simple design with only a few components, all of which needed to be easily obtainable in order to make the product viable for manufacture at that time. The Easco prototype consisted of a battery container, one U2 battery, a connector/ switch, wire, crocodile clip and a waterproof light. The key to success for Easco was to ensure the waterproofing of the battery and reliability of the light bulb, whilst keeping the weight of the product to a minimum. The ideal container was the one that gentlemen used to keep their shaving soap in. The Metal Box Company made this, and whilst perfect in size and shape for a U2 battery, it had a design flaw. This was that the tin unscrewed in the middle whereas it needed to be at one end to protect the battery, as well as being less costly and easy to manufacture. An alternative supplier was quickly found; the firm of Dale Containers agreed to supply an amended version that unscrewed at one end. Finding the right light was more difficult. Eric Eastall identified that bicycles already had a

waterproof version and so when visiting his young sons who had been evacuated to Reading he went to every cycle shop in the town before finding the right model, a rear light off a Raleigh bike. The other components were less troublesome, with the crocodile clips having been used on his battery chargers in Easco since 1926 and the connectors being from HT radio sets and grid bias batteries. Once the prototype was ready, field trials were carried out in a Scottish Loch, using a dinghy and life jacket. These were successful and proved the effectiveness of the design,

particularly the red light. This also led to the development of a battery-operated marine buoy light that was put into production shortly afterwards. The life-saver was now ready for the market and a production line was set up in the Billiards Hall that was adjacent to Easco’s radio shop in Kennington. The lights were often delivered direct to ships owned by wellknown operators such as White Star Line and Cunard. The product soon earned a positive reputation with many rescue accounts referring to the “little red lights” as they became known. There were some technical problems but the single biggest issue was that of the batteries being run flat by seamen who used the lights (with the red covers removed) for reading in their bunks. One response was for the lights only to be issued when a boat was sinking.

During the period of the war, Eric filed for patent protection for his initial design (No.540862) together with a separate application (No.557104) for an improved design in April 1942. The lights had a list price of seven shillings and sixpence, but it appears that the Admiralty was receiving a significant discount on account of their bulk orders. * The SS Harlesden left the Clyde in February 1941 bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her crew would soon be just some of those many men that would owe their lives to those little red lights. By 22 February 1941, the convoy of unescorted, empty merchant ships was

some 500 miles from Newfoundland when radio messages were received stating that one of the ships had been attacked by an enemy surface raider. The German battleship Gneisenau was at large in the Atlantic.

ABOVE:

Survivors from a merchant ship sunk in May 1940 are rescued from their impromptu raft by the crew of a Royal Navy warship. (Mirrorpix)

BELOW:

British seamen, rescued from a torpedoed merchantman, pictured receiving new outfits of clothes having been landed at a north-west port, March 1941. By the end of the Second World War, some 30,000 merchant seamen had lost their lives. (Mirrorpix)

Within a short time Easco’s new production facility was unable to cope with the demand and so the firm relocated into a new factory in Brighton Terrace, Brixton, next to the Empress Theatre. However, this facility was soon producing other Easco products and so, in August 1940, a contract was signed with a company called Valbania Limited, based in South Lambeth, for that business to produce the life jacket lights under licence. Valbania Ltd, owned by Tom Tanner, whose daughter was to marry Eric Eastell’s middle son, John, after the war, went on to produce 80% of the 1,000,000 Easco Life Jacket Lights supplied to the Merchant Navy and other organisations during the Second World War. JULY 2011

63

THE LITTLE RED LIGHTS

In an attempt to escape the German warship, the convoy was ordered to scatter. However, at 14.30 hours a seaplane appeared in the sky above the Harlesden. With machine-guns blazing, it dived and strafed the ship, flying so low that it carried away the Harlesden’s main aerial with its floats. The Arado Ar 196 then dropped one of its 50kg bombs which landed in the water close to the Harlesden’s stern on the port side. The aircraft turned and attacked again, releasing its second bomb. This too narrowly missed the ship. At its full speed of eleven knots, the 5,483grt merchant ship headed south and as evening wore on, with no sign of the German raider, the crew thought that they may have escaped with only the minor damage from the Arado’s guns and bombs. Then, suddenly, the merchantman was illuminated by a powerful searchlight followed immediately by the crash of heavy shells smashing through the Harlesden’s hull; lighter shells hit the deck structures. “Enormous crashes,” recalled the Third Mate, William S. Mutimer, “like a thousand dustbins all flying around and hitting one another”. Bill Mutimer, his right arm already broken in the attack by the Arado, had been below decks when those first shells landed. Though drowsy from the morphine he had been given to ease his pain, he climbed up to the main deck to find one of the ship’s lifeboats being lowered on the port side. Mutimer reached the lifeboat and 64

BRITAIN AT WAR

immediately took charge of the situation. He managed to get the badly shocked men to take up the oars and, with the Bosun steering, they set off to try and find other survivors. It was night time in a swollen dark sea, hundreds of miles from land. The chances of finding any of their mates in midAtlantic were slight at best – had it not been for the Easco Life Jacket Lights. “Guided by the red lights on their life jackets, six or more men were rescued by this lifeboat until a guttural voice, hidden in the darkness surrounding the searchlight, ordered them to bring their boat alongside.” The men, many

ABOVE:

The cargo ship Confield sinking in the Western Approaches after having been torpedoed by U-58 whilst en route from Port Alberni, Canada, to the United Kingdom with a cargo of timber, 8 October 1940. Only one crewman was lost. (Mirrorpix)

BELOW:

The advert for the Easco Life Jacket Light placed in one edition of the Merchant Navy Journal in 1942. (Courtesy of John and Rupert Eastell)

of whom were wounded and half-drowned, were assisted aboard the Gneisenau. Thanks to Eric Eastell’s little red lights only seven men were lost out of a crew of forty-one. It was described by the historian Gabe Thomas as “miraculous”.1 There are no firm figures for the number of lives “saved” as a result of the Easco Life Jacket Light. Some reports talk of several thousand but this has never been verified. However, there is anecdotal evidence to support the impact they had on safety at sea, and all from a relatively simple and cost-effective innovation. At the end of the war, in a generous gesture, Easco decided to grant an unlimited licence for the Admiralty to produce the life jacket lights, without payment of any royalties, for the princely sum of £2,000. n

NOTES

1. Gabe Thomas, MILAG: Captives of the Kriegsmarine, Merchant Navy Prisoners of War, Germany 1939-1945 (The Milag Prisoner of War Association), p.20.

JULY 2011

N O I S S DMI

A E E FR

rn a e l s to

rs u o t abou

n o t i r B t a e r G r u o y g n i

Br

e r fi t i p S t s e l d l l a O H s in d’ l a t r i o r B W f rg e o o h . t e l f m t o t u a e e B s m u e o i h m b H t f o f a o r m d . . r e w o m f m w u s o o e w H s C u n m o f a r . w Lond ww Cosford: T: 01902 376 200 London: T: 020 8205 2266

Email: [emailprotected] Email: [emailprotected]

WIN! A REMARQUED LIMITED EDITION PRINT SIGNED BY BOMBER COMMAND VETERANS

In this month’s free prize draw, one lucky reader will have the opportunity to win a Remarqued limited edition print signed by four Bomber Command veterans.

T

his new print, which featured on last month’s front cover, is by the award-winning aviation artist Mark Postlethwaite. Entitled “Veterans”, it depicts an Avro Lancaster crew arriving at their aircraft in preparation for an operational sortie over Germany. This print serves as a tribute to all those unsung heroes, the crews of mainforce who went about their thankless task night after night in the full knowledge that, statistically, they probably would not survive their tour of thirty operations.

The print is signed by four Bomber Command veterans, one of whom is Warrant Officer Royston Clark, a Wireless Op/Air Gunner who flew with 101 Squadron. “The artwork is terrific, one of the best Lancasterprints I’ve ever seen”, said Royston. “I can’t stop looking at all the detail – from the correct handles on the bags, to the church in the far distance. It takes me right back to the days when I

was boarding my Lancaster with my crew, and I can imagine that’s me as I was flying during the winter of 1943/44 the same time asportrayed in the scene.” Not only is the edition limited to just 400 copies (only numbers 1 to 100 are signed by the four veterans), but the prize in this month’s free draw is one of only ten Remarques. Numbered 2/10, the print is worth £250. A Remarque is a little original pencil drawing done by the artist in the border of a print.As each Remarque is different this makes each print unique. Mark points out that each Remarque is drawn to order so if you would like to commission your own on this print, please contact him on 0781 260 2505 or email: [emailprotected]. Hurry, at the time of writing there are just six left!

No purchase necessary. You do not need to use this form. To enter either fill in this form, a copy of it, or simply write the required details on a postcard or piece of paper and send it to: ‘Britain at War’ Magazine (Lancaster Print), Green Arbor, Rectory Road, Storrington, West Sussex, RH20 4EF. The closing date for entries is 15 August 2011. The winner will be notified by email or telephone. Name: ........................................................................................................... Address: ....................................................................................................... Postcode: ............................... Telephone: .................................................. Email: ............................................................................................................

For more information on this atmospheric limited edition print or to place an order, please visit:

www.posart.com

‘Britain at War’ Magazine and Green Arbor Publishing Ltd. are fully compliant with the data protection act. We may contact you with details of relevant special offers. Tick here if you do not wish this to happen. We occasionally share data with other selected organisations who may wish to send you details of their products or services by post. Tick here if you do not wish this to happen. TERMS AND CONDITIONS: The competition is open to all citizens of the United Kingdom, except employees of Green Arbor Publishing Ltd and agent organisations, or their families. No purchase necessary. Entry to the competition is restricted to one entry per person please. Multiple entries will be disqualified. The prize can only be sent to a valid United Kingdom address unless otherwise stated. The deadline for entries to be received by is 15 August 2011. The winner will be drawn on 16 August 2011. The winner(s) will be contacted within twenty-one days, their names may be displayed in a future issue or online, and will receive their prize within twenty-eight days from notification of the result. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered in to.

CONVOY ATTACK

The large German convoy, en route to the beleaguered enemy garrison on the island of Crete, was protected by warships, torpedo boats, Arado Ar 196 floatplanes, and Luftwaffe fighters. Somehow the convoy had to be stopped but the Royal Navy had no forces immediately available. So the order was passed down to the RAF. Chris Goss tells the story of the mass attack that followed.

B

y the early summer of 1944, the German forces in the Mediterranean were suffering at the hands of increasingly superior Allied naval, army and air forces. This was particularly notable in the Aegean and especially the seas around Crete where supplies for the beleaguered Wehrmacht garrison were starting to run out. By May 1944, the Kriegsmarine could only muster sixteen merchant ships to supply all of the Aegean Islands still under German control and, as the events of 1 June 1944 would show, these vessels had to run the gauntlet every time they set sail. On the evening of 31 May 1944, a substantial convoy set sail from Piraeus on the Greek mainland – its destination was the port of Candia (Heraklion Harbour) in Crete. It consisted of the merchant ships Tanais, Gertrud and Sabine escorted by four torpedo boats, three submarine hunters and two smaller fast torpedo boats. The convoy was not only protected by barrage balloons but by Messerschmitt Bf 109s from either 13 Staffel/Jagdgeschwader 27 (13/JG 27) or 5/JG 51, four Junkers Ju 88s

from possibly 3 Staffel/Aufklärungsgruppe 33 and four Arado Ar 196 floatplanes from 4 Staffel/Seeaufklärungsgruppe 126 (4/126). The importance of this convoy was not lost on the Allies as Air Marshal Keith Park, Air Officer Commanding Middle East Command indicated in a cable to the Station Commander at Gambut: “As the Navy have no ships available, it remains to the Air Force to put this convoy down. The German military garrison in Crete is badly in need of supplies and the destruction of one or more ships of this convoy will be an important victory. There is bound to be flak and there may be fighter opposition and the AOC-in-C wishes you good luck and good hunting in your important mission.” Allied aircraft shadowed the convoy throughout 1 June 1944, losing a Baltimore of 454 Squadron RAAF (flown by Warrant Officer George Liels) early in the afternoon. However, that evening, with the convoy just forty miles from Crete, the order to attack was given. A total of sixty-three aircraft were involved,

attacking in two waves. The first wave consisted of twelve Marauders of 24 Squadron SAAF, fifteen Baltimores of 15 Squadron SAAF and three Baltimores of 454 Squadron, all of which were escorted by seven Spitfires from 94 Squadron and six Spitfires and four Mustangs of 213 Squadron. The second wave was made up of Beaufighters from 252 Squadron (ten in total), 603 Squadron (eight), 227 Squadron (two) and 16 Squadron SAAF (four). The Beaufighters had two roles – flak suppression and, for the majority, attacking with rockets. The Operations Record Book for 252 Squadron explains the build up to the attack: “During the early hours of the morning of the 1st of June, orders were received for eight Beaufighters to proceed to Gambut for a strike against a convoy sighted by a

ABOVE:

The German convoy photographed whilst being shadowed by a Martin Baltimore of 454 Squadron. (All images courtesy of author)

67

CONVOY ATTACK

ABOVE:

An Arado Ar 196 of 4 Staffel/ Seeaufklärungsgruppe 126 pictured at Suda Bay, Crete. In the background it is possible to see the wreck of HMS York, which was badly damaged by Italian explosive motor boats on 26 March 1941. On 18 May, further damage was inflicted by German bombers and the ship was damaged beyond repair. Her main guns were wrecked by demolition charges and the warship scuttled on 22 May 1941, when the Allies began to evacuate Crete.

BELOW LEFT:

A Beaufighter of 252 Squadron – ten of this unit’s aircraft participated in the attack on 1 June 1944.

BELOW RIGHT:

The view of Axis shipping from the co*ckpit of an Arado Ar 196 of 4 Staffel/ Seeaufklärungsgruppe 126 (4/126).

Wellington of 38 Sqn … It was known that the forces in Crete were extremely short of supplies and it was anticipated that the enemy would endeavour to run a convoy to relieve the garrison there. It was decided to send all our serviceable aircraft and crews to Gambut and accordingly 10 Beaufighters with 13 crews departed from Mersa Matruh for Gambut at first light … Eight aircraft as the striking force and two as anti-flak …”

68

BRITAIN AT WAR

At 18.57 hours, the convoy was sighted by the leading Allied bomber twenty-seven miles north of Candia. Six minutes later the Marauders attacked, followed two minutes later by the Baltimores. Much of the bombing was inaccurate, although a hit was claimed on the Sabine which was leading the convoy. Turning for home unscathed, the bombers now passed the Beaufighters streaking in for the attack at low-level. Their attack would be far more dramatic and effective although it appeared that initially, things might not go as planned. The Beaufighters had taken off from Gambut at 16.28 hours led by Wing Commander Bryce “Willie” Meharg, Commanding Officer of 252 Squadron. At 19.08 hours, this formation, less two aircraft which had to return early with mechanical trouble, approached the convoy from the west. “Willie” Meharg immediately gave the order to attack. The German ships put up a wall of flak and before he could do anything, Meharg’s Beaufighter was hit. With its port wing on fire, the Beaufighter dived into the sea on the east side of the convoy. Though the other crews believed that Meharg and his navigator, Flying Officer Ernest Thompson, had been killed, they had survived.

“I was wondering vaguely in my confused mind why everything was so still and peaceful,” Thompson later wrote. “… Slowly I became conscious of the fact that my body was in water which was steadily coming up to my head. Suddenly I realised fully everything that had happened and knew that I must get out quickly before the aircraft sank. “Two mistakes in the next few seconds might have cost me my life there and then. I tried to throw myself out of the hatch but I had not released the seat strap harness which held me so securely at the moment of the terrific impact with the water. Frantically the straps were undone and I dived through the hatch to be pulled up short with a sudden jolt which seemed almost to break my neck. The lead from my headphones to the intercom socket was still plugged in but fortunately the strain jerked the earphones from the helmet. “As I came up to the surface my eye caught sight of the yellow rubber dinghy not more than ten yards away. I struck out for it immediately only to find that the enemy fire had accounted for this as well – it was holed and useless. “However, this shattering blow was temporarily forgotten when I turned to look back towards what was left of the aircraft.

JULY 2011

CONVOY ATTACK

BRITAIN AT WAR

There was the nose and the pilot’s co*ckpit still above the water and I was so relieved to see this that I found myself shouting ‘Willie! Willie!’ and trying to swim my fastest at the same time. I was about half-way there when I saw the skipper already in the sea hanging on to a small piece of floating wood. I called out ‘You OK Willie?’ and heard him reply ‘I’m all right. How about yourself?’ “Yes, I thought for the first time, how am I? I glanced down at my left arm and it looked horrible, a piece of raw flesh with streamers of skin trailing in the water like the white of an egg. But there was no pain at all – yet. “We were both holding on to the plank when what was left of the aircraft went down, nearly taking us with it. Heaven knows how much oil came flooding to the surface, covering us with filth. No matter how much we kicked we could not make clear water and finally we gave up trying but still clung to the plank …” * The attack on the German convoy that followed “Willie” Meharg’s crash was nothing short of devastating. The first two of the squadron’s aircraft to attack were the anti-flak ’planes flown by Warrant Officer J.S. Bates and Pilot Officer H.A. Stevenson. They singled out one of the

JULY 2011

destroyers at the rear of the convoy, firing a total of fourteen rockets and then opening fire with cannon. Squadron Leader Ian Butler then attacked the Sabine followed by Pilot Officer A.W. Pierce; between them they fired sixteen rockets which apparently blew off the stern of the Sabine. Flying Officer G.G. Tuffin then hit an unidentified escort, leaving it spewing huge clouds of smoke and steam. Warrant Officer F.C.H. Jones targeted a destroyer in the centre of the convoy before peeling off to attack the Tanais. Pilot Officer J.A.T. Mackintosh and Warrant Officer S.E. Legat attacked a destroyer and the Sabine respectively but missed. Finally, Pilot Officer W. Davenport struck at the Gertrud with eight 60 lb rockets. Scoring direct hits on the bridge and superstructure, a huge sheet of flame and black smoke were seen. The remaining three Beaufighter squadrons also carried out similar attacks on the convoy.

ABOVE LEFT:

The Beaufighters of 603 Squadron, of which eight were involved in the attack, target one of the German vessels.

ABOVE RIGHT:

One of the enemy warships under attack by 603 Squadron. On the right it is possible to see what is believed to be the crash of Wing Commander Meharg’s Beaufighter.

BELOW:

The convoy comes under attack by 252 Squadron. Note the two Beaufighters visible in the air, particularly the one top right just beneath this caption.

In their wake, the Germans were left counting the cost. The Sabine was burnt out and had to be torpedoed. The Gertrud was also well ablaze but was towed into Candia Harbour. The Tanais had also been severely damaged but managed to make it to harbour later that evening. Two of the submarine hunters, UJ2105 and UJ2101, were sunk and one

69

ABOVE LEFT:

With smoke rising from strikes against the convoy, and flak bursting in the sky, one of the Allied aircrew found the time to photograph another of the hazards they faced on 1 June 1944 – a barrage balloon.

ABOVE MIDDLE:

The damaged aircraft flown by Captain Barrett and Lieutenant Haupt of 16 Squadron pictured heading for Crete.

BELOW:

An attack being made on the convoy by Flying Officer Tuffin and Warrant Officer Burns.

torpedo boat, TA16, badly damaged. To make matters worse, the following evening a mixed force of Marauders and Baltimores attacked Candia Harbour, sinking the Gertrud and TA16. As already mentioned, the Allied squadrons involved in the attack suffered losses. In addition to the loss of Wing Commander Meharg, Flight Sergeant Ron Atkinson and his navigator, Sergeant Dennis Parsons,

70

of 603 Squadron were reported missing. Equally, the Beaufighter of Flying Officer John Jones and his navigator, Flying Officer Ron Wilson, of 227 Squadron was so badly damaged by flak that they crash-landed on the north-east coast of Crete on the way back; both men were taken prisoner. Finally, the Beaufighter of Captain E.A. Barrett and Lieutenant A.J. Haupt of 16 Squadron SAAF lost a port engine to the anti-aircraft fire and crash-landed at Hierapetra on Crete. Again, both crew members were captured. Curiously, the Arado Ar 196s of 4/126 claimed a total of four Beaufighters; one each by Oberfeldwebel Kurt Chalupka, Oberfähnrich Fritz Rupp, Oberfeldwebel Werner Kurth and Unteroffizier Hässler. Although Flight Sergeant F.G.W. Sheldrick of 227 Squadron claimed to have shot down an Arado and a 454 Squadron crew reported seeing a Messerschmitt Bf 109 crash into the sea, just three Arados returned damaged by friendly fire. The 252 Squadron diarist made the following comment: “The news of the successes of our aircraft had an intoxicating effect

amongst all members of the squadron and congratulatory messages were received … It is hoped that the enemy will soon run more convoys to his garrison in Crete but in view of the catastrophe of his convoy of 1st June, it is thought extremely unlikely that he will do so.” * However, as the Beaufighters returned home, two British airmen were still waiting to be rescued. Ernest Thompson continued his account of the events that day: “Looking away from the convoy, we simultaneously sighted a small yellow object about forty yards away and recognized it as the dinghy pack. What luck! Willie kicked off his shoes and swam towards it. He brought it back and together we opened it without a word, though each of us were thinking of that precious Very pistol and its three cartridges. It was our only hope. “The gun was quickly assembled and now we settled down to wait for the circling aircraft to be in the most favourable position for observation. Three cartridges meant three chances. Willie held the pistol aloft and at what he thought was the right moment fired it

JULY 2011

CONVOY ATTACK

BRITAIN AT WAR

into the air. A red star sped 100 feet skywards and then descended leaving a trail of smoke. We waited with our hearts beating but it was soon obvious that our Godsent effort to claim attention had gone by unobserved. The pistol was reloaded and again we waited. A few minutes later two Arado 196s made a very wide orbit and were approaching close to us. This was it. Please God make them look this way. “Again the little red distress star sailed through the air and this time our prayers were answered. Almost immediately they turned and came in our direction. One of them did a tight turn directly over our heads and I watched the gunner closely but his guns did not move … “A few minutes later, the second aircraft flew directly over our heads, very low and

JULY 2011

dropped a smoke float. Smoke billowed forth and our position was obvious for all to see. Every one of the aircraft came over to have a look … Their crews seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. “Then we saw the Arados land and taxi towards us. Willie hastily threw the gun away just in case and our saviours came alongside. Willie made for one machine and I went to the other where the gunner was standing on the starboard float. ‘Climb on the float,’ he ordered, surprising me with his very good English. But I found it impossible to obey. “My leg seemed paralysed and my arm and head were so tender that I couldn’t bear to touch anything. Somehow he managed to haul me out of the sea and into the aircraft and I took his seat at the rear, chilled to the bone. The air was now at my burns and it was incredibly painful.

“The engine of the other ’plane roared and I looked round to see it take off. We were turning into wind when the gunner told me to sit on the floor. I did so and he began to unwrap a firstaid dressing but the aircraft began to leap forward and after a number of bumps it suddenly became smooth. Never was I so glad to be airborne …” * There would be a sad postscript to this story. Only one freighter survived the attack on 1 June 1944 – the 1,500 ton Tanais. Although badly damaged, the Tanais was subsequently declared seaworthy and on the night of 8 June 1944, set sail for Piraeus. A few days before, the Germans had decided to round up the majority of the Cretan Jewish community. Some 265 Jews, together with some 600 captured Resistance fighters and Italian PoWs, had been loaded onto the ship. At 02.31 hours on 9 June 1944, she was spotted by the British submarine HMS Vivid thirty-three miles north-east of Piraeus. At 03.13 hours, the submarine’s commander, Lieutenant John Varley, gave the order to fire four torpedoes, two of which hit the Tanais. Just fifteen minutes later the German ship slipped beneath the surface, taking with her countless victims, at least 100 of whom were children. n

ABOVE:

The Sabine under attack by 16 Squadron SAAF: note the vehicles and stores on deck.

BELOW LEFT:

One of the 4/126 German pilots who claimed to be victorious on 1 June 1944, Fritz Rupp.

BELOW RIGHT:

Personnel of 4/126 discussing the events of 1 June 1944.

71

OPENING HOURS

AIRBORNE MUSEUM ‘HARTENSTEIN’ OOSTERBEEK This unique museum on the Battle of Arnhem in september 1944, housed in the impressive 19th century Villa Hartenstein (former headquarters of the British command during the battle), offers on 1700 square metres an exiting view on this history. In the completely renewed presentation stories of British, Polish and German soldiers come to life, as well as those of civilians who lived in agony. The museum shows a large collection authentic wapenry, documents, films and pictures. In the Airborne Experience, covering 900 square metres, for which the museum received several awards, you find yourself in the middle of the battle. It is a truly gripping experience where the war comes very close. For additional information please visit our website.

WWW.AIRBORNEMUSEUM.NL

y v a N l a y Ro

at War

01453 825381 [emailprotected]

At Atlantics tlantics W Waterline aterline

From 1 April until 1 November: Monday through Saturday: 10.00 until 17.00 hours Sundays and Public Holidays: 12.00 until 17.00 hours From 1 November until 1 April: Monday through Saturday: 11.00 until 17.00 hours Sundays and Public Holidays: 12.00 until 17.00 hours Closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ Utrechtseweg 232, 6862 AZ Oosterbeek, The Netherlands t: +31 26 3337710 f: +31 26 3391785 e: [emailprotected] i: www.airbornemuseum.nl

Design: © Michal Kuscielek | www.artefaktdesign.nl

Stroud Gloucester Bristol Plymouth Worcester Cardiff Coventry Sheffield

Special Models

Nav av vis Neptun Nept pttun 1/1250th 1//125 25 50tth waterline wat wa ate terline Navis

Great 1/700 models of the modern Royal Navy in both kit and readymade form. HMS Albion, HMS Mounts Bay, HMS Richmond and HMS Cornwall, Sandown and Hunt Minesweepers.

Superbly handbuilt 33cm long Bravo Delta solid mahogany model of the Hawker Demon. Deep, richly painted finish with very nice detailing. Actually a snip at (ANTBD8)

100’s s of 100’s Waterline W ate erline Ship Models M HMS King George V z HMS Nelson z HMS Royal Oak HMS Warspite z HMS Repulse z HMS Hood HMS Victorious z HMS Indomitable z HMS Ark Royal HMS Hermes z HMS Glorious z HMS Attacker HMS Exeter z HMS Belfast z HMS Dido z HMS Ajax

Oldest Ol ldest Stringbag

W5856 is the oldest flying Swordfish in the world, based at Yeovilton. Excellent 1/72 Corgi die-cast model. (AA36302)

model shops and online stores

£32.50

£149.00 0

Winning W Weapon eapon

Hobbymaster 1/72 ready made model of the 25lb gun and tractor that made a dramatic contribution to victory in WWII. (HG4001) now only

£19.50 0

OPERATION SIDECAR y a D D r o f g n Traini

The quiet of a spring morning in rural West Sussex was disturbed by a team of fifty US servicemen who placed flares across the flat green fields. Livestock had been removed and the locals made aware of what was to come. Then, writes Alexander Nicoll, at 11.40 hours on 18 April 1944, the sky filled with dozens of aircraft and gliders.

D

-Day was just a matter of weeks away and a vital part of that operation was the aerial assault by the glider-borne troops of the US 101st Airborne Division. The glider pilots that would transport these men, alongside the others to fly on D-Day, had to be able to land their fullyladen aircraft in small fields, possibly no greater than 350 yards long, which were bordered by high hedges and large trees. Somehow, a suitable site to practise such landings had to be found. A search led the Americans to a series of fields north of the West Sussex village of Dial Post. This agricultural area was considered to be very similar to the intended landing zones in Normandy and a large-scale exercise, with the code-name Operation Sidecar, was planned. A total of forty-eight gliders would be involved in the exercise. Officially, the main objectives were: 1) To test the ability of the pilots to land in a selected area; 2) To ascertain the minimum size of fields required for satisfactory glider landings; 3) To test

JULY 2011

the glider capacity of individual fields; 4) To evaluate the effectiveness of the glider force, in equipment and troops, for battle after landing; and 5) To find the length of time for the airborne force to form up, with equipment, at selected rendezvous points.1 The force involved consisted of eight Britishbuilt Airspeed Horsa gliders and forty of the smaller American Waco CG-4A gliders, the latter equipped with “parachute arresters”. The operational units were from 101st Airborne Division and 437 Troop Carrier Group, part of the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing, which was based at RAF Ramsbury near Marlborough in Wiltshire (known to the USAAF as Station AAF-469). The crews of the latter flew a combination of Douglas C-47s and C-53 Skytrains. Each Horsa was loaded with a Jeep combined with a 57mm gun or a howitzer, or a similar weight of ammunition. Twelve of the Wacos carried either a Jeep, a howitzer, a gun or the equivalent weight in ammunition. The other Wacos were loaded with sandbags to simulate a normal operational cargo.

Each glider had a pilot and co-pilot but no troops were on board. The crews who would normally be on board the gliders to unload the cargo were to wait at the landing zone as a precautionary measure to minimise casualties during the exercise. The Waco gliders were fitted with tail parachute brakes, which were a new development that most of the pilots had not used before. The original plan for the exercise called for four flights fifteen minutes apart, the landing to take place at first light, i.e. thirty minutes after nautical twilight, to closely simulate the conditions that the pilots would experience on D-Day. This was subsequently considered to be too hazardous and the time was changed to late morning.

BELOW:

One of the eight Horsa gliders after its landing in the fields north of Dial Post, West Sussex, during Operation Sidecar, 18 April 1944. Note what appears to be an M1 Garand leaning against the wing. (All images US Army unless stated otherwise)

73

OPERATION SIDECAR Training For D-Day

ABOVE:

In a scene reminiscent of the airborne landings during Operation Overlord or Market Garden, Horsa and Waco gliders litter the West Sussex countryside.

ABOVE RIGHT:

A field of oats growing in the middle of what was RAF Ramsbury in Wiltshire – the airfield from which the aircraft and gliders used in Operation Sidecar took off. Located some five or so miles north-east of Marlborough, Ramsbury was intended for use by RAF Operational Training Units, but on 11 June 1942, it was one of the thirteen bases allocated to the USAAF for use by transport and observation squadrons. (Courtesy of Andrew Smith)

BELOW and RIGHT:

One of the Horsas having stopped short of civilian properties lying along the northern boundary of the Operation Sidecar landing zone. This is believed to be the same glider as that pictured on page 73. The inset shows the same view today.

On 15 April 1944, three days before the scheduled landings, a team of fifty men was sent to the site to rehearse their ground duties. Flares were put on the country lanes surrounding the landing area, white strips were laid in the fields, and a “Eureka” homing device was installed in the centre of the LZ. To capture the exercise on film and facilitate a full and detailed post-operation analysis, four movie cameras were put in place as well as still cameras. The local Lands Officer was

74

BRITAIN AT WAR

instructed to make sure that all landowners in the landing zone were informed about the exercise and they were to be told to make sure that the fields were cleared of all livestock.

and precision might well prove to be a matter of life and death, of success or failure. But landing the gliders in the right place was one thing, getting the equipment out quickly and intact was another problem altogether.

So the scene was set for what would prove to be a wonderful aerial display. The RAF’s Meteorological Office supplied information on the conditions between Ramsbury and the landing zone, though the RAF, whilst fully informed about the exercise, would play no active part in the operation. * At 11.40 hours on 18 April 1944, the Sidecar force appeared in the skies over Dial Post at about 1,000 feet. Despite the original intention of splitting the gliders into four flights, in less than ten minutes they were all on the ground. Only six landed outside the landing zone and just one of these touched down beyond the intended one square mile of the LZ.

Where the gliders had landed perfectly, the equipment was unloaded in as quickly as one minute – in the case of one of the Wacos, glider No.11, it took just thirty seconds. The Horsas took longer to unload, the longest being just over twenty minutes. The sole exception was glider No.13. This Waco crash landed with its co*ckpit

It was a wonderful achievement and it augured well for D-Day when speed

JULY 2011

BRITAIN AT WAR

OPERATION SIDECAR Training For D-Day

resting against a building so it was impossible to unload through the hinged nose section. Ever resourceful, the crew used the glider’s axe to cut through the metal frame on the right hand side of the fuselage near the rear personnel door. A Jeep was then used to “bend” the tail section out of the way so that the Jeep inside the glider could be removed.

and slammed through the front of the glider. It is not recorded if any of the crew were injured, though one officer after the exercise wrote that if the gliders had been loaded with their normal compliment of personnel, then it would have been the crash-landing of glider No.6 that would have resulted in some fatalities.

The post-exercise reports on each individual glider seem to suggest that the Horsas suffered more problems than the Wacos. Two of them (gliders Nos. 1 and 5) suffered broken nose wheels on landing. In both cases this part of the undercarriage was forced up through the floor and the unloading took roughly twenty minutes.

Once unloading was completed the guns then had to be attached to a Jeep (or in the case of the ammunition, loaded onto a Jeep) and transported to the assembly point (which was about half-a-mile away over soft ground). The fastest team, a Jeep from one Waco pulling a howitzer from another, reached the assembly point in just eight minutes.

Glider No.5 crashed-landed across the road that ran along the western boundary of the landing area. Once again the nose wheel also broke loose and was forced up through the floor; the right wheel was also torn off. The glider was left stranded with its tail sticking up in the air and its unloading door broken. Its crew was forced retrieve the Jeep and ammunition within by “chopping out” the right side of the fuselage.

Those gliders that had not been damaged in the exercise were recovered by being “snatched”. In this process one end of a nylon towrope was attached to the glider’s nose. Two twelve-foot poles, placed twenty feet apart, supported the other end of the 350-foot long towrope which was formed into a loop in the centre of the two poles. The tug aircraft, usually a Dakota with a twentyfoot long arresting hook hanging down from the tail, flew over the glider at about forty feet above the ground and the hook “snatched” the glider’s towline at 110 miles per hour. The hook was attached to a cable that was wound around a steel drum within the Dakota. This was hauled in as the hook pulled the glider

On landing, the left wing of Horsa No.6 hit a tree and the landing gear caught in a ditch. Brought to an immediate halt, the six lashings on the Jeep and the four on the trailer all gave way and the combination broke loose

JULY 2011

into the air. Remarkably, the first recovery using this technique was completed less than one hour after the landings had begun. The removal of the non-flyable or more badlydamaged gliders was a different matter. As late as 14 May 1944, complaints were being received from the Lands Officer that some of the Wacos and Horsas were still in place. “Apart from the question of further damage which may arise if and when these gliders are removed,” a report noted, “some of them are in growing crops and therefore the longer their removal is postponed the more damage will ultimately be caused.” In total during Operation Sidecar, six of the gliders had been “totally destroyed”, whilst fifteen per cent of them were severely

ABOVE:

A Waco having come to a halt in the undergrowth.

BELOW LEFT:

A wooden fence helped bring this Waco to a halt. Note the US Army photographer on the right.

BELOW:

It is believed that this is a shot of a badlydamaged Horsa, possibly glider No.6. Note the troughs lying in the wreckage that would have been used to off-load the Jeep in the event of a normal landing.

75

OPERATION SIDECAR Training For D-Day

ABOVE

Following the landings, each glider was inspected and a specific reference number applied to each fuselage – in the case of this Waco that number was 14. It is possible that this glider was named Deep Purple after the No.1 hit sung by the popular American singer Bea Wain. The cargo in this glider, a 57mm howitzer, was unloaded in just three minutes using the Jeep carried in glider No.13 which landed a couple of fields to the north.

RIGHT:

One of the badly-damaged gliders, Waco No.11, after it landed in the northern part if the LZ and was brought to an abrupt halt by this tree. Nevertheless, its cargo (another of the howitzers) took just thirty seconds to be unloaded – the fastest of all the successful landings.

BELOW and BELOW RIGHT:

Another view of glider No.14; the modern comparison on the right shows how much the undergrowth and vegetation has changed since the war.

damaged, either by crash-landing or by the action taken to remove the cargo within. A further forty-three percent were less-badly damaged. Though no one had been killed, five men were injured to one degree or another. It was a costly exercise as Air ViceMarshal H.E.P. Wigglesworth, Royal Air Force Senior Staff Officer Allied Expeditionary Air Force, remarked having read a report on the exercise: “All very well, but oh the losses or damage.” *

76

BRITAIN AT WAR

In view of the large number of gliders that were damaged, the questions that troubled the Staff officers of the 101st Airborne Division were what was learnt that needed to be dealt with before D-Day, and was the exercise really worth it? Brigadier General Richard Nugent, US Deputy Chief of Staff Operations in the United Kingdom, seemed quite content with how the landings had proceeded. “This mission was 100% successful”, he wrote. “The glider pilots who took part are to be commended for their excellent judgement. Equipment carried in the gliders suffered no damage and personnel suffered very little.” Two days after Operation Sidecar, a report was sent to General Bradley by Brigadier General Maxwell Davenport “Max” Taylor, Commanding Officer of the 101st Airborne Division. This concluded as follows: “The principal conclusion drawn from this exercise is that with properly trained glider pilots and under favourable weather conditions it is entirely feasible to land gliders in daylight in small fields of the type found in northern Europe. In the absence of enemy action, personnel casualties were negligible under the conditions of the test. The unloading

and the assembly of the glider personnel and loads after landing offer no particular problems.”2 Another report produced was less positive. “The value of the glider rehearsal carried out by 437 Group … on 18th April,” its author wrote, “was to a large extent discounted by the fact that it was not carried out until 11.45 a.m. when light conditions were good. The following factors made the test easier than under operational conditions: “a) The flight to the target was carried out in good weather conditions and wholly by daylight. It lasted for forty minutes instead of for about two hours. There was no enemy opposition. Navigation was easy. “b) Considerably more reconnaissance of the landing area had taken place than could occur over enemy territory.

JULY 2011

“c) The marking of the area was exceptionally clear and lavish. Large white strips and coloured smoke were laid out all round the area which must have been very easy to see from the air. “d) The landing took place in full daylight without ground opposition.”3

ABOVE:

Designed by the Waco Aircraft Company, flight testing of the CG-4As began in May 1942; eventually more than 13,900 examples were delivered. This CG-4A, pictured in the aftermath of Operation Sidecar, shows the design’s characteristic upward-hinged nose section. This Waco, glider No.12, was used to transport another of the howitzers. Whilst the gun was unloaded in just one minute, it took a total of twenty-nine minutes to reach the assembly point – the towing Jeep, from glider No.9, making its second trip to do so.

ABOVE RIGHT:

This Waco, Glider No.46, landed almost in the centre of the landing zone.

RIGHT:

This Purbeck limestone memorial, located near the village of Axford (east of Marlborough), was unveiled in 1993. It is dedicated not only to the personnel of the 437th Troop Carrier Group as a whole, but more specifically to the memory of Major Donald E. Bradley and First Lieutenant Gaylord Strong. Members of the 437th Troop Carrier Group’s 83rd Squadron, these two men were killed on 11 March 1944, when the Dakota they were in crashed near the spot where this memorial stands overlooking the River Kennet. At the time, the aircraft was trying to recover a Horsa that had broken free in a practice mission. (Courtesy of Ben Hollier)

This report also noted that fifty per cent of the gliders landed in fields in which they were not briefed to land; three percent of the glider pilots taking part were injured; and that if soldiers had been carried (as, of course many would do on D-Day), five per cent of them would have been injured.

troop-carrying Waco gliders. The gliders were released south of Cherbourg with the object of isolating the western end of the invasion bridgehead, but poor weather and anti-aircraft fire disrupted the formations causing the glider landings to be somewhat scattered.

Regarding the Horsas, this report noted that “although the approach and glide … appeared much safer than that of the Waco, every Horsa over-shot rather badly or crashed. Some expert pilots said that they were being flown too fast, but it is also clear that the loaded Horsa runs a long way on the ground as compared with the Waco.”

Later in the day 437 Group carried out a second mission from Ramsbury with twentysix C-47s towing eighteen Horsas and eight Wacos. Another operation followed on the 7th with fifty tugs and gliders carrying reinforcements of troops, anti-aircraft guns, ammunition, rations, and other supplies.

Of the Wacos, “the float and glide … was so flat as to appear dangerous, but once they touched down it pulled up in a very short distance. Time and again the Wacos [which appeared to be] going to crash badly pulled up in about twenty-five yards with no serious damage.” * On the morning of 6 June 1944, 437 Group undertook its first operation in support of the Normandy landings. Fifty-two Dakota C-47s were despatched in moonlight with

The 437th was later awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions during this period. Possibly Operation Sidecar had been worth it after all. n

NOTES

1. Colin Rudling/West Grinstead Local History Group, When The Whistle Blew: The Story of Dial Post, Littleworth, Partridge Green & West Grinstead in World War 2 (West Grinstead Local History Group, Partridge Green, 2008), p.138. 2. TNA AIR 37/465 “Special U.S. Glider Exercise”. 3. Ibid.

BELOW:

A Douglas C-47 of the 437th Troop Carrier Group banks round in preparation for “snatching” one of the gliders that landed during Operation Sidecar.

JULY 2011

77

UNLUCKY THIRTEEN W

hilst the cover illustration this month is not based on any specific incident it does, nonetheless, portray an episode that was played out a great many times during the Battle of Britain; the capture of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 pilot brought down over south-east England. The scene depicted could well be near Beachy Head. Indeed, this famous headland saw a number of Bf 109s brought down closeby and amongst them was one that made a forced-landing close to nearby Eastbourne on 30 September 1940.

The day in question saw the last big daylight attack by the Luftwaffe of the Battle of Britain. In the morning a mixed force of approximately 200 aircraft was turned back over Maidstone by eight of Fighter Command’s squadrons and another wave of around 100 aircraft were repulsed further west.

78

At around 13.30 hours that afternoon 27-year-old Feldwebel Walter Scholz of III Gruppe Jagdgeschwader 53 (III./JG 53) settled himself into his Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4, werke number 1325, at his Staffel’s base at Etaples, close to Le Touquet. Once he had strapped in, he ran through his co*ckpit checks, started the DB 601 engine and taxied out for take-off.

With almost three years service behind him, Scholz had already seen his fair share of the war. Although this period had seen overwhelming military successes for the Germans it was still tempered by the loss of close friends and colleagues and the relentless stress of flying over the English Channel and the southern areas of Britain on combat missions. Documentary evidence suggests that Walter Scholz was becoming run down and war-

weary and we know that on this day his morale was low and that he was somewhat depressed about the whole war. Indeed, perhaps even the fact that the number 13 was emblazoned on the side of his Messerschmitt’s fuselage was also playing on his mind – although it is also true that at least one pilot who had previously flown it had achieved four victories as these were represented by “kill” tallies on the fin. We do know that Scholz may have attributed to three of this number during the fighting in the summer of 1940, for he claimed enemy aircraft destroyed on 15 August, 25 August and 15 September. From their position some way down the coast from the narrowest point of the English Channel around Calais, the aircraft of JG 53 were already disadvantaged in their flight across the water. Fuel limitations on the Bf 109s were critical, with barely enough

JULY 2011

At around 13.30 hours on 30 September 1940, Feldwebel Walter Scholz wearily strapped himself into his Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4. Having completed his co*ckpit checks, Scholz started the fighter’s DB 601 engine and taxied out for take-off. As Andy Saunders reveals, within a short time Scholz would suffer a premature end to the mission, his ’plane coming to earth on the south coast of Britain. capacity to get across the Channel and back again – let alone allow the pilots the option of loitering over England or engaging in combat with RAF fighters. This alone was a major stress factor for Scholz and his colleagues, although they had to put it out of their minds as they concentrated on the task in hand; the close escort of a bomber formation as it headed for the London area. Somewhere close to the English coast, and at an altitude of around 18,000 or 19,000 feet, Scholz’s formation rendezvoused with their charges before continuing to head inland, crossing the coast between Rye and Folkestone. Altogether, some one hundred and fifty fighters were employed in this operation although, somewhat surprisingly, the bomber formation they were escorting comprised no more than twenty aircraft – which a RAF intelligence summary later

JULY 2011

considered were probably Dornier Do 17s. The advancing phalanx of Luftwaffe aircraft was first spotted by a Spitfire pilot of 41 Squadron who had broken away from his patrol to climb to altitude in order to reconnoitre and report on the enemy’s disposition and course. He barely had time to report on a dozen or so twin-engine bombers and fifty to sixty Bf 109s when he was attacked and forced to abandoned his solo reconnaissance. Battle had now been joined. Ordered up to intercept the raid had been the Spitfires of 41, 66, 72, 92, 222 and 603 squadrons and the Hurricanes of 1 (RCAF), 229, 253, 303, 501 and 605 squadrons. The Northolt squadrons (1 RCAF, 229 and 303), along with 501 Squadron, finally engaged the enemy formation as it retired south towards

Beachy Head and it is clear that a number of individual combats and chases took place with a proportion of losses being sustained on both sides. As for Walter Scholz, the exact details of what

BELOW:

By the renowned artist Philip E. West, “Summer Victory” depicts the hypothetical scene as Spitfires of 609 Squadron overfly a downed Messerschmitt Bf 109 which has managed to make a controlled crash landing on a South Coast beach following combat during the Battle of Britain. The pilot suffered the same fate as that which befell Feldwebel Walter Scholz on 30 September 1940 – being marched into captivity by troops from the British Army or volunteers in the Home Guard. For more information or to purchase a copy of this limited edition print, please telephone 01747 828810 or email: [emailprotected]

79

UNLUCKY THIRTEEN

ABOVE:

A view of Scholz’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4, werke number 1325, after its forced-landing near Eastbourne on 30 September 1940. Note the victory tallies on the tail. (Author)

BELOW LEFT, MIDDLE and RIGHT:

The Luftwaffe pilot’s licence issued to Feldwebel Scholz. It is marked in red Chinagraph pencil on the front with the inscription 665 – this number corresponds to the RAF interrogation summary which is Report No.665/1940. (Author)

would be his last combat mission are not fully known, except that it came to an end just northeast of Beachy Head. On the ground at Langney, near Eastbourne, watchers saw a single Messerschmitt descend out of the mêlée. As the noise of battle receded, the fighter circled once or twice before executing a near-perfect wheelsup landing in one of the marshy fields between Langney and Eastbourne. It was 14.05 hours.

80

BRITAIN AT WAR

As the Messerschmitt Bf 109 skidded to a halt it slewed around, tearing off under fuselage panels and cowlings and causing considerable damage to the port-inner wing area. Unhurt, Walter Scholz pushed open the co*ckpit hood and climbed out on to British soil. Almost at once, soldiers from a nearby army unit and men from the 21st (Eastbourne) Battalion of the Home Guard arrived on the scene and the pilot was apprehended before he could damage or destroy his aircraft. For Walter Scholz, the war was over. His was one of forty-four ’planes lost by the Luftwaffe on 30 September 1940.

Included in this number was a total of twentyeight Bf 109s, the largest German loss incurred on any single day during the Battle of Britain. The RAF suffered sixteen fighter casualties.1 Unfortunately, the crash of Scholz’s Messerschmitt happened in the County Borough of Eastbourne and the war records of the Borough Police have long been lost. Thus, we have no local contemporary records of the episode to draw upon although two RAF intelligence reports of the incident are available to us for perusal. Interestingly, they are both slightly at odds with each other over the exact cause of Walter’s demise on 30 September. First, the summary of his interrogation by Squadron Leader Samuel Felkin MBE (from whom we also learn of Scholz’s low morale and depressed state) states that: “According to the pilot of this aircraft there was no combat. He had to make a forced-landing because he was very short of petrol.” As a stand-alone statement it surely has some credibility. Certainly, his fuel state might have been low, if not critical, and it might have been entirely possible that in the huge formation of Messerschmitt Bf 109s he had not, personally, been engaged by any intercepting RAF fighters. That, though, is thrown into some doubt by another RAF Intelligence report. It reads:

UNLUCKY THIRTEEN

BRITAIN AT WAR RIGHT:

The opportunity to pose with the wreckage of Scholz’s fighter is one not missed by these members of its guard. (Author)

BELOW:

Another Messerschmitt Bf 109 lost on 30 September 1940. This aircraft, werke number 1190, was flown by Unteroffizier Horst Perez when it is believed to have suffered a coolant leak after combat with Hurricanes over Beachy Head. The aircraft came down at Eastdean near Eastbourne. Perez was captured unhurt. (Author)

“Crashed on 30.9.40 at Langney, near Eastbourne. Map Ref R.0820. Markings 13 + (figures in yellow). Orange [sic] nose, rudder and fin. Engine DB 601A, No.63509, made by Daimler Benz at Genshagen, Teltow. Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons and 2 x MG 17. Armour: normal cross-bulkhead, and panel behind pilots head. Following fighter action, aircraft forced-landed. A few .303 strikes in cooling system and engine. Pilot prisoner.” Whether he was shot down, ran out of fuel, or suffered a combination of both, Scholz did not want to talk about his wartime experiences when he was located in the 1970s. Scholz’s depressed state, as noted at the time of his forced-landing, probably reflected the mood of many of the German pilots at that period. It had become clear by this stage of the air war against Britain that the Luftwaffe

was never going to be able to drive Fighter Command from the skies. With no hope of victory, the repeated sorties across the Channel seemed to have increasingly less purpose. “There was an increasing feeling of every man for himself,” observed one commentator, “and escorts were tending to leave their charges to get on with it.”2 All we have by way of any tangible links to this single episode from the Battle of Britain are photographs of his crashed Messerschmitt and, rather surprisingly, the Luftwaffe pilot’s licence issued to Scholz. This document was taken from him by his captors at the crash scene and handed to

RAF intelligence officers who were thus able to deduce his length of service and so on. It is not hard to imagine this document being discovered as the soldiers and Home Guards rifled through Walter Scholz’s pockets whilst he stood reaching for the sky on 30 September 1940, in a scene not too dissimilar from that portrayed in this month’s cover illustration. ■

NOTES

1. Richard Townsend Bickers, The Battle of Britain: The Greatest Battle in the History of Air Warfare (Doubleday, Toronto, 1990), p. 182. 2. Stephen Bungay, The Most Dangerous Enemy: An Illustrated History of the Battle of Britain (Aurum, London, 2010), pp.231-2)

SUMMER SUBSCR SALE 25% EXTRA Subscribe now and enjoy 15 issues of Britain at War for the price of 12

Plus all these benefits!

SAV8E2p

UP TIOSSUE! AN

• A saving of up to 20% - that’s 82p an issue! • Every issue delivered to your home at no extra cost. (UK only) • Never miss an issue. • Maximise your savings with a two year subscription! • Enjoy a FREE copy of Escape to Freedom worth £12.99.

Order online:

www.britain-at-war-magazine/subscription Telephone 020

8955 7079

Lines open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday

RIPTION

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Simply complete this form and send it to: Subscriptions Britain at War Magazine, PO Box 2068 Bushey, Hertfordshire. WD23 3ZF or Call:

020 8955 7079

Go online: www.britain-at-war-magazine.com/subscription

A FREE!

Yes, please start my subscription to Britain at War at the money-saving rate indicated below.

SELECT YOUR RATE UK

24 Issues 12 issues

SAVE 20% £78.60 + 3 EXTRA ISSUES FREE SAVE 16% £41.50 + 3 EXTRA ISSUES FREE

UK DIRECT DEBIT

SPREAD THE COST OF YOUR SUBSCRIPTION WITH A LOW DIRECT DEBIT PAYMENT OF £20.75 EVERY SIX ISSUES. COMPLETE THE DIRECT DEBIT FORM BELOW.

£20.75

■ Special 6 issue UK Direct Debit Rate only

EUROPE 12 Issues 24 issues

YOURS FWREE ORTH

£67.80 £128.60

YOUR DETAILS

£12. 99

Mr

REST OF WORLD £85.50 12 Issues 24 issues £163.60

PLEASE COMPLETE IN BLOCK CAPITALS (MUST BE FILLED IN)

Mrs

Miss

Ms

Other

Forename _______________________ Surname _______________________________________ Address _________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________ Postcode _________________________ Daytime Tel no _________________________________ Email ___________________________________________________________________________

PAYMENT DETAILS 1. CHEQUE ■ I enclose a cheque/postal order, made payable to: ‘Green Arbor Publishing Ltd’

2. CREDIT CARD ■ Please charge my Visa / MasterCard / Amex / Switch / Maestro for above: Valid from Security code**

Expiry date

■ ■■■ ■■■■ **last 3 (4 if Amex) digits on the signature strip

■■■■

Switch issue no.

■■

Card no.

■■■■ ■■■■ ■■■■ ■■■■ Card Holder’s Name ______________________________________________________________________

Escape to Freedom tells the true story of one airman’s capture, escape and evasion to make his way home to England and the girl that had waited for him.

Signature __________________________________________________ Date ________________________ (I AM OVER 18 YEARS OLD)

3. DIRECT DEBIT Green Arbor Publishing Ltd Britain at War Magazine 204 Durnsford Rd London, SW19 8DR

UK £9.99 Europe £11.50 ROW £13.00 Binder prices inclusive of delivery. *

6■ 9■ 4■ 5■ 0■ 6 ■

To the Manager (Bank or Building Society) ________________________________________________

When you subscribe to Britain at War you are protected by our no-risk guarantee. If at a later stage you which to cancel your subscription, you may do so and receive a refund of the cost of any remaining un-mailed issues. That means that you can maximise your savings now with our special two year rates without risk.

Address ___________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________ Postcode _________________________________________________________________________ Name(s) of account holder(s) _________________________________________________________

at War pristine with this stylish binder. Each binder holds a full twelve issues of Britain at War.

Originator’s ID Number

Name and full postal address of your Bank or Building Society

YOUR NO-RISK GUARANTEE

Britain at War Binder Keep your collection of Britain

Instruction to your Bank or Building Society to Pay by Direct Debit

Branch Sort Code (from the top right corner of your cheque)

■■ ■■ ■■ Account Number ■■■■■■■■ Reference No. ■■■■■■■■

Instruction to your Bank or Building Society Please pay Green Arbor Publishing Ltd, Direct Debits from the account detailed in this instruction subject to the safeguards assured by the Direct Debit Guarantee. I understand that this instruction may remain with Green Arbor Publishing Ltd, and if so, details will be passed electronically to my Bank or Building Society.

(for office use only)

Banks and Building Societies may not accept Direct Debit Instructions from some types of account.

Signature(s) _____________________________________ Date

You can photocopy this form if you don’t want to damage your magazine, but please complete your details on the photocopy.

Britain at War will communicate with you regarding your subscription (by email, telephone or post). We may also contact you with details of other relevant special offers. Tick here ■ if you do not wish this to happen. We very occasionally share data with other selected organisations who may wish to send you details of their products or services by post. Tick here ■ if you do not wish this to happen.

P0711

1 “A SUCCESSFUL ATTACK” Early in June 1944, a report was received from the Dutch resistance that a German convoy was preparing to leave the port of Rotterdam for the Baltic. The information indicated that two of the vessels would be on their maiden voyage. As Maurice Laarman reveals, the opportunity to strike a devastating blow at the enemy’s maritime capability was an opportunity that could not be missed. The convoy in question sailed from Den Helder on Wednesday, 14 June 1944. The two vessels of particular interest were the 8,000-ton freighter Amerskerk and a 4,000-ton S-Bootbegleitschiff (naval auxiliary), the Gustav Nachtigal. The escort consisted of no less than seven minesweepers (the M-23, M-33, M-82, M-103, M-104, M-131 and M-201) of the 7.Minensuchflottille (minesweeping flotilla) and nine smaller minesweepers of the 9. Räumbootsflottille. The Gustav Nachtigal – seen before the attack in Picture (1) – had only recently been commissioned on 13 May 1944. Built at Antwerp, she had sailed for Den Helder on 8 June 1944. Her first stop was Rotterdam where a degaussing installation was available. From here she headed to Den Helder. It had been intended that the Amerskerk – seen in Picture (2) at Den Helder shortly before the convoy sailed – would operate as a commerce raider, though a shortage of materials and the fact that by this stage of the war it would have been impossible for such a warship to operate unhindered on the open seas meant that such plans were dropped. Instead, she was sailing to Germany to join the fleet of the Norddeutscher Lloyd shipping agency.

To ensure that neither the Amerskerk nor the Gustav Nachtigal reached their destinations, two wings of Coastal Command’s anti-shipping squadrons were to be deployed together, as a single strike force, for the first time. Of the four Beaufighter squadrons despatched (236, 254, 455 and 489), three were to dive on the convoy and smother the defences with cannon and rockets whilst the fourth was to come in at low-level and aim torpedoes at the two new ships. An escort of P-51 Mustangs was provided by 316 Squadron. Having gathered at Den Helder, the convoy sailed on the evening of 14 June. Early the next morning, the nine R-boats, which had acted as defence against British MTBs, left the convoy. Just a few hours later, at 05.55 hours, the alarm bells sounded. Only moments before, the RAF pilots caught their first glimpse of the convoy off Schiermonnikoog, near Borkum. The escort vessels were, it was noted, astern of the merchant vessels. Acting on the instructions of Wing Commander Anthony Gadd, the Beaufighters swung away to port, kept on until they were almost abreast of the convoy, and then turned in. Ralph Barker wrote that the “final turn in was made like an enfilade of guardsmen, the aircraft on the inside of the turn standing on their props, almost marking time, whilst the aircraft on the outside swept forward like a wave”. As the aircraft dived down on the German ships, through a wall of antiaircraft fire, the order to attack was given. At this point, the thirty-two antiflak Beaufighters, now line abreast, “tore down from 2,000 feet into the convoy, each pilot selecting his target”. The

3

2 84

JULY 2011

4

5

4

BAW

35m

Torbeaus (254 Squadron) and the rocket-projectile equipped Beaufighters (236 Squadron) were close behind. As the attackers turned for home, it was noted that the Amerskerk and Gustav Nachtigal were both down by the stern, listing badly. “Stretched out behind the ship-busters,” continued Barker, “was an awful scene of carnage to contrast with the peaceful progress of twenty ships a few minutes earlier”. All of the Beaufighters returned safely, though a number were damaged. The medical log of the 7.Minensuchflottille provides an insight into what had happened from the German perspective: “Near point F ... the convoy is attacked by around ten Beaufighters, armed with bombs, torpedoes and guns. Both of the vessels are hit by a torpedo. Amerskerk sinks after about twenty minutes; the Gustav Nachtigal’s stern broke off and ran aground ... all towing attempts are useless. The ship capsizes at 16:30. The boats were under heavy attack by the guns on the planes. M-103, which suffered the most, was hit to such an extent that it capsized when attempts were made to salvage her. Regarding the other boats, M-104 and M-207 are also heavily damaged, but can make it to the harbour under their own power.

As a direct consequence of the increasing Allied aerial superiority as the war progressed, the Flugzeugabwehrkanone (flak or anti-aircraft) weapons onboard German vessels were gradually increased. The Kriegsmarine’s vessels would remain at threat to Allied aircraft. Picture (5) shows a twin 20mm gun aboard a minesweeper. The last two images in this series, taken secretly by Werner Lenk, a radio operator on board M-33, show the fate of the two most important ships in the convoy. Picture (6) is of the Amerskerk, whilst Picture (7) shows the damage caused to the stern of the Gustav Nachtigal. ■

6

“The crew of the sunken ships were taken aboard, except for one missing on Gustav Nachtigal and one death. The minesweepers suffered many casualties; seven dead, eight heavily injured, forty-nine lightly injured. On the Amerskerk there were three soldiers and three civilian naval staff injured ... On the Nachtigal there were two dead, one missing, two heavily injured and five slighty injured. The 7.Minensuchflottille’s Flottillenarzt (senior doctor) took care of the wounded on board M-23, before transferring to the M-82 to treat a badly-wounded seaman (who later died in hospital).” (All images courtesy of Maurice Laarman)

Picture (3) shows part of the bridge of one of the minesweepers of 7.Minensuchflottille. The silhouettes indicate that this vessel participated in the destruction of one MTB, and one single-engine and three twin-engine aircraft. The all black silhouettes stand for a victory by the ship itself, the white ones denote a shared victory. Taken in a more peaceful setting, Picture (4) shows a minesweeper of the 7.Minensuchflottille, a vessel similar to those that participated in the engagement on 15 June 1944.

7

JULY 2011

47

CHAVASSE FARM Self-catering Cottage’s Somme Battlefield’s Situated in the quiet village of Hardecourt aux Bois, four min’s from Delville Wood and a short drive from Thiepval Memorial, Albert and all the main battlefield sites and memorials. Chavasse Farm has three cottages available to rent.

CHAVASSE HOUSE Chavasse House sleeps up to twelve guests and comprises of:- Lounge and Dinning Room traditionally furnished, with an open wood burning fire. Sky TV and video, free WIFI, massive library of Great War books. Modern Kitchen with electric hob and oven, fridge with freezer compartment, microwave, kettle, toaster and a full range utensils. There are two large double bedrooms downstairs and two large bedrooms upstairs one with a double and two singles and a fourth bedroom with four single beds. There are two large bathrooms, one downstairs and one upstairs. The billet has oil central heating throughout which is easily regulated by a thermostat.

COURY HOUSE Coury House is a barn conversion from one of the farms old stables. It sleeps four guests in one double and one twin bedroom. The ground floor comprises of a lounge with wood burning fire, Sky TV and video, Great War library consisting of a hundred WW1 books. Modern kitchen and dinning room, kitchen has a gas cooker and grill, microwave, toaster, kettle and full set of utensils. Modern bathroom and toilet. The ground floor is heated with under floor heating, the first floor has electric wall heaters. Free WIFI.

DUPRES HOUSE Dupres House is a barn conversion from one of the farms old stables. It sleeps four guests in two twin bedrooms. The ground floor comprises of a lounge with wood burning fire, Sky TV and video, Great War library consisting of a hundred WW1 books. Modern kitchen and dinning room, kitchen has a gas cooker and grill, microwave, toaster, kettle and full set of utensils. Modern bathroom and toilet. The ground floor is heated with under floor heating, the first floor has electric wall heaters. Free WIFI.

RUM RATION BAR & GARDENS You can spend the evenings in the garden. There is a raised terrace with BBQ, overlooking the countryside towards Rouge Farm Ridge, the Somme and Peronne. Next to the terrace in one of the farms old outhouses, it is your own bar ‘The Rum Ration’, with its open wood fire and sand-bag bar, it is decorated with hundreds of pieces of Great War memorabilia.

For Further Information & Enquiries: Tel: 07855850889

email: [emailprotected]

website: www.chavasseferme.co.uk

Reconnaissance Report...

The Britain at War team scout out the latest books, DVDs and items of interest. THE BATTLE FOR FLANDERS German Defeat on the Lys 1918 Chris Baker

Publisher: Pen & Sword www.pen-and-sword.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-84884-298-8 Hardback. 218 pages RRP: £19.99

The great German offensive in the spring of 1918 was unquestionably one of the pivotal operations of the First World War. The first phase of this campaign had almost succeeded in driving a wedge between the British and the French lines. The second phase was an attack upon the boundary between General H. Horne’s British First Army south of the River Lys and General Sir H. Plumer’s Second Army north of the river. The German attack was preceded by a heavy artillery bombardment, lasting from the evening of 7 April until 04.00 hours on 9 April. The weight of the initial infantry attack fell upon the 2nd Portuguese Division, with disastrous results. By 13.40 hours the entire division of 394 officers and 13,252 men had been lost or scattered. There were reports of the Portuguese fleeing in absolute panic. Some stole bicycles to get away faster, others jumped on mules. Large numbers were seen running away partially clothed and without boots.

The loss of a complete division created an alarming gap in the line. The battle had begun badly for the Allies and Horne was forced to pull his entire line back to prevent the gap developing. The German attack continued over the course of the next few days and the offensive hung in the balance. General Plummer was close to admitting defeat and ordering a complete withdrawal from Ypres, which ran the risk of seeing the British being driven back to the coast at Dunkirk. So real had this danger become that plans were made to inundate the area in front of Aire sur la Lys, Calais and Dunkirk by damming the River Aa and letting sea water in to the canal system at Gravelines and Dunkirk. The British Army would hold fast behind the flood water. So desperate had the situation become, Haig issued a Special Order of the Day to all troops: “There is no other course open to us but to fight it out; every position must be held to the last man. There must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end. ” The response to this “backs to the wall” address from one of the units, knowing that it was in the last line of defence with little behind it bar the sea, was “What ******* wall?”

BOOK OF THE MONTH

In the end the Germans failed to achieve a breakthrough. They failed on two counts. The first was because they were unable to commit the resources necessary to tip the balance of the action in their favour and the second was because they lost their nerve just when one final big push might have proved decisive.

It is remarkable to consider the failings highlighted by the Battle of the Lys on both the British and German sides. After more than three years of warfare on the Western Front it seems scarcely believable that the British defences on the Lys front, which they had held since 1914, were entirely inadequate to prevent a large-scale attack and that after the Germans had watched the British throw themselves against the trenches on the Somme that they would repeat such tactics themselves without amassing the overwhelming force that would have ensured victory. Though the German High Command made a significant contribution to its own defeat, the real reason why the British line held was because of the actions of the ordinary British and Commonwealth soldier. “Countless were the occasions where positions were held, or delay and loss inflicted on the enemy, simply through personal bravery and a bloody-minded will not to be beaten,” Chris Baker concludes. “The battle was won by the many thousands of junior leaders, NCOs and men, a proportion of whom were just 18 years old and in action for the first time.” This is their tale. • Reviewed by Robert Mitchell..

BELOW:

An observer looks on from a distance as an Allied ammunition dump is destroyed in the face of the advancing German Army, April 1918. (Mirrorpix)

JULY 2011

87

Reconnaissance Report... THE VERY THING The Memoirs of Drummer Bentinck, Royal Welch Fusiliers, 1807-1823 Jonathan Crook

Publisher: Frontline Books www.frontline-books.com ISBN: 978-1-84832-598-2 Hardback. 336 pages. RRP: £19.99

The Battle of the Somme in 1916 is generally regarded as being the bloodiest engagement ever fought by British forces. Yet a similar level of casualties, though admittedly on a considerably smaller scale, occurred at the Battle of Albuera in 1811. Drummer Richard Bentinck was present at this sanguinary encounter. Bentinck’s regiment, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, formed part of an AngloPortuguese-Spanish force which had been detached from Wellington’s main body fighting against the French in the Iberian Peninsula. This force, under Major-General Beresford, was numerically superior to that of the French under Maréchal Soult. Beresford had placed his forces in a good defensive position but he was taken completely by surprise when the French concentrated their attack upon the flank instead of the front of the Allied line. A brigade of infantry quickly switched fronts to face this flank attack only for a sudden thunderstorm to sweep across the battlefield, rendering their muskets useless. At that moment the French cavalry fell upon the almost defenceless infantry. Three battalions were all but destroyed. The next phase of the battle saw the fusilier brigade, which included Bentinck’s battalion and two others, face nine battalions of French infantry. The opposing lines of infantry closed to within fifteen yards of each other, pouring fire into the solid ranks – it was almost impossible to miss. Only when the French had lost thousands of men, and the fusiliers had lost half their strength did the French finally give way. Bentinck reported that all the captains but three in the entire brigade had been killed or wounded as had almost all the lieutenants. Some 700 out of the 990 that went into battle that day became casualties. The sergeants had to take command of companies and numerous commissions were granted in the field. Actual losses amounted to around twenty percent of the entire Allied force, though a very large proportion of that total came from the two British brigades. French casualties were even higher. Albuera was just one of many battles that Bentinck was involved in. The Royal Welch Fusiliers followed Wellington in his great run of victories: the storming of the breaches at Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, the sweeping offensives of Salamanca and Vitoria and the invasion of southern France. Bentinck’s last battle was Waterloo. He had also fought in the expedition to seize the Danish fleet at Copenhagen in 1807. Whilst previously unpublished eye-witness accounts are always valuable, this memoir was compiled from a series of interviews that Drummer Bentinck conducted with a local journalist just before his death, as a very old man, in 1878. This means that he set down his recollections more than sixty years after the events took place. Fortunately the author of this book, Drummer Bentinck’s great-great-great nephew, has gone to considerable pains to rectify the errors which inevitably occur when memories are recalled so long after the event. The nature of the interviews in 1878 is such that they were written partly in the third person by the Victorian journalist and partly in Bentinck’s own words. This makes it difficult at times to pick out Bentinck’s comments from those of his interviewer. Nevertheless this book does provide us with some personal memories and insights into life in the British army at a time when it had established itself as the finest in the world. • Reviewed by John Grehan.

88

BOOK REVIEWS TURNING THE TIDE How a Small Band of Allied Sailors Defeated the U-Boats and Won the Battle of the Atlantic Ed Offley Publisher: Basic Books www.perseusbooksgroup.com ISBN: 978-0-465-01397-5 Hardback. 478 pages. RRP: £20.00

In this book the author, Ed Offley, tells the story of how, during a twelve-week period in the spring of 1943, a handful of battle-hardened British, Canadian and American sailors turned the tide of the war in the Atlantic. Using extensive documents from archives in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as drawing on interviews with key survivors on both sides, Offley puts the reader into the heart of the battle.

FLYING START A Fighter Pilot’s War Years Hugh Dundas Publisher: Pen & Sword www.pen-and-sword.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-84884-442-5 Softback. 214 pages. RRP: £12.99

This is the autobiography of Group Captain Sir Hugh Dundas CBE, DSO, DFC, who was one of the most distinguished and well-known RAF fighter pilots of the Second World War. Dundas writes of his wartime experiences – such as his lengthy association with Douglas Bader and his brush with death in 1940 – but particularly of his period as Squadron Leader and Wing Commander and his part in the Battle of Britain.

THE LAST OF THE LAST The Final Survivor of the First World War Claude Choules Publisher: Mainstream Publishing www.mainstreampublishing.com ISBN: 978-1-84596-705-5 Paperback. 220 pages. RRP: £8.99

Before his death at the age of 110 in May 2011, Claude Choules was the last man alive to have seen active military service in both world wars. In his 80s, Claude began working on his memoirs with the help of his daughters, the intention being to provide a record of his remarkable life, military service and longevity for his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The result, now available in paperback, was The Last of the Last.

BE BOLD Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Rosier GCB, CBE, DSO With David Rosier Publisher: Grub Street www.grubstreet.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-906502-97-3 Hardback. 256 pages. RRP: £20.00

Towards the end of his distinguished career, Sir Frederick Rosier was persuaded by his son David to write his autobiography. From his life as a pre-war fighter pilot with 43 Squadron, to the Fall of France (when he was shot down and burnt), the Battle of Britain, the Western Desert, D-Day, and the liberation of Europe, this is an extremely engaging and enlightening account of his life to the end of the Second World War.

CRITICAL CONFLICT The Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Campaign in 1940 Peter C. Smith

Publisher: Pen & Sword www.pen-and-sword.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-84884-513-8 Hardback. 352 pages. RRP: £19.99

During 1940 Churchill and the War Cabinet regarded safe passage for British ships in the Mediterranean Sea to be of paramount importance. The German Kriegsmarine was at that time committed to the North Sea and the Atlantic, and the French fleet had been neutralized. However, there remained the powerful and modern Italian fleet which had to be destroyed at all costs. This is the story of how this was achieved during 1940.

JULY 2011

BOOK REVIEW MALTA SPITFIRE The Diary of an Ace Fighter Pilot George Beurling Publisher: Grub Street www.grubstreet.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-90650-298-0 Paperback. 256 pages. RRP: £9.99

Reconnaissance Report... DUKE OF WESTMINSTER BACKS AFGHANISTAN ANTHOLOGY

One of the Spitfire pilots who flew over Malta from 1942 was George Beurling, nicknamed “Screwball”, who in fourteen flying days destroyed twenty-seven German and Italian aircraft, and damaged many more. Malta Spitfire tells his story and that of the pilots of 249 Squadron, which day after day climbed to the “top of the hill” to meet the enemy despite the often overwhelming odds. First published in 1943, this is a wartime classic.

MEMOIRS OF A BRITISH AGENT R.H. Bruce Lockhart Publisher: Frontline Books www.frontline-books.com ISBN: 978-1-84832-629-3 Paperback. 355 pages. RRP: £14.99

Lockhart became the British Vice-Consul to Moscow in 1912. Known as the “Boy Ambassador”, Lockhart became an eyewitness to the pivotal events that followed. In 1918 he was charged with establishing a diplomatic understanding with the Bolsheviks, to ensure that Russia remained in the war against Germany. It was a precarious mission. Published in 1932, this book became an immediate classic; a vivid and unique memoir.

HOW THE GIRL GUIDES WON THE WAR Janie Hampton Publisher: HarperPress www.harpercollins.co.uk ISBN: 978-0-00-735632-4 Paperback. 310 pages. RRP: £8.99

In examining an unusual aspect of Britain’s wartime history, Janie Hampton explores how the Girl Guides played their part in life on the Home Front. When the Blitz broke out, the Guides knew what to do. They kept up morale in air raid shelters, demonstrated “blitz cooking” with emergency ovens, grew food on their company allotments, taught first aid, and even knitted for those in the services – in short, they were the embodiment of the Blitz Spirit.

ALL THE KAISER’S MEN The Life and Death of the German Soldier on the Western Front Ian Passingham Publisher: The History Press www.thehistorypress.co.uk ISBN: 978-0-7524-5950-9 Softback. 288 pages. RRP: £14.99

Convinced that both God and the Kaiser were on their side, the officers and men of the German Army went to war in 1914 confident that they were destined for a swift victory; the reality of trench warfare was yet to reveal itself. Drawing on diaries and letters, the author charts the hopes and despair of the German soldier and, examining the realities of life “across the wire” in their trenches, fills a gap in the history of the Western Front.

CHINDIT AFFAIR A Memoir of the War in Burma

There has been top level backing for the plan to publish a poetry anthology to mark the tenth anniversary, in November 2011, of British troops entering Afghanistan. The work, to be titled Enduring Freedom, is being compiled by Ryan Gearing, managing director of military bookseller and publisher, Tommies Guides. A percentage of the price of each copy sold will go to the military charity Combat Stress. The Duke of Westminster, a Major General in the Reserve Forces and a passionate supporter of the work of Combat Stress, has agreed to provide the book’s Foreword. The introduction will be written by Sir Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate 1999-2009. In his Foreword the Duke writes: “The debt we owe to our armed forces stretches back over the centuries and is forever increasing. Now we are asking our men and women to protect us by serving in Afghanistan. They are facing the most difficult of conditions and severe dangers and they are performing their tasks magnificently. “Some do, however, come home with scars either physical or mental. Combat Stress is a key charity for aiding those who cannot easily leave the tensions of the battlefield behind when they return to their families and I am delighted to be one of its supporters. In my years of service as a reservist I have met many people who needed the help of this vital charity and many who are profoundly thankful that it exists to offer them support when it is needed.” Ryan Gearing is seeking suggestions for any poems that have inspired troops, their friends or families over the last decade. When submitting a suggestion, please include a short note explaining why you have chosen the poem and how it inspires you, or who you associate it with. Suggestions and contributions for poems to be included in the anthology should be sent, by the end of July 2011, to: Ryan Gearing, Tommies Guides, Menin House, 13 Hunloke Avenue, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN22 8UL; Email: [emailprotected]

Frank Baines

In March 1944, some 2,200 battle-trained men of 111 Brigade flew from India into northern Burma to land on improvised airstrips. Part of Wingate’s Chindit force, they were to fight behind the enemy’s lines. Five months later, 111 Brigade was down to 118 fit men – eight British officers, a score of British soldiers and ninety Gurkhas. One of those eight officers was Frank Baines. This is his vivid, moving account of what happened.

(UK MoD Crown Copyright 2011)

Publisher: Pen & Sword www.pen-and-sword.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-84884-448-2 Hardback. 242 pages. RRP: £25.00

JULY 2011

89

Reconnaissance Report...

WORLD WAR II PLANS THAT NEVER HAPPENED 1939-45 Michael Kerrigan

Publisher: Amber Books www.amberbooks.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-907446-64-1 Hardback. 192 pages RRP: £19.99

During wartime there are countless ideas and schemes proposed, only some of which ever come to fruition, war after all, is the mother of invention. Just some of the many plans which were discarded or abandoned are outlined in Michael Kerrigan’s book. There was, for instance, the proposal to drop poisoned needles upon the Germans. In December 1941, Britain’s Chemical Defence Research Department at Porton Down in Wiltshire wrote to the Singer Sewing Machine Company with a request for large quantities of sewing machine needles. The plan was to dip millions of needles in the poisonous toxin ricin (or possibly even anthrax) and then drop them directly upon German troops. Released in such huge numbers that collectively they would look like rainclouds, the needles would fall so fast that by the time they reached earth they would have enough impetus to pass through at least two layers of clothing and penetrate deep beneath the skin. The planners knew that this was possible because of experiments they had conducted on sheep. At a research station in Canada sheep had been clad in battledress and then had the needles dropped on them. The needles could also be used in bombs. It was found that 30,000 needles could be packed into each bomb which would be dropped in clusters. When these bombs exploded, the poisonous needles would fly off in all directions with devastating force. It was found that if a poisoned needle was not plucked out of the skin within thirty seconds an agonising death was just about inevitable. Nor was this a quick, easy death. Diarrhoea, vomiting and seizures were just some of the consequences of ricin poisoning. A report on the effects of ricin poisoning noted that the symptoms included, “twitching of the muscles, profuse salivation and sweating, acute defecation, micturing and retching”. Gradually the pulse becomes very slow, blood pressure falls and the victim dies. The German military and civilian medical systems would have been completely overwhelmed and it was expected that morale amongst the troops would be seriously undermined. Though this may seem a very unpleasant, some might say, unethical way to conduct war, it did have one mitigating benefit. This was that the poisoned needles only killed people (and animals) and did not destroy buildings. It was possible, therefore, to wipe out the German forces in Occupied Europe without tearing the heart out of the cities they occupied. So, the question is why was this weapon not deployed? The reason is that anyone inside a structure of any sort would be entirely safe. Any German inside a car, truck, tank or building would be protected. So the scheme, not the needles, was dropped. Michael Kerrigan’s book deals with plans abandoned by the Axis as well as the Allies and includes the well-known, such as Operation Sealion, to the obscure. Some were impractical, some seemed entirely sensible, all are interesting. • Reviewed by Alexander Nicoll.

90

BOOK REVIEWS MRS MAHONEY’S SECRET WAR The Untold Story of an Extraordinary Young Woman’s Resistance Against the Nazis Gretel Mahoney and Claudia Strachan Publisher: Mainstream Publishing www.mainstreampublishing.com ISBN: 978-1-84596-595-2 Paperback. 269 pages. RRP: £8.99

As a young lady, Gretel helped to protect fugitives hunted by the Gestapo, hid her Jewish doctor in her cellar and, having survived the bombing of Hamburg (described in detail in this book), passed on secrets learned from her work on the Enigma encryption machine. Finally arrested in 1945, she was liberated as the British Army advanced towards Hamburg. After the war, Gretel fell in love with a British officer and moved to the UK.

THE BATTLE OF BELLICOURT TUNNEL Tommies, Diggers and Doughboys on the Hindenburg Line, 1918 Dale Blair Publisher: Frontline Books www.frontline-books.com ISBN: 978-1-84832-587-6 Hardback. 184 pages. RRP: £19.99

In 1918 the British Expeditionary Force fought a series of victorious battles on the Western Front that ultimately led to the defeat of the German army. That the British did so as part of a coalition and the role of Australian “Diggers” and US “Doughboys” is often forgotten. The Bellicourt Tunnel attack, fought in the fading autumn light, was very much an inter-Allied affair and marked a unique moment in the Allied armies’ endeavours.

TWO SONS IN A WAR ZONE Afghanistan: The True Story of a Father’s Conflict Stephen Wynn Publisher: Clairview Books www.clairviewbooks.com ISBN: 978-1-905570-24-9 Softback. 167 pages. RRP: £10.99

This book started out as a diary of a year in the life of Stephen Wynn, a police officer who happens to have two sons in the military. The diary was his mechanism for coping with the feelings he experienced while his sons were on active service in Afghanistan. This book is his compelling true story, illustrating the raw inner conflict between one man’s pride for his sons and their chosen profession, and his natural fears for their safety.

PORTRAITS OF HEROES Derbyshire Fighter Pilots In The Second World War Barry M. Marsden Publisher: Amberley www.amberleybooks.com ISBN: 978-1-4456-0271-4 Softback. 192 pages. RRP: £14.99

As the author illustrates in this book, a biography of thirty-three men, fighter pilots from Derbyshire flew on operations from the very start of the Second World War. They fought the Germans over France during the Blitzkrieg, played a vital part in the Battle of Britain, and operated over the Western Desert, Syria, Greece, Sicily, Italy, Malta and the Atlantic, as well as against the Japanese over the Timor Sea.

SIX OF MONTY’S MEN Adrian Stewart

Publisher: Pen & Sword www.pen-and-sword.co.uk ISBN: 978-1-84884-371-2 Hardback. 226 pages. RRP: £19.99 Field Marshal Montgomery showed great skill in choosing his subordinates, whether as staff officers or field commanders. This book examines the careers of six of these subordinates: Harding, the far-sighted staff officer; Leese, ranked by Montgomery as his finest Corps Commander; de Guingand, the invaluable Chief of Staff; Horrocks, who had hated the thought of serving under Montgomery; and Richardson, the versatile planner.

JULY 2011

NEXT MONTH:

AUGUST ISSUE ON SALE FROM 29 JULY 2011 “A BAD TIME”

The Royal Welch Fusiliers attacked the German positions at Festubert on 16 May 1915. The British offensive had begun the previous day following a sixty-hour bombardment by 433 artillery pieces that had fired some 100,000 shells. The shelling, however, had failed to inflict significant damage on the German front line defences. Consequently, by the end of the 16th, the 1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers had lost two-thirds of its men and most of its officers. One of the few officers to survive, Lieutenant A.K. Richardson described that day in his private diary.

WILD JACK SAVES THE DAY

The bulk of the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from Dunkirk and the French Government had fled to Bordeaux. With the French forces on the verge of collapse a desperate bid was made to prevent valuable machine tools, precious gems and nuclear weapons materials from falling into the hands of the enemy – by an eccentric British aristocrat. Roy Martin explains.

THE BOMBS OF RETRIBUTION

During the evening of 14 July 1944, a force of de Havilland Mosquitoes of the RAF’s 140 Wing took off for their next operation over Northern France. However, it was not, as Ken Wright reveals, a typical mission for the Mosquito crews. A few days earlier, a group of Allied personnel captured behind enemy lines – part of the ill-fated Operation Bulbasket undertaken by ‘B’ Squadron, 1 Special Air Service Regiment – had been executed by the Germans. 140 Wing had been ordered to extract revenge.

THE MILITARY CROSS ... AND TWO BARS

The Military Cross was a bravery award constituted shortly after the beginning of the First World War. Intended for commissioned officers of the substantive rank of Captain or below and for Warrant Officers, the names of the first recipients appeared in the London Gazette in January 1915. Throughout the war many soldiers and airmen were awarded the MC for gallantry, and some received a Bar to this medal for further acts of heroism. Norman Franks examines the handful of airmen who were awarded a Second Bar.

ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS NO LONGER MISSING

The Fairey Battle flew over Akureyri in northern Iceland, disappearing into the thick cloud. The sound of its engines was heard a little later by people in the remote Fnjoskadalur valley but P2330 failed to reach its destination of RAF Kaldarnes. Though wreckage was found soon afterwards high on the sides of a glacier its position had been long forgotten until, more than fifty years later, reveals Alan Cooper, the remains of the lost Fairey Battle were re-discovered.

Please note that content is subject to alteration

Containing 900 years of history, the National Archives is the United Kingdom’s official government archive. In this month’s “Dusty Archive” we discover the fascinating story contained within the covers of just one of the many thousands of files held at Kew.

Their Mk.III Halifax had been hit by flak and fatally damaged. The crew baled out as the bomber crashed onto farmland near Bevergern in Germany. Flying Officer Paradise and three of his crew who were taken prisoner should have been able to see out the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp but, as one file in the National Archive reveals, within twenty-four hours they were all dead.

GUILTYVERDICT GUILTY A

t 15.02 hours on 21 March 1945, Handley Page Halifax MZ348, MHD, took off from RAF Snaith (Pollington) for a raid against Rheine, the largest city in Westphalia. Along with another 177 aircraft this 51 Squadron Halifax, piloted by Flying Officer John Edwin Paradise RAAF, was to conduct an attack upon the German city’s railway yards and the surrounding buildings.

Over the target area the bomber was hit by flak and Paradise ordered his crew to bale out. Whilst all seven men landed safely by parachute their aircraft crashed into the ground near Bevergern, some seven miles east-north-east of Rheine.

In command of the escort was Oberfeldwebel Karl Amberger who, at the time, was a senior member of staff at an instructional school for non-commissioned officers attached to the air base. With him were two NCOs from the school that Amberger had personally selected to accompany him. They were armed with machine-pistols; Amberger himself also carried his service pistol. The party set off from Dreierwalde Aerodrome and after about a mile-anda-half, they turned off the road to go down a country path which, it was said to the five RAF airmen, was a short-cut to the railway station. The prisoners were positioned in front of the three Germans and, after a short distance, the five were told to spread themselves in line across the path.

...alerted by the click of the Germans’ weapons, he jumped into the undergrowth as soon as the shooting started.

Five of the crew, Flying Officer Paradise, Pilot Officer Bruce Frederick Greenwood RAAF, Flight Sergeant Alexander Armstrong RAFVR (all three aged 22-years-old), Sergeant Richard Francis Gunn (the youngest member of the crew at 19) and Flying Officer K.W. Berwick were taken to nearby Dreierwalde Aerodrome. In the bombing, some forty civilians and service personnel at Dreirwalde had been killed and feelings within the airfield were reputedly running high.

Late the following afternoon, 22 March 1945, the five men were taken from their cells, ostensibly to be marched to the nearest railway station and shipped to the regional PoW collection centre.

92

In the subsequent inquiry it was said that “something” happened which caused the Germans to open fire. Four of the Halifax crew were shot dead and when their bodies were exhumed after the war it was found that they had died from multiple gunshot wounds to the back or side of the head. Berwick was the only one to survive, though badly wounded with two bullets in his thigh. Within a matter of weeks the war in Europe ended and Berwick, by then a Squadron Leader, was repatriated. He was finally able to report the events of that fateful Thursday afternoon. Amberger was soon located and arrested for war crimes.

JULY 2011

The trial took place in Wuppertal between 11 and 14 March 1944. Squadron Leader Berwick’s evidence was given in the form of an affidavit. Unsurprisingly, Amberger pleaded not guilty. In his evidence, Berwick stated that the Germans had opened fire without provocation and that the only reason he had not been killed was that he was on the far right of the group when they were told to march in line abreast. Having been alerted by the click of the Germans’ weapons, he jumped into the undergrowth as soon as the shooting started. What the military court had to decide was whether the Germans had some genuine reason for opening fire, real or imagined, or that it was an unjustified, premeditated murder. Amberger claimed that the British airmen had tried to “make a break for it” and that one of them had actually attacked him personally. Amberger also said that one of the airmen had managed to run as far as a mile through the countryside before the Germans caught up with him and shot him. The German described the incident in some detail to the court. Amberger claimed that he saw the prisoners talking to one another in a suspicious way, at the same time taking their bearings from canal bridges and from the stars. He had therefore “honestly believed” that they were going to attempt to escape. In the failing light four of the prisoners had then tried to escape in various directions; “two airmen broke off and made for the country to the left”, he stated. These two included the one that was killed a mile away. The forensic evidence revealed by the post mortem of the bodies did not appear to support this. Even more damming, however, was the evidence of eyewitnesses that had been located by the war crimes investigators. A German girl walking along the path with another of the NCOs from the school said that she saw the party not long before the shooting incident occurred. Her companion allegedly said to her: “Those are Australians [three were Australians but two were British] who are going to be shot”. A short while afterwards the shots were heard and the German then said to the girl that “it had been done before they reached the spot intended for it”. A second witness was called before the court – one Werner Lauter. Formerly an Oberfeldwebel and the Chief Clerk of the Kommandatur at Dreierwalde Aerodrome, Lauter claimed that “he had reason from remarks dropped by Amberger to doubt his good faith”. He therefore warned the Adjutant, a man

FAR LEFT:

On 16 August 1945, Flying Officer K.W. Berwick returned with an RAF photographer to the approximate spot where he was shot on 22 March the same year. (National Archives)

ABOVE RIGHT:

The official warrant for the execution of Karl Amberger signed by Field Marshal Montgomery. (National Archives)

BELOW LEFT:

Though the four men executed on 22 March 1945, were initially buried in the churchyard at Dreierwalde, they now lie sideby-side in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Alongside Flying Officer Berwick, the two remaining members of the crew of Halifax MZ348, Sergeant W. Hood and Flight Sergeant L. Hart, both survived the war. (Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

called Scharschmidt, that Amberger was not a fit person to be given the duty of escorting the prisoners to the railway station. In his summing up, the Deputy Judge Advocate, made the following statement: “If the accused, Karl Amberger, did see that his prisoners were trying to escape or had reasonable grounds for thinking that they were attempting to escape then that would not be a breach of the rules and customs of war, and therefore you would not be able to say a war crime had been committed.” The court did not believe Amberger. On 14 March 1946, he was convicted of committing a war crime and was sentenced to judicial hanging. His fiancée made an appeal on his behalf, finally acknowledging Amberger’s guilt but using the claim that he had been obeying “superior orders”. She also pointed out that the other two soldiers with Amberger were never found and that the responsibility for the murders was being placed entirely upon him. The court was asked to postpone the execution until the other two men could be found. However, the appeal was rejected and Amberger was hanged at Hameln jail at 17.30 hours on 15 May 1946. • This account is based on the file with reference WO 235/84, the trial papers of Karl Amberger.

JULY 2011

93

1 ✦

1 01

1 01

Years

1941- 2

70

1941- 20 1

1941 -2

4

DATES THAT

JULY1941 SEVENTY YEARS ON, WE CHART SOME OF T

5

8

FRIDAY: From this day a restriction was imposed on the amount of coal, co*ke or any other type of solid fuel that could be supplied for domestic use, the intention being to conserve fuel supplies for industrial purposes. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that coal production had fallen because of the call-up of young miners. Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour, had appealed for 50,000 ex-miners to return to the pits.

SATURDAY: Squadron Leader Herbert Cecil Pugh, a chaplain in the RAF, was awarded the George Cross for his actions on this day. Pugh was on board the troopship HMT Anslem when it was torpedoed in the Atlantic. When he learned that a number of injured airmen were trapped in the hold, Pugh insisted on being lowered into it with a rope; he went down with the ship. He is the only clergyman to receive the GC.

TUESDAY: The first operational mission using the Boeing B17, known as the Fortress I to the RAF, took place on this day. RAF aircrew had been trained at McChord Field, near Tacoma, Washington, from January to April 1941, before the aircraft was issued to 90 Squadron based at Polebrook, Northamptonshire. Three Fortress Mk.Is were despatched on a high altitude daylight raid to attack the naval base at Wilhelmshaven.

12

14

19

SATURDAY: The AngloSoviet mutual-assistance agreement was signed in Moscow. The pact stated that both countries would “render each other assistance and support of all kinds in the present war against Hitlerite Germany”. Proposed by Churchill, it also committed both countries to an undertaking that “during this war they will neither negotiate nor conclude an armistice or treaty of peace except by mutual agreement”.

MONDAY: Twentynine Blenheims were despatched to attack coastal targets off the French and Dutch coasts, along with Hazebrouck railway yards. Two of the aircraft, both from 139 Squadron, were shot down off the French coast. According to the Bomber Command historians Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt, one of the two represented the 1,000th Bomber Command aircraft lost so far in the war. All six crewmen were lost.

23 Wednesday, 23 July 1941

As the ships of Operation Substance battled through to the besieged island of Malta from Gibraltar, they were subjected to sustained aerial attack by the Regia Aeronautica. One of the escorting warships, the F-Class fleet destroyer HMS Fearless, was hit aft by an air-dropped torpedo and completely disabled. As nothing could be done to save her, the crew was taken off and she was sunk by a torpedo fired by HMS Forester – the results of the explosion can be seen here. There were twenty-seven casualties. One cruiser and three destroyers were also damaged in the Italian air attacks. Eventually, all of the six merchant ships in the convoy, including the damaged troopship Sydney Star, reached Malta. (Mirrorpix)

94

SATURDAY: Winston Churchill, in his determination to help the Russians, decided to send them high-level secret intelligence based on decoded German Enigma messages. The Russians were not informed that Britain had cracked the Enigma secret, for the Soviet Union’s own codes were being read by the enemy. Instead, the “sanitized” messages were disguised under the cover of being received from “a well-placed source in Berlin”.

20

SUNDAY: A “V for Victory” campaign was launched by the BBC. It began with a message from Churchill: “The V-sign is the symbol of the unconquerable will of the people of the occupied territories …” Claiming that “tomorrow the V-army, Europe’s invisible army of many millions, will come into being,” the people of the occupied nations were asked to demonstrate against the Germans by putting V-signs anywhere they could.

29

TUESDAY: Vichy France signed a treaty giving Japan a right of military transit through French Indochina, as well as allowing Japanese troops to be stationed there. As a consequence, Malaya was seriously threatened as the treaty provided the Japanese with a naval base within 750-miles of Singapore and airfields within 300 miles of northern Malaya. The treaty also isolated the Philippines and menaced the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. JULY 2011

SHAPED THE WAR

THE KEY MOMENTS AND EVENTS THAT AFFECTED BRITAIN IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR

10

THURSDAY: The first British citizen to be executed under the Treachery Act of 1940 was hanged at Wandsworth jail. Thirtynine-year-old George Johnson Armstrong had been sentenced to death at the Old Bailey on 8 May. Armstrong was a ship’s engineer who had been arrested on his return to Britain from America. While in the United States he had met a German consul at Boston, Massachusetts, and offered his services as a spy for the enemy.

20

SUNDAY: RAF Ferry Command was formed by raising the Atlantic Ferry Service to Command status. The organisation was tasked with ferrying aircraft from the USA to the United Kingdom, literally from factory to operational unit. Previously, only about a hundred aircraft had attempted a North Atlantic crossing in good weather with roughly half completing the trip: by the end of the war, more than 9,000 aircraft had been ferried.

12

26

Saturday, 26 July 1941

It was reported on this day that sell-out audiences were flocking to see the new film Target For Tonight. Released just three months after filming had begun, Target For Tonight was directed by Harry Watt and produced by the Crown Film Unit (successor of the pre-war GPO Film Unit). Watt chose to tell the story of a single Wellington bomber during one raid, with each part in the film “played by the actual man or woman who does the job – from Commander-in-Chief to Aircrafthand”. As a result, no actors were used; instead genuine Wellington pilots and aircrew (from RAF Mildenhall and Bomber Command’s headquarters) recreated “F For Freddie’s” mission for the cameras. The film was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 1942.

OPERATION EXPLORER ENDS

It was on 12 July 1941, that Operation Explorer came to an end with the surrender of the last Vichy French troops in Syria. Explorer had been prompted by fears that the Vichy-controlled Mandate of Syria and Mandate of Lebanon might have been used as springboards for attacks on Egypt by the Germans. The armistice between Vichy and British/Free French forces was signed two days later at Acre in the light of a motor cycle headlight. Under the terms of the armistice, all Vichy material and equipment was to be handed over to the British and Commonwealth forces. The Vichy French were given the choice of joining the Free French or returning to France; most opted for the latter. During the campaign the Vichy French suffered 3,350 killed or wounded, while the British and Free French lost about 2,400 men. There were nine significant battles during the fighting and two Victoria Crosses were awarded including one to James Hannah (Heather) “Jim” Gordon in one of the later actions of the campaign. The Australian 7th Division had been advancing from Palestine on Beirut when they encountered strong Vichy forces at Jezzine (Djezzine) about halfway between the Lebanese border and the capital. On the night of 9/10 July Gordon’s depleted company was ordered to seize the high ground around Amatour and Badarane. They advanced up steep terrain under the cover of a heavy artillery barrage. What happened next was reported in The London Gazette JULY 2011

ABOVE:

A Free French liaison officer serving with Australian troops preparing to signal to the Vichy garrison of Fort Khiam asking them to surrender during Operation Explorer. (HMP)

of 24 October 1941: “On the night of 10 July 1941, during an attack … north of Djezzine, Private Gordon’s company came under intense machine-gun fire and its advance was held up. Movement, even by single individuals, became almost impossible, one officer and two men being killed and two men wounded in the effort to advance. The enemy machine-gun position, which had brought the two forward platoons to a halt, was fortified and completely covered the area occupied by our forces. Private Gordon, on his own initiative, crept forward alone and succeeded in getting close to the machine-gun post. He then charged it and killed the four machine-gunners with his bayonet …” ■ 95

ULY

2011

18-24 J

ON AVIATI INGS PAINT E YEAR LONDON OF THLL GALLERIES m, –5p

am y 10 turda m. to Sa – 12.30 p . y a d ues ons am pm; T nday 10 monstrati 8 – u e pm lS ting d ay 5 ; Fina Mond 8 pm rs and pain Open ursday to tou t u h o T b with alka ing w Includ

HE FREE T ION ADMISS

MA

Battlefield Battlefie eld Tours T with the War Research Society

FREE CATALOGUE NOW AVAILABLE The battlefield tour specialists . . . taking you to the battlefields, war graves, memorials and last resting places of the fallen. World War 1 battlefield tours: Battlefield tours, war walks and graves tours of WW1 including: Somme, Ypres, High Wood, Plugstreet, Mons / Marne, Verdun, Salient, Gallipoli, US forces in the Great War, guided war walks, Anniversay tours ... World War 2 battlefield tours: Battlefield tours, war walks and graves tours of WW2 including: St. Nazaire, Normandy Beaches, Operation Overlord, Dunkirk, Dambusters Raid / Colditz Castle, Battle of the Bulge, Arnhem / Nijmegen, Berlin, Italian Campaign, Monte Cassino, Anzio, The Great Escape, Famous raids, Auschwitz ... Specialist battlefield tours: War walks and grave tours to: Crimea, Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, St. Petersburg, Singapore, Bangkok, The Bridge over the River Kwai, Zulu and Boer Wars, El Alamein, Libya, Tunisia, Norway, Finland, bespoke tours & school trips.

www.gava.org.uk

All enquiries: The Secretary The Guild of Aviation Artists Trenchard House 85 Farnborough Road Farnborough, Hants. GU14 6TF Tel: 01252 513123 e-mail: [emailprotected]

www.battlefieldtours.co.uk www.battlefie eldtours.co.uk for a brochure send to: Ian C Alexander War Research Society, 27 Courtway Avenue, Birmingham B14 4PP Telephone: 0121 430 5348 email: info@battlefieldtours.co.uk

years on 95 but not forgotten Historial, Museum of the Great War

Thiepval memorial and Visitor centre This monument commemorates more than 72,000 British and South African men who fell on the Somme between July 1915 and March 1918 and who have no known grave.

Somme - Picardy F ra n c e An amazing experience. Located in the heart of the Somme battlefields and only 20 mins from Thiepval memorial. The highlights of any visit include: Archive films about the Somme, Permanent Galleries and new exhibitions. Audio guides in English, Café, book shop and gift shop. Special rates and guided battlefield tours for groups. OPENING HOURS:

10.00 - 18.00 GROUP SALES AND INFORMATION: 00 33 3 22 83 14 18

www.historial.org email: [emailprotected]

EXHIBITIONS On July 1st 1916 the French and the British agreed to launch an offensive in the Somme. The battle that the armies unleashed was the largest of the First World War in terms of nationalities involved and losses of over a million men dead, wounded or missing. Nowadays, over 200,000 visitors from Great Britain, France, Australia, Canada, in fact from all over the World, come to discover the numerous WW1 sites on the Somme battlefields to understand the Great War and pay respect to those who gave their all.

BREATHING

FIREJune 16 - Dec 11 2011 The Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector. Employed only ten times during the war – nine on the Somme!

GHOSTS

Contemporary art and 1914-1918 artifacts

E X H I B I T I O N

13 May – 21 Aug 2011

AND NIGHTMARES

Historial de la Grande Guerre, Museum of the Great War Château de Péronne, BP 20063 – 80201 Péronne, France Tel : 00 33 (0) 3 22 83 14 18

VISITING THE SOMME To mark the 95th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme – the first day of which marked the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army – First World War historian Jon Cooksey presents his impressions of what the Somme means to him.

S

omme”. For me at least, the very sound of the word evokes a feeling of tremendous weight, heavy with overtones of damp and darkness; resonant with foreboding and with a particularly ominous finality. Doubtless there are those who might argue that this purely personal view is just some trick of false memory; that I believe it was always this way because I now know it to be so, after years of talking to veterans, of reading, research and visiting the battlefields. It has often been said that it was the year 1916 and the Battle of the Somme which seared itself onto the psyche of the British nation during the inter-war years, despite other titanic battles such as those at Arras, Third Ypres (Passchendaele), Cambrai in 1917, and the trials and tribulations of the final series of Allied victories in 1918. Exactly fifty years after the final shot in that “Great War for Civilisation” and a little over twenty years after a second, even more destructive,

world war had ended, it was clear that the Somme was still exerting its influence on me as when I wrote about the battle in a school essay as a 10-year-old in 1968. More than forty years on and on the 95th anniversary of that dreadful battle, the “pull” of the Somme seems as strong as ever. Books on the Somme appear at regular intervals with a flurry of titles – preferably with a “new angle” – being published around the big anniversaries. There is still an appetite and thirst for knowledge about this great battle on the part of the general public. I too am still drawn to walk the ground upon which many of the most momentous feats of arms – both tragic and heroic, heartbreaking and uplifting – in the history of the British Army took place. My first visit was in the 1970s with my brother Steve. Since then I have returned many times and it has been my good fortune during those visits to have met some of

those who had actually fought in the battle and who shared their experiences with me, or to have accompanied relatives and others researching men whose Somme stories they wished to uncover. Serre was one of the first places on the Somme I ever visited and it was to become a special place for me. In the early 1980s I became interested in the story of the 1st and 2nd Barnsley Pals Battalions – the 13th and 14th Battalions of the York and Lancaster Regiment respectively. I had already interviewed several veterans when I was put in touch with a chain-smoking octogenarian from Sheffield called Frank Lindley. Frank had gone “over the top” that fateful day and had survived the utter destruction of several of the northern Pals Battalions at Serre on 1 July 1916, the opening day of the Somme offensive. He had been one of almost 40,000 more who had become casualties that day. BELOW:

A field of poppies on the Somme. (Courtesy of the Historial de la Grande Guerre)

JULY 2011

97

VISITING THE SOMME

BRITAIN AT WAR

and whilst thousands of others joined up out of sense of patriotism Frank’s motivation had been pure revenge. “I lost my brother in one of the first ships to go down in the ‘Big War’,” he told me. “Harry had come home from the Mediterranean Fleet exercises. He hadn’t been home a few days when war broke out. They fetched him back, shoved him on a scratch cruiser, HMS Hawke, out in the North Sea and down they went – torpedoed. That’s what made me go to war; I wanted to avenge Harry’s death.”

Meeting Frank was both a revelation and an inspiration. Over many hours of taped conversation, a fug of cigarette smoke could neither diminish his sense of fun, his clear blue eyes nor his winning smile. He also had a razor sharp memory; a fact borne out when I cross-referenced his tales with the official accounts. Born in 1900 he was already technically a deserter when he joined the 2nd Barnsley Pals in Barnsley on 20 March 1915, aged just 15 years and 8 days. Frank had enlisted in the 2/3 West Riding Royal Field Artillery before the end of 1914

98

Feeling that his aim was not being fulfilled he deserted the Royal Artillery, reasoning that joining the infantry would allow him to get to grips with Germans much more quickly. Dumping his spurs and artillery uniform in a locker at Sheffield station he headed north and joined the 14th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment. Sixteen months later, just before 07.30 hours on 1 July 1916, with a sojourn in Egypt behind him, Frank, now 16-years-old, was huddled under the final British bombardment with the rest of ‘A’ Company in Nairne Street trench just behind the British front line at John Copse. They were opposite the German positions in front of Serre – a village which, after the Franco-German struggles of June 1915, had become a “model” sector for visiting German officers seeking learn how to bolster defences on other parts of the line. Frank’s company was on the extreme left flank of the entire Allied operation on the Somme that day – their task being to seal the left flank using a Russian sap which had been dug previously beneath No Man’s Land.

At Zero Hour Frank’s platoon commander Second Lieutenant William Hirst – who was a month shy of his first wedding anniversary – blew his whistle and Frank heaved himself out of the trench and lurched forward to join the leading waves of the 12th York and Lancs – The Sheffield City Battalion to their right. TOP:

Located just west of Serre, and in the area where the British front line was located on 1 July 1916, is the Sheffield Memorial Park. Opened as a memorial park in 1936, the site still exhibits the scars of the fighting and shelling that occurred here. An information board near the front of the park contains a map showing the positions of the various battalions here on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, along with the German trenches and machine-gun positions they advanced against. Also at the front of the park is this shallow depression, marking the course of a front line trench from 1 July 1916. (Courtesy of Alan Jennings; www.ww1battlefields.co.uk)

ABOVE LEFT:

Fifteen-year-old Private Frank Lindley photographed in 1915. (Author)

ABOVE RIGHT:

The author pictured with First World War veteran Frank Lindley in 1986. (Author)

LEFT:

Within the Sheffield Memorial Park is a memorial to the Barnsley Pals. The funds for this black granite stone memorial were raised by businesses, the council and private individuals from Barnsley. It was unveiled in 1998, seven years after the last veteran of the Barnsley Pals had died. (Courtesy of Alan Jennings; www.ww1battlefields.co.uk)

JULY 2011

VISITING THE SOMME

BRITAIN AT WAR

What happened next has become the stuff of legend. “I was in the first wave on the extreme left. Second Lieutenant Hirst was next to me. We were almost touching. We scrambled on to the fire step and then on to the top. It wasn’t long before he got it. I think he got a bullet in the head but it was only a fleeting glance. We had orders to keep moving … not to bother with the wounded. Our lads were all going on our right, there was nothing on the left. We had to go up [towards the German trenches]. It wasn’t a steep rise, just undulating, but of course it seemed like a mountain that morning.” With German machine-gun, rifle and artillery fire scything through No Man’s Land the leading waves of the 31st Division, Pals from Sheffield, Accrington, Leeds, Bradford and Barnsley, withered away. Frank remembered seeing “our lads … going down in their waves; flop, flop, flop [The German] wire was bundled up in great rolls with just an odd gap in between; perhaps two blokes could

JULY 2011

have got through at once but there wasn’t a chance of that … I remember the lads laid in rows, just as if they’d gone to sleep there, and the sun flashing on the bits of tin on their backs all down the lines.” Frank never made it into the German trenches. As the sheer volume of German fire rocked the British attack back on its heels he found himself held up at the wire. Darting from shell hole to shell hole he was hit by a shell fragment which tore deep into his thigh. He could go no further. Painfully and perhaps miraculously the 16-year-old rolled back across No Man’s Land and finally made it to the relative safety of the British front line where he was wounded again. Stretchered back, he was put on an ambulance and eventually reached Etaples where a doctor yanked the shell splinter out without anaesthetic. Frank then drifted into unconsciousness to the sound of someone sawing frantically! Later he was transferred to hospital in Britain aboard the ship St Denis. Frank’s war was over.

Decades later it was a privilege to record Frank’s story. I have returned to Serre many times since then, either alone or with groups, and standing near the shallow ditch on “the old front line” at the edge of Sheffield Park I always remember or retell Frank’s story. ABOVE LEFT:

The mine under Hawthorn Redoubt was fired at zero minus ten minutes before the assault at Beaumont-Hamel. The result of the explosion of 45,000 pounds of Ammonal can be seen in this image. The mine caused a crater 130 feet across by 58 feet deep. (IWM Q754)

ABOVE RIGHT:

A section of trench map showing the area where Frank Lindley waited, along with his colleagues of ‘A’ Company, 14th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, prior to Zero Hour on 1 July 1916: Nairne Street trench was just behind the British front line at John Copse. (IWM-WFA Image, Reference MA-2480-B)

BELOW:

Troops moving in the area of the British wire not far from where Malins filmed the Hawthorn mine exploding. The trench behind these men is the part of the British front known as Marlborough Trench and the line of trees marks the Old Beaumont Road; this, therefore, is a view looking south-west showing ground behind the British front line. (IWM Q745)

99

VISITING THE SOMME

BRITAIN AT WAR of the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers. His fascinating and ultimately tragic story was revealed when I toured the Somme with a group which included Frank Hummel whose own father had also gone over on 1 July 1916, at Fricourt with the 10th York and Lancs, and had also survived. Frank’s wife was Arthur Charlton’s granddaughter and so we made a stop at the preserved battlefield of Newfoundland Park, now one of the most visited sites on the Somme battlefield, to follow in his footsteps.

He was a lovely man who went on to live a long, happy and productive life – unlike so many of his comrades whose lives he had seen so tragically cut down in No Man’s Land almost a century ago. * Another man who survived against the odds on 1 July 1916, just a few miles south of Frank Lindley, was Arthur Thomas Charlton ABOVE LEFT:

Arthur Thomas Charlton in the 1920s. (Courtesy of Mrs Francis Bedford)

BELOW:

Preserved trenches at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. In the background, situated on a mound surrounded by rock and shrubs native to Newfoundland, there stands the Newfoundland Regiment Memorial, an impressive bronze caribou which was the emblem of the Newfoundland Regiment. The grounds of the memorial were purchased by the Newfoundland government in 1921, and it was officially opened by Field Marshal Earl Haig on 7 June 1925. (Courtesy of the Historial de la Grande Guerre)

100

Charlton, a colliery worker from South Wales, joined up at Brecon on 29 October 1914. He was three months short of his 30th birthday. Having served in the armed forces before the war, he embarked for France exactly a month later and joined the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers on the Western Front. Wounded on 24 January 1915 (gunshot wound to both legs) he had a bullet removed and was then transferred to Shorncliffe Military Hospital, Yarrow, from where he was discharged on 29 March 1915. On 10 May he embarked for Gallipoli in a draft for the 2nd Battalion which was part of the 29th Division. Charlton fought for the rest of the campaign in the Dardanelles and when the peninsula was finally evacuated he sailed for France in March 1916 bound for the Somme. On 1 July 1916, the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers was one of the lead battalions of

29th Division tasked with seizing the maze of German trenches and underground shelters in and around the deep, natural valley called Y Ravine. Known to the Germans as Leiling Schlucht, this location barred the southern approaches to the village fortress of Beaumont-Hamel. Even today a circuit of Newfoundland Park will reveal the obvious strength of the German positions in Y Ravine even if they were, for once, below those of the British trenches. Just before 07.20 hours, a British mine was due to be blown beneath a German strong point called the Hawthorn Redoubt a few hundred yards to the north. One witness to the detonation of the Hawthorn Ridge mine was British cinematographer Geoffrey Malins who was filming the 29th Division’s attack.

JULY 2011

Some important questions about the Battle of the Somme

main image by permission of The Imperial War Museum (Q2756)

• Was the Battle of the Somme a victory or a defeat for the British Army? • Was General Sir Douglas Haig a “butcher and bungler”, or was the Battle of the Somme a necessary step in the ultimate victory? • Did General Rawlinson get his tactics wrong on 1 July 1916? • How many British and Commonwealth Generals became casualties during the Battle of the Somme?*

About The Western Front Association:

* Six killed and nine wounded. To learn more and to discuss the answers to many other questions about the Battle of the Somme and its place in the Great War:

Join us

• 6,000 members worldwide • 40 Branches throughout the UK, and in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand • Six high quality magazines a year on all aspects of the First World War delivered to your door • Trench Map DVDs developed in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum • Extensive website and online discussion forum • Annual Cenotaph Service of Remembrance on11 November each year

only £26 a year

The Western Front Association understanding The Great War 1914-18 explore | learn | share founded 1980 registered charity no 298365

Write: Telephone: Email: Website:

PO Box 1918, Stockport, SK4 4WN +44 (0)161 443 1918 offi[emailprotected] www.westernfrontassociation.com

VISITING THE SOMME

He had his camera set up about half a mile away, trained on the ridge and waiting for the explosion. “The ground where I stood gave a mighty convulsion,” Malins later wrote. “It rocked and swayed. I gripped hold of my tripod to steady myself. Then for all the world like a gigantic sponge, the earth rose high in the air to the height of hundreds of feet. Higher and higher it rose, and with a horrible grinding roar the earth settles back upon itself, leaving in its place a mountain of smoke.” At that moment Arthur Charlton was, according to his medical records, “over the parapet, lying down preparatory to advancing and was hit in left foot and right arm by bullets”. He had not moved forward one inch and the rest of his battalion did not fare much better. As ‘A’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies had begun to move forward on the blowing of the Hawthorn Ridge mine to make their way through their own wire they were met by a storm of machine-gun fire and shrapnel. So intense was the onslaught that by 07.30 hours, according to the battalion War Diary, the leading companies had lost nearly all of the officers and about 70% of the men. The battalion had gone into the attack with twenty-one officers and 578 men – the War Diary states, somewhat bluntly, that “none reached the enemy’s trench”. At roll call that evening the losses amounted to fifteen officers and 384 men killed, wounded or missing. Arthur Charlton was one of that number.

BRITAIN AT WAR

It is hard to imagine it when standing in the green and pleasant surroundings of Newfoundland Park today but most of the carnage in which he was involved occurred in that rough triangle of sloping ground bounded by the path which leads down past the Danger Tree to Y Ravine Cemetery, the German front line and the track leading back to the Newfoundland Caribou Memorial from the imposing “Jock” atop the 51st Highland Division Memorial. * Almost five months separated the dreadful events of the first day on the Somme from those which occurred on what was arguably the last. Chris Vellenoweth travelled to the Somme with me to find out more about his uncle, 24-year-old Private Joseph Pearce of the 7th Battalion The Queen’s Regiment. Chris had extracts from the battalion’s War Diary, a few letters from his uncle and a place of burial – Stump Road Cemetery near Grandcourt above the valley of the River Ancre north of Thiepval. Standing outside the gates of this relatively small cemetery, which is off the beaten track of most tour itineraries, knowing that his relative was lying just yards away and that no-one in his family had been there before, Chris read out a few snippets from Joe’s letters home to a supportive audience. Writing on 14 August 1916, Joe had remarked that “having a few yards of British Front to take care of is, I suppose, something to be proud of”. Two months later, on 29 October, when conditions had deteriorated markedly,

he wrote that, “the weather here is absolutely rotten; rain and mud up to your ankles, but we don’t mind that because Fritz is beaten”. As it turned out Joe Pearce was overly optimistic; the Germans on the Somme were certainly not beaten. A few weeks later, on 18 November 1916, Joe took part in an assault on Desire Trench, an attack that was intended to improve the tactical position above the Ancre over the coming winter in what was, to all intents and purposes, the very last gasp of the entire Somme campaign. The conditions were appalling – the blazing hot sun of 1 July had given way to the snows and sleets of winter; the pummelled battlefield churned into so many acres of glutinous slime. “The morning of the 18th was extremely cold,” wrote the 7th Queen’s diarist. “A little snow fell and rain following made the ground very slippery. There was little light at ZERO hour except that it was possible to see figures outlined against the snow that had fallen; the conditions approximated a night attack”. ABOVE LEFT:

A preserved trench in the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial park pictured in the years after the Armistice. (Courtesy of the Historial de la Grande Guerre)

ABOVE RIGHT:

Just inside the entrance to the Park is a memorial to the men of the 29th Division. Raised above the level of the park, the monument was unveiled on 7 June 1925, the same day as the Park itself. The Guard of Honour included men who had served with the 29th Division during the war. Although some troops from the division reached BeaumontHamel on 1 July 1916, they were subsequently beaten back. The village was finally captured by men of the 51st Highland Division on 13 November the same year. (HMP)

LEFT:

Looking across the battle-scarred grounds of the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial – the very ground over which Arthur Charlton and his colleagues fought on 1 July 1916. (HMP)

102

JULY 2011

BRITAIN AT WAR

VISITING THE SOMME

ABOVE:

which Stump Road Cemetery now stands. Was Joe Pearce one of those men?

RIGHT:

Clearly emotional Chris Vellenoweth made his way through the gate to his uncle’s grave. While the rest of the group retreated to a respectful distance, Chris bent down and planted a poppy cross he had brought with him. A few minutes were spent alone and in silence.

The author studying the Somme battlefield some thirty years ago. The Thiepval Memorial can be seen in the background. (Author) Chris Vellenoweth and the author pictured behind the grave of Private Joseph Pearce of the 7th Battalion, The Queen’s Regiment, at Stump Road Cemetery, Grandcourt. The village of Grandcourt was reached by men of the 36th (Ulster) Division on 1 July 1916, but it could not be held. It was occupied by the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division on 7 February 1917, after a series of local attacks begun in November 1916. Stump Road Cemetery was made by the 7th Buffs in the following month. (Courtesy of Chris Vellenoweth)

BELOW:

A view of the desolate waste of Delville Wood, littered with blasted tree stumps, taken in September 1916. (IWM Q1259)

Heavy fire from machine-guns in dug outs rigged with trap doors further up Stump Road led to a loss of direction and in an attack which, according to one survivor, was “all over in ten minutes”, ten men were killed, two officers and seventy-five men were wounded. In addition, five officers and 172 men were listed as missing, many of whom were later posted as killed. The following day, a patrol led by Lance Corporal Anscombe found the bodies of several of the 7th Queen’s in the area upon

JULY 2011

Later he reflected on the many Queen’s Regiment men – comrades of his uncle Joe who had died in the same action – and who shared his final resting place, often two to a grave. Over dinner that evening, as it is every night on tour, there was more time for reflection, questions and talk with fellow travellers united in a common quest to find out just what happened to their relatives or predecessors who fought the Battle of the Somme. * It was just such a search for their predecessors which took four professional footballers to a field outside the village of Guillemont on an overcast morning in October 2010. The four were ex-Arsenal player and current Reading FC manager Brian McDermott, Reading’s alltime top scorer Trevor Senior, former player/ manager Mick Gooding, and ex-captain and Welsh International Ady Williams.

The four had travelled to the Somme with me and the BBC’s Graham McKechnie to discover more about Allen Foster – a swashbuckling goal scorer for Reading prior to 1914 – for a documentary about Reading FC’s First World War footballing heroes. Foster had fought on the Somme with the 17th (Footballers’) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. By any standards Reading Football Club’s contribution to the nation’s war effort during the First World War was remarkable. More than forty first and reserve team players joined the Colours between 1914 and 1918. Nine did not come back; Allen Foster was one of them. Foster, the son of a Yorkshire miner, had already passed into Reading folklore by 1914. Short, at 5’9”, but stocky and entirely committed to Reading’s cause, the striker had scored the winning goal against the

103

VISITING THE SOMME

BRITAIN AT WAR

mighty First Division Aston Villa in Reading’s famous FA Cup run of 1912. In January 1915 the 28-year-old from Kent Road near Reading’s ground at Elm Park, joined the “Footballer’s Battalion”. By the end of the year he was serving in the trenches along with other Reading FC favourites including Walter “Joe” Bailey, Ted Hanney, Albert “Ben” Butler, Angus Seed and Fred Bartholomew. Foster fought in Delville Wood – Devil’s Wood as they branded it – in late July 1916 after the legendary and extremely costly stand of the South African Brigade. By then the wood was a charnel house; there were no recognisable trench lines and bloated bodies and body parts lay strewn amongst the mutilated tree stumps. Foster’s letters home, although seemingly upbeat, hinted at a darker side to his war. “We made old Fritz hop about,” he wrote in one. “They were running about like lost sheep but we were popping away at him like blazes … It’s very trying to the nerves, lots of fellows get what they call shellshock. You won’t last long out here, but there’s no need to worry, I am A1”. ABOVE RIGHT:

Left to right; Current Reading FC manager Brian McDermott, ex-captain and Welsh Iinternational Ady Williams, all-time top goalscorer Trevor Senior and ex-player/ maneger Mick Gooding pictured at Delville Wood, October 2010, during their pilgrimage to the Somme battlefields. (Courtesy of Reading Football Club)

RIGHT:

Reading Football Club’s Allen Foster. (Courtesy of Graham McKechnie)

BELOW:

Twenty-eight year old Private Allen Foster was buried in Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension some ten miles east of Amiens. The majority of the graves in the extension are of officers and men who died of wounds in the 1916 Battle of the Somme. (Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

104

A few days later the 17th Middlesex were ordered to attack Z Z Trench north of Guillemont, not much more than a stone’s throw from Delville Wood and opposite the ruins of Waterlot Farm, which was an old sugar beet factory. When the whistles blew at dawn on 8 August 1916, Foster charged for the German line but machine-gun bullets caught the Footballers’ Battalion in a scything crossfire. Many were killed and wounded. Foster was hit several times and went down. The attack failed. Still alive – just – when the stretcher bearers got to him, Foster was taken back seventeen miles to a Casualty Clearing Station near the town of Corbie near Amiens. Unlike Frank Lindley and Arthur Charlton, he did not make it. When the news of his death reached Reading, the local paper declared it “came like a thunderclap”. Ninety-four years after the event, striker Trevor Senior – visibly moved – knelt at Allen Foster’s headstone and laid a wreath in Reading’s colours to honour a “team mate” of the past. “From one striker to an even better one”, he wrote on the card. “This is a great honour,” Senior said, “it’s the

least I can do. It’s very emotional – I won’t forget him.” “It just shows that the world we live in now is completely and utterly different,” observed Brian McDermott, “the way our footballers are now and how lucky we are – we’re only lucky because of people like them. For me, as manager of the football club, coming here to a place I never knew existed, where one of our former players is buried, it seems incredible to me. I’ll never forget being here and I’ll study even more what happened.” Such is the power of the Somme, a tapestry woven with thousands of individual stories; stories which can inspire and engage and draw you back time and again. ■ BARNSLEY PALS The full story of the 13th and 14th Battalions York & Lancaster Regiment - of men such as Frank Lindley - is told in the author’s book The Barnsley Pals. Published by Pen & Sword, this book was one of the earliest titles in their celebrated “Pals” series. For more information or to purchase a copy, please visit: www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

JULY 2011

BRITAIN AT WAR Selections

Steve Morris BRITISH ARMY CAP BADGES

MEDALS & MILITARIA We specialise in small, tailor-made convivial tours of Ypres, Somme, Falaise, Gallipoli, Waterloo and other battlefields both great and small, including the D-Day beaches.

Contact Nicky Bird at [emailprotected] to arrange a private tour at a reasonable, all-inclusive price

www.birdbattlefieldtours.com

184 Gravelly Lane Erdington Birmingham

Tel: 0121 382 1570

SEND S.A.E FOR TRADE BADGE LIST

'2<28+$9( $%22.72 38%/,6+" We buy and sell all military collectables, medals and militaria. We also offer a medal mounting and replacement service. Chelsea Military Antiques, 7 Whitcomb Street London, WC2H 7HA Tel: 0207 352 0308

The UK’ UK’ss leading Independent ppublisher is now seeking new manuscripts in all a subjects. Also seeking short stories for anthologies annthologies For an appraisal please send your manuscripts man nuscripts to:

MELROSE BOOKS BOOKS St Thomas’ Place, Ely Ely, y, Cambridgeshire CB7 4GG, UK U [emailprotected] www .melroseebooks.com www.melrosebooks.com

UHI%:

We stock a wide range of scale model aircraft and ship card kits and much more for you to build including: Aircraft - scale 1:33 Avro Lancaster..............£29.95 Mosquito FB VI.............£17.95 Ships - Scale 1:200 - Full Hull HMS Glowworm...........£19.95 HMS Vega......................£23.95 Ships - Scale 1:400 - Waterline HMS Hood.....................£18.95 HMS King George V.....£12.95 HMS Belfast..................£11.95 HMS Exeter...................£11.95 Send your order with cheque/PO/credit card details to Marcle Models (BAW), Turnagain, Finch Lane, Amersham,

Bucks. HP7 9NE, England Tel/fax 01494-765910 (24 hrs.) www.marcle.co.uk Prices include worldwide P&P - overseas airmail surcharge £5 per order. Send £3.50 (overseas £4.50 surface, £5.50 airmail) for our illustrated catalogue. *14-day “NO QUIBBLE” MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE (*if returned in a saleable condition) Book “Card Modelling Basic & Advanced Techniques” - £15.95, Overseas surface mail£17.95, airmail £20.95

WHAT I WOULD SAVE IN A FIRE

Geoff Simpson asks a top curator or trustee which one item in their collections they would reach for in the event of a disaster.

CONVOY WALL MAP CHURCHILL WAR ROOMS, LONDON (1939) Chosen by Cressida Finch, exhibitions manager for the Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast, both part of the Imperial War Museum

Cressida Finch admits that it would be a struggle to save her favourite object if fire was threatening the Churchill War Rooms, but she would still have a go. Cressida would head straight for the giant convoy map of the world which covers one wall of the Map Room at what used to be known as the Cabinet War Rooms. “The Map Room was the nerve centre of this site,” declares Cressida “and ultimately a major reason why my colleagues and I spend our working days in a basem*nt bunker. That said, distressingly, it would be very difficult to actually save the map if time was short asit isstuck very firmly to the backboard on the wall. “During the Second World War the convoy map was covered in pins plotting the hazardous journeys of the Allied naval convoys carrying men, food and weapons around the world. The pins were removed at the end of the war but they have left thousands of tiny holes behind, each telling a story of an individual, dangerous voyage. They also make me think of the Map Room staff who worked in this cramped, top secret room day and night for the duration of the war, as they’d have been moving them every day, carefully plotting locations. “We’re always learning new things about the objects inside the rooms. For example, when I was researching for a recent exhibition I had the privilege of speaking to a lady whose job at the Cabinet War Rooms included drawing tiny symbols for the heads of those pins! “At the moment we’re running a conservation programme across the whole of the Imperial War Museum called ‘On the Case’. It’s 106

all about checking and conserving objects that are on permanent display, so this is particularly fascinating at the Churchill War Rooms, where visitors can see historic rooms exactly as they were left in 1945, packed with a wealth of original historic material left in place ever since that time. The convoy map is one of several items we’ll naturally focus extra attention on and we are currently exploring ways to ensure that people can see this strategically significant object at the War Rooms for generations to come.” A site for a secure “Central War Room”, close to Parliament and Downing Street, was chosen under what was then the Office of Works building. Construction work began in June 1938 and the new facility became fully operational fourteen months later, able to serve the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff. This room was manned twenty-four hours a day from a week before war broke out in 1939 until the lights were switched off in August 1945, six years later. Visitors are astonished by the atmosphere and the small details of the room. It is possible, for example, to view rationed sugar cubes, carefully squirreled away by one of the Map Room officers who forgot them when he left in August 1945. The complex closed in August 1945, but remained intact, preserved exactly as it was at the war’s end, until, in the 1980s, proper preservation took place.

·

Located at Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London, the Churchill War Rooms are open daily (except for 24, 25 and 26 December). For more details on admission prices and how to find the museum, please call 020 7839 5897 or visit: http://cwr.iwm.org.uk

JULY 2011

A specialist mail order service offering thousands of titles from hundreds of publishers.

Spitfire Dr Alfred Price £19.99 Code: A03242

Luftwaffe Secret Projects: Fighters 1939 – 1945 Walter Schick and Ingolf Meyer £29.99 Code: A00524

Battle of Britain Dr Alfred Price £19.99 Code: M37135

Harrier Tim McLelland £45.00 Code: A37203

The Bomber Command War Diaries Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt £24.99 Code: A03358

Military Aircraft Markings 2011 Howard J Curtis £11.99 Code: A03471

Buy any 4 of these books and receive the 5th book FREE (Free book will be the cheapest book. Not in conjunction with any other offer. Postage and packaging applies)

To take advantage of this offer please contact us quoting code BW0811 We offer great products, personal service and so much more. Order online at www.ianallanplus.com or call our mail order Hotline 0844 245 6944 for UK calls and +44(0)1795 414 975 for Overseas or [emailprotected] Quoting ref BW0811 (offer valid until 20/08/11) Using Ian Allan Plus is easy: contact us by telephone, by post, online or pop into one of our shops. Birmingham 12 Ethel Street, Birmingham B2 4BG. Tel: 0121 643 2496

Cardiff 31 Royal Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AE. Tel: 029 2039 0615.

London 45/46 Lower Marsh, Waterloo SE1 7RG. Tel: 020 7401 2100.

Manchester 5 Piccadilly Station Approach, Manchester M1 2GH. Tel: 0161 237 9840.

Britain at War 2011-07 - PDF Free Download (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tish Haag

Last Updated:

Views: 6006

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tish Haag

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 30256 Tara Expressway, Kutchburgh, VT 92892-0078

Phone: +4215847628708

Job: Internal Consulting Engineer

Hobby: Roller skating, Roller skating, Kayaking, Flying, Graffiti, Ghost hunting, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Tish Haag, I am a excited, delightful, curious, beautiful, agreeable, enchanting, fancy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.