Where you on September3rd 1939 the day WW2 started
Waiting in the queue at my local suburban post office, I saw a book called "Fighter Pilot" by Wing Commander Paul Richie DFC & Bar. It was the story of his experiences flying Hurricanes in France 1939-1940. The book has been reprinted and updated many times. For two dollars it was a steal and I spent several enjoyable hours reading it.
It then struck me that tomorrow, 3rd September, is the 73rd anniversary of the Declaration of War by England against Nazi Germany and I wondered if PPRuNe readers of a certain age would remember where they were when war broke out on that day.
As for me, I remember the event clearly, even though I was only seven years old at the time. I was living in England. I had been press-ganged into the church choir by my elderly Uncle and Aunt who were religious types. Choir boys received something like sixpence a month to sing their heads off. That was for soprano voices but I don't know about the older boys. Maybe they got more higher duty pay? The Vicar in the pulpit announced in a suitably grave voice that the Prime Minister had broadcast to the nation we were now at war with Germany . Of course most of the older parishoners knew the stoush was coming sooner or later, but I was too young to understand the ramifications of where we lived in Cranbrook which was relatively close the coast of France and only 30 miles from London. A dangerous place to be as it turned out later.
At the end of the church service, we (Uncle, Aunt and me) walked respectfully around the moss-covered tombstones of the churchyard and wended our way over nearby fields to our house called "The Oaks", Angley Park, Cranbrook. Then we heard the sounds of the church bells of St Dunstan's ringing. It meant nothing to me of course - in fact I thought it was practice for the bell-ringers. My old Uncle and Aunt who had both served in the 1914-1918 Great War, knew otherwise. It was a pre-arranged England-wide warning that meant German parachutists were landing. Later the "All-Clear" siren was heard. The church bells had been a false alarm. Nevertheless I noticed my Uncle had his twelve bore shot-gun and cartridges handy. From that day I have never forgotten to stop and remember that date the 3rd September 1939.
In Melbourne, Australia, I doubt if the newspapers will give the events of that year the time of day. Their priority will be pages and pages of the results of the weekend Australian Rules football games with photos of biffo going on between the opposing sides. After that, the next priority would be media coverage of the latest industrial mayhem between the under-resourced police and the militant union thugs in balaclavas, picketing Central Melbourne.
School children in Australia wouldn't have a clue about 3rd September because most likely it is not covered in school history books and most likely it would mean nothing to their teachers, anyway. Priority in history books here is given to how the bad white men from England beat up and murdered the local native population. Even the popular E's-E-2-C calender doesn't mention 3rd of September as the anniversary of the start of WW2; instead it records the date as Australian National Flag day. Big deal...
I was in my cot. My Mother said I caused the Second World War. By the war's end I and my pals knew all the aircraft that flew around. My old man helped build Wellingtons and Warwicks and Windsors at Brooklands/Smith's Lawn/Wisley. We collected shrapnel and bits of a V-1 that landed close enough to leave hot bits that burned my fingers. The Avenue Sunbury on Thames. Abiding memory was of a POW [Kempton Park] detachment of Luftwaffe aircrew types, one of whom was allowed to show me pictures of his kid and who hugged me and burst into tears. Not directly involved, my childhood war was full of exciting moments like being thrown Chocolate bars, biscuits, Beamans Spearmint Gum while the passing US troops wolf whistled my Ma and her pals!
Later my Mother blamed every weather anomaly [snow/rain/lack of sun] on what she called "The Atom!". She smoked like a chimney, drank gin and let me put lead toy ships in my mouth while I played with my pals Ant and Mike in our cat shit laden sand pit!
Apparently Film Star Jessie Mathews lived next door and took me for pram rides but I don't remember that at all! She had gone by the time I could walk around.
And I was 8, soon to be 9 in early December. Memories are a bit vague but we still played 'cowboys and indians' and went to school! My dad joined the ARP and a warden shelter was dug and built on a 'council' nearby - so called because on every corner of the new overspill estate where we lived the council put in loads of shrubs. This shelter was deep and had comms to here and there. It was a stop off for cops, who patrolled the streets, for a free cup of tea. There was a dart board and my dad had a team that took on others teams in the area, my dad then formed a league and it was all very relaxed until the war started in earnest.
Anyway, days came and went quite normally and the war had not yet come our way. That was to change during the next few months.
The first bomb we had landed about 150 yards up our road and 'Mrs Penny's' house along with two others were demolished. But worse was to come, although our corner of London escaped major bombing and nowhere near as bad as the East end of London.
So, the time before all that was simple and normal. I think rationing had started, our local aerodrome, Croydon, about a mile and half away, had ceased flying civil operations and the RAF moved in. That was exciting for us kids and we often had Spitfires and Hurricanes, Ansons and Gladiators overhead training I expect and waiting for what was to come.
For us kids at that time it was VERY exciting and even stayed that way during the Battle of Britain and the years following until the V1's came very very close. On one occasion only 150 yards away, as we ran down the slope of a near shelter. That bomb hit St.Helier (Carshalton, Surrey) hospital but if it had hit 75 yards to left and 70 yards farther on it would have done enormous damage and killed hundreds of patients. In the event it hit a small doctors abode 15 feet from the main road. We were on the other side when the engine stopped - and ran like hell.
Two days later my mum decided that with dad away in Africa we would evacuate and went to Derby for 6 months - then came home to the V2's but that's another story.
Either in my cot or asleep in my pram in a married quarter in Bulford Camp. My father had just been recalled to the colours with 1st Royal Horse Artillery. Several months later the Regiment was moved to Sussex ready to deploy with the British Expeditionary Force to France. My father moved the family to Sussex where we stayed for the duration of the war and many years afterwards. Our house was only about 5 miles from Dunsfold and my first recollection of aviation was when the Canadians, having built the airfield, started operating B25s from there in 1942.
I wasn't even a glint in my old man's eye, but in 1967, in a new job, my boss pointed out the shearing shed at Kinchega (now part of a national park) where he'd been working when he heard that war had broken out. He left immediately to enlist, and spent a large part of the war in the Pacific theatre.
Don't feel to bad, most of our kids do not even know that on Sept 2, 1945 in Tokyo Harbor aboard the USS Missouri, Representatives of the Empire of Japan signed the articles of surrender under the Direction of General Douglas Mac Arthur. Thus ending World War II. I asked one kid yesterday if he knew and I gave him some hits, Didn't know what the USS Missouri was. He told me that he is majoring in Music in College. Well all this old broken down pilot could think is that when he gets to my age, he will still be saying "You want fries with that".
I was sat on out back door step with a friend, reading the Aeroplane borrowed from my elder brother. Our only thought wa that we were see a lot of new aircraft. That turned out to be true, but no quite in the way we hoped.
Although eight years old at the time I clearly remember my mother and her parents listening to the announcement on the radio. I had previously constructed an air raid shelter for my lead soldiers in the back garden and the first thing I did was to put them under cover. We lived in Canterbury,( the English one), and during the first year of the war we had to leave school whenever the siren sounded and walk over a bridge across the river to the shelter where we remained until the all clear sounded. During 1940 the siren often sounded early in the morning and the alert often lasted all day. The pupils could only leave during an alert if they were collected by a parent, so if a parent was working it could be late in the evening before you were allowed to leave.
Although eight years old at the time I clearly remember my mother and her parents listening to the announcement on the radio. I had previously constructed an air raid shelter for my lead soldiers in the back garden and the first thing I did was to put them under cover.
Tears of laughter over that post
I was shifted to live in Tonbridge, Kent around 1941. In those days Dinky toy aeroplanes were very popular for small boys. I had several Hurricanes and Spitfires as did my school friend a few doors away. He would construct well concealed hide-outs (hangars) in his front garden for his aeroplanes and I did the same in his back garden. Usually under rose bushes where he would get scratched if he tried to bomb my Spitfires while they were refuelling. We had some wonderful times dog fighting with our Dinky Toy aeroplanes. It was left to one's own conscience whether or not you accepted you had been shot down. After the game thre was the chore of washing our Dinky Toy Spits and Hurricanes under the garden tap to clean off the mud from the garden. Then went I went home to my house I would sneak a quick gander for any suspicious mounds of dirt in his front garden where he may have hidden his aircraft. Both of us would make wooden Spanish galleons during wood-work classes at school, then bring them home and set fire to them in the garden pond just like we had read about in history books at school of the fate of the Spanish Armada. Thread drift - sorry.
3 Sep 39 from the point of view of the British Commonwealth and France, but arguably the commencement date is - 7 Jul 37 - China 29 Sep 38 - Czechoslovakia 1 Sep 39 - Poland 10 May 40 - Low Countries 7(8) Dec 41 - USA I guess it all depends of which hilltop you're sitting on, giving you a five year span to choose from.
Last edited by skippedonce; 5th Sep 2012 at 08:26.
I assume that means 4 X 500 lb bombs on Brunsbuttel, at the mouth of the Elbe. I wonder what the objective was, apart from letting them know that their war with Great Britain had begun?
(He went on to be an instructor after that, mostly in (then) S. Rhodesia, and his next OPS sortie was Sept 22nd 1943, to Hannover in his Lancaster, followed by 4 more, the last on Oct 2nd 1943, when he was shot down to spend the rest of the war in Stalagluft III and the Long March.)
Long answer - While I have no idea what I was doing last month, my first serious aviation-related memory is permanently etched on my mind. It was Sunday 3rd September 1939, just after 11am and I was a six-and-a-half year old lad playing in the back garden of my parents’ shop that formed part of the main terrace of shops in the village of Ore on the northern outskirts of Hastings. My mother was leaning out of an upstairs window shouting at me to come in at once over the noise of the air-raid siren that was wailing from the top of the church tower just down the road. The noise of the siren was strangely frightening. A few weeks earlier when looking out of our attic window I had seen a Graf Zeppelin going by low and slow on a westerly heading. My parents had scared me at the time by saying that I should not be up there when “those things were about”.
The penny gradually dropped after that Sunday in the garden and I realised all the adults around me were very worried about being attacked from the air. The first bombs fell on Hastings on the 26th July 1940 and I remember two quite well. One dug a groove in the pavement outside our shop, skipped down the road and blew in the church windows. The other knocked a corner off my school. It was only 7.15 in the morning so we kids were still at home but a teacher was killed.
Old not bold: Your assumption about your father's first raid is probably about right. "The bomber will always get through" had been a widespread belief through the 20s and 30s and, once Germany had invaded Poland, President Roosevelt made an appeal to the European nations likely to go to war not to bomb towns or civilian targets, and both the UK and France had agreed. (Germany apparently waited till its Polish campaign was complete.) The net result for Bomber Command was that in the first months of the war it could not attack targets inside Germany; only leaflet drops were allowed there. Attacks on German naval ships were, however, permitted, providing the vessels were at sea or moored away from quaysides. So, in a sense, it was the only offensive option available at the time, and the daylight ops on 4 September experienced a near 25% loss rate, a harbinger of things to come.
Middlebrook & Everitt's "Bomber Command War Diaries" gives a good deal of detail on all of this.