View Full Version : World War II youth in combat.

15th Apr 2004, 16:22
This tread is based on some of the comments made in the “Hollywood history rewrite thingy “ thread. I started thinking about the young aircrews of World War II. People like my Father.

The first time I flew the Atlantic as Captain I was 40 years old in a Boeing 727 with 3 INSs. The first time my father flew the Atlantic he was 21 years old in a B-17. No only was he the Aircraft Commander, he was the Lead in a 4-ship formation because he was the highest time pilot of the flight. He was flying combat at the age of 21. He was not an exception, he told me that the Squadron Commander, the old man, was only 30.

After his first tour of duty ended he was rotated back to the United States to give speeches to new pilot trainees because he was a “Highly experienced combat pilot”. He was 23. He completed two more tours in Europe in B-17s and was in B-29 transition school when Japan surrendered. He was a Major, he was 26.

My father, like most of his generation didn’t talk much about what happen to him during WWII, except for the funny stunts they pulled while under the influence of a lot of whiskey (he claimed that they came a hell of a lot closer to getting killed doing stupid things on the ground than they ever did flying). When I tried to get him to talk about his experiences in WWII he would just say, “I did my job like everybody else.”

I don’t think that there is any way our and our children’s generations can ever understand or appreciate what my father’s generation suffered and accomplished at such a young age.

So, please lets not keep this a single nation subject. All the countries involved in World War II had young men and women such as my father. England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia (USSR) and Japan, not to mention Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and all other countries whose young people made such great sacrifices.

And please no willy waving and blaming, or any of that type of response. Lets just honor the memory of that generation no matter the nationality.

I thank you.

15th Apr 2004, 16:35
IIRC New Zealand lost the greatest proportion of its population of as casualties of any combatant nation in WW II ..... thank you Kiwis:ok:

Biggles Flies Undone
15th Apr 2004, 16:38
Nice idea for a thread.

My Dad was in the Royal Artillery – fought all the way from Normandy to the Rhine and only ever talks about the funny times, although one of his old oppos told me years ago that they had been through some very bad stuff and seen awful things.

Dad’s next door neighbour and best friend, Pat Flynn, was a pilot on the Hurricanes that were catapulted from merchant ships. He survived all that the Luftwaffe and North Atlantic could throw at him and was killed when a Jeep he was sitting on started with a jump and he went off the back, breaking his neck.....

15th Apr 2004, 18:39
Well said, con-pilot :ok:

Ralph the Bong
15th Apr 2004, 19:08
My Uncle was in New Guinea with 9th division. He was 19. One day a shell exploded near him and a mate. He turned to his mate and said "Jeez, that was close" but his mate didn't answer because he didn't have a head. My Dad told me this.

The 9th division fought a strategic withdrawl against the Japanese. This meant that after each skirmish, the diggers moved back a few hundred yards and compelled the Japanese to perform more recon. patrols to find out where the Aussies were. This left their patrols vulnerable to constant ambushes, a tactical factor that wore the Japanese push to a standstill.

Some General later addressed the diggers and lambasted them as cowards. Lucky for the General, none of the troops or officers on the parade ground had loaded weapons, otherwise he probably would have been shot by his own men. I wonder if that is recorded in the history books.

Uncle Billy was unable to hold down a job after the war and never married. He drank heavily and, for a while, lived under a bridge. He died in 2000 in a Repatration Hospital of chronic alcholism. He is buried in Sutherland cemetry with a Serviceman's headstone.

15th Apr 2004, 20:09
My two Granfathers were in the RAF during the war, one died before I was born and the other died when I was very young so I haven't been able to find out much about them other than my Gran saying yes he did quite a bit of flying. My mother can't tell me much about her father during the war either except that he was stationed in Wales. I would really like to find out more about them, does anyone know if and where I can obtain information from?

I also have a great uncle (still alive) who was in the navy and was taken prisoner by the Japs towards the end of the war. His ship was sunk and they floated for 3 weeks on a life raft. He lost his eye to them and to this day he doesn't talk to anyone about his experiences in a Japanese concentration camp, all he said was,"several times we thought of sinking the raft but we held on because we knew there were other British and allied vessels in the area. If we knew what we were about to go through we would have sunk the raft in a heartbeat." It sent chills down my spine when he told me that.

I count myself very lucky that I still have family, 1 Gran, 2 great aunts and 1 great uncle, who were experienced WWII and are willing to share their experiences with me. I visit my Gran every month and shall be doing so on Saturday for her 88th birthday and I still always listen in awe, wonder and excitement at the stories she tells of WWII

15th Apr 2004, 21:14
My Grandfather would never talk about the war. We know he was in Anzio and North Africa but apart from that details are sketchy.
On his return from the War my Grandmother was going through his trunk and found a bullet hole in his greatcoat, she asked him about it but he just turned away and wouldn't say a thing.

My other grandfather was Station Officer for Brecon Fire Brigade at the outset of WW2 and he spent most of the war in places such as Swansea docks. Two of my great uncles were policeman in London in the Blitz.

I don't honestly think any of us can grasp the enormity of what they went through, lets hope we never have to find out.

15th Apr 2004, 21:54
My grandfather was involved with tanks and ambulances during WWII and my grandmother (polish) spent 3-4 years in a POW camp.

Naturally the war was not mentioned in their house and if any war film came on my grandfather would say 'Oh this a bloody stupid film' and turn it off immediately.

One day I naively asked if he had taken out any Germans (I was about Ten). He simply replied 'enough'.

My grandmother is now nearly 90 years old and awaiting compensation from the German govenment. I hope she gets to enjoy it.

The recurring theme here so far seems to be the the true vets won't talk of their experiences.

That in itself speaks volumes.

15th Apr 2004, 22:10
It wasn't until about 5 years ago I discovered that my Great uncle was a highly decorated tank commander in the "Desert Rats". He had never mentioned it to me, and my parents had never really heard him talk of it. I only discovered because of a picture of him in uniform. It turns out he went on to serve in other conflicts, and was even asked to go to 10 Downing street on occasions to talk with various guests about his experiance. Of my other great uncles, one was refused military service because of his health, and the other served in the infantry as a medic.

My Great Great Grandfather died of the affects of a gas attack just after WWI. I was given his cap badge, which I have always kept and displayed.

15th Apr 2004, 22:14
I have sent you a PM with details of the person to contact in the RAF who will help.

15th Apr 2004, 23:07
Cheers Bletchley! :ok:

henry crun
15th Apr 2004, 23:13
Ralph the Bong, "I wonder if that is recorded in the history books"

It is, in A Bastard Of A Place by Peter Brune, the story of the Australians in Papau, the general was Blamey.

16th Apr 2004, 02:54
Its a sobering thought but most of the combatants in WWII were very, very young - as were most of the others before and since. [Do you remember the song "Nineteen"?] In Nelson's day ten year old powder monkeys served in Royal Navy ships at the Nile and Trafalgar. In his biography "First Light" we discover nineteen year old Geoff Wellum, serving in 91 Squadron as an experienced Battle of Britain combat veteran with a DFC; one of the 'old hands' showing the new boys how to stay alive.

My own father joined the navy at the age of sixteen and after basic training, was given a 'safe billet' in the battleship KG5 doing Arctic convoys until he was eighteen. He was then old enough for more dangerous work in a destroyer (30% of Royal Navy destroyers were sunk, taking nearly 13,000 of their crew with them) At Normandy, where most of his colleagues on the bridge were klled or wounded by shrapnel from a German 105mm shore battery, he was still just nineteen, as were most of the unsung heroes who waded ashore under enemy fire that day. Just doing their job certainly, but what a bloody dreadful job it was.

Ralph the Bong
16th Apr 2004, 03:03
Great Thread!

My Grandfather was fortunate enough to avoid combat. He was a Gunner in an AA battery in Darwin. He was discharged on compassionate grounds some weeks prior to the commencement of the Japanese bombing. He had 7 kids, one in New Guinea, the rest at home and my Grandmother had become very sick.

He was a prolific photographer and several of his photos are in the book "Fortress Darwin". The only thing I ever heard him say about the Army was that he was with "a great bunch of blokes"

Many years ago, my Mother had to do an assignment at university on migirants to Australia. She interviewed a good friend of mine's Mother and 'Nona', who were from Italy.

Asked about war experiences it came out that they had lived on a farm. An Allied airman had been shot down and hiding in their house. The Germans came and were searching for him, but didn't find him.

I was impressed that my mate's Nona, who lived at his home, could be capable of such an act of compassion and bravery. Had the airman been found, there is little doubt of the consequence for this fine woman.

16th Apr 2004, 03:45
My late father was in his early 30's when WW2 started, and in the RAF reserve. He survived Dunkirk (why he was there was another story...) with the Croix de Guerre and some gruesome stories only told with the help of several beers. Later, he flew as anair gunner in Liberators from Iceland and survived a bail-out after a U-Boat fought back. After the war, he became stolidly pacifist because, he tearfully admitted just once, he had shot several of the enemy and enjoyed it, and never wanted to feel like that again.

His younger brother became one of the RAF's best nightfighter RadNav's, serving on Beaufighters and Mosquitos. Awarded his second DFC in 1944, and was killed a week later in the Cherbourg peninsular. Even more tragically, it was an aircraft accident on the ground that took his life - the accident report makes desperate reading. I treasure his medals, and the two photographs I have of the uncle who left before I was born.

I shall take r1jr to one of the dawn ceremonies on ANZAC day...

16th Apr 2004, 09:25
My maternal grandmother was engaged to someone who was killed in WW I....if it wasn't for that war I wouldn't be here now :(

My paternal Grandfather was a postmaster and as such on the "reserved occupations" list??? HE was A1 fit and the army had started calling up all A1 fit men. He had a long chat with his boss who recommended he volunteer to serve in the Army Postal service or he could end up drafted directly to the front line. (We're talking not long married with young boy - my dad.)
So off he went...served most of the war in London clerking for senior staff officers. He was pulled aside one day and offered a commission. He declined as he didn't want to make the Army his career....he knew also that turning it down might end up with him drafted overseas....
Well eventually it happened. He and his mates were kitted out with jungle kit. They were standing on the docks fully expecting to go to Burma where the previous boat load had been shipped.....he ended up in Nigeria. As he had been a postmaster he was sent to Kaduna and ran the army postoffice there. He knows he was lucky never to see frontline action but he has some interesting stories all the same!
He's 95 this year and he has been writing up his memoirs for the last few winters. From his childhood in a fishing village salting herring to have enough to eat in the winter, through the war years, his civic life (mayor/alderman etc) and more. It's a fascinating read. The details of his wartime experiences are really incredible.

Other guys from where I grew up went to the Navy as they were mostly fishermen. One in particular was torpedoed twice in the North Sea. He never ever talked about it and would only grunt if asked was he in the Navy. One other chap I knew was also in a Japanese concentration camp. He never talked about that either and couldn't bear to think of it. He too held a grudge against the Japanese all his life.

He may not have made it through to be the great guy he is today.
Then again, his job was important in its own way. Making sure letters got through to the frontline from home etc kept many spirits up that may otherwise have failed.

Gosh - typing this out doesn't half make me contemplate how lucky I am.

16th Apr 2004, 09:59
Both my parents served in the US Navy during the Second World War. As a child I didn't know that 'Pipe down!' was not a standard injunction to a noisy child or that most families didn't use 'cruise boxes' for storage.

My mother was and is a pretty hard nut. Well, she ended up, aged 23-24, as the Navy nurse in charge of R5Ds (Douglas DC-4, C-54, sort of) packed full of wounded being flown from the Pacific back to hospital. That tended to give her a somewhat different take on life. When one fell down as one of her children and started mewling she would just check for vital signs and then deliver a verbal kick up the *rse if one couldn't come up with some major trauma. No cuddles or cookies and milk were to be had from that quarter. F*ck 'Lassie'!

She had a cousin who was captured on Bataan. That was a Mongolian clusterf*ck of cosmic proportions, when we left a large body of green troops in a half-finished and mostly unprovisioned fortress to be captured by the Japs. The General in charge just said 'I shall return' and then bugged out for better parts, to be made much of for his heroism.

The cousin got to participate in the Bataan Death March and then spend most of the war in Jap captivity. When I knew him he would just sit back in the corner next to his mother, saying very little, at any family gathering.

Mother's two cents' worth was that he was probably some kind of closet homosexual for acting the way he did! What, he should have just pulled up his socks and got on with it? Well, most did.

Then from my generation I can remember one fellow who won the Silver Star and then ended up in jail for robbing a convenience store and a couple more who ran their cars into bridge abutments after failing to cope with life post-Viet Nam. So many of the rotary-wing brotherhood are just completely mad, but in that crowd they do not tend to stick out. But, again, most people just got on with it.

I met a young fellow in 1987 who told me that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To my politely raised eyebrow of enquiry he told me that he had been a photographer in the US Marine Corps in Beirut. 'Ah, yes,' I replied, 'the Marines in combat; one looting, one shooting and two taking pictures.' Before he could gather his wits for a response to that sally, one way or the other, I smiled politely and then faded away like the Cheshire Cat.

16th Apr 2004, 11:00
I hope all the "Posters" on this thread are writing these memories down. These are the sort of memories that brings family history alive. You may not be interested in geneology yet but you will be later... or your children will. I implore you - WRITE THESE STORIES DOWN AND DIG DEEPER IF YOU CAN.

Sorry, I get passionate now and again.

16th Apr 2004, 12:16
It's been my experience that those who saw combat service are very reluctant to talk about the actual combat. Those who served but didn't see combat seem more anxious to talk about actual combat.

I was reminded of this when I was having a medical examination for my pilots licence. The medical examiner was a Scotsman who had served in the RAF during WW2. We got to talking and I asked him whether he had actual flight experience and he told me the basic details of his wartime service. Hurricanes in the Middle East and then Mosquito night fighters over the Balkans.

At one stage I mentioned to him the incredible courage I felt had been shown by Bomber Command crews whose statistical chances of survival were nil. Still being able to quiely go out to their aircraft to fly those incredibly dangerous missions while being aware of the danger.

The doctor agreed and then started to recall the incredible feeling of being so terribly alone in combat. He then told me of hearing a comrade on the radio who was under attack and dying and of being unable to do anything to help. We both went very quiet and the examination finished soon after.

I have the most incredible admiration for all those who have and still do put their lives at risk in the armed services and nothing but disgust for those who order them to do so for nothing more than political gain.

Biggles Flies Undone
16th Apr 2004, 12:46
Another memory in the ‘never talk about it’ category. My Uncle Dave was a tail gunner in Lancasters and I know he flew a lot of missions, but whenever I asked him about it, his stock reply was “It was nothing like as exciting as people make out”. I suppose the reply was a mix of modesty and the fact that these people lived in such exciting times that a lot of what we would find extraordinary, they found routine.

He did tell a couple of good ‘after the war’ stories, though.

On training missions an extraordinary number of flights ended in an emergency ‘tech’ stop in France. While one of the crew ‘fixed’ the problem the rest of them popped out to buy as much champagne as they could carry (it went for 10 times the French price back in England). The customs back home had their suspicions, but never found any booze when they searched the aircraft. It seems that the deep boxes that ran the length of the aircraft to hold the ammo belts were the perfect size for champagne bottles, which became invisible under a single layer of ammo :D

They also got loads of flights to dispose of surplus munitions – basically fly out over the North Sea, drop bombs and go back for more. A favourite trick was for a pair of Lancs to go out and find a little fishing boat (preferably French) minding its own business. First aircraft drops its load a mile or so from the boat, causing much noise and water spouts. Second aircraft runs in directly towards the boat and opens its bomb bay doors. Cue much action on the boat and the firing of all available flares to attract the bomb aimer’s attention. Uncle Dave said the Squadron record was three flags, seven flares and two men overboard :ok:

16th Apr 2004, 12:54
Animalclub - as I mentioned, my Grandfather has been wiling away winter hours on his memoirs. Typing them up on his 1950 inked ribbon clunky typwriter. He's enjoyed doing it as remembering stimualtes his memory and more things come back to him. i would love to have them typed up and bound for him.....maybe next time I'm back I'll "borrow" them for a read......hmmm :hmm:
Boy I hope I'm as switched on at 95 as he is.
Actually - I hope I make it to 95 :\

Just remembered what he said about different civy support groups in the war - how without them many soldiers would have just given up or fallen apart under the stress.... WWII wasn't your modern 60day wham bang show. Many of those guys+girls were deployed for 4/5 YEARS fighting!

16th Apr 2004, 14:16
An uncle of mine, Erik, whom I obviously never met, was captured by the Gestapo in 1943 whilst returning from Sweden in a small fishing boat he had stolen to ferry over Danish jews to Sweden. He was sent to Bergen-Belsen where he died in 1944. He was 19. His body has never been recovered, but the family insisted in putting a headstone bearing his name at the family graveyard. To this day, the Israeli government is picking up the price of maintaining his "grave".

The average Danish people, mainly fishermen, and the Danish resistance movement managed to get more than 90% of all Danish jews across to Sweden before the Gestapo could get to them. All this took place in the span of around 2 weeks, at night, crossing the Oersund in small vessels doding German patrol boats on the sea and Army and Gestapo patrols on the beaches and harbours.

Another uncle of mine, Arne, whom I obviously also never met, was killed by the Wehrmacht during a raid on an ammunition dump in 1944. He was 17. He is resting in the same graveyard as Erik.

To this day, I still have tears in my eyes remembering how these two otherwise ordinary guys did something truely unselfish and heroic, paying the ultimate price for their efforts.

My middle name is Erik. Make fun of that, no matter how big and ugly you are, and I'll make you wish you were never born.

16th Apr 2004, 14:17
Slightly O/T as more WWI that WWII related.

My maternal grandfather started WWI as a Czech under the Austrian uniform on the Russian front, and, as many of his fellow countrymen, crossed the frontline and joined the Czech Legion of the Russian army (see here (http://reference.allrefer.com/encyclopedia/C/CzechLeg.html) or here (http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/notebooks/czech-legions.html) )

Initially his unit started fighting against the Germans (obviously not against the Austrians). They were supposed to be transferred to the French front, but that turned out impossible because of the Soviet Revolution and the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty between Soviet Russia and the Austro-Germans. They had to go all the way to Vladivostok to return to Europe and more or less controlled the Trans-Siberian railway during that period.

He only came back home in 1921 (WWI actually lasted 7 years in some places)

He then served in the Czechoslovak army as a cavalry officer. He was a garrison commander in 1939 when the army was disbanded (as a result of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the 3rd Reich on March 15th 1939 - In some places WWII started a bit earlier actually). He joined the underground upon his return to civilian life and was captured by the Gestapo on May 9th 1940. As Bohemia was a German protectorate, he was deported to Stuttgart and was charged with high treason (!). He was sentenced to death and beheaded on April 6th 1943. After the war he was posthumously promoted to colonel.
Incidentally, my brother is born on the same day some years later, which makes the date more bearable for my mother.

16th Apr 2004, 15:10
Both of my parents served with the RAF in WW2. My father flew Lancs with 57 squadron. His aircraft being the only one in the squadron to fly operations from 1943 and to survive the war.

His aircraft was badly shot up on a number of occasions. After one particularly horrendous mission he was awarded the DFM (DFC's being for officers only - at that time he was a humble Flight Sergeant). To my shame, I took his medal to school one day and lost it. He wasn't concerned in the slightest, believing there are lots of things more important than a piece of tin.

By a strange quirk of fate, my son recently served on 57 squadron, piloting Hercs. Through the Squadron old boys association my son was able to locate 2 of my fathers long lost crew, the only ones known to be still alive. They now keep in regular contact and are delighted that they have found each other again. The squadron has now been disbanded, all that is left are the fading memories of the very brave survivors


16th Apr 2004, 17:39
I don't know if you are aware but the old 57 Squadron airfield at East Kirkby has been restored as a Museum.

They have the Lancaster that used to be the Scampton Gate Guardian on display and they run its engines up on Bank Holidays and other selected dates.

You can also get a taxxy ride in it.

The airfield site is dedicated primarily to 57 and 630 Squadrons.

A web site link is:-


PM me if you want any further info

17th Apr 2004, 05:17
Dishman mentioned civvy support people. My father in law battled his way through New Guinea et al and he says that he said "Thank God for the Salvos" more than once.

17th Apr 2004, 08:43
My 87 year old mother (the oldest juvenile delinquent I know!) was a CPO WREN in the Fleet Air Arm. She has told me many stories of her wartime service, mostly the amusing ones, like flying under the Forth bridge in a Swordfish or getting a ride in a Gruman Martlet (Wildcat) which if memory serves me correctly was a single seat fighter! she managed to have some fun times despite the cicumstances. There were, however, the bleaker stories like being refused permission to try and rescue the crew of a crashed aircraft from the sea, the crew did not survive and she still is bitter about being ordered not to attempt a rescue.

Only a couple of years ago she mentioned that if things had been different I probably would not be around, at least not with my current set of genes, as she would have married someone other than my father.............except the person concerned died when the Repulse was sunk off Singapore.

My father was refused military service on medical grounds so spent WWII in the Home Guard. Though not seeing active serice he once told me about making (and filling!) coffins for victims of bombing on the city of Exeter. Some of the contents were fairly horrific and when asked by some local notable how he coped he replied, "I go out and get drunk at night", at which point he was given 10 shillings !

I think that most ordinary people from that generation (and previous ones) lived through times and had experiences that we can have little concept of. I find it amazing that the majority of them remained sane, normal individuals, though as some other posters have said, sadly not everone who survived did so without mental scars.

We all owe them a lot and as Animalclub has suggested we should record the stories before they are lost.


17th Apr 2004, 10:09
My father was a naval officer who saw action variously on Kanonenboote (cannon-boats?), the battleship 'Luetzow' and U-boats (albeit briefly) before being given command of a frigate.

He does not talk about the war much, however he has told me of a marvellous encounter which says a lot about the calibre of the soldier back then. When the order to surrender came from Admiral Doenitz he was cruising off Scotland. The substance of the order was to proceed to the nearest enemy port at a maximum of 5 knots, all weoponry at maximal declination with breaches removed, flying a white ensign. My father therefore set a course for the Forth of Firth. They were steaming slowly through a fog-bank when an english frigate suddenly appeared wraith-like abeam them on a parallel coarse, matching their speed. The crew froze, helpless, unsure of what to do and afraid, when the englishman's ALDIS (I believe it was called?) lamp began shuttering a message across: 'Captain, Sir, where are your manners?' My father understood, gave the orders, lined his gunwale with his crew at attention and ran up his 'Kriegsflagge' one more time. And then my stunned father and his crew watched in amazement as the englishman responded in kind, lining his ship with his crew and dipping his ensign in full naval salute...

17th Apr 2004, 11:36
Tear down cheeck story Doodlebug.

The fact that memories from opposite sides in that war are respectfully shared here, without animosity, is food for thought.

Huron Topp
17th Apr 2004, 16:42
Both of my Grandfathers served during WWII. Paternal was a signalman in the RCN and was part of the first convoy across to Blightey from Canada. Was a member of the crew of the first Canadian naval ship sunk, not far into the Gulf of St-Lawrence. Being so close to shore, folks on land knew one of ours had been sunk by a U-boat. Unfortunately, it was in the papers the next day, but the families of the crew knew nothing until weeks after the convoy made it to England. Grandad survived, spending almost 2 days in the water, with lungs full of bunker oil. Having made it to England, he and many other "lightly" wounded sailors were pulled from their beds to help with the evacuation of Dunkirk.

The old boy never recovered, spending his remaining years in and out of hospital until he died in '69.

My maternal Grandfather had emigrated to Canada from England in '30 at the age of 18. When war broke, he had a wife and 2 kids. He worked on the railroad between Toronto and Windsor/Detroit and was considered to be in a "necessary" trade, and with the family, was refused entry into the Canadian forces. So, with my Grandmothers blessings, he joined the MN and headed "home" to England, whereupon he was immediately accepted into the RAF as a Nav. Did 2.5 tours, Stirlings and Lancs before the war ended.

Upon being de-mobbed in '45, he headed back to Canada and became a house-painter, which he continued to do until his death in '93 at the age of '81.

Algy's Monocle
18th Apr 2004, 00:28
My uncle also flew in 57 Sqdn, but had the misfortune to have been shot down over enemy-held France, from a low-level 7,500ft, in what some may consider a somewhat optimistic attempt to find and bomb a V2 site - did I mention this was at night?

Following a preparations over a few weeks, I collated 7 typed pages of questions and recently went to visit him for 3 days. I obtained 7 ˝ hours of tape recordings – a record of his life from sign-up, training in Canada, flying on 30 missions, being shot at by fighters and flak alike, dangling from a parachute at 1AM in June 1944, and his subsequent 9 months in Stalag 7, at the Fuhrer’s expense.

It is a good feeling to be in the position to preserve the story of one man, a member of such a noble generation. In turn, after all these years, I rather got the unspoken impression that this quiet, modest, unassuming man was quietly pleased to have his memories documented.

I echo AC’s sentiments, and respectfully encourage everyone to make the effort and preserve what’s left.

Before it is too late.

Duke Elegant
18th Apr 2004, 05:22
Excellent Thread ...Thank You

On my last visit to Australia five months ago I spent a lot of time with my relatives as I don't get to Australia much.

I learned of an uncle who was imprisoned in the imfamous Changi prison where Japanese atrocities were commonplace.

He stole , saved and traded for scraps of material from which he sewed an Australian flag , hidden all the time from the Japs.

This flag , I believe , is in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

I am very , very proud of him

18th Apr 2004, 10:20
flopster, thanks for that recall. I had several uncles in the Danish resistance who were involved in the same thing, and I met two of them in 1988 while I was traveling and based in the UK. Top blokes, with plenty to say about many things; but quite reticent when it came to the activities of the resistance, particularly with regard to the evacuation of the Jews. They had more to say, and certainly to joke about, when remembering sabotage and harrassment of the Germans via the railways - they both worked for De Danske Statsbaaner (sp?)
I remember Mum telling me about the German edict following the occupation, that all Jews must wear an identifying Star of David in public; the story goes that the next day, almost every Dane on the streets was wearing such a Star.

Paternal Grandfather was born in 1900 (in a part of Wales which I can scarcely pronounce let alone spell!), too young for the first war and too old for the second, but he fought in both of them anyway. He joined the Royal Engineers at sixteen by lying about his age, and went back as an officer in the Pioneer Corps in 1939 even though he could have made a fortune by staying out of the army and working on cost-plus public works contracts through WWII.
He died here in NZ when I was six. Dad (ex-RAF) remembers that his father considered military service as his duty, nothing less. I honour that memory. I wish I had known him better.

Flaps - outstanding response to an outstanding post.

18th Apr 2004, 15:28
My father joined up at the outbreak of ww2 in his early thirties and thankfully came through in one piece.As seems to be fairly common most events during his service were not discussed,to my knowledge he was in REME and transfered later to the paras seeing service at Dunkirk,Arnhem and Dday through to the end,the only two things he ever mentioned were "with pride" returning to the UK with his rifle and with "anger and sorrow" the liberation of Bergen-belsen,we have no knowledge of the horrors they all went through and that inmo is as it should be.They did so we should not have to.RESPECT.

Lance Murdoch
18th Apr 2004, 19:20
My paternal grandfather was refused military service because he was medically unfit. He volunteered for the ARP and spent the whole of the Blitz in London and again during the V1 and V2 raids in 1944 he volunteered to return to London. He never spoke about it but I can imagine he must have seen some horrific things. The reactions of both military and civilians during WWII certainly make the present hysteria about terrorism look spineless by comparison.
I visited the memorial at Vimy Ridge a few weeks ago. Reading the ages of those killed was a very sobering experience, I think the youngest I found was 17.

18th Apr 2004, 20:28
We were heading off to coffee with Tante XXXX, a Dutch lady living in Germany, when I told my wife I would like to know what her family got up to during the war. The wife just looked at me and said, 'Why?'

'Well, do you know any other Dutch people living in Germany?' (From my experience of them, the Dutch are very correct but they don't generally seem to have a lot of time for their German neighbours. You sure don't find many of them choosing to live here.)

So, of course, just as I was taking a slurp of hot coffee the wife asked, 'So Tante XXXX, what did your people do during the war?' and then to me, 'Stop kicking me!'

The old gal, cool as a cucumber, just said, 'Well yes, we did have to leave the Netherlands in April of 1945. We had made a few mistakes there, and of course my brother was in the Dutch SS....'

So it's not just the heroes who don't talk much about what they got up to, I guess. And even those who just worked in a travel bureau, say, had their role to play in world history.

18th Apr 2004, 20:44
My maternal grandfather wasn't allowed to go to fight in WW2. He was a mechanic in Sydney, Australia and thus not allowed to go. He ran a garage and was in a protected industry. He's still alive.
My paternal grandfather couldn't join the RAF for some reason and ended up in Air Sea Rescue zooming around the Mediterranean Sea rescuing downed airmen from both sides. I asked him about it all. He said that if a war hadn't have been happening then it would have been paradise. Zooming about the Med in a wooden hulled speed boat. One event stood out. They had been watching a dog fight over head and one bloke got shot down. They went to pick him up and he was rather badly burned. In particular, his hands were quite badly burned. As they pulled into the dock they saw an American pilot waiting there. "hello" they though... The American saw the German pilot with his injured hands. He lit a smoke, and put it into the German's mouth. Apparently not much was said as you could imagine. However, the American wasn't gloating, he was just acknowledging the German's spirit in combat and being respectful in his "defeat".

19th Apr 2004, 00:00
I had an uncle who served in the RCN in both WW1 and WW2. The ship he served on in the first unpleasantness is now a museum in Halifax. In the second round, he was 41 years old. Spent that war on Corvettes - asw and convoy duty.
Someone once asked my dad if he was going back to France for the 25th celebration of D-day. He said he didn't think so, the last time he was there the bu&&ers tried to kill him. Neither he nor his brother had much to say about the whole thing.
One of the very good friends I had in the aviation community died last year. Don lied about his age when he joined the RCAF. He was still a teenager when he began flying a C-47 over the hump in Burma.
My first high school principal was captured at the fall of Hong Kong on Christmas day 1941. He spent the war as a guest of the Japanese, not far from Nagasaki, and survived despite the very long odds. It's a pity some of the posters on this board can't hear what he has to say about the dropping of the a-bomb.

19th Apr 2004, 00:44
My old man was in the infantry and fought under Patton in the big final push into Germany, he was 20. Like many, he didn't talk a lot about what happened, it must have been hellish on the ground.

I wanted to follow in his footsteps so I joined the USMC 67-69.
Wasn't the best idea I ever had, was totally different of course.

They were a very unusual breed of men back then, I don't think we'll ever see the like again. When they came back after the war, they proceeded to build the US up to what it is today. They were "The Best Generation"

20th Apr 2004, 20:01
I would like to thank everybody who contributed to this thread. It is very interesting to hear stories from the “other side”, so to speak. That is why I asked everyone to not cast aspersions on any nationality.

The reason I chose World War II was because many people who lived in those times are still alive or their memories we have of them are still fresh. Sadly World War II veterans are dieing at around 20-30,000 a day in the United States. I have no idea what the death rate for that generation is outside of the US, but it has to be fairly high because of the age these men and women are reaching.

So lets please keep this thread going. It was really interesting reading the few posts from the Axis side. Please keep it coming.

Thank all of you again.


21st Apr 2004, 09:49
I once posted some of this before, but it may bear repeating on this thread. I knew a gentleman who joined the RCAF in WW2 as an airgunner. He was posted to a Lancaster squadron in England as a sergeant.

They were being briefed just before one sortie when there was a sound of car tires sqealing outside. In came an air commodore to announce the award of a DFM to another of the gunners.

The air commodore also brought a Luftwaffe pilot who had just been shot down. I don't know how they had got the information from him, but he had told them that the latest tactic for the Luftwaffe nightfighters was to work in pairs. One would approach the bomber from one side and drop a flare. Naturally, everyone would turn to look at the light, and his mate would come in on the dark side and blast them.

Off they went. Over Germany, exactly as advertised, a flare lit up to port. My man, instead of turning to port, swung his guns immediately to starboard, spotted the concealed attacker, and shot him from the skies.

Later on the same flight he spotted a fighter cruising quietly above them, oblivious to their presence. He called the captain, asked him to ease back slowly on the throttles to avoid any backfires, and to do a sharp break when he gave the word. As the Lancaster slowed down the fighter pulled ahead. He gave it a blast from below, nailed it, and called for the break.

When they got back he was commissioned in the field. He ended the tour as a flight lieutenant, chief gunnery officer for the squadron.

The other gunner who had been awarded the DFM did not make it back.

When his tour was over they sent him back to Canada for pilot training. The CO of the training unit called him in and said "X, You have had a fighting war. We have so many pilots now they are flying jeeps. Do you want to go home?"

Yes, he said, and enrolled at law school in Halifax. Not long after, he was accused in public of being a yellow-bellied draft dodger. At that time he was 19.

He found it difficult to settle, and went to the US, where he became a deputy sheriff for a while. He had more adventures there.

Another friend flew Me 109s for the Luftwaffe. After one reconnaissance to Plymouth he returned to France and went to the Mess. They were listening, illegally I suppose, to BBC radio. Just as he arrived, the speaker said "And how are you, Leutnant S? We are all pleased you made it back safely after your trip to Plymouth. All the same, your friends in the RAF were sorry they could not give you a proper welcome, and want you to know that next time they will not be so remiss. They will be waiting for you".
He said it sent a shiver down his spine.

One time he rejoined the circuit and was surpised at how busy the traffic was. Then he realised the others were P51 Mustangs waiting for someone to take-off. He got out of there real fast.

He told me that once he was hedgehopping and came over a hill. There in front of him was a convoy of American trucks, stopped for
a breather. He was so low he could see two of the troops in the very act of lighting cigarettes, frozen in horror like rabbits as they looked up at him. All he had to do was press the button, and they were gone to glory. "Ah well", he thought, "The war is almost over. Why do it?", so he let them live.

He was sent to Russia as a POW, and spent five years there. It was pretty awful. When he was released he went to Switzerland. His teeth were in terrible condition, so he went to a dentist. He was in the chair for hours, in those days without anaesthetic. No word was spoken by dentist or patient. At the end, the dentist said: "Well, Sir, you ARE a Prussian officer!"

21st Apr 2004, 10:24
It was actually the then Danish King who really p1ssed off the Nazi's. Every morning he rode his horse around Copenhagen, installing confidence in his people. The Germans tried to stop him, but failed. When the order came out that Jews must wear that infamous star, he had one sown on his uniform jacket when he took his morning ride the next day. Within a couple of days, most every Dane would be wearing a star. Needless to say, that really got the Nazi's into a fist, but not much they could do about it short of arresting the entire population.

It's De Danske Statsbaner, or DSB. Close enough for government work mate ;)

21st Apr 2004, 10:42
What a marvellous thread. I can't believe I hadn't spotted it before.

I'll just add that my father is now -- at my behest -- writing his autobiography. It's the tale of an 'ordinary man' who I love and respect. To me he's no ordinary man. Just last week I read some of his notes. The things he's never told me! To all you Ppruners who have living relatives -- get them to write their memoirs!!

Grandad copped a Blighty wound at the Somme. He woke up in Maidstone with no real recollection of what had happened, but he used a walking stick for the rest of his life. There were plenty of 17-year olds using walking sticks in those days.

My dad was in the RAF as ground crew, but (and it is a long story!) ended up walking through the jungle in Burma with a 50 pound pack, a Sten gun and a rifle. A lot of his comrades didn't make it out.

He's got a photo of himself at Seletar in Singapore. He's standing by a pranged plane and you can see all his ribs underneath a wizened frame. He's 84 now and weighs more now than he did on that day in 1945.

He witnessed the Singapore mutiny, he worked on Mountbatten's plane when he was in Ceylon, he was nearly killed by small arms groundfire in Burma. He became a teacher after leaving the RAF in 1947.

I'm proud of him.

Mum (now long dead I'm afraid) did her bit in the war in a factory in Birmingham. I remember Dad saying to her that she had a tougher time than he did. Civvies have their tales to tell as well.

My Godfather was 'arse-end Charlie' on a Lanc. Did 2-1/2 tours. He became a bank manager at Barclays.

My dad's best friend was shot down and killed in an unarmed photo-recon Spit in 1945. I only learnt that when I read dad's notes.

So many tales of so many brave, ordinary, men and women.

My respect and love to them all.

21st Apr 2004, 14:06
A piece of airmanship that caught my imagination: A prominent politician here, now retired, was a pilot, DFC, in the RCAF. Flying a Lancaster one night over Germany, he was coned by search lights. Nothing he could do was effective in shaking them off. The future looked bad. He told the whole crew to make sure they were strapped in really tightly, put down flaps, put on full power on all four, and set the aircraft into a steep climb at the point of the stall. Then he chopped all power. They stalled immediately and dropped like a stone. They also got out of the searchlight beams.

Drop and Stop
21st Apr 2004, 14:40
All through my youth we would never talk about the war whilst my grandfather was present (it was an unwritten rule) but nobody knew why. Just before I was to join the defence force I was visiting my grandfather and he just started talking. He had volunteered for service in the RCN when he was old enough and became a signalman, he served onboard destroyers in the Atlantic. In 1944 he was a crewman on a landing craft on D-Day and he described how other landing craft not 20 meters away never stood a chance. Men died on his LC but he could never understand why he didn’t. After the invasion his LC (I think it was a LCH) returned to England and he described entering harbour and having people running along the docks in amazement at this rather shot up craft. They could not believe that the invasion was now underway. His memories of VE Day I wont even try to describe to you. He volunteered for service in the Pacific only because anybody who did so was given 1 month leave in Canada before heading out.

In 2001 I was talking to my grandad and asked him if he had ever received his medals for his service. He replied that he didn’t think he was entitled to any and had never pursued it. With nothing more than his name and his service number I was able, after some searching, to find the appropriate address in Canadian Veterans Affairs and sent them an email. Less than 3 weeks later he received his 5 medals. It was quite a special moment. I managed to get them mounted and framed for his birthday and they now proudly sit in the entry hall of his home. He hopes to march with them someday when his health improves.

Evening Star
21st Apr 2004, 15:36
My English grandfather (paternal) served in WW2 as a motor transport driver in the RAF and had, as I understand it, a busy war even without seeing an awful lot of the enemy. At his funeral a few years ago it was a privilege to talk with some of his former RAF friends.

My German grandfather (maternal) spent WW2 as a signaller on the German railways in what was then the German Corridor and is now part of Poland. One day, when the Soviet army was only a few kilometres away, he came home to find the family gone, evacuated westward. My mother (who was four at the time) told me how the German army put all civilians on a train in the hope they could reach safety in the west. Such was the hurry that they travelled in the only thing available, an open railway wagon with a hole in the floor. Apparently, my grandmother did not sleep throughout the journey for fear that one of the children would fall through the hole. The journey took several days, reflecting the chaos of Germany at the close of WW2 plus, at one point, the destruction of the locomotive by allied aircraft, all of which was terrifying to a four year old child. Finally they reached the west ... my grandmother and four children, with nothing. Meanwhile, my grandfather walked to west Germany and spent two years searching for his family, the family finally reuniting through the tireless work of the Red Cross. For me it is an always sobering throught that part of my family were once refugees.

My two grandfathers met on several occasions. Between them there was always respect.

21st Apr 2004, 18:40
Both my grandfathers served during the war, but sadly both died before i ever knoew them. the following is piced together from what my parents and grandmothers have told me

Paternal grandfather, not too sure what he did exactly, i think he was infantryman, in burma / SE Asia. apparantly he would talk about many things, but not his experiences in the jungle.

Maternal was in the royal artillery, served in North Africa (possibly at El-Alamein) and also in france, germany etc. apparantly he had a few adventures (not many he recounted) and has a few medals (mostly campaign medals).


21st Apr 2004, 18:54
Evening, I met an officer in the post-war German navy who had had a similar experience. His mother and her children (father long gone on the Eastern Front) were put on a train to go west to a port where they would take ship for further west. One of the children was a baby, and they had no food. The train stopped in the midst of fields, and seemed to be there indefinitely. There was a farm house not far away. The mother sent the young boy across the fields to buy some milk for the baby. He was still at the farm when the train chugged off. He had no idea what to do, but some time later he managed to hop another train. He got off at the seaport and wandered about the quay, trying to work out his destiny. By a miracle he ran into the family and they all boarded one of the last ships out.

Another time, I prepared a will for a man in Canada. He was Polish. Well, not really. He was Jewish. His parents were rounded up to go to a concentration camp, he rather thought Auschwitz, but he did not know. He never would. As the sad procesion made its way through the snow, his mother wrapped her baby (my man) as well as she could and tossed him below a bush. There he was found by one of the locals, who took the bundle home. He and his wife raised the child as their own, and later he came to Canada.

Most of us do not know we are living.

21st Apr 2004, 20:13
Algy's Monacle

Please see my PM on 57 Squadron.

Another interesting story concerning 57 squadron and my father.

I was in Plsen in the Czech Republic a couple of years ago and got talking to one of the old locals, who was delighted to talk to a Brit about the war. Apparently the BBC sent a coded message warning all the Czechs living in Plsen to escape to the countryside as the Skoda tank works was about to be bombed by the RAF. Amazingly every bomb fell within the walls of the factory and the city was virtually undamaged. I spoke to my father about it and he remembered the raid extremely well, it was his longest mission ever and was one of the highest loss rates for his sqn.