The Silvertown Tragedy: Explosion on the Home Front | Heritage Calling

100 years ago today, on 19th January 1917 at 6.52pm, a catastrophic explosion at the Brunner Mond and Company’s high explosive TNT factory in Silvertown, East London killed 73 people and injured hu…

Source: The Silvertown Tragedy: Explosion on the Home Front | Heritage Calling

Censorship ~ Did you ever wonder who blacked out those letters? | Pacific Paratrooper

There was some censoring in the Civil War because letters sometimes had to cross enemy lines. Most of the censoring came from the prisoner-of-war camps. For example, if someone was writing a letter…

Source: Censorship ~ Did you ever wonder who blacked out those letters? | Pacific Paratrooper

Willow Run

Pacific Paratrooper

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Whatever its flaws, the clunky, clumsy B-24 Liberator was the only bomber capable of crossing the vast distances between the Pacific Islands, especially after the ingenuity of Charles Lindbergh showed the aviators how to stretch their fuel.  The more the US planned to push the Japanese forces back from those many islands, the more they required the production of this aircraft.  It wasn’t long before assembly plants sprung up in San Diego, Dallas, Fort Worth and Tulsa.  But none would symbolize the rise of Liberator construction as the facility built near Detroit know as Willow Run.

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Managed by the Ford Motor Co., the factory itself was in some respects a greater engineering feat than the planes it produced.  It was the largest plant in the world, spread across 3.5 million square feet, with 28,855 windows and 152,000 fluorescent lights.  The assembly line traveled so far that, when it reached the…

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Albert Evacuated by Stanley Holloway

ALBERT EVACUATED
by Stanley Holloway [1890-1982]

Have you heard how young Albert Ramsbottom
Was evacuated from home
With his mother, clean socks and a toothbrush
Some syrup of figs and a comb.

The stick with the ‘orses ‘ead ‘andle
They decided that they’d leave behind
To keep safe with the things they weren’t wanting
Like their gas masks and things of that kind.

Pa saw them off at the station
And shed a few crocodile tears
As he waved them goodbye from the platform,
‘Twas the best break he’d had in ten years.

Ma got corner seat for young Albert
Who amused all the rest of the team
By breathing hot breaths on the window
And writing some swear words in steam.

They arrived at last somewhere in England
And straight to their billet were shown
There was one room for mother
But Albert was in a small room of his own.

The very first night in the blackout
Young Albert performed quite a feat
By hanging head first from the window
And shining his torch down the street.

It flashed on an A.R.P. warden
Patrolling with leisurely gait;
“Good Heavens,” he said, “it’s Tarzan,
I’d better go investigate.”

So reading his book of instructions
To make himself doubly sure
Then in an official manner
Proceeded to knock on the door.

It was opened by Mrs Ramsbottom
“Now then,” said she, “what’s to do.”
And in stern air-warden manner, he said
“I’m going to interrogate you.”

This fair upset Mrs. Ramsbottom
Her face was a picture to see
“I’ll have you know, you’ll do nowt of the sort,
I’m a respectable woman.” said she.

“Has your son been evacuated?”
Said the A.R.P. man at the door
“He’d all them things done as a baby,” said mother
“He’s not being done anymore.”

“Be off now,” said Mrs. Ramsbottom
As she bustled him out of the porch
And the A.R.P. man patted Albert
And then confiscated his torch.

Now that were unlucky for Albert
He had no torch to see him to bed
But being a bright little fellow
He switched on the hall light instead.

“Put out that light,” a voice shouted
“Where’s the men of our A.R.P.?”
“I’ve told them already” the warden replied
“They take no bloody notice of me.”

Soon, Mrs. Ramsbottom and Albert
Were feeling quite homesick and sad;
So they thanked the landlady most kindly
And prepared to go back home to Dad.

When at last they reached home to Father
They were fed up and had quite enough;
But in the front parlour they found six young women
And Father were doing his stuff.

“Hello Mother,” said Mr. Ramsbottom
“Come right on in, don’t be afraid,
When you went away I joined Ambulance Corps
I’m instructing the girls in first aid.”

“First aid?,” said Mrs. Ramsbottom
With a horrible look on her brow.
“If ever you wanted first aid in your life,
By gum, you’ll be wanting it now.”

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Stanley Holloway
Albert Evacuated… Stanley Holloway

It’s a Ticklish Sort of Job…

Gracie Fields shares a joke with troops in a village near Valenciennes, France, April 1940

Gracie Fields shares a joke with troops in a village near Valenciennes, France, April 1940 | Taylor E A (Lt), War Office official photographer [Wikimedia]

In the early 1990s, actor-musician Martyn Read and I created a musical stage production, Business as Usual, from a compilation piece I had put together about life on the Home Front during the Second World War. Included in the show was this delightful song which honours those quietly going about their business helping the war effort by working in munitions.

The Thing-Ummy-Bob (that’s going to win the war)

You’ve heard of Florence Nightingale, Grace Darling and the rest,
You’ve all seen Greta Garbo and her bosom friend, Mae West,
But there’s a little lady, I want you all to meet
She’s working on munitions and she lives just down the street.

She can’t pretend to be, a great celebrity
But still… she’s most important in her way,
The job she has to do, may not seem like much to you
But all the same, I’m very proud to say…

She’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that drives the rod that turns the knob
that works the thing-ummy-bob.
She’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that takes the shank that moves the crank
that works the thing-ummy-bob.

It’s a ticklish sort of job making a thing for a thing-ummy-bob
Especially when you don’t know what it’s for
But it’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that makes the engines roar.
And it’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that’s going to win the war.

She’s not what you would call, a heroine, at all
I don’t suppose you’ll even know her name
And though she’ll never boast, of her important post
She strikes a blow for Britain just the same.

She’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that drives the rod that turns the knob
that works the thing-ummy-bob.
She’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that takes the shank that moves the crank
that works the thing-ummy-bob.

It’s a ticklish sort of job making a thing for a thing-ummy-bob
Especially when you don’t know what it’s for
But it’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that makes the engines roar.
And it’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that’s going to win the war.

Gracie Fields [1898-1979] sings her version, below, changing the ‘she’ to ‘I’.

Halloween WWII Style

Pacific Paratrooper

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This story is condensed from: EVERY VETERAN HAS A STORY_______

The other morning I woke up and looked out the window and saw pumpkins smashed and some decorations strewn.  “Ah, good,” I said to my daughters, “someone has done their research on the history of Halloween!”
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They rolled their eyes and kept reading the comics over their bowls of cereal.  After 13 years of fatherhood, I’d lost the ability to shock them…or they were hoping by their indifference to ward off the inevitable history lecture to follow.  If so — it didn’t work.
Foe much of our history, Halloween wasn’t about trick-or-treating or going around in costumes – it was about vandalism.  Halloween celebrates the dark side, the side we reject and fear – all that we try to deny.  Mischief making has historically been a part of that.  If you look at newspapers 80 or 90 years ago…

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