Britain is no country for old men: Britain is no country for a very old Second World War spitfire pilot called Flight Lieutenant Edmund James

Edmund, who is 98 years old, is one of the last remaining fighter pilots from the Second World War. While, at the age of 17, he was too young to fight in the Battle of Britain, Edmund enlisted in the RAF and joined 93 Squadron and based at Biggin Hill he saw action over British waters and above the fields of France during and after D-Day in 1944.

He was involved in …

Source: Britain is no country for old men: Britain is no country for a very old Second World War spitfire pilot called Flight Lieutenant Edmund James

This Battle of Britain pilot is set to fly a Spitfire again at the age of 96

allanscottRAFAs the Royal Air Force prepares to celebrate its centenary, Second World War Spitfire ace Allan Scott tells Dean Kirby why he is still flying high at the age of 96.

At his bungalow in the heart of rural Shropshire, Squadron Leader Allan Scott is gazing at a portrait of himself as a young man wearing the distinctive blue uniform of the Royal Air Force.

The face that beam’s back at the 96-year-old is…

via This Battle of Britain pilot is set to fly a Spitfire again at the age of 96 – The i – iweekend #26

Lost to the Night: The Lancaster Crew | The Rant Foundry

Filed in: War History  –  Author: JF Dowsett

At the Binbrook RAF flying base in Lincolnshire, Britain during April 1944, the crew of a Lancaster bomber were posing – in their spare t…

Source: Lost to the Night: The Lancaster Crew | The Rant Foundry

Youtube | Dambusters Documentary

‘Actor Martin Shaw takes to the skies to retrace the 1943 raid by 617 Squadron, which used a bouncing bomb to destroy German dams, in a bid to separate the facts from the myths surrounding the famous tale. He also talks to the last living RAF veteran of the mission, as well as a survivor of the tsunami that was caused by the Moehne dam’s destruction, and meets the secret wartime girlfriend of pilot Guy Gibson.’

The Bethnal Green Tube Disaster | The East End

Bethnal Green Tube Disaster Memorial Plaque

Bethnal Green Tube Disaster Memorial Plaque

The residents of Bethnal Green in the East End of London had become used to the ‘crump, crump, crump’ of the bombs being dropped on the capital by the Luftwaffe. The Blitz had been almost continuous during the winter of 1940 / 41 – indeed the city had once been hit for 57 consecutive nights, but now, as winter began to give way to spring in March 1943, things seemed to be a bit quieter. However, the population was on its guard, as the RAF had bombed Berlin a couple of nights before, and it was well known that Germany often responded with reprisal bombings soon afterwards…

The East End of London had been a target for German Bombing campaigns for a long time, in an attempt to disrupt the flow of materials and goods through the crucially important London Docks. As a result, people were becoming familiar with the air raid sirens and bombing raids that seemed to form a constant part of their everyday lives.

Many families had built Anderson or Morrison Shelters in their own back gardens, but these prefabricated huts were often…

Source: The Bethnal Green Tube Disaster | The East End

The London Blitz, 1940

Originally posted on Eyewitness to History.

blitz1The appearance of German bombers in the skies over London during the afternoon of September 7, 1940 heralded a tactical shift in Hitler’s attempt to subdue Great Britain. During the previous two months, the Luftwaffe had targeted RAF airfields and radar stations for destruction in preparation for the German invasion of the island. With invasion plans put on hold and eventually scrapped, Hitler turned his attention to destroying London in an attempt to demoralize the population and force the British to come to terms. At around 4:00 PM on that September day, 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters Sept. 7, 1940 – the beginning of theLondon Blitz blasted London until 6:00 PM. Two hours later, guided by the fires set by the first assault, a second group of raiders commenced another attack that lasted until 4:30 the following morning.

This was the beginning of the Blitz – a period of intense bombing of London and other cities that continued until the following May. For the next consecutive 57 days, London was bombed either during the day or night. Fires consumed many portions of the city. Residents sought shelter wherever they could find it – many fleeing to the Underground stations that sheltered as many as 177,000 people during the night. In the worst single incident, 450 were killed when…

Source: The London Blitz, 1940

10 surprising facts about WW2 | History Extra

Originally posted on History Extra.

1) France had more tanks, guns and men than Germany in 1940

It is always assumed that during the Second World War the Germans bludgeoned their way to victory with a highly modern and mechanised army and Air Force that was superior to anything the Allies could muster in May 1940. The reality was very different.

On 10 May 1940, when the Germans attacked, only 16 of their 135 divisions were mechanised – that is, equipped with motorised transport. The rest depended on horses and cart or feet. France alone had 117 divisions.

France also had more guns: Germany had 7,378 artillery pieces and France 10,700. It didn’t stop there: the Germans could muster 2,439 tanks while the French had 3,254, most of which were bigger, better armed and armoured than the German panzers.

2) The priority for manpower in the UK is surprising

Britain had decided before the war began that it would make air and naval power the focus of its fighting capability, and it was only after the fall of France that British powers realised that the Army would have to grow substantially too.

However, right up until the spring of 1944, the priority for manpower in the UK was not the navy, RAF, army, or even the merchant navy, but the Ministry of Aircraft Production. In the war, Britain alone built 132,500 aircraft, a staggering achievement – especially when considering that Fighter Command in the battle of Britain never had more than…

via 10 surprising facts about WW2 | History Extra.

The Face of War by Martha Gelhorn — Extract

In the late 80s, early 90s, I put together Business as Usual, a stage show about life on the Home Front in the UK during the Second World War. I gathered all manner of items from memoirs and contemporary entertainment. One of the pieces was this extract from The Face of War, which I had just finished reading.

It is a book I cannot recommend too highly. Martha Gellhorn’s writing, as I believe this extract shows, recreates her experiences beautifully.

Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998) was a war correspondent for nearly fifty years. From the Spanish Civil War in 1937 through the wars in Central America in the mid-eighties, her candid reports reflected her feelings for people no matter what their political ideologies, and the openness and vulnerability of her conscience. “I wrote very fast, as I had to,” she says, “afraid that I would forget the exact sound, smell, words, gestures, which were special to this moment and this place.” Whether in Java, Finland, the Middle East, or Vietnam, she used the same vigorous approach. Collected here together for the first time, The Face of War is what The New York Times called “a brilliant anti-war book.” Amazon blurb.

The moon was skimmed over with cloud, and around the field the great black Lancasters waited.  Every man went tight and concentrated into himself, ready for the job ahead; those who  were going together made a solid unit, and anyone who had not done what they did and would never go where they were going could not understand and had no right to intrude.  We could only stand in the cold darkness and feel how hard we were all waiting.

We drove to the control station, which looked like a trailer painted in yellow and black checks, and though there was no wind the cold ate into us.  The motors were warming up, humming and heavy.  One by one the big black Lancasters rolled around the perimeter and got into position on the runway.  A green light blinked and there was a roar  that beat back in an echo from the sky.

The first plane was gone into the blackness, not seeming to move very fast, and we saw the tail-light lifting, and presently the thirteen planes floated against the sky.  Then they changed into distant slow-moving stars.  That was that.  The chaps were off.  The airdrome felt bleak.   First you wait for them to go and then you wait for them to get back.

At around four o’clock in the morning  the duty officers go to the control tower.  The operations officers walk about  and smoke pipes and say casual things to each other and the waiting gets to be a thing you can touch.  Then the first plane calls in to the control tower.  Two WAAFs, who have been up all night and are still looking wide-awake, perfectly collected, begin to direct the planes in:

‘Hello George pancake over.’

In the glassed-in room you hear the pilots answer.  Then the girl again.

‘Hello Queen airdrome one thousand over.’

The quiet  night suddenly becomes alive  with the great searchlights  over the runway and the wing lights of the plane far off and then nearer, the noise of their motors circling the field, the ambulances rolling out, and the girls’ voices going on and on, cool, efficient, unchanging.

‘Hello Uncle airdrome twelve fifty over.’

The planes come in slowly at first and then four of them circling and landing.  The more planes that come in and are marked up on the blackboard, the worse the waiting gets.  None of this shows.  No voice changes, no one makes a movement that is in any way unusual, the routine proceeds as normally as if people were waiting in line to buy theater tickets.  Nothing shows and nothing is said and it is all there.

Finally all the planes were in except P for Peter and J for Jig.  They were late.  The job was a piece of cake.  They should be in.  They would of course be in.  Obviously.  Any minute now.  No one mentioned the delay.  We started to go down to the interrogation room and the Group Captain remarked without emphasis that he would ‘Stay up here for a bit until the chaps got in.’

The crews of the eleven planes that had returned were coming into the basement operations room for questioning.  They looked tireder and  lines under their eyes were deeply marked. The Group Captain in command sat on a table and spoke to the crew members by name, saying, ‘Have a good trip, Bill?’ ‘Fairly good, sir.’ ‘Have a good trip, Bob?’ ‘Not bad, sir.’ ‘Have a good trip, Tom?’ ‘Quite good, sir.’

That was all there was to that.  Then he said, ‘Anyone get angry with you?’ ‘No, sir, didn’t see a thing.

Then it was known that all the planes were back, and all undamaged and no one hurt, and there was a visible relief.  But everyone was tired, anxious to get through the questioning and back to the mess, back to the famous operational fried egg, and fried potatoes, the margarine and the marmalade and the bread that seems to be partially made of sand, and then to sleep.