Maria Dickin was the founder of the veterinary charity PDSA, (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals), she set up the DICKIN MEDAL for animals displaying gallantry and devotion to duty.
It has come to be recognised as “the animal’s Victoria Cross”. The award was first instituted in 1943, there has been only been 67 winners to date, here are some of those award winners.
The ribbons on the Dickin Medal are coloured green, dark brown and pale blue representing water, earth and air. This was to symbolise the naval, military, civil defence and air-force.
ANIMAL VALOUR (2018)
Chips was a husky crossbreed who was honoured with the Dickin Medal for his bravery and devotion to duty during the US Army’s invasion of Sicily on 10th July 1943. Chips was donated to the newly formed Dogs for Defence Unit and of the 40,000 dogs that were donated only 10,000 made the cut, post training.
Chips and his handler Private Rowell sailed to Morocco, seeing action behind enemy lines. They were also intrusted to patrol the Casablanca Conference where British PM Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt met to discuss Allied Forces strategy. Chips and Private Rowell were then deployed in Sicily, their Platoon was to assist in the invasion of the islands. On 10th July 1943, as Chips lead his Platoon ashore under a cover of darkness the soldiers were attacked on the beach by an enemy machine gun team, hidden in a nearby hut. As the Platoon dived for cover, Chips broke free and ran straight for the hut, despite a barrage of gunfire.
Private Rowell described what happened next. There was an awful lot of noise and then the firing stopped. Then I saw one soldier come out the door with Chips at his throat. I called him off before he could kill the man. Three other enemy soldiers followed, hands above their head. Chips sustained a scalp wound and powder burns that required treatment. The hut turned out to be a machine gun nest, it later transpired that Chips had grabbed the machine gun by its barrel and pulled it off its mount. His actions had undoubtedly saved the lives of the men in his Platoon. Chips was to receive his Posthumously awarded Dickin Medal on 15th January 2018, presented by the PDSA at the Churchill War Rooms, London. Chips became the 70th recipient of the Dickin Medal.
Mali is a dog that was awarded the Dickin Medal on the 17th November 2017. Mali is a Belgian Malinois that worked with the Special Boat Service in Afghanistan in 2012. During an 8 – hour assault against a Taliban position in a multi storey building, the dog indicated the locations of enemy combatants, despite being injured three times by grenade explosions. Mali had injuries to his chest, legs, ear and the loss of a tooth yet he carried on.
Director General of the PDSA, Jan McLoughlin said, “Mali has displayed a truly awesome ability and determination to seek out explosives and insurgents during a key operation. To achieve this while exposed to close combat and such enemy attack makes him an incredibly worthy recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal”. Eight-year-old Mali is the 69th recipient of the medal, which was presented at a ceremony in London. It was the 100th Birthday of the PDSA charity.
Since receiving emergency treatment for his injuries, Mali returned home from Afghanistan and has made a full recovery. Now retired from the front lines, he continues his work at the RAVC Defence Animal Centre training new dog handlers. Mali’s handler whose identity cannot be revealed for security reasons was also awarded a gallantry medal for his part in the operation.
The Award for Reckless was set against the backdrop of the Korean War, Staff Sergeant Reckless (1948 – 1968) was a mare of Mongolian horse breeding. She was purchased in 1952 for 250 Dollars from a Korean stable boy at the Seoul racetrack who needed the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister who had stepped on a land mine. Reckless was bought by the US Marine Corps and trained to be a pack horse. She was chestnut coloured with a blaze and three white stockings. She was believed to be 3 or 4 years old when she was purchased by the marines and stood only 14 hands high. She was quickly accepted as part of the unit and was allowed to roam freely throughout the camp, entering the Marines tents where she was allowed to sleep on a cold night. She was willing to eat almost anything including scrambled eggs, beer, Coca-Cola and once ate 30 Dollar worth of poker chips.
She served in numerous combat actions during the Korean War, carrying supplies and ammunition, and she was also used to evacuate the wounded. She learned to deliver supplies without the benefit of a handler. The highlight of her nine-month military career came in late March 1953 during the battle for Outpost Vegas. In a single day she made 51 solo trips to re-supply multiple frontline units. She was wounded in combat twice and given the rank of corporal in 1953, and then another battlefield promotion to sergeant in 1954, several months after the war had ended. Reckless would also win many other honours including two purple hearts.
She was retired and brought to the United States after the war where she made appearances on TV. Reckless was promoted once again to the rank of staff sergeant in 1959 giving birth to 4 foals in America. After a long and eventful life Reckless sadly died in May 1968. A plaque and photo were dedicated in her honour at the Marine Corps base camp at Pendleton stables and a statue of her was dedicated on July 26th 2013 at the marine Corps National Museum in Quantico, Virginia. How-ever that was not the end of the story, Reckless was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal (The Animal’s Victoria Cross) on the 27th July 2016.
A hero police dog, who almost died from stab wounds while trying to stop an armed suspect is to be awarded a PDSA Gold Medal. The courageous dog will be awarded the animal’s equivalent to the prestigious George Cross on Sunday the 6th May. Taking place at the PDSA Pet-life 2018 festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, the first ever public presentation of such an award.
Finn and his handler PC Wardell, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Dog Unit, were called to an address in 2016 with the instruction to chase a suspect evading an arrest. During the pursuit, PC Wardell released Finn with a command to detain the suspect. The suspect attempted to jump over a fence but Finn kept pace and was able to take hold of his leg, foiling his escape.
PC Wardell explains: I joined Finn, grabbing his collar and straddling his back to give him support as he held the suspect. In a split second I saw the man lunge at Finn’s side with a weapon. As he pulled away, I saw a 10 inch blade covered in Finn’s blood. The man then lunged at me with the blade but Finn, despite being seriously hurt, grabbed hold of the suspect and stopped him from landing a fatal blow. My hand was cut in the struggle and Finn’s head was sliced open. Despite suffering two serious stab wounds, Finn’s grip on the suspect remained - pulling at the suspects leg to stop him jumping over the fence. Finn’s constant grip enabled PC Wardell to wrestle the assailant to the ground, where he eventually dropped the weapon. Other officers joined the team to assist and Finn was rushed to the nearest vet for life saving treatment.
PC Wardell also needed treatment for a stab wound he sustained in his hand. Following the attack, Finn made a miraculous recovery despite serious stab wounds and a punctured lung. He was back on active duty just 11 weeks later, although 8 year old Finn is now retired.
PDSA’s Director General Jan McLoughlin said: Finn displayed an outstanding devotion that night, both to his duties and to his handler. For his actions, Finn is an extremely worthy recipient of the PDSA Gold Medal.
****** Finn’s story captured the hearts of the nation and inspired a campaign to change the law around the protection for service animals. At present an attack on a police dog is considered no greater a crime that an attack on a police car! ******
WORLD WAR II HOMEFRONT
Storm clouds were looming of that there was little doubt. Neville Chamberlain the British Prime-minister was viewed as an appeaser to Hitler yet during 1938 Britain was going “hell for leather” building coastal defences, airports, airstrips, decoy airstrips, Nissan Huts and military equipment. Although Britain still possessed the world’s strongest navy, the rest of the military was in disarray. Very little equipment had been renewed since WWI and with the financial depression of the 1930’s there was little will to spend money on defence.
The first sign of what the future might bring came in the form of 38 million gas masks supplied from a factory in Manchester. These masks were for adults, children, babies, asthmatics and available for dogs. Dogs had experience of gas masks on the Western Front. Many people lived in fear of a gas attack, the images from the gas attacks of WWI were fresh in the minds of most people and made the blood run cold. British mail and telephone boxes were painted with a special red paint that would turn green with exposure to gas. Anti-gas paint was also painted to specific parts of railway trains. This would help in rural areas to see if there was any exposure to gas. It was mandatory for everyone in Britain to have their gas mask with them at- all- times. Women could buy a handbag where there was a compartment designed to carry a gas mask. The Czech part of Czechoslovakia was invaded on 15th March 1939.
Before the outbreak of WWII a memorandum was sent out from vets to the SSPCA and picked up by other animal organisations. The memorandum was to encourage owners to use their masks in front of their pets so as the pets would get used to the muffled voice and ghoulish appearance. This was an excellent idea, but it was not all “plain sailing”. One woman put on her mask and went down on all fours whist speaking sweet nothings to her pooch. Unfortunately, little pooch bolted out the door and was never seen again! * If gas was detected, the Air Raid Warden would make people aware by using a football type rattle. * Poland was over-run in September 1939.
Another sign of the times was the delivery of the Anderson Shelter. This shelter consisted of a prefabricated tunnel made of corrugated metal and having a concrete floor. The finished shelter was buried 3ft underground in the garden and covered with a thick layer of soil and turf. By the 25th February 1939, 1.5 million Anderson Shelters were installed in North London to all householders who earned less than 5 Pounds a week. The Anderson Shelters were very effective, but they were also cold, damp and prone to flooding in wet weather, they were not suitable for the very young, sick or old. In total 3.5 million shelters were made with many other people constructing their own shelters from the Anderson design. It was during 1939 that the late/great Bruce Forsyth made his television debut on a talent show called “Come and be Televised” as a child singer & dancer. Before much longer BBC TV at Alexandria Palace was switched off due to wartime financial restrictions. There was also a concern that the TV signal may be used as a beacon for enemy aircraft. BBC TV had been running for only 3 years and had an audience of just 25,000 viewers. She was switched off on Friday 1st September 1939.
Many sweeping changes were needing to take place before the country was ready for war. All British maps had to be removed from shops, all railway station / road signs were removed. The security services were watching for farmers cutting crops out of season or in unusual patterns. They would come under suspicion of trying to convey messages to airborne enemy aircraft or providing runways for the enemy. * The BBC Radio 4 Shipping Forecast was taken off the air during WWII to avoid helping enemy ships.*
To raise money for the war effort all metal railings were removed, and old or unused iron and aluminium pots were gathered up by the millions around the country to be melted down for the war effort. All sorts of war funding initiatives were launched. *By early / middle of the war Hitler was planning to smuggle 132- 300 Million pounds of counterfeit notes into Britain which would have ruined the British economy. British spies got wind of the plan and intercepted the shipment of notes.* Food and fuel rationing was just around the corner, it was said that the Ration Books were already made up and were being kept in safe storage. Barrels of tar were placed in strategic areas such as reservoirs to be lit if necessary to create a smoke screen. Near the outbreak of war women added a lining to their curtains to make “black out curtains”.
Before the outbreak of war many lighthouses were switched off or used intermittently, with others being dimmed. Even when switched off, the white building could be a beacon for Luftwaffe aircraft during day raids so many lighthouses had to be camouflaged. In 1939 The Defence of the Realm Act was passed through parliament just as it had been in 1914. It was also known as the riot act, as it banned public meetings of a certain number, the government could also authorize the entering and searching of premises. This power extended to the requisition of boats, trawlers, cars, land or the enforcing of industrial conscription as seen necessary for the war effort * In Britain during WWII one in ten of the female population was a member of the Woman’s Voluntary Service. *
On Friday the 1st September 1939 operation PIED PIPER began which saw the evacuation of children from British cities. It was a profoundly difficult decision for the parents but done in the best interests of the children. Some children were evacuated as far as Wales and even the Lake District. Mothers would also be evacuated if their children were very young. All the cities horses, ponies, mules etc were removed from big built-up areas in case they panicked and became out of control with the potential for aerial bombardment. Around this time in 1939 over 1 million healthy pets were euthanized in various medically prepared vans as well as at animal welfare buildings. The government had encouraged the euthanasia because of the threat of gas attacks as well as the terrible aerial bombing witnessed during the Spanish Civil War. In parliament there were arguments as to whether the country was going to have enough food to feed the pets. Many followed advice and had their pets euthanized, many would regret the decision. As for all the other pets and owners, they would have to wait and see. Some in time would also regret their decision.
On Sunday the 13th of September 1939 came a radio announcement that would reverberate down the years, “WE ARE NOW AT WAR WITH GERMANY”. One London woman would later claim that her dog shot out it’s basket and “stood to attention at the historic moment”! For most of Great Britain the next few months were relatively quiet and became known as the Phoney War however this was not the case for those living in Caithness and Orkney. German Bombers began by targeting Scapa Flow, anchorage of the British Fleet on Orkney. They began on 17th October 1939, due to the long flying distance the German pilots were offered Fliegerschokolade (Flyers Chocolate) which was a chocolate bar laced with Methampetamine to keep the pilots alert and concentrated.
On the 14th October 1939 the German submarine U-47 was able to penetrate the Scapa Flow submarine nets and sank HMS Royal Oak. Causeways were built to block off the eastern approaches to the flow, they would be known as the Churchill Barriers. Around this time the troop train known as The Jellicoe Express was carrying military personnel from Portsmouth - London Euston - Thurso on a regular basis for transfer via ferry to Scapa Flow. Up to this point in time bombs dropped on Caithness were bombs where the Luftwaffe were “forced off their intended target” at Scapa Flow however in time the Luftwaffe were noticing greater shipping heading towards Scapa Flow, so Thurso Bay was targeted. The minesweeper H.M.S. Beech was sunk in Thurso Bay not far from Burnside.
RAF Wick was bombed on more than one occasion and the town of Wick was bombed and strafed by machine gun fire. * A beautiful Memorial Garden has been built to the memory of those who died or were injured during that bombing raid. * Schools in Caithness were being prepared against Air-Raids. A sandbag shelter was being provided in the corridor of the Miller Academy building in Thurso. Anti-splinter gauze had been affixed to the windows of Wick High School and there was safety provision for all the country schools in the County. To give you a measure of how seriously the British took the possibility of a gas attack, there was a Gas Decontamination room built at RAF Castletown. The Royal Navy Dockyard at Rosyth received its first bombing raid on 16th October 1939. H.M.S. Southampton was hit which was lying alongside HMS Edinburgh and on the same day HMS Mowhawk a destroyer on escort duty was hit with 16 killed.
It was decided that Winston Churchill would take over as Prime Minister from Neville Chamberlain on the 10th May 1940, a popular decision amongst the British people. It was in 1940 that a new type of air-Raid shelter called the Morrison shelter began distribution. Not everyone was fit to spend time in an Anderson shelter. During WWII most coal was standard, there was no smokeless fuel for offices, factories and homes, this resulted in Smog. This was a fog or haze mixed with smoke and Sulphur Dioxide that hung in the air periodically in large cities. Many were forced indoors, those with heart and lung conditions such as Emphysema, Bronchitis and Asthma. The smog would trigger wheezing, coughing and shortness of Breath. The Morrison shelter was set up at home and consisted of a strong wooden base and top (could double up as a dinner table) and a wire cage fitted all around. It was the size of a double bed and gave a reasonable sense of security, but it was not as effective as the Anderson Shelter. Half a Million Morrison shelters were distributed with many more people building their own, similar to the Morrison’s construction. Many a dog and cat spent their time in this shelter.
Meanwhile across the sea there was news that the German Army had crossed through the Ardennes forest and was now over the river Meuse. Warning bells were ringing for the French and the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.). Belgium had surrendered on the 28th MAY 1940 with the B.E.F quickly making for the coast with all their adopted homeless cats and dogs. Back in Britain the new HOME GUARD Defence Force was quickly announced for men between 15-65 and was called the Local Defence Volunteers. Within 24 hours 250,000 volunteers offered their services, many were battle hardened veterans of WWI. The PDSA had a surgery/hospital in a place called Bievre not far from Paris. They attended to sick and exhausted animals, but the call had come to finish off and head towards the coast as fast as was humanly possible. The hospital was soon to fall into German hands where it became a hospital for their horses. * When the Nazi high officials arrived in Belgium they went to the workplace of TinTin author Herge. They banned two of his books TinTin in America and The Black Island (set in Scotland)*
The miracle of Dunkirk or Operation Dynamo was the sheer amount of men that were rescued from the beach by the Navy and a flotilla of small private British boats. In all there was destroyers, ferries, fishing boats and pleasure craft helped by air cover. A total of (338,226) souls were saved by 700 boats however this evacuation would never have been as successful but for a unit of French troops that never surrendered and British troops mainly from Scots Highland Regiments. They managed to slow down the German advance towards the coast. They “dug themselves in” at a town called St Valery hoping to be evacuated sometime later but tragically their ship could not come ashore because of fog. Exhausted and virtually out of ammunition the majority were either killed or taken prisoner. France surrendered on the 14th JUNE 1940. Despite the massive “let off” at Dunkirk it was obvious that the lights were going out all over Europe. Great Britain now stood alone but she did stand united.
The war had now come perilously close and the decision was made to organise a second wave of evacuations from all south English coast towns. The total number of evacuees now hit 3,750,000. Between June and September 1940 approval was given for evacuation overseas in Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. As for all the dogs and cats that made it across the channel with the BEF and some French troops, they were given quarantine by The Dumbs Friend League (Blue Cross). * During the occupation of Europe, the BBC World Service would broadcast the sound of Bow Bells in London as a symbol of defiance and hope for the people of Europe*
Food and fuel was to play a big role in Britain’s survival. Britain had to import an enormous amount of food (55 Million Tons). British fuel needed to be imported also. Fuel rationing was the first to be implemented closely followed by food rationing. The first items of food to be rationed were Butter, Sugar and meat with bacon and butter becoming less available since the fall of Denmark in April 1940. Holland was overrun on 10th May 1940. The shortage of cooking oil meant that baking was non-existent for many households during those war years. Powdered eggs were to replace or supplement the normal hen eggs. Fish was not on ration as its availability was uncertain due to the weather and U-Boat activity. Reliance on imported food had to be cut to a minimum. Breakfast for a working man consisted of tea with bread and butter or dripping. In rural areas that may have been porridge. Some essential foods were not rationed such as bread, milk and potatoes. As well as ration coupons, people were allocated “points” for tinned and some imported foods such as sardines or tinned fruit. For special occasions such as Christmas a family had to save hard, their coupons and points. As the war dragged on rationing got tighter.
* Timber restrictions meant that Christmas trees were rarely seen, and women’s shoe heels could not be any more than 2 inches high. * With fuel restrictions all central heating in offices and homes had to be turned off during the summer months. Clothing did not escape restrictions either, women’s coats and skirts were shorter to save on material. Most women were delighted as it was a welcome departure from the style of the pre-war years. Men and women’s suits, jackets and trousers were being manufactured without inside or outside pockets to save on material.
After Rationing began it was only a matter of time before an illegal Black Market followed. The Black Market gave people the opportunity to buy items otherwise controlled, for an inflated price. As rationing became more restrictive the market for black goods became greater. A person suspected of dealing in the Black Market could be fined 500 Pounds and a possible 2 years in prison. There were over 900 inspectors to enforce the law. By 1945 there was 114,000 prosecutions for black market activities. The black market did many dealings in the dim of the black-out.
As the war was progressing Britain was losing an unstainable number of ships mainly due to U-Boats. With this in mind it was decided to return all horses, donkeys etc to the city streets to conserve as much fuel for essential services and military use. The King had permitted the use of the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace as an emergency horse standing for 20 animals and a first aid post and horse ambulances was also stationed. Many animal shelters were dotted around the cities. Owners of horses, donkeys etc were also given detailed instructions on how to control their animals during an air-raid by N.A.R.P.A.C. (National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee). Horses and donkey were put on a Ration Card whilst Pigs and Poultry were fed on cheap imported corn.
Many in the Admiralty had been racking their brains for ways to prevent U-Boat shipping losses. By 1940 ships had Depth Charges operated by a pressure switch that could be adjusted for depth. There was Sonar, but it had limitations, it could not detect a U-Boat that had surfaced as many did at night. There was also the Leigh light which was a powerful airborne searchlight which was fitted to the under-carriage of aircraft. They would surprise and attack enemy U-Boats on the surface at night. Ships would also learn to zig zag this made it more difficult for U-Boats to estimate the ships position. Despite all these helpful methods, Britain was still losing far too many ships. * The pulse of sound or “ping” that you hear in all those tense submarine movies is the signal sent from the Sonar sender / receiver unit. *
So, what of our floppy eared friend’s rations? During WWII Chappie dog food was being made at its factory in Slough, as was Kit-e-Kat. As time progressed these items became harder to find and as the shortages increased Chappie was to contain 70% water. It was decided that it wasn’t worth the fuel costs to transport Chappie around the country. Some dogs were fed on stale bread and oatmeal made into a thick porridge. Dogs in military service received offal and oatmeal with the addition of Spillers Winalot as a rusk. Some dogs were taking matters into their own paws! A Bristol family recalled how they were starting on a frugal supper of cheese and biscuits when the siren sounded, “we all dived under the dining room table as we heard the first bomb fall. On emerging we found our dog had polished off our suppers. He was licking his lips and looking not the least ashamed”!
So, what about the feline folk? Well, early in the war things didn’t look too bad but over time the U-Boats had destroyed many ships. Kit-e-Kat was very hard to find, and many cats were surviving on cod heads/fish heads. Even fish heads were not guaranteed, and their owners would queue for up to 4 hours for a SHEEP’S WINDPIPE or SHEEP’S LUNGS. Once home it would take another 4 hours to cook the windpipe. I don’t know how much nutrition was left in in a windpipe cooked for that amount of time, but I suppose it filled a hole. Many cats were also taking matters into their own paws! A Birmingham housewife recalled the shock in discovering when emerging from their Anderson shelter that their cat had eaten the weekend joint! (I can sympathise, a hungry dog stole our Sunday roast in the late 1960’s. It was peacetime, but it still hurt!) * As the war progressed, cats doing official war work by keeping the Granary’s and stores rat and mouse free were given a dried milk ration. *
A renewed public appeal was made during war-time in the Newspapers and on the radio for dogs to make a valuable contribution to the national effort. According to the thoughts of a Scottish dog this is how events unfolded. My mistress was listening to the radio one day, something about big dogs being needed. She got up all of a sudden and said, “Rex you’ve got to go and do your duty, your going to be a “soger” dog”! The breeds preferred were German Shepherds and Crosses, Airedales, Boxers, working Collies, Labradors and curly coated Labradors and Bull Terriers. Meanwhile in Germany the Berlin dog newspaper, Die Hundewelt reported of a grand recruiting rally that had added almost 16,000 dogs to the Wehrmacht’s ranks.
Apart from newspapers the RADIO or Wireless was the main source of war-time information. In Britain there was close to 10 Million radios registered at the start of the war with 16 Million in use in Germany by 1942. The radio would take on greater importance with so many loved ones far from home. The larger radios would have a wooden casing whilst the smaller radios had a casing made from a material known as Bakelite that pre-dated plastic. These radios were valve operated and took a little time to warm up. They came with mains power or battery power, the advantage of a battery radio was that it would still work even if there were mains power outages. One disadvantage of the Battery powered radio was if the battery was low, say only 30% the radio would start to distort. You always had to have a 2nd fully charged battery at hand. The radio was mainly used for News Bulletins however there was some popular programmes such as WORKER’S PLAYTIME, THE NAVY LARK, and I.T.M.A. (It’s that Man Again). Hitler had banned the listening to British Radio yet it was well known that the Wehrmacht would listen to MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK and various British Dance Bands from across the channel.
* A great favourite song of all Germans and especially the Afrika Corps was Lili Marlene sung by Marlene Dietrich. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels banned the song on account that Marlene Dietrich although German was now living and working in America. The Germans decided to swamp all the Radio Stations with requests for the song, eventually Goebbels relented. This very same song also became a favourite of the British 8th Army (Desert Rats). They had first “picked the song up” from Deutsche Radio Yugoslavia. *
As the war progressed there were various schemes to help with food shortages. DIG FOR VICTORY was such a scheme to turn front gardens, backyards or any viable ground into vegetable growing plots of land. There was also LAND GIRLS that would help on farms to insure the best possible harvest. In the cities many women answered the call to take over from all the enlisted men in factories and munitions plant around the country. One tragic story from this early time was that many young women wore their hair with a kiss-curl at the front or grew their hair long in keeping with their Hollywood idols who did similar. Tragically for the women operating high speed lathes, this kiss-curl or long hair was accidentally fed into the machinery leaving a section of their scalp and hair ripped out.
Not long after, it became mandatory for all machinists to keep their hair covered with a head scarf, this was a popular move in many ways. The women all wore the same dull boiler-suits which gave them little individuality so when the opportunity came to wear their own headscarves it gave them all a sense of identity. Many women wore their headscarves in a turban style, all with different colours. Some had a war-time slogan on the front, such as “Switch that light off!” Most of all it was keeping many free from accidents. * The first patient to be treated with Penicillin was Albert Alexander, a 43 year old British policeman on 12th Feb 1941. *
Apart from the Cinema and the Dance Halls there was one other popular entertainment in British cities, it was called Music Hall. This type of entertainment was similar to, Cabaret in France or Vaudeville in America. There would be a mixture of acts which included Singers, Musicians, Comedians and some novelty acts. Some of the performers were: Arthur Askey, Gracie Fields, George Formby, Will Hay, Max Miller the (Cheeky Chappy), Tommy Trinder, Flanagan and Allen, and some “strange” ancient Egyptian dancing from Wilson, Keppel and Betty. Due to the war the acts would consciously try to raise spirits and most of the audience would leave in better spirits than when they arrived.
* Betty Driver was a war-time film actress and big band singer. During the 2nd World War Driver travelled through Europe with E.N.S.A. (Entertainments National Service Association) entertaining the troops. She came out of retirement in 1969 and played the role of Betty Turpin for 40 years as a barmaid in the soap Coronation Street. She died on 15th October 2011. *
What was 1939/40 like for women with their children evacuated and menfolk called up for military service? Another great pleasure was the cinema, once the lights darkened and the movie began you could switch off from the outside world for a while. Films from 1939 included Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach and Mr Smith goes to Washington. Films from 1940 included, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, Pinocchio and The Shop around the Corner.
On August 13th1940, Germany launched an air offensive in preparation for an invasion of Great Britain. They had hoped to knockout British aircraft, runways and airports to gain air superiority however they were met with strong opposition from the RAF. This aerial conflict became known as THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN. The British were to prevail in a battle that went down in history as one of the most important ever fought on these Islands. The RAF using Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes and with the benefit of early radar lost 915 planes against the German total of 1,733. Many brave men on both sides were to lose their life or endure lifelong injuries. Sir Archibald McIndoe a New Zealand national and plastic surgeon pioneered techniques whilst treating many RAF pilots burned in WWII.
The Observer Corps Volunteers provided RAF Fighter Command with the Numbers, Type and height of incoming aircraft as well as reporting and tracking of enemy aircraft over Britain. They were given the (Royal) title by his Majesty King George VI in April 1941 in recognition of services carried out by the Observer Core during the Battle of Britain. Without their input there would have been no Anti-Raid warning or inland interceptions.
The German Luftwaffe could no longer sustain the heavy loss of fighter aircrafts during the Battle of Britain so Hitler had decided to strike at the heart of Britain. This would mean that Britain was going to have to endure heavy aerial bombing with few places spared and with London receiving the greatest punishment. These attacks would be called the BLITZ!
To quote Winston Churchill : This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Everyone knew something bad was going to happen and that it was going to happen soon. Everyone with a pet was getting them fitted with a NARPAC identification disc so if their dog or cat got lost in the BLACK-OUT or the BOMBING they could be safely returned home by one of its volunteers. Many women now had a garment called a “war-time “onesie” designed for use in the air-raid shelter. Also known as a siren suit it could be pulled on quickly over night clothes. Winston Churchill was often photographed in his own tailor-made siren suit.
AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS (A.R.P.) was organised by the British Government with the aim to protect civilian from the danger of Air-Raids. The ARP Warden would patrol the streets during Black-Out and ensure that no lights were visible from factories, offices or residential buildings. There was 1.4 Million APR Wardens in the UK most of whom were part time. The Warden would also report on the extent of British bomb damage and access help from the emergency services whilst making sure the rescue services were not impeded from the bomb sites.
During the Black-Out Car headlights had to be taped over leaving just a thin strip of light. Hand torches could only be used in a bag or covered in tissue paper to weaken the beam. Some people painted white, the front bumper of their car. Many 1000’s of people died or were injured during the Black-Out alone. People were encouraged to walk “with traffic” and men were advised to leave their white shirt tails hanging out. It may have been a blessing in disguise when woman’s heels were reduced to 2 inches. The Black-Out was not a safe place for women in high heels. The ARP Warden also had a hand-bell that he could use when necessary as well a black (Ever Ready) lamp with a front flap that prevented the light shining upward.
Gas attacks were still a possibility, so householders would use tape to seal all the window frames. All the window panes had masking tape fitted to the panes so that during a bomb blast if the windows blew in, at least there would be no sharp shards. To help in the Black-Out rush the clothing industry came up with the idea of buttons that would glow in the dark. The buttons were coloured white but in Black-Out conditions they would give off a luminous blue colour. There were also florescent flowers you could pin on your lapel.
The first line of defence was the Barrage Balloons, these Barrage Balloons were instrumental in frustrating the Luftwaffe. The balloon and cable were a barrier to Dive Bombers and machine gun fire because the aeroplanes had to fly in excess of the Balloon and cable’s top height. The balloon was like a Cup Final Blimp but unmanned with the top half filled with hydrogen and the bottom half, filled with air (on elevation). The balloon was held by a cable which were fixed to winches on lorries. If an aircraft flew into the cables it would be destroyed also if an aircraft tried to shoot down the balloon the hydrogen would explode taking the aircraft with it. The German planes had no option but to fly above the height of the balloons. The balloons were used extensively around the country. There was one repair centre set up in Portsmouth, the balloon crew would number 20 and they would anticipate raids. The crew were housed in sports centres and schools to be close to their work. There were an incredible 1,400 balloons in service in Britain by the middle of 1940. This provided Britain with some much-needed protection, but the balloons were of no use against high altitude bombers.
It was Saturday 7th September 1940 men, women and animals knew something was wrong, but nobody knew what. The Air -Raid siren started up, unlike all the practise drills the siren was continuing much longer. The sky started to grow dim as wave upon wave of Luftwaffe Bombers drew closer and closer. The Blitz had begun!! West Ham on the eastern edge of London, a mixture of Industry and housing. It contained the Royal Docks and many sprawling factories. It would not need its troubles to seek! During the first 3 weeks of the Blitz London firefighters had to contend with 10,000 fires. Many buildings such as garages, local government offices and community centres were used to add extra firefighting stations to deal with the number of fires. Later in the year came the very welcome news that 422 men from across Canada had volunteered to assist the British Fire Brigade * During the blitz many Fire-Fighters would find the water hydrants empty or ruptured. In times of low tide, the Fire crews would have to crawl across mud banks to find water *
At the beginning of the war British night air defences were in a poor state. Few anti-aircraft guns had “fire control systems” and the search lights were under-powered. The search lights were only effective up to 12,000ft whilst the Luftwaffe bombers flew at an operational altitude of 10,000 – 20,000ft. Another problem with the anti- aircraft guns were its inability to traverse fast enough. This meant, they could not sweep the gun fast enough left or right to “lock on” to the target. Despite the guns limitations the men were out at night firing away without much success. It was the best kept secret of the war because people at the sharp end of the bombing had to believe we were fighting back. One very important job that the Air-Raid guns did do was to prevent the Luftwaffe from flying lower than 10,000 ft. The lower the Luftwaffe flew the more accurate was the bombing. The downside to less accurate bombing was that the bombs could hit anywhere including residential areas. The anti- aircraft guns would improve in time when heavier duty guns were brought in also Radar which at the time of the Blitz was quite basic would improve. Search lights would become Radar controlled.
* In the early years of the war Hampstead Heath in North London had a vast tented encampment which was swarming with abandoned dogs and cats in a starving and poor condition. * Despite the difficult circumstances, all the Animal Welfare charities and groups rose to the challenge. The RSPCA treated and rescued by wars end, over 256,000 animals that were victims of enemy action. As a rough “rule of thumb” of every 100 animals / pets caught up in a bomb blast, 60% would die and 40% would live and be rehomed. Dogs and cats whose family/owners died in their destroyed home would continue to live at the bombed-out site. Apart from the charities each bombed out town would have individuals setting out food for bombed out animals as soon as the all-clear sounded and on many occasions before-hand! All the charities were doing their best in the most appalling conditions and many were still tortured by the earlier,1939 euthanasia.
Many homes were in possession of a Stirrup Pump, because home owners could tackle small fires on their own. This would allow the firefighters to concentrate on the larger fires. The Stirrup pump came with 30ft of hosing, the Stirrup or hand pump had a dual jet and spray nozzle. In an ideal world it was best operated by 3 people, one person would keep refilling the metal bucket with water, one would man the pump and the other tackled the fire with the hose.
During the Blitz, Arsenal and Tottenham football clubs had been sharing Spur’s White Hart Lane Stadium. Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium had been requisitioned by the war office to be used as a First Aid Training Centre. After September 1940 the East Stand of Spur’s White Hart Lane was closed, it had been commandeered as a mortuary for bomb victims. Poplar, the docks, West Ham’s Upton Park and Millwall’s Den all took particular punishment. After one raid in 1940 an unexploded bomb was found lodged in the stands at Stamford Bridge, home of London club Chelsea. The bomb disposal unit was called but they were busy with 100’s of unexploded bombs across London with greater priority so the team manager Billy Birrell defused it himself! (Oh, for the days when Stands were made of wood and men were made of steel!) * Due to the threat of aerial attack all football matches were restricted to an attendance of 8,000 *
The British cities were now to face a new deadly problem, INCENDIARIES. They were first used by bombers who dropped them over Warsaw, Poland at the beginning of WWII. An Incendiary is not a bomb, but short sticks of wood/material impregnated with white phosphorus or other combustible material. They could be dropped from a bomber by the 100’s with the sole task of starting fires when they ignited on impact.
The firefighters were already over-stretched, so something had to be done. A law was passed in 1940 requiring factories and businesses to appoint employees to watch for Incendiaries outside of working hours. They would have a water bucket and a stirrup pump as well as a bucket of sand. Any fire they could not get to, had to be reported to the fire service. Meanwhile back on the ground the Tea Vans were making their way around the bomb sites. There was The Salvation Army, The Woman’s Voluntary Service, Y.M.C.A. and others. Bomb survivors would be given tea and sandwiches as well as blankets. * During a six-month period of the Blitz a million tons of bombsite rubble from London was transported by railway on 1,700 freight trains. The rubble was used to construct additional runways on RAF Airfields in East Anglia. *
The British government was initially reluctant to allow Londoner’s to use the Underground Railway System as a bomb shelter but on the night of 19th/20th September 1940 people took it into their own hands. Animals were banned but many would be smuggled under coats or baskets. A part of the Piccadilly line was closed to trains, tracks were concreted-over and reinforced floodgates were installed as a safety measure. The big worry was that if the bombers were to hit the Thames Embankments it may have resulted in the flooding of the Underground system. A total of 79 Underground stations were fitted with bunks for 22,000 people, all stations were supplied with First Aid facilities and chemical toilets. A total of 124 Canteens opened in all parts of the network.
The Underground was much safer than ground level however if a bomb had a direct hit on the Underground it would cause a lot of damage. Due to the relative safety of the underground, Aviation Electronics firm Plessy carried out a lot of its war work from down in the underground as did Government administration. To lighten the mood in the underground network people would arrive with a small accordion or harmonica to get a sing-song started. To stay with the subject of trains, the normal train system had a set of blue lights that lit the railway station. When the red Air-Raid light came on all train lights were switched off. People could make their way to the nearest Air-Raid shelter, but many stayed on the train, not wanting to lose their seat! During wartime the trains needed to transport a lot more freight than normal making train passengers feel a little left out in the priority stakes.
The people of Britain were holding up well with all the destruction and nothing and I mean nothing was going to stop these hardworking women from their night at the dancing. These being austere times the women had to be inventive. Firstly, Bicarbonate of Soda was used as an underarm anti-perspirant. A burnt cork or a burnt match or even black boot polish was used for mascara. Stockings were in very short supply, so women would mix up a solution of gravy browning and applied it to their legs to give a bit of colour. A friend would then use an eyebrow pencil and draw a fake stocking seam. Lipstick was made to go a long way but if it had run out many women would colour their lips with beetroot juice. The women’s hairstyle was wavy with curls, some would knit or crochet a snood as was the fashion (Like Pike’s mum in the comedy Dads Army). Some wore their hair in a turban like they did at work, they were called glamour bands. Their jackets would have padded (puffed up Shoulders) as was the fashion. Despite the austerity and rationing, when these women went out to the dancing they were as fashionable and as stylish as any decade of the 20th Century.
A night at the dancing was a night to let off steam with many others in a similar situation. There would be songs by artists like Vera Lynn, We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs of Dover, and a song popular on many levels, When the Lights go on again all over the World. There was also Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw with big band music very popular and at the end of the evening people would all join hands to a song called The Lambeth Walk. For those returning home to an empty house it was very difficult. Those returning to pets realised the value of these animals. * During the Blitz, London was bombed every day and night, bar one day for 11 weeks with over a third of the city destroyed. *
As we travel around the country it was obvious the Luftwaffe were trying to complete the job that the U-Boats had started and that was to starve Britain into surrender. The 4th deadliest bombing raid was destined for Clydebank. The area of Clydeside embraced most of Britain’s ship building capability as well as engineering and oil installations on the Clyde. Not far away there were Steelworks, aircraft and armament factories in places like Motherwell, Wishaw, Rutherglen and Parkhead. The Luftwaffe would fly to the East Neuk of Fife which was easy to see as it jutted out into the North Sea. From that point they would take their bearings/co-ordinates for finding Clydebank. More than 1,000 bombs were dropped in and around the area on the 13th- 14th & 15th of March 1941, a total of 400 planes were used. Of the town’s 12,000 homes only 7 were left habitable. Water, gas and electricity supplies were destroyed, and Clydebank became the only town to be totally evacuated as a result of enemy action. Despite the total carnage most of the Shipyards and factories remained relatively unscathed. On 6th – 7th May 1941 another wave of attacks took place but this time it was centred on Greenock where many fires broke out due to the large number of incendiaries dropped.
The city of Coventry was to have the worst of many nights on 14th Nov 1940. Coventry was a top target for many reasons. The city was involved with car manufacture, aeroplane engines and munition factories. Many pregnant women or women with young children would eventually leave the city and camp out in the fields on the outskirts of the town. Much of the city centre and the cathedral were destroyed. Taking advantage of a “Bomber’s Moon” on November the 14th 449 bombers dropped 503 tons of bombs and 880 incendiaries.
The city of Plymouth on the south coast was almost reduced to rubble during the war. Eventually when the Air-Raid alarm went off many hundreds of people were taken in lorries to the edge of Dartmoor where they would camp until all was clear.
Peterhead in Aberdeenshire was bombed 28 times, yet its war-time population was only 10.000 Many felt that Bombers flying over from the now fallen Norway had mistaken Peterhead for Aberdeen. I think that may only be part of the story. Peterhead had and still has a fine breakwater that could give anchorage to many British ships also RAF Peterhead is a former Royal Air Force Station just 3.5 miles from the town. The airfield was built in 1941 and disbanded in 1945. During this period there were more than 2,000 RAF personnel based there. A number of RAF squadrons from a variety of nations used RAF Peterhead’s five accommodation camps (Poland, Norwegian and Czech) The camp was hit twice in November 1941. Not forgetting just a few miles from Peterhead at Longside there was an airfield using Hawker Hurricane’s, Spitfire’s and North American P-51 Mustang aircraft that provided early protection for the Russian Shipping Convoys. Great Britain supplied Russia with much needed food and equipment throughout the war despite the journey to Murmansk being the most treacherous.
The city of Newcastle was targeted on July 1940 and December 1941. Newcastle had heavy industry and busy docks that sent coal to London and the south. Targets included Swan Hunter’s Shipyard, Vickers Armstrong “Naval Yard”, Steelworks and the Wallsend slipway. The town of South Shields was targeted on Sat 3rd May 1941, 107 people died sheltering in the basement beneath Wilkinson’s Lemonade Factory. South Shields was targeted again on October 1941. The Wearside shipyards produced a quarter of Britain’s merchant shipping, the city was to take some punishment with damage also inflicted on Sunderland’s Roker Park. Middlesboro never escaped attention either. * In towns along the English south coast many people would make for the beach when the siren went off. It was a bit safer because there was no flying debris and it was less claustrophobic. *
There was one worry that was never far from everyone’s mind. * Britain was an island that relied on imports to fight a war. U-Boats were still sinking an unhealthy number of British ships and now the Luftwaffe were reducing our ability to build ships. Britain was getting perilously close to the critical point where it was losing more ships than it could replace. * In the far north of the country the early memories of Luftwaffe attacks were fading but the amount of life lost and damage to British and Allied shipping was ever growing. The Thurso, Longhope and Wick lifeboats would have a busy war. Many ships were lost off Caithness, Orkney and North Sutherland. Volunteers would come forward to check the coast for possible survivors or bodies. Another job they undertook was to keep local children away from witnessing any dead bodies. In time these sailors would be interred in graveyards with their own individual headstones, stretching from North West Sutherland all the way to South East Caithness. Many were British, Norwegian, Danish, Polish and Canadian Allies. The far north was not unique in this, many coastal towns would experience a similar situation.
* According to Winston Churchills famous war-time speech, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the street, we shall fight in the hills: we shall never surrender”!*
A rare piece of good news was to come Britain’s way although it did come through the misfortune of Norway. Norway was overrun by Germany on the 10th June 1940 however Norway was a large physical country but with a small population (3million) it took some time before envious eyes were turned towards Norway’s Merchant Fleet. It was the 4th largest in the world and contained some of the most modern ships. Norway had a “puppet leader” called Vidkum Quisling who under German command ordered all of Norway’s merchant fleet to sail to Germany, Italy or neutral ports to be requisitioned for the Kriegsmarine. His request was ignored, and all ships sailed to Great Britain to serve at the disposal of their British allies. Some ships were converted into Mine-Sweepers while others performed a host of coastal services around Great Britain. Norwegian tankers carried a third of all oil transported into Britain during the war.
* As the war continued there would be further rationing to foods such as Tea, Jam, Biscuits, Breakfast cereals and Sweets. There would also be rationing of coal and soap products such as soap, soap flakes, liquid soap and powdered soap. Petrol and man-power shortages meant that shops could no longer deliver goods to customers homes during 1941. It was a time of MAKE DO and MEND. *
As the war dragged on so did the bombing, next on the horizon was Belfast which was poorly defended by only 16 heavy anti-aircraft guns and the lowest proportion of aircraft shelters. This was not the intension of the war office but at the beginning of the war many felt Belfast was too far west to be targeted by German Bombers but after the surrender of France the Germans could now fly from Cherbourg in northern France putting Belfast well within their reach. On May 1941 there was 4 German Air-Raids in April and May, 200 bombers managed to render half the city’s housing stock uninhabitable. Belfast produced many naval ships, aircraft and munitions and was the home to the Harland and Wolff Shipyards. Despite the damage to the city, Harland and Wolff shipyards managed to produce 6 Aircraft Carriers, 2 Cruisers and 131 naval ships as well as countless ship repairs during WWII.
Swansea in the south of Wales endured a 3-night Blitz on 19-21 February 1941. The main targets were the Port, Dock and the Oil Refinery. The bombers wanted to cripple coal exports from the town. Swansea was left with a terrible rat infestation. The deaths and injuries were steadily growing across the country.
Movies from 1941/1942 included Citizen Cane, Dumbo and How Green was my Valley. From 1942 we had Casablanca, Bambi, Holiday Inn and Mrs Miniver which starred Greer Garson as a British woman struggling to survive the first months of WWII. This movie did a lot to sway American public opinion towards the British war effort. If you were sat down enjoying a movie there would come a break or intermission in the film. At this point a newsreel called the Pathe news would be played, giving an insight on how the war was going at home and abroad. The content was heavily controlled by the Ministry of Information. One word you never wanted to see “flashed up” on the cinema screen was the word CROMWELL that was the secret word for Britain has been invaded. * Cinema attendances grew from 20 million( pre war) to 32 million at the wars peak *
So, what were things like now like for all the pets? The Cats Protection League (Cats Protection) agreed to convey bombed out cats to temporary or “duration of war homes”. According to their magazine The Cat, during WWII they appealed to all vegetarians among their readers to donate their meat ration to their local Cat’s Shelter. In Lancaster a Mr Bernard of the Lido Cinema in Bolton organised 100 homes for evacuated animals. They were all housed in the cinema until homes could be found. (I wonder if they were “drumming” their paws on the back of the seats for “Lassie come Home”) Brilliant gesture!! At the beginning of the Blitz many pet owners would buy from the vets, Fit & Hysteria Powders or Bromide, one or the other was given to the pet as soon as the Air-Raid alarm sounded so it had time to work its way into their system before the bombs started falling. As it turned out 90% of the pets weren’t bothered that much as long as their owners were relatively calm, even without the powders. In truth the pets often calmed down their owners!
Another great trait of many cats was that they could tell in advance of a bombing raid happening. They could also tell if the bombers were German, British or American. The engines of British and American planes flew with a constant drone however the German bomber had an “in and out” even bumpy sound. Unlike the modern British and American planes that had its engines checked for synchronism, the German bombers were made in the 1930’s and the engine synch wasn’t checked. It is believed that the small difference and sound was due to the engines being slightly out of synch with each other. The sound was like roooAAAAooooAAAooorrr. The family cats being clever little souls, were “on the ball” so when they headed home or to the shelter everyone followed if they had any sense! They saved many lives during the Blitz despite being written off at the start of the war!
Meanwhile dogs were making positive headlines in search and rescue. Beauty was a wire-haired terrier belonging to the PDSA Superintendent Bill Barnet who led one of the charities Animal Rescue Squads that operated during the heavy bombing raids on London. Beauty saved the lives of 63 animals from being buried alive her first being a cat. She became a Dickin Medal winner in 1945. Another dog, Rip was found homeless and starving after a German Air Raid on Poplar, East London. Rip the mongrel was awarded the Dickin Medal for locating over 100 people buried during the Blitz. The dogs had to deal with, smouldering debris, intense heat and water jets from fire hoses. The RSPCA were busy recruiting new inspectors to deal with the many coastal oil spills from ships and U-Boats.
Usually after a bomb attack and the All-Clear, first on site were the emergency services, a little later the search and rescue/dog teams were allowed on the scene. One important check that had to be done was to check all cats in the area for injury. This would arise when cats that were injured or buried had managed to free themselves on their own and groomed themselves so well that not a speck of dirt was left on them. This fooled the animal charities for a while into thinking these cats avoided the blast, yet many of these “clean” cats had bad injuries. Another victim of the Blitz was the humble bee that failed to adapt to the noise and vibration so, more than a million were evacuated from London.
The Blitz rolls on: Southampton which was the birthplace of the Spitfire was attacked 57 times with 2,300 bombs dropped. This took place on 23rd & 30th November & 1st December 1940. Much of the Town centre was destroyed with damage also to the Ordnance Survey Offices. They were after the Spitfire Repair Depot which was part of the Super-Marine Complex around Southampton.
* Great unsung hero’s of the war were the carrier pigeons, they were the nations eyes and ears in war-time. The National Pigeon Service was a voluntary civilian organisation formed in Britain in 1938. During the 1939 – 1945 war this group alone gave over 200,000 of its best young pigeons to be used by the RAF, Army and Intelligence services. Carrier Pigeons were frequently parachuted in secure containers to Resistance fighter in France, Holland, Belgium and Denmark. Some of the more outstanding results from messages returned was, The location of the V1 Rocket site at Peenemunde, Germany, U-Boat bases, the saving of thousands of US and German lives towards the end of the battle of the Bulge. The first word back from Normandy on D-Day and many untold messages of vital intelligence including downed aircraft and ships. *
Aberdeen was now a greater target as an eastern seaboard port now that the Luftwaffe could fly from occupied Norway. Worse night fell on 21st April 1943 when 50 bombers destroyed 10,000 homes. In the Midlands there was going to be little chance of escape with its long tradition of manufacturing and engineering. Bombsite rubble from the Birmingham Blitz was used to make additional runways on US Air Force bases in Kent and Essex.
The city of Liverpool was one of the biggest ports in the world with most of Britain’s Imports and Exports coming through the city. Liverpool was the heaviest pounded city in the UK after London. The Luftwaffe targeted the city relentlessly, the city centre was all but wiped out with much damage around the docks and Birkenhead. Radio announcers were told not to mention strikes on Liverpool by name, but just to say a “northern town”. This was to deprive Germany of a morale boost, and also to avoid lowering morale in Britain. Before the main Blitz on Liverpool the local cats were seen, slowly leaving the city. Sheffield was bombed from 12th – 15th December1940, an industrial area famous for steel manufacture. There were 40,000 left homeless with damage to the industrial centre and the destruction of a stand at Sheffield Utd football ground, Bramall Lane. Leeds had to endure 9 raids on 14th / 15th March 1941 hitting the city centre and other areas. Rotherham, was hit with 140 bombs as the Luftwaffe targeted the Rotherham steelworks.
One of the most damaging strikes of the Blitz was that on Hull which left 95% of all houses damaged. The bombers attacked on the 9th & 15th May there was a direct hit on the local Flourmill, which spread to the horse’s stables. In the mayhem the men mercifully had the presence of mind to “bag” the head of the horses. Once the horses could no longer see the fire they settled down. The men were then able to slowly remove them away from the fire. It was believed time delay bombs were also deployed on these nights. Delayed action bombs were a big hazard for a time especially for home owners who wouldn’t wait until it was safe to return to the bombed- out site/home. This was a real problem however as time passed the Delayed Action Bombs would fail to detonate. This may have been the high temperatures the bomb was dropped into which may have warped the timing mechanism or they may have been in storage for too long with the clockwork detonation seized up. All-in-all it was good news another piece of really good news was that the threat of gas had not materialised.
The bombing continued with the Xmas Blitz on Manchester from 22nd – 24th December 1940. The local animal lovers were out in force feeding the homeless pets. The Grandstand at Old Trafford was destroyed so they ended up playing their matches at the Manchester City Ground, Maine Road. Dundee had the ironic misfortune to be bombed on 5th November, Montrose would experience bombing as did Fraserburgh. The city of Edinburgh was hit several times with a tenement on No 8 George St Leith being part destroyed.
Portsmouth would suffer many attacks the first on 10th and 11th January 1941 when 153 bombers targeted the city. The houses destroyed totalled 63,000 the tide was also low which prevented the firefighters from pumping water from the sea. The power station was hit and the main shopping centres were decimated. Portsmouth’s Royal hospital and the Royal Sailors Rest were also destroyed. Over the course 25,000 incendiaries were dropped on Portsmouth. Other places would suffer bombings to a lesser or greater extent.
On the 22nd June 1941 the Luftwaffe began attacking the Soviet Union, code named Operation Barbarossa. This was good news for the British as many Luftwaffe Bombers were being re-deployed to the east. Germany had now opened the war up on two fronts. Although the main Blitz had quietened down their now appeared a new hazard. The BAEDEKER RAIDS which was based on a 1937 German Tourist Guide that gave British cities of historical significance a star rating. Any towns with 3 stars were considered a target, the list included; Exeter, Bath, Lincoln, York, Canterbury and Norwich. They all were struck by the Luftwaffe but were not damaged to any major degree. The German’s had hoped that destruction of these national treasures would weaken British morale. Exeter was targeted over a period of time causing damage to a number of pigeon lofts which killed many carrier pigeons. On April 29th 1942 for two hours the bombs rained down on the city of York. There was damage to the railway system, houses and schools however the York Minster escaped damage.
Norwich had to endure 2 nights of intense bombing at the end of April 1942. Up until now the Luftwaffe seemed to by-pass Norwich, with some residents choosing to ignore air-raid warnings and not bothering to seek shelter. The Norman Castle and The Cathedral escaped damage however many shops, factories and homes were destroyed. Brighton was attacked from the air on 56 occasions between July 2nd 1940 and February 1944. An evacuation of 30,000 took place. Brighton was also hit with a V-1 Flying bomb in 1944. Both the Palace Pier and West Pier had sections of its decking removed to prevent its use as landing stages by the Luftwaffe. The Bristol Blitz occurred between 24th November an 11th April 1941. There were 6 major bombing raids damaging 89,000 buildings. Bristol came in for heavy punishment due to the harbour and the Bristol Aeroplane Company.
Despite all this, morale remained high and everyone went about their daily business as normal. In towns and cities around the country bombed out shops sold their wares from the pavement, even vets pulled their inspection table onto the pavement. One date that had a significant effect on the war was July 9th 1941, that was the vital day that the British Code-Breakers managed to break the German Enigma Code. Churchill was to say that this breakthrough was the most important achievement of the war and it was believed to have shortened the war by at least a year. Late in 1941 prescription free medicines for women with children and expectant mothers were issued, cod liver oil and vitamin C. * Not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbour the USA joined the war in December 1941. *
Well, along came 1942 not much had changed except for the airstrikes which were less heavy or frequent. The first American Troops arrived in Europe, landing in Northern Ireland. A lot of Germany’s energies were now placed in seizing the Russian oilfields in the Caucasus. In 1942 Churchill was about to leave for America to meet Roosevelt however he took the unusual step of sending a letter to King George VI advising him to make Anthony Eden Prime Minister should Churchill not survive the journey. During 1942, until the wars end Hitler received daily injections of Methamphetamine (Previtin) for depression and fatigue. U-Boats were still a great danger to Allied shipping, but the Radar research was advancing under, Robert Watson-Watt and his research team.
In France and Belgium during 1942 all Jewish citizens had to wear a Star of David yellow badge. Soon after the deportation of Jews would begin from Germany and occupied Europe to Auschwitz and other death camps. Great Britain was now carrying out heavy bombing raids on Hamburg and Berlin. From 23rd October – 11th November 1942 the Battle of El Alamein was fought between Rommel’s Afrika Corp and British and Commonwealth troops. The British gave everything and managed to merge victorious. The importance of this battle cannot be over-estimated 1) Britain so badly needed a morale boosting victory. 2) If they had lost they would have no foothold/base left on Africa. 3) If Germany won the battle they would have taken Egypt as well as access to many other countries. 4) The war would have probably dragged on for at least another painful year. *During WWII the Sphinx and other ancient artefacts were sand bagged to protect against aerial bombing. *
On June 1st 1942 bombs rained down on Canterbury, 800 buildings were destroyed with a further 1,000 damaged. Canterbury cathedral survived with only the loss of its library. On the week-end of 25th – 27th 1942 Bath suffered 3 raids from 80 Luftwaffe aircraft. Buildings affected were 19,000 of which 1.100 were seriously damaged including 218 of architectural or historic interest. * Among the firefighters assigned to the scene in Bath those nights was much loved Harry Patch who in the 2,000’s became the last surviving British army veteran from the First World War.* In November 1942 alone, 860,000 tons of shipping was lost through U-Boats, amounting to almost 10% of Britain’s food shipments.
In January 1943 saw 50 bombers mount the first all American Air Raid against the large German Naval Base of Wilhelmshaven. Also, in 1943 from 16th – 17th May came an ambitious plan to flood the Ruhr Valley by destroying the Mohne and Eder Hydro Electric dams using bouncing bombs designed by engineer Barnes Wallis. The bombs were launched from an aeroplane, then skimmed along the surface of the water. When it hit the dam wall it would sink and then explode at a depth. The assignment fell to RAF No 617 (The Dam-busters). It was not a total success and many good men were lost but it gave a great boost back home. Since September 1939 the British public had to sit and “take it”, at least now the British were on the offensive although many people just wanted to see the whole war over.
The Bethnal Green Tube Station tragedy took place on Wednesday 3rd March 1943. There had been British Bombing the night before in Germany. This would often result in retaliatory bombing by Germany the following night. The Air-Raid siren sounded at 8.17pm triggering a heavy but orderly flow of people down a blacked-out staircase from the street. A middle- aged woman and a child fell over, others were to fall around her. They became tangled up in a ball/mass that kept growing as they tried to struggle free. Some managed to free themselves but tragically 173 people mostly women and children were crushed and asphyxiated, some 60 others required hospital treatment. The cause of the disaster has never been fully known but one theory was that people may have been startled by the sound of anti-aircraft rockets that were being fired from nearby Victoria Park. After the disaster many local people were traumatised by that night’s event and would not use the underground as a shelter any more. Fortunately the local Freemasonry Lodge kindly opened its doors to everyone in the locality during air-raids and gave out tea and sandwiches.
It was during 1943 that the Dickin Medal was instituted in the UK by Maria Dickin. Its main aim was to honour the work of animals in WWII but it was also done to boost the profile of animals. There was still many who would have been happy to see all stray cats and dogs destroyed. It was an astute move by the PDSA and Maria Dickin. * Bombed out cities like Swansea with rat infestations would have been glad of a consignment of cats. *
Germany’s assault on Russia was now on the back foot and by August 1943, they had been beaten by the freezing winter weather. Hitler had refused to send additional clothing for the men which left them exposed. The German uniform overcoat had lead buttons / fasteners but in the extreme cold the buttons shattered leaving the coat poorly tied and even more exposed to the elements. The USAAF attacked and destroyed the vital Romanian oilfields around Ploiesti. With the Russians back in control of their own oil, Germany with no oil reserves was in trouble. It was now Germany that would need to spend more time on Air-Raid precautions. Germany had developed its own black-out paint in the colours of the rainbow to highlight kerbstones and pillars at railway stations. Air-raid shelters in Germany were called Hochbunkers or “high Bunkers” they were built with reinforced concrete more than 6 stories high. They were slender buildings with anti-aircraft artillery on the roof. The Hochbunker had a nurse and a sterile room to treat injuries or to attend to any pregnant women affected by the stress, noise and vibration. Unlike Britain, German women would make for the bunker in their best clothes and jewellery, this was in case their possessions were lost or burned in the bombing raids.
In Great Britain the welfare of animals is looked after by many different groups whilst in 1933 the Reichstierschtzbund which was like the RSPCA for Germany took over. In fairness they had many far- reaching powers for animals and many say that modern Germany’s Animal Welfare is a watered-down version of the 1933 Reichstierschzbund. German cities had special departments that would take care of military draft animals or pets. Sadly, as the war grinded on it would be harder to maintain those lofty ideals. Meanwhile back in Britain, all the bombed -out dogs had been heading for the country, with the farmers “up in arms” the NCDL or National Canine Defence Trust (The Dogs Trust) were doing their level best to restore order.
In Britain we had the benefit of many cats as (early warning devices) however Germany was not to be undone with its very own Air-Raid hero “Freda the Duck”. A metal statue was built in Germany to honour war hero Freda the duck. She was honoured for being more effective than any alarm system in knowing when Allied bombing raids were on their way. With her exceptional hearing, Freda would start quacking and frantically running around. Before long the local people caught on to Freda’s warning, she was credited with saving many hundreds of lives.
May 1943 was to be known as Black May for the German U-Boats. For the first time in the war they were more U-Boats being lost than Allied shipping sunk. Their stranglehold on shipping was now slackening off. Of all the Allied sea and air weapons, it would be the improving Radar technology that was to make the biggest difference in the battle against the U-Boats from 1943 – 45. *When the U-Boats put to sea they would stock up on as much fruit and veg as they could. The U-Boats had 2 toilets so with the limited space, all the fruit and veg was stored in toilet No 2. With a crew of 50 men using just the 1 toilet the smell and appearance was “rank”, so many of the officers and captain took codeine pills to “limit” their trips to the toilet!*
Beginning in Dec 1943 were the Bevan Boys, the name given to coalminers who were needed to replace the miners that were away at war. They took their name from politician Ernest Bevan who was Minister for Labour during the wartime coalition government. By 1943 the coal mines had lost 36,000 men to war service and U-Boats were still making imported coal difficult so 48,000 Bevan Boys were recruited.
The next attacks by the Luftwaffe were centred on the greater London area and was called Operation Steinbock or THE BABY BLITZ. This was a strategic bombing campaign from Jan – May 1944 but much smaller than the main Blitz. Apart from London, the Bristol and Cardiff harbours were hit. It achieved very little with Luftwaffe losing 329 Aircraft before it was abandoned. The Baby Blitz had worn down the offensive capability of the Luftwaffe to the degree that it could not launch any significant counter attacks on 6th June 1944 (D-Day)
Favourite movies from 1943/44 were: Heaven can Wait, Phantom of the Opera and I Walked with a Zombie (The old ones are the best!). During 1944 the most popular movies were: To Have and Have Not and Arsenic and Old Lace.
From the Allies point of view all things were gearing up for D-Day it was going to be the biggest movement / invasion of humans the world had ever seen, and it was due to happen on Tuesday 6th June 1944. This invasion/liberation was to take place within a 60 mile stretch of coast in Normandy, northern France. This coastline was divided up into 5 sectors, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. On the Eastern side, British forces were predominant at Sword and Gold helped by the combined forces of (Australian, New Zealand, Polish, Czech, Dutch, Norwegian, Free French, Free Belgian, Luxembourg and Greek forces). The Canadians would lead at Juno, with the Americans leading at Omaha and Utah beaches in what was named OPERATION OVERLORD.
The Royal Navy ships that were anchored at south English ports were to give up their egg ration so as the first wave of men heading to France could get a decent breakfast/meal in their stomach. An egg might not seem much, but Great Britain had been under the cosh of rationing for 4 ½ years. It was also a gesture of support from their Navy, that realised just how difficult this operation would be. Dwight D Eisenhower was Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, he was also a caring and genuine man. When he inspected and shook hands with the troops, he found it really hard to look them in the eye knowing where they were being sent to. There were going to be many, many casualties!
As they prepared for D-Day and the fight against Nazi Germany the 13th Battalion of the British Army developed a new weapon: Parachuting dogs! (I kid you not) These dogs would have the job of locating mines, booby traps, keeping watch and warning about enemies. As well as Bing and Monty there was Rane, the only female parachuting dog in the war. Bing was a German Shepherd cross who may have been described as a “reluctant hero”. The dogs were thoroughly trained for D-Day. They were trained to identify battlefield scenarios and the smell of explosives and gunpowder. They would get used to the sound of aircraft propellers spinning and to make it easier to jump they were given nothing to eat or drink before-hand. The training routine was Jump – Land – Eat. Three planes with 3 dogs took of for Normandy at 11.30 pm on the 5th June 1944 in order to clear mines that would be a hazard to the main body of Allied troops. At 1.10 am on the 6th they arrived over Normandy. Bing was apparently curled up in the back of the plane. It was obvious that Bing was comfy and relaxed and not caring much about drop-zones so his handler had to grab a hold of Bing and escorted him to the dispatch door, the handler then gave Bing a little encouragement with his ample sized boot! Bing managed to parachute down ok but he got stuck in a tree. He had to wait 2 hours until his comrades found him.
However they all did a great job and remained in France until September 1944. Bing and his pals would once more be dropped, this time over the river Rhine. On this occasion Bing was “more alert” about the drop zone and in March 1945 they were advancing into Germany. A thirsty Bing had stuck his head under a mans fence for a drink of water only to find he had drunk-dry a drip tray of white wine. The men had a great laugh watching Bing swaying like a daffodil in a March wind. Despite his little mishaps Bing made it all the way to the coast and the Baltic Sea. Bing survived the war and our “reluctant hero” was given the PDSA Dickin Medal.
The British 6th Airbourne division were also parachuted into northern France in advance of the D-Day landings. They had to capture vital bridges to protect British and Canadian troops. They also had to destroy the Merville gun battery, this fortress contained 4 large calibre guns. An excellent job well done but at a high price of men.
A dog closer to home that had been “doing their bit” was Blackie a German Shepherd from Maryhill, Glasgow. In July 1944 Blackie attacked 8 thieves attempting to burgle a clothing store. (To think, Blackie managed to scare them all off without the aid of the Partick Thistle mascot!)
With the Allies now entrenched on French soil many Evacuees would start to drift back to their homes, this was common place when there was a period of good news or a lull in fighting, sadly their optimism was short lived. In only a week since the D-Day landings, Hitler retaliated with his V-I Rockets which became known as the “Doodlebug Summer”. The V-1 Flying Bomb or Vergeltungswaffe or Vengeance Weapon 1 was known to the Allies as the Buzz Bomb or Doodlebug. The bombs were mainly launched at London and southern England from launch facilities along the French coast. The first V1 was launched at London on 13th June 1944, at its peak more than 100 V1’s were fired daily at South East/ London. That was a total of 9,521 with the Belgian port of Antwerp also being targeted due to its importance to the advancing Allies.
Allied bombing on German Cities were now reaching Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and also the Ruhr cities of Duisburg, Essen, Bochum, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen an urban /industrial area of the North Rhine / Westphalia. They would all be heavily bombed.
The V1 was fuelled by 625 litres of 75 octane gasoline, for direction it was fitted with a Gyro Compass. The altitude of these rockets was 2000 – 3,000 ft (600 – 900m) and the top speed was 340 mph whilst carrying a 1 Ton warhead. It took 15 minutes for the V1 to leave Calais, France and arrive in London. If you happened to hear the noise of the V1 you were safe however if you looked up and the engine had stopped, then you were in big trouble!! These rockets would leave deep craters in the ground and much more debris than a standard Blitz attack.
Whilst Rip and Beauty were the heroes of the Blitz search and rescue, it was now going to take bigger and more powerful search and rescue dogs to deal with these V1 rockets over an 80 day period. Cometh the hour cometh the dogs. They came in the shape of German Shepherd dogs, Jet, Irma, Rex, Thorn, Psyche and a Collie called Peter. Mrs Margaret Griffin should be singled out for praise, whilst many dogs were given to handlers to work on the bomb sites Mrs Griffin not only gave her two dogs Irma and Psyche but she never left them with a handler, she joined them trampling around the burning bombsites giving instructions!
The first thing that was noticed was that, the V1 rocket on impact radiated out far more heat than the Blitz bombs and the dog’s feet were being burnt. Well wishers knitted the dog’s a set of boots but with all the scrambling around they were soon holed and damaged. The handlers decided to make stitched leather boots which seemed to do the trick. The dogs worked tirelessly trying to locate survivors and by the time they were finished they could not make a sound or move for tiredness. It seemed a pity that the dogs were wasting precious energy searching/digging for deceased victims when living victims needed all their help. With that in mind the dogs were now going for further training with their handlers to St Stephens Hospital Mortuary’s which is now called the New Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The handlers were given permission to take the dogs into the Mortuary, they then started training the dogs to ignore all the dead bodies. In time, that is what they did at the bomb sites. Search and Rescue dog Irma (who worked alongside Psyche) would even have 2 barks, one if she stumbled past a buried corpse and a different stronger bark when she found a buried survivor. The majority of these dogs would go on to win the PDSA Dickin Medal.
Meanwhile everything that could be done was being done to limit the damage of these rockets. Fighter aircraft were scrambled to shoot down the rockets. On many occasions the RAF would fly alongside the rocket at 340mph and tip the rocket’s tail fin with the fighter plane’s wing tip. This threw the rocket out of balance and it fell harmlessly to the fields below. The barrage balloons also helped, they were set up along the southern coast and London was ringed with Barrage Balloons. However, the rocket was very cleverly constructed and on each right and left fin there were Cable-Cutters. If the rocket flew into the wire it would quickly rest hard against the fin, this would trigger a small explosion, and this energized a thick blade that cut the cable clean through. (A bit like when a cable jointer fires a bullet to activate a cutter to safely “spike” a cable).
If it had been activated once it could not be activated on that fin again, so this helped the London Barrage Balloons to trap many rockets in the cables. Anti-Aircraft guns were also deployed with success. It is believed that a total of 231 V1 rockets were destroyed by Barrage Balloons. Aircraft were to destroy 1,000 rockets a small proportion went faulty and lost their direction. The majority of rockets “downed” were from Anti-Aircraft guns, the poor display of anti-aircraft guns during the blitz was long gone. The British now had new guns brought in initially for the D-Day landings. These guns were state-of-the-art with a Fire-control-System based on an analogue computer, deployed on the south east coast.
As the month of August progressed the number of rockets shot down began at 17% then rose to 60% and by the end of the month it was at 74% of all rockets fired, non-the-less the V1 rockets had inflicted a great deal of damage.* When the V1 rockets were cutting through the Barrage Balloon cables this presented a dilemma for the British. These balloons contained 50% hydrogen, if they drifted over a built- up area and ignited it could be disastrous. To avoid this when the mooring cable was cut a panel would be ripped away on the balloon causing it to deflate safely. *
The V1 rockets stopped in October 1944 after the firing site was overrun by allied forces. No sooner did the last rocket fire that a new and greater danger showed itself. This Rocket was known as the V2 or Vergeltungswaffe Retribution / Vengeance Weapon II. This rocket was in a different league and it was the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile. Hitler had deemed this a retaliation for the Allies heavy bombing against German cities. Beginning in September/October 1944 over 3,000 V2 rockets were launched. London would receive 1,358, Norwich 6, Ipswich 1,Brighton 1, Remagen 11, Maastricht 19 and later Antwerp and Liege. The V2 could blast a crater 20 metres wide and 8 metres deep and flew 4 times faster than the speed of sound, it gave no warning of impact. On explosion it could produce 3,000 tons of Rubble. These rockets were launched from the Dutch coast.
When the first rocket exploded in London they had no clue what it was, so in order to prevent panic and concern they reported the blast as a gas explosion. From that day onward, the Cockneys with their dry wit called the rockets, flying gas pipes! If only! Gyroscopes were used to determine direction and the mixture for fuel was ethanol / water and liquid oxygen for an oxidiser. The V2 rocket travelled at 3, 580 mph approx. 4 times the speed of sound. The war head contained 2,010 lb’s of explosives. To distil the fuel alcohol for one launch required 30 tonnes of potatoes.
To control this weapon was extremely difficult, one sad story was that most of the caged birds in people’s homes had managed to survive the Blitz but when the V2’s exploded all the caged birds within a large radius died from the shock-wave. It travelled far too fast for Barrage Balloons, for aircraft and for Anti-Aircraft guns. The British had no answer to this problem although in time British Intelligence came up with an idea that could help. They sent out a false report (Fake News!) implying that the rockets were over-shooting their London target by 10 or 20 miles. The tactic worked, more than half the V2’s aimed at London were adjusted and were now landing outside the London Civil Defence region. The British Intelligence kept the lie going by repeatedly sending bogus reports implying that the rockets were now striking the British capital with heavy loss of life. Sadly almost half the rockets fired still hit their intended target. The rockets were on borrowed time though, as the Allies were now liberating Holland. * It was during 1944 that the Nazi’s began deportation of Jews from Hungary. *
Hitler was to attempt his last counter-attack to split up the allied armies in N.W. Europe by means of a surprise thrust through the Ardennes to Antwerp. This took place in the freezing winter from 16th December1944 / 25th January 1945. As the German’s drove deeper into the Ardennes the Allied line took on the appearance of a large bulge, hence the Battle of the Bulge. The German’s were attempting to secure bridgeheads, there were many heavy casualties with the U.S. losing 100,000 men approx. The U.S. Army Medics that would treat the injured with morphine had to warm the ampule in their under-wear for fear of it freezing. The US suffered a great deal with cold / frozen and gangrenous feet. The German’s were feeling the effect of fuel shortages. The German counter- offensive was split in two by the men of General Omar Bradley, not long after the entire German garrison of 325,000 men and 30 German Generals surrendered. If ever there was a strong indicator that the war should end it was now!!
*The top movies for 1945 were Brief Encounter, Caesar and Cleopatra and Spellbound.*
Hitler would ignore pleas to end the war at this point, instead he was recruiting children as young as 10 to buy him some extra time, their uniforms hung off them and their helmets were way too large, comical if not so tragic. He also recruited old men many of whom would have been in WW1. You would have thought they had already suffered enough! Hitler was a “fight until the last man” fanatic, despite his people who were still dying needlessly. The British and Americans had pounded the German cities in the hope of gaining a surrender, if there had been an earlier surrender, aid would be rolling into Germany and the bombing of Dresden would never have happened. The Germans were no longer able to fight the war. American Fighters had destroyed Romania’s oil wells with Russia reclaiming theirs.
The German military were existing on a make-shift fuel called, “Moselle Petrol” which was an inferior petrol made from a mix of gasoline and alcohol. Wehrmacht tanks and vehicles suffered with flooded filters and clogged carburettors. The tank crews had to pre-heat their exhaust manifolds with blow torches, a dangerous job carrying a severe risk of fire / explosion. There were no planes to intercept Allied bombers because there were so few left and even less fuel. The runways were badly bombed so the few aircraft that were remaining had to land in fields or clearings in the forest. Germany badly needed to train more pilots but there wasn’t the fuel to give them flying experience. Since the winter of 1944 – 45 the Allied bombing missions flew almost un-opposed. Trains were still running to the death camps in 1944/1945.
Meanwhile in the German cities the women had taken to wearing headbands, this was to tidy their hair and keep some dignity when many water pipes were ruptured, and they couldn’t wash their hair frequently. Towards the war’s end Germany was on the brink of starvation, children would be sent out to the fields and forests to forage for food for the family. Some would make up a stew of boiled nettles or pine needles to wave off scurvy. In extreme cases, starvation got so bad that the people would strip wallpaper and boil it in large pots. The wallpaper paste was organic, made from fish derivatives or sometimes potato starch which gave a very small amount of nutrients. Whilst this was happening Hitler was still firing off V2 rockets on London. Each rocket launch took 30 Tonnes of Potatoes to distil the alcohol. Germany now had the Red Army almost knocking on their door.
This war had taken the lives of many BRITISH, AMERICAN, COMMONWEALTH & EUROPE RESISTANCE. The Death Camps had taken the lives of : 6 MILLION JEWS, RELIGIOUS OBJECTORS, FREEMASONS, MENTALLY ILL, MENTALLY HANDICAPPED, PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED, ROMAN CATHOLICS, POLITICAL PRISONERS, GYPSIES, HOMOSEXUALS, ORTHODOX POLES, UKRAINIANS, SOVIET POW’S and more. Also many decent GERMANS, that saw the winds of changes blowing but by the time they could strike, the head of the snake was far too big, strong and protected. So what can be learned from Nazi Germany? If a government plays the Nationalist card and sweeps everyone into a frenzy of national favour and false superiority, then the love of your own country will soon become the hatred of others.
* In the Concentration Camps the Camp Commandant and senior officers would be shaved daily by Religious Objectors. They never allowed anyone else to shave them in case their throats were slit. *
Dresden is a city in the south east of Germany in a region called Saxony. With its location so deep into Germany it had managed to avoid air-strikes but it was now vulnerable as Luftwaffe air cover was diminishing. The British bombers arrived first followed by the American bombers, the British took their bearings / co-ordinates from the Dresden Football ground. The next wave of bombers dropped magnesium parachute flares, known by the Germans as “Christmas Trees” to light up the area for the bombers. These attacks would take place between the 13th and 15th February 1945. 3,900 tons of bombs were dropped on the city along with 200,000 incendiaries. The cities population was swollen by 100,000 – 200,000 refugees who were understandably fleeing westward from the Red army.
The bombs created several fire storms with a speed far greater than any tornado, the temperature reached 1,000 degrees centigrade. In area’s where the fire storm used up all the oxygen the people in that area suffocated. People in an area that still had oxygen, but the flames seared their lungs would die a little later as their lungs filled with fluid (Pneumonia). Those safe from the direct effects of the fire or oxygen depletion could be baked in cellars if they couldn’t find a way out. Those that could, headed for the Elbe river. In time 90% of the city was destroyed including the beautiful Lutheran church, The Frauerkircle. It would not be too long before Hitler took his own life on 30th April 1945.
This part of Saxony containing Dresden, Oschatz and Leipzig etc were now part of the Communist Eastern Block, now called the G.D.R. or The German Democratic Republic. These Germans who had suffered under Fascism were now realising that communism was just the opposite side of a “dirty coin”.
Back in West Germany the 3rd Reich party leaders, in their arrogance were stunned how Germany had lost the war. They couldn’t even believe that the Enigma Code had been broken years since. This puzzled them night and day. Meanwhile the German women known as the Trummerfrau or “ruins women” got on with the job in hand and were working their fingers to the bone helping to clear and reconstruct the bombed cities of Germany. This was during the aftermath of war and they would be constantly occupied from 1945 – 1949. Back in East Germany, in an act of reconciliation the cities of Coventry and Dresden were “twinned” in a special ceremony in 1959.
Saxony was especially isolated because they could rarely receive West German TV signals. In 1961, Berlin, the last place through which immigrants could leave East Germany was blocked off by the infamous Berlin Wall. More than 80 persons were shot while trying to escape East Germany at various times. This continued until the summer of 1989, when the reforming Hungarian government opened Hungary’s borders and allowed passage of East Germans through their country. * On the 9th of November 1989 THE WALL CAME DOWN. *
Germany would once more be unified, as the Berlin Wall and all the communist satellite states came crashing down. For many German people this finally gave closure to the war years. The New Frauerkircle church in Dresden was reconstructed over 7 years by architects using 3D Computer technology to analyse old photographs. A British Charity called The Dresden Trust was formed in 1993 to raise funds in response for a call to help,they raised 600,000 pounds. One of the gifts made to the project was an 8-metre high orb and cross made by London goldsmiths using medieval nails recovered from the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. It was crafted in part by Alan Smith whose father took part in the Dresden Raid.
The Origins of Nursery Rhymes
Jack and Jill went up a hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
The small village of Kilmersdon in north Somerset claims to be the home of the Jack and Jill rhyme. Local legend recalls how in the late 15th Century a young unmarried couple regularly climbed a nearby hill in order to conduct their liaison in private. They wished to be far away from the prying eyes of the village. It was a close liaison with Jill falling pregnant, but just before the baby was born, Jack was killed by a rock that had fallen from their “special hill”. A few days later Jill sadly died whilst giving birth to their love child.
Half a pound of two-penny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel
Up and down the city road
In and out the Eagle (Tavern)
That’s the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel. (Pawn the coat)
Pop is a London slang word meaning (to pawn), weasel can be traced to the cockney slang for a popular tavern known as the Weasel and Stoat. The cockney rhyming slang for Weasel and Stoat was COAT. Even a poor Victorian Londoner would have a Sunday best. When money was tight he would pawn his coat. The origins of this rhyme / song began in the grimy streets around the Victorian Music Halls.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row.
The Mary in question is believed to be Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) King Henry VIII’s daughter. How does your garden grow? Refers to the Protestants she has sent to the garden / graveside. The silver bells refer to instruments of torture that crushed the thumb with the tightening of a screw. Cockleshells were torture devices that were attached to the genitals. The maids in the final line allude to the newly invented guillotine, which was nicknamed, The Maiden. Contrary means, “troublesome awkward, difficult”.
Rock a bye baby on the tree top
When the winds blow the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
The words to this rhyme are reputed to reflect the observations of a young pilgrim boy in America. He had seen Native Indian mothers suspend a birch bark cradle from the branches of a tree. Thus, enabling the wind to rock the cradle and the child to sleep. The rhyme is also known as “Hush a bye baby”.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.
This is the way we wash our face
Wash our face, wash our face
This is the way we wash our face
On a cold and frosty morning
Origins of Words from World War II Homefront
Flotilla : This word originated in 18th Century from the Spanish Flota or “Fleet”. It can mean a small fleet or a fleet of small vessels.
Flow : A flow is an inlet or basin of the sea. The word Scapa Flow comes from the old Norse word Skalpafoi which means, “the bay of the long isthmus” This refers to the thin strip of land between Scapa Bay and Kirkwall.
Flak : Originated in the 1930’s from the German abbreviation of Fliegerabwehrkanone which literally means an aviator-defence-gun. They were mounted on towers and used for protection from Allied Bombing but they could just as easily be used as an anti-tank gun. The phrase to “take flak” means to take punishment.
Neuk : This word has Scottish origins and means a corner or “Nook”which can mean a cozy, safe and enclosed space .It can also be applied to an area of coastline of similar traits.
“Soger” : Is a shortened version of soldier when spoken in a Scottish dialect.
Blitzkrieg : This word is taken from the German language and it means “lightning war”. The word Blitz is an abbreviation of Blitzkrieg. A Blitz is a violent and sustained attack with intensive aerial bombardment.
Mews : This is a yard or street lined by buildings originally used as stables. These converted dwellings dates from the 19th Century.
Rattle : A rattle is a wooden instrument that people shake to make a loud knocking noise. It was well used at British football matches but died out towards the late sixties. As it did not require power it was a popular choice for people trying to get a group’s attention or as a warning.
Reich : The word Reich is a German word which literally means “realm”. The 1st Reich was regarded as the Holy Roman Empire. Hitler saw his 3rd Reich as the Restoration of the Holy Roman Empire. The 3rd Reich lasted from 1933 – 1945.
Food for Thought
“When dealing with disease, clothes and the body should be washed under running water” (Leviticus Chapter15 Verse 13). For Centuries people naively washed in standing water. Today we recognise the need to wash away germs with fresh water. Leviticus is the 3rd book of the Bible and dates back to the time of Moses.
*Malaria and Dengue are among the main dangers of stagnant water, which can become a breeding ground for the mosquitoes that transmit these diseases. Stagnant water can be dangerous for drinking because it provides a better incubator than running water for many kinds of bacteria and parasites.*
2 Timothy Chapter 1 Verse 7
. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline”.
Psalm Chapter 23 Verse 4
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will feel no evil, for you are with me, your rod and staff, they comfort me”.
Isaiah Chapter 41 Verse 10
“ So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”.
Romans Chapter 8 Verse 18
“For I reckon that the suffering of this present times are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”.
Mathew chapter 19 Verse 14 (extract)
The children were brought to Jesus so as he could take them in his arms and bless them, but his disciples rebuked them. But Jesus was indignant and said to his disciples “suffer the little children” (tolerate and put up with them as they are only young) and forbid them not to come to me for the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of these little ones.
To Finish on a Light-Hearted Note.
On this occasion we thought it would be interesting to see what humorous comments people had written on their gravestones. Taken from late 19th century – 20th century graves mainly in the US but also some British. No offence is intended, and we have removed the names from more recent graves. All the inscriptions are genuine.
“Here lies good old Fred, a great big rock fell on his head”.
“She always said her feet were killing her, but nobody believed her”.
“Here lies Uncle Ned, we found his body but not his head”.
Chris P. Bacon 1679 – 1752.
“Here lies the body of Edward Hyde, we laid him here because he died”.
“Grim death took me without any warning, I was well at night but dead in the morning”.
“Overdosed on Viagra, His wife took it very hard”.
“Dear Departed brother Dave, He chased a bear into a cave”.
“Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake in 1882,
he was right, we were wrong, but we strung him up and now he’s gone”.
“Are you happy now”.
“I should have sold that kidney while I had the chance”.
“G.M.R May 1926 – Dec 2010 “I’m just resting my eyes”
“Rest in Peace cousin Huet, We all know you didn’t do it”.
“Here lies Lester Tweet, Dead as a doornail from his head to his feet”.
“Here rests Panc Juve,
He was a good husband, a wonderful father, but a bad electrician”.
“Here lies Lester Moore 4 slugs from a 44, No Les No more”.
“Here lies Scotty Fife, For foolin’ around with the Marshal’s wife” 1865-1895.
And finally, a piece of gravestone safety
“Don’t run with scissors”.
ALL THE BEST!!