Letter of thanks…

 

Oxfordshire Family History Day at Marlborough School 4th October 2014

 

 

We attended your day at the Marlborough School for the first time on Saturday and were very impressed with the organisation and helpfulness of the various stall holders.

 

We received some very useful information and pointers from the Oxfordshire records Office stand which will hopefully help in the search for information on my father’s family history and service in WW11.

 

However the best tip was from Malcolm Austen who told us we needed to speak to Graham Bandy on The Living Military History stand. This proved invaluable as Graham had a huge amount of information at his fingertips that was really helpful and gave us a much better insight into the war in Burma and the Far East where my father served. We spent nearly two hours talking and being given hints and tips and contacts where we can obtain further details and every minute was really appreciated.

 

It might be an advantage for future events to consider promoting Graham’s special interest in identifying and dating uniforms etc from old photos as we would certainly have been keen to bring some of our photos along for him to see.

 

We are very grateful to Graham and to your group for staging the event and will certainly try and attend future shows where possible.

 

Well done for a most interesting day.

 

Remembrance In Tuscany

Badge of the Central India Horse

Last weekend was spent in Tuscany as the guest of the local government and ex pat community.

I was asked over to commemorate two George Cross awards from WW2, and to represent Great Britain.

The plaque on the village wall in Monterchi has always had its wreath laid by the village mayor. It was my honour, to be the first non Italian to lay a wreath for almost 70 years, in fact since the plaque was placed there. I was also honoured by laying the first wreath, normally in the gift of the local mayor.

The region was the scene of fierce fighting and the area was strewn with German “shoebox mines”
The Schu or Shu-Mine is a small wood box fragmentation mine. It measures six-inch by six-inch and contains a detonator and a solid charge.  Another name or spelling of this mine is “Shoe Mine” or “Shoe Box ” mine. The “Shoe Box” was a favourite among the Germans. Small in size and constructed primary of wood, the Schu is next to impossible to discover with a normal metal mine detector.  It seldom kills instantly, instead the sinister device mutilates the unfortunate victim.

The citation in the London Gazette for 20th July 1945, states that the posthumous award of the George Cross was made “In recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner.” Lieutenant Young, in charge of night patrol realised that they were in a middle of an enemy minefield. Lt. Young received the full force of a blast and both his legs were shattered. Despite the terrible pain he continued to give such great encouragement to his men that the majority of them managed to reach safety in the early light of morning. One of Lt. Young’s soldiers, Sowar Ditto Ram, Central Indian Horse was also awarded the George Cross for actions in this same incident. Both died of their wounds on the following day.

I was welcomed by the entire village and the local Bersaglieri. The Commandante il Carabinieri invited me for coffee with him in his office, and the after the remembrance service-very much like our own here in Britain-most of the village attended a large meal at a a local restaurant. here the band of the Bersaglieri entertained us with songs and tunes.

At the end of the meal I was surprised to be included in the presentations by the Bersaglieri, and given a book on the history of this famous unit of Light Infantry.

Monterchi memorial plaque Laying the first wreath Bersaglieri

 

My thanks to Debbie, Roger, Chunky, Trevor et al involved  🙂

Second World War Propoganda Posters released into Public Domain on Wikimedia

Thanks to a partnership with Wikimedia UK, the National Archives has been able to digitise and release into the public domain over 350 images from our collection of almost 2,000 original artworks by war artists working for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War. We hope we will eventually be able to release the whole collection.

This project aims to make the best possible use of these images across Wikimedia projects and ultimately to link The National Archives’ catalogue back to definitive information on Commons. We have done some very basic categorisation of these images but we know very little about some of the artists and many of the works are anonymous.

Here’s a selection of some of the artwork ranging from encouragement to lend a hand on the land, to saving bones for scrap and taking care in the blackout.  More of the collection can be found here.

INF3-101 Food Production Lend a hand with the potato harvest (workers in basket)

INF3-104 Food Production Lend a hand on the land Whatever your front line job Artist Showell

INF3-111 Forces Recruitment Skilled hands are needed - join the RAF Artist Grey

INF3-115 Forces Recruitment ATS the job for you

INF3-120 Forces Recruitment ATS and WAAF

INF3-137 War Effort And they will say This was our finest hour Artist Pat Keely

INF3-160 Fighting Fit in the Factory Artist A R Thomson

INF3-164 Britain expects that you too, this day, will do your duty Artist Forster

INF3-176 Fuel Economy Turn that gas down

INF3-195 Fuel Economy The worker who left the lights on - don't be fuel-ish (woman factory worker) Artist H M Bateman

INF3-207 Salvage Salvage saves Shipping (torpedoed ship sinking) Artist E Oliver

INF3-217 Salvage Still more bones needed for salvage (rag and bone man with dog) Artist Gilroy

INF3-225 Make do and mend (Stuffed doll figure patching cloth)

INF3-231 Anti-rumour and careless talk Be like dad - keep mum! (set of twelve human figures talking) Artist Grimes

INF3-280 Health Diphtheria is deadly - protect your child by immunisation Artist J H Dowd

INF3-293 Road safety Look out in the blackout - think before you cross the road Artist Pat Keely

Theirs Is The Glory: Stunning film of Operation Market Garden

This film was made a year after the actual scenes depicted. It shows the actual troops who fought there and footage from the actual battle at Arnhem. Also seen are the local civilian population re-enacting what they did at the time.

This film has largely been forgotten but is available on youtube in its entirety. It is all the more poignant due to the lack of credits as to whom we are seeing on film. Some names are mentioned, but sadly they are few and far between.

It is  a fitting tribute to those who tried to end the war early

Anniversary of VE Day – 8th May 1945

On the anniversary of VE Day I have been taking a look at some old newsreel of the celebrations and trying to imagine what it must have been like to hear the news and know that a six year nightmare was nearly at an end.

But try as I might, I find that it is almost easier to imagine what it must have felt like to be “at war” than what it must have felt like on the 8th May 1945 when you knew that, at least in Europe, the war was over.

These scenes captured by Pathe and shown in cinemas in a special extended Pathe Gazette, can only provide a snapshot of the “spontaneous” celebrations.  A series of black and white newsreel shots, many set up for the camera, which are now such familiar images we almost take them for granted.

But inside each and every head in the crowd are memories of hardship, pain and fear, grief for loved ones lost, lives on hold, homes and families destroyed, friendships made, courage, relief, disbelief, joy and so much more – such intensity and variety of emotions that there isn’t a word which encapsulates it all.

With luck it is a word we will never need to define again.

The Fruits of Victory, 1945, Pathe Gazette

THE FRUITS OF VICTORY

 

RAF Airfields of World War 2 by Jonathan Falconer

RAF Airfields of World War 2 by Jonathan Falconer

A complete and unique single-volume illustrated reference book covering all of the RAF’s frontline airfields in the UK during World War 2.

RAF AIRFIELDS OF WORLD WAR 2 by Jonathan Falconer

RAF AIRFIELDS OF WORLD WAR 2 by Jonathan Falconer

 

For all those interested in the activities of the RAF during the Second World War, RAF Airfields of World War 2 provides comprehensive information about all the frontline RAF airfields in Britain, including all the RAF Fighter, Bomber, Coastal and Transport Command airfields and bases of the period.

This fascinating books provides a short history of each airfield, first-person accounts and information on airfield buildings and is illustrated with photographs and maps.

Chapters also take a look at airfield construction and organisation, orders of battle for each command at notable points of the war.  Of great interest are the tabular listings of RAF frontline airfields, which provide full details of location and user squadrons/units.

Present-day usage of the airfields and the buildings is also covered.

Of great interest also are the first-hand accounts by veterans of the four wartime Commands add a layer of compelling personal testimony to the book.

The author originally published two books on RAF Fighter and Bomber airfields of World War 2 in the early 1990s, which are now out of print, but this book contains significantly new text and illustrations as well as covering RAF Coastal and Transport Command for the first time.

RAF Airfields of World War 2 by Jonathan Falconer was published in January 2013

 

1940s Day for The British Legion at Weyhill Fairground Craft & Design Centre

Living Military History visit Weyhill Fairground Craft & Design Centre, Near Andover for a 1940s day in aid of The Royal British Legion on Saturday 4th May. 

Graham Bandy WW2

Daytime:
Vehicle Displays, Re-enactors, Make Do & Mend
Dance Lessons and 1940s style
Make-over’s, Vintage Fair, Childrens Activities.

Evening Entertainment:
Grand Nostalgia Dance 7.30pm,Tickets £7.50 in advance £10 on the night

All proceeds for the Royal British Legion.

The Fairground Craft & Design Centre is a “not for profit” Community Interest Company.
It aims to promote, support, educate, involve and develop public awareness, within the framework of art and crafts.

Previously run by Penton Grafton Parish Council, it first opened its doors in Weyhill, Hampshire in October 2003.  Open to the public,  it is now a Community Interest Company, run by volunteers and tenants for the benefit of the community.

Find out more about the history of the Fairground here.

The Weyhill Fairground Craft & Design Centre
Weyhill
Nr Andover
SP11 0QN
Google Map

Weyhill Fairground Craft & Design Centre

Weyhill Fairground Craft & Design Centre

Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice – Two brave women who led double lives in Nazi occupied France

Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice: The True Story of WWII Special Agents Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne

By Susan Ottaway.

What must life have been like for two young women plucked from their ordinary lives and transformed into SEO Agents fighting the Nazis in occupied France?  And what was life like when the war was over and it was time to pick up where they left off?

It is over seventy years since the start of the Second World War and there are still so many awe inspiring tales to be told.

This new book tells the story of two amazing women. Sisters in arms who faced unimaginable danger, and made astonishing sacrifices, the effects of which were to last long after they returned to civvy street.

False identities, hidden radios, secret messages – all the stuff of Hollywood films. But what followed was the sickening reality of capture, torture and hard labour in a German concentration camp –  experiences not many would have had the strength and courage to survive.

Their hidden contribution to the war effort cost them their youth, their chances of motherhood and almost cost them their sanity. They were remarkable women who went on to lead modest lives, keeping their heroic past to themselves.

Now it is time for the inspirational story of these two brave sisters to be told.

Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice: The True Story of WWII Special Agents Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne by Susan Ottaway is published by Harper Element and you can order your copy now.  Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice also available for Kindle.

 

PATHE NEWSREEL – OCCUPIED PARIS
And for a look inside occupied Paris during WW2 take a look at this Pathe Newsreel It Happened in Paris (1944).

 

At great danger, Pathe cameraman Gaston Madru concealed his film camera in a bicycle basket under a pile of wine bottles and then rode through the streets of Nazi occupied Paris. He filmed Nazi flags flying from buildings and offices of the German Slave Labour Todt organisation. There are shots of a cinema for German soldiers only, German officers at the races and a Nazi rally at City hall.

We see Nazis in the heart of Paris – at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and the Arc De Triomphe. We also see ordinary Parisians queuing for bread and fighting breaking out in the streets as they object to the Nazi presence.

And then as the long occupation nears its end, we see German troops  on the retreat, resistance posters being put up and celebrations as the French flag is once more able to fly freely .

 

Living Military History – Wartime in The Cotswolds at Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway

Pitsford Home Guard

Pitsford Home Guard

This weekend Pitsford Home Guard  will be at The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Honeybourne Line for their Wartime in the Cotswolds event.  The Home Guard will be setting up camp at Gotherington and look forward to seeing you there!

Pitsford Home Guard

Pitsford Home Guard

During the wartime weekend there’ll be plenty of opportunity to travel the line between Cheltenham Race Course and Toddington (air raids permitting) when they’ll be operating an intensive steam-hauled timetable.

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Toddington

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway

There’ll be lots of other things to keep the whole family entertained with wartime music,  soldiers on leave and on duty;  the auxiliary fire service and displays of military and civilian vehicles from the period. The extensive model railway will also be up and running.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota will be visiting the railway on Sunday 28th April, subject to weather and operational considerations. The low-altitude flypast is expected between 2pm and 3pm.

Free parking is available at Toddington and Cheltenham Race Course stations. Please note Winchcombe Station will be closed.

Gates open at 0930 on both days.

Fares for this event:

Adult £20, senior £18, child (aged 5 – 15) £10, family ticket (2 adults and up to three children) £55.

Tickets can now only be purchased on the day at Toddington or Cheltenham Racecourse stations.

A copy of the timetable for the event can be downloaded here.

 

An Interesting WW2 Northamptonshire Regiment Picture

Nptn SL RA

An interesting picture from my collection…401 Searchlight Battery Royal Artillery….They are all badged Northamptonshire Regt, including the officers, but they have RA collar dogs.

This unit formed part of 50th (The Northamptonshire Regiment) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, R.A. (T.A.) – South Midland Area, Southern Command

HQ, Northampton

400th Company – Northampton

401st Company – Northampton

402nd Company-Peterborough

403rd Company-Kettering

They were converted from the 4th bn The Northamptonshire Regt

A couple of other points to note…x2 of the ORs are wearing the Northamptonshire black FSC, and the officers are all wearing the silver and gilt cap badge, although this wasn’t “officially” sanctioned until late 1944/early 1945

The ATS girls are seen also to be wearing Northamptonshire cap badges just above the left breast pocket. When attached to a unit is was the norm that the badge of the parent unit was worn thus

The picture was taken at Quebec Bks which later became Simpson Bks, home of the Royal Pioneer Corps, now sadly demolished and built over