Tag Archives: WW2

1st September 2019

It’s the first day of meteorological autumn, which is a sad day for those of us with aching joints.

It’s also the 80th anniversary of the day when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, and set the Second World War in motion.

This ruined my father’s first holiday. Under the Holidays with Pay Act (1938) many workers were given a full week’s paid holiday every year, the result of a twenty year campaign by the Trade Unions. It was the “with pay” provision that made the difference, up until then workers had often had holidays such as traditional Wake’s Weeks, but without pay. It was difficult enough paying for food and rent for most working people, without the additional burden of going away so holidays were not necessarily seen as a good thing.

It was this legislation which helped make Butlin’s camps so successful. Not only did he have camps (Skegness and Clacton by 1939) but the working classes had holidays to take in these camps. In 1939 the military moved in – Skegness became HMS Royal Arthur (bombed 52 times during the war and, it is alleged, claimed as sunk by Nazi propaganda) and Clacton became a training base for the Royal Pioneer Corps. The camp at Filey was under construction and, when finished, handed over to the RAF. Butlin also built camps at Ayr (HMS Scotia) and Pwllheli (HMS Glendower) for the Navy, which he was able to buy back at the end of the war.

However, back to my father, who, as a ten-year-old, was enjoying himself on his first ever holiday. It was in Morecambe. I always remember this story when we are in Morecambe. They had only been there a couple of days when they were told they had to go home as the RAF were moving in.

I see that although we have been to Morecambe several times, including this year, it has nor really featured in the blog. Last time we visited Morecambe I ended up changing a tyre and Morecambe seemed to get left out.

Anyway, enough of my rambling for another day.

I’ve just remembered that I have a backlog of posts to write.

Earlier today I did an internet quiz and my favourite deadly sin is sloth. I wonder how they knew…

 

My Latest Acquisition

This came through the post today. It’s nice to know the post is still working, as I am still waiting for a parcel from two weeks ago.

It’s an RAF Eagle made from perspex (or lucite or plexiglass if you prefer). This is typical WW2 work – they didn’t have any perspex in the Great War. Well, I’m fairly sure they didn’t. It was first developed in the nineteenth century but seems to have been commercially available from the 1930s.

Traditionally it’s always said to be from aircraft windows, and it’s true that it is mainly made up in ways that reflect its use by the RAF. Apart from the availability of perspex there was also access to workshops. It’s a myth that “trench art” was made in the trenches. When you examine the facts you’ll see a lot was made after the war and made by people with access to decent tools. And, of course, when you look at eBay, you can see that a lot of it looks like it has been made in the last ten years.

I’ll photograph a few more pieces later.

RAF Eagle Sweetheart WW2

RAF Eagle Sweetheart WW2

A New Medal and some Questions from History

Someone brought medals into the shop for mounting last week. Their father has tended not to bother about his wartime service too much and has only just been made aware that the French Government has been giving out the Legion of Honour to veterans who participated in the Liberation of France in 1944-5. He now has his, and has decided to go to France for a memorial event in September. When he does he will be wearing a properly mounted set of medals.

He seems to have had quite an active war, and I don’t begrudge him the medal, but I can’t help thinking that giving someone a medal because he was in a certain country 75 years ago, and has lived long enough to collect it, is slightly devaluing his contribution, and the contributions of many others, including the people who kept the war going in Africa, the Atlantic and the Far East (to mention but a few). I worked with several Normandy veterans in the past, and I’m feeling slightly saddened that they didn’t live long enough to get an extra medal.

If you were at Dunkirk you don’t get it. Same if you were in the RAF flying over France in 1943 but not 1944. Or at Dieppe or St Nazaire.

And that’s before we come to the irony that we were effectively at war with the French from 1940-42. The Vichy French killed a number of British and American troops in that time, and imprisoned others. I’ve always wondered what it must be like for veterans of those attacks to see the French posing as staunch opponents of the Nazis. You would think the least they could do would be to give a medal to our soldiers that they shot at.

Politics and warfare are always more complicated than they look.

 

Book Review – Eggs or Anarchy

Eggs or Anarchy by William Sitwell

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (9 Feb. 2017)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1471151077

ISBN-13: 978-1471151071

Between the wars the government took the view that we should produce what we were good at and import the rest. This meant we were importing about 60% of our food, as we had been doing in 1914. The problem was that the Germans had more efficient aircraft and submarines in 1939.

Fter a successful retail career, Lord Woolton took on the job of sourcing the millions of uniforms needed to equip a new army. He was surprised to find that having ordered the trousers he had to order the fly buttons via another government department.

He managed to sort it all out, and then took on the task of organising food supplies, including issuing millions of ration books and developing a system that was fair to all.

He didn’t just have U-Boats to worry about, he had Churchill and his attempts to use shipping for moving troops. Then he had to organise storage for food in places where it wouldn’t be bombed, make sure our suppliers didn’t overcharge us and iron out inefficiencies in distribution at home. The title refers to the fears that order and morale would break down if he was unable to get the rations out.

One of my favourite moments was when he told visiting American politicians that he would prefer their ships to their good wishes. He was not a conventional politician, having come to it late in life.

As for the famous Woolton Pie… Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out his thoughts on that.

It’s an interesting subject, though the writing doesn’t always reflect this, and poses a few questions about food security, which we are going to have to answer in the coming years.

Hitler and the Avocets

“I cannot help thinking that if only Hitler had been an ornithologist he would have put off the war until the autumn migration was over.”

Manchester Guardian”Country Diaries” September 1939

I suppose most readers will already have a view on Hitler, and that it is unlikely to be based on the impact he had on European ornithology. However, as the quote shows, people are able to view major historic events and see them from a very different point of view. They may even find the energy to write to the papers about it.

It also shows that the consequences of major events can be far-reaching and quite significant, even if they don’t involve battles and the fall of governments.

In the case of the Second World War this included bombing my mother, training a new generation of naturalists, and flooding large parts of eastern England to defend against possible invasion.

Another, better known, example features the struggle with malaria. In the war this involved the wonder chemical DDT, which continued to be used in great quantities after the war as the answer to many problems. The inventor even got a Nobel Prize in 1948  “for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods”. It was also highly effective at reducing the viability of birds’ eggs and nearly wiped several species out in the UK.

However, back to the flooded lands. As luck would have it, a party of Avocets drifted across the sea from Holland in 1947, and found conditions that suited them for breeding. At Havergate Island the army had accidentally breached the sea wall during training and at Minsmere the coastal area had been deliberately flooded as a defence against German landings.

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Avocets

 

At that point they had been extinct as breeders in the UK since 1842 due to the pressure from hunting, egg collectors and taxidermists. It seems to be a factor in the decline of rare birds, such as the Passenger Pigeon and Great Auk, that the rarer they became the more desirable the few survivors became to egg and skin collectors.

Gradually the Avocets consolidated their position, becoming the symbol of the RSPB along the way. From four pairs in 1947 we now have 1,500 pairs according to the latest figures.

For another example of how WW2 is contributing to wildlife, see this link.

I found this whilst looking up DDT. The mind boggles.

Thanks to Rodney Read and the Chatburn Village website for the well researched story of the bombing.

The Nottingham Oilfield

Yes, that’s right – we had an oilfield. We haven’t had one for a while, of course, but I can distinctly remember seeing the nodding donkeys in fields as we drove past in the 1960s. They’ve been looking at starting up again but I’m not sure what’s happening about that.

It was all based at Duke’s Wood, a quiet patch of woodland near the village of Eakring. Apart from the oilfield museum (which was shut when I visited), the wood is a nature reserve, though there wasn’t a lot of wildlife about on a blustery Sunday morning.

I managed an unimpressive  picture of a Meadow Brown, a dragonfly (possibly a Brown Hawker but it was a bit too quick for me), a couple of those white moths in the grass and a frog (which was dead, and thus slow enough for me to photograph).

There are several nodding donkeys in the woods and a statue and plaque in memory of the American oilmen who came across to help during the war. It produced 3.5 million barrels of oil during the war, which was handy, as it couldn’t be sunk by U Boats.

The oilmen were billeted with the monks at Kelham Hall, and one of them, Herman Douthit, fell from a derrick and was killed.

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More kites and a memorial

The day started well, with blue skies, a list of jobs and packet of croissants. The croissants were soon gone, accompanied by by some excellent three fruit marmalade I found lurking in the back of a cupboard. After a spot of washing up and a trip to the hobby shop for Julia to buy glass paint. At that point the sky began to cloud over. It’s tempting to invoke the pathetic fallacy there, but I was actually quite happy sitting in the car with a notebook, so in metaphysical terms there was no threat of rain in my life.

In reality the rain started just after lunch as I set off for Peterborough. This put a bit of a crimp in my photographic plans for the day. By the time I’d been beaten at Snakes and Ladders and Dominoes and had a cup of tea there still didn’t seem much hope of sunlight so I abandoned my plans and headed home.

Fortunately I didn’t quite go directly home and managed to get a flying kite picture. I almost got a picture of a pair of flying kites but the first pair flew away as I got out of the car and the second pair turned out as a flying kite and a blur.

Finally, as I was in the area, I nipped up the road to the village of Kings Cliffe – one time site of King John’s hunting lodge and, in later years, the last hanger-based concert of Glenn Miller. I found the air base memorial but not the Glenn Miller memorial (one internet forum says it was destroyed by vandals a few years ago).  As vandals also broke the air base memorial a few years ago, and it is currently defaced by inane scrawl, it seems that there isn’t much to do in Kings Cliffe at night.