Wednesday, August 29, 2007

General Charles de Gaulle's appeal to the French people, 18 June 1940

A copy of General Charles de Gaulle's wartime "Appeal to the French".

On 18 June 1940 General Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970) made a radio broadcast from London appealing to the French people to resist the German Occupation that had just begun. Not without many difficulties Charles de Gaulle became the Head of the Free French State in exile. Later on in 1943 De Gaulle presided over the French Committee of National Liberation, and after the Normandy Landings of June 1944, Head of the provisional Government of the French Republic. After the Liberation of Paris in August 1945 De Gaulle based his provisional Government in the French capital.

Throughout France, there are many monuments commemorating Charles de Gaulle, often also displaying a copy of the 'Appel du 18 juin' (Appeal of 18 June). The copy of De Gaulle's 'Appeal' seen in the photograph is found on the plinth of a bust of Charles de Gaulle situated in the town centre of Lourdes, Hautes Pyrenées département. The 'Appel' begins with De Gaulle's historic words: "La France a perdu une bataille, mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre " ("France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war"). In fact, these celebrated words of Charles de Gaulle did not actually figure in the radio broadcast he made on 18 June 1940, but were included at the beginning of a poster proclaiming his appeal to the French people that was produced in July 1940.

In 1940 Charles de Gaulle was little known even in France. Yet, as the large number of monuments that can still be seen throughout France bears witness, by the end of the war and afterwards he had become one of the most famous and recognisable Frenchmen of the 20th Century. As was the case with Sir Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle attempted to promote his own personal view of his country in his written memoirs. Most people would probably respect De Gaulle for his stance in 1940, even if they disagreed with many of his other views and attitudes. Having personally studied the public life of Charles de Gaulle and read his memoirs my own view is that he was a very enigmatic character.

Monday, August 27, 2007

John Lowrey and Billy Lee MM, two miners in the 5th Battalion Border Regiment

3599260 Private John L.S. Lowrey, 5th Battalion The Border Regiment at Halton Summer Camp, Lancaster in 1939.

In the summer of 1939 John Lowrey (full name 'John Lawson Stephenson Lowrey') and Billy Lee (full name 'William Harker Lee') were two young West Cumbrian coal miners and like many of their other pals also served in the 5th Battalion (T.A.) The Border Regiment. John's Service No was 3599260 and Billy's was 3599849. While the 5th Battalion of the Border Regiment were away at Summer Camp at Halton near Lancaster (Lancashire) developments on the European mainland led to the outbreak of the Second World War. A few months later John Lowrey, Billy Lee and their pals in the 5th Border formed part of the B.E.F who went over to the Continent to face the Germans as their forbears had done a generation earlier.

After the German breakthrough on the Western Front in June 1940 and the Allied troops fell back towards the bridgehead at Dunkirk, the 5th Battalion the Border Regiment were among those assigned to check the German advance as long as possible. Those serving in 5th Border who managed to get out from the Dunkirk Beaches were among the last to do so. John Lowrey was one of those who managed to get evacuated, while Billy Lee was not. Billy was severely wounded from shrapnel and four machine gun bullets in his legs. While the battle was still going on, Billy Lee was helped on to a First Aid lorry by his mate John Lowrey so he could be taken to hospital. Unfortunately the First Aid lorry travelled about 1/4 mile when it ran into the Germans and all the men taken prisoner.

After recovering from his wounds, Billy Lee was taken to a Prisoner of War camp. Not wishing to remain prisoner, Billy and another POW managed to steal a key from the guard room and escape from the camp. Billy and his mate eventually walked from Germany to the Occupied Low Countries, into France - where they were helped by members of a French Resistance network- and eventually crossed the Pyrenees into neutral Spain. It is believed they carried with them important information for the Allied cause. Upon reaching Spain, Billy and his mate were initially interned, but after two months they were released and eventually made it back to Britain. On 4 March 1941 the award of the Military Medal for 3599849 Private William Harker Lee, Border Regiment was announced in the 'London Gazette'. William Harker Lee MM was subsequently presented with the Military Medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

[For further information about John Lowrey and Billy Lee MM click on 'Comments' below]

60th Anniversary of the August 1947 'William Pit tragedy', Whitehaven, Cumbria

John Lowrey and Joseph Ritson at the 2006 Veterans Day Commemorative Service at Whitehaven, Cumbria.

At 5.40 pm on Friday 15 August 1947 there was an explosion in a coal mine at the 'William Pit', Whitehaven, Cumberland (now Cumbria). As a result, 104 miners lost their lives, and according to information available in the County Archives, the dependents left without a breadwinner included 89 widows and 230 children. Strictly speaking, this particular explosion took place exactly two years after the end of the Second World War (the end of which was 15 August 1945). However, during the period I was collecting stories for the BBC "People's War" project the 1947 William Pit explosion was referred to in a number of the stories I posted.

In early 2007, a few months before the 60th Anniversary of 1947, Mr Will Tillotson, a BBC reporter with the BBC Radio Cumbria bus contacted me asking if I could provide them with details of anyone I knew who had memories of the tragedy that took place on 15 August 1947. The local BBC radio station wished to mark the 60th Anniversary of this particular explosion with several programmes looking at the event, including a 30 minute radio documentary. Apparently there were also plans to do a BBC television documentary by the 'Timewatch' team, but I subsequently heard this was shelved.

Although not everyone I asked wished to be interviewed, several of those who gave me information for stories I had posted to the BBC "People's War" website were interviewed by Will Tillotson and took part in the radio programme. These included Ray Devlin and John Lowrey, both of whom helped me with several "People's War" stories. Another researcher, Amanda Roberts from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada (who has recently written a book about the miners who died in the 1947 William Pit tragedy) was able to provide Will Tillotson and BBC Radio Cumbria with additional contacts for the documentary. Peter suggested I post this information to the 2WW Blog site, giving the link below in case anyone wished to read about or listen to the resultant documentary by Will Tillotson.

Click here for the BBC Radio Cumbria website commemorating the pit disaster.

Listen to a recording of John Lowery which I made with local historian Ray Devlin and Amanda Roberts.
You will need Real Player to play the recording.

[NB I have posted a separate story about John Lowrey and his pal Billy Lee MM to this 2WW Blog].

Friday, August 24, 2007

Gerald Flamberg MM

Click to read Gerald Flamberg's obituary
This obituary in the Jewish Chronicle this week reminded me of this wonderful larger than life character.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rates of Pay in the Forces between 1942 & 1945

I have recently been helping someone research the wartime experiences of a relative.

At this particular point in time we are discussing rates of pay and I was asked "what would you have received on a weekly basis during that period".
My problem is that surprise, surprise, I couldn't remember.

Purely by coincidence, the person she was researching was, like myself, also a Corporal so I am doubly interested.

Tom was overseas at the same time as myself so I am looking to him for the first response.

Thanks Gentlemen !

Friday, August 17, 2007

Naval service records

Has anyone looking sent for RN service records, I am interested in knowing how long they are taking just now . I seem to have been waiting forever.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Vienna Tattoo - 2

This is the photo I meant to send with the Vienna Ttaoo message
Posted by Picasa

A closer look at my Army Records

I thought it might be helpful for CTNana if I posted a better picture of one of the pages in my own Army Records.
Typical of the War Office is the fact that there is no reference number for the sheet itself so I can't quote it for comparison.
It does contain some gems though, including when I was placed on my only charge during the whole of my service for missing an evening roll call !
I've often been glad of this document when checking dates, I actually received 17 sheets in all.

Dad's Service Record

I feel quite embarrassed to be in such esteemed company!

What an extraordinary coincidence that Dad's records arrived on the day that the BBC site closed!

They are not as detailed as Ron Goldstein's possibly because Ron applied in person?

The photocopies were all muddled up and as yet I have only had the chance to sort them into order (I think), and skim read them.

Prepare yourselves for the questions gentlemen!



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A letter to the Navy News

(Above) The gun crew of HMS Sapphire

A valued friend of mine, Hedley Crago often sends me some wonderful letters written in good humour and full of insight into the everyday life of a sailor serving in the RNPS (Harry Tate’s Navy). This week’s letter was no exception and he also included a copy of an email he sent to the Navy News.

I have included Hedley’s email to the Navy News editor below:


I read with interest the plan to paint warships grey/green instead of Pussers 'CrabFat'. I was in the Royal Naval Patrol Service during the 1939/45 war and served on an armed Asdic fishing trawler, escorting convoys. Many of these trawlers were requisitioned along with their crews, and fishermen are probably the most superstitious group you will ever meet.

The colour green was a particular no-no. If somebody brought back from leave a lovingly knitted pullover, hat or scarf, it would mysteriously disappear. Nobody would wear anything green or allow anything to be colourd green.

Other superstitions were - sailing on Friday, mentioning rabbits (let alone eating one!), passing salt from hand to hand, whistling, passing a mug through an open window, allowing women on board, predicting an event (it would never happen), and sleeping head to stem. On my first night on board HMS Sapphire the only space I could find to 'sling' (my hammock) was head to stem. Howls of protest and prophecies of doom! I ignored them. That night there was an air raid on the port. A bomb dropped in the sea by the side of the ship. No harm was done, but it was my fault. They warned me - didn't they? I had very nearly got all of them killed. But I got my sling in a good place the next night.

(Crab Fat - the colour of an ointment used for a genital complaint).

Hedley Crago (ex Telegraphist)
Hemel Hempstead

A nice surprise from HMS Maidstone

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and King George VI - Click to enlarge I have just found this postcard behind another photo I was checking to see if it had any writing on the back. It has added another piece of the jigsaw that was my "Uncle Jimmy".

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some of the crew on HMS Malaya

No indication on pics where this was but most likely
Malta or South Africa.

Thought I'd let our younger people see that there was still some fun to be had even in wartime.

HMS Malaya

HMS Malaya

Looking good and ready

Monday, August 13, 2007

Vienna Tattoo

Click to enlarge
As many people are aware - the British Army of occupation in Austria in June 1946 held a Searchlight tattoo in the grounds of the Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna which was manned by elements of the 78thDiv - 6th Armoured Div and 46th Div.

This was a most successful event and raised some 10,000GBP which was in the region of some 400,000 Austrian Schillings which was presented to the Mayor of Vienna who then arranged for 2400 Viennese children to have a holiday in the countryside with lots of good food and healthy fresh air.

My regiment of the 16th/5th Lancers took part in a sketch of a Dick Turpin type hold up of a stagecoach yelling "your money or your life" to the allegedly frightened occupants, who were rescued by a troop of Lancers who marched off the Brigands to jail as can be seen in the photograph.

The uniforms were of the 18th century Lancers with the exception of the lances themselves which were made up clothes poles as the original Lances were handed over to the 4th Queens Hussars who were performing a musical ride, which was the source of some amusement to the Lancers as who ever heard of Hussars with lances?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Forgotten Fleet

by Lt 'Ossie' T. Dodwell RNVR

In Britain's vain attempt to check the Fuhrer's mighty host
Destroyers did heroic work on Norway's icy coast
They served both at the landing and at the evacuation,
But, dammit, so did trawlers, the destroyers' poor relation.

And on the shores of Dunkirk, midst the rain of shot and shell
The Navy did a sturdy job, both valiantly and well.
By stirring deeds destroyers earned the plaudits of the Nation
But, dammit, so did trawlers, the destroyers' poor relation.

Then from the bloody coast of Crete to Iceland's Arctic Waste
Destroyers grimly battled on wherever challenge faced,
Chancing any kind of odds, facing annihilation.
But, dammit, so did trawlers, the destroyers' poor relation.

And so the war moved westwards; took our cousins unaware,
They found they had not got enough destroyers 'over there'
At first to guard their convoys the destroyers weren't in station
But, dammit, there WERE trawlers, the destroyers' poor relation.

The author of this poem 'Ossie' T. Dodwell was the First Lieutenant of HMS Loman, a converted armed trawler not unlike the many hundreds of such vessels used by the Royal Navy in WW2 for minesweeping and anti-submarine work under the requisitioning programme.

These hastily armed fishing vessels were crewed by Royal Naval Patrol Service personnel. Many of these men had been peacetime fishermen and were expert sailors. Later in the war the majority of crews were made up of ‘hostility only’ ratings.

Royal Navy trawlers served in every theatre of the war from the Arctic to the Far East. The last attack to be made on a U-boat during WW2 was carried out off Iceland by armed trawler HMS Northern Sky, just one day before Germany surrendered. The last Royal Naval ship to be sunk by a U-boat in the war was HM trawler Ebor Wyke on the 2nd of May 1945 leaving only one survivor.

Their efforts largely missed out of the history books, armed trawlers obviously lacked the distinction of larger ships such as cruisers or destroyers and maybe this is why they are easily forgotten in the records relating to the Royal Naval Fleet in WW2.

Forgotten even in war it seems, when back in December 1942, 'Ossie' T. Dodwell wrote this poem for inclusion with the Christmas cards mailed from HMS Loman staioned on the East Coast of the USA protecting convoys from U-boat attacks.

Can we help you? AUGUST 2007

Have you just come over from the BBC Message Board ?

Welcome to our Blog !

Once you have registered (See the FAQ Help, top right) you will be able to post on any subject. In the meantime you can "comment" on any thread, including this one, so don't be afraid to use it to announce your arrival on this Blog.

As new subjects are added this posting will drop down one layer but you will always be able to find it in the listing on the right, under its title of "CAN WE HELP YOU AUGUST 2007

Regards from the founders Peter Ghiringhelli, Tom Canning, Frank Mee and Ron Goldstein

Friday, August 10, 2007

Here he is the man himself "my uncle Jimmy"

HMS Glorious

HMS. Glorious an aircraft carrier she left the Med fleet in 1939and was sunk off Norway by
two German battleships the Scharnhorst and the Gneisnau

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Battleship HMS. Malaya

Here she is in all her glory Malaya she fought throughout the first and second world wars.

Caring for widows and dependents

A photograph of the Whitehaven Miners' Memorial inside St Begh's RC Church, Whitehaven, Cumbria.

The Memorial takes the form of a pietà, which those with some Italian liguistic knowledge will know immediately can be translated as 'compassion'. I am led to understand that some bereaved families who lost menfolk through wars or mining accidents used to come in front of this A photograph of the Whitehaven Miners' Memorial inside St Begh's RC Church, Whitehaven, Cumbria.

It takes the form of a pietà, which people with some Italian liguistic knowledge means 'compassion'. I am led to understand that some bereaved families who lost menfolk through wars or mining accidents used to come in font of this statue for silent contemplation and prayer.

Whilst not necessarily specific to a forum about WW2, the entitlement of widows and dependent children has proved an emotive issue on the BBC "People’s War" Message board in late 2006 and early 2007. This is probably not the place to go round in what seems to be a never-ending circle as to the rights and wrongs of entitlements.

Having come across a number of cases of what widows and dependants received, based on this evidence and what I have heard of other cases I would reckon that widows and any dependent children, most likely without exception, will have got what they were entitled to from the state: no more, no less. In addition to that there were other local support networks, often voluntary, that helped people through difficult times (e.g. British Legion, churches, family, friends etc). for silent contemplation and prayer.

Whilst not necessarily specific to a forum about WW2, the entitlement of widows and dependent children has proved an emotive issue on the BBC "People’s War" Message board in late 2006 and early 2007. This is probably not the place to go round in what seems to be a never-ending circle as to the rights and wrongs of entitlements.

Having come across a number of cases of what widows and dependants received, based on this evidence and what I have heard of other cases I would reckon that widows and any dependent children, most likely without exception, will have got what they were entitled to from the state: no more, no less. In addition to that there were other local support networks, often voluntary, that helped people through difficult times (e.g. British Legion, churches, family, friends etc).

[Click on 'Comments' for some additional points on this thread]

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

HMS Malaya

First. Thanks for the help in finding my way through the new processes.

My uncle James Gillerlane served on the "HMS Malaya" in the Mediterranean until he was sent home sick .He died in 1944 cause of death was a form of tuberculosis. Is there anyone out there who can tell me if there was a higher incidence of this disease amongst sailors, who served on His Majesties ships.
I have just acquired his wartime photo album which I am in the process of digitising. It contains many photos of his shipmates and the ship.Along with photos of several allied and enemy ships.
Several of these were taken during actual naval actions. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who served on her and to share the photos with anyone interested.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Profile photo and amended FAQ

A general welcome to all our new members. You are encouraged to add your photo to your Profile; it will appear in all your comments. If for reasons of privacy you would prefer not to, then consider adding an Avatar (jargon for a small icon to represent you). Google also asks for you favourite film, book, and star sign. If you would rather not enter these, just leave them blank.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Calling those who served in Italy during WW2

So the BBC WW2 Board has closed! Despite the short warning it did seem rather abrupt, just as I was about to respond to this question, posted by MMCAndrew (U8964448) three weeks ago:

Actually, as Ron has pointed out to me, the BBC Noticeboard is still open, but I'll let this stand.

I am currently writing an essay on the relationships between the Italian people and allied soldiers during 1943-1945. Can anyone help me?

In my experience, many Allied soldiers who served in the bitter fighting in Italy understandably had little knowledge of what Italian civilians experienced in WW2 or of the civil war which raged in the North.

I first met Allied soldiers in April 1945 just before Mussolini was strung up in Milan - soldiers of the Imperial Light Horse and Kimberley Regiment of the 6th South African Armoured Division. I recall that my immediate impression was that they were all immensely rich and had food in abundance every single day. I also remember the intense relief and growing confidence that I would survive to the next day - although I lost two of my close friends to typhus in the first few months of 'peace'.

There is only one book which captures all this, recently published, and which more than answers the question regarding relationships between the Italian people and Allied soldiers during 1943-1945. It is the magisterial and accurate The Fall of Mussolini - Italy, the Italians, and the Second World War by Philip Morgan, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Hull (Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-280247-7).

Philip Morgan's account illuminates both the causes and the consequences of the fall of Mussolini on 25 July 1943. From the cover: [He] shows how Italians of all classes coped with the extraordinary pressures of wartime living, both on the military and home fronts ... He goes on to examine how the Italian people responded to the invasion and occupation of their country by both Nazi-German and Anglo-American forces - and how crucial this period was in shaping Italy's post-war sense of nationhood and transition to democracy.

Hitler was incandescent with fury at the Italian 'betrayal', and as a direct consequence the German occupation in the North was extremely vicious, largely entrusted to Waffen-SS units, brutalised in Russia fighting Russian partisans, and to Cossack units allied to the Germans. The only comparable Nazi occupied country was Poland, added to which there was incessant Allied bombing and fighter strafing of anything that moved. There was constant hunger and the constant threat, if you were over 14, of being rounded up, crammed into a cattle truck, and sent to slave-labour in Germany, I twice scraped out of situations like that by the skin of my teeth - and heaven help you if you just happened to be an Italian Jew!

But even Italians often forget that the South suffered too, as Morgan says ... it is salutary to remember, also, that German troops retreating through southern Italy in September and October 1943 killed over 1,500 people in a violently brief occupation. Most of the victims were civilians resisting the Germans' retreat and their forcible ejection of them from their homes, as in Cassino, or people killed in reprisal for such resistance, or [the collapsed Italian army's] military stragglers.

And the formidable German defensive lines, such as the Gustav Line and the Gothic Line? The earthworks were largely built by civilian forced labour.

As for the Allies, as Footslogger says: That is not to say that troops from the British, US, Canadian, New Zealand and Indian armies were all gentlemen, but on the whole we had felt a great deal of sympathy for the horrors the average Italian civilian had to put up mainly, the elderly, the women and children as most of the able bodied men had been taken by the Germans to do forced labour, and we treated them accordingly.

My own memory is confined to South Africans only - they were warm and friendly and behaved well.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Life in the Cellar

This is the story as my sister told me!

After we got all the extra supplies my mother wanted us to buy; she wanted to arrange the cellar: just in case. The cellar was rather small but we could all fit in!

Under the wooden staircase I, made my bed, brought down my "escape" bag too (we all had one!). My mother and her sister-in-law had their bed in front of the wine rack. There was also a small window that looked out over the backyard and where we could escape through.

She let several people stay in the cellar who did not have one. That meant changing into nightclothes in shifts. They took turns going upstairs. Also when there was enough water they washed themselves before going to sleep (one never knew whether the water mains would be bombed that night).

My mother prepared a light evening meal for everyone; the 'guests' contributed too. When it got dark the air raid alarms went off. We knew that the British flew low and often got caught in the bright searchlights and more often than not were shot down. The Americans flew very high and missed their objectives!

One night it looked like Düsseldorf was their target: just about "next door". My mother opened a bottle of wine and everyone got some to make them feel better! We heard bombs fall: the electric light went out. So... the flash lights were used. All of a sudden they heard a terrible noise, the cellar shook, they heard glass in the windows break: my aunt said: 'that was meant for us'.

After things quietened down my mother went upstairs to survey the damage. The front door was warped and could not be opened, the glass in the front windows was broken but worst of all, there was an unexploded bomb in a huge crater in front of the house. When the Grüne came by they refused to call the bomb squad. Teenage boys living across from us said that they could take care of it. They were involved in the underground and my mother thought they were taught there how to defuse BOMBS. She had to make a decision: if there was a timer on that bomb it was vital to defuse it and even if not, nobody knew if and when it would explode. They held a conference....... They decided to" take care of it!!" and everybody in our neighbourhood agreed.

We sat in the cellar holding our breath...... if that thing exploded we all would be dead and so would be our neighbours. My mother talked to them and they could make choice: they all decided to stay!!!

To us it looked like it took a long time..... at last one boy poked his head over the crater rim and said:""ALL clear"; they all hoisted the bomb out of the crater and .....pushed it across the street to an empty lot, (we still have picture of that monster!). Only then did we find out that neighbours of ours had a cookie factory when they decided to treat the whole neighbourhood ..........

P.S. later we found out that two boys of that family were picked up by the Gestapo and landed in a concentration camp, never to be heard or seen again.

Written by, and posted on behalf of, Josephine Hoogstede