Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Memories of World War 11 as a child.


Brings back a rush of memories the email below and piece of history. I was moved out of London, as a child with my mother and we went North by train, to Grimsby. Which is a port town across and downriver from Hull. Just below the Scottish border. I was at first about 4 years old I think? Time ran from age 4 to 8 ,or 9 years in Grimsby, when we moved after the war in 1945 in the FALL, to Austria in the occupation forces. I remember the bombings and searchlights playing on the bombers and anti aircraft fire vividly still. Just like the old movies, though more so. We would sit outside cheering and watching the battle in the sky. On one raid, a Messerschmidt came screaming across the chimney rooftops firing away. Very low, about 30 feet over the chimneys in Grimsby. I ducked down in the doorway of a building as a child. The strafing machine gun bullets, scored the lintel and brickwork over my head. But it was all in the flash of seconds. Over quick. Another vivid memory was when the bombers were bombing the docks in Grimsby and the ships. Gravity bombs are not accurate things. One blew up the houses across the narrow street, bricks were flying everywhere, and a flying brick hit me in the head. I ran home screaming for my mother, bleeding profusely. She washed my head with water from the hand pump at the sink I remember and sent for a doctor. I was told to hold a flannel on my head to stop the bleeding, while she went down the street corner, to call the doctor on what were, red box, corner street phones in those days. You didn´t have home phones, running water, or flush toilets, it was an outhouse in the backyard. Air raid sirens were wailing loud all over the place. While she was gone, all I remember is getting dizzy, while standing at the sink, holding the rag on my head to stop the bleeding, and the next thing I remember was her slapping my face, trying to wake me up, unconscious on the floor. She told me afterwards, the damage of fainting away and falling backward, did more damage than the flying brick. Few stitches fixed it up though.

They were building something with those corrogated curved zincs and there were rows of them stacked in a field. We kids in the dozens, used to go there and use them for slides and to play hide and seek. Nearby later on, was a barbed wire prison camp for Eastern European and Russian prisoners of war. Would sit by the fence outside and talk to them. They would practice their English on me. I guess they all hoped to be allowed to stay, but after the war, they were shipped back to Russia and death. Worked to death in the Gulags of that era in Russia and by starvation. I never saw candies, or fruit during the war years. Traveling through France in 1945 on the troop train, it was the tens of thousands of children starving, and waving their hands at the train for food, that I remember most. I threw my bread crusts out the window, from a sandwich and watched in horror as the crowds of children, mobbed the little kids that got the crusts and more or less squashed them to death. I got used to seeing people starving to death in Austria, first in Vienna and then in Igles in the Tyrol. They would use prisoners each morning to load the bodies in the trucks from the sidewalks and street gutters. It was in Gander Airport in Canada, I first saw a candy stand in the airport waiting room, in 1949, and my mother let me pick my first candy. I picked a roll of LIFESAVERS, as there were more of them than anything else. I must have been about 11 years of age? We were flown across the Atlantic ocean in a DC 3 to Canada.

From: innovate belize
Sent: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 3:24 PM
Subject: Bz-Culture: Belizeans in Scotland

by Craig McQueen

FOR a small country, Scotland has always been recognised for having played a major role in World War II.

And just as Scottish soldiers fought in battles right around the world, six years of conflict had a dramatic effect on the home front as well.

Now a major new book by author and historian Trevor Royle is telling the story of Scotland's part in the victory.

Based on previously unseen archives, A Time Of Tyrants sheds light on many aspects of the conflict, which made our wartime experience unique.

And that includes the country's shores being the background for the opening salvoes of the war.

Trevor said: "There wasn't a phoney war at all. The first enemy action in October 1939 involved German aircraft attacking ships in the Forth and they were chased by RAF fighters.

"A house two streets away from where I live in Edinburgh was hit by enemy fire and people on the east coast of Scotland soon became used to the sight of German bombers in the sky.

"In fact, the first civilian to be killed was an unfortunate young man up in Orkney, who went out to watch the German bombers attacking ships in Scapa Flow.

"So while the rest of the country talked about a phoney war, there was no such thing in Scotland at all."

But that doesn't mean all Scots were in favour of the conflict. With the slaughter of World War I fresh in the minds of many, opinion was divided. There was a lot of widely accepted pacifism in Scotland," Trevor said.

"That wasn't because people weren't against the Germans. There was a real hatred of the whole Nazi ideology but people had memories of the huge casualties suffered in the First World War.

"The proportion of Scots killed in that war in the 18-41 age group was higher than in any other part of the UK. So people were worried that their men were going to be cannon fodder all over again." But while Scots could be forgiven for their trepidation, the wartime efforts of those on the home front would also become the stuff of legend.

The Dig for Victory campaign, in particular, proved massively successful, and was the brainchild of a Scottish expert in nutrition named Professor John Raeburn.

Trevor said: "Raeburn was originally from Aberdeen, although at the start of the war he was working in Oxford.

"His idea was quite simple. He said, 'You've got all this land and space, so why not utilise it for growing crops?'

"And it wasn't for raising morale, people thought at the time. It was an essential ingredient Britain's eventual victory in the Second World War.

"Germany was prepared to use submarine warfare to strangle the country. Foodstuffs weren't getting in, so decided it had its own.

"You had pictures of football pitches and parks being dug people digging up own garden potatoes and vegetables.

"It took the burden off the government to feed the people and it did work. People in Scotland were never fitter or healthier than they were then, as they were having to eat more fruit and vegetables, which they wouldn't have eaten otherwise."

Neither was it just Scotland's people who played a part. The geography of the country, with its rugged shorelines and tough terrain, was the perfect training ground for Britain's fledgling special forces.

The east of Scotland was also where some members of the Home Guard were recruited for top-secret training to form a British Resistance, in the event of German occupation.

Trevor said: "The Auxiliary Units were to stay behind and literally go underground if there was an invasion.

"Shelters were dug all over Scotland and were filled with supplies, stores of ammunition and caches of arms.

"These men formed themselves into small commando-type units and would be deployed to attack German units, as invasion was a very real threat.

"A lot of them were farmers, gamekeepers and ghillies. They knew the lie of the land, had a natural aptitude for fieldcraft and were proficient with weapons as well.

"They were all sworn to secrecy, which is why so little is known about them, and they refused to talk about what they were doing, even after the war had ended.

"Most of them also thought they were acting alone and that there were no other groups doing the same thing. In Scotland, their centre of activities was at Melville House, in Fife, and if you go there today you can still see where they operated."

The war also led to a huge change in Scotland socially and culturally, thanks to the huge numbers of people who came here from other countries.

Trevor said: "We found ourselves welcoming, for the first time in Scotland's history, people from all over the world, specifically the 25,000 Poles who were based here.

"They left a remarkable imprint on the country, as a lot of them stayed behind and married Scottish girls.

"There were also the Norwegians, and, very interestingly, a large influx of loggers and foresters from British Honduras, which today is Belize.

"They were black people and they were based in the Borders, in East Lothian, and also latterly up in the west Highlands.

"For many Scots, this was the first time they had ever seen black people in their lives, and it really was a culture shock.

"When the foresters moved into Achiltibuie, north of Ullapool, everybody ran away because they said the 'coal men' were coming.

"But again, a lot of them stayed on and they brought with them their music, as many of them were great musicians.

"They brought a great sense of colour and they were delightful, charming people, so many Scots took them to their hearts after the initial hostility towards them. I came across a letter from the Duke of Buccleuch to the government in London complaining about black foresters coming on to his land.

"He wrote that we all knew 'what kind of morals they had' and that 'unfortunately the local girls had become far too fond of them'.

"It's amazing to think that in one's lifetime you can see attitudes of that kind but now, thankfully, long gone."

So while the bookshelves may already be groaning under the weight of volumes explaining every detail of World War II, Trevor is confident that such stories will show we still have more to learn about how the conflict shaped modern Scotland.

And he adds that it's not just a case of understanding how the war was won and lost but how the six years of fighting had an effect on every aspect of the lives of men, women and children alike.

He said: "Warfare is not just about men fighting and battles being fought, with commanders deciding what has to be done.

"It's also about people and the part they play in the war, how war impacts on them, how they deal with it and how they come to terms with what is an unnatural activity that you hope you'll never have to face."

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