Friday, October 27, 2006

Still worth remembering



Buying a poppy cross to remember ones helps those in still in need

The Royal British Legion had various launches of its 2006 annual Poppy Appeal at the end of October. In my own area of Cumbria, the RBL involved local schoolchildren as well as British Legion collectors, civic dignitaries and former service veterans. Below are a few personal views about this.

Although a proportion of the general people have the idea that the Poppy Appeal is largely about WW1 and WW2 it is more than that. The funds that are raised provide much good - often unseen – help to former servicemen and their families from any period from the First World War to the present day. I know of several people who have been able to get some modest help that has made a big difference to their quality of life. At the launch of the 2006 Poppy Appeal I read in the newspaper some of the people who are being helped are young servicemen in their mid twenties. Servicemen and women can be in need at a young age as much as those who are not so young.

Encouraging younger people to take an interest in the ‘Annual Remembrance’ is surely the only way it will ever survive. In some respects it is more important that the younger generations learn and remember what the Remembrance Services are about. At the very least, the people who made such great sacrifices in their service for the country are still worth remembering.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tank History

We have, this week, been regaled with various sessions of "Tank Week" wherein a programme sponsored by the Imp War Museum and others have been showing two hour sessions of Tanks and their History followed by sessions of Movies pertaining to same.As always we had "Patton" winning the war all by himself, plus the Desmond Young's version of the Desert Fox with James Mason portraying "Rommel"
I unfortunately missed the Monday showing but by Tuesday they showed a small outfit on the Isle of Wight stripping, sandblasting and rebuilding the Comet. This is the Tank which finally arrived in time for the Battle of the Bulge but no one had been trained on it so the had to revert to the ubiquitous Sherman - or "Ronson" or "Tommy Cooker" - depending on one's nationality.
Wednesday showed the same Isle of Wight outfit cannibalising three Sherman 4A's in order to rebuild one !
Thursday's sessions were on the saga of the Russian efforts to move the complete manufacturing facility - by plane - including a steel works to build the famous T34- which were very shortly producing 40 per day rising to 2000 per month, with a total of 50,000 for the remainder of the war which was more than the Americans produced Shermans in a lesser time frame.This culminated in the Batle of Kursk.
Friday's sessions were devoted to the French best Tank of the war unfortunately they were few in number and were hidebound by the same disease which affected the British desert army - Cavalry tactics of the first war !
We also had a fleeting glimpse of the Churchill complete with Bedford 350HP (!) engine with the comment that they had aquitted themselves well with a troop at El Alamein and thus the 21st TANK BRIGADE landed in North Africa to join the fight - with NO mention of 25TB !
The Japanese never really developed a Tank but merely a M/c gun carrier and thus the Sherman came into it's own.
Hopefully we shall see the developement of the German Panther and Tiger this evening from their version of the Kreigswagen PZ 1

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Barefoot days.

Children in wartime were much the same as today with our street songs and games we made the best of the possibilities offered. One of our street songs which was sung often was called Barefoot Days.

Barefoot day's when we were just a couple of kids,
Barefoot day's oh boy the things we did,
We'd go down to a shady nook,
Take a bent pin for a hook,
We'd fish all day, fish all night,
But the darned old fish refused to bite,
Then off we'd go down some old cellar door,
Slide and slide till our pants were tore,
Then off we'd go home to bed,
While mother got busy with a needle and thread,
Oh boy what joy we had in barefoot days.

There were street variations of this and sometimes wartime verses with Hitlers one testimonial often mentioned.
Children can make the best of the worst times and we did just that.
Did we grow up traumatised I think not. Did we grow up thinking we had missed our childhood, certainly not.
We remember the fun and companionship, the joy of playing our games always outside, inside was for sleeping and eating.
I am trying to pass on some of this joy to my grandchildren and am happy to see they like the outdoors as much as I did. Never give up on the young.

Jet, the ‘Blitz’ Recovery dog



Having posted some accounts to the “People’s War” website about mining accidents that occurred in the West Cumberland coalfield during the Second World War, I was recently asked by another researcher about a slightly later explosion that took place at William Pit, Whitehaven on 15 August 1947. This was a terrible mining disaster with the loss of 104 lives. While I had referred to this 1947 explosion on the “People’s War” website I had not written about it in much detail.

Nevertheless, I did have some information about the 1947 William Pit disaster at Whitehaven. Reading through the Official Report, I found there was a small section about the use of trained rescue dogs in a British coalmine for the first time. More specifically, two dogs, “Rex” and “Prince” were brought in with their handlers from the RAF Police Dog Training School at Staverton to locate the bodies of miners presumed buried under roof falls.

It was then found that neither dog had been trained in body recovery work. Consequently, another dog, “Jet”, one that had been involved in recovery work in the London area during the war, was quickly brought out of retirement to save the day. “Jet”, bringing this invaluable experience gained during the wartime German air raids over London immediately became the lead dog. As a result, the rescue teams were eventually successful in the grim task of recovering all the missing bodies by 23 August 1947. This photograph shows the Memorial to the victims who died in William Pit, Whitehaven, but there is no memorial to "Jet" and the other two dogs who helped in the recovery operation.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

BBC People's War Messageboard

I've added a link to the BBC People's War Messageboard. It seems to be doing very well. If you do take part in any threads could you give us a mention?