Today is the fourth installment of what Crystal Lake resident John Kinsley remembers from growing up in London during World War II.
Born in 1928, Kingsley was aged 10-16 during the war.
Down London Memory Lane with John Kinsley
In those days farming was labor intensive and as most of the farm laborers were called up and were replaced by young women in what was called the Land Army. I was in a train one day and in the next compartment there was a bunch of Land Army girls singing what I later realized was a ribald song. At the time I did not get the meaning of the words but they came to me later in life.
We were told that Hitler was going to invade us as he had so many other countries and we were told to prepare for it.
There was a case of a woman who put poison in all her jars of jam, as a present for the invaders when they arrived.
I watched air battles, later called the Battle of Britain, not knowing which planes were ours as they were all dots in the sky, but in the end we prevailed prompting Winston Churchill to declare, “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed to so many by so few”.
We lost a lot of planes and pilots too but so did the Germans.
The Luftwaffe had honed its skills during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 by sending ‘volunteers’ to help Franco.
Several hundred pilots spent weeks at a time in the combat zone learning to fly their planes on a war footing.
Churchill rallied the nation with rousing speeches, and we all enjoyed listening to his broadcasts.
I still remember,
“We will fight on the beaches, in the fields, and in the hills and never surrender.”
Radar towers, primitive by today’s standards, had been erected along the coast and gave ample warning that the Luftwaffe was on its way, making it possible for the RAF to be in the air to meet them.
The overall system was quite sophisticated and very effective. It was known as RDF, Radio Direction Finding.
The Home Guard was formed, made up mostly of those unfit for military service, old soldiers and retired men.
My father was one of them.
They were poorly equipped; some had rifles others did not.
They were employed to
- guard buildings,
- check identity cards, and
- man antiaircraft guns
amongst other duties.
In September 1940 the Luftwaffe began to bomb London.
I was in the garden one afternoon and I watched as the first formations of planes flew over, surrounded by black puffs of smoke from antiaircraft shells.
One could hear the sound of shrapnel falling on the surrounding roofs as the planes continued to fly on.
There must have been 30 or 40 of them.
It was not long before the Germans switched from daylight to night time bombing against which in the beginning we had little defense.
Damage was extensive and during the 3 months of the Blitz thousands of civilians was killed and many more made homeless.
Like most children I had a collection of bits of shrapnel and bits of bombs, and we used to trade them amongst ourselves.
You had to be very careful picking them up as they were often hot and had sharp edges.
I also had some airplane parts but I am not sure how I got them.
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