We continue sharing the memories of Crystal Laker John Kinsley about his growing up in London during World War II. He was ten when the war started and sixteen when it ended.
Kingsley spoke to the Methodist Men at last Saturday’s Methodist Men at the First United Methodist Church of Crystal Lake.
Down London Memory Lane with John Kinsley
The King and Queen often visited bombed areas and frequently appeared on the news, the king always wearing his Fleet Admirals uniform.
Their own house, Buckingham Palace suffered bomb damage, but they resisted the governments’ plea that they should leave London.
Radar at that time was in its infancy but soon our night fighters were equipped with airborne radar, leading to a marked increase in the destruction of German bombers.
To explain the pilots’ extraordinary night vision capability the government put it about that it was because they were eating lots of carrots.
As a child I believed it and also started eating a lot of carrots too.
I don’t know, perhaps the Germans did too.
Powerful search lights probed the sky during an air raid and sometimes one could see a plane in its beam.
Of course I couldn’t go outside and what I could see from my bedroom window was quite limited so I only saw a little of what was going on but usually I saw a red glow in the sky.
To help guide their bombers the Germans used two intersecting radio beams along which the aircraft would fly.
It was not long before we found out how to deflect and widen the beams making them far less effective.
There was also some success with the use of subterfuge to encourage the Germans to bomb open fields.
They also used the Thames estuary for navigation checks and concrete towers were built in the middle of the estuary as a platform for anti-aircraft guns.
The London Underground that in many places is hundreds of feet below ground provided excellent protection, and often one could hear the woomph of an exploding bomb.
Generally though it was also a lot quieter and that made sleep possible.
People were admitted to the stations in the afternoon to stake out a place to sleep and the trains stopped running at about 10pm, at which time electricity to the live rail would be turned off.
I spent several nights sleeping on a blanket on the concrete floor.
In the morning air raid wardens made sure that platforms and corridors were cleared in order to start the trains running again.
In the center of London enormous fires were started by incendiary bombs and in many cases raged unchecked as the water mains had been ruptured and were unable to provide water for the Fire Brigade.
Bombs that failed to explode and also bombs with a delayed action fuse became a major problem.
Teams were formed to defuse them and as you can imagine it was a very risky job.
All were volunteers, and many recruited from the Royal Engineers, a branch of the service that I was to join later on in life.
Most of the time, though not always, they were successful, even after the Germans installed devices to resist tampering with the fuses.
It was suggested that slave labor in munitions plants were sometimes able to sabotage the detonators.
Even today bombs that did not go off during the war are still being found.
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