Crystal Lake’s John Kinsley has passed away.
In the coming days, McHenry County Blog will republish his memoirs.
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Saturday morning in 2006 a well-attended breakfast of the United Methodist Men heard Crystal Lake resident John Kinsley talk about his memories of World War II.
Kingsley was born in 1928. He was 10 in 1939, when the war started, and 16 in 1945, when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.
Kingsley has been kind enough to share his talk with us. It’s long, so I shall cut it into separate posts.
It’s too bad you can’t enjoy the British accent he still has.
Down London Memory Lane with John Kinsley
I was born halfway between WW I and WW II. In 1928 to be precise.
My father was a professional soldier and fought in the war to end all wars and was now a poultry farmer.
Life was a little different then; no TV, it had yet to be invented, but unlike many living in the country, we had electricity for our house. It came from a generator in a shed and when it was shut down light slowly faded away and it was best to be in bed before that happened.
I saw my first airplane when I was 8 and I thought that was the most exciting thing ever.
In March 1938, Neville Chamberlain, The British Prime Minister, and other European leaders fought hard for peace at a conference in Munich at which Hitler declared his intention of annexing the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia that was populated with people of German ancestry.
In return for a promise that this was his last territorial demand, the participants gave in.
Czechoslovakia was not represented at the conference as it was well known they would never agree and would probably fight.
Chamberlain returned home and on landing waved the document he had signed saying, “We have peace in our time, peace with honor”.
Such was not to be as a year later on September 1, Germany invaded Poland and British and French guarantees of military aid in the event of being attacked came into force as Germany refused to withdraw her troops.
When WW II started we were living in central London and I remember the day well.
It was Sunday, September 3, 1939, and the Prime Minister’s speech to the nation telling us we were now at war with Germany.
As a child of 10 I was out of touch with reality as at the time I thought that it was going to be exciting and I waited until after lunch to go out and watch the fighting.
My father rejoined his regiment but within a few months was sent home with a medical discharge.
Britain could do nothing to help Poland as she was woefully unprepared for war. Her army was a garrison force stationed all over the Empire as it was then known, with few of the weapons required to fight a modern war.
In May 1940 Chamberlain, who was soon to die, was replaced by Winston Churchill.
Churchill had been amongst the first to warn of the danger posed by Hitler, and had been largely ignored by the government.
He had informants in Europe who supplied him with detailed information of the military build-up in Germany, and he spoke of it often in the House of Commons.
Whilst not famous at that time he was well known in the world, as an adventurer, author and politician.
He became famous of course as a result of his leadership in WW II and in 1953 he won a Nobel Prize, not the Peace Prize, it was for literature.
The months following the declaration of war were known to us as the Phony War, because, except in Poland of course, and at sea, not much happened.
The government thought that the Germans would use poison gas and everyone was issued with a gas mask and required to carry it always.
Adults were issued with Identity Cards without which you could not travel or use your Ration Book.
Later during the war to be stopped without it made you liable to arrest.
Children, me included had to go to the train station to be evacuated, and I remember I had a label attached to the button of my coat and a post card in my pocket that I was to send home giving my new address.
I have no idea where my brothers went.
I was billeted with a very nice family in Cornwall but after several months I was shipped back to London.
Apart from small bombing raids not much had happened.
I remember a question being asked in the House of Commons as to why we had not bombed German ammunition dumps, and the answer given was that it was because they were stored on private property.
Our ineptitude for war was clearly demonstrated by an incident in St. Andrews Bay in Scotland, when an aircraft from a nearby RAF station found a submarine on the surface and dropped a bomb on it.
It hit the deck bounced back up into the air, exploded and brought down the plane.
It was a British submarine.
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