The First United Methodist Church’s Methodist Men were treated to the memories of John Kinsley, who lived in London during World War II.
Down London Memory Lane with John Kinsley
During the Blitz my two brothers and I slept under the stairs and had only one bomb drop close by.
It was on a three story house and after the initial explosion there was silence followed by the tinkling sound of falling glass from the windows hitting the pavement.
In the morning we went out to take a look.
The side of the house was gone exposing each room and the stairs to each floor.
Happily the house was not occupied at the time.
Heavy bombing continued until May 1941, not only of London but of all the big cities.
It was the bombing of people, not military or industrial locations and if they thought it would make England surrender they were wrong.
In fact it stiffened resolve just as our bombing of German cities had the same effect on the German people.
It was at about this time that Germany invaded Russia.
Hitler should have known better!
Three years later they were soundly defeated and in the summer of 1945, with the Russians in Berlin, Germany surrendered unconditionally.
Hitler had made himself the supreme commander of all German forces, and historians tell us that his direction of the war was a major contribution to the Allies winning it.
The casualties suffered by the Russians, both civilian and military, were far greater than any other nation and amounted to the deaths of 27 million people.
They fought with great courage and a German commander wrote in his report that after wiping out a Russian battalion, another would immediately take its place.
In 1942, when I was 14, I was sent to a technical college and enrolled in a course to become an architectural draftsman.
The school had been evacuated to Somerset and used the classrooms of a girls’ school.
Our Phys Ed teacher, a Mr. Symonds had a 13 year old daughter whom we would see from time to time, and little did we know that one day she would become a famous film star.
Most of us were billeted in a large country house and our housemaster was an old soldier with an artificial leg.
Captain Atter was his name and he walked about with a large wooden walking stick, which he would wave at us vigorously to drive home a point.
I had a bicycle and on the weekends two or three of us would cycle all over the countryside and I remember one day watching a small car ahead of us hit the wall at the side of the road, roll over and over ending up on its side with its horn blaring.
The driver, a rather large man, hurried over to us and breathing heavily said, “Do any of you boys know how to stop a hooter”.
We were not able to help.
At days end, as it was getting dark we would set up our tent in a farmer’s field.
We would be gone at first light so we didn’t see the need to get permission, and we also made sure we were not sharing the field with cattle.
During the summer school vacations I often worked on a farm.
There were a dozen or so Italian POWs there too, and as far as I could see there were no guards to see they didn’t escape.
They were supervised by Land Army girls.
One day, in June 1944 I was picking apples when I heard an approaching buzz bomb.
It was cloudy that day and I could not see it, but with my keen sense of self-preservation I sincerely hoped it would keep going and drop on someone else.
The buzz bomb was a very primitive cruise missile but for its time it was quite sophisticated.
It was driven by a pulse jet engine emitting a buzzing sound, hence the name buzz bombs.
Another name we had for it was doodlebug.
It was guided by an autopilot flying at 2,000 ft. and the distance travelled was controlled by a vane anemometer.
When the counter on the anemometer reached zero fuel to the engine was shut off and the bomb would fall.
If you were nearby you had about 10 seconds to take cover.
Later models had explosive bolts that would tilt the wings and it would go down under power.
Records indicate that 30,000 were manufactured and about 10,000 aimed at London.
Only about 2000 actually reached us but they still did a lot of damage and killed many people.
Due to their straight and level flight, antiaircraft fire, with the help of gun laying radar exploded many in the air; one battery held the record of 88 buzz bombs destroyed.
A few pilots developed a technique of flying alongside and tipping their wing causing them to go down.
Both British and American planes bombed Germany whenever weather permitted.
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