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Memories of WW2


D Day Celebrations in Falaise France 2014

D Day Celebrations in Falaise France 2014

"In peace, sons bury their fathers
In war, fathers bury their sons" Herodotus 425 BC


How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.....
Bob Dylon

The BBC asked members of the public to record and contribute their memories of WW2.
Take a look at the website documenting over 47,000 stories and 15,000 images
Our family memories are just a very samll part
click for link

War memorial Saumur

War memorial Saumur

A great site depicting the work of artists who have recorded recent wars
click for link

Donated by Thalia Campbell

From the 1930's my father Maurice Childs was the owner of a high class mens' tailor shop on the Strand in Torquay Devon. In the run up to the second world war he found himself a reserved occupation. He left the shop in charge of a manager. he went for trianing which included trigonometry. He told me that for seven years he was building Spitfire Aircraft in Bristol, Trowbridge, Swindon and Southampton'
He dewsribed the bosses allowing/encouraging the wrong size spare parts to be made in large quantities. When he complained they told him they would make their fortunes with the srcrap metal after the war. He continued to be concerned and was told to stop worrying as the German Aircraft manufacturers were doing the same!
My father also objected to corners being cut, such as the aluminium parts not being put in the salt bath to be anealed. He drew his concerns to the aircraft inspectors and was threatened by the bosses. He told me he ended up in court being tried as a Communist trouble maker. He never belonged to a political party but he had a strong sense of right and wrong. I have yet to research his court appearance.
I remember seeing the German planes on their way to and from bombing Pymouth. They avoided the silver barrage balloons over the harbour and bombed hotels using their left over bombs on thir way home. I also remember the different engine tones of German and British aircraft and the wail of the siren as we hurried to the Anderson Shelter we had built in the garden.
When my father was billeted in Bristol with a woman in a small terraced house he said he ate the most appalling food, a soup of bones boiled with cooked vegetables. Often at night he used to go out into the countryside and sleep in a barn or haystack to avoid the bombing.
Thalia Campbell ( Childs )


Harry Bird's Three sons fought in the war

Harry Bird's Three sons fought in the war
Norman Bird far right in Africa

Harley Bird

Harley Bird
ML's lay doggo in secret chaung, got Jap barges

To stop water-borne supplies reaching the Japs, hard pressed by the Army at Myebon, two South African naval officers steamed up an unchartered chaung in MLs and "lay doggo" under the mangroves. Their vigil was rewarded.
Four heavily gunned, ladened Jap landing barges crept unsuspectingly well on the beam of the waiting MLs . Then the guns of the naval craft blew the Jap boats out of the water.
The two officers, Lieut-Comdr A G Milne, SANF, senior officer of the ML flotilla and Lieut R L J Williams, SANF, who have been awarded the DSC, are among five South African officers decorated or mentioned in despatches. They command the first Royal Navy motor launches to destroy Jap motor gun--boats, they "killed" eight in one engagement.
Menace of Snipers
Later two more MLs came up the chaung under the command of Lieut H H Brown, SANF and Lieut H J Bird, SANF who have been mentioned in despatches. The Japs sent down support craft to investigate the non-arrival of their comrades.
This time the Japs opened fire first at the spot where they suspected the MLs to be- to draw their fire. They were unsuccessful and a ding dong battle began but these four craft were sunk as well.
The ever present menace of snipers in these changes can be gauged by this incident described by Lieut Milne
"Out of the blue"
We were once patrolling one of the changes when all seemed quiet and serene. A bullet out of the blue suddenly smashed through the forward window of the wheelhouse, missing my quartermaster by a "hair's breadth".
I increased speed and brought all our guns to bear on the spot whence I thought the bullet had come. Other bullets followed puncturing the hull and exhaust pipe and slashing through cushions in the wardroom, the first lieutenant's suitcase conning his best uniform-suit and two of the crew's overcoats.
The snipers proved to be two machine gun nests. We let them have it with everything we had and knocked them out.

chaung = tidal river in Burma
ML = 120 foot in length motor gunboat somewhat larger than the MTB's used in the channel during WWII by the Royal Navy.

From a newspaper cutting provided by Patrick Bird


Charles Goldsmith

Charles Goldsmith

Derek Rothermel Butler

Derek Rothermel  Butler


Beach at Folkestone/Dover

Beach at Folkestone/Dover
Photo Walter Carrera

Link to Keith Slade's great site with news and photos

The above book is the story of the hushed up accident when 1500 US military were killed by
an e boat off the shore as they practiced their invasion of northern France. Thalia's school friend Vina had her farm requisitioned as part of this .
Thalia met one of these men when she was doing talks and Banner Work shops

In 1943 the southern part of England became like a huge army camp as the invasion force gathererd and rehearsed. The area around Slapton Sands in Devon was evacuated because the beach there was similar to the landing beaches in Normandy. About 3000 people were given just a few weeks to gather together everything they had and move out.
In April of 1944 Operation Tiger took place and ships full of American troops preparing to be landed at Slapton were surprised and sunk by German E-boats. Many hundreds were drowned. This secret was kept deliberately for many years afterwards.


A highly recommended little book

A highly recommended little book

Events around Kingswear

During the invasion scare in 1940, the War Office set up a Defence Committee of about 22 people, to take over control of the village if the Government were overrun. At this time one of the River Dart paddle steamers was kept with steam up 24 hours a day in case the college had to be evacuated via the railway at Totnes in the event of Maypool Tunnel (the railway tunnel between Kingswear and Churston) being sabotaged. Roadblocks were put up and barricades by the higher and lower ferry slips. Tank traps were fitted across the road at Bridge Road near the Higher Ferry and by the village shop. There were slabs every 2 ft across the road, which could be lifted and filled with explosives if required to demolish the road. There were guns and searchlights at Dartmouth Castle, and torpedo tubes were fitted at Kingswear Court. These were manned by Royal Marines. Mines were put in place across the mouth of the river. A boom was fitted across the harbour entrance from just above Dartmouth Castle to Brookhill rocks. During day or night when a ship arrived the boom was opened by the boom defence boat.

On the 8th of May 1942 the King and Queen arrived at Kingswear at 10:30am for a visit to the college. Lionel Fairweather (representing the Parish Council) was presented to the King & Queen, and Mr Bovey the Station Master was also presented. When they left at 1pm they thanked Mr Bovey and the Special Constables for the arrangements made at the station.
Reg Little (Devon Archives)


Dartmouth WW2

Dartmouth WW2

Soldiers on The Strand - showing Timothy Whites and Taylors - John Watson was the Pharmacist there when he met Pansy Bird
There was a National Registration in 1939. This was not a census and is not covered by census rules. It is closed for 100 years though so it will not be released until the first working day in January 2040.

I D Cards and registration

Being a Torquinian I have to assume that part of the WGFH number told authorities I was of Torquay, Devon. My parents were WGFH 162 1 and I was WGFH 162 2 and my younger brother was WGFH 162 4. From these numbers 162 was probably our local family number and the others numbers 1,2,3,& 4 related to our place in that family. they were printed on what seems to be ordinary blue board paper. Devon memories (not family)

Home Guard Identity cards
The cards feature photographs and signatures of each Home Guard member and personal details, including place of birth, rank (from second lieutenant to platoon commander) and ‘distinguishing marks’ such as ‘scar on chin’


Home Guard ID Card

Home Guard ID Card

The first raids to hit Torbay took place in the summer of 1940, while the last were in late 1944. Most were carried out by small fighter aircraft such as the Focke-Wulf 190 rather than by heavy bombers. On these “Tip and Run” raids they would fly in low over the sea and quickly drop their bombs. Their firepower wasn’t great but nevertheless over the course of the war a great deal of damage was done in Torbay.
In fact about 168 people lost their lives, 158 more were seriously wounded, and 332 were injured. A total of 137 buildings were destroyed and over 13000 were damaged.

At home, rationing encouraged ingenious cooking, eg mock, pineapple made from cooked turnip! Many people would supplement their diet with home grown vegetables, and once the Americans arrived there was always the chance of a ration pack!
In 1940 Lord Beaverbrook became Minister for Aircraft Production. He quickly mobilised the public to collect money and materials to build more aeroplanes. One outcome was probably the disappearance of pots and pans from houses all around Torbay as they were collected in to stores in Paignton and Vaughan Parade Torquay.





Lord Beaverbrook the Minister of Aircraft Production made a dramatic appeal to the women of Britain " Give us your spare pots and pans and we will turn tham into Spitfires" Hundreds of tons of aluminium was collected in just a few days and this included an artificial leg.


At the new Ministry of Food Sir Jack Drummond produced a plan for the distribution of food based on "sound nutritional principles". A plain but balanced diet he had discovered was the nearest thing to the elixer of life

Bacon and ham: 4oz
Other meat: to the value of 1s 2d
Butter: 2oz
Margarine: 4oz
Cheese: 2oz
Cooking fat: 4oz
Milk: 3 pints + 1 pkt dried skimmed milk per month
Sugar: 8oz
Preserves: 1lb every 2 months
Tea: 2oz
Eggs: 1 shell egg + 1 pkt dried egg per month
Sweets: 12oz

The Ministry of Agriculture was intent on persuading Britons to plant their own vegetables & fruit and turn their back gardens into vegetable patches.
Vulnerable groups such as children and expectant or nursing mothers received rations of blackcurrant and rosehip syrup before concentrated orange juice became available.
By 1945 an entire generation of housewives knew how to prepare a meal at home. They also knew a lot about vitamins and how imprtant they were.
Many people were better fed during wartime food rationing than before the war years. Infant mortality rates declined, and the average age at which people died from natural causes increased.
Housewives were advised to make chutneys and pickles to make food taste better. Soon they were making chutneys out of everything, from onions to rosehips Many recipes were thought up and sent in to magazines and newspapers to help fellow housewives feed their families.

It's worth noting that much of the world's population is vegetarian and healthily so. In fact, a vegetarian diet is clearly a healthier option (if done properly). Prior to WWII, most European diets were largely vegetarian, meat taking a larger slice of people's diet after the war.


Paper Shortages

Paper Shortages
Ian Campbell's father ordered a set of Encyclopedias for the children, they were delivered in two batches due to the paper shortage. Letter dated 1944
New manuscript & bookbinding Vellum (calf or goatskin) and Parchment (split
sheepskin) was soon in very short supply. The limited production was being
designated for legal document rendition (particularly Parliamentary Acts,
etc.) and drumhead use by military bands. We were taught how to produce
palimpsests -- we used old legal documents -- scraping off the existing
writing, sandpapering the surface, dampening and stretching the skin on
frames and pouncing it (with a mix of finely powdered pumice & sandarac gum)
as a final preparation.

Paper was always in very short supply (Newspapers were restricted to four
pages for the duration) -- high quality writing paper was particularly hard
to obtain.People constructed their own paper making mould frames, blending
devices, pulp vats and pressing felts and they made their own sizing as school
projects -- people made a lot of their own writing paper throughout the war.

Adyar was purchased by Harry Bird around 1930/31. During WW2 it was rented by the Prudential Assurance Company as their offices when all the staff were moved down from London. The word Adyar means 'unparalleled' , Harry named the Hotel after the Theosophical publishing house and library in Madras India. It was one of the very few establishments offering a Vegetarian diet.
The family appeared to have transferred to Esdaile during the war years when the Prudential Assurance Company sent 450 employees to Hotels in Torquay, they filled Adyar and Harry appeared to have earned a good income from them charging above the normal rates for rooms.


Adyar telephone directory 1939

Adyar telephone directory 1939

Hitler – Vegetarianism's skeleton in the closet

Adolph Hitler is said to have given up meat out of a fear of developing cancer. Meat eaters love to cite Hitler's fondness for vegetables as proof that one may eschew meat and still be aggressive, cruel, megalomaniacal, psychopathic, and everything else unlovely. What these critics choose to ignore is that no one has shown that those who tortured and murdered in his name, the S.S. storm troopers and Gestapo, ever shunned meat. The point is that a vegetarianism concerning itself only with [human] health and not the animals' – their pain and suffering – can easily end up as a cultic "ism," an attachment to a particular diet for its own sake.
The truth is that Hitler loved meat, and especially game birds. His favourite dish was stuffed and roasted squab (baby pigeon). He also enjoyed rich cakes and pastries.Some critics argue that while Hitler may have restricted his meat-intake for health reasons, he never did so for moral reasons. According to this argument, because Hitler's meat-restriction was inconsistent and based on health concerns, he cannot qualify as a vegetarian in the modern sense of the word

By the Second World War there was a general recognition that nutrition theories were based on scientific fact and that fruit and vegetables could contribute to a healthy diet. During the war, rationing was again introduced and the Ministry of Food encouraged the public to increase their consumption of vegetables (and even consider wholly vegetarian dishes!) as a substitute for meat.

In 1941 The Ministry of Food granted special concessions to vegetarians for extra rations of cheese and nuts during WWII

With Harry at Adyar

With Harry at Adyar

A family wedding at Adyar Nov 1943

A family wedding at Adyar Nov 1943
While white weddings did not disappear entirely during the war, they became increasingly difficult to stage, both from a lack of materials and from a lack of time. Many couples opted for something simpler.

Upton Church where the happy couple married

Upton Church where the happy couple married

This was a large house rented by Harry for the family before or around the time when Adyar was taken over in the war. The family ran it as a B & B. Most of the Birds and Childs family lived there on & off during the war including Gertrude and perhaps Lilian and various others. Harry put Barbara Lena Butler (Rothermel Watson) and her son Derek up there in a room when they came down to join 'John Watson' and had nowhere to live. Simon & Adrian, two grandchildren were born there. During the war the MOD came round and commandeered any spare rooms anyone had for refugees. Esdaile was sent a French Jewish couple with the husband's mother to stay. The husband was about 40 and the wife 21. They were quite well off in France being something to do with Rolls Royce? Both husband and wife spoke English but not the elderly mother. They had two small rooms, later the young wife had two babies and the family stayed in touch with them for years after they had returned to France.


The house was named after the 'Esdaile Notebook' by P.B. Shelley the original manuscscript was held by the Pforzheimer library Baden Württemberg. It contained a volume of early poems written between the ages of 16 and 20 from the time he was an Eton schoolboy until the breakup of his marriage with Harriet.
Shelley was a hero of Gertrude's.

Esdaile was quite avant-garde in offering Vegetarian and Reform Cuisine to its guests...

John Harry and Pansy 1940 at Esdaile

John Harry and Pansy 1940 at Esdaile

Thalia and two grandma's

Thalia and two grandma's

Florence and her brother Ronald helped by two of their sisters ran a Dance School above a shop in The Strand, it all had to be abandoned as the War took hold and the family were either called up or went to work in factories.

Evacuated children taking physical exercises 1940

Evacuated children taking physical exercises 1940

Thalia remembers Maurice saying how awful it was when he was billetted in a terraced
house with a woman in Bristol during the war when he worked making aircraft. She fed him on a stew made from meat bones and over cooked vegetables.He was appalled . Ted rescued him from this and took him under his wing. Maurice also used to leave Bristol at night during the bombing and sleep in hay stacks in the country.
Maurice told her the most profitable year he had was when the Gatt conference after the war came to Torquay. He described how difficult it was to get stock during the war for example
rough beigy brown shirts which he had dyed and when sold to customers and when washed and hung out to dry, the dye came out and stained the side of the customer's house. Lillian described a dress in some cheap artifical fabric she wore during the war, she got caught out in the rain and the dress just shrivelled up to nothing.

Ronald worked as the Manager of the shop leading up to the War and Maurice paid him good money for those days. When he was called up and went away during the War Maurice promoted an assistant as Manager in his place. When the 'boys' came home it was the law that each man had to return to his previous job at the same level. Ronald returned to the shop so the assistant promptly left and set up his own business in the town in competition.
Ronald worked on there for a while after Harry Bird had bought his sons the Hotel so he could earn some money whilst they were doing it up so that they could take in their first guests.

Dudley was in a reserve occupation in Plymouth .

Gertrude and Lillian befriended Aya Broughton, a Japanese who came to Britain as a 17 year old wife of Edgar Broughton an Academic... I think Comparative Religion, Perhaps aTheosophist We used to visit them regularly in Torre at their first house near the school and police station. She was not interned, Being a young girl?? But did have a difficult time during the war. I remember books, antique china and paintings in her later house in Cleveland Road.. She had no children and painted, exhibiting at the Devon Art Society with mother and each year in the Paris salon. She gave An Aya Broughton Prize to a local art student each year.Maurice was hostile to Aya and made it difficult for Lillian to keep up that friensdship.


Aya Broughton 1912 - 1997
Born in Kyoto Japan Aya moved to Torquay in 1936 after her marriage to Bernard Broughton an Oxford Professor 30 years her senior. Her paintings won her awards all over Europe. She was closely involved with local Charities and would support them by doing quick life like sketches of visitors in return for a donation. There are exhibits in Torre Abbey.


Janice Skegness Beach with Aunt Thalia

Janice Skegness Beach with Aunt Thalia

1943 Devon

1943 Devon

Ian, Heather and Parents 1943

Ian, Heather and Parents 1943

Women had to have large handbags in the war because there was so much that they needed to carry around with them. Everyone was given an identity card and this had to be kept with the person at all times in case the police wanted to check the card. So this was one of the first things a woman would put in her bag. She would also put in a torch to help her see during the blackout. Housewives would also put their ration books in their handbag when they went shopping - and one item they never forgot to leave the house with was their gas mask to protect them from a possible poison gas attack. This too went into the bag. In fact some handbags were specially made with a false bottom, where you could keep your gas mask in its cardboard box.

For the Germans amongst us !

For the Germans amongst us !
Stuttgart 1945

German Ration Book

German Ration Book

Queen Elizabeth visitng Hawkinge Airfield Kent

Queen Elizabeth visitng Hawkinge Airfield Kent

Chislehusrt caves used as a hospital in 1942

Chislehusrt caves used as a hospital in 1942


An innovative form of transport !

Plymouth City Centre

Plymouth City Centre
Plymouth was one of the worst blitzed towns in Britain (March-April 1941) -
we lived 8 miles way on the Cornish side and I remember the whole eastern
sky-line lit up night after night. Some oil-storage tanks at/near Roborough
burned for days. My grandparents lived in Plymouth and my mother "hitched"
a lift with our milk lorry to check that they were OK and take up vital
supplies. A Devon lad

VE Day Plymouth

VE Day Plymouth


Instructions which came with a new Singer Sewing machine

Instructions which came with a new Singer Sewing machine