What are your family anecdotes from WW2

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by bydand31, Feb 15, 2019.

  1. bydand31

    bydand31 Member

    There seems to be lots of asking and not as much giving from family members to the info and information pool of WW2 at a (someone who was there level) Can I therefore ask you to add your comments to this thread please?

    You and I, who were not there and request information and more, details, specifics of events of many moons ago, etc., need to give a little back, and record the stories, antidotes and thoughts of those who were there and repeat those stories for the record and comment.

    Before these are lost forever and we rely solely on the thoughts and reiterations of paperback writers reading the official histories and watching movies and archaeologist digging up bones and reaching conclusions?

    As we all know conflicts, are not like that, it is more mundane for most of the time and the truth is usually the first casualty.

    No, this is not the official history thread, it is a stories thread, hopefully of those who were there and made some small comment to family and friends of their times during those sad days, which may or may not agree with the perceived history of the time.

    But hey, life's like that.

    For starters.

    Uncle George 1940-46 RE, Middle east, Burma, North Africa, Italy, France

    8th Army, what do you expect.

    He had about 26 mild war stories repeated to me which were repeated endlessly over many years, but for a small child this gentle giant of 6” 2 who never married and suffered silently from Malaria and PTSD like many others before it had a name was my Hero, and still is for that matter.

    The Tommy Gun, Bloody heavy, glad to get rid of it.

    Syria, Great place just like a warm sunny Scotland. Really loved the place and I think he would go back there tomorrow. Great people and enjoyed the Food.(How time changes)

    He had a large water jug in the tent in the desert, like a Greek Urn which kept the water cool. ( The desert was Egypt, Libya and Tunisia moving East to West)(Mostly)

    Built Army Camps, Airdromes, Runways. Roads, football pitches, and POW camps. Usually drove a digger, scraper throughout the war.

    Lots of Photos of his mates, young men in shorts, smiling, somewhere hot, diggers and trucks. The Me 109 in my Avard was from a captured airfield in N. Africa.

    Borrowed a Baby Austin in Singapore, none runner. Air filter apparently choked with airborne seeds and once cleaned ran OK. Repatriated stores from Singapore railway station, salt, sugar and bully beef, which would appear to be his staple for the next few years.

    Moved onto Burma, and had a pet Monkey, which he had photos of, and then moved back into North Africa.

    Played keps, (keepy uppey) with Italian Red devil grenades

    Italian "Red Devil" Hand Grenades, WWII - Inert-Ord.Net

    Before being shouted at to stop that, as it was bloody dangerous.(Unstable type)

    Found a lifeboat washed up on the beach (North Africa) from an RFA ship.

    Had a RAF fighter come down near him, and assisted the Pilot out while others helped themselves to the destruction tool. Which I gather is a crucifies type tool to rip the surfaces and assist in the destruction of the aircraft?

    Lt Gen. Montgomery, some men liked him, some not so much.

    Mum and Aunt. WRAF 1942-1945.

    After being bombed and straffed in the South of England, and watching the Battle of Britain from the cheap seats.

    Sheltered under the trees of Hyde Park from the shrapnel, and watched the BoB RAF like little Wasps attacking the German bombers. (There were all German in those days), Before PC.

    Joined the WRAF in 1942 with another girlfriend, after being rejected from the WRNS, On the proviso that they would all be stationed together? Sure you will, it will be one big holiday.

    They never saw each other again thought out the war........ Sound familiar


    WRAF driver on 3 tonners. After transferring from Barrage balloons. With the secret destruction pistol??

    north of Scotland, Used to sand her WRAF cap badge with a matchbox, to look like an old timer. Which must of worked as when I saw it she must have been in the services for over 150 years, it was that smooth.

    Aunt Jess.

    WRAF Bats-woman.

    An old woman of 24? Which was older than most Aircrew, Mostly bomber Squadrons in the Lincoln area.

    Lots of Canadians and Commonwealth AirCrew who were just boys in her eyes, but were very nice and she cried a lot when they did not come back from ops.

    Cleaning out the rooms afterwards when they did not return was very hard.

    Engaged to an NZ Army Sergeant who she met in London, and was also named McKenzie,he was killed in Burma, had the KIA letter from his CO and the Engagement ring in box in the dinning room table drawer until she passed. Still Single.

    Please feel free to add what ever you can. Just a few snipets of the time helps to add colour and body to the overall story.

  2. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Do you mean anecdotes by any chance?
  3. Blutto

    Blutto Plane Mad

    Deleted post heading chnage.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
  4. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Ernest "David" Watts, RAF Aircraftman 1272094

    "The Incident With The Safe"

    While in the middle east, he was posted to a Decoy & Deception Unit in the desert. At some stage, he found himself behind the lines when German forces broke through in their advance to El Alamein.

    David and one or two others had to make their own way back while being listed as “missing”. To fuel their journey, they ransacked deserted outposts for anything useful at places like Mersa Matruh on the Egyptian coast.

    They came across a safe, which they blew up and ‘liberated’ lots of money. This helped fund their journey through Egypt and into Israel, where they had a glorious spending spree, before finally returning to the Allied base in Egypt, after the money ran out.

    David pleaded “amnesia” and claims to have gotten away with it. If true, this must have been 1942, around the time of the 2nd battle of El Alamein. His service record does show an ‘absence’ in August 1942, so maybe this is related.
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  5. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Alec Stanley Davis, RA gunner 897204 (while with the 82nd Regiment)

    "Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!"

    For Christmas 1939 I was on the beach at Langard Point Felixstowe {Landguard Point is now a nature reserve and there are still WW2 concrete bunkers there}. Two men to a bathing hut! Heavy snow fall, we use to fill the iron wash bowl and stand it on a Valor oil stove.

    On looking back now, it was the only thing that saved us from being asphyxiated!
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Palestine as it was then.
    Israel didn't exist until 1948.
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  7. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Ivy Davis (Alec's wife, and my mother)

    "...but we don't have a dog!"

    We got married in September 1942, and just a few months later he was posted overseas. He couldn't tell me where he was going (he didn't know) and when he got there, he wasn't allowed to tell anyone where he was.

    We wrote lots of letters to one another back then, there was no other way to keep in touch in those wartime days.

    Early in 1943 I got a letter from him, full of the usual stuff. Within the letter he said something like "...and please remember to give the dog a bone."

    We didn't have a dog. So I looked on the map and discovered he had gone to Bone in France.

    This puzzled me years later (when sadly it was too late to ask either of them) as I couldn't see a Bone in France. Of course as I discovered more, I realised Bone was in North Africa. Back in the 1940s, North Africa was 'French' and probably was on her map of France.
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  8. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Three from my late father, he served in the Home Guard and was mobilised into the RNVR as a Sub-Lieutenant - with a mechanical engineering background he became an aero engine officer.

    He joined the Home Guard and with his best friend - after some basic training - they were posted to defend Rugby Radio Station. The NCO issued them with a Canadian Ross rifle and one clip of ammunition (five rounds?). Asked what they should do if German paratroopers appeared, the NCO responded "Fire your ammo and then run". Only much later did he learn the strategic value of the radio station: Rugby Radio Station - Wikipedia

    Once when travelling between home and his training establishment @ Manadon (See: Royal Naval Engineering College - Wikipedia ) he took his heavy duty bicycle across London on the Tube from Euston to Waterloo. Knowing that is no mean feat in itself, I asked how did you get away with that? "It was wartime and I was in full uniform".

    Back to the RN. He was posted to HMS Beauly Firth, an aircraft engine repair ship and in the later stages (June 1945 onwards?) of the war they sailed to Australia, to join the Pacific Fleet. The ship's main role was to maintain aircraft engines, nearly all US-made. They reached 'X', bit hazy now, possibly Brisbane or Sydney and VJ-Day had happened. There was no need for the ship to remain, reinforced by having a large number of highly skilled engineers, so they set sail for home. At one point the intricacies of 'Lend-Lease' clicked in and the ship was ordered to dispose of all the US-made engines and more, so over the side they went. If the RN had retained this equipment the USA would have charged the UK for it. No equipment, no bill. This link has a more accurate history of what happened: H.M.S. BEAULY FIRTH
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  9. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    I'm the only one in our family who has live memories from WW2. And I have lots of personal ones.
    But related to my Dad, who was in the RNVR, very few.
    One was when he came back on the only leave I can remember, I hardly recognised him. He had lost weight, and had a bad skin infection which made it difficult for him to shave. I think it was stress, because he had the same thing later, when times were difficult.
    When he was away he used to send me letters with illustrations. I've still got them.
    After the war, when he was home TG, I don't think he and Mum got on very well. But eventually they made friends again. No choice in those days.
  10. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Wartime relationships were such a huge problem, they even issued post-WW2 advice:-

    Sergeant ACK-ACK: Post War Marriage Guidance by Dr Mace

    ..and many interesting books have been written on the subject since, including Julie Summer's "Stranger in the House"
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  11. bydand31

    bydand31 Member

    How true, Worlds apart, Death around the corner, and Where the Hell have you been when you get home, Stress as a name, seems inadequate.
  12. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member

    I think this thread is an excellent idea. It will capture all the human side of war. I hope to add to it in due course.
  13. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    My dad's brother, my uncle Tom, joined the RAC in 1938 and was posted to the Lothian & Border Yeomanry with the BEF in 1940. As part of the 51 Highland Division he missed Dunkirk and his unit fell back on St Valery. Parted from his unit, he and several others stopped in a small village and the sergeant in charge unilaterally decide to "make a stand". So Uncle Tom was placed at the crossroads at one end of the village with orders to stop the German army (with a revolver and 6 rounds).

    "Standing in a shop doorway, out of the June sun and day-dreaming about being on a war-ship, I became aware of the sound of footsteps and turning around I came face to face with a German Officer. Taking hold of my pistol and lanyard, he lifted them over my head, saying "Come Tommy, for you the war is over". Pointing back up the road he told me to walk until I met a German Panzer unit and give myself up"

    Three years later, whilst a POW in Torun, Poland, he was reading an English-language news letter the Germans provided.

    "In one issue was an article about how a German officer, during the fighting in France, halted his panzer unit in the outskirts of each town they were about to overrun and walked into the town by himself. His name ? Erwin Rommel ! I returned home later to tell my family and friends that Hitler had sent his best soldier to capture Thomas Bagley."
  14. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Bydand31 et al

    Glad to hand the baton on !

    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  15. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Two anecdotes from my late Mum; she was called up I think in 1942 (?) to the ATS and worked in an ordnance factory @ Nottingham. Her role there she never really spoke about.

    So No.1 anecdote. She had a vivid memory of the noise that got louder and louder as the first thousand bomber raid assembled and left for Germany. No date given, but Wiki says 30/31 May 1942 and the target was Cologne. See: Bombing of Cologne in World War II - Wikipedia

    No.2 anecdote was the return from Japanese captivity of the husband of a longstanding friend to Scotland. He made it back, emaciated and died shortly afterwards. His wife never re-married and my parents refused to buy anything Japanese till the mid-1980's.
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  16. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Thinking about my Dad's rash, I wonder if it was caused by vitamim C deficiency? I can't imagine the men serving in the Forces had a very balanced diet. I don't know how they kept going. There was a thread once about German forces being given some drug to keep up their fighting spirit.
    After the war, when you could get citrus fruit again, Dad always had an orange after his dinner.
  17. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Way back in the 1980's my parents hosted a family friend for dinner and afterwards the conversation turned to military history, an interest of mine. The friend explained he had been a RN cipher operator and had been trained in the UK. At the end of the course everyone was given an envelope - with an instruction not to open it until they left the camp - and a travel pass. Operational security appeared to be the reason. So the class set off and on opening the envelope there was a complicated route to a RV point. As he got closer he spotted other classmates, but avoided contact. The RV was found to be in the middle of a field and assembling together they all wondered what was next. Then headlights came on and trucks arrived to take them away.
    All of them were posted to vessels involved in the Dieppe raid ( August 19, 1942). He was very lucky his motor launch / boat was offshore and escaped being hit. As the tears welled up he explained he was one of the few of his class to survive. many websites exist here is one: DIEPPE RAID,OPERATION JUBILEE,WW2 RAID ON DIEPPE,
    Regaining his composure he explained he was then posted to a RN aircraft carrier being built; from memory on the US West Coast. The ship was far from ready, but those posted had nowt to do and could "swan" around in the vicinity - a "land of plenty". He very quickly got bored and made his way to the Royal Canadian Navy @ Vancouver, where he volunteered to be a cipher operator on coastal convoy duties. When his ship was ready he returned. Now I cannot recall what his ship was, nor what his wartime service was.
  18. skiptotheend

    skiptotheend Member

    My grandad worked in a cement factory so kept getting called up and then getting put back into the factory due to 'important work' when he finally went I think he was in the second wave that went through north africa / italy (algeria palestine and then italy). He didn't speak much about the war (my mum never pushed him to find out). All I know is he came back and didn't want to see nor eat a cucumber or watermelon ever again.

    My nan knew my grandad from childhood, she was from north london and he was from a village. She moved and married him during the war, found village life too boring (on her own, with just his family whoms he knew, as he got called up), so moved back home with her parents and siblings into london (And the blitz!), my mum remembers my nan being worried in thunderstorms, only much later she made the connection it might have reminded her of living in london during that time.

    Same nan had firefighting duties on the top of roofs in london, it had been known that her father would take over her duties when she wanted to go out with her friends...all well and good, however considering he only had one hand (due to WW1) unsure how quickly he would have been able to put any fires out!

    Lastly she used to tell this story of how a bomb went off in her road, luckily they'd made it to an air raid shelter, when they came back their house only had the windows/doors etc blown out (the bomb had hit further down the road), however it took them ages to find the chickens, weirdly they were alive, up a tree but pretty much bald, no feathers at all. The chicken must have been scared s***less but very lucky considering what it had survived
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  19. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Patron Patron

    Great idea for a thread.

    Early in the war my uncle Den (chap on the right in my avatar) was seeing a Chiswick girl, who later became my Auntie Kay; stationed in the N of England he volunteered to drive ordnance of some kind to somewhere in the south via London, so he could stay over on the way back. "Only problem was, your uncle Den couldn't drive back then!" "Well, I certainly learned quick enough... I thought I was going to drive off into a ditch and blow up. I dunno which was worse: not being able to see a thing in the blackout, or not knowing how to stop the bloody lorry if I did see something..."

    Kay was a true product of her generation too. Having been close to the impact of the first V2, she used to tell the tale of how "one of those rockets blew my best hat off and ruined it". If you didn't know the cataclysmic tragedy she was describing, you'd never have guessed in a million years. I still dont know if it was sang froid, or just her way of processing things.
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  20. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    Great thread this:

    All from my Grandad:

    As a 16 year old in London during the Blitz he was with the ARP. He'd talk about a joke on each newcomer where they'd slide an arm under a blanket draped casualty and pretend their arms were moving to scare each other. Pretty morbid humour but we're talking about teenagers here dealing with death on a daily basis.

    He had an eye test conducted by an American and when it came to the colour section he said 'mauve' and got the response 'Mauve? What the hell is mauve? That's Poiple!' in a strong NY accent.

    He was in the Navy in the second half of the war and was on prisoner guard duty on ship after Salerno. His mate was messing with a gun trying to spin it cowboy style when it went off, ricocheting in the hold. The prisoners hit the deck assuming they were being fired on. He always wondered how his mate covered up the loss of the bullet.

    Hitching a lift whilst on leave in the med (he said in a 'flying suitcase' which i've assumed meant a Beaufort? I believe Hampdens were also described like that but presumably they weren't in that theatre?) there was a report of enemy activity out of the blue so was quickly told to man the guns which he'd never obviously had to do before. Luckily nothing more came of the alert.

    Finally, he'd helped land some American troops when the news came through of the Italian armistice. He recalled the soldiers putting cigars in their ammo belts assuming the danger was over, but they were ambushed by German troops and took heavy casualties.

    These were the ones that were oft repeated to me as a teenager as i'd sit with him and watch the old B&W war films, developing the WW2 interest which has plagued me to this day!
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