Birdwatching in WW2

Discussion in 'General' started by Owen, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Another Pow birdwatcher here.

    John Barrett MBE MA Msc

    A few details related to the above......

    15-16 September 1941

    35 Squadron
    Halifax I L9503 TL-P
    Op. Hamburg

    P/O. H J. Brown +
    S/L. J H. Barrett pow
    Sgt. J W. Hays pow
    F/S. J A. Arnsby RCAF pow
    Sgt. H E. Green pow
    Sgt. R. Shaw pow
    Sgt. S T. Fisher pow

    Took off 1955 hrs Linton-on-Ouse. P/O. Brown is buried in Kiel War Cemetery.

    BCL Vol.2 - Chorley

    S/L. Barrett's pow number - 3794

    The Hamburg raid of 15-16 September 1941

    169 aircraft of 6 different types with railway stations and shipyards as aiming points. 8 aircraft - 3 Wellingtons, 2 Hampdens, 1 Halifax, 1 Stirling, 1 Whitley - lost.

    Conditions were clear over Hamburg but crews found that searchlight glare prevented recognition of targets. Much damage was caused in various parts of HamXburg, with 26 fires - 7 of them large, 82 people killed, 229 injured and 1,441 bombed out. The worst incident was in the Wielandstrasse, a narrow street in the Wandsbek district, where a large block of densely populated flats was destroyed by a 4,000-lb "blockbuster'. 66 people were killed and 171 injured here, most of the casualties being people who had not bothered to go to the basement shelter. Rescue work was made more difficult when a burning gas main set fire to the timber in the wreckage.

    'The Bomber Command War Diaries' - Middlebrook/Everitt
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Wasn't sure whether to put this in the Eccentricity thread, but it directly mentions Ornithology rather than other 'Interesting' characteristics.

    Nothing about Birders being accused of spying.
    'Looney' Hinde again:
    Brigadier W. R. N. Hinde (Arrest and Release) (Hansard, 19 May 1947)

    19 May 1947 โ†’ Commons Sitting โ†’ GERMANY
    Brigadier W. R. N. Hinde (Arrest and Release)

    HC Deb 19 May 1947 vol 437 cc1983-4 1983
    ยง8. Sir Waldron Smithers asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been called to the arrest by the Soviet authorities of Brigadier W. R. N. Hinde in the British zone; if a formal protest has been made to the Soviet authorities; and if he will make a statement.

    Mr. Mayhew: Brigadier Hinde is an ornithologist. On Sunday, 11th May, while bird watching with field glasses at a point near the boundary between the British sector of Berlin and the Soviet zone of Germany, he was approached by a Soviet patrol and requested to accompany them to their headquarters. At the Brigadier's suggestion the party went to the Soviet Kommandatura's Headquarters in Berlin where it was realised that a mistake had occurred. An apology was made and the Brigadier released.
    Owen likes this.
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    On their 3rd day at sea, en route from Glasgow to Norway, 1IG's war diary for the 13th April 1940 adds:

    Natural history observers noticed one peregrine falcon, perched on the mast-head, and 3 teal were seen flying near the ship.
  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    The great birdwatching war hero | Freddie Spencer Chapman | World news | The Guardian

    The great birdwatching war hero

    For over three years in the second world war, he blew up trains, bridges and enemy soldiers in the jungles of Malaya โ€“ all the while studying birdlife and sending home seeds. Welcome to the extraordinary life of Freddie Spencer Chapman

    I think I remeber from the book 'the Jungle is Neutral' that he lost some very important and detailed note books, whilst having to change camp locations back then! That must have been so frustrating for a personality like Chapman.
  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Bernard Fergusson was a very avid wildlife watcher during all his hundreds of miles marching around Bruma in 1943/44.:)

    Also the POW's of Rangoon Jail used to watch carefully the movements of the local pigeons in and around the jail buildings. However, I feel this was for a more vital reason than just the birds aesthetic value!!:D
  6. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    It is interesting to note the above posts - Lt Col Edgar Peacock who operated with SOE in Burma had been a big game hunter pre-war, but switched to wildlife photography in which field he was a pioneer. He published pre-war a book titled A Game Book for Burma. In 1943 an article on jungle survival by was published in the RUSI Journal and thereafter he moved to the Jungle Warfare School and thence to SOE
  7. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Not exactly bird watching but an unforgettable sound when at Presenzano waiting to move up to Cassino and the Liri Valley - the sound of the hundreds of guns became silent and the air was filled with the sound of nightingales singing their songs...unforgettable !
  8. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Another keen SOE Birdwatcher was Brigadier EE Mockler-Ferryman who had previously been with the 1st Army in North Africa
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Just reading the latest Birds magazine from RSPB & in the notes at the end of one article it says this.

    Derek Niemann
    ..and is currently researching a book on Prisoner of War birdwatchers.

    One I'll keep an eye out for if it gets published.
  10. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  11. kiwigeordie

    kiwigeordie Senior Member

    One interesting development for twitchers was that the advent of radar (or RDF if you prefer) showed that many more birds flew at night than was previously supposed.
  12. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    My father was a P.O.W. On the evacuation of Heydekrug to Thorn in a letter to his wife (my mother) he wrote the following of his observation from the railway truck he was imprisoned in.

    P.O.W. Air Mail letter

    Written at Stalag 357 Thorn

    July 21/44 My dearest one I hope you are well I have changed camps as you will see from the address, we arrived here the night before last and everyone is very busy getting settled in. Please excuse the writing I am holding it on my knee and laying on my bed at the same time. I enjoyed the journey down here, we saw several storks nests, some of them on barns just beside the railway line, it was possible to see the young birds in them, some of the baby ones were as big as chickens. I saw some deer in a field beside a wood, also a dead horse. I have got hold of a Bavarian pipe it is so big and curly, it holds an awful lot of tobacco you would be very amused if you could see it (Half a sentence deleted by German censors, probably because he stated his location) the weather is lovely, this camp is rather more interesting than the last, it is not in such a lonely spot. There is another fellow here I was at school with but I haven't met him yet, he is in the Army and was captured at Crete. I have had a notification from A/M about my commission and last week I received a telegram saying I was a father. I hope David is keeping well, give him my love and lots of it to you. See you soon Walt.
    Owen likes this.
  13. Derek Niemann

    Derek Niemann Junior Member

    Thought you might like to know that my forthcoming book "Birds in a cage" will be published in November by Short Books (they also publish Simon Barnes' books). It will weave together the stories of Peter Conder, John Buxton, George Waterston and John Barrett. The families of all four men are fully behind the project and have supplied previously unpublished letters and memoirs. I hope it's worth the wait for everyone. Even at this late stage, all POW birdwatching info gratefully appreciated.
    Slipdigit and Owen like this.
  14. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Welcome to the forum Derek, look forward to reading your book.
  15. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    A little birdie just emailed me this.

    BBC iPlayer - Afternoon Drama: Through the Wire

    Helen Macdonald's drama documentary tells the story of the British POWs who survived incarceration in German camps in World War Two by studying the birds that flew freely all around them. While some of their fellow prisoners plotted escape and dug tunnels, men like John Buxton, Peter Condor and George Waterston looked hard at the birds that flew overhead on migration and also at those that chose to fly through the camp wire, like redstarts and goldfinches, and breed amongst the prisoners and their guards. With days, even years, to spare but without any binoculars or other equipment, the birdmen turned watching into their way of getting through the war. They enlisted the help of other prisoners and even some of their guards (bird study was a major field in Germany) and they recorded their observations using scraps of old cigarette packets to write on. After the war their studies were often published and became, and in cases remain, key texts for the bird species they were writing about. Several of the birdmen went on also to become major figures in ornithology and bird conservation. Using scientific papers, monographs, letters and diary entries Helen Macdonald, poet, falconer and scholar of wartime ornithology, has created a drama about men sitting still and straining their eyes looking at the sky.
    The music is by Olivier Messiaen, the French composer and bird lover, who was also incarcerated in another nearby prison camp by the Germans, where he listened to the birds he heard and inspired by them and the accidental collection of instruments and players there were in his camp, wrote his modernist masterpiece, The Quartet for the End of Time.
  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  17. Derek Niemann

    Derek Niemann Junior Member

    Thanks Owen. Yes, the book will be published on 1st November (though it might be available a few days before). I'll be giving talks about the book too. The following venues have been confirmed: 25 October - Guildford Book Festival; 14 November - Warwick Library (7pm); 29 November - Rossiter Books, Monmouth (7pm).
  18. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    My copy of 'Bird In A Cage' by Derek Niemann arrived today.
    Looks good, lots of superb illustrations & photos of the men's original documents.
    Just have to finish my current read before starting it.
  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  20. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Another WW2 birdwatching reference, though not a PoW one.
    From EB Sledge's ''With The Old Breed'' page 98.

    I walked under a low tree that had a pair of man-o-war birds nesting in its top.
    They showed no fear as they cocked their heads and looked down from their bulky stick nest.
    The male saw little of interest about me and began inflating his large red throat pouch to impress his mate.
    He slowly extended his huge seven-foot wingspan and clicked his long hooked beak.
    As a boy , I had seen similar man-o-war birds sailing high over Gulf Shores near Mobile , but never had I seen them this close.
    Several large white birds similar to egrets also perched nearby, but I couldn't identify them.
    My brief escape from reality ended abruptly when a buddy scolded in a low voice, ''Sledgehammer , what the hell you staring at them birds for? You gonna get seperated from the patrol,'' as he motioned vigorously for me to hurry.
    He thought I'd lost my senses , and he was right.
    That was neither the time nor place for something as utterly peaceful and etheral as bird watching .
    But I had a few delightful and refreshing moments of fantasy and escape from the horror of human activities on Peleliu.

    The bird he mentions is also known as the Frigatebird.
    dbf likes this.

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