Tag Archives: Luftwaffe

The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (4)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the penultimate section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.

Roy used to live at 3, Lenton Road in Nottingham’s richest area, The Park. He would be awakened by another High School boy called Alfred Tregear Chenhalls, who would come along the road as he walked the family dog, and whistle loudly that it was soon time to go to school. Roy was then accompanied to school by his friend, who was walking from his own family house at 2, Hawthorne Drive in The Park. One particular day in the Fourth Form, Alfred Chenhalls did not arrive, and Roy Henderson was therefore late. Mr Lloyd Morgan ticked him off:

“Who shall we punish? Chenhalls or his dog? ”

Alfred Chenhalls, whose father, like that of Roy Henderson, was a minister of the church, later became an accountant who dealt with lots of musicians and theatrical people, including the famous Hollywood actor, Leslie Howard. Chenhalls always smoked a large cigar, and as a big fat man, looked rather like Winston Churchill. He was killed on June 1st 1943, when the unarmed DC-3 of the B.O.A.C., carrying him and Leslie Howard between Lisbon and London, was shot down by Junkers Ju 88s of the German Luftwaffe. Here is the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, in question:

350px-BOAC_Flt_777

At the time, Churchill was known to be attending a conference in Algiers, and there was much speculation that a German spy had seen Chenhalls getting onto the plane in Lisbon, and had then organised its destruction. Here is Chenhalls pretending to be Churchill:

CHENHALLS

Further confirmation of the Germans’ interpretation was that Churchill’s colleague in Algiers, the Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, looked very like Leslie Howard. Alternatively, Leslie Howard may have been thought to be Detective Inspector Walter Thompson Churchill’s personal bodyguard. Whatever the complex truth of it, Churchill himself considered all his life that this was a definite  assassination attempt. The incident was also one of the very few occasions when airliners were ever attacked on this route out of neutral Portugal. Much more detailed information on the event is available here.
At this time, many boys had nicknames. Donald James Clarkson was always called “Pug” because of his upturned nose. Here he is:

clarkson zzzzzzz

Another boy, an extremely good Fives player, was called, for obvious reasons, “Sparrowlegs”. Strangely enough, though, only one particular boy ever had a certain nickname. Nobody could ever be called “Pug” or “Sparrowlegs”, as long as the original boy remained in the school. There seemed to be no obvious reason for the nickname of “Fuzzy” Barton, given that his hair was not in the least bit curly. Peculiarly enough, though, his elder brother had extremely fuzzy hair. He, though, was never called “Fuzzy”.

Eventually, the younger Barton became the Headmaster of King Edward’s School in Sheffield. The latter establishment had an extremely peculiar cricket pitch, which was constructed on various levels, with a number of different slopes, flat areas, and two or three quite sharp drops. Certain unfortunate fielders were unable to see either wicket, and pieces of information had to be passed on to them by other fielders one level higher up.

Because of the Great War, and the subsequent restrictions on travelling by train, there were very few away matches at cricket. Boys went only to Derby, Worksop or Sheffield, but never to Denstone or Birmingham. On many occasions, they played home fixtures against Army teams billeted in the area, including a few Italian ones. This was much more enjoyable than the very limited number of fixtures against other schools.

If they did ever travel by train, High School teams invariably used the now demolished Victoria Station. You might recognise the Clock Tower which still stands nowadays, outside the Victoria Shopping Centre. The hotel on the right is also still there:

Nottingham_Victoria_Station_3

Here is a steam train coming out of the tunnel which took rail traffic northwards towards Worksop and Sheffield. This tunnel is still visible, either from the modern multi storey underground car park or from Huntingdon Street:

train

At this time, in the school, in general, the rules on caps were very strict. Roy Henderson himself had a special dispensation from the Headmaster and was allowed not to wear a cap in school. For some unknown reason, his mother had contacted the Headmaster, and the latter had agreed to this special privilege. Roy wore a cap for the first time when he became a prefect, and that turned out to be a spectacular piece of headgear with a silver badge on it.

Roy was the secretary of the School Debating Society. He spoke quite frequently in debates, despite, by his own admission, not being particularly good at it. The meetings, which were mostly in the winter term, took place after school, between twelve and one o’clock on Saturday afternoons.

When he left the High School, Roy joined “B” Battalion of the Artists’ Rifles. He had already learned a lot in the school’s Officer Training Corps, as was confirmed by the first drill sergeant that he encountered in the regular army. Later, he joined the Regimental Concert Party, which did its training at Lichfield. Roy, because of his age, missed the Great War by a few weeks, but he caught Spanish Flu in January 1918. He was not to leave hospital before August 1918.

At the High School, there had been no specialist singing master, and no real in-depth teaching of music. Roy had never realised that he had any particular talent in this field, until he sang solo during the interval of a school play, and was overwhelmed and astonished by the great volume of applause which he received. Roy later went on to sing at Speech Day. Within only a few years of leaving the High School, he had become one of the leading singers in the country, who was destined to work with some of the greatest musical talents in the whole world. I have been unable to find any photographs of Roy Henderson, but here is one of his record labels:

Decca_1929_Sea_Drift

And here is one of his album sleeves:

record

In the near future, I will continue with the fifth, and final, article in this series. I hope you are enjoying them and finding them interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them (3)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the third section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.

Prominent boys in the High School at this time included Lancelot Wilson Foster, who, in the 1930s, was to become a vicar in Cheshire, and then a chaplain in World War Two.

William Donald Willatt became the Vicar of St.Martin’s, Sherwood, and eventually lived in West Bridgford. Here is St.Martin’s:

st martin sherwood ccccc

Along with Roy Henderson, William Willatt was later to start a school magazine called “The Highvite”. By Roy’s own admission, it was “a pretty dreadful magazine”, and only survived because it was financed by a variety of different adverts. The enterprising boys went round to local companies such as Sisson & Parker, and many other businesses. As editor of the other school magazine, Harold Connop was furious at the new rival. Roy didn’t get on very well with him at all.

Harold Arno Connop, however, was a first class scholar and very good rugby player. He was a fine three quarter, and a very fast runner, but for one reason or another, which Roy was not willing to divulge, he was, supposedly, never particularly well liked in the school, and in general, was apparently not a very popular figure. This may not have been totally unconnected, however, with Harold’s rare combination of outstanding academic prowess, and humble origins. His father was a mere Elementary School teacher, and Harold’s education throughout his time at the High School was entirely financed by his being both a Sir Thomas White Scholar, and a Foundation Scholar.

Harold eventually joined the Royal Naval Air Service, where he became a Lieutenant. He would not survive the conflict and was to die of his wounds on March 31st 1918. Here he is, resplendent in his uniform:

connop zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Percival Henry Biddulph Furley always used to sit next to Henderson in the Classical Sixth. He was one of Deputy Headmaster Sammy Corner’s favourites. In actual fact, despite being well over sixty years of age, Mr Corner was to leave his post as Form Master of 5b to go to the Great War. Here is Mr Corner, showing the School Charter to interested parents on the occasion of the school’s 400th anniversary in 1913:

sammy corner s

As a teacher, Mr Corner was famous for how easily he could be diverted from the work in hand. Anybody just had to get him started off on an interesting subject, especially in Scripture lessons, and the class would then seldom, if ever, have to return to what they were supposed to be doing. Percival Furley, for some unknown reason, was always nicknamed “Dab”. He was a member of the First Eleven at cricket for three years. His other claim to fame was his talent in school plays. At this time, all the female parts were taken by boys. Given his youthful good looks, “Dab” could always be made up into a very good looking lady or girl! When he left the High School, “Dab” joined the Army. He was eventually to be killed in a skirmish with some lashkars at Miranshah, in the North West Province of India, in June 1919. Here is the official account of that short rehearsal for our recent war in Afghanistan:

furley

And here is Miranshah today, now that it is running its own affairs:

PAKISTAN-UNREST-NORTHWEST

According to Roy Henderson. the younger of the two Boyd brothers, John Hardy Boyd, was the best athlete in the school. He was captain of the school cricket team and of the Officer Training Corps. His elder brother, Charles Gordon Boyd, had been the school’s wicketkeeper, and had represented the school at football from 1910-1912. He was killed on May 3rd 1917, while serving as a Second Lieutenant in the  9th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment.

Allan Roy Stewart Grant was the son of a Presbyterian minister. For some subtle reason, possibly connected with his initials, he was always nicknamed “Pongy”. Thomas Wright was quite a good bowler, as was Daft, the grandson of the famous Nottinghamshire cricketer. Other cricketers included Francis Arthur Bird and James Wilcox, and Roy was himself one of the better bowlers and batsmen. The school cricket coach at this time was, of course, Mr A.G.Onion, seen here, perhaps, in his later years:

onion

In one year, Roy was the school Fives champion. In the year before this, it had been Donald Clarkson, who was to become that most vulnerable rank of officers, a Second Lieutenant, killed on August 9th 1918 with the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters. “Pug” Clarkson lived only a street away from where I am now writing, at 52, Caledon Road, Sherwood.

Other school Fives champions included Victor Guy Willatt and his brother, William Donald Willatt. William Norman Hoyte, the Captain of Mellers House was also a very fine athlete, as was Sidney Charles Trease. The latter was to become a Second Lieutenant in the 11th Scottish Rifles. He went  missing on September 19th 1918 at the age of only nineteen. He was the beloved son of George and Annie Trease, of 85, Waterloo Crescent, within just a couple of minutes’ walk of the school. His death came in a fairly pointless campaign in Greece and is commemorated on the Doiran Memorial.

The School was converted to rugby by Mr Kennard. He had the unfortunate habit with smaller boys of pulling them close and then tugging their hair very hard. It was extremely painful! There was no real reaction on the part of the boys to the change of sports from soccer to rugby. They just did as they were told.

Roy played as goalkeeper for the school on several occasions. He once let in eight goals against Trent College, and towards the end of the game he became what was probably the first player ever to be substituted in the history of school football, when he was replaced in goal by Donald Clarkson.

At the time, boys who represented the school were awarded ornate colour caps.

This article will be continued in the near future.

 

 

 

 

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (2)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the second section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict:

Nobody was ever allowed to speak to or approach girls from the Girls’ High School. For this transgression, boys were punished by being confined to their own school. Attitudes at this time were very Victorian.

Dr Turpin, the Headmaster, was always a popular figure. On one occasion, Roy was grounded for three months for putting chewing gum on the seats of other boys. Perhaps fortunately for him, he was caught when just about to put it on Jumbo Ryles’ seat. Mr Ryles came in, and Henderson thought that he would be expelled for this offence.

There were two Ball brothers in the school at the time. They were both in trouble most of the time. The more famous brother, Albert, was “a real card”. This is a photo taken during the time of the Great War. It shows Albert, apparently still wearing his brightly coloured slippers, his brother Cyril and an unknown officer of the Royal Flying Corps:

Albert25 bro, unklnow

At this time, music was not in the curriculum. There were just “a few ridiculous songs” for the prize giving ceremony. The Third Form music master was a Mr Dunhill, who had one eye which was straight, but the other looked outwards at an angle, rather like half past ten on a clock. Boys always used to make fun of him. Whenever he shouted “Stand up you! ! ! ” and looked at a certain naughty boy, four others would get up elsewhere in the room. “NO! NO! NOT YOU!! …YOU! ! ” The first four would then sit down, and another four completely unrelated boys would stand up elsewhere in the room.

Albert Ball specialised in misbehaviour during these singing classes. He and his brother would invariably “kick up a terrible row”, and would then be sent out of the room. This is Albert in 1911:

Albert 1911 trent

According to one Old Boy from just a few years later, however, Albert Ball’s actual expulsion came from an incident which took place at morning prayers. Ball took in with him a huge bag full of boiled sweets, which, at one point, was allowed to burst, and hundreds of sweets were all dropped onto the floor. The whole school assembly then became one seething mass of boys, all scrabbling about on the floor, “heads down and bottoms up, completely out of control ”, trying to pick up as many sweets as they possibly could.

Albert Ball’s father was a City Alderman, but at the same time, he too was “a real character”. He took Roy trout fishing on several occasions around this period, but always used worms, never flies. This is Albert with his father, Sir Albert and his mother, Harriet Mary:

Albert22 family

Roy’s brother was also in the school around this time. He seemed always to be in scrapes when Roy was a prefect. Eventually he left Nottingham, and went to Millhill School. Roy himself enjoyed the High School, although he was never very good in the classroom. By his own admission, he was very poor academically, and was totally hopeless at exams.

Roy was a best friend of Arthur Willoughby Barton, who was later to become the Headmaster of the City of London School. The pair of them always collaborated closely in Chemistry lessons with Dr Turpin. Henderson did the weighing and all the practical activities, while Arthur did all of the calculations. In lessons they always got full marks, but in examinations, Roy usually scored very low marks indeed. Arthur, of course, still got his ten out of ten. Here is the official paining of “Fuzzy” Barton as the Headmaster of the City of London School:

(c) City of London Corporation; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The high point of Roy’s rather modest academic career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize, the Duke of Portland’s prize for an English essay. It was on “Militarism”, and Roy only won because the rest of the Sixth Form deliberately boycotted the competition, with the attitude of “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…..let him have it.”

The Duke of Portland, in his capacity as the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, was to unveil the school war memorial in 1922:

1900_Duke_of_Portland,_by_sssssssss

Roy sang a specially composed song, accompanied by a piano placed “at the top end, just inside the school”. A wonderful draught of wind blew outwards from the school throughout the very impressive and solemn ceremony. It carried his voice beautifully, but also gave him lumbago. Here is the school war memorial:

notting_high_school_war_memorial xxxxx

Here is a photograph of the dedication ceremony. One of the people is surely Roy Henderson. but I do not really know which one:

war meoorial ceremnoy

During the first year of the Great War, many of the Sixth Form members of the Officer Training Corps had gone to a special summer camp, working on a farm on the south side of Nottingham. It was hard, unpaid work, harvesting potatoes and hoeing turnips. The following year, Roy arranged his own summer camp, at a farm near Grantham. Six boys, all members of his father’s church, went with him. They were all Prefects, and comprised three pairs of friends, Harold Connop and Francis Bird, Thomas Wright and Lancelot Foster, and John Boyd and Roy Henderson. Unfortunately, as they waited for the train, the tent, which was supposed to arrive, did not turn up, so four of the boys went on to Grantham, while two had to stay behind in Nottingham. The farmer, unhappy with having to pick them up twice at Grantham, greeted the final two at the station with the words:

“What? What? My boy, I am not a little annoyed! ”

Here is Grantham relative to Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:

granthsm

The boys were asked to load hay from a stack to the farm cart. They started piling it on enthusiastically, but they proved to be too quick for the man on the cart, a Mr Wright. The latter soon told them that half a load was enough, and then geed up the horse. When the cart set off, though, half the stack came with it, and the whole lot collapsed. Everyone found it immensely amusing, and they laughed about it for a long time afterwards. Other work for the boys included shaking the clover out of the cut wheat. At the end of the week, they enjoyed an amazing celebratory meal at the farmhouse. There was roast beef and duck, and by the end of the pudding, everybody was absolutely filled, collapsing with the weight of the food consumed. The farmer then sent for Henderson, obviously about to give him something as payment for the six boys’ work during the week.

When he returned they all quizzed him…“How much??? How much??? ” He replied “A pound.” There was a disappointed silence, which was broken only by Henderson’s single word “EACH!!” Everybody collapsed with excitement. They were totally flabbergasted, as, at the time, a pound was an absolute fortune. The boys were later invited to the farmhouse for dinner at Christmas. Under each of their plates, they found a ten shilling note as a gift from the generous farmer. In addition, the boys all went to the school’s army camp, but was a much more formal, military occasion.

This article will be continued in the near future.

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (1)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive.  In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details of my own where this seemed helpful to the reader.

This is the first section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.

Here is the High School around this time. Notice at least four boys in the picture, including one sitting down on the edge of the tennis court:

west end of school

Roy Galbraith Henderson arrived in the High School Preparatory Department in January 1909. He had been born in Edinburgh, although he had not lived there since the age of three. Given his Scottish background, he arrived at the school wearing a kilt. This proved not to be the wisest of decisions, since he was immediately picked on by two older boys called Jaffer and Dodds, both of whom were at least a foot higher than he was. On many occasions in the future, he was to have water poured down his neck by these two bullies.

The Head of the Preparatory Department was Mr Leggatt, who was one of the very first to volunteer to go off and fight in the Great War. The main game in the school playground at this time was called “relievo”. It was a particularly thrilling game to play in one of the era’s many dense fogs.

In the First Form, the form master was called Mr Radley, or “Pot-eye”. He always used to get the boys to begin work with a loud cry of “pens up!”. They would then write “like the blazes”, before the call of “pens down ! ”. Mr Radley is the third person from the left on the front row:

radley front 3rd from left

In Form 2a, “Nipper” Ryles was a very good master, and was thought to be one of the very few who did not possess a degree. Here he is:

jumbo ryles

In the following year, in Form 3a, his brother, “Jumbo” Ryles, however, was “terrible, absolutely hopeless”. He used to have his feet up on the front desk all the time, and would practically go to sleep. The Drawing Master used to poke his nose around the door, and wake Jumbo up with a gentle cough. The latter would then rouse himself, and say to the class “Now get along there! Get along there! ” Jumbo’s teaching technique was to line boys up in a row for a series of questions. If they were correct, they would stay where they were. If they were wrong, they would go back to the end of the queue. This cartoon dates from just before “Jumbo” retired:

jumbo ryles left

In the Fourth Form, Mr Lloyd Morgan went to serve at the front during the middle of the school year, shortly after hostilities began. He was replaced by Mr D’Arcy Lever, who was the butt of many jokes, and found the boys extremely difficult to control. They made a lot of fun of him. Later in the conflict, retired teachers had to return to the school. Mr Trafford took over 3c, the worst form in the school, who were famed for their ability “to play up a lot”.

In Form 5a, Mr Brock was a “very nice chap, and very popular”. Everyone liked him very much. The Classical Sixth was looked after by Mr Strangeways.

In the yard, games tended to be played by years. In Form 1a, for example, everybody always had pockets full of marbles. They often played in the covered sheds near the Forest Road entrance.

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The yard also had two Fives courts, one of which was covered, and the other was left open to the elements.

fivers

To the left as one entered the playground via the Forest Road entrance, there was some extremely dirty sand.

playgro 1932

This was used as a football pitch, with rough and ready goalposts at either end. Every year, around Easter, a competition was held among teams of eight players, each one of which was captained by a different member of the First Eleven. In 1913, Roy played in the winning team, which was captained by James Ivor Holroyd. On October 30 1917, Holroyd of the 1/28th London Regiment was to be reported missing, presumed dead, in the Second Battle of Passchendaele, at the age of only twenty one.

Form 2a enjoyed a game called “rempstick”. A member of one team would stand with his back to the wall, while one of the other members of his team stood with his head between the first boy’s legs. The next team member would then put his head between the legs of the second boy, and so on, until a long caterpillar-like scrum structure was formed, just one person wide. The members of the other team then took a long run-up, and, one by one, jumped onto the top of the human caterpillar. If they caused a collapse, then their team was allowed to have a second go. If the caterpillar held up, then its members were allowed to do the jumping:

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In Form 3a, the main game was football, which was played on the left hand side of the playground. looking from the Forest Road entrance, right at the very far end. In Form 4a, football was played again to the left, but not as far along as in the Third Year.

The Fifth Form played their football under cover in the sheds along the Forest Road wall, kicking the ball against the wall in an effort to get past their opponent. Among these boys, Lancelot Wilson Foster was remembered as a particularly good full back.

The Sixth Form spent most of their free time just walking and talking on the lawns at the front of the school:

front schoollll

Nobody was ever allowed inside the school during breaks, but it never seemed to rain!  In any case, all the boys were always very keen to get out of the building.

There were few facilities for the boys, including just six to eight cracked stone washbasins. There was a tuck shop, near the south eastern corner of the present day West Quadrangle. It was run by Robert, the School Caretaker. The small shop which boys at the end of the twentieth century called “Dicko’s” was at this time called “Baldry’s”, and it was a sweet shop. A female member of staff, a Mrs Digblair, lived above it. She was one of the school’s first ever mistresses, and members of the Sixth Form loved to go and have tea with her.

Finally, my own footnote on Mr Radley. He was a teacher with what would nowadays be considered ideas before their time. He loved literature, art and music, and taught the boys about understanding and peace among mankind. Indeed, this was perhaps not particularly surprising for a man who knew French, German, Italian, Russian and Welsh. On one occasion, he brought an Egyptian into school to show his pupils that there were “other men than Englishmen and other creeds than Christianity.” His obituary in the school magazine ended with the words “Goodbye, Mr Chips!”

This article will be continued in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Four poor Germans, a very long way from home

On a number of previous occasions, I have written about the Allied servicemen who are interred in Penzance Cemetery. There are also four German combatants from the Second World War, all of them buried, quite fittingly, alongside their erstwhile adversaries:

P1500367 XXXXXX

Ernst Erich Elsperger and Conrad H.W. Schweizer were both members of the German Navy, the Kreigsmarine.

Ernst Erich Elsperger was born on October 27th 1924. He reached the rank of Obergefreiter (Senior Lance Corporal) and died on March 22nd 1945 aged only twenty one:

P1500260xxxxx

Ernst Elsperger is recorded as being a crew member of the U-1169, which was sunk by depth charges from HMS Duckworth, just south of the Lizard. It was commanded by Oberleutnant Heinz Goldbeck who was himself only thirty one years old when he was killed. Here is HMS Duckworth:ff_hms_duckworth_k351

This particular U-Boat, the U-1169, had not sunk or damaged a single enemy vessel in the almost two years since it was launched at Danzig on April 9th 1943. No photographs of the vessel seem to have survived, and neither do any of its captain. Here is the only surviving Type VIIC U-Boat in the world, the U-995, currently on display at the Laboe Naval Memorial near Kiel. It is exactly the same type of vessel as the U-1169. Do not fail to click on the link to the German website, and make sure that you try the Panorama views. They are guaranteed to scare you (top of the tower) or make you very seasick indeed. Look for the yellow circles on the photograph of the tower:

u boat xxxxxxx
There seems to be some kind of mix-up in the dates of Ernst Elsperger’s death as the U-1169 was sunk on March 29th, and the inscription on the grave says March 22nd. It is possible, of course, that he was a member of the crew of one of the other U-boats sunk in the area in early 1945, namely the U-399, the U-1199, the U-1208, the U-605, or the U-1018.

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Conrad H.W. Schweizer was born on January 1st 1915 and died on December 18th 1944 aged twenty nine. He is buried alongside an unknown German naval casualty:

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Both Conrad Schweizer, and the unknown seaman buried in the cemetery, were members of the crew of the U-Boat U-1209 which was scuttled after hitting Wolf Rock near the Isles of Scilly on December 18th 1944:

wolf_rock

Forty four crew members survived and were picked up by the Canadian destroyer, HMCS Montreal. There were nine fatalities, including the Captain, Oberleutnant zur See Ewald Hüsenbeck, who had a heart attack during the journey into Plymouth. This is the Montreal:

HMCSMontreal

This second photograph was snapped by Charles James Sadler, RCNVR, a First Class Stoker who was serving in the Canadian destroyer HMCS Columbia:

pg_hmcs_montreal

Earlier in the war, the Montreal had rescued 33 survivors from the Norwegian merchant ship Fjordheim, which had been torpedoed and sunk north of Ireland by the German submarine U-482. The Montreal survived the war and was sold in 1947.  It was finally broken up for scrap in Sydney, Australia, shortly afterwards.

The unfortunate U-1209 was built to exactly the same design as the U-1169 and the U-995, (pictured above). It had been launched at Danzig on February 9th 1944, but, exactly like the U-1169, during its entire career, it had not sunk or damaged a single enemy vessel:

u278rdditionle9mai1945

The final grave is that of Richard Hille. Richard was a member of the Luftwaffe. He was in the crew of a Heinkel He 111 bomber of Kampfgeschwader 28, serial numbers 1T+LH, which was shot down on the night of January 31st / February 1st 1941.

Heinkel_He_111 xxxxxxxx

This aging aircraft crashed into the sea off Treen just to the south east of Land’s End after being engaged by a naval patrol vessel, whose name I have been unable to ascertain.

Untitled

Richard Hille was the only crew member to be recovered. On his gravestone, the date given for his death is February 12th 1941. This is because it was the usual convention at the time to use the date of the discovery of bodies found either at sea or on the foreshore, as the date of death. Richard Hille’s body was in fact initially recovered from the sea by a Newlyn trawler. The “Western Morning News” newspaper reported therefore, on the Friday, February 14th, that his body had been hauled up in a trawl off Land’s End on the previous Wednesday, February 12th. A report in the “Cornishman” newspaper of February 20th 1941 detailed his burial at Penzance Cemetery with full military honours:

P1500249xxxx

Finally, two things. Firstly, it would have been totally impossible to write this blogpost without using this source, a forum for exchanging information about the myriad events of World War Two. And secondly, I cannot understand why these four men have never been taken back the hundreds of miles to their own homeland and their own towns or cities. The two U-boats involved caused no damage whatsoever to anybody and the Luftwaffe were never known as war criminals. The four men in Penzance were not members of the Waffen SS or the Wehrmacht. Let them go home at last!

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The Luftwaffe comes to Cornwall (and stays there)

For many, many, years, we have spent our summer holidays in Cornwall, in the very westernmost part, which is called Penwith, and where the major town is Penzance, the birthplace of the pioneer chemist, Humphry Davy. Ten miles or so to the north west of Penzance is the even smaller town of St Just. Just look for the orange arrow:

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In the nineteenth century, there were any number of tin mines around the town, which is made up for the most part of stone buildings with slate roofs.

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It has a beautiful ancient parish church with its centuries old frescoes of Christ and St.George.

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There is also the old battleflag of an old Great War battleship.

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Nearby is the medieval “Plen an Gwarry”, which is a small area of open grass, used for watching plays or sporting contests or perhaps just for relaxation.

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As you relax, you might want to eat a pasty or a pie from Mcfaddens, who are often quoted as making the best Cornish pasties in the world. The day I took these photographs, they had sold out. Fortunately, they do mail-order, although the pasties will not always be piping hot.

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St Just also hosts its popular Lafrowda Festival, a community and arts celebration that lasts for seven days.

There is the old bank, with its many changes of owner and cryptic lettering.

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More subtly famous is the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel which was built in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is an enormous stone building, and I remember reading somewhere that, as vast numbers of impoverished Cornishmen were forced to emigrate overseas, given its position so close to the cliffs of Land’s End, this building was usually the very last thing that thousands of emigrants saw as they set off towards the mines of the USA, Canada, Australia or South America.

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Some of the very best and most spectacular cliff scenery is at either Carn Gloose or the nearby Cape Cornwall. This is the Brisons, a pair of storm battered sea stacks.

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It was here that a very, very lost Steller’s Sea-lion lived in the late 1980s and 1990s. It should have been living in Eastern Siberia or Western Alaska.

 

Every time that I have ever driven down Cape Cornwall Road to look at the cliffs or to watch the fierce ocean storms, I have always looked up at the old Methodist School on the left, to check that the conspicuous gap on the ridge of the roof is still there.

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From a tourist leaflet that I read many years ago, I know very well that, during an air raid in the Second World War, this gap was caused by a German bomber in its last few seconds before it crashed into Chapel Road.

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This year I decided to research the story more extensively, so I called in at the library in St Just, where the helpful staff tried very hard to check any references to this event in the books of their Local Collection. They were unfortunately unable to find anything but, not for the first time I suspect, they contacted long time St Just resident, John Harry, who came round to the library straightway to recount the full story. Mr Harry told me that the events had taken place in the autumn or winter of 1942.

As a little boy, he was always very excited indeed when the St Just air raid warning was sounded, and he always had to be dragged very reluctantly up to bed. In their home in Chapel Street, the family had a simple home-made air raid shelter downstairs in the kitchen. It consisted for the most part of a rather robust kitchen table which, in theory, should be able to withstand the majority of shocks which an air raid might cause. On most occasions, though, John’s aging grandmother would refuse to get inside it, but instead, ostrich like, would merely stick her head underneath.

This particular night, they could hear distant gunfire, which gradually grew louder and louder. Some kind of aerial dogfight was clearly taking place, as they could all hear the noise of aircraft engines, machine guns and a series of explosions. Granny kept shouting “We’ll all be killed! We’ll all be killed!”, but her daughter replied, “Be quiet! Don’t keep saying that! You’ll frighten the child!”.

“The child” himself thought that it was all extremely exciting, and was clapping his hands in sheer glee. Suddenly, there was a huge crash. John shouted, “We’re winning! we’re winning!”. Auntie went upstairs to see what was happening. She looked out of the bedroom window. Below her, she could see flames down in the street. “All of Chapel Street is on fire!”, she shouted, “All St Just is ablaze !”

The stricken bomber had destroyed two houses, but fortunately, nobody was injured. The first house was owned by an old lady, but she had gone away to her daughter’s for a two week holiday.

The other house was a second home for the newly married Mr and Mrs Vague. (sic) They did not normally bother to use their air raid shelter, but on this particular evening, their cat had kept making a huge fuss, walking repeatedly backwards and forwards from the bedroom to the shelter. In an effort to keep the cat quiet therefore, the two of them finally moved down to the air raid shelter. From this place of safety, they were able to feel their house shaking as if it were an earthquake.

When it was safe to do so, both Mr and Mrs ran to the emergency shelter in the St Just Town Hall. All they possessed at this moment were their night clothes. In later years, though, of course, Mr and Mrs Vague would dine out regularly on the fact that they had had their lives saved by the cat.

The next morning, more than half the town was cordoned off by the Home Guard. Hundreds of windows had been blown out by the explosions. On the Methodist School (look for the orange arrow), huge numbers of tiles had been knocked off.

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Fragments of the crashed plane were everywhere. In the nearby village of Kelynack, some mile and a half away, (see the previous map after Paragraph One), one member of the German crew had landed by parachute. He had a broken leg, and, a forlorn figure, he was duly arrested by Mr.Matthews, the owner of a small local farm. The rest of the crew, three men, sadly, were all killed.

In a house in Cape Cornwall Street, a woman stepped forward in the darkness to open the bedroom curtains. She tripped over a German’s dead body, which had been blown in through the window. A few days later, in another house in the town, a frightened woman was to find a German’s leg on the top of her wardrobe.

And for a very long time afterwards, John Harry was too frightened to leave his mothers’ side.

Even now, though, at nearly eighty years of age, John was still unaware of where the three dead Germans were buried. And seventy years ago, his mother had been equally unable to ascertain their final resting place. Equally unsuccessful was her friend, who was actually a member of the local Home Guard. Indeed, at the time, everybody in St Just was curious about where the dead Germans were. They kept asking the Home Guard, who always replied with the same “Dunno”. It was thought, however, that some of them did know, but they were just not saying.

My own researches have been equally unsuccessful. I was unable to find the Germans’ last resting place either in the cemetery at St Just, or in the war graves section of Penzance Cemetery. Subsequent inquiries, however, reveal that most German war dead at this time were taken to the German Cemetery on Cannock Chase, and that after the end of hostilities, many of them were then re-interred in Germany. Let’s hope so. It is certainly a very long way from the frequently wet, windy and misty West Penwith to whatever churchyard in Germany where they rightfully belong.

The two destroyed houses were never rebuilt. Instead they were replaced by a row of garages. When the foundations for these buildings were being dug, the workmen found Mr.Vague’s gold watch.

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Amazingly, this was not the only air raid on tiny St Just. On another occasion, the Luftwaffe bombed Holman’s Foundry, which produced munitions for the Allied Forces, down in the Tregeseal Valley. Ironically, Mrs Holman had herself been born in Germany. She had originally come over to England around 1900 as a governess, and then married into a local family.

This particular bombing attack was actually mentioned in one of his broadcasts by Lord Haw Haw. He said, in very sinister and threatening fashion, “Don’t think we have forgotten you, St Just. You have not been forgotten.”

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The foundry’s owner, Ken Olds, lived in a house right next to the foundry. At the height of the bombing raid, when the grandparents went to look for the baby, they found that he was no longer in the bedroom. In actual fact, he had been blown out of the window, and they found him in the front garden. He was still in his cot, fast asleep and completely unharmed. Nearby houses had lots of cracks caused by the explosion of the bombs. In later years, this seems to have led to large scale subsidence, and all of the houses eventually had to be demolished. So too the foundry itself had to come down, and it was replaced by a housing estate.

I was genuinely surprised that after seventy years that it was still possible to talk to an eyewitness of all these amazing events. I will never forget my afternoon spent in the company of John Harry. He is a most charming man, and an amazing source of knowledge of the St Just area, the people who have lived there, and the people who live there still.

Subsequent, subsequent, subsequent researches on the Internet have now revealed the excellent website of Shauney Strick whose hobby is “The History of World War 2 in Penwith, Cornwall:Uncovering the evidence with a metal detector”.

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With his metal detector, Mr.Strick recently uncovered several small parts of a Luftwaffe aircraft buried in West Place, St.Just. (see street map above). The various objects of wreckage were from a Dornier Do. 217E, aircraft U5+1H of 1Staffel KG 2, which had crashed on September 27th 1942 as it made its way towards Penzance, after being pursued and shot down by a Bristol Beaufighter Mark IF of 406 Squadron from RAF Predannick. The Beaufighter was  flown by Squadron Leader Denis Chetwynd Furse with Pilot Officer John Haddon Downes as his radio operator.  

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One additional detail was that one of the diesel engines from the stricken bomber flew an enormous distance before smashing through three garden walls in West Place. 

As I mentioned above, my search for the final resting place of the Luftwaffe bomber’s crew led me to Penzance Cemetery, where, although I did not have any success with the Dornier, I did find that the World War II graves there had some very interesting, and very, very sad tales to tell. But that, as they say, is for another time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, Cornwall, History, Humour

The Cadillac of the Skies

 

On August 17th, 1943 the Eighth Air Force had tried to eliminate the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt, deep inside the German heartland. Flying in daylight, and unescorted for the vast majority of the trip, the raid had been an audacious catastrophe. Some 230 bombers had taken part, and sixty of these were completely destroyed. As well as these sixty B-17s, a further 55-95 bombers were badly damaged. Many of these were too severely damaged ever to be repaired.

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The Eighth Air Force regained its composure, made good its losses in both men and aircraft, and, on October 14th 1943, they attacked again.  Flying in daylight, and unescorted for the vast majority of the trip, the raid was arguably a bigger disaster than the previous one. Of the 291 B-17s on the mission, 60 were shot down over enemy territory and another 17 damaged so severely that they had to be scrapped. A further 121 aircraft were damaged to a greater or lesser extent. These losses represented more than 26% of the attacking force.

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The losses of aircrew were equally devastating. Some 650 well trained and skilful specialists were killed, which constituted some 22% of the 2,900 brave young airmen who went on the raid. The 306th Bomb Group lost 100 men, with 35 either killed in the air or died of wounds and 65 made Prisoners of War. The 305th Bomb Group lost 130 men, which was 87% of their complement.
General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold was later to state that the Black Thursday loss of American bombers in the Schweinfurt raid was “incidental”. Despite this callous dismissal of the lives of well over six hundred of his own men, further unescorted daylight bomber raids deep into Germany were immediately suspended until further notice. Cynics might well ask how many more B-17s  were left after the two disastrous attacks on Schweinfurt? Long distance bombing raids would only recommence in February 1944 with the advent of Operation Argument, a series of missions which would later be more commonly known as “Big Week”.

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I live in Sherwood, a suburb in the north of the Nottingham conurbation in England. At the end of our street is “Hucknall Road” which leads the seven or so miles to the much smaller market town of Hucknall.

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Strangely enough, Hucknall has a small grass airfield which is less than six miles from our street. Most days we can hear light planes making an enormous noise as they drone slowly overhead.

Hucknall RunwayxxxxxxDuring the course of April 1942, one man who frequently worked at Hucknall Aerodrome was to come up with an idea which would go a very long way indeed to winning the war in Western Europe. His name was Ronald W. Harker and he was usually known as “Ronnie”. Harker was the senior liaison test pilot with Rolls-Royce. Perhaps with Harker’s employer in their minds as an ulterior motive, the RAF had already invited the experienced test pilot to test fly the North American Mustang Mark 1, an American aircraft which was designed and built in the unbelievably short time of 117 days. This amazing feat was in response to a request by the British Purchasing Commission for an RAF fighter which would be an advance on the Spitfire.

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The original North American Mustang was powered by an Allison V-1710 piston engine and Harker was quite impressed with the plane’s handling qualities. Its performance up to 20.000 feet or so was commendable, but any higher, and the aircraft quickly became rather disappointing. Harker concluded that the problem was the inadequate Allison engine which was too low-powered to exploit the plane’s advanced aerodynamic features including a much more fuel efficient laminar flow wing. This innovation cut down the amount of turbulence as the air passed over the wing and would eventually lead to almost phenomenally low fuel consumption.

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Initially though, the new American fighter had an extremely unimpressive maximum range of only 400 miles, and when delivered to the RAF it was quickly relegated to Army co-operation and photographic work.
Ronnie Harker was employed by Rolls-Royce and was therefore presumably somewhat biased, but it was his suggestion to take out the Allison engine and to replace it with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 61, an act which was to transform a rather disappointing aircraft and to turn it into a war winner.
Despite a great deal of initial reluctance, mostly from the British Air Ministry, the first flight of the newly engined Mustang took place at Hucknall Airfield on October 13th 1942 with Captain R.T. Shepherd, the Rolls-Royce chief test pilot, at the controls. The Merlin-Mustang fighter’s performance was spectacular, particularly at high altitude. Thus the greatest fighter of the war was born and Harker acquired for the rest of his life the sobriquet of “the man who put the Merlin in the Mustang.” Harker also got a pay rise of a pound a week (just over one and a half dollars).

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Some four hundred of the Merlin-Mustangs were ordered for the US Army Air Force as the P-51 and Great Britain wanted more than a thousand, although only 25 were eventually delivered to the RAF because Rolls-Royce’s own Merlin production was already allocated to Spitfires, Lancasters and Mosquitos. In the USA, however, North American, now almost overwhelmed by the orders to be filled, had no such problems, using Packard and Continental versions of the Rolls-Royce engine built under licence. Eventually, more than 15,000 aircraft were to be manufactured.

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The P-51B carried just about the same amount of fuel as the P-47 Thunderbolt, but with its new Merlin engine “got 3.3 miles per gallon while the P-47 got less than 1.8.”. Brigadier General “Tommy” Hayes said that the Merlin-Mustang “had the three qualities you need most if you were going to escort bombers to Berlin – range, range and range.” The latter was extended even further by the carrying of two 512 gallon drop tanks which gave a maximum range of around 2,000 miles. In addition, the aircraft’s top speed increased from 390m.p.h. to 440m.p.h. and in the days after the war had finished there were to be many no doubt apocryphal tales of Mustangs which had exceeded the sound barrier in a steep or even vertical dive. In his memoirs, the P-51 ace Colonel Clarence E. “Bud” Anderson said that the Mustang “went like hell” because “the Merlin had great gobs of power and was equally at home high or low, thanks to its two-stage, two-speed supercharger.”

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This newly updated Mustang was, of course, exactly the aircraft that the beleaguered bomber crews in the B-17s of the Eighth Air Force had been waiting for. Now, with help of “our little friends” they could go about their business with considerably less apprehension than had previously been the case. The new aircraft is certainly said to have had an impact on Herr Reichsmarschall Göring who “when (he) saw the Mustangs escorting the American air armadas over the capital of the Reich is said to have realised that Germany had lost the war.”

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The mechanism by which the Third Reich was, along with Göring himself, quite rightly consigned to the rubbish bin of History, was by no means a complex one. The Mustang pilots were quite simply encouraged to engage the Luftwaffe fighters in combat at every opportunity.  Given the quality of the new P-51, especially the P-51D with its superb all round visibility bubble canopy, the Americans duly shot down both the aging Bf109s and the newer Fw190s. Gradually over the months, the Mustangs killed off all the most experienced and most effective pilots in the Luftwaffe. Between January and April 1944, the Germans lost more than 1,000 fighter pilots, of which 28 had more than 30 kills and eight had more than 100. On one mission to Augsburg, much later in the war, Mustangs put a final full stop to the last and greatest German threat, namely the twin-engined fighter armed with multiple rockets. They destroyed 23 of the 77 that came up to oppose them.

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At the same time, as part of the same process, it became increasingly difficult for the Luftwaffe to find calm skies where rookie pilots might practice. And in any case there was soon too great a shortage of fuel for these young replacements to waste on practice flights. The situation swiftly went from bad to worse, and the Mustangs, and many other Allied fighters, all began to enjoy enormous success against increasingly weak opponents. The Germans were never ever throughout the rest of the war to enjoy air superiority.

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Allied bombers began by day and by night to operate with increasing impunity and to have an increasingly greater impact on the overall fighting capabilities of the Third Reich.

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The situation is perhaps best summarised by a joke which remains as yet unverified on Wikipedia. It was supposedly told by Wehrmacht soldiers in the weeks after D-Day:

“If the plane in the sky is silver, it’s American, if it’s blue, it’s British, if it’s invisible, it’s ours.”
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“This all happened because of the Mustang, and the Mustang succeeded because of the Merlin.”

I cannot resist finishing my hymn of praise to the most effective fighter ever by quoting the episode in “Empire of the Sun”, when the “Cadillac of the Skies” makes its appearance, strangely not in Europe but in China. Enjoy.

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Filed under Aviation, History, Nottingham