Sunday, 27 September 2015

A Clacton Boy in the 'Forties'

I have lived in Burrs road area for over 70 years now and at the start of WWll most children were evacuated but it seemed my parents kept me at home, this meant that local schools closed and I missed my school days for almost 2 years.
This did not mean I missed out on being active and interested in events. I was a member of St Johns choir, a Cub Scout, a member of the Church Lads Brigade, a runner for the Home Guard and in mid 44 joined the Air Training Corps.

During this time soldiers occupied all the unoccupied homes in the area and we virtually lived in the middle of an army camp. Army vehicles of all sorts were around; lorries, guns, bren gun carriers, and much more.
This was a great time for a boy, for unlike my parents I wasn't preoccupied with the threat of invasion by German forces.

Almost every day I would be out visiting the soldiers in their billets and running errands.
My favourite task was to fetch doughnuts from Whybrows bakery shop in Great Clacton. As I can remember they were a shilling for 12 and Mrs Whybrow would always make it up to the bakers dozen (13) which meant there was one to eat on the way back. Mrs Whybrow was a kindly lady and would always know me by name.
Mr Whybrow was usually out the back at the ovens, but as my grand parents lived in the mansion house next door, I was often out the back and would watch the bread coming out of the oven with that unforgettable smell.

The soldiers would also be generous with some of their badges and I managed to build up a nice collection. I also had quite a few cloth shoulder flashes and mother sewed them on to a red, white and blue belt that I have still got. I also spent quite a bit of time at the old forge in Valley Road.

Mr King, the owner, was always there, as was Mr Griggs. I would often marvel at the way a few pumps on the bellows would make the coals glow red and Mr Griggs would pull a red hot piece of iron out of the fire and beat it on the anvil to form a horseshoe with that familiar noise on the anvil when iron meets iron.
Young lads were never told to 'clear off', but were always welcome to watch, they were two kindly men and if ever the air raid siren when, we somehow felt safe in the blacksmiths forge.

Father used to visit the Ship Pub for a pint and a chat with the landlord, a Mr Schofield and one day I remember father came home and said Mr Schofield had offered him a bungalow in Valley road for the princely sum of 250 pounds. There was quite a bit of discussion over the dinner table and father said it could be bombed and we could be left with nothing, ah well that was then and I have many more stories to tell.

During this time I would often go out early morning and come back home tea time and not once did my parents say 'where on earth have you been all day', something parents today would shudder at the thought. I had been out collecting souvenirs.

When I finally did return to school it was a time interrupted by air raids and running to the shelters then returning to the class room and trying to catch up where we left off. Teachers were very good and looked after their pupils with great care, most children respected this. On one occasion in 1944, the sky was filled with aeroplanes towing gliders, so we were all taken outside to stand and be amazed at this great spectacle.

School time during the war was something special and deserves a separate story as much happened in a relatively short period of time.

Albert Scott - age 9.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Battle of Britain - Albert Scott

This September we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the greatest air battle fought over this country, we now know this as the Battle of Britain.

The might of the German Air Force determined to destroy the airfields of the Royal Air Force and of course the aircraft, although much fewer in number, that would dare to oppose them. Destruction of the Royal Air Force was Hitlers objective prior to the invasion of the British Isle, invasion barges were being readied in ports along the coast of France and Belgium.

At the start of the war in September 1939, we were living in Crossfield Road in Clacton but in March 1940 we moved to Burrs Road, at the time out in the country, along with all the comforts the country offered like the outdoor toilet, pump water, no bathroom, no heating in winter and so on.

However when time of evacuation of all school children came in April and May 1940, I somehow slipped the net and stayed in Clacton and as the schools had closed it meant no school for me for over eighteen months.

On the 30th of April at 11pm, the crash of a German mine laying bomber in Victoria Road, Clacton - gave a vivid introduction of things to come, but that action is a subject of another story.

From the start my father and uncle got busy building an air raid shelter at the bottom of our garden. German bombers often flew along the east coast looking for convoys and lone shipping to attack.
In July it seemed things were hotting up as more enemy planes were coming over.
Sirens were going more frequently which meant trips to the shelter, this was something I did not like as it was dark inside and all the action was going on outside.

During those fine summer days the skies over Clacton were filled with aircraft locked in mortal combat, each trying to destroy the other. Vapour trails stood out against the blue of the sky and the drone of engines seemed endless as wave after wave of enemy planes flew inland to attack fighter command airfields.
Much to my parent annoyance, I would not sit inside the shelter but had a grand view day after day, sitting on top of the shelter!

I could write many stories of this time in the war but a few stand out as being most memorable.

During action on August 18th a German ME 110 of 3/ZG26 was shot down by a New Zealand pilot Colin Gray over Clacton, it came screaming down from an Easterly direction right over the top of where I was, so close that I could see the black crosses on the side of the fuselage. It crashed in a gravel pit behind houses in St Osyth Road, all trace of the plane and crew never to be seen again.

August 31st was another great battle over the area from Clacton to Walton, again the sky was filled with vapour trails forming large circles as British and German planes flew around each other trying to get the advantage.
I remember this day well as I saw two aircraft fall from the melee above at frightening speed, one to the east and one to the west.

Two aircraft did crash this day, both Hurricanes, one at Walton and the other at Brightlingsea. Some artifacts from both these aircraft are on show in the East Essex Aviation Society Museum at Point Clear, more importantly however, local author and aviation archaeologist Geoff Rayner recovered a large amount of the Hurricane crash site at Walton on the Naze with a team of ATC Cadets and other helpers.

These few words tell of the efforts of many over some considerable time and the full story is told in Geoff's excellent book 'One Hurricane, One Raid'.

A large amount of this Hurricane is now prominently displayed in the RAF museum in Hendon.

The battle raged this day from early morning until evening and some reports put RAF losses at 37 while the Luftwaffe lost some 60 aircraft in action over some home counties.

On September 7th German tactics changed and Hitler ordered the bombing of London. It was not until later in the afternoon that radar detected a very large armada of aircraft building up over France and Belgium. Early estimates put the figure at over a thousand mixed bombers and fighters heading for England.
As the massed formation crossed the Channel it split with one group heading for Kent and the other making for London over Essex.

My parents and myself went into our next door neighbours for the usual chat and 'cuppa' wondering what had happened as it was unusually quiet, when my friend shouted from the garden 'come and look'. The sky was covered from one side to the other with hundreds of aircraft coming inland over the coast, taking twenty minutes to pass over. The drone from their engines made a frightening and eerie noise as we just stood and watched. No bombs fell but RAF fighters weaved in and out doing their best to defeat them but were greatly outnumbered.

Later in the afternoon a German ME 109 fighter was shot down and crashed in Tan Lane Little Clacton, how well I remember seeing the aircraft coming down but more special, watching the pilot coming down by parachute directly over us in Burrs Road, he finally drifted towards Lt Clacton and came down in a field in Tan Lane, not far from his crashed fighter.

Many stories about the Battle of Britain have been complied by authors from records but I am lucky to say upon reflection even if I was only a spectator 'I was there at the time'. In Winston Churchill's words

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few"

Albert Scott. 2015

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Stirling Crash at Weeley 10/11 September 1942

At 0300 hours on 11th september 1942 a Stirling bomber W7564 crashed at Weeley when returning from a raid over Germany coming to rest on the north side of the railway.

W7564 (MG:T) T Tommy from 7 Squadron took off from Oakington at 2020 hours, its mission was to bomb Dusseldorf. Heavy flak and searchlights were concentrated over the target and 7564 was hit several times by the well aimed anti aircraft fire. The starboard fuel tanks were hit and the port oil pipe was severed as the pilot headed back to base slowly losing height to 200 feet over the Dutch coast.
           He then started the perilous journey over the north sea and as the stricken bomber reached the coastline of Essex, the port inner engine propeller and gearing fell away. The port engine then fell off leaving just the two starboard engines working but the severely overheating.

The wireless operator Sgt Edwards had to assist the Captain F/O Trench by applying pressure on the rudder bar and control column to keep the bomber on an even keel.

While still losing more height the Flight Engineer Sgt H Mallet turned off the useless oil pipes. The starboard inner engine cut out and the pilot made a crashing landing in a field at Weeley. The Captain and wireless operator were knocked unconscious but the navigator P/O Selman managed to extricate them just as the aircraft burst into flames.

The rear gunner P/O W Glendenning was still trapped inside his turret and seeing their comrade trapped; the front gunner Sgt F Thorpe and the Flight Engineer re entered the blazing aircraft, when the petrol tanks blew up and they were both killed.

The rear gunner was finally rescued, by the mid upper gunner F/S R Jenner, but was badly burnt.

Local medical, Police and Home Guard gave valuble assistance until army units arrived from Colchester and took control of the situation.

On the 29th of September awards were made for their heroism to

F/O J French   D.S.O
F/O C Selman  D.F.C
Sgt Edwards     D.F.M

Part of the engine gear casing from the port engine that fell from the bomber as it flew towards Weeley are on show in the Museum.

Courtesy of Albert Scott.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Kate Adie - Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One

Kate Adie - Fighting on the Home Front
(RRP £8.99 Paperback, £20.00 Hardback: Waterstones)

Photos: Getty, LSE library/ 7LGA/6/04(

Women's Weekly Magazine Front Covers - World War I

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these images. These images are owned and are from the Women's Weekly Magazine 2014 - World War I special.