Saturday, 22 January 2011

Old War Stories

I got into a bit of a conversation with my cousin Rose's daughter Sarah this morning on Facebook (she is in Australia). She mentioned some facts about Hitler and I volunteered some more info. She seemed quite interested...

It inspired me to pass on some family history. So I sent her and my kids an email:

Ok. So Children. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin...

Your Great Grandparents lived in various places near Leeds in the North of England during the War (Look for it on Google Maps). 

They had 3 kids, Peter (Your Grandad Sarah), Sheila (Dani and Nicky's Grandma) and John (Who I guess you last saw a couple of months ago - Sarah).

Gma (Short for Great Grandma) was a teacher and Gpa (Short for Great Grandpa) worked in different factories.

Leeds was bombed during the war quite heavily by the Germans who were trying to destroy our industry by bombing factories. A lot of homes were destroyed and many people were killed.

Gpa never joined the army. He was a little too old to be conscripted (forced to join) as he was over 30 by the time the war started in 1939. 

But. As a result of the bombing, schools were closed - either because they were bombed or because people were scared that if a bomb dropped on a school everyone's children in the local area would be wiped out.. terrifying.

But Gma set up her own school. Every day Gpa would go off to work in a factory and Gma would turn the front room into a school room. The 3 kids and lots of other local kids would come round and be schooled by Gma. 

I think she felt that learning was so important that it couldn't be stopped by a few bombs! Her father had been a teacher too. I remember he wrote some teaching books (to teach kids the French language) and Gma was still getting royalties (payments for sales of the books) until quite late in life...

Gpa working in various factories but got his chance to fight back when he got a job in a place called Yeadon. The factory made Lancaster bombers - the main bombers that we used to bomb Germany.

He was ingenious and had the job of doing special modifications to aeroplanes to suit them for different purposes. 

He signed the 'Official Secrets Act'. This was a contract with government that meant you agreed never to talk about what you were doing as if you did the enemy might gain an advantage.

After the War many people did talk But Gpa never uttered a word.

Except. One day when I (like you today Sarah) showed a random interest in the War he told me that he did some changes to the bombers for 'The Bouncing Bomb'.

The Bouncing Bomb was a bomb developed by a guy called Barnes Wallace - see here:

This bomber and bomb were responsible for destroying some huge Damns in the Ruhr Valley in Germany. The millions of tons of water behind the damns flooded the valleys and wiped out hundreds of factories. It was a devastating blow...

And just one more story..

When I was 12 we flew to Australia. Me, my brother (Pete), My Mum and Dad, and Gma and Gpa. 

As we made the long journey to Perth Gpa couldn't stay in his seat. He was so excited. I don't think he had ever been on an aeroplane before. Despite having spent so much time building them.

He and I spent lots of time at the back of the plane looking down on the amazing places that we were flying over. Europe, The Middle East, India etc etc. 

He was fascinated at what the world looked like looking down on it from a plane and he told me about how they had camouflaged his factory during the War to stop the Germans bombing it.

They covered the roof in grass and made it look like a field - so passing planes wouldn't see there was a factory there at all.

And just to make sure. Right in the middle they put a duckpond...

So if Hitler had hated Ducks instead of Jews Gma's life would have been very different. And chances are none of us younger generations would exist. 


I hope she passes it on to everyone else in Oz.


Robin Horsley said...

There are pictures of the Factory at Yeadon here:

Peter Blow said...

Just doing some searching for Yeadon stories.
These articles would point to the messenger job being wrong. Why would Grandpa be a messenger when the war office were pulling women out of chocolate factories to inspect aircraft build quality?

Peter Blow said...

Jusr found a reference to Dambusters modifications being made to Lancasters at Leeds..

Robin Horsley said...

Pete, Completely agree ref messenger or store-man idea - just not feasible.

That book link (the 1st one) is superb - lots of 1st hand accts from people who worked at Yeadon. I think you have linked the wrong file ref Dambusters? The video is about something else.

Robin Horsley said...

The reference to Dambusters modifications referred to above is in the comments stream of the YouTube video -

It says 'My father worked at AVRO in Leeds as a design engineer. Apparently there were design problems with the bomb release equipment necessary to drop the bombs at a specific time during a specified distance. He and the team of engineers at AVRO made over 101 modifications to the Lancaster bomber to encompass the necessary 'bouncing bomb' apparatus. Needless to say I am very proud of him and his technical expertise.

ninandia 2 years ago

This puts a new perspective on it for those who doubted the veracity of the story as regards this connection on the basis that they didn't think any work of this type was done at Avro in Yeadon (nr Leeds).

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