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The War Years

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Old 19th June 2018, 19:37
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The War Years

I was born in a small town in south Wales called Glyn-Neath, on the 8th of December 1931. The winter was very cold, food was scarce and there was no work for my father who worked as a coal miner.
In 1932 my family moved to a town in England called Shirehampton near the seaport of Avonmouth. We had no home of our own so we moved in with my Grandmother (Williams) , the home was a large stone and brick building with a large front garden. It still looked good in 1995 when I last saw it. We lived at this home for a year. My aunt Maryann and uncle Llewellyn lived in Avonmouth three miles away, they had two children, Peggy the oldest, and Ira a little older than me. My Dad soon found work on the docks at Avonmouth as a Fireman on the Dock Locomotives
Now that my father was working, we started looking for a home of our own. You could not buy homes back in those days; you rented from the local or city government and when your name came up on the list you moved into a home. We finally made the list in 1934 -we were were offered a place to live. We moved into the lower part of the village of Shirehampton, called the Bank, as it was named because the homes were situated on a high bank over looking the main street. They were row cottages, very old, built wall to wall, coal fireplaces, and no water (you got your water from a tap in the middle of the yard). We had a living room downstairs, a kitchen, and two bedrooms upstairs. The only good thing to say about that place was that it was close to my father’s work place that was only a two-mile walk every day. Oh yes, I forgot to say the toilets were also in a building outside in the courtyard ,a six hole wooden seats deluxe model, for a bath we would have to boil the kettle a few times to pour into the galvanized tub.
. We lived at this place until 1938.
In the summer of 1938 we got lucky! The Rogers name came up again on the waiting list for a house and this time we hit the Big Time a three bedroom, living room, large kitchen, electric lights, running cold water, a real bathtub in which we heated the water in gas boiler and pumped it through a pipe to the bathroom. We had a large back garden that we grew just about everything. Dad was a
hell of a gardener. The house was only about five years old and it was freshly painted when we moved in. I can still smell the paint even to this day, as it was the cheap type that rubbed off on your clothes when you bumped into a wall. It was a mixture of powder and water, but it was quite a step up from what I was accustomed to. Our home in Shirehampton, was the place I grew up and what I remember most about my childhood.
The village of Shirehampton has quite a long history dating back to the Roman days. Old Roman forts and camps are scattered all about the place. Avonmouth, which was located two miles away, Bristol was the port seven miles up the river Avon,Avonmouth was where the ships all waited to go up the river Avon to the port of Bristol with the tide. We were taught the history of the village while in school. Of course, back then none of that history meant anything to me, but now when one thinks back it was a nice place to grow up and play in those places.
One thing nice about living at Shirehampton was that it was close to my first school. It was about seventy-five yards from my house and it was not a long walk to and from school. I can remember going to school, as a matter of fact; I have class picture of my first class with my classmates. I have remained in touch with some of them, not as often as I would have liked, but every few years we make contact.
I remember one time I was leaving for school and as I stepped out of the front door my Dad picked up the morning paper and the headlines read ENGLAND GOES TO WAR WITH GERMANY! I can still remember that day as if it were yesterday. I can remember the bomb shelters they built under the school and the small one they built in our back yard. I had to stay and sleep in that shelter many times in the cold of winter, looking out and seeing the firebombs hitting our house, catching it on fire, and the firemen putting out the fire. The front bedroom was completely burnt and smelled like hell for a long time. It is funny how certain smells can trigger your memory. The smell was the same as the white phosphorus (WP) Willie Peter as we called it in Vietnam.
Well, 1940 came and Dad goes off to war in the Army. The German planes were still bombing us day and night. We only lived two miles from the docks, which are full of ships and sometimes the German pilots, would miss the targets and the bombs would fall all around us. Sometimes they would just dump their load so they could get the hell out of there, as the ack ack gunners were very good. We lived very close to a lot of prime targets -- the docks, oil storage tanks, the aircraft factory and an Army camp all within a five-mile radius of our home.
While the war was going on the government changed the daylight summer time to two hours so it was daylight at 10 o’clock at night. All of the kids stayed outside and played because it remained daylight. Wintertime was the worst, as we had to put on extra warm clothes and move into the bomb shelters and stay the night.
It was bad at night. We would watch the German planes be caught in the beams of the Army searchlight units and the anti aircraft guns blow the hell out of them! Of course what goes up, must come down and did it come down! The shrapnel did lots of damage to the rooftops. The next morning, we children would go around picking it up for souvenirs for show and tell. However, the police cracked down on us and started confiscating our loot. Some of us were picking up exploded anti aircraft shells. Kids will be kids and we had no fear of anything. One day my buddy and I were watching a dog fight between a Spitfire and a German plane that had come over to take pictures (not of me). They wanted intelligence pictures of the ships in the dock and the harbor. The spitfire shot the German plane down. The Germans bailed out safely, but the local women got to them before the authorities did and beat the hell out of them with broomsticks and rakes. But guess who was first at the scene of the crashed German plane looking for goodies? My buddy and me. We got some really good stuff from the plane, but the police took it all away from us, kicked us in the ass, slapped our ears and ran us off. They said they wanted the equipment for intelligence purposes. Now that I am older and wiser, I believe them. I did not then, of course, because I was only eleven years old.
In the summer of 1941 through 1942, the German bombing became worse, so they decided to ship all the children to places in the country to keep them out of harm’s way. The evacuees, as they were called, were placed with families that had farms and were located far away from any targets. I knew of kids that were treated like dogs or slaves and they ran away. I also know of kids that loved it -- they got plenty to eat, loved the families that took them in, and kept going back to see them after the war. My Dad decided that I needed a firm hand on me to keep me out of trouble and keep me out of danger from the bombing, so they shipped me off to Brecon, Wales, the home of my Grandparents, Dad’s Mother and Father.
I Lived in Brecon for a year with my Grandparents. It was only sixty miles away from my home, but it was out of the way and at the base of the Brecon Beacons There were a lot of trout streams, and I hunted small game. But most of all, there were no air raids. Life was kind of quite in Brecon. I did not know any other boys my age and at school I was the outsider, so I went up into the mountains to fish and hunt rabbits with my Grandfather, sometimes I would go off by myself. I would stay out late, sometimes for hours past my curfew. That was when Grandma would whip my butt with the riding crop she kept along side of her chair and she would make that thing sing. She was very good to me but was very strict.
About ten miles from our home in Brecon was a special training camp for soldiers. I would take beer up to the troops and earn a few extra pennies. I would have to sneak it to them on the QT because they were in special training. I found out later that they were commandos. Today that same camp is operating, but as a Special Air Service, or as we know it be, the Special Forces, one of the most elite military organizations in the world.
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Old 19th June 2018, 19:38
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Part 2.

After about a year, Dad came home on leave to visit. We started talking about how the bombing had slacked off somewhat and he asked me if I would like to go back home. It's strange how I was just beginning to be accustomed to Brecon, but I wanted to see my old school mates. I packed my bag and was ready to go home.
When I got back to Shirehampton, I found that some of my mates had returned from Devon. That is where most of them were sent when the bombing got bad. Some of the families at the end of the street had lost their homes and one of the kids who ran around with us had been killed in the house. He was younger than I was. His name was Billy. It is funny, kids did not care much about the blitz and in the bombed out buildings we played hide and seek, and cowboys, where people we knew had been killed. My Aunt living in Avonmouth had lost her house to the bombing also. All of my uncles were away serving in the military, some even as far away as Burma, fighting the Japs whom we did not even know.
Through the years of 1943-1944 things didn’t change that much. Only a few German planes came over and dropped a bomb load. They started to lose too many planes. I had seen the skies black with planes to now only a few. The shortage of food still remained, and there were no cars on the road because there was no gasoline. Shit, I didn’t know anyone that owned a car anyway; only the military drove around town. The port was getting more ships in daily, loaded with warplanes and tanks. The highways were cramped with planes that they had off loaded. They built a very large American Army camp on the places where my mates and me played. It was near an old castle. Hell, we thought we owned that land, but I guess not. So we decided to do greater things in life like stealing from the yanks, but that did not last long. After a few well-placed rifle shots firing over our heads, we kept away from the camp at night.
We began to do favors for some of the troops, sneaking beer up to the wire fence and taking love letters to the girl friends whom they could not get to see for a while. They gave us candy, gum, cigarettes, and food from the mess hall. They even gave us and the other kids from the village a Christmas party.
Most of us boys that were in the boy scouts were converted to Army cadets,
We were issued one uniform and a set of web gear, we would train on weekends, and we would train with rifles and set up roadblocks along with the home guard. The first rifle I was issued was an old Canadian Ross; it was as tall as me, I finally got a rifle that matched my size a 303 short Le Enfield we also got to fire it every other month. All this took place because we were expecting an invasion by the Germans. In December 1945 the Army cadets were eliminated; it was fun running around looking for Germans.
We did other stupid things sometimes we would swim down the river into the docks and take a little of the cargo, such as sugar, canned fruit, and bananas, any thing that we could eat or trade on the side. It was crazy, but everyone was doing it. We did have some close calls though, like electric fences, strong water currents and guard dogs and very large wharf rats some as big as cats. June 1944 came and we began to see the tide of war start to change, troops were starting to move down to the docks and load on to large landing craft, we waved to them as they marched past, we were not sure where they were going. Then one day the sky was full of planes towing gliders, they never stopped coming; most of them were the old Gooney bird C-47s full of paratroopers off to jump into France. That night we found out that D-Day had started, people began to say the war would soon be over, but it took almost another year.
In early 1945 my Robin Hood days came to and end. The minimum age to leave school was fourteen and some of my buddies had left school to begin working. Me, being thirteen, was left behind. I found a job in a butcher’s shop. My duties consisted of cleaning up at first, but then the butcher let me make the sausages and I would deliver them to his customers on a bicycle with a basket on the front. After a few weeks of this, I made more sausages than were required and built up my own clientele. I made a little on the side you might say. I did that for almost a year and Mr. Newman the owner was sorry to see me leave school and quit the meat enterprise. Mr. Newman and I remained friends for several years, up until I left England. His son still runs the store to this day.
The war was slowly winding down, as there were no more air raids over our town, or even in Bristol, the big city seven miles away. But London, which was about one hundred miles east, was catching hell with the Buzz bombs, V-1 rockets and V-2.
In December 1945 I found a job at the large oil facility on the docks and because of the war, all of the oil companies had merged as one big company called “The Pool” and they were beginning to separate and reform as private organizations. I landed a job working for the Shell Oil Company. I did not get the CEO job but I was told I would be able to work up to it if I worked hard and kept my nose clean.
My job consisted of taking fifty-gallon drums that had once been filled with heavy crude oil, and steam clean them. It was a nasty, greasy, slimy, messy, and very dirty job. My work clothes consisted of wooden clogs for shoes so I would not make sparks when I walked, coveralls that were way too big for me, and a pair of goggles to cover my eyes because I was using extremely hot steam. Oh, how I had wished that I were a butcher boy again, delivering the meat to all the women. Young men out of school at that time did not have many choices. We worked for the pool; go down in the mines, or at age seventeen we could join the Army for two years.
My break came after about two months. They needed assistant drivers on the tanker trucks. I did not get to drive, as I was too young, I helped the driver unload the oil or gas when we hauled it around the country. It paid good money for a young person of fourteen years of age. I held on to this job for one year and then around December of 1946, I quit and went to work for a contractor along with an old friend of mine.
We made big money tearing down concrete and brick walls that were built around the huge oil tanks to protect them against German air attacks and shrapnel. Good money, yes. Hard work, Hell, yes! That’s where I learned to drive a wheelbarrow and a jackhammer.
One day on my lunch hour I went over to the lock gates to see all the ships coming into port. On this day there was this little boat that was waiting to be tied up on the pier and one of the guys shouted at me to catch the rope, pull it in, and tie it up. So I did. When the boat was alongside me, I asked this guy if he needed any help on this boat. The Captain said, “Yes, when can you start”? I answered, “I all ready have." He gave me a stare and said, “Do you want to go out to the sea”? “Yes," I replied.
The next day I started working on this little coastal ship called the Hanna from the port of Bideford, Devon. That was the start of my sailing days. I sailed on board the Hanna for two months, then she was due for a complete overhaul and the captain could not keep me on the payroll. But being the good guy he was, he knew another captain and sent me to him for an interview.
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Old 19th June 2018, 19:41
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Part 3.

William Ashburner, so before the Hannah sailed for home the good captain arranged for me to meet my possible new boss at the Shipping Pool. I went to meet Captain Sinnott as planned and as I entered the Pool Office where all seamen went to stand for a ship there stood this big man with a sailor’s jacket, a small peak cap on his head and looking every bit the old mariner, the type you expect to see on an old sailing ship. That was my first surprise, the second was when he signed me on his ship and I was issued with my first discharge book
.
As we walked from the Shipping Pool back to the William Ashburner he told me what my duties would be and that there would be a crew of five, all from Ireland accept me. We didn’t have to walk very far in the dock as the vessel was moored at a nearby berth where she loaded grain and maize. When we turned the corner to the dockside low and behold I got yet another surprise, there was this little ship with three wooden sticks sticking up from her belly, it was a sailing ship, a wooden one at that, at least the Hannah had been made of steel.
The William Ashburner was a three masted schooner, she had been built in 1876, and her gross tonnage was 205 tons, her length 115 feet and with a beam of 25 feet. She flew the Red Ensign but was owned by Captain Sinnott from Limerick and was crewed by an all-Irish crew consisting of a Mate from Sligo, two Able Bodied seaman (AB’s) from Waterford, and one junior deckhand, (Me).
The captain took me to his cabin to give me instructions as to what my pay would be and what my duties on board would consist of, and these included the task of lighting the fire in the small galley at 6:30 every morning ready for the first mate to cook the crew’s breakfast. Apparently the mate liked to cook but the problem was that his repertoire was limited to about three dishes with his favorite being “Schooner on the Rocks” and this name turned out to be the fate of this grand old sailing ship a few years later.
The galley was a small box, six feet by six feet, with a small coal burning stove on the aft end with a coal bunker alongside, on the other end was a small work bench with the potato locker alongside which was also the seat. The washing up was done in a small wooden bucket outside on the hatch cover. The bucket was similar to the ones issued to each member of the crew for their own use, washing, bathing and laundry. Rather like a personal portable bathroom
The only washbasins on board were aft in the Captain and Mate’s cabins.
During heavy weather or rainstorms the galley was the warmest place on the ship so we would close the sliding door and use our buckets to do our laundry, (we didn’t have many clothes,) and take our baths in this tiny snug space
The year previously to me joining, the ship had been re rigged by removing the mast top extensions that carried the square rigged spars and the top sails to make her a cut down version of a schooner. She then had what they called a Foremast, Main and Mizzen to carry the three main sails and with a jib and stay sail, a rig that was perhaps easier to handle than the original, especially when sailing relatively short coastal passages.
They had also installed a small diesel engine, which was used mostly for maneuvering when entering and leaving port and I think she had a top speed of about 5 knots under power. Captain Sinnott would usually order the sails hoisted as soon as we cleared port and the congested areas so that the ship could show her paces under canvas. In her original fully rigged heyday she had once covered 240 miles during a 24 hour run with a full cargo of coal so she was not a slow ship in the right weather. We sailed around the Bristol Channel ports, mostly Welsh, plus up the river Severn to Sharpness, with grain or maize and on one trip we sailed to Dublin and returned with a cargo of large wooden barrels of Guinness.

One of the less enjoyable duties on-board was when we were loading grain. The hatches openings were very small and when the grain was being shot into the holds we were sent below with a very large shovel, there we would constantly shovel the grain (Trimming) towards the sides of the hold to keep the vessel on an even keel as the cargo constantly spewed into the ship. This backbreaking work was done while lying on your back or side while the grain kept pouring in until it reached the top of the hatches. The dust was stifling and the hold black as pitch as we shoveled and prayed that we had not been forgotten in the dusty darkness.
Back in those days there was no such a thing as Health and Safety Board regulations or any dust masks and goggles, just a large bandanna around our faces and that large shovel. We did get extra money for this work, called a cargo bonus, thirty shillings, on top of my eight pounds a month pay. There was one other thing the older members of the crew received that I didn’t and that was a nice tot of rum from the captain as we crawled out of the hold, I was under 18 years of age and he would not allow me to drink.
My duties shipboard while at sea included learning how to hoist the sails, all done manually, and taking them down which was the hardest job especially on your hands and fingers when the canvas was wet from rain or salt spray. When the canvas was dry you folded each sail in the correct way before stowing it.
We used the Holy stone on the wooden decks which required you to get down on your knees and with a large brick block of sand stone and sand away at the decks until they were smooth and clean, sometimes the seams would require re-caulking to maintain water tightness and this was done the old fashion way using oakum which is hemp rope fiber and placed between the deck planks using a special caulking iron and mallet before sealing with pitch or hot tar.
There was no electricity so I was taught how to trim and re-fill with oil all the lamps and navigation lights each day. I also learned how to sew and mend canvas sails with a palm and needle under the watchful eye of the captain. I was scared of the Captain for some reason, but it was an unfounded fear because he turned out to be a fine gentleman and always had nothing but the best of interest in making a sailor out of me.
While I did my spell at the wheel he would be standing behind me barking at me if she yawed off course and for me to keep her steady until I was able to hold as good a line as the more experienced hands. There were many other daily duties including keeping all the brass work polished and as on most ships of the day there was a lot of brass to clean.
To the rear of the captains quarters the small hatch (Lazarette) had been modified to except the small engine and fuel tank. The Captain always manned the engine, he would fire it up by placing a big iron rod in the flywheel and turn it until the engine fired then it would give off a puff of smoke and would go putt-putt-putt as the exhaust came out of the exhaust pipe. I’m glad it wasn’t used very often, as it was so nice sailing under the canvas, no noise, just ships gentle motion, the breeze and the sound of the waves.
Anchoring was always a special nightmare as the very heavy chain had to be hoisted out of the chain locker by hand and laid out on the deck before dropping the anchor over the side. To hoist the anchor we had a windlass that was motor driven but that was unreliable so most the time we used the hand windlass. Thank goodness we did not anchor very often.
Our navigation was very basic, a compass stood in front of the large wheel and the captain had a small domestic radio that allowed him to listen to the weather forecasts. No doubt he had a sextant and some additional aids when crossing the Irish Sea.
For the crew’s entertainment there was just a deck of cards and checkers, but Barney, one of the AB’s played the Irish fiddle, and Mick the other AB played a little squeezebox. Of course all the songs ever played were Irish songs or Anti-British ballads but never with any malice against me, I learned many an Irish song and remember them even now. We never felt deprived and were generally a quite content crew, some of my fondest memories are of when we would sit on the hatch under the stars playing the old time Irish music and singing songs, no beer was ever allowed on board, only the rum for those special occasions and that was locked up in the Captains cabin.

We were never in port any length of time as the loading and unloading of a small ship was very fast, the captain and the mate would always do the shopping for food, just plain eating on that ship, lots of pork and sandwich meat, hamburgers were not thought of in those days, and as I have mentioned, the favorite dish the mate cooked was Schooner on the Rock. This consisted of a large joint of pork or beef, mostly pork, and he would place the meat in the middle of the roasting dish surrounded by as many vegetables, Carrots, Potatoes, Onions, Swedes etc that would fit in the pan then slow roast it all in the oven.
It was a good hot and filling meal.
.
I sailed on the William Ashburner for almost six months and although Avonmouth was my home port and we were there quite often I never had the chance to go home because of the quick turn around. The rest of the crew had been away from their home port for almost a year so about mid December Captain Sinnott decided he was going to lay up the old girl until after the New Year (1948) and the whole crew return to the old sod for Christmas.
I paid off with a nice wad of bank notes; the old captain had kept good records of the money I earned plus all the bonus times for trimming in the hold.
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Old 19th June 2018, 19:48
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Cond.
In February 1950, in a heavy fog the William Ashburner ran aground on the rocks while sailing up the River Severn to Sharpness, the crew got off safely but the ship re-floated herself and floated down the river only
To run aground again and this time she was stuck for good. Vandals started to strip her of anything they could sell, and eventually she was sold for scrap to a police officer who burned the wooden ship where she lay and then reclaimed all the copper cladding and plugs from her hull.
The William Ashburner was the largest wooden sailing vessel built at Barrow-in-Furriness, and the only schooner built by the Ashburner shipyard that traded across the Atlantic or south of the Equator. In her first nineteen years, mainly under the command of Capt. Robert Charnley and Capt. Evans, she voyaged frequently to Uruguay for beef and bone meal, and to the West Indies for sugar, also to New York and to the Mediterranean. She later went into the coasting trade and had a long working life that lasted until 1950, a working life span of 74 years which did her proud.
Construction of the William Ashburner was started in March 1875 and took only 19 months. She was launched on the 19th October 1876 and her command was given to Capt. Robert Charnley. Her first voyage was to Cardiff and by the end of the year she had visited her first foreign port,*Palma on the island of Majorca. In the following year her hull was yellow-metaled at the Ashburner shipyard, and she was relaunched on the same day as the Mary Ashburner
In these years under Capt. Charnley the William Ashburner was considered to be a fast ship, it being claimed that she once covered 240 miles in 24 hours with a full cargo of coal. In 1878 she took 40 days to make her first passage to South America, going from*Liverpool to Parahiba, Brazil. She continued in transatlantic trade until 1894, when her final deep water passage was from Antwerp to Parahiba, returning to London by way of Trinidad and Barbados. Thereafter she existed in the general coasting trade, being retained under the management of Thomas Ashburner & Co.

In 1943 she was sold to Capt. Nicholas Sinnott of Limerick, and he employed her in the Bristol Channel grain trade. By this time the schooner had had her masts poled off and the square rig spars removed. On 1st February 1950, traveling in thick fog from Swansea to Sharpness to pick up a cargo of grain, the William Ashburner grounded on the Chapel Rock. She was beached at the mouth of the River Wye where she was examined and declared a constructive total loss. It is believed that her wheel was salvaged and is now on display at the Avonmouth Seaman's Mission.

In 2008 I was reading the local paper from the Avonmouth area and there was an article about trying to find out where the large ships wheel had come from, who owned it, and what ship. I wrote to the editor and told him that I had sailed on the ship that the wheel belonged to, explained how the wheel was on display in the Seaman’s Mission plus the owner’s name. I further stated that since the Mission was being torn down the wheel should go to the family of Captain Sinnott back in Ireland. I received a reply from the editor of the newspaper telling me that the Sinnott family had been contacted and the wheel would be returned to the family.
After nearly fifty-seven years of hanging on the wall the wheel that I had cleaned and handle sixty years ago had finally found its rightful home, and I feel good that I had done something to make that happen.
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Old 20th June 2018, 03:10
gray_marian United Kingdom gray_marian is offline
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John, Thank you, that was an utterly compelling account of your formative years, felt I had travelled with you all the way. An absolute joy to read. Marian.
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Old 20th June 2018, 07:28
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Hi! John,

I see we have a few things in common, the main one being the war years. When I was 2 years old, our house, and a lot of the rest of the street was flattened by German incendiary bombs. It was by God's good grace that we were away for the weekend. I too was an evacuee for a time, being sent down to Bridgend in Wales to live with an Aunt. After we got into another house, the all clear had sounded and we were coming up out of the shelter at the end of the garden, when a Buzz Bomb (V1) putt-putted overhead running out of fuel. Grandma, and rather portly lady was halfway through the low, narrow door to the shelter and as she turned around to get back into the shelter, she got her bottom end stuck in the door. There was a bit of a panic on as no-one could get down there. The Buzz Bomb landed in a "sanitary landfill" (we use to call it a garbage dump) about a mile away, blowing out a lot of neighbouring windows, but no other damage.
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Old 20th June 2018, 20:32
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Memories that stay with you forever Tom.
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Old 20th June 2018, 20:36
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Originally Posted by gray_marian View Post
John, Thank you, that was an utterly compelling account of your formative years, felt I had travelled with you all the way. An absolute joy to read. Marian.
Thank you, glad you enjoyed the trip.
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Old 24th June 2018, 19:17
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Thank you for sharing your story John - very interesting indeed. Good to read the wheel made it back to the owning family and your part in it - nice one!

Regards
Hugh
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Old 26th June 2018, 17:15
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John, thank you fo a most interesting post!
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Old 29th June 2018, 02:21
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Hi John.
Great story, I lived every minute of it.
Cheers Tugger
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Old 29th January 2019, 12:48
Harry Nicholson United Kingdom Harry Nicholson is offline
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I'd missed this rivetting memoir, John. I now wonder what happened next in your career. It is a social history that needs to be archived in a safe place. Well done!

best wishes
Harry
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Old 31st January 2019, 01:29
Derek Roger Derek Roger is offline
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A great read John . Trust you will not be too cold tonight ; States are going into a deep freeze ; a bit similar up here in Canada .
Cheers Derek
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  #14  
Old 31st January 2019, 06:56
Engine Serang Europe Engine Serang is offline
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A good story and a nice read. Would that others could be as interesting and erudite.
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  #15  
Old 3rd February 2019, 13:14
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Hi Derek nice to hear from you, yes its been cold and it keeps me in doors all day. Glad you liked my story.
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  #16  
Old 3rd February 2019, 13:15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
I'd missed this rivetting memoir, John. I now wonder what happened next in your career. It is a social history that needs to be archived in a safe place. Well done!

best wishes
Harry
Thanks for your post Harry.
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Old 5th February 2019, 17:06
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John Rogers United States John Rogers is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
I'd missed this rivetting memoir, John. I now wonder what happened next in your career. It is a social history that needs to be archived in a safe place. Well done!

best wishes
Harry
Harry,
Thanks for your kind reply. If you are interested I have a follow-up to the story.

John.
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Old 6th February 2019, 18:16
Harry Nicholson United Kingdom Harry Nicholson is offline
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Harry,
Thanks for your kind reply. If you are interested I have a follow-up to the story.

John.
Yes, John, I'd be pleased to read it. These stories are precious.

This week I've a carpenter working for me who, when he heard I was writing memoir, said that his father-in-law was pow of the Japanese in Burma and is now coming out with stories in his old age. There's not so many of those fellows around - I hope someone is making notes.
I have the unpublished account (the writer calls it 'One Jump Ahead') of an RNVR/MN officer (first mate of The Vyner Brooke) (uncle of an old MN friend) who escaped from Singapore and traversed the Dutch East Indies swamps till he reached Australia. I don't know if I have the years left to publish his story, so I've lodged copies of the manuscript with the British War Museum and Australian Memorial archives. He throws further light on the murder of Australian nurses by the Japanese as they struggled ashore in Sumatra.

I just wish I'd shown a bit of interest in my father's experiences at the Somme - but he did not survive beyond my teenage years.
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Old 7th February 2019, 01:36
Makko Mexico Makko is offline
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Uncle John,
Please keep the stories going! Every time I talk to my Dad, I get another story out of him and I scribble it down as best I can. As someone else said, rivetting!
Rgds.
Dave
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  #20  
Old 7th February 2019, 14:53
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Hi Dave,
Thanks for your post, Yes its sad that many old farts have not told their story, we are from a different generation and to tell stories it feels like bragging, my daughter has made me tell of some periods in my younger days, I will find the stories that are on CDs and try and post them here.
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  #21  
Old 8th February 2019, 23:18
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Well guys I tried to post the stories of the War Memories but the system would not let me post it because it was too big, so I have to break it down into several posts. I shall return.
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  #22  
Old 9th February 2019, 10:55
Jolly Jack Jolly Jack is offline
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Just saw them and read them John. So informative and a pleasure to read. Thank you.


Now looking forward to the next episodes.


JJ.
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  #23  
Old 9th February 2019, 15:04
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CHRONOLOGICAL LISTING OF DATES OF THE BRISTOL BOMBINGS.
JUNE 1997. Compiled By John Rogers.

20 June1940. German bombers appeared over Portishead, the searchlight battery spotted them and they remained in the area for 15 minutes, they dropped their bombs and they fell around the searchlight battery and into the mud on the riverbank. No air raid warning was given.

25 June 1940. The first air raid warning sounded at 12:30 am, bombs were dropped among the houses near Champion& Davies Factory in Lower Maudlin St, bombs also fell in Knowle at I:30 am, also in St. George and Bedminster, the target was supposed to be Temple Mead's Station; nine bombs fell on the station two of which failed to explode. The raid lasted three hours. The city was hit fifty times, five people killed, 33 injured.

3 July 1940. Avonmouth was bombed, all the bombs missed the target and fell in the farmer's field.

1/2 August 1940.A single German plane flying at considerable height, shortly after midnight, dropped propaganda leaflets in the thousands over southwest England; some fell in the Blackwell district near Bristol.

11/12 August 1940.Enemy planes dropped a crude-oil bomb on Shirehampton at the West Town entrance to the docks; many bombs fell into the mud on the banks of the Avon, fourteen HE bombs were dropped in and around the village, the children’s playground in the St. Bernards school which contained a underground shelter was hit, along with several homes that were damaged. During the same raid seven H.E bombs fell in Stoke Bishop and in line with Old Sneed Ave and Redland. The school shelter contained 10 people, all survived the direct hit.

15/16 August 1940. A dozen bombs landed at the end of the North Pier at Avonmouth Docks, eight near Rockingham Farm and 17 around Hallen.

24/25 August 1940. Avonmouth was bombed and two homes were destroyed on Richmond Villas near the entrance to the docks. Six more bombs landed in the mud on the banks of the Avon.

27/28 August 1940. At 9.0 pm. Avonmouth came under attack with Incendiaries bombs dropped first followed by HE bombs, all hit the Petroleum tanks, the other bombs fell on the fields between Avonmouth and Shirehampton. Six more craters were found out near the Lawrence Weston fields.

It appeared the targets for the month of September was the railway lines from Bristol to Avonmouth, all along the line between Sea Mills, Shirehampton, and Avonmouth several bombs fell alongside the rails all missing the rails by about six feet. Many of the bombs
Remained in the ground un-exploded and the Army Bomb Disposal recovered them. One of the bombs a 250 pounder remained in the Sea Mills Creek until April 1951.

1 /2 September 1940. Avonmmouth and Shirehan1pton was bombed again, the Miles Arms Hotel and houses in Davis St took direct hits. Two people were killed, a young woman and her daughter.

3 /4 September 1940. Shirehampton was bombed, several homes destroyed.



1.
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Old 9th February 2019, 15:05
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10 September 1940 Shirehampton was bombed again and the bomb disposal teams were working hard to remove the bombs that landed in the center of High St. One of the team was killed when an unexploded bomb that fell near the George Inn exploded.

15 September 1940. This date marks the climax of the battle of Britain, in the course of which from August to October 1940, the Germans lost 1,733 aircraft, while the RAF lost 915 fighter planes to the enemy. This a major turning point in the war, which will ever be immortalized by the words of Winston Churchill,” Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

16 September 1940. On a Sunday night several flame bombs were dropped along with 60 HE bombs, 16 incendiaries canisters containing 3600 bombs for a total of 53,288 individual incendiary bombs. The intended target Avonmouth docks where not hit, even so three soldiers of the Gloucester regiment in the camp at Shirehampton were killed.

25 September 1940. Wednesday.-First daylight raid on Filton
It was a beautiful sunny morning hardly a cloud in the sky, when a large force of 100 German aircraft approached from the Bristol Channel, half of the aircraft made for the Welsh coast the rest turned over Avonmouth. The time was 11:40 am, the planes flying in "V" formation made an impressive site. Having no interception, those who saw them assumed they were ours. But they were Heinkel bombers with Messerschmitt long-range fighter as escorts, weaving in and out of the formation. The target was the Bristol Airplane Works at Filton, which they found without difficulty, and was completely at their mercy, without any British planes to oppose them. In 25 terror-filled minutes the alert was sounded at 11:40 am and the all clear at 12:05 pm. They dropped 190 bombs, causing a very high death- toll and much destruction. When it was over a 168 people had lost their lives and 300 other injured. In excess of 1000 were made homeless. The only consolation as far as Bristol was concerned was at 11:50 am. One of the bombers was shot down by the Portbury Gun site. All five members of the crew bailed out and were taken prisoners. The plane crashed at Racecourse Farm at Lower Failand.

27 September 1940. Friday- Second daylight raid on Filton

On this day history almost repeated itself of two day earlier, but not quite! It was a fine sunny morning once again when a large wave of German bombers with fighter escort appeared in the skies over Avonmouth making for Filton Airplane Factory, and at about the same time 11:30 am. But here the similarities of the two days ended in an attempt to repeat the same effect. This time the RAF was ready and waiting for them. A squadron of Hurricanes fighters had had been placed at Filton the day before. They took off and soon scattered the German aircraft and with the help of the anti-aircraft gunners the German planes were driven off before they could inflict any damage.

Crowds of the local villagers came out into the streets to watch the dogfights taking place in the skies above. Ten German aircraft were destroyed with the loss of two of ours. A German fighter was shot down and crashed near Stapleton Institution (Now Manor Park Hospital) both crew members were killed. Another fighter was shot down and crashed near Radstock; the pilot bailed out and was taken prisoner.



12 October 1940. Avonmouth was targeted again, the raid lasted two hours and the bombs


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Old 9th February 2019, 15:06
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damaged the railway near the transit station and a few trucks were derailed.
15/16 October 1940. Shirehampton was bombed, H.E bombs and incendiary were scattered in the Park, Henleaze, and Westbury-on- Trym were heavily damaged, the raid lasted 3 hours.

14 /15 November 1940. A bright moonlit night saw the start of a new phase in the Luftwaffe bombardments. Previously their mass aerial attacks had been reserved for London, but now started a series of heavy night attacks against industrial and military targets.

24 November 1940. Sunday Bristol's First Blitz.
The Sunday worshipers had hardly any time to get home before the sirens sounded the alert at 6:21 pm. with the arrival of 60 Henkel’s led in by pathfinders dropping flares. By the time the enemy planes had left at 11:59 pm. Bristol the Mediaeval City was a raging inferno. The hostile planes attacked in waves, raining down thousands of incendiary bombs. The red sky of Bristol burning could be seen for miles around- as far away as Stinchcombe Hill at Dursley. A thousand years of heritage perished in this one night, as did Wine St and Castle Street, Bristol's renowned shopping center. The German High Command reported that Bristol had been wiped out, and certainly the City of Churches had in one night become a city of ruins.
A high wind was blowing across the target area and it certainly contributed to the destruction of the most ancient parts of the city. .The situation was further handicapped by the water mains being destroyed, the reserve water from the tanks was soon exhausted, and the only supply came from the River Avon and the harbor.

7:0 0 pm. 25 November the bombs began to fall again. A building at the canning factory was hit, the smelting works was set on fire, and the dock sustained minor damage.


26 November 1940. In the evening between 6:35pm and 7: 30 a shower of incendiaries preceded by flares were dropped over Avonmouth and Shirehampton, the majority of the bombs fell on Shirehampton Golf Course. One person died in Shirehampton.

2 December 1940. Bristol's Second Blitz.
This large-scale raid lasted from 6:15 pm until 11:00 pm. this raid was to finish off Bristol according to the German high Command. The casualty figures for the night were 156 killed and 279 injured; it included the death of people in Shirehampton where stray bombs were dropped.

6 December 1940. Bristol's Third Blitz.
Bristol's third big air -raid in quick succession, began just after 6:30 pm and lasted until 11 :28 pm. Casualty figures for this raid were 100 killed and 188 injured. A H.E. bomb struck the railway alongside the 7.10 train from Bristol to Salisbury , which was derailed and accounted for many of the dead and injured.

2, 4.5, January 1941..
The bitter cold weather added to the horrors of the fires and bombs that fell in the past three days. Avonmouth came only second to London, (with Bristol third) in the number of tonnage of H.E. Bombs that were dropped in raids. These dusk to dawn raids, to that date were Bristol’s longest lasting raid, 12 hours, the weather was ice cold ,water froze on the uniforms of the firemen; water froze in the hose adding to the plight of the brave men fighting the fires. It was during this time


3.
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