A dear friend in England sent me this link to the website at the BBC called WW2 People’s War.
Pete Smith is a delightful raconteur and eminent scholar, and shared his dad’s adventures with me. Here is one hair-raising story his dad, Roy Smith, shares on the website:
“[S]etting out for a trip to Mannheim, and routed over N.W. London, it seemed that the ground defences had not been informed and we were subjected to some anti-aircraft fire. George, our wireless operator, fired off the colours of the day to no avail. As a precaution, the flight engineer opened the hatch, in case we had to make an emergency escape. Our mid-upper gunner bent down from his turret to see what was going on and seeing the hatch was open, switched on his intercom to contact the pilot. However, when bending down he must have pulled his intercom plug slightly out of the socket, so there was no connection to other crew members. Having seen the open hatch and being unable to communicate with anyone, he assumed that we had all jumped, and quickly followed suit. We were given to understand that he landed in Walthamstow and his parachute had caught on some railings, leaving him suspended a foot or tow above the ground. He was arrested by the Home Guard, but after establishing his identity, was returned to the station.”
Other stories of Roy’s can be read here. And many other stories you can read on this page of the BBC site.
These war memories are so important to have, so that past history is not lost forever. After all, history is made by each one of us, not just politicians and famous people. That’s why my mom, Joan Wehlen Morrison, was an oral historian. The words and stories of everyday people constitute our communal history. Be sure to write down your own story or record the memories of older folks for posterity!
Thanks for sharing, Pete and Roy! I’d like to dedicate this post to Roy who is ill and wish him a speedy recovery.