A Note from the Editor
It is with enormous pride that I take over the role of editor from Cathy Pugh who has done such a fantastic job for so many years. Cathy began as a volunteer in 2000 and produced the Centre’s education packs for schools. Following a grant from the Tubney Trust, Cathy was recruited to develop content for the Centre’s website. She was promoted to Centre researcher in 2003, producing the Centre’s post and panel exhibition and promotional film during the 2005 VE and VJ Day anniversary celebrations. Promoted to General Manager, Cathy raised funding for and hosted Veterans Day events and filmed interviews with 40 veterans to produce the Centre’s educational DVD. Cathy edited issues 17 – 34 of Everyone’s War.
My involvement with the Centre over the past six years has been both a privilege and a fascinating education. The Centre is a treasure trove of primary resources for historians, researchers and anyone wishing to learn more about the personal history of the Second World War. My recently published book Children in the Second World War: Memories from the Home Front (Pen and Sword, 2017) draws extensively from the Centre’s archives. It cannot be overstated enough the importance of preserving the memories of those who had first-hand experience of such a unique period in British history. In this issue of the journal we have a stylistic change, most notably the decision to publish a broader scope of material per issue, rather than focusing exclusively on one theme, so that there is something to interest everyone.
The cover theme for this issue is Anniversaries. We begin with the centenary of the Woman’s Royal Naval Service, marked this year with WRNS100 events across the country under the patronage of HRH The Princess Royal. To help celebrate the contribution of Wrens during the Second World War, three women from the Centre’s archives describe their experiences.
To mark the 80th anniversary of the maiden flight of a Vickers Wellington Mk 1, John Larder, Research Officer at the Yorkshire Air Museum, has kindly contributed an article on the history of the Wellington. From the Centre’s archives we have Angus Robb of No. 431 Squadron, RCAF, who recounts his experiences of flying ‘Wimpys’ during the Battle of the Ruhr. 75 years ago Fred Oldfield, WOp/AG aboard a Wellington of No. 221 Squadron, crash-landed in the sea. In his account he tells of his extraordinary luck in being rescued by HMS Petard.
HMS Petard features again as this year is the 75th anniversary of Petard’s capture of the Enigma code books, an event which helped shorten the war. Reg Crang, aboard the Petard, relives this momentous occasion, and from the archives we have sourced yet another major historic event in which HMS Petard was involved: the tragedy of SS Khedive Ismail. Three eye-witness accounts from the Centre’s archives reveal the circumstances of what was one of the worst maritime disasters
of the war and the greatest loss of service women in the history of the Commonwealth.
The Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 was commemorated in 2012 by the BBC Radio 4 broadcast ‘Return to Oasis’ which told of soldiers’ experiences in the Western Desert through their poetry. In turn, we pay tribute to this year’s 75th anniversary of Alamein with an article on Desert War Poetry by poet-author Michael Bully, followed by a firsthand account of Alamein by Bernard Milner of the 41st Royal Tank Regiment.
Another 75th anniversary is that of Operation Torch, the British-American invasion of French North Africa. This significant campaign is detailed in an article by one of our long-serving volunteers, Jonathan Fenny, followed by a gripping, first-hand account of the 2nd Parachute Battalion’s attack at Oudna by Eddie Hancock.
2017 is the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration denouncing the persecution of the Jewish people. Through material donated to the archives, we give tribute to all those who fell victim to Nazi persecution. We have an extraordinary tale of survival in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen by John Fink who married Alice, a fellow Jewish Defence Committee worker, in Belsen after liberation;
Dr Alan MacAuslan, a medical student, tells of his work at Belsen, and the loss of unknown numbers of fellow volunteers through typhus. Major Freddie Hindmarsh outlines his role as interpreter to Major Horrocks of Corps Ems during the surrender and tells of how he inadvertently let Heinrich Himmler slip through his hands. We conclude this section with the War Crimes Trials as told through the recollections of a language student employed as an official translator at the subsequent Nuremberg Trials.
To conclude, we have two articles on RAF squadron crews. – Author and historian Neil Bright has contributed a detailed biography of American pilot Red Tobin, the ‘Ace of Hearts’ who flew with the RAF in No. 71 Eagle Squadron and gave his life in the defence of Britain.
Historian Emma Herbert-Davies contributes with an article drawn from the Centre’s Mosquito Aircrew Association (MAA) archive, retelling the touching story of two Welsh Mosquito men who went to school together, flew together, and died together. Thanks to the efforts of our ‘Mossie Men’, Chris Makin and Ian Fleming, digitalisation of the MAA journals is nearly complete and will be made available online in the near future.
Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to make a call for papers. The Centre welcomes contributions of articles on any aspect of the Second World War for consideration in the Journal.
For submissions and editorial enquiries, please email
or contact the Centre direct.