• The Bomber Will Always Get Through

    The Bomber Will Always Get Through

    By Peter Smith

    Heinkel     Lancaster

    The bomber will always get through.

    So said Stanley Baldwin, British Prime Minister, 1935 to 1937, and many leading experts at the time.

    At the age of five I saw my first warplane, it was an RAF seaplane with a dummy orange bomb attached to its undercarriage, on show near Hastings pier, part of the British government's propaganda campaign to bolster morale just before the war started. A short while later, I saw my first anti-aircraft gun – it looked brand new with its shiny dark green coating. It was first situated in Warrior Square Gardens, Hastings, for display purposes, but then later moved to the beach opposite to perform a more active role. Due to my young age and lack of knowledge, I assumed it would shoot down any enemy aircraft which dared to trespass over our skies...how time would prove me wrong.

    Warrior Square Gun     Warrior Square Search Light

    For a few months after that, life went on as normal. I attended St Paul's primary school in St Leonards and enjoyed the life most children had at that time. Then shortly after, I was conscious of a change, for in the area I lived, Hollington, there were billeted many Londoners and their children, part of the first wave of evacuees from cities and towns during 1939.

    In June 1940 came the reality of war as my eldest stepbrother was rescued from Dunkirk, along with some 300,000 other soldiers. He described in visual detail his rescue and related how he saw a Junkers Ju 87 dive bomber (Stuka) release its bomb, only for it to travel down a Royal Navy destroyer’s funnel with dire results. With the British forces in retreat, the country now awaited the German invasion which was named Operation Sea Lion.

    Dunkirk     Dunkirk

    Not long after, my parents and I were walking down King's Road, St Leonards (an area of Hastings), when we saw a government notice in the local post office. One word stood out, a new word, and one I had not seen before...evacuation! Unknown to me, this was a term I was soon to become familiar with.

    On the 20th of July 1940, along with my fellow classmates from St Paul's, we travelled by bus to Hastings railway station. Packed with everything I would need, and saying goodbye to my parents, I, along with 3000 other children, made the exodus to Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, just in time before the first bombs fell on Hastings during the 26th of July.

    Evacuees

    Now separated from my parents and the life I once knew, I found myself in a strange world...one any six-year-old would find intimidating. My place of residence for the next three years was an old farm cottage in rural Houghton Conquest, about five miles from the town of Bedford. My foster carers were a kind old lady, her disabled brother, and her fifteen-year-old niece.


    11 Comments
    1. alanmerry's Avatar
      alanmerry -
      Great story. Always fascinating to read personal memories of the war as against the more general histories.
    1. AlyMac's Avatar
      AlyMac -
      what a super read - thanks for sharing
    1. MrYorkiesWorld's Avatar
      MrYorkiesWorld -
      A fantastic read Peter, many thanks for sharing this amazing story!
    1. tirith63's Avatar
      tirith63 -
      Thanks for sharing your personal history. Very glad you're here to tell the story - it was fascinating!
    1. widowmaker320's Avatar
      widowmaker320 -
      My Dad was in SOE F-Section, and will have flown out with 161 Squadron
    1. rcogg's Avatar
      rcogg -
      Thanks for sharing. A great read!
    1. kalizzi's Avatar
      kalizzi -
      Awesome article you shared Nels. Enjoyed reading it thoroughly. Thank you.
    1. BarryDon's Avatar
      BarryDon -
      Thanks for sharing your story Peter. Vey interesting reading.
    1. Aviation392's Avatar
      Aviation392 -
      Fantastic read. Unfortunately so many of our younger generation, have no idea of the destruction and fear so many ppl witnessed and experienced personally. Thank you for sharing your story, and we all wish you the best of health./ Ten
    1. SWM1968's Avatar
      SWM1968 -
      Peter, what a fantastic article!

      I can only imagine what it must have been like for all those who lived during that time. The generations that had to endure all of this we must always be eternally grateful to, and we should not forget the sacrifices people made, both on the home front and also overseas. Times were tuff indeed. Fantastic stories like this deserve to be kept alive so that younger generations appreciate what went before.

      Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences of this time, really appreciated!
    1. PaulMort's Avatar
      PaulMort -
      A great insight into the human aspect of WWII. The memories of a time of self-sacrifice, loss and eventually the joy of victory will never be erased from the minds of the people who were around at that time. Fascinating recollection and a great story.
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