Tell Them of Us
“not a gesture, a thought or a sin, or a teardrop will be lost on these grains of sand…”
definition – a novice or beginner
In 1944 my 20-year-old uncle left the Midlands and was sent to Canada to train as a navigator and bomb aimer. From a time when world travel was for the wealthy and privileged it must have been an incredibly exciting time for a young working class man to be travelling the world, even in wartime.
A memoir written by William A Conway lead to this song. As an 18-year-old Canadian airman William served from 1942 to 1946 training as a navigator and like my uncle flew B24 Liberators. He writes about his training in Canada and how he met another young navigator Nick Zakow.
“We very quickly became best friends, like brothers. It was one of those rare moments in life when like the flash of a newspaper man’s camera, something important happened.”
They parted after their training to join separate squadrons. Sadly it was a fleeting friendship as Nick never made it home. It wasn’t until after I had written Beating Heart I started cross references dates and realised that my uncle was actually on the same raid as Nick Zakow.
Frank’s log book entry reads:
“Dive bombing railway sidings and warehouses. Last plane burning well.”
Flight Sergeant Stanley James Woodbridge from 159 squadron was captured in February 1945 by the Japanese. The crew was returning to base after a successful mission when their B24 Liberator suffered engine trouble and the crew had to bail out. Stanley was a wireless operator and was asked to reveal vital information about codes and targets but he steadfastly refused. He was tortured and eventually beheaded.
In 1948 Stanley was posthumously awarded the George Cross.
Don’t Wait Too Long
I love ambling amongst the shelves of books in charity shops. One of my lucky finds was an incredible book by Ronald Searle.
Ronald is most famous for his satirical cartoons and creator of the popular St. Trinians books but it was a collection of drawings from his time as a POW in Singapore and Siam that moved me and haunted me. The conditions were brutal and appalling; as an artist he desperately wanted to record what was happening and incredibly with limited tools and the risk if discovered of being tortured or killed, he produced some of the most sensitive and affecting drawings I’ve ever seen.
We Knew You Well
No matter what your belief we are all connected to the past which in turn shapes the future. We make memories and pass them on
The false dawn, a new day, there is always hope.
Stepping into the unknown and discovering a resilience beyond your years.
Many of the B24 Liberators were decorated by the aircrew with a nose art icon. Images of women were especially popular, some men viewed them as guardian angels and sought protection whilst in the sky.
The healing power of music.
Who Am I?
When I was a kid my Uncle Frank always seemed very cheery and kind. As with many ex service personnel he never talked about what happened to him during the war so I wonder how he coped when he came back home. Did he ever wrestle with his conscience?
Frank recorded his time with this Kodak camera.