Posts Tagged ‘mission’

Elderly neighbours discover they both took part in the same WW2 mission

December 9th, 2015

George Rhodes, 99, and Graham Brown, 93, live in the same block of flats, but have only just found out one inadvertently helped the other during an Allied mission.

Before Mr Rhodes and his fellow Army soldiers entered a railway yard, the Royal Air Force were called to drop bombs on the city to clear their way.

One of the pilots who dropped the bombs was Mr Brown – making sure Mr Rhodes and his men could get through. Both men ended up living next door to each other in Wells, Somerset.

George Rhodes in the army

Mr Rhodes said: “Graham and his boys did a good job. The place was ruined. All the rails had been bombed so much that they were all curled up.

“No train was going to run on those again and the bombs meant that we could enter.”

An army sergeant, Mr Rhodes signed up during his university days in 1942 – where he was sent to the Middle East, north Africa and Italy before the bombing raids in Europe.

While Mr Brown was the pilot of a Wellington bomber. Graz was liberated in 1945 and the two returned to normal lives after the war.

Mr Rhodes became a mortician in the pathology department of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, married Ruby and had one son.

Mr Brown returned to Bristol University and completed his engineering degree started at the beginning of the war and then became the manager of Underwood Quarry in Wells.

After finding out that their jobs in the war were dependent on each, the two are best of friends and share an apartment building together.

Mr Rhodes added: “Graham is a great bloke and we talk about the war, thank heavens he and his aircrew were around to support us at that time.”

Soldier reunited with wallet lost in Austria 70 years ago
War veteran reunited with dog tag after 69 years


World War Two

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Wallis Simpson ordered rescue mission for her swimsuit in WW2

March 1st, 2015

He writes that after Edward abdicated in December 1936 he and his wife ‘acted as if World War II was simply a minor inconvenience to their lifestyle’ and that their ‘self-indulgence knew no bounds’.

Despite millions being slaughtered in the conflict, in 1940 Mrs Simpson had ‘other pressing concerns’, notably her missing swimming costume.

Morton writes that it was ‘vital it be returned’ so she enlisted the American diplomats to ‘repatriate the garment’.

He writes: ‘Even though their rented villa was locked and shuttered and that part of the coast occupied by the enemy, the diplomats duly did her bidding.

‘In the midst of war the swimsuit was found and dispatched safely to the grateful duchess.’


Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson after their return from France at the start of World War II (Getty)

Morton also writes that Edward and Mrs Simpson were in regular contact with high level Nazi commanders to beg them to protect their homes in Paris and the South of France.

At the time the couple were hiding out from the row over his abdication in Spain and Portugal.

Morton writes: ‘The duchess was most concerned that their bed linens be protected from damage.

‘Even the diplomat brother of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was horrified by the duke’s behavior.

(He said): ‘A prince does not ask favours of his country’s enemies. To request the handing over of things he could replace or dispense with is not correct.’

In extracts already made public Morton writes that Mrs Simpson was viewed with deep suspicion by palace courtiers and that she had been described as a ‘witch, a vampire and a high-class blackmailer’.

Just weeks after her husband took the throne in January 1936 some even thought that she could be a spy.

Morton says that in his view Edward was ‘a man who was disaffected with his position, disloyal to his family and unpatriotic towards his country.’


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George ‘Johnny’ Johnson remembers the Dambusters mission, 1943

May 9th, 2014

My crew and I were with the 97 Squadron before we moved over to the new 617 Squadron for a special mission in March 1943. In the front row are me, the bomb aimer; Len Eaton, wireless operator; Joe McCarthy, pilot; Ron Batson, front gunner; and behind us are Dave Rodger, rear gunner; Don MacLean, navigator; and Bill Ratcliffe, flight engineer. Joe was the big man and I thought of him as an older brother. We had a friendship that was beyond that of pilot and bomb aimer, and when we first met we just seemed to gel.

We had no idea what we were training for until the day of the briefing. I was young enough and stupid enough to not think too much about it. The general conjecture had been that it would be against the German battleship Tirpitz, but the next day, May 16 1943, we discovered how wrong we were when we went to the briefing with Wg Cdr Guy Gibson and the inventor of the bouncing bomb, Barnes Wallis. That was the first indication we had of what the target was going to be – three dams within Germany’s Ruhr Valley.

It is difficult to say what the mood was when we found out. At that stage, most people were concerned with their own crew, because the crew were a family, always. But I do know there were one or two who had a nasty feeling they weren’t going to come back.

Gibson was a strict disciplinarian and his big problem was that he could not bring himself down to lower ranks. He had no verbal connection with the air crew except to tell them off when something went wrong. But the true essence of the man as a leader was portrayed in the actual raid, where he made the first attack on the Möhne. We knew it was the only dam that was defended. As he called each aircraft in, he flew alongside them to attract some of the defence. He said, ‘You’re doing this, I’m doing this, we’re doing this together.’ That to me is the essence of good leadership.

The scale of the raid didn’t hit most of us until we saw the outcome and the number of crews we’d lost – we lost eight of our 16 attacking planes that night and only three of the aircrew from the downed Lancasters survived. We lost 53 crew in total. It was pretty devastating.

I’ve talked to school children about the raid and I can see the interest in their eyes. That makes it for me. It’s a relief to know that they’re teaching Second World War history in junior schools. There’s been an increase in the interest over the last three or four years, and I enjoy it.

The Last British Dambuster by George ‘Johnny’ Johnson (Ebury Press, £17.99) is out now


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