Posts Tagged ‘were’

VJ Day veterans remember their war: ‘We knew what we were doing was vital’

August 16th, 2015

But following the Japanese surrender, Mr Giddings was dispatched to assist the Dutch colonial government in Indonesia, then facing a nationalist insurgency for independence.

Back in 1940, at the start of it all, he had lied in order to do his bit. Aged 17, Mr Giddings headed to his nearest RAF recruitment station, in Gloucester, and told them he was 18 – allowing him to sign up. He said: “ After the Battle of Britain I thought ‘I’ve got to get in there, the Air Force needs me.’”

Following basic training in Skegness the teenager was among the first to put his name down when the call came for volunteers for overseas duty and in December 1941 he was posted to Air Headquarters Singapore.

He was lucky not to be captured before his war had even begun. On its way to Singapore his ship fortuitously broke down and when the rest of the convoy – which had sailed ahead to the British colony – was captured by the Japanese, it managed to make its way to Burma instead.

Here Mr Giddings fought with 17 Squadron, flying a Hawker Hurricane fighter. Overwhelmed by the Japanese in 1942, British forces retreated to India, where Mr Giddings took part in the four-month long defence of Agatala.

But his most dangerous mission was yet to come. In 1944 he signed up for “volunteers for hazardous duty” and found himself pitched into the battle of Kohima, north east India, where the Japanese were attempting to capture a key ridge held by British and Indian troops.

It was the task of Mr Giddings and his fellow volunteers to keep the defenders supplied, something they managed to do until the Japanese retreated on June 22 that year.

He rejoined 17 Squadron, this time flying Spitfires, and took part in the battle of Mandalay, which saw the Japanese overwhelmed by Allied forces – thanks in part to British supremacy in the air.

The battle, which raged from January to March 1945, proved a turning point in the war in the Far East and Mr Giddings and his squadron were subsequently ordered to take part in the recapture of Singapore, which had fallen to the Japanese in ignominious circumstances three years earlier.

By the time the men got to Singapore however, the Americans had dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shortly after the Japanese surrendered, bringing the war to an end, and Mr Giddings and his comrades were met with no opposition.

With the war over Mr Giddings was given two weeks leave and hitchhiked back to Britain, only to be sent back to the far east to help Dutch forces fight what was ultimately a losing battle against Indonesian independence. It was, the 92-year-old now says, “almost as bad as Burma”.

After leaving the RAF in 1947 Mr Giddings, who joined fellow veterans in Saturday’s VJ parade along Whitehall, worked in engineering and insurance, while also serving as a civilian volunteer in the Royal Observer Corps as part of Britain’s Cold War defences. He went on to become Mayor of Banbury and is now the chairman of the Burma Star Association. In 2003 he was made an MBE for his services to the association.

THE SOLDIER

Dan Chapman, 92

Dan Chapman, aged 21 and in Wivenhoe on Friday (Martin Rose)

Dan Chapman was among thousands of British troops at sea preparing to invade Malaysia when he heard it was all over.

As the men of his 26th Indian Division braced themselves for the bitter fighting that would follow Operation Zipper’s imminent seaborne assault on Port Swettenham, south west of Kuala Lumpur, word spread that Japan had surrendered.

Mr Chapman, now 92, said: “This time 70 years ago we were waiting on board ship to land against the Japanese in Malaya. We were about to do the landing when the atom bomb was dropped and Japan surrendered. We were saved from invading at the critical last minute, saving many Japanese and Indian Army lives. I felt somewhat relived, to put it mildly. I think we were all pleased that it was over.”

With the planned invasion averted, the 26th Indian Division was diverted to Indonesia to take the surrender of the Japanese in Sumatra.

“We weren’t sure whether we were going to be met by bullets or surrender, so we were a bit apprehensive,” said Mr Chapman. “But it went off all right and eventually all the Japanese surrendered and were sent back to Japan.”

But Mr Chapman’s war continued for another 12 months, as the 26th Indian Division took part in anti-insurgency operations on behalf of the Dutch colonial government. “My war just carried on,” he said.

Born and bred in Barking, east London, he had joined the British Army in September 1941, just before his 18th birthday, having already experienced the terror of the Blitz and served in the Local Defence Volunteers and Home Guard.

After a year in the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Army Service Corps he was transferred to the South Staffordshire Infantry Regiment and posted to Bangalore, where he was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Garhwal Rifles, reaching the rank of Captain.

Mr Chapman, who was awarded the Burma Star and left the Army in 1947, went on to have three children and six grandchildren with Eileen, his wife of 65 years.

Seventy years on the retired bank manager joined other veterans at the Wivenhoe Branch of The Royal British Legion in remembering those who did not survive the war,

“I will mostly be thinking about lost comrades and some of the good times,” he said. “And just being alive.”

THE RADIO OPERATOR

Gladys Wilkins, 92

Gladys Wilkins as a young woman and at her home in Redbridge on Friday (Julian Simmonds)

Women like Gladys Wilkins played a key role in the war – a role only recognised in recent years for its true worth alongside the exploits and bravery of the front line troops.

A Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) radio operator, first at Flowerdown, near Winchester, then in Columbo, Ceylon – now Sri Lanka – it was her job to intercept enemy massages and relay them back to Bletchley Park for decoding.

The Flowerdown intercepts allowed the RAF to bomb German U-boats whose signals had been overheard by operators such as Mrs Wilkins. When she was transferred to Columbo, in January 1944, the coded messages she intercepted from Japanese forces again provided priceless intelligence for the allies.

“We were able to pin point a lot of the things they were doing,” said Mrs Wilkins, now 92. “We knew that what we were doing in helping defeat the enemy was vital.”

Just how vital became only too clear when the war ended and freed allied prisoners of war began to arrive in Ceylon en route to their home countries. Mrs Wilkins and her colleagues were there to meet them at the quayside to try and help the men, emaciated from their pitiless ordeal, become acclimatised to liberty once again.

To this day the thought of the men’s skeletal features still reduces Mrs Wilkins to tears.

“We’d meet the POW ships coming back to Columbo and take the men for a coffee, just to try and make them feel normal again. Seeing them come down the gangway in the state they were in was terrible. I shall never forget that,” she said. “We didn’t want to upset them, so we didn’t mention things like the Blitz or what had happened at home.”

While returning to Britain by boat, in 1948, Mrs Wilkins met her future husband, Stanley, who had fought behind enemy lines with the Royal Marines Special Operations (385 Detachment), carrying out sabotage raids after being dropped by submarine or boat near Japanese occupied territory.

The couple, who went on to have three children, moved to south west England, where Mr Wilkins worked as a vet before joining Dorset police and rising to the rank of Chief Inspector. He died eight years ago.

Before joining Saturday’s VJ commemoration parade, organised with help of Royal British Legion, Mrs Wilkins, who now lives in Redbridge, east London, said: “I’m very proud of what my husband did, but I’m also proud of all the people who never came back. And I shall be wearing my medals with pride.”


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Priceless Japanese artefacts taken by tourist who thought they were souvenirs

March 10th, 2015

During the war, the island of Okinawa was forced to use the Japanese language the rest of the country used rather than their own dialect for the purposes of unification.

Anyone heard using their native tongue would be forced to wear the wooden plaque around their neck.

Museum director Peter Roberts-Taira said: “I’m very, very relieved.

“It’s the first time these items have ever been out of Japan, so the museums themselves were taking a risk.

“It was Saturday, right at the very end of the day when everyone was packing away that we realised they had gone.

“One was a wooden plaque with some Japanese on it, the other was a maths book which children had in their classrooms.

“You wouldn’t know they were valuable to look at, so maybe somebody just though they could take them.

“The message went out wider to people who asked their friends, and apparently they discovered a friend of a friend had thought those things were possible to take away as souvenirs.

“They are irreplaceable, if they are gone, they are gone forever. It’s very, very special to have them at all.”

The artefacts are now being returned to the Peace Memorial Museum in Okinawa.


World War Two

The Imitation Game: who were the real Bletchley Park codebreakers?

November 14th, 2014

As the war progressed, Station X became a hidden city of 10,000 people working in hastily constructed “huts”. Many of the codebreakers were tweedy, pipe-smoking Cambridge mathematicians, both dons and recent graduates, but some were recruited because of their linguistic skills, knowledge of hieroglyphics, or brilliance at chess. All were expected to be able to solve the Telegraph crossword in less than six minutes. Many were eccentric. One boffin would pace around the lake drinking coffee as he pondered, and when he had finished his cup he would look at it in surprise, as if unsure how it had got into his hand. He would then toss it over his shoulder in to the lake.

At the end of the war, Churchill ordered that all records of the place be destroyed in a huge bonfire. Had one former employee not written a book in 1974 about his work there, we might have remained in the dark about Bletchley to this day. As it was, the world was astonished.

Indignant too, because Alan Turing, the genius who did most to crack the German Enigma codes and shorten the war by at least two years, was treated appallingly after the war, on account of his homosexuality. He was prosecuted for “gross indecency” in 1952 and given hormone treatment – “chemical castration” – which led to his suicide two years later. He was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.


The Bletchley story is told in new film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing

A critically acclaimed new film, The Imitation Game, celebrates his work at Bletchley Park. As played by Benedict Cumberbatch (in what is being tipped as an Oscar-winning performance), Turing is revealed as an insensitive narcissist who found eye contact difficult, but who was very much the right man at the right time. Apart from saving millions of lives, he also had a hand in the invention of the world’s first programmable computer at Bletchley, a giant machine called Colossus that enabled him to crack codes quickly, by a process of elimination.

Everyone has heard of Turing now, and rightly so, but, as this film reminds us, he was part of an extraordinary team, some brilliant, others unprofessional, one treacherous. So who were they? Well, the second most important person at Bletchley was Hugh Alexander.

Hugh Alexander (played by Matthew Goode) – British chess champion

Hugh Alexander; Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander in The Imitation Game

Like many of the codebreakers, he had a first in mathematics from Cambridge, but he found himself in Hut 6 in 1940 thanks to his brilliance at chess. Twice British chess champion, and an International Master, he made important contributions to two classic chess strategies: “the Dutch defence” and the “Petroff defence”. Had he been allowed to compete in the Soviet Union during the Cold War – the authorities here thought the contents of his brain too valuable to allow him to go anywhere near there – he may even have become a world champion.

He was known in print at Bletchley as C.H.O’D – his full name was Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander – which sounds like a cryptic crossword clue. Perhaps not quite as dashing as the actor Matthew Goode who plays him in The Imitation Game, Alexander nevertheless had a reputation for urbanity and charm. In 1941, he was transferred to Hut 8 and became Turing’s deputy.

The great man would tease Alexander for being almost, but not quite, his intellectual equal.

According to a memoir written by one of his colleagues: “We all thought Hugh was crazy. Tall, blond, huge blue eyes, never stopped talking, a terrible energy.” And in the words of another: “We worked [at Hut 8] through the war on a continuous three-shift basis. The night shift was not generally popular because everybody quickly became tired through lack of proper sleep in the day; but Hugh had a strange passion for working at night and used to put himself on nights for weeks on end. This did not prevent him working much of the day as well – he seemed to thrive on this strange regime.” Alexander’s admiration for Turing was conditional – he found him annoying most of the time – and he eventually engineered a friendly coup against him to become the head of Hut 8. He did this because he rightly saw that Turing’s gifts were being wasted on the admin side of running things: he needed thinking space. It was Alexander, more than anyone else, who recognised Turing’s genius for what it was.

Station X was run in quite an amateurish way by MI6. Such was the lack of professionalism, in fact, Alexander and Turing broke with protocol and went over the heads of their MI6 superiors to make a direct appeal to the Prime Minister, requesting more equipment and personnel. Churchill responded instantly, agreeing to the requests and notifying his Chief of Staff. His memo was stamped with that memorable phrase of his: “Action This Day.” When the Germans introduced a “super enciphered” method of transmitting the day’s settings to their Enigma operators (using bigram tables), Alexander helped Turing develop a technique for breaking them called Banburismus, because it involved “punched holes on long sheets of paper printed in Banbury”.

Alexander also introduced a pneumatic tube system for transferring files and documents between huts. He had borrowed the idea from his pre-war job, working as the chief scientist with the John Lewis chain.

After the war he became head of cryptanalysis at GCHQ. He died at the age of 64 in 1974 and there has been speculation that the stresses caused by the mental demands of his career led to his early death.


The Colossus computer at Bletchley, used to decode Nazi messages. Photo: Alamy

Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley) – female codebreaker who became engaged to Turing

Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game

Joan Clarke, by contrast, was a much calmer, less intense character, which is perhaps why she lived until 1996, long after she retired from GCHQ. Like Alexander, she had a first in maths from Cambridge; unlike him, when she was recruited to Bletchley Park she was told that her work there wouldn’t really require mathematics.

This turned out not to be the case. After a period of clerical work with “the girls”, her mathematical gifts led to her becoming the only woman among a team of nine Banburists. And according to her boss, Alexander, she was “one of the best Banburists in the section”. Clarke wasn’t as glamorous as Keira Knightley, who plays her in the film, but her character is captured well by the actress. Records describe her as “congenial but shy, gentle and kind, non-aggressive and always subordinate to the men in her life”. Her enthusiasm and energy were legendary. She would often be reluctant to hand over her workings at the end of her shift and instead continue to see if a few more calculations would produce a result.

A pay rise was arranged to recognise her contributions to the team and she was promoted to “Linguist” even though she spoke no other language. She delighted in answering a questionnaire with “Grade: Linguist. Languages: none”.

In the spring of 1941, she developed a close friendship with her Hut 8 colleague Turing. For a time, they became inseparable, with Turing arranging their shifts so they could work together. One day, in his awkward way, he proposed marriage to her and when Clarke accepted he added, “But don’t count on it working out as I have homosexual tendencies.” The romance continued regardless, unconsummated, until they called it off by mutual consent a year later.

Clarke became deputy head of Hut 8 in early 1944 and, after the war, she married an Army officer she had met when working at GCHQ.

Decoder Wrens working in Huts 6 and 8 at Bletchley Park during the Second World War

Stewart Menzies (played by Mark Strong)

Stewart Menzies (Photo: Getty); Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies in The Imitation Game

Arguably, the next most important figure at Bletchley was Stewart Menzies. His grandfather was a wealthy whisky distiller and his parents were friends of Edward VII, who was rumoured to be Menzies’s real father. At Eton he was sporty but never academic, and he didn’t go to university afterwards but joined the Life Guards instead.

At the start of the war he became “C”, the head of MI6. Churchill was initially sceptical about whether Menzies was up to the job, but he eventually made him part of his inner circle and Menzies would report to him daily.

Though not a codebreaker himself, it was Menzies who was in overall charge at Bletchley, and it was he who introduced what was called Ultra. If too many of the intercepts from Bletchley were acted upon, the Germans would get suspicious that the Enigma codes had been cracked. Menzies therefore introduced a system that meant only a certain percentage of the intelligence gleaned from decoding would be passed on to the British Army, Navy and RAF.

In addition to being married three times, he had a long-term affair with his secretary. He retired with the rank of major general.

John Cairncross (played by Allen Leech) – loner later revealed to be part of the Cambridge spy ring

John Cairncross; Allen Leech as John Cairncross in The Imitation Game

It is implied in the film that Menzies knew exactly what the spy John Cairncross was up to at Station X. An intelligent, spiky man, Cairncross was described by his colleagues at Bletchley Park as “a bit of a loner”.

This was an understatement given that he was the Fifth Man in the Cambridge spy ring. He knew Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt, but didn’t like them much.

He admitted to spying in 1951 when Guy Burgess fled to Moscow and MI5 found a handwritten note from him in Burgess’s flat.

Cairncross arrived at Bletchley Park in 1942 and went to work in Hut 3 on Germany Army group communications. Unusually for a codebreaker, he read languages at Cambridge, rather than mathematics.

Throughout the war, Cairncross passed documents through secret channels to his KGB handlers, who gave him the code name Liszt, because of his love of music. He smuggled the decrypts out of the hut in his trousers, transferring them to his bag at the railway station.

But the truth is probably more ambiguous than this summary of his treachery allows. The Allies wanted the Soviets to know about certain German battle plans, just not where the intelligence came from. They were our wartime allies, after all.

Given the tight security at Bletchley, there is speculation that Menzies arranged things so that Cairncross was fed with documents that he wanted the Soviets to see. It seems the only explanation for why only the most relevant decrypts were left conveniently lying around, and why Cairncross was never searched as he left Bletchley.

Peter Hilton (played by Matthew Beard) – maths genius and inventor of one of the world’s longest palindromes

Peter Hilton; Matthew Beard as Peter Hilton in The Imitation Game

Our next notable Bletchley figure could not have been more different from prickly Cairncross. Unusually for a Bletchley Park mathematician, the precocious, sweet-natured Peter Hilton had studied at Oxford rather than Cambridge. He was recruited in 1942 at the tender age of 18 because he also knew German (a language he had taught himself in a year). He worked alongside Turing in Hut 8 on Naval Enigma and, thanks to his extraordinary powers of visualisation, he was able to unpick in his mind’s eye streams of characters from two separate teleprinters – a feat of mental gymnastics that proved vital when the Germans introduced a new system of teleprinter ciphers produced by a much larger and more complex machine than Enigma.

Many years after the war, this was revealed to be a Lorenz SZ40 encoder, but, at the time, staff at Bletchley Park called it “Tunny”.

In his off-duty hours, Hilton (played by Matthew Beard in the film) earned a reputation as a convivial companion.

He was a regular in the bar of the Bletchley pub that was subsequently renamed The Enigma, and often attended dances at nearby Woburn Abbey, where Wrens were billeted. He also became a renowned exponent both of bawdy songs and dirty jokes and once spent a sleepless night composing one of the world’s longest palindromes: DOC, NOTE: I DISSENT. A FAST NEVER PREVENTS A FATNESS. I DIET ON COD.

After the war, Hilton became a professor of mathematics at Cornell University and helped create a new discipline, homology theory. Once the Official Secrets Act was lifted in the Eighties, his lectures about the years at Bletchley Park became highly popular at venues all over the world.

“For me,” he recalled in one of them, “the real excitement was this business of getting two texts out of one sequence of gibberish. I never met anything quite so exciting, especially since you knew that these were vital messages.”

Jack Good (played by James Northcote) – once cracked a code in his sleep


Jack Good, right, once cracked a code in his sleep. Photo: Des Good

And so we come to our final unsung Bletchley hero. Jack Good was a slender, good-humoured, bushy-moustached mathematician (Cambridge) who worked closely with Turing in Hut 8 and was prone to having catnaps on the floor of the hut, especially after a long shift. This was just as well because he broke one vital code in his sleep, with the solution coming to him in a dream. In it he wondered whether the dummy letters German telegraphists had to add to their messages in order to transmit them were random, or whether there was a bias towards particular letters. After inspecting some messages that had been broken, he discovered that there was a tendency to use some letters more than others. This being the case, all the codebreakers had to do was work back from the indicators given at the beginning of each message, and apply each bigram table in turn. The bigram table that produced one of the popular dummy letters was probably the correct one.

When Good (played by James Northcote in the film) mentioned his discovery to Turing, the genius felt embarrassed, and said, “I could have sworn that I tried that already.” It quickly became an important part of the Banburismus procedure.

After the war, Good became a professor and worked as a consultant to Stanley Kubrick on the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. He never guessed Turing’s sexual orientation in all the time they worked together, and neither did the Bletchley Park authorities. “Otherwise,” as Good noted matter-of-factly, “Turing may have been driven to kill himself earlier, and we might have lost the war.”

The Imitation Game is on release now


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‘We felt as if we were being let into the future’

September 6th, 2014

The restoration at Langham comes at a time when the British public are being treated to a host of activities to commemorate the country’s time at war. Last month, the UK joined the rest of the world in marking the outbreak of the First World War; and thousands are expected to turn out on Sunday in Preston, Windermere, Morecambe and Holmfirth in Yorkshire to watch a fly-past of the last two Lancaster bomber planes in existence. The bombers were the legendary stars of the Dambusters raids, in which 19 Lancasters attacked German dams with Sir Barnes Wallis’s “bouncing bombs” during the Second World War in 1943.

“We came up by train to Holt,” Martin remembers of his first journey to Langham seven decades ago. “I was in ground-to-air command on the signals side at RAF Debden in Essex. There must have been 20 or 30 of us brought in. We stayed in a Nissen Hut. I can still taste how terrible the food was. We spent some time in a classroom, learning how to assemble and disassemble a Browning, and some time on the beach at Weybourne [just along the coast from Langham], firing at a flag of material towed behind a radio-controlled plane. From memory, there were only three bullet holes in it when we’d finished, and probably more than that in the plane itself. Then we came in here to the dome. We were very excited. We felt as if we were being let into the future. It was a wonderful thing.”

In 1939 Henry Stephens of the Royal Navy’s School of Gunnery in Portsmouth had first come up with the new fangled concept of the “dome-trainer”. A film projector stood in the centre of a rounded concrete structure and, by ingenious use of moveable mirrors, beamed up an image of an attacking aircraft onto the curves of the ceiling. The trainee stood behind the projector, as Martin is now, with a dummy Browning, and fired at the target, all accompanied by realistic sound effects. An instructor would mark each effort hit or miss, and give advice on how to improve your aim.

“We all lined up along there,” Martin recalls. He points to the partition wall – restored to its original form – that carves out a small entrance hall to the Dome. “We stepped forward one by one and were all told that the thing to do was to fire in front of the plane, so it flew on to the bullets.”

Can he remember how well he scored back then? He laughs. The passage of time has apparently wiped away the tally. “All I can say is that I hope we all did better than on the beach. What it is making me remember, though, is how you always felt like you were on the front line here on these East Anglian bases. There were always planes flying off on missions and enemy plans flying overhead.”

It is that wartime atmosphere that the gleaming white semi-circular displays in the Tardis-like interior of the restored Langham Dome seek to capture. It is helped by three specially-commissioned short films that are shown on the role the region played in the battle for air supremacy, narrated by local resident, the actor Stephen Fry.

The extent to which East Anglia became one enormous airbase in those years quickly becomes apparent from the maps on show. There was a proliferation of RAF runways in just this one small, flat corner of Norfolk, a stone’s throw across the North Sea to Germany: Little Snoring, Bircham Newton, Docking, North Creake and Sculthorpe, all cheek-by-jowl with Langham.

Only Sculthorpe remains operational today, albeit in mothballs. The concrete runway that replaced Langham’s original grass strip was sold off after the base closed in 1958 to Bernard Matthews and still accommodates his turkey sheds. All around, trees have been planted and fields farmed. The old control tower remains – used today by the Bernard Matthews’ caretakers – but the distinctive shape once made on the landscape by RAF Langham is slowly but surely being eroded. “In another 20 years,” says Patrick Allen, local farmer and chairman of the Friends of Langham Dome, “you won’t even know there was ever an airfield here. That’s why we have fought so hard to preserve the Dome and open it.” In the grassy area behind it stands a memorial to all those who served and lost their lives at the base.

Not all signs of the site’s airborne past have been quite obliterated, however. Tucked away behind the turkey sheds, and next stop for Douglas Martin once he’s finished in the Dome, is a hanger that still contains two Tiger Moths, lovingly preserved by local resident Henry Labouchere, who is also vice-chairman of the Friends of Langham Dome.

Langham’s RAF past still has a resonance locally, he says, and that was part of the push to save the Dome. It really started gathering speed, Labouchere explains, back in 1986 when it was declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument by English Heritage. “Until then the Dome had been more or less abandoned. A lot of people driving past had no idea at all what it was. And if you did ever get the chance to look inside, as local youths occasionally managed to do, all you would have seen was a block and an old car.”

“I think the first push,” Allen adds, “came from another local resident, Air Commodore Bertie Wootten, who flew his Spitfire in the Battle of Britain. His wife was a district councillor and, every time they drove past the Dome, he’d say, ‘what are you going to do about that building?’ Once it had been declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument – the youngest, we believe, in the whole county – the parish council took up the challenge.”

With the help of local conservation charities, the Friends of Langham Dome was established, Bernard Mathews signed the building over, plans were drawn up and funding secured, not just for the restoration and the high-tech refit, but also for three years of running it as a visitor attraction.

Plans are well underway to arrange school visits in the autumn, and holidaymakers on the way to the beaches dropped in during the summer. Once Douglas Martin relinquishes his seat at Browning gun, there are plenty of youngsters, and dads, only too eager to try their hand at the recreated simulator and shoot down the procession of aircraft that looms up on the roof.

His return has put Douglas Martin reflective mood. “You know, I never actually got to use whatever skills I leaned here, “ he says. “I don’t think I ever fired an anti-aircraft gun again.”

His wartime service was spent in signals, latterly in Burma with the 14th Army as it liberated the country in a radar unit. “I have always feel ashamed at my service. So many people had it so much worse. The bomber crews in those planes” – he gestures up towards the images flying across the ceiling – “they had the worst job in the war. Fifty per cent of them didn’t survive. We should remember them.”

For more information visit langhamdome.org or contact development manager Kate Faire ?at kate@friendsoflanghamdome.org


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