Journey

Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and it's getting harder. But then sometimes it happens in unexpected ways and suddenly, we are living the dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important so much as the journey along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

janineharrington53@gmail.com







Sunday, 27 November 2016

IN MEMORY

Mosquito IV

In the early hours of the morning of 26/27 November 1944, seventy-two years ago; two men flew deep into the heart of Germany, taking part in an operation from which they never returned. The mystery remains as to the truths of what happened to them, and to their aircraft, Mosquito DK292.

Official documents of the Royal Air Force Personnel Management Agency at RAF Innsworth, Gloucester, who in recent years agreed to re-investigate this mystery, show certain truths heavily laden with questions.

Their documents show Mosquito DK292 taking off at 02.58 hours on 27 November 1944 initially accompanying a Bomber Command intruder attack on Munich, Germany. Serving in RAF 100 Group's lead 192 Squadron, at Foulsham, Norfolk, the two crew members were:

Pilot Officer Jack Glen Millan Fisher (J88232), a Canadian

 Flight Lieutenant Henry Victor Alexander Vinnell (123505)

Both were experienced and qualified members of the very secret RAF 100 Group made up of fifteen Squadrons based on airfields around Norfolk, serving under Bomber Command. Otherwise, they were ordinary young men doing a job for which they had been trained, yearning for the Second World War to be over so that they could return to civilian life.

Born on the 21st September 1922, Vic had been an Assistant Salesman working at a wholesale Grocers. As an only child, he had been brought up by an Aunt in London. He volunteered for the RAF in 1940, which his father opposed and as a consequence, disowned him. Training had taken him to Winnipeg, Canada, where he received his flying badge in March 1942. A Commission was granted in April that year, and he joined 418 (RCAF) Squadron for Night Intruding operations in July. After completing 13 sorties, he was sent to Cranwell for re-mustering at No. 1 Radio School, where he went from being a NAV/B to qualifying in September 1943 as a NAV B/W, whereupon he was sent to RAF Wheaton Aston in October that year, pending a further posting.

It was at RAF Wheaton Aston he met Nina Chessall, my mother, a WAAF working as Private Secretary to a Group Captain she referred affectionately to as 'Brownie'. Vic and Nina's first meeting at the Christmas Eve dance blossomed into a romance, and by Spring 1944 they were planning an engagement. They were living in a time when, each time they met could easily be their last ... the tragic cost of war! However, Vic unexpectedly was called to London for an interview with the Air Ministry, and from that point on, could no longer talk or share about his work which became Classified, Top Secret. He had signed the Official Secrets Act, aware from what had been said at the interview that there would shortly follow a move. Already they were writing several letters a day to one another, very committed and involved in one another's every day lives as much as they could be in war. Vic joined Nina at her mother's home during Leaves, and became loved by her family as one of their own. However, uncertain about the future, and what his pending move would mean for them both, they cycled out one evening, following the winding country lanes, to an old darkened church at Blymhill where, at nine o'clock, they stepped inside and, hand in hand, quietly and solemnly shared their wedding vows. Thereafter, their trysting hour became nine o'clock, their promise being that, no matter where they were or what they were doing; they would look up at the moon and think of these precious moments shared as well as each other, praying to God to keep their sweetheart safe.
 
 Blymhill Church, Staffordshire

Surprisingly, perhaps, given Vic's interest in photography, there are few pictures of him; those which do exist are small and personal. I have never in 25 years of being a part of RAF 100 Group Association, discovered a Squadron photograph including him. He was a keen cricketer, Squash and Tennis player. But the love of his life was Nina. Having no family to call his own, she was all the more precious to him, fulfilling a host of roles including that of sister, mother, companion, confidante, soulmate, and wife-to-be. She filled his heart with such love it overflowed onto paper several times a day, and he vowed in the summer of 1944, that once war was done he would become an author and write a book about their love, their life, inspiring others to share experiences, passing on his belief that love is eternal ... Love transcends all!

Nina, Vic and Jack's story can be found in my book: 'Nina & Vic - A World War Two Love Story' which fulfills Vic's promise to Nina, and in turn the promise she passed on to me as we spent ten long years researching and writing the book together before she died, sadly without seeing the reality of her dream.

A signed book is available direct from me
Simply write to the email given above for details

Meanwhile, the re-investigation of the PMA (Personal Management Agency), says that, following their accompaniment of the Bomber Command attack on Munich, the aircraft was due to return to RAF Ford at 07.00 hours ... yet nothing was heard from them after take-off, and they certainly didn't arrive at Ford. Phil James, MBE, raises the question as to whether they were visiting Ford to refuel, or for some other reason about which we shall never know. He also queries as to why they would have been flying towards France. Phil also served at RAF Foulsham in 192 Squadron and knew Vic and Jack well. He remembers the board showing them as 'Missing' and everyone holding their breaths, hoping they would either be found safe, or at the most had become prisoners of war. Finally, hearts sank as their names were scrubbed from the board. However, the PMA document goes on to say that information was received later (how much later, we don't know!) that Mosquito DK292 crashed on the French Coast at Vassonville, north of Le Havre at 06.30 hours on 27 November 1944.

It begs the question, how can anyone be certain of the time with no witnesses, no Accident Report, no indication that anyone saw what happened?

In response, it has been decided that the wreckage was covered by the sea at high tide. But by the direction of the aircraft, it is assumed it flew into a cliff and exploded on impact. The air-frame completely disintegrated. Yet again, where is the evidence to support this? Yes, the Mosquito aircraft was made of wood. However, it had two Merlin engines. My hope remains that these may still surface someday through the sands as many others have done in recent years, and their final resting place will be verified and known.
In discussing my questions, it appears that this beach was probably mined. They could either have had engine trouble and been forced to land, not knowing of that danger, believing they were safe; or, if flying into the cliff is plausible, with the beach being mined, attempts to salvage wreckage would have been deemed impracticable. No vehicles would have been able to access the beach under these conditions. Therefore, no evidence would have been sought, and nothing redeemed. However, single items of clothing were sent to their respective families said to have been discovered where the Mosquito went down ... an Officer's cap marked P/O Fisher 232, and a sock marked N B A Vinnell.

N. B. A. Vinnell? But his name was Henry Victor Alexander Vinnell!!

To complicate things further at the time, Nina, my mother, was a fiance, not a wife. She therefore didn't have the same Rights. Despite Vic writing a Will in the event of his death to the effect that all his belongings should be sent direct to her home address, in truth, they were sent to his father ... including their wedding rings which Vic had specially made, their initials laid one over the other in silver. His Mosquito was known as 'N for Nina'. The letter 'N' also had special significance as it was part of his uniform as a Navigator/Special Operator ... providing personally-marked Captain's maps for their journeys into enemy territory, specialising in Radar and Radio jamming aimed at confusing the enemy, keeping their bombers safe. 

Loss is always unimaginable, unthinkable, the grief overwhelming, compounded by the manner in which a loved one dies. In this case, it was four or five long weeks before Nina was even to hear that something had happened because of the secrecy of his work. She had just been posted to RAF Ludford Magna, Lincoln, another Bomber Command base. She had been trying to join Vic at his base at Foulsham. Her new abode as a place where accommodation was primitive to the extent that she needed wellie boots to slip her feet into when getting out of bed!! Imagine! Otherwise, the one thing she did receive from the Air Ministry, alongside the dreaded telegrams and Air Ministry letters confirming truths she didn't want to hear; was a pair of inner silk flying gloves. However, these had never been touched by sea water, and obviously a spare pair. Remembering they had been members of a highly secret Group involved in covert operations, Nina asked a lot of questions, understandably wanting to know what had become of her beloved Vic and the man who was to have been their Best Man a few days on at their wedding - Canadian Jack Fisher. I believe she was sent letters to pacify and quieten her doubts and fears. She never did believe that he had simply vanished on the French coast ... because all those years ago, she was asking the exact same question I ask today ... where is the evidence to support that theory?

In truth, the bodies of these airmen were never found, nor was any part of the aircraft or anything they had aboard. From the description of the Mosquito having exploded on impact ... either on hitting the cliff, or a mined beach ... and the disintegration of the fuselage; it was assumed the remains of the crew were washed away by the tide. Consequently, both Pilot Officer Fisher and Flight Lieutenant Vinnell were recorded as 'Missing Presumed Dead - Lost at Sea'. Their names are recorded on the Runnymede Memorial on panels 246 and 203 respectively. When I was three years old, Mum took me to introduce me to 'her Vic', speaking quietly to him about me and my tender years. They are also commemorated in the Royal Air Force Books of Remembrance held in St Clement Danes Church, the Strand, London. Pilot Officer Fisher is recorded in Volume 4, Page 63 and Flight Lieutenant Vinnell in Volume 9, page 16. Their names also appear in a Remembrance Book at Foulsham Church, and at Ely Cathedral where books remain under glass to protect them.

All these years on, questions remain about so many who simply disappeared without trace, such as Vic and Jack. Even today, truths are still shielded by layers of secrets. And it is the not knowing that makes their deaths all the more unbearable for those who survive. The most we can do is to remember and honour these brave heroes, to share their stories and wartime experiences, to ensure they are never forgotten ... just as we speak their names aloud each year in Norfolk during RAF 100 Group Association Reunions ... passing down to future generations what we know, what these people meant, and the importance of remembering the consequences and futility of war.


Pilot Officer Jack Glen Millan Fisher (J88232), a Canadian

 Flight Lieutenant Henry Victor Alexander Vinnell (123505)

x WE WILL REMEMBER YOU x








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