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







Wednesday, 31 May 2017

ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS!!


RAF Marham; U.S 36th Squadron, 8th Air Force & RAF 100 Group veterans

The 12 - 14 May 2017 was an historic weekend in Norfolk as wartime groups came together for the first time since the war. Standards (flags) were raised, heads held high, proud to be recognised by their own, and finally receive the recognition they so richly deserve.

A Salute to RAF 100 Group and veterans of U.S 36th Bomb Squadron
Oulton Memorial covered with tributes in honour of those who did not return

 We WILL Remember!

During wartime, RAF 100 Group were made up of a number of Squadrons based on different airfields in Norfolk. Their work was Top Secret, held under the Official Secrets Act until the mid-1970s, with some still hidden today. Their primary mission was to identify and jam enemy Radar using electronic warfare. They were also involved in clandestine operations - dropping and collecting SOE Agents in enemy-occupied countries, working with the Resistance, even dropping a leg over Germany one night as requested for Douglas Bader; and so much more. Their work was challenging and dangerous, taking them deep into the heart of Germany. As Guardian Angels of the skies, they protected Allied bombers, confusing the enemy by using German-speaking operatives to intercept radio transmissions between German Controllers and pilots, leading enemy aircraft away from where the main attack would be.

High level talks had been going on among the Powers-that-Be during Conferences held in secret locations from 1942. The main RAF was using outdated aircraft and equipment. Something vital and visionary was urgently needed to turn the war around before it was too late. In November 1943, RAF 100 Group was authorised under the motto: 'Confound & Destroy'. Servicemen were hand-picked for very special and secret roles, transferred without warning to new purpose-built airfields in Norfolk, UK. It was here they were joined in 1944 by the 36th Bomb Squadron, serving under the 8th Air Force from the States, who were also based at Cheddington. Their name was a cover. In truth, they carried no bombs, but used the same experimental equipment as RAF 100 Group with strange-sounding names such as MANDREL, ABC CIGAR, WINDOW, JACKAL ... It was the Americans who had the right kind of aircraft needed and working together, the aim was to confuse, delay, and ultimately destroy the enemy. In doing so, they saved many thousands of lives, and brought the war to a successful and early conclusion.

Every year in May for the past 20 years, we have come together for a Reunion in Norfolk, welcomed by villagers  who provide home-made fayre in welcome, and as a thank-you for keeping them safe. So many firm friendships have been made over this period of time, with more and more families wanting the tradition to carry on. Our membership has flourished, and in turn, those who flew in partnership with RAF 100 Group have joined us, as with the U.S. 36th Bomb Squadron, 8th Air Force, nicknamed 'The Gremlins'.

Over the weekend of 12 - 14 May this year, for the first time since the war, the present-day 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron (36EW), based in the States, came back to Norfolk, standing side by side with veterans to share our annual Reunion, in memory of the remarkable work achieved under impossible wartime circumstances, honouring those many who gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy today.

Lt Col Tom Moore, Commanding Officer of 36EW Squadron

It was an extraordinary Reunion and a memorable one, with the words of Lt Col Tom Moore who commands the 172-strong Squadron, speaking passionately about what it meant to them to be with us, in remembrance of all those who never returned home after the war, still thrumming in my mind:

'... we stand today on the shoulders of giants ...'

They revere veterans so highly, and I will never forget watching them 'snap' to attention at Memorials where we stood with villagers and Royal Air Force alike, sharing acts of remembrance at various places where young men were stationed during the war. It really did bring it home just how young they really were back then, surrounded by these young men in blue, each serving their country today, continuing on the legacy left by the 'giants' on whose shoulders they stand. The flag they brought with them from the States was the original historical flag from wartime, clearly imprinted with 'The Gremlins' as they were known.

U.S. 36th Squadron wartime crest, a cover for electronic countermeasures used

Present-day U.S. 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron crest, illustrating their work

RAF 100 Group crest

Our extraordinary weekend began in Foulsham as we gathered late afternoon around the Memorial we placed there at the start of our Association. This year however, we had a second ceremony further up the road, past Foulsham church, to Church Farm where we unveiled a plaque to commemorate the crash of two wartime aircraft - one USAF, the other RAF - where all lives were lost save two men who survived. It was a poignant moment. The evidence is still there of how the aircraft when they crashed took out most of the building on which the plaque now resides, marking the place where so many died.

New and old brick work evidences the extent of damage caused by the crash

Listed names of the crews killed, as well as those who survived

Our annual Reunions are always a full-on experience, with an extensive programme of events taking us to different parts of Norfolk, and takes a year in the planning. Already I'm working on the next one. Meanwhile, events still run through my head, like a film on fast forward, as I re-live the wonderful memories of days spent with these wonderful people I am proud to call 'my Kindred Spirits'. We represent a Family reaching right around the world, keeping in constant contact as evidenced by the 200+ emails and post I discovered on my return. Each and every one is precious. Each veteran carries their own wartime experience, with families equally keen on discovering more of what a parent, an uncle, a grandparent did during the war. Often coming together at this one point in the year is the only time when these timeless treasures are shared, accepted as gifts of the heart.

Saturday is our busiest day, starting with a tour of the City of Norwich Aviation Museum which cares for our wartime memorabilia, and there is always so much to see both outside and in:

Museum staff w Yvette front left, Jane right, & U.S. 36EW Squadron

Then it's round the corner to the Mission Hall for an Annual General Meeting where the intricacies of the Association are discussed and dealt with, before returning to the Museum for a buffet lunch provided by volunteers. We were so lucky with the weather. The sun certainly did shine on our parade! It matched the warmth and good company, so conducive for strangers becoming firm friends, and this year, over this weekend alone, we were fortunate to bring four new members into our fold. In the afternoon, following visits locally to see Blickling Hall where Officers in wartime were based, and WAAFs billeted in Nissen Huts, we wended out way down narrow country lanes to Blickling Old School where a 'death by chocolate' experience opened eyes wide at the number of tables heaving with a veritable delight of cakes and sandwiches, all home-made and hosted by villagers. It happens every year. People of Norfolk villages are very much a part of our Reunion, with many having had airmen stay with them in wartime, or having them to tea on Sundays, remaining in touch through the years. However, this year, it was all the more impressive, with bunting adorning the walls, tables laid out in regimental rows as if on parade, and American and British flags flying in honour of our visiting American Squadron. It was a time to relax, talk, and share, to get to know people we were meeting for the first time, or to catch up with those we hadn't met since the previous year.

Oulton villagers did us proud!

Blickling Old School




A veritable feast of delights provided by Oulton villagers

The old school heaves w visitors, extending into other rooms, filled with chatter & noise

Following afternoon tea, during which both Chris Lambert, our Oulton representative who arranges everything in the village, veterans warmly welcomed both sides of The Pond; and Lt Col Tom Moore had again spoken passionately of what it meant for he and Squadron representatives to be present ... we proceeded on to Oulton Memorial. This was the first Memorial we placed here over 20 years ago, dedicated in 1994 to honour the husband of Eileen Boorman, married just a few short months before he was killed with his crew.

Four veterans stand side by side, honouring friends who didn't return from war
 Left to Right:
Major Rafael Ramos, served with the 36th Bomb Squadron, 8th Air Force
Andrew Barron, served in 223 Squadron, RAF Oulton, Norfolk
Stan Forsyth won his DFC for identifying where The Tirpitz was hidden
Phil James MBE, served with Stan in 192 Squadron, RAF Foulsham

A special tribute followed with a Flypast by David Nock, who agreed to put on a five minute show for excited watchers standing below. His Harvard aircraft came in from the west, circling the fields, bowing its wings in honour. Again and again he came back, circling low. In response, we waved like crazy, shouting and cheering him on, delighted with the show he was giving us. Not something you see every day!

David Nock piloting his Harvard over Norfolk
Foulsham taken from the Harvard aircraft

Finally, for the evening we gathered in our 'glad rags' for a very special Reunion Dinner hosted by the Halifax Suite at The Holiday Inn Hotel, Norwich North. Because it was an historic weekend, something out of the ordinary was called for.

First came our Speaker for the evening, Stuart Borlase, Director of Living History Film, and a firm friend, one equally as passionate as I about preserving the history and stories of both RAF 100 Group and those who flew in partnership with them. He showed wonderful footage taken last year of RAF 100 Group veterans we visited and filmed in their homes, as they shared wartime experiences. It was captivating to watch, bringing so many images to mind of these people in their youth, old before their time. They went into the Air Force as boys, came out as men.

Stuart with Stan Forsyth DFC on Sunday morning, Horsham St Faith church

I had booked a professional 1940's singer because of the specialness of the occasion: Heather Marie, with the voice of an angel! I have to say it became my favourite part of the entire weekend as Heather and her husband (a serving RAF Officer, and Director of RAF Music) challenged me, saying they would sing for as long as I stayed on the dance floor! Now let me make it clear here and now that it was touch and go in early childhood as to whether I'd even walk, never mind dance. But this ... oh, this was truly magical and special ... a dream come true! Right outside my comfort zone, but heck, it was only going to be for this one night, and I was going to throw caution to the winds and make the most of this special sparkly evening surrounded by so many wonderful people. Besides, veterans would surely be gentle with me, taking only small shaky steps ... weren't they?

No!

I was absolutely wrong about that, as I realised as my first partner of the evening, Stan Forsyth DFC a dear friend, proved:

Heather Marie, professional 1940's singer

A stunning performance by the singer, filling the hall with her warmth and vibrant energy, reminded me of wartime songs I'd played on the piano hour after hour after hour in my growing years. Yes, even then I was addicted to them ... Glen Miller, Acker Bilk, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, the Inkspots. I've always lived in a time out of Time. Now, the air was filled with their charm, and at any moment I expected the throb of Merlin engines overhead as I 'danced' my feet into a blur of pain, reaching up my back into my head. But regardless, 'the band played on' and ... 'I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night, and still come back for more ... I could have spread my wings, and done a thousand things I've never done before ...'

That was for sure!

I could totally understand the lure of a GI, and how easy it would have been to fold one up, tuck him in my suitcase, and smuggle him home ... even if he was in his late eighties-early nineties. They knew how to treat a woman like a true Lady. How to make her Special. They each carried the same charisma as our own veterans ... charm, respect, honour so sadly lacking in the society we live in today:

Dancing with sweetheart Stan Forsyth, in the background, American Des Howarth
Above, dear Stan was a whole lot smarter on his feet than I was!

Strangers in the night ...!

I 'danced' every single song sung. I never left the dance floor once, because I wanted the Singer to continue on. And at well after half-midnight I was still right there, 'dancing' my little heart out. For once in my life, I was doing this for me! But then, hey, next morning I could hardly move never mind get out of bed! Was it worth it? Oh yes, yes, yes, and then again YES!!! A dream come true indeed. I hobbled to breakfast in agony, then on into Stuart's car to 'get me to the church on time'. It was a special service in honour of the veterans, with the presentation of our RAF 100 Group Standard, and Aylsham Town Band playing songs from way back when. I wanted to dance up the aisle, past the pews, and on into the past where they knew how to treat one another with friendship, respect, love. Music still echoed around me as we filtered out one hour later and, shortly after a cuppa and cake in the Mission Hall opposite, Stuart and I were heading out to the open road ... travelling over 1700 miles over the ensuing two weeks, visiting veterans as far afield as Wales and Southport, collecting further film footage of veterans' wonderful wartime exploits.

Now I'm home, with a Himalayan mountain of work ahead of me, answering letters, bringing together our Summer edition magazine packed with writings and photographs of our weekend shared. Most of the time, however, I'm laid up in pain, on heavy-duty painkillers. So I look back on these photographs in amazement and wonder ...  

Was that really me?!?

Des Howarth & Rafael Ramos, 36th Bomb Squadron veterans from the States

Standing with Stan Forsyth DFC, a treasured friend
Stephen Hutton, author: 'Squadron of Deception' w youngest at Reunion aged 5yrs.

Aylsham Town Band playing at Horsham St Faith Church

Dear Rafie (Major Rafael Ramos) and lovely wife Kitty at Blickling Hall

Introducing Rafie & Kitty to a gi-normous English Cream Tea at Holt, Norfolk

My, didn't we do well!


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Photographs courtesy of:
Stuart Borlase
Ivan Thompson
Stephen Hutton
Yvette: City of Norwich Aviation Museum

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MAY WE ALWAYS REMEMBER THEM!

U.S. 36th Bomb Squadron, a cover for electronic countermeasure
RAF 100 Group, Bomber Command

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Article published in the Eastern Daily Press sharing our Reunion with the wider world







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