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







Monday, 4 September 2017

1st APRIL 2018 - 100th ANNIVERSARY OF ROYAL AIR FORCE


Mosquito Mark IV

1st April 2018 marks 100 years of the Royal Air Force. 

In my last posting, I shared our historic RAF 100 Group Association Reunion held in May in Norfolk - historic because, for the first time in 70 years, veterans of the 36th Bomb Squadron, and present-day 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron, joined us from the States to stand shoulder to shoulder with veterans of RAF 100 Group. It was an incredibly emotional and memorable experience for everyone ... and it is still being shared around the world today by those who attended.

Now, to celebrate 100 years of the RAF, my aim over the next few postings is to mark this Anniversary by sharing stories of its people - focusing on those many hundreds of men and women who served during World War Two under Bomber Command, in the secret RAF 100 Group; who's main role was to identify and jam enemy Radar using experimental equipment carried on board their aircraft.

They were the Guardian Angels of the skies, protecting bombers below them.

Based on secret airfields across Norfolk, they lived up to their motto well: 'Confound & Destroy'. People who could speak German were recruited to intercept enemy Controllers in touch with their pilots, directing them away from where the main attacks would be. Strips of tin foil thrown in handfuls down the chute of an aircraft into the air outside, showed up on enemy Radar scanners as many hundreds of aircraft coming in to attack, rather than the one or two pushing foil out of the planes, thereby completely confusing the enemy. It was a process code-named 'WINDOW', a simple enough ruse and one which worked well. There were a growing number of Radar-jamming equipment installed in aircraft, each with its own role to play, while smaller aircraft, such as Cessnas and Lysanders were involved in dropping and collecting S.O.E. agents in enemy-occupied territory. Others of the Group worked with the Resistance, meanwhile, bombing raids went deep into the heart of Germany and surrounding areas, risking the lives of crews in a range of different aircraft day and night to prevent invasion on our home soil by the enemy. Working together with Bletchley Park and the 'Y' Service, RAF 100 Group brought the war to an early conclusion, and saved thousands of lives.
Every one of these heroes had been head hunted because of their unique qualities, skills and abilities. At the start of the Second World War we were losing the battle of Britain because of out-dated aircraft and equipment. We were ill-equipped. As an island, the belief was that an enemy would invade using the sea around us. By 1942/43, something dramatically new and innovative was desperately needed ... and quickly, if war was to be won. It came with RAF 100 Group and the birth of electronic warfare. Inaugurated on the 8th November 1943, serving under Bomber Command, it turned the war around, creating mischief and mayhem on the enemy. In 1944, the 36th Bomb Squadron (which in truth carried no bombs, but carried the same Radar-jamming equipment) came over from the States to live and work in Norfolk alongside RAF 100 Group, flying operations in partnership with them.

It was because of the secrecy of their work, and the urgency of preventing information being leaked to the Germans, that the Official Secrets Act was signed by each crew member. Only one person of the crew worked with the Boffins, learning how to use the experimental Radar-jamming equipment. No-one else understood how it worked. These Special Operators were a breed apart, people who worked alone, isolated in many ways from the crew who had orders to shoot them and destroy their equipment if the plane was hit, or they were forced to land, with the risk of being taken prisoner. Not one of them spoke of what they were involved in while on Leave, or when war was done, not even to loved ones or families. In the aftermath of war, with no recognition or reward, they took their secrets to the grave. It is for this reason, inspired by my mother's wartime story, who's fiance Flt/Lt Vic Vinnell was a Navigator/Special Operator serving at RAF Foulsham in 192 Squadron; that I remain passionate about preserving both their history and their stories, to ensure these 'forgotten heroes' (their words) be remembered.

Next year marks the 100th Year of the Royal Air Force in which RAF 100 Group was a valued part.

Will the Group be recognised?

Will anyone remember them specifically other than our own Association to which many belong?

I have heard it suggested that a 100-year RAF medal be produced, similar to the Queen's Jubilee Medals.

Meanwhile, there is a Bomber Command Memorial unveiled by the Queen in July 2012, which stands in all its splendour in Green Park, London. Each year, we place a wreath in the name of RAF 100 Group Association, in memory of those who never made it home from war, for those who have no known grave, and wartime survivors who have since died. It is important to us that they are remembered ... valued ... loved ... that they know their work and the risks they took were not in vain.

Bomber Command Memorial, Green Park, London
Courtesy: Iain Forsyth

For the past 20 years and more, I have been in the privileged position of supporting RAF 100 Group veterans and their families, working with them to create a wider awareness of their work, bringing crews and Squadrons back together. As Secretary of the Group, I create a quarterly magazine sharing their wartime experiences and other information, while arranging annual Reunions to meet, talk and share, re-visiting places still standing in Norfolk remembered from the war, and stories surrounding them. I am in contact daily with this worldwide Family of Kindred Spirits reaching round the world, and we take an active part in one another's lives today, not just the war years. There are many who live alone, and still families who know nothing of what a loved one did during the war. A photograph or document might be found, or even a Log Book, connecting them to the past. But usually the loved one is gone. He is not there to answer questions, or guide them through the many flying hours and operations in which he and his crew were involved. So families contact me, sharing a picture they discover and what little they know, asking help to uncover the mystery, secrets, past treasured moments of Time hidden deep. Lately, there have been a few deaths. And I am mindful of the urgency that stories of such magnitude need to be shared more widely, that people become aware of what it meant to serve in this very secret and unique RAF 100 Group.

So it is, with the Countdown to the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force, I begin to breathe new life into these stories. There are many of their voices which speak through my books -

'RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits', 
published by Austin Macauley

'RAF 100 Group - The Birth of Electronic Warfare'
published by Fonthill Media

'Another Trip to Flak Alley' - by Tail Gunner Jack Hope, 
published by FeedARead

'Nina & Vic - A World War II Love Story'
available direct from the author

All are available through Amazon.

But I receive so many shared wartime experiences where those who were a part of this secret Group finally tell their secrets, hoping one day people will know and understand; that there is never enough time or energy to share them all in books, as they just keep on coming. And people can never fully understand or appreciate what serving under RAF 100 Group meant unless they share the stories of the many people you won't hear or know about anywhere else.

NORMAN STOREY

Air Gunner, 214 Squadron, RAF Oulton, Norfolk

Copyright: Norman Storey
I was born in August 1924 and enlisted in February 1943. I volunteered for Air Crew and went before the Selection Board to be asked what I wanted to be. I, like ninety-nine percent of others, answered the same question: ‘Pilot’. I was informed that there were no Pilot courses available. As I was good at maths, they suggested I train as a Navigator. This I refused and said I would like to go as an Air Gunner. It was then suggested I train as a Wireless Operator Air Gunner. Again I refused saying: ‘If I can’t go on a Pilot’s course, I want to be an Air Gunner’ and that is how I joined ‘The Suicide Club.

I was posted to St John’s Wood, billeted in a commandeered luxury flat, and jabbed several times before being given ‘doctored’ tea to drink. Like so many others, fresh from inoculations, I was told by sadistic Corporals to swing our painful arms, marching to London Zoo for meals. Being treated like animals, I presumed the Powers-that-Be thought this appropriate!

From here, I was posted to I.T.W in Bridlington, Yorkshire, and instructed by an Officer to have two haircuts in one day - an experience to stay with me for the rest of my life and my excuse not to visit the barber too often! After three weeks, I was posted north of the town, to E.A.G.S. where I was taught to strip and assemble a V.G.O and Browning blindfolded, basic lessons on Morse Code, signalling and clay pigeon shooting; just managing to resist shooting one of our Instructors! From here I was posted to 7 A.G.S Stormy Down in South Wales.

Time for further classroom instruction and an initiation into flying Whitleys with Polish pilots - our task: to fire one hundred rounds at a drogue being towed by a Lysander. As I managed not to shoot the Lysander down, I was awarded my brevet and promoted to Sergeant.


My next posting was 30 O.T.U. where a large number of aircrew of all trades were assembled and told to form a crew. I was friendly with another Air Gunner and we approached a Pilot, asking if he wanted an Air Gunner. His reply was ‘Yes’, but only one was required. I magnanimously said to my friend: ‘All right, you stay with this Pilot and I will crew up with somebody else’. This gesture probably saved my life! I approached another Pilot and on asking if he was looking for an Air Gunner replied: ‘Can you swim?’ I replied ‘Yes, I quite often do half a mile and mile swims’. It was only later I found the reason for this question. The Rear Gunner was in charge of the dinghy in the event of a ditching.

We were now a complete crew. The Pilot, Len Young from Leeds, slightly older than most and a Flying Instructor for two years, obviously an experienced Pilot. Slightly younger than Len, our Navigator Alf Shields from London, also experienced with ten ops on Blenheims.  Our Bomb Aimer: George Hathaway from Birmingham was slightly younger. Our Wop/Ag Ron Gardener from Croydon was also younger, and finally myself, Rear Gunner from Westcliffe-on-Sea, the ‘baby’ of the crew at eighteen years old.


On 24 June 1943, we started flying training on Wellingtons, circuits and bumps, cross-countries, bombing practice, firing practice, night flying and fighter affiliation. This latter exercise consisted of a Spitfire loaded with a camera trying to get us in his sights. Len and I were very proficient with this procedure and the Spitfire Pilot was unable to get us at any time, an exercise that was to stand us in good stead. We finally completed our training at O.T.U.
Our last exercise was on 12 August when we were sent on a Nickel to Versailles dropping propaganda leaflets. No doubt with a shortage of paper, Germans put them to good use! Whilst there, we saw one Wellington crash on landing and burst into flames.


We were now posted to 1662 Con. Unit where Len had to familiarise with conversion to the four-engine Halifax and Lancaster, and we had two extra members join the crew – a Flight Engineer from London and Mid-Upper Gunner from Harrow-on-the-Hill. Between 19 September and 22 October 1943, we flew various exercises. However, the time had come for us to join a Squadron and march off to war, and initially, we were posted to 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire.

The crew arrived at a very small country Railway Station to be met with a warm welcome from a friendly WAAF driver. We piled into the back of a 15-cwt and on the way to the camp, Ron asked the driver about the Squadron and its losses. She said it was a very good Squadron with hardly any losses at all. She was kind and caring … and a bloody liar! On arrival, we were allocated a Nissen hut to ourselves. Next morning, we reported to our various leaders. This was a Lancaster Squadron. From 10-17 November we did a Cross Country and a couple of other exercises. But then, on the morning of 18 November, ‘Ops were on!’ Len was down to go as a second dickey. When he informed us we all joked, promising we would think of him whilst knocking back pints in the Mess. After a while, he returned saying we were going as a crew. We thought he was joking! But he soon convinced us of this fact and, discussing it among ourselves, came to the conclusion it must be an ‘easy’ target to initiate a sprog crew.


It was 18 November 1943 – the first raid in the Battle of Berlin and the heaviest defended target in Germany. We were to go again on 22 and 23 November.


Our baptism – three raids on Berlin in 6 nights!


We were to do a further seven ops to Berlin, bringing our total to ten. The crew was now visited by a reporter from a Lincolnshire newspaper asking questions with a photograph taken of us with our aircraft – D-Dog (I will go on to mention the photograph later). We were never told the reason for this visit, but can only imagine it was for propaganda purposes and a moral boost for their readers.


During the winter of 1943 – 1944, losses were horrendous. Bomber Command wiped itself out – ‘The Lost Command. On completing eleven ops, we were the lead crew on the Squadron. We’d been on all heavy loss raids, including a Berlin and Leipzig raid, where the losses of each reached well into the seventies. The Nuremburg raid when Bomber Command received its highest losses was about ninety-five aircraft. I remember on our return the interrogating officer asked the usual question: ‘How many aircraft do you think we lost tonight?’ My reply was: A hundred. He refused to accept my estimate:‘I am not entering that on this report!’ I said: ‘That is up to you, Sir. But I am not changing my estimate.’ I often wonder what he thought the next morning when newspaper headlines were 96 – 97 – 98 aircraft lost.

Soon we switched to French Targets in a softening-up programme ready for the invasion. In its wisdom, ‘The Powers that Be’ decided French targets would count only as a third of an Op. That was until the Mailly-le-Camp raid on 3 May 1944. Pre-war, this had been a French Military Camp, now used by Germans for tank training. We were circling over two German Fighter aerodromes, waiting for instructions to bomb on the flares. It was absolute chaos. Pilots on RT were asking when we could go in to bomb. The reply was always the same: ‘Don’t bomb … wait!’ Aircraft were being shot down all around us and our Skipper decided to go in on a bombing run. On the way in, the order was received to ‘bomb on the flares. We must have been the first to bomb. We had an aiming-point photograph, later informed we had probably killed 200 Germans much to the delight of our Bomb Aimer who had recently lost his brother in Italy. 49 of our aircraft were lost, over eleven percent – similar percentage losses to the Nuremburg Raid.

We were allocated a hut to a crew and when Len was commissioned there was just the six of us. On returning from the raid, we found a young Air Gunner had been billeted in our hut. I say young as by this time I was an old man of nineteen years old! He popped his head over the sheets: ‘How was it tonight?’ Ron replied: ‘Bloody terrible. We lost four on the other side and one back here’. I can only imagine what the new boy must have thought: ‘I wonder what I’ve let myself in for?’ I would wager he had no further sleep that night. After two or three days, he came to me:
 
'As Senior Air Gunner on the Squadron, I wonder if you can give me any advice?’


My reply:First of all, you need 95% luck. Then perfect your corkscrew evasive action, see the fighter first and immediately put into practice your evasive action. Finally, one tactic I use is, when over a target and it’s near daylight, I close one eye, then when we leave the target area, I open it immediately. By doing this, I have night vision when we are most vulnerable instead of being temporarily blinded.'
 
I could give no further advice, but tragically he was lost on his first op.
 

On completing twenty-eight ops, we were informed we were being screened. We were never told the reason for our not having to complete the thirty ops required. I can only imagine the moral of the Squadron was so bad they were frightened we’d be lost on our last two ops. By screening us, it proved it was possible to complete a Tour. The next senior crew was captained by a Canadian, lost shortly afterwards on a French target.

   Our last op was on Hasselt: 3 hours, 50 minutes. We were on the Aulnoye raid, 10 May 1944, when 7 Lancasters were shot down by the same pilot, Hauptmann (Flight Lieutenant) Helmut Bergmann. He was awarded the Knights Cross in June 1944. After many more successful combats, he was finally shot down by a Mosquito and killed on 7 July 1944.

   One unfortunate event was that, about the same time we arrived at Elsham, a new Squadron Commander was also posted to Elsham. He was a Wing Commander from Training Command with no operational experience. Hardly the sort of man to offer encouragement and help moral! One of his first ideas was to get all aircrew to change into gym kit and follow him for a run round the perimeter track. He pranced off with aircrew following. Soon after, we started to peel off back to our lockers, changed and went back to the Mess. I’d like to have seen his face when, at the end of the circuit, he looked behind to find only five or six runners still with him! The exercise was never repeated. He was posted after six months to the relief of those still serving on the Squadron. A good well-run ship needs a good Captain, something lacking during our stay with 103 Squadron.
   After our screening, we were all given Leave, and on return we were posted to various O.T.U.s. I went as a Ground Instructor to Wymeswold where I spent the next five and a half months.



It was my next posting which took me to 214 Squadron, Oulton, Norfolk, serving under RAF 100 Group …

It was a bitterly cold December day when Jack Nash, a fellow Air Gunner, and myself arrived at Oulton. After all the necessary registration it was early evening when a WAAF driver of a 15cwt delivered us to our billet. On entering, there were six members of a crew, both British and Canadian. Jack and I still in our great coats headed straight for the brightly burning stove and started to thaw out. Naturally, one of our first questions was: ‘What aircraft are we flying?’ The reply, much to our amazement, was B-17s. Like so many at that time, we had never heard of a Bomber Command Squadron equipped with Flying Fortresses. Our next question: Why?’ We were informed they could not tell us as operations were Top Secret. Rather a stupid reply when one considers we would be told everything on arriving at the camp next morning!

   Determined to impress the ‘sprogs’, they then began to tell us of their wonderful ‘daring deeds’. The final shoot line was when one of them said to the others: ‘Tell them how we looped the loop the other night in a B-17. By now, Jack and I had thawed out, so removed our great coats. Under each of our Brevets was the ribbon of the 1939-43 Star. Immediately, they asked: ‘Have you been on ops before?’ Jack’s reply was: ‘Yes, we have both done a tour and I did 9 on Berlin and my friend did 10’. There was a sudden hush and conversation for the rest of the evening was remarkably subdued.


Next morning, we boarded a crew bus to take us to the Camp and called at the Officers’ Mess to collect the Officers. I was sitting there as they climbed aboard when suddenly, I came face to face with Alfie Shields, my Navigator on 103 Squadron. I think we simultaneously said: What are you doing here?’ Apparently, like me, Alfie had arrived the previous day. On arriving at the Camp, we each went our separate ways. After reporting to register my arrival, I was summoned to the Adjutant’s Office. When I was at Wymeswold, I was recommended for a Commission and to go on a Gunnery Leader’s Course. I had passed my four interviews for a Commission and only had to go before the Air Officer at HQ. I was informed this was more or less a formality as he was not known to turn anybody down. However, to go to this interview entailed going to HQ when transport was available. I had been posted before this last interview.

   On reporting to the Adjutant at 214, he had all my papers in front of him. He said I would only have to do two interviews and my Commission would come through very quickly. However, I had by now changed my mind and decided not to progress further. The Adjutant was most friendly and spent time trying to talk me into taking a Commission, but I had decided not to go ahead with it. The Adjutant was friendly, a far cry from the attitudes at 103 Squadron. I never regretted my decision for the rest of my stay in the RAF. However, on returning to Civvy Street as an ex-Officer, I would have been eligible to join the RAF Club, and living in the centre of London, I could have made good use of it for personal use and entertaining many of my foreign customers and colleagues.

   When I was summoned to report to the Gunnery Leader, Fl/Lt Philips, with my Log Book, he looked through it and said: ‘Why have you not got a DFM?’ I pointed out that ‘Training Command’ were not very conversant with gongs. The attitude being if I haven’t got a gong no-one else is going to have one! He immediately said: ‘When you finish your tour here I promise you will be awarded one’. I met Eric Philips after the war, at RAF 100 Group Reunions. The first time I met him I said: 'I don’t suppose you remember me?' His immediate reply: ‘Yes, I do and I will never forget your Log Book. I thought: here am I, sitting here, having done only one op to Berlin with a DFC. It should be me standing! Eric Philips was a true Officer and a Gentleman. It was his kind and that of the Adjutant that made 214 such a friendly and efficient Squadron.


The morning came when all us new boys were standing around trying to form ourselves into crews. Jack and I went up to a Pilot and asked him: ‘Are you looking for any Gunners?’ His reply was: ‘Yes’, and then he said: ‘I am looking for a Navigator. I pointed to Alfie Shields and said: ‘There is a Navigator I know’. He said: ‘Is he any good?’ My reply was: ‘If he was good enough to get me through my first tour, I have no doubt he will get me through my second tour, and that is how by a remarkable coincidence, Alfie and I were to do our second tour together.


Our first op with 214 was to Chemnitz on 14 February 1945 – the day after Dresden. I missed out not having been on that op as I was contacted by the Media and asked: ‘Were you on that Dresden raid?’ Apparently, I was to be invited to Dresden on an anniversary of the raid to be interviewed on radio or television. I just missed out on the hospitable reception I would have had, rather different to the kind of ‘hospitality’ I was used to on previous visits to Germany! We were attacked by a Ju88 on our first op. Fortunately, the Rear Gunner saw him before he opened fire and, giving him a short burst, he broke away, thankfully not to be seen again. We completed 14 ops, the last on 2 May to Schleswig, during 4.50hrs. This was the last day Bomber Command operated against Germany.


After the war, we were sent on different postings. I took an M.T Course and after several postings, finished up at Luneburg in Germany, from where I was demobbed in February 1947.


During the war, the men of Bomber Command were heroes.


The day war ended, they were mass murderers, and murderers don’t get medals!


Top politicians who fully supported Arthur Harris during the war now wanted to disown any connection with the bombing of Germany. Did they want to appease those nice Germans who had bombed London, Coventry and Plymouth? Bomber Command was never represented in the Victory Parade. Their attitude: ‘Let Harris carry the can!’ Members of Bomber Command and most of the general public considered this an insult, especially as it is a known fact that Bomber Command did more than any to bring about the defeat of Germany.

   However, a small consolation was the decision of 'The Coin and Medal News Magazine' to arrange for the issue of a Bomber Command Medal. The cost of the Medal was £15.95. This however, could not be worn with official medals, but could be worn below them.



As President of the Air Gunners’ Association, I annually laid a wreath on behalf of the Association at the annual Memorial Service at Runneymede. After the issue of the medal, I saw many ex-Bomber Command veterans wearing the medal with pride, and rightly so! I could never bring myself to wear a medal I could buy, but fully supported all who did. When I received an application for the medal, I was surprised and proud of the fact that the illustration of a crew on the front of the application was that photograph taken by the Lincolnshire newspaper after our 10 ops on Berlin with 103 Squadron.


Norman Storey with crew

From the brochure a veteran was kind enough to send to me, it shows the designer of the only Bomber Command Medal, Geoffrey H Richmond, was Co-ordinator of Adult Studies at Scarborough Technical College. During the Second World War he served in the RAF as a Wireless Operator in Iraq, Egypt, Malta, France and Germany. He was a member of the Orders and Medals Research Society and had collected medals since 1965. Always interested in Bomber Command, he felt that its aircrews’ special service was under-valued at the end of the war due to political factors prevalent at the time.
   The medal was chosen by a panel of experts from the large number of entries submitted to the Design a Medal for Bomber Command’ competition in May 1984. The competition was the brainchild of regular RAF columnist Alan Cooper who had long supported the view that members of Bomber Command received an inadequate medallic award for their courage and skill during the Second World War.
   In response to the overwhelming number of requests to purchase the medal received from those who served with Bomber Command, a limited number of medals were struck, intended as a tribute to the bravery of those who flew and to the dedication of the skilled Ground Crew whose contribution was so very essential. For each medal purchased, a donation of £1 was made to the newly-formed Bomber Command Association.

   It is further interesting to note that the late Sir Arthur Harris, Bt GCB OBE AFC LLD, Commander in Chief of Bomber Command during the war, gave his blessing to the competition shortly before his death in 1984. He agreed to accept one of the medals on behalf of Bomber Command. Therefore a special striking of the medal, in sterling silver, was presented to the Bomber Command Museum at Hendon to be put on permanent display. The ribbon colours are blue grey, midnight blue, flame (signifying North Sea, night over enemy territory, target, return trip). The Laurel wreathed brevet letters of the aircrew supporting that of their pilot on one side signifies courage, team spirit and leadership. On the reverse is a Lancaster, Sir Arthur Harris’s ‘Shining Sword’. The epitome of night bomber development. Symbolising the supreme technical achievement of industry and ground staff, on which aircrew lives depended.



I wish all members of RAF 100 Group everywhere, Happy Landings for many years to come!'


Norman Storey
214 Squadron veteran
Final Posting:  4 January 2015

Thank you, Norman, for your many many writings through the years.
It is an honour and privilege to call you a 'Kindred Spirit'.

Rest in Peace, my Friend!





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