Gazing out of my window on the world outside, it has that surreal quality of looking at a dream inside out. Winged seagulls keep a watchful eye on their young, nesting high amongst a clutter of chimney pots; a light breeze stirs white blossom on the bush reminding me fleetingly of weddings, while net curtains twitch in the bungalow behind, a face peering through the pane filled with such longing and despair it tugs the heart strings, wishing I could take away the pain of losing his wife.
I press the pause button on my world in the here and now, reflecting on the way months have passed in a blur of words and images, a screen scrolling to and fro, as I try to make sense of the futility of war. It was just before Christmas 2013 I signed a contract with Red Kite Publisher to climb the Everest of my writing career - the challenge: to complete a work in six months, drawing together a collective of voices of those who served during WWII in the very secret mainly still unknown world of RAF No.100 (Bomber Support) Group.
As a founding member, for the past 20+ years it has been a huge joy and privilege to meet and talk and share with these wonderful people. We are in touch daily, very much a supportive, actively-involved Family. As Secretary of the worldwide RAF 100 Group Association, and Editor of our Association quarterly magazine: 'Confound & Destroy', I cannot imagine life without them. Between the years 1939-1945, as young men, they put their lives on the line to bring an early end to war, introducing new and highly secret equipment fitted to their aircraft to counter-act the number of bombers being brought down. In a war that stole so many young men from their families, shattered the peace of many countries, enslaved, tortured, mistreated individuals and groups trying simply to save their country from the enemy; RCM - Radio Countermeasures - was something very new, very different, so secret that even all these years on since the war, those involved have never spoken about the part they played in bringing about peace, saving so many thousands of lives which would otherwise have been destroyed.
RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits
Voices of RAF & USAAF on secret Norfolk airfields during WWII
by Janine Harrington
Almost every single day this year, I have stepped through the portal taking me back in Time, to when Merlin engines could be heard overhead, flying steadfastly towards the enemy, determined to save what is rightfully ours, to set free those oppressed and held, bringing freedom, restoring warmth and compassion and life to a world which teetered on the edge of a dark awesome chasm. Brave men brought us back from the brink. And for the past six months, my heart has been right there, fighting beside them, a part of the dog-fights in the skies, chasing the enemy from our shores, rejoicing when we won the fight, grieving for those who did not make it home.
Every day the post has brought more and more stories from veterans around the world, many who have never shared before, not even with their families. It has been a privileged position to be indeed, and a humbling one ... and I thank you one and all from the bottom of my heart. In sharing, you have brought alive the ideals you fought for ... and these are stories I very much want to share with the rest of the world.
The publishers assure me that the first 100 copies out will be collectables.
The first 100 copies will contain the signatures of veterans. These are the names we must remember for the future, and their stories take to our hearts, and share with our children and their children in the hope that this must never happen again.
'We are the forgotten heroes', claims one veteran of WWII.
Because despite everything they achieved, they were never included in Churchill's post-war speech, nor were they given any form of recognition or a medal.
This book is about trying to do right by them. They sent me their stories that they might teach us what it was really like, the truths of war. And I thank Red Kite for giving me the opportunity to reach a wider public, and to share the lives of these wonderful brave people who gave so much that we might have the freedom we have today.
I consider this book the greatest challenge of my writing career.
I have tried to bring it to life by sharing the words of those for whom war became an everyday way of life ...
Ordinary people living in extraordinary times!
This work is now complete. Shortly it will be on its way to the publisher. Their aim is for it to be published in time for November, for Remembrance Day ... in memory of those like my mother's wartime fiance Vic Vinnell and his Canadian friend and pilot Jack Fisher who served at Foulsham under 192 Squadron in Norfolk. They went out on a secret operation on 26/27 November 1944 and were never heard of again. For them there are no known graves. We still have no closure. Sadly, it is a familiar story for many, who lost loved ones, and who because their work was so secret, never had a place to remember them.
My world for the past six months has existed through the portal in a time out of Time ... the year 1944 when, in my mind's eye, I have caught a glimpse of a young WAAF smiling up into the face of her RAF Officer fiance, listening as they share their wedding plans, knowing their dream will never become a reality because, one day, he will fly off ... and she will never hear from him again.
Slowly I am returning.
I have been on a long arduous journey, seen so much, shared with so many different people from all walks of life, gazed into the void, tasted death. With a sense of shock I realise we have moved on from winter into spring into summer. The days are warmer here, the world at peace ... or at least our corner of it. But the lessons I have learned are still fresh in my mind, and I watch the news with a growing sense of awareness of what it means to live in war-torn Europe, every day offering a glimpse into the unknown. We take freedom for granted. And yet, it comes at a price which we only seem to realise if it is snatched away from us, putting someone in control, demanding we live by the rules of another.
My perception on the world has shifted. A part of me is still living the war years which brought this country to its knees, taking homes, destroying lives in a heartbeat. I cannot easily let it go. But alongside it there is at least a future that offers hope ...
I look forward to the day I hold my first copy of this book, knowing I have put body, mind, spirit, soul, into its completion. I have no more to give ...
And yet, just as I thought I had reached the peak of my writing career, there is something unexpected just around the corner already calling my name, reaching for my attention, asking if ...
Watch this space to find out more!