eye witness accounts

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pattern14, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. pattern14

    pattern14 Member

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    Living in a fairly rural part of Tasmania means that I don't get to see my neighbours very often, although I had spoken to the elderly English couple who live "across the road" a few times over the years. They migrated to Australia many years ago, then moved to Tassie sometime after. The land around me had just been ploughed up and planted with opium poppies, so there was not much space to land my R/C planes that I fly regularly with my sons. So I wandered over to ask them if they would mind if I flew in their front paddock for a few months until the crop was harvested. My land is covered with trees etc, which eat R/C planes for breakfast, and their block had been cleared in the past for when they used to own horses. They were more than happy to let us fly anytime, but asked it was OK to let them know so they could watch!

    It turns out that Bob was ex RAF, until he was injured and had to retire. He spent time on Meteors and Vampires in the late 40's to 50's, and his wife Barbara, was a young girl during the Battle of Britain. Having both a model Spitfire and Vampire, I bought them over and showed them and then have flown them regularly while they watch from their lounge room window. Barbara in particular talked about watching the Spitfires and Hurricanes take off over their roof, the burning planes, and captured German airmen who parachuted into a nearby field. She said her mother always yelled at her to get back into the shelter, as she would always want to sneak outside and watch what was happening in the sky above. They are both in their eighties, but recall those days as clear as yesterday. There was the occasional "bloody Germans" dropped in conversation, but time seems to have erased any animosity towards them, even though they had family and friend killed in the Blitz. She held the Spitfire in her hands, and said that it was the one plane that everyone knew instantly, as they were so recognisable in the air.

    I did not feel comfortable in asking too many questions, but I can't help think that before too long, all those memories and experiences will go with the passing of those elderly people without most of us ever knowing about them.
     
  2. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Wow...moving...and that last bit...sad.
     
  3. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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  4. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #4 GregP, Mar 17, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
    It's very true. The best story tellers in our group of volunteers at Chino are in their 80's. One in particular, a Dutchman who came to the USA 30+ years ago, was a kid in WWII and flew for the Dutch Air Force. He flew Meteors, Hunters, and F-104's. His stories are laced with humor and when people like hum depart us, we will have lost a generation that knew all about the planes we are restoring and flying today in a freiendly atmosphere. He distinctly recalls watching V-1's get launched from Holland, and remebers helping load rifles when resistance occasionally wiped out a group of Germans.

    I spoke with him when a Flugwerk Fw 190 with a Russian Shvetsov radial had an engine failure and the pilot put it onto the surf because the beach was filled with innocent Frenchmen. This fellow got a humorous look on his face and said, "That was the pilot's worst mistake. There ARE no innocent Frenchmen!"

    So, Pattern, you might as well ask them about the war. And then relate to us what they say.

    Good luck! And thanks for posting this.
     
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  5. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Great story, Pattern; sadly as time progresses, these memories will be lost forever, so cherish them - your neighbours - and their proximity to you for as long as you can, without making them feel uncomfortable, of course. You might want to be a little forward by suggesting that you record their recollections for posterity. They might think this a little odd, but if you let them sleep on it for a bit, they might see the wisdom of the suggestion. You can only ask.
     
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  6. meatloaf109

    meatloaf109 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it is important. Most folks like to talk and any tid-bits about history are vastly fascinating to me.
    If you can, get them to consent to a recording. And then ask leading questions and let them ramble with minimal coaching.
    Never know what priceless treasures will be found!
     
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  7. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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  8. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    There is a program here in the US that is run by, i think, the national archives that collects and saves the memories of veterans. I sent away for the material but sadly never used it on my neighbhor before HE passed. Too embarassed and too busy i told myself. Don't be that guy.
     
  9. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Sadly, alot of them won't talk about what happened.

    They'll often share light moments but in many cases, won't recount the horrble parts. For many, they've spent years trying to quiet the "demons" and retelling their experiences brings those demons back.

    A few years ago, my stepdad had a massive heart attack and while he was recovering from surgery, told my Mom part of his experiences at Chosin. He didn't tell her everything, but what he did share with her was horriffic. This was the first time he spoke about it in any detail since the battle.

    The youngest of my Mom's two older brothers spoke about some things he dealt with in the Pacific, but never spoke about the battle of the Solomons where his destroyer was sunk.

    So if you're fortunate to have one of these folks willing to share, it's certainly an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted.
     
  10. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing that and hopefully they will be OK with sharing some more first hand experiences.
     
  11. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... if you're fortunate to have one of these folks willing to share, it's certainly an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted."

    VERY TRUE. Encourage them ....
     
  12. pattern14

    pattern14 Member

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    #12 pattern14, Mar 19, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2014
    Thanks for the supportive replies everyone. I have been back several times to help out with some chores, as well as fly my R/C planes, and they were only too pleased to chat about days gone by. Barbaras' memory is a little foggy at times, and she tends to repeat some things, but I guess in your late eighties thats OK. Bob only has one leg, and asked me to dig a hole to bury the cat ( it was dead, just in case). Seems he had trouble using a shovel with one leg, so I spent some time in the pet cemetary out behind their stables. Interesting comments on the captured German airmen though, getting back to the original topic. It seems that in rural England, the shortage of men meant that the majority of farm workers were women, and Barbara retold the story of the bomber crew who bailed out and landed in a field just outside of the village where she lived in southern England. They were rounded up by the local women, two of whom were here aunties, and held captive until the local police arrived. She said that looked as though "they had had enough", and put up no resistance and appeared just glad to be alive. The wounded airman was given first aid and taken to the nearest hospital, where they were treated as well as any other patient, although under guard obviously. She said he was very young "only a boy really", and that was the last she saw of them. Her comments about the Germans were coloured by the fact that "they just looked like any one else", as wartime media obviously demonised the Germans to a great degree. Her husband Bob was a little less forgiving and and said "serves 'em right, they bloody started it". Guess you had to be there, as the saying goes. My youngest son is building an airfix Mk 1 Spitfire in Douglas Baders numbers for them, so they can sit it on their mantle piece, as a thankyou for letting him fly on their land, so I guess I'll hear more stories as time goes by....
     
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  13. subkraft

    subkraft Member

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    Hi Pattern14,

    Like you I'm in Tasmania too.
    And after a long hot summer it's starting to cool down now.....

    My mother lived through the Battle of Britain in London as a young girl...then the blitz came and they were evacuated. Terrible choice, Canada, safe, but via u boat Atlantic or rural England. They went rural.....there's parts of it she still won't talk about. Her worst experience was being caught out in a seaside town in one of those random coastal fighter bomber raids that the Germans did after the blitz failed.

    Our whole English household survived right until the last moment.....they say a 'land mine', I've never understood this, took out half of Calender Road. They all survived...bur what was the 'land mine'?....they were all clear that it was not a doodle bug....they knew all about them.

    The incredible thing was that the houses were rebuilt as exact replicas of what was destroyed. I played in the sunny backyard as a kid.

    Best Regards....hope we can all learn more.

    i
     
  14. Balljoint

    Balljoint Member

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    Not particularly apropos and second hand, a local had been a RAF gunner during the war. He not only survived but shot down two night fighters. Since he never saw the attackers, he took them out by shooting back using the incoming tracers to locate his target.
     
  15. beitou

    beitou Member

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    My mother is in her late 80s now. During the war she lived in Kent and stayed there throughout. Every so often she will mention things that make me stop and listen. She very cleary remembers the battle of Britain and cartridge cases falling onto her house roof. The sound of the D day aerial armada is another of her memories. The one that she dislikes most is thinking back to the sound of the V1s buzzing over and waiting for them to cut out. Must have been terrifying for her.
     
  16. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    #16 Elmas, Mar 20, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
    :flower::blueflowerface:
    :?:

    :!:

    :shock:

    Today in the first day of Spring....flowers are blooming...... :flower:

    :mrgreen:
     
  17. swampyankee

    swampyankee Active Member

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    If it's the one I think it is, they collect memories from a much broader section of the population than veterans. Could this be the place? StoryCorps
     
  18. Von Frag

    Von Frag Member

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    Couldnt agree more GrauGeist, my father was in the 12th defense battalion which was attached to the 1st Marine Div for most of the midwar period. He went ashore with them at Cape Gloucester and Peleliu. He will tell me the funny stories but will not talk about combat. I asked him one time if he would like to read With The Old Breed, but he said "Why? I was already there." He turned 92 last week and is still kicking, loves to take his Caddy for a spin. I hope he will open up but I am not going to push him on it.

    At the school I work at, there is this little old Russian lady who substitute teaches for us and she clearly remembers the German artillery on the outskirts of Moscow in 41. She went on to become an engineer and worked in Russian rocket design. That would be a story but she wont tell me anything about it lol. I dont know if it was for the space program or ICBM's. Loyalty to the state dies hard. She told me that when she came to work for an American company, (I think it was TI) she made them promise not to let the Govt interrogate her about her work for the Soviets.

    And then there is the guy in town who was a tail gunner on a B-17 and was part of the first daylight mission to Berlin.
     
  19. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    No it is not storycorps. This program is strictly for veterans...of all wars.
     
  20. boeing299

    boeing299 New Member

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    This link is probably the program you are thinking of. Our local historical society submitted a couple of tapes from a resident who was a survivvor of the Battle of the Bulge. His kids were shocked to learn what their dad had been through.

    Veterans History Project (Library of Congress)
     
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