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A time to remember

by Comms Team

In recognition of Remembrance Day, Ron Conn resident, Guy shares his recollection of living in London with his family during World War II and immediately post-war.

Ron Conn resident Guy 

Wintringham Recreation Officer, Grant brought in a memento from his visit to the Imperial War Museum in London to share with Guy. It was a folio of reproduction wartime memorabilia entitled: ‘The Home Front. Documents relating to life in Britain, 1939 – 1945’.

Guy remembers being interested in aircraft as a youngster and becoming a volunteer aircraft spotter at the age of 14. “It meant I got out of attending some of my school classes and could ‘spot’ for planes for the home guard.

We were all encouraged to be active participants, which fostered a sense of belonging and contribution to the war effort,“ says Guy.

“There was a magnificent feeling of comradeship and unity. We all had to pull together if there was ever a chance at victory. There was no time for putting on airs and graces. People were accepting of their situation and their differences. There was a willingness to give and take. It was a shared effort and commitment to succeed.  We had to win!

“I recall the sight of barrage balloons and how the men raised and lowered them on steel cables. The balloons were used to get the cables in the air. The cables were capable of slicing the wings of enemy aircraft.”

Guy clearly recollects the German bombing raids over London. “If the sound of approaching enemy aircraft weren’t terrorising enough, the sound of bombs known as screamers would chill your blood! We lost some school colleagues but it wasn’t really dwelled upon. Sometimes when a house was damaged, the roof lifted off. When this happened, somehow the curtains and clothing would be sucked out but not before the roof came back down and curtains and clothing were trapped between the walls and the roof. How extraordinary!”

“When search and rescue teams went onto bomb-damaged house sites, they would remove the rubble and clear right down to the cellar. Shortly after, flowers would grow amongst the debris. It was Mother nature’s way of reinstating some semblance of beauty!”

On reading the replica front page news of the declaration of war, Sunday 3rd September 1939, Guy tearily recalls hearing the King’s speech being broadcast to the people of Britain and how the King had to overcome his speech impediment to lead his country.

One fond memory Guy has, as a young fellow, was the time he found an unexploded incendiary. He said he whooped with delight, but that excitement was short-lived as a grown-up voice behind him said: “I’ll take that, thank you!” Guy wasn’t impressed and resented the confiscation but later appreciated the intervention as numerous house fires had started from “souvenired” unexploded incendiary taking pride of place on a household mantle with the potential to randomly detonate weeks, months or years later.

“Dad was in the British Army, a regular jack-of-all-trades. He was a good bloke. You felt safe with him. He was stationed on a gun site on the outskirts of London, and we would go and visit him regularly as a family.

 It was an OHS bring-your-kids-to-work-day nightmare!”

“Mum was French. She was terrific, a real people person. She ran three licenced clubs in London during that time. Ordinary bars used to close from 2pm until 5pm.”

“My sister was ten years older. She was beautiful. She could charm the crows out of the trees.

“I recall towards the end of the war (not that we knew it at that time), the sight of a squadron of 20 different German planes flying over in tight formation. Initially it was frightening, but it turned out they were captured planes displayed as a training exercise to benefit the aircraft spotters of the home-guard, and assist them to identify different types of enemy aircraft.

Before the war ended, Guy joined the Army. Immediately after the war, Guy travelled by train across to Venice and was stationed there for two years as an Officers’ Mess Sergeant with “discretionary buying powers”. This proved him popular with his workmates. He found his linguistic skills in both French and Italian to be invaluable which made him popular with the locals. Despite being in Italy, Guy regrets not visiting Rome although he “did get close on four separate occasions, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

The replica War Coupons, National Registration Identity Card (ID Card), Ration Book, posters, correspondence letters, and maps all brought memories flooding back like it was yesterday. “It’s been a wonderful life,” Guy says.

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