The remarkable discovery of one man's long lost story.
I’ve got a number of Dad’s comrades KIA that I either can’t trace or have no photographs of – Jack Betley from Halifax was one of them. I once knew nothing about him - now I know everything, thanks to listener Mark Peters.
Colourisation by Jakob Lagerweijj.
The quickest way to contact Jakob is via Facebook/Messenger (https://www.facebook.com/jakoblagerweij/)
Full show notes at:
Interested in Bill Cheall's book? Link here for more information.
Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg, hardback, paperback and Kindle etc.
LCpl Jack Betley KIA Sicily
Mark A Peter's The Voyage of War composition
Mark's wife is a distant cousin of Jack Betley
Jack Betley son of Ethel and Harold Betley of 20 summergate Place Halifax
He was a member of Fairfields primitive Methodist Church Halifax and Boys Brigade
Educated at battinson Road School Halifax and employed by the grocery department of Halifax co-op society
During World War II he served as a Lance Corporal with the 5th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment
Killed in action 15th of July 43, aged 20.
Buried Catania war Cemetery Sicily
Remembered on the memorial at Halifax town hall books of remembrance.
Arm badge of 48th (South Midland) Division
Another pic of Jack - see which side his cap sits - same as the other one - and he's got his LCpl stripes on this one.
Alex Mill - Mistaken for Jack Betley
Rate the show at https://lovethepodcast.com/FightingThrough
Paulo Bonini’s you tube channel is Forgotten Temples Cambodia, So please do offer him some genuine FT fan friendship – have a listen to one of his vids and like or follow his channel.
Herod cruising down the Autobahn somewhere in Germany in his wrecker.
My Mauser with the swastika. I still hunt with it!
Hannah Gray's staged photo of great grandfather as a POW in WW1.
Pilot William Henry Bundock memoirs
Harry Bowler WWII - 2nd left
Fighting Through Podcast Episode 70 – Lance Corporal Jack Betley
More great unpublished history! WWII
Intro Passage 1
I am sitting in a slit trench 42K north of Sousse, shells are flying all over, so far all objectives have been taken - two counter attacks having been repulsed.
Intro Passage 2
I was coming back from a sortie, when just before flying back across the front line my engine decided to
Intro Passage 3
October 1940, 19-year-old Harold Blow was driving a lorry to Newport when a man wearing an airman’s uniform stepped into the road and waved him down.
Harold pulled up and got the shock of his life — it was a German pilot in full flying gear.
Intro Passage 4
During our advance in Sicily we encountered stiff opposition at certain strong points and a number of our men were killed, among them Sergeant Harrington and John Ryan.
My pal, Charlie Lee, was missing and Jack Betley was also killed.
Learn about a terrible mistake I’ve made with the photos in Dad’s book – both editions.
Hello again and another warm WW2 welcome to the Fighting Through second world war podcast.
I’m Paul Cheall, son of Bill Cheall whose WWII memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword – in FTFDTH.
The aim of this podcast is to give you the stories behind the story. You’ll hear memoirs, and interviews with veterans in all the countries and all the forces. I dare you to listen!
I know up to date fans of the show have waited patiently for this next release and I must apologise for the delay which I hope will prove worthwhile.
I’m back in the cockpit – so get your glass of Calvados or Coffee handy - get comfy if you can, make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel in your motor if you’re driving, if you’re gardening just leave the weeds for today – the bees love em – this is going to be a loooong episode!
Long time listener Dawane Harris just wrote in:
Paul! I need to say hi! My daughter SAVANNAH, aged 13, has been bugging me... has Paul asked about me. She sooooo loves your show!
She was recently accepted into a private school mainly because of her historical knowledge. I thank you for most of that.
Dawane and Savannah – hi and thank you so much – I feel very humble that the FTP has made a difference to Savannah’s educational leanings and that it’s helped her to progress. And of course it was Savannah who just introduced the show, just in case you’re getting bored with my voice all the time! So massive congratulations to you Savannah, that’s so well done. If you write a great history essay some time, send it to me and I’ll read it out.
And if one historian in the family wasn’t enough, I’ll say hi to master Dawson Harris Aged 9 who has already turned his artistic talents to drawing a depiction of the DDay invasion. Pics in the notes – but he’s got the troops attacking Omaha beach and the Germans defending it and OMG he’s even included those spikey Czech Hedgehogs things that littered the beach defences. I’m impressed with your eye for detail Dawson.
Thanks for your interest and support guys – so that’s Savannah and Dawson Harris from USA – leaving top military historian James Holland in their wake in no time I suspect!
Wow, what a miscellany I’ve got lined up for you today. I’ve barely known where to start. I’ve got a stack of family stories and the most amazing breakthrough tracking down one of Dad’s lost comrades, Jack Betley from Halifax. And the PS is the story of a German pilot who crash landed in a field and was arrested by a farmer and his sheepdog.
I must point out the obvious change to the show’s guest intro music – it’s Voyage of War by Mark Peters who is a relative of Jack Betley. And what a great piece of music Mark has sent me – he didn’t mean for it to be in the show but the minute I heard it I knew there was a great fit. You can download your own copy of Voyage of War by Mark Peters in the usual online music stores.
You heard the intro previews so I’ll crack on apace.
Last time we met in ep 69 - we heard Heidi Langbein’s brilliantly composed memoir and biography of her father Villi’s war as a German boy soldier and what a TERRIFYING insight that gave us into that side of things. I’ve got some feedback from listeners to share with you:
Heidi Feedback 1 Bill G
Posted on the Reviews section of the FTP web site - WOW—the story of the German soldiers war perspective was unbelievable.
Great job finding it and having the guts to have in your podcast. Bill G Apple
Heidi Feedback 2 Tar Heel
- Mr. Cheall, (Paul please) I want to personally thank you for giving us all the privilege of hearing this amazing story! It was as if I was experiencing the war through this extraordinary teenager’s eyes! You breathed life back into this man! I absolutely love your pod, and, as an American, you make me proud of my “mostly” English ancestry!
Tar Heel, Virginian
Heidi Feedback 3 - Tim Rainville
I found the boy soldier episode to be quite fascinating as those German experiences are far less familiar to most of us.
Willi's account also had some remarkable similarities to the wartime stories from my former mother-in-law. Also born in 1930, she lived in Castrop Rouxcel Castrop-Rauxel, which is only minutes from Witten and in the heart of the Ruhr. Witten of course is where Willi came from. My goodness.
As a child she spent many hours in the bomb shelters and recounted how a small incendiary bomb had gone through the roof and 3 floors of their house, and ending up in the basement but not igniting.
Her older brother (age 14-15) was also taken to eastern Germany and although I'm unaware if he served in the Hitler Youth, he was trapped in the Soviet sector and did not return until 3 years after the war. Her younger brother, born in 1941, ultimately became blind due to malnourishment from the reduced rations. There was no shortage of suffering for the civilians on both sides.
A final word from Heidi on this
I shared the feedback with Heidi and she was chuffed to bits – Paul, thanks for sending these comments my way. They warm my heart.
Heidi Feedback 4
Briefly, while we’re on the German side of things, I’ve got a family tale of daring do which fits the German theme of this episode from Heinz.
My grandad was responsible for 25 downed German aeroplanes in World War II. Wow!
Still to this day he is known as the worst mechanic the Luftwaffe ever had
From Heinz Ketchup
I don’t know how I dared do that one – sorry!
Paulo Bonini – I hope you’re listening Paulo
This segment of the show is a little off the beaten track in more ways than one, and I hope you’ll indulge me because it’s such a curious story. It’s how the ball of string that is this show unwinds and leads us through such a maze of connections and coincidences.
Before I explain I’d just like to return to a passage I read out a while ago now from Les Cook because I was absolutely entranced by it. So here’s an shortenedversion of the story just to bring you back into the zone as it were.
This was in the African desert at a place called Gambut on the Mediterranean coast and Les called the story a desert discovery.
The Italians had an airstrip on the Libyan plateau near Tobruk. We had stopped for a few days at the foot of the escarpment close to this airstrip. One morning we saw what appeared from his dress to be an Arab digging in the sand some distance away from us.
He was preoccupied with what he was doing and was apparently unaware of our presence. The Arabs had a reputation for stealing or collecting abandoned weapons and storing them for future use, and we thought it probable that he was engaged on such a venture so went to investigate. There was very little cover so he saw us coming before we could get close to him and immediately left what he was doing and disappeared.
When we arrived at the place we found a hole in the ground with stone steps leading down from it. The entrance had been covered with a stone slab that the Arab had removed to gain access. As we stood there two pigeons flew out of the opening, so there must have been other entrances than the one in front of us.
The narrow steps led down between stone walls to a cavern or corridor, the extent of which we couldn’t establish because of the poor light, and disappeared into clear fresh water. We were in an underground water storage system constructed hundreds or perhaps thousands of years ago. There were heiroglyphs carved into the stone walls. In the sand on a step below the water I found
a small silver coin or medallion which was subsequently identified by a numismatist as being Etruscan. It had a Caesar’s head with Laurel wreath on one side and Grecian-style writing on the other.
On the top of the escarpment directly above were the remains of an ancient city. The outline of the city-wall and streets of buildings, presumably houses, were clearly visible as rows of hand-cut stone blocks in the sand. The city-wall ran along the edge of the escarpment which would have been about 10 meters high at that point. It would seem likely that the city had been abandoned or destroyed and the sand had gradually built up between the walls until the whole area became level.
What was the name of this city? Who were the people who lived there, and when and why was it built? And what happened to it?
There must have been thousands of people like us on both sides of the war who saw what we did
unless, of course, some freak desert sand-storm had temporarily uncovered the stones just before we arrived. I have always been interested in archaeology and the rise and fall of civilizations. My memory of this particular place is so clear that I believe that I could go back again and find where we climbed the escarpment - or was it all in my imagination?
Right, that’s the end of Les’s bit. I’ll leave your imagination on hold with that mysterious desert setting of hidden buildings and treasures out in the middle of nowhere.
Back to Paulo Bonini
A few years ago now on the podcast I was messing about telling you how many listeners I'd got in various parts of the world including one or two countries where I'd only got one solitary listener and I was asking that person, whoever they may be, to get in touch.
And finally, a lifetime later, guess who I heard from. This is great. I'll hand you over.
“Sir, (Paul please)
What a surprise to hear you mention me on your podcast, number 12. I am that mystery solitary listener in Cambodia & you asked I drop you an email.
I myself publish, I have a YouTube channel that also covers forgotten history & that is of the temples of the mighty ancient Khmer empire, you may know of Angkor Wat (that’s a Buddhist temple), well there are 1000's of smaller ancient temples that are forgotten & are slowly decaying, & like you I hunt them down & record them on my YouTube channel, Forgotten Temples Cambodia.
I post two short videos a week, these are ancient temple sites forgotten by almost everyone, only those that live near to a particular site know of them. They are often real hard to find & I battle leeches, wild dogs, snakes & even temples full of rats to catalogue them. I once got attacked by a troll, a madman, who was unbelievably wild.
I recently filmed Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex on earth, & it was empty, this has never been seen as it is usually crawling with millions of visitors a year. An amazing day.
Believe me when I say some days are simply wondrous, pounding through the asian countryside on my bike hunting an ancient temple. It is golden.
It is a lonely business, & I have a very small audience, but to me it must be done, as this history should be recorded & I am the only one doing it. The Khmer empire was as mighty as Rome, but now nobody seems to care. I face the real dangers of minefields, snakes, scorpions & driving alone in appalling terrain, but I find it hugely rewarding, as I am doing something nobody else is doing & I think just maybe one day my work will aid others in preserving this history.
My biggest enemy is wild dogs, then leeches, there are millions of them. Then rats as people leave food offerings at temples & you can walk in & the rats scurry up the walls, but I dont mind them. Then scorpions & snakes, there are loads of cobras here but I stamp my feet & I have not met one yet, but I know I will. Then fire ants, got bitten on the nuts twice, oh man that really hurts. (They crawled up my leg & then ambushed my nads, pincer style like the battle of Jutland 😁)
If those are not enough the silent killer is land mines, they are everywhere from Khmer Rouge days & seeing people with missing limbs in the countryside is so common, I try to stick to trails, but not always possible & I lay my fate in the hands of the temple gods. I am compelled to hunt them down now & I like to go alone, If I was to get hit I would be in the middle of nowhere, but laying on the ground I would see what so many soldiers have seen, the beautiful sky & clouds, so not such a bad way to go, & I would get loads of clicks!
You & I are not so different - we soldier on alone which is so much harder than people imagine, for causes that we believe in, so that greatness will not be forgotten.
I love your work & what you are doing is so very admirable as like me you are recording what could so easily become forgotten history.
A crisp British salute to you Sir, keep soldering on, for you are the standard bearer of forgotten WW2 history.
I am a Brit who moved out here 14 years ago, became an alcoholic due to booze being so cheap when I drank a litre of vodka a day – but now sober & taken up temple hunting. Life was hell, but with the temples it’s now wonderful.
My father was Italian but served for the British Army in Egypt, Suez Canal, having gone to Britain as a child.
My very best wishes,
Paulo, your chum & number one fan in Cambodia.
?? Well, I know what Paulo is talking about isn’t strictly WW2 fare but his area of interest is certainly no stranger to war and I couldn’t resist making the connection between that awesome passage in Les Cook’s memoirs about finding that Roman coin inside the underground reservoir and Paulo’s own adventures amongst the unbelievably ancient corridors of Cambodia.
Paulo thank you so much for getting in touch and offering that fascinating in sight into your work. I hope your vital statistics are still safe from the scorpions and you’ll continue to carry out your important work.
Paulo’s you tube channel is Forgotten Temples Cambodia, So please do offer him some genuine FT fan friendship – have a listen to one of his vids and like or follow his channel.
That’s Forgotten Temples Cambodia – that’s what I call a niche!
Review 1 –
The following people kindly left show reviews in various places:
Review 2 Travis Moore
FTP Been listening to your podcast since the beginning. My grandfather was in ww2 as a master sergeant in the mobile artillery unit. He came in a few days after d-day and provided support for the advancing units. He would not talk about his experience much but I have recently found letters that he wrote my grandmother while he was overseas. My grandmother is 100 and let me read some of them and talk about an emotional rollercoaster reading them, it was eye opening and filled in on why he would not speak of his time over there. Anyways, I just wanted to tell you to keep up the great work of bringing the memoirs of all the brave men and women that fought through this war.
Review 3 Herod
On the FT website:
As we say in the USA, AWESOME!!!
My father, seven uncles and one great uncle were in WWII, all in combat and they all came back. My dad, Herod Lowery, drove a big Ward LaFrance tank wrecker fighting the Germans. He landed in Normandy at Omaha Beach on June 21 and on VE Day, he was in Kassel, Germany. The stuff you put up here is just the greatest.
June 10, 2021 by Herod Lowery on Website
And many thanks for the Calvados Herod – I hope your hip replacement operation has gone well and you’ll be back jumping in and out of the trenches dodging bullets in no time!
Review 4 Heavegar
Forgot to say to Heavegar in the last episode – send me your address!
Well worth listening to, and I have also purchased the Book behind the podcasts by Bill Cheall.
Alistair's Dad from the United Kingdom – What a resource – keep it going.
Hey Paul, I've listened to your podcast twice now all the way through at work. It's a great past time and I love how real it is. My grandfather, Robert Paul Krieger fought in WW2 in the U.S Army as a medic. He would never tell me about his war but one day I noticed his toes, all mangled, blistered, and bent in strange angles and I asked him why they were like that. He explained it was from the war... I wonder if he was in the Ardennes forest, or battle of the bulge. However I can't find any of his records and knowing the medics were Unarmed it would have been difficult.. Probably trench foot or frost bite during Christmas. Anyways Paul, keep up the great work and I love your dads Memoirs. I hope to hear new episodes to come! Thank you for all that you do because its the most realistic, first hand experience I've heard on a podcast ever. 5 stars all day!
Thank you guys, all of you
Buy me a coffee 1 - Harry Bowler
Harry Bowler has kindly donated to the show with a generous round of Calvados on the Buy me a Coffee feature on my home page. Harry has previously mentioned he’s researching his family history and he’s sent me an absolutely cracking family story about his marine grandad being sunk by an infamous sub.
I've recently discovered your ww2 podcast and I'm hooked, my grandfather was a royal marine during the second world war, seeing action in North Africa and Europe along with ships crew service somewhere in and around the Indian Ocean. As with other ww2 veterans he didn't disclose much but I do have a story of his first taste of war when the ship taking him to Africa was sunk by a German sub, if this short stories is of interest I would be happy to share it, it involves a courageous act by another passenger on the ship who was awarded the George Cross for his selfless act during the sinking.
I look forward to your next episode,
All the best
Royal Marine Harry Norman Bowler 1941
My granddad and namesake Harry “Norman” Bowler decided to sign up towards the end of 1940, this must have been a deeply troubling time for his family especially on his fathers side. During the First World War tragedy came to the Bowler family, two brothers of his father were killed between August and October 1916.
On the 9th of August 1916 my grandfathers uncle “Edward James Bowler” who was a private in the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment was killed during a poison gas attack near Ypres Salient on the Western front, he was just 25 years old. A few months later on the 20th of October 1916 tragedy struck again as another of his fathers brothers was also killed, his name was “Thomas Stanley Bowler” (also Known as Stanley Thomas), a private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, he was killed in action in France Flaunders and was only 23 at the time of his death, to this day it’s still unknown whether Thomas knew of the death of his older brother.
Whilst my grandfather probably would not have memories of his uncles who died during the First World War, as he would have been only two years old, I’m sure it would have been extremely traumatic to his parents and grandparents (with one grandmother making a shockingly accurate prediction involving my grandfather) when he decided to sign up,
I guess this was likely the main influence to him finding himself joining the Royal Marines, as
I recently found out only a few weeks ago whilst researching my grandfathers that apparently he had been given strict instructions to join the Royal Navy, only to be told he would be better suited to the Marines by the official at the desk.
On the 15th of January 1941 my grandfather began his training with the Royal Marines, first in Chatham, followed by the more rigorous training in Scotland, before being shipped off to North Africa for his first taste of war, it was on this fateful first voyage that disaster struck. Known as the Winston’s Special Convoys or WS Convoys, he, along with around 1,200 British Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force personnel towards the end of June 1941 boarded the SS Anselm which was part of Convoy WS 9B. The SS Anselm was built as a cargo and passenger liner in 1935, requisitioned and converted into a troop ship in 1940, originally converted to carry 500 she was heavily overloaded, and had suffered from recent engine troubles.
During the early hours of 5th July 1941 in the mid-Atlantic a few hundred miles off the Azores a blanket of fog which had given cover to the convoy cleared, the convoys position was soon spotted and reported by the Luftwaffe, putting my grandfather and the crew and passengers on board SS Anselm on a collision course with the most famous of all ww2 German submarines U-96 and commander Kptlt Heinrich Lehman-Willenbrock.
It was 04:26 when U-96 fired a spread of four torpedos at SS Anselm and the survey vessel HMS Challenger, three of the torpedos missing their mark including HMS Challenger, SS Anselm wasn’t so lucky with one torpedo hitting her port side amidships, causing extensive damage and momentarily lifting the troop ship. This was the moment my grandfather was woken from his sleep in his hammock, luckily the area of the ship he was stationed in was well away from the area the torpedo hit and initial explosion,
he always described the torpedo hit as literally knocking the bottom off the ship, tragically the area where the RAF were stationed.
I read a piece by Ex-RAF man Thomas Rogers who describes the horror of being in an area of the ship literally disintegrating, where the girders which had their hammocks attached literally came crashing down, crushing men,
and how the staircases to the decks above crumbled, trapping those unable to pull themselves to safety.
Whilst the horrors of naval warfare unfolded on the SS Anselm, corvettes counter-attacked, Lavender firing six depth charges and Petunia firing twenty, seriously damaging U-96 and causing her to break off her patrol and return for repairs.
SS Anselm had been so severely damaged that it only taken around 20 or so minutes to sink beneath the waves, what made the situation worse were the ladders from the lower decks had in some cases been completely destroyed, trapping the men below, mainly Royal Air Force Personal, my grandad described how it taken him more than ten minutes to make it to the upper deck from where he had been sleeping in his hammock, when he did eventually get to the boat deck most of the life boats were either gone or leaving, at this point he noticed the huge amount of damage to the ship and how hundreds of RAF personnel were trapped below the waterline.
This is the point where my grandfather came across Air Force Chaplain squadron leader Cecil Pugh GC, my grandfather always told of how the courageous Chaplain never left his men, moving around different decks and helping with the boats and rafts, before finally persuading a group of Marines to lower him down to the airmen trapped below the waterline using a rope, when the Marines argued that this would mean certain death Cecil Pugh simply explained “he must be where his men were”. Although a witness to Cecil Pugh being lowered down, my grandfather never confessed to being one of the Marines whom lowered him. Suddenly my grandfather had to find a way off the quickly sinking ship. With no lifeboats in sight he contemplated going straight into the water, but just then he noticed a makeshift raft which had been made from the wooden boxes used to transport oranges, he was a good few feet above the water so beckoned the survivors aboard the raft to paddle close enough for him to jump for it, then he jumps aiming himself straight into the middle of the raft, but unbeknown to my grandfather, there is no floor to the middle of the raft so straight into the cold water he went, quickly he is pulled up into the raft by the other survivors. Once they had paddled a safe distance away from the sinking SS Anselm they all had a good laugh at my grandfathers misfortune, after only 22 minutes since the torpedo hit SS Anselm disappeared beneath the waves, taking Cecil Pugh GC, four crew and around 250 troops with her. Here my grandfather and the survivors stayed bobbing around for what must have felt like a lifetime, during this time my grandfather and the other survivors on the raft noticed debris floating up to the surface, they found chocolate bars were amongst the debris and cigarettes too, so my grandfather being already wet slipped back into the water to collect the chocolate and cigarettes, I have fond memories of him saying “the chocolate was good but the cigarettes were totally soaked and useless”.
My grandfather and the other survivors were picked up by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cathay, and after a few more days at sea were landed at Freetown Sierra Leone before continuing his journey to NorthAfrica.
After the war in 1947 Herbert Cecil Pugh was awarded the George’s Cross for his actions on that fateful morning on the fifth of July 1941.
Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock and U-96 became gained widespread recognition when one of its patrols was documented and publicised and used for nazi propaganda, the story of U-96 was made into a film and mini series called Das Boot.
In a twist and scarily similar to an account from your podcast episode 65, on the morning of the fifth of July 1941 the grandmother of my grandfather apparently had a premonition that he was wet and in the sea, sadly gone before my time I would have loved to have heard more about this family legend from my great great grandmother herself.
So that was from Harry Bowler about his granddad and namesake Harry “Norman” Bowler
Harry thank you from the bottom of my heart for sending that in and best of luck with your research.
Patreon – Hannah Gray
Both my grandmother and grandfather served in WW2. My grandmother was in the Australian army as one of the first combat-trained women, and my grandfather was a radio operator on an American supply ship. This podcast has been so interesting, personal, and educational, and it makes me appreciate their bravery and contributions all the more.”
Seattle, WA, USA. Once again, I so appreciate this podcast. Thank you for all the work you put in to make this possible. I come from a long line of veterans - my great grandfather was even a POW in Germany during WWI.
I've included some photos if you're interested. The first two are of my great grandfather (second from the right) in a staged photo from a POW camp (in reality he described the conditions as horrible) and of his decorations.
The others are of my grandmother and grandfather. My grandmother went AWOL from the Australian Army to marry an American temporarily stationed in Australia she had only just met, and they remained married for 72 years. The lives of those who served are so rich and varied, and it is such a treasure to hear their stories in your podcast.
I’ve included some of Hannah’s photos in the show notes and you really need to see the one of the POW’s – it’s just fascinating. And the fabulous colourised photo of Hannah’s grandmother looks just stunning.
Pics in folder
Shout out 1 Lee Proctor UK
My great grandfather George fought in the war. He was in the Lancashire fusiliers and while he was serving in France he got talking to an Italian prisoner who said he was an artist. My Great grandfather got him some supplies and he painted him a picture called 'Battle of the Somme'. I don't know much more about it but here’s a picture of it - it was signed by a G Pauli.
Eventually the family ended up living in Oldham which is where I grew up. My grandad said his mum hated that painting and kept taking it down every time my great grandad put it up
My Grandads brothers fought in WW2, One of them got shot and injured by shrapnel fighting in Italy. At the time he was in the same fox hole as his cousin who died in the same explosion.
He was picked up by Australian soldiers and made it back home but ended up dying at an early age.
One brother Joseph was in the RAF during the war and fought in Burma.
My grandad was too young to fight himself but he said he remember looking out of the window once and seeing a plane coming down and heard an almighty bang which scared him and his other brother to death.
They used to go picking up big shells in the mornings which were apparently still warm.
Thanks Lee and sorry it’s taken so long to include you.
Pic on file
Shout out 2 Tyler Hart
Tyler Hart from the United States I just recently started listing to your podcast and I absolutely love it I listen to it everyday at work and it’s just outstanding to me to learn about all the stuff these brave men went through my grandfather was a aircraft mechanic in the war but unfortunately I never got the chance to ask him about it before he passed away
Dave McIlvenna – travelled the Normandy coastline
Shout Out 2a Ben Henry Kilmarnock Scotland
G'day mate bloody unreal podcast. i have binge listened over the last two weeks I've listened from episode 1 to 69 in that time haha but all i can say is WOW. What an emotional roller-coaster it's been i have found myself laughing at times at some of the anecdotes to fighting back tears listening to Willi Langbein's story then to being just down right bloody amazed especially Fred Reynard's account at Gallipoli. What a tough generation of men and woman they were. I just wanted to take the time to say thanks for all the hours of work your podcast has got me through recently haha anyway keep up the great work.
P.S hurry with the next episode you bloody legend
I'm Tommy Khawli from Australia saying bye bye now
Shout out 3 Michael Stapleton
Hi Paul just been thinking, it’s nuts but 77 years ago around this time the paras where sat on airfields ready to take off for the start of d day, around 22.56 I think it was, maybe I’m wrong but it’s really sad to think about a lot of them lads wouldn’t be around a few hours later and many more who landed with your dad on the beaches a few hours after that! Puts a lot of stuff of today into context of what matters to me! Anyway finished your dads book! Brilliant and I’ve found my grandads service number and found out he joined up October 10th 1939 waiting on MoD to get back to me on the other stuff so if there is anything else to mention I’ll pass it over!
I do recall grandad saying he was evacuated by a submarine at some point and for what I’ve looked into the only one I’ve found so far was off Crete maybe a couple of months after the main evacuation
Grandads off mums side both served in the army although don't know where they served other than Celestina 'Charlie' Stapleton was at dunkirk, and went on to become an army boxing champion in the days where men where men and mice where scared within either one of the Lancashire regiments, his brother Michael Stapleton was in the RAF and was awarded a military medal during the war.
Grandad off of dad's side, Thomas Douglas Hughes served in the Royal Navy as a gunner, he served all over from Africa to the pacific and Anzio to Normandy, he had a pretty tough job at Normandy collecting the dead lads from the water, to which they was all torn up as you could imagine, he brought home British POW's from Burma I think this effected him more than Normandy because of the mistreatment they had suffered. My dad informed me that he actually shot down 2 Japanese zeros during the war but he didn't speak much about any of the war I think what he saw deeply affected him.
I know you like a P. S so here goes, I recently had time when the kids went to bed to watch a documentary on the war, and what a watch I think your listeners will really enjoy it!
It's called Night Bombers, on amazon its a real eye opener on how little space there actually was inside the Lancaster in wartime raids, and no wonder why so many rear gunners did not make it like your dad's pal, Don. (you actually see the pice of perspex that was removed that was spoken about in an interview with Claude Reynolds, really good documentary.
Thanks for putting up with my emails, All the best Michael Stapleton.
Shout out 4 Drew Terrill
Hello there, I hope this message finds you well. I live in Nanton, Alberta in Canada. I have been hooked on ww2 stories and history in the last few months. I have listened through another podcast (WW2 Podcast) and started looking for more stories and picked your podcast. In Nanton there is the Bomber Command Museum that houses a working lancaster bomber.
So I very much appreciate the stories of the Lancasters as I can physically see what the plane looks and sounds like (they do engine runs from time to time). I am listening to episode 14 as I type this out, so thank you soo much as these stories open my eyes even more than the history books cover. Have a good day and cheers mate!
Thanks Drew and of course ep 14 is all about Lancaster Lily Mars – a fine FT vintage.
Main event – LCpl Jack Betley
This story is one from my future Missing in Action episode which I haven’t recorded yet!
I just love this story sooo much. In fact it’s sending shivers up my spine as I tell you this. But before I share it with you, I'd like to ask a favour which will help both of us. If you want to get the best out of any episode of this podcast, and particularly this one, go into your favourite browser, either comma smartphone or desktop and open up up my website at FTP.co.uk. Do it now if you can.
Now save the web address to your favourites or to the home screen on your smartphone. From now on when you listen to the show you can easily access the show notes and browse any photographs I'm referring to in real-time. Simples! And do bear in mind that when you’re scrolling down the show notes keep an eye open for the Read More link, because that often opens up into a whole Dr Who tardis worth of pics, clicks and show transcript. It’s worth working through all this because I put a great deal of effort into compiling the show notes and I guarantee it’ll add to your listening experience.
Now for the story
Over the past few years, I’ve been able to track down a variety of former comrades and you’ve learnt all about them in this podcast – Don Savage of Lily Mars Lancaster fame, Major Petch from Dunkirk and Captain Tom Woods of the courageous ship Lady of Mann, also of Dunkirk fame.
But I’ve got a number of Dad’s comrades either KIA or MIA or just lost from the records, that I either can’t trace or have no photographs of – or if I have a photo I’ve got no further trace. There’s “Good Old Bristow” from London, Charlie Lee and Alex Mill - all killed in Sicily, and there was Tommy Chaff another cockney, and George Bertram both survived I think. Not to forget Arthur Oxley whose shell damaged cap badge is the only remnant of him save for Dad’s story in the book.
Finally, Jack Betley was one of them.
This is all I can tell you about Jack, from Dads book. He was another one killed in Sicily.
This is a passage from Dad’s book, FTFDTH, set in Sicily July 1943 after the landings had taken place.
“ The best possible use was made of the position we found ourselves in and forward
patrols were sent out probing the enemy and we achieved a modicum of sleep. Next
morning, we progressed up the eastern side of the island to make an attack on Sortino
and during our advance we encountered stiff opposition at certain strong points and
a number of our men were killed, among them Sergeant Harrington and John Ryan.
My pal, Charlie Lee, was missing. Jack Ramsden and all his section were blown to pieces. Jack Betley was also killed. The 7th Green Howards were also having a rough time.
So that’s it – no more info.
But then up suddenly pops Mark Peters (firstname.lastname@example.org) Hi Paul, hope you don’t mind me contacting you. It was my father in law Phils 90th last week and he told us about his cousin who died in the war in Italy, Jack Betley. I ended up googling his name and was astounded to find your fathers book. I ended up buying the book for a present for Phil who was massively moved. We’d really like to know a bit more about Jack and how he died if possible. Would be really interested in how you came by his photo etc. Great story and a great read. Regards Mark
We think he had a sister but have no further details.
But this story got weirder and weirder the longer I dug into it because according to the CWGC records, Jack was in the East Yorks yet dad seemed to have him down as a Green Howard.
Were there any clues on his uniform, we might ask. I turned to the pic I had of Jack for any clues. There weren’t any obvious ones apart from very indistinct badges.
But then I made an horrific discovery – a really embarrassing one.
One that I barely dare admit too.
In going carefully through all Dad’s original photos to get a better scan and to scrutinise the rear sides, I made the horrific discovery that I’d mixed two photographs up. Jack Betley and Alex Mill were the wrong way round. Everything else is factually correct – it’s just that the photos were wrong.
So, I set the record straight with Mark and went ahead to get the real one colourised to celebrate the discovery. So up steps Dutchman Yaa-cop Lager-why (Jakob Lagerweijj) to the research rescue. Jakob is a colourisation expert as both a hobby and a business. I’ll tell you more about him later.
After he’d painstakingly crafted the first pic of Jack that I sent him earlier, I had to break the news to him that that was Alex Mill, not Jack Betley. Oh dear.
Funnily enough, adding colour helped bring out the vague detail of Jack’s badges
Here’s the conundrum:
CWGC record says East Yorks yet none of the badges were East Yorks.
Dad seemed imply he was a Green Howard
Shoulder badge (or title) pretty clearly says Green Howards
Arm badge says Buckinghamshire Regiment or so we thought. What a mongrel!
I then turned to the WW2Talk.com forum for further advice. Those guys are great if you’re ever doing research. They have moderators and members who are very knowledgeable about WW2 and they’re always ready to pitch in with a bit of guidance. They didn’t let me down.
Jack must have started off in the Green Howards – hence the title badge - 11th Bn in fact. From Sept 1942 they were in 48th (South Midland) Division and that is the Divisional insignia shown on Jack’s arm.
Jack must then have sailed on Queen Mary a few months later Dec 42 and, along with my Dad, was reluctantly drafted straight into 5 East Yorks whilst on board. The 5EY needed reinforcements you see. Lucky for Dad he was put back in the Green Howards very soon after.
There’s a lot about that Queen Mary voyage in the book for anyone who wants to learn about that magnificent ship and we’ve also had an episode, 30, on the magnificent QM. Having arrived in Egypt Jan 43, Jack must have fought in the battle of Wadi Akarit in Tunisia in April 43 – episode 2 of the podcast.
It’s described further in the book but you can take it that whatever dad said about his war from the Queen Mary onwards would equally have applied to Jack.
Once in Sicily Dad was in 6 Green Howards, Jack was in 5 East Yorks. Both these battalions fought alongside each other in the 69th Brigade of 50 Div. But this was war. They didn’t go around swapping soldiers’ badges around every five minutes.
Regarding the earlier experience of the 11 GH, they were apparently based in England for the best part of the war and I’ve suddenly just realised that Dad mentioned them in his book, so I’ll ask you to indulge me on this just a little longer because I’ve found the chapter where Dad mentions it. After Dunkirk, Dad was stationed in Britain for a good period …
He ends up at Richmond Yorkshire, GH HQ, referred to as the depot:
Here’s what he says:
“[One day] out of the blue, an NCO came up to me and said that
the duty officer at the officers’ mess wanted to see me. I spruced myself up and went
along to see him, whereupon he informed me that he did not think I would be at
the depot for long, as I was already an experienced soldier and until such time as
a posting came through would I mind helping out in the officers’ mess as a waiter
since, according to my records, I was associated with officers through my job as
batman to Major Petch, so I accepted as it seemed better to keep my mind occupied.
The waiter’s job was most interesting while it lasted, but more suitable to a
soldier with less qualifications than myself, if I may be so bold as to say as much. I
realised that I would soon become soft.
I will always remember one Captain who
was a little older, as were many of the officers, because the younger commission
of men were with the battalions on active service. This officer, when he came into
the dining room for breakfast, always came to me to serve him; he would say, ‘The
usual, Cheall’, and he did not mean the usual breakfast; he meant the usual drink
– whisky! Every morning was the same; he was a good man but a very silly one too.
The depot was usually administered by soldiers of good character, who had
served for some years in the Regular Army and were past the age for active service,
which was quite understandable, but they did an excellent job of work in keeping
the regimental traditions, and turned out thousands of fit young soldiers.
Once a lad
had become fitter than he had ever been in civilian life and was surrounded by boys
like himself, he realized that the training he had undergone had been a good thing
and broadened his outlook on life. Civilian life would seem so far away.
I Am Posted
I HAD only been at Richmond for a few weeks when my posting came through
in about September, for which I was very pleased because I would soon lose my
fitness doing a job of work which did not involve any strenuous activity. I had
been through the mill in order to attain the standard of fitness I possessed when I
was sent to Richmond, and there was no point in letting myself slide backwards
health-wise. I was keen to be on the move and to be taking part in the activities of a
battalion again as it was a good life for most of the time. This time I travelled a little
farther north to join the 11th Battalion, The Green Howards, which was stationed
at Gosforth racecourse near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. SO THIS WAS JACK’S UNIT!!!!
THIS – IS ALL JACK’S EARLY YEARS ….
The 11th Battalion had been formed very recently, in June 1941, and was made up of
recruits from the depot. The commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Parry.
Almost all the other ranks were young men of nineteen and hailed from all over the
North Riding of Yorkshire. It was not destined to be an active service battalion, but
to train young soldiers until they reached the required standard of efficiency, before
being posted to an active unit – the 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th Green Howards. Men going
to these units were always from the North Riding until the latter stages of the war,
when the number of young men from the area was drying up.
At Gosforth, the routine was fairly humdrum; just the usual everyday duties; all
guards, red tape and drills, not enough to tax the energy of anybody. The training
was kids’ stuff compared to what I had done in the good old 6th. It all seemed very
strange to me for a while, being among so many lads who were younger than me and
who had not yet reached a very high standard of efficiency. It took me a little time to
settle down, but settle down I did. These were going to be good young soldiers; they
had that devil-may-care attitude, which was a good way to be in the army.
I spent much time explaining to them how I came to be amongst them, and the
ones I came to know well were curious about what it had been like to be in action at
the time of Dunkirk. We had fallen in for a rifle inspection, at the end of which our
platoon officer beckoned to me to have a word with him,
‘You are new man, Cheall, aren’t you?’ ‘Yes, sir.’
‘Well, the company commander wants to see you.’
So off I went, wondering what on earth he wanted me for.
‘Cheall, I have been looking at your records, and I see that you were your company
commander’s batman in the 6th Battalion; not that I am looking for a batman, but it
has occurred to me that you might acquit yourself well in a position I have a vacancy
for. How does company officers’ cook appeal to you?’
It took me about twenty seconds to decide that it did. Right away, he told me that
of course he realised there was a difference between a batman and a cook, and so
that it would relieve me of any anxiety I might have about cooking, I would be sent
on an officers’ cooks’ course. The one stipulation about being cook was that it would
only apply whenever the company was in a different position to other companies;
at any other time I would have to be available for normal duties, which suited me
very well. The experience would be a challenge to me and I looked forward to the
opportunity with the greatest enthusiasm. Also, I would keep in touch with my pals
and would not fall behind in whatever my company was doing.
During this period with the
11th Battalion, we were always billeted in Nissen huts, usually among sandbanks,
at Whitley Bay, Seaton Sluice, Seaton Delaval, Cullercoats and Blyth, always on the
move. Our duties were to guard the coast, but much time seemed to be wasted, with
nothing really constructive being undertaken. It seemed that the powers that be did
not know what to do with us, a bit reminiscent of the 6th Battalion during the early
days of the war.
We were about to move, yet again. It was January 1942 and for the first time I
went to Lincolnshire, but our surroundings had not changed because, once again,
we were in Nissen huts amongst the sand at Donna Nook, North Somercoates and
Marsh Chapel, still on guard duty, but with a few short route marches thrown in.
These lads did not know the meaning of long, forced route marches such as the 6th
had done. Things would have to change if these young soldiers were to become fit
enough to join one of the active service battalions now overseas.
After several locations, we ended up at a small village called Mareham-le-Fen, still
in Lincolnshire, but a few miles from the sea.
Listener I’ll just interject here to mention that another of Dad’s pals here was only one Alex Mill whose photo I originally confused with Jack’s. So now we can tie Jack and Alex up as extremely likely pals, because they both knew Dad! Tragically, Alex was also later KIA in Sicily. But what we can be sure about now is that young Jack (20) had comrades who loved and cared about him when he was in the thick of the fighting.
From Mareham, different platoons
were posted for short periods on the coast and every platoon was on duty for two
periods guarding Skegness pier, which was very exposed to rough seas and a bitterly
cold wind. There is nothing less rewarding than doing a twenty-four hour guard, especially during the night periods, two hours on and four hours off – time seemed
endless and of course, in those days, the blackout was strictly enforced. Whilst I
was at Skegness, we were billeted in requisitioned private hotels on the sea front,
sleeping on the floor. On two occasions I was sent on duty to the Butlins Holiday
Camp and found that the place had been taken over by the Royal Navy for training
would-be matelots and it was spotlessly clean. Here, we had a concrete pillbox and
had to keep a lookout to sea but there was no way that this routine was preparing us
for active service. It was getting a bit boring.
Then training then started to take on more significance. At last, somebody
seemed to have awakened to the fact that one day, not so far off, these lads would
have to go to battalions to replace battle casualties, and that at present something
was missing from the training schedules. Route marches of around fifteen miles
were undertaken to start with, including such things as walking up to our chests in
water and letting our clothes dry on us while we walked. The intensity of weapon
training, which was lacking up to now, was speeded up and the firing range came on
to the agenda along with map reading and the use of the compass. Most of the boys
had only ever fired rifles on a firing range. Now, they were going to learn all there
was to know about any weapon which they were likely to come into contact with and
to respond instinctively to commands.
Weapon training involved stripping down a Bren machine gun and re- assembling
it, and I would time them. In this way we found future Bren gunners. At last, the
lads were beginning to realize that there was more to soldiering than guard duties,
and more important training started to be done on section and platoon tactical
exercises, with more emphasis on deployment under any given circumstance which
could possibly arise during battle. One night, we were taken twenty miles away in
transport where section leaders were given a compass and compass bearing, then we
had to find our way back across country, and through a thick wood, without cheating
– it was a challenge accepted in good heart by us all. As a matter of fact, most of this
sort of training had not been undertaken by the 6th.
I am certain that the boys in the 11th were not as fit as I was when I joined them, but it would come.”
I am so pleased I’ve managed to dig that out. It really was a last minute discovery and it’s partly down to the investigative skills of Master colouriser Jacop.
I do hope you’ve been able to follow.
Bottom line? Jack Betley started his early war years in the 11th Green Howards based around Yorkshire, HELPING TO GUARD the English coast from invasion by the Germans – and that’s obviously where he met Dad. He sailed to Africa on the Queen Mary in Dec 1942, when he was moved to the East Yorks and would have fought very bravely at the Battle of Wadi Akarit in Tunisia before the invasion of Sicily where sadly he was KIA.
Do you want more?!?!?
Oh, go on then. I’ve just dug out Dad’s precious handwritten diary pages to read what he said about this episode in his war – the fighting bit. There’s only seven pages and if you want to read them in full take a shufty in the Museum section of the web site, off the main menu.
So this picks up after the troops have been stationed in Egypt for a few weeks, training up.
Boarded a plane at Cairo on the morning of 25/3/43, landed at Benghazi for fuel and continued on to Tripoli – then travelled by road to join 6th Battalion at Mareth.
Five days after – we moved up the line passing through Medenine and Gabes.
Went into action 4:30 AM 6/4/43 at Wadi Akarit. In 24 hours Jerry was out of it. I am now sitting on the slope where poor Arthur Oxley was blown to pieces by an 88mm. I saw Coughlin killed 2 yards from me. Frank Warren and John Bousfield were killed. John was hit by a 25 pounder at the same time as Sgt Myson and Cpl Smith. Two days later, we were reserve battalion – when I saw Sousse. I am sitting in a slit trench 42K north of Sousse, shells are flying all over. Up to press, all objectives have been taken …
… two counter attacks having been repulsed. The 25 pounders were terrific. I have just received several letters from England. I have 19 mosquito bites on one hand – roll on time and let’s get away from Enfidaville.
Informed we were pulling out. Travelled by road all the way to Alexandria.
Invaded Sicily on the 10 July 43. Sgt Harrington and John Ryan killed by machine-gun fire. Charlie Lee missing. Jack Ramsden blown to pieces together with his section. Jack Betley killed by machine-gun.
Went into dock at Syracusa on the 18 July 43, spend much time thinking of all at home. Would love to have mail.
Boarded [HMT] Otranto on 16 October 43. Remained at Augusta until 23 October 43.
Reached Algiers on the 25 October and left on the 27th. Dropped anchor at Liverpool at 6 PM, 7 November 43.
And I bet those lads weren’t have glad to be home safe.
And following is the passage from Dad’s book about his leave home at this moment.
“ During my entire time in the army, I was only granted fifty-six days leave, apart
from the weekend passes I was able to get when I was within a reasonable distance
from home. A funny thing always puzzles me, even now. Although it was always
a great feeling to be going home for a spell, I cannot recall anything significant
about my leaves except this leave, after my return from the Middle East. Before
the war I was a member of the Methodist Church so whilst I was on leave I went to
Church and prayed for the pals who had given their lives fighting for their country.
I also thanked God for watching over me and bringing me home safely. Then there
were several specific duties I had to perform which were extremely trying and
Firstly, I went to Stockton, which was only six miles from where I lived, to see
John Bousfield’s mother and two elder brothers who lived just a few miles from my
hometown. I told them John had been killed at Wadi Akarit but did not say how he
had died. I said that these things happened so suddenly in war that John had gone
to heaven without suffering. I am afraid that they were so wrought with grief at the
loss of their lad at only nineteen years of age that there was no consoling them. I
therefore came away very upset.
Then to Arthur Oxley’s home. I remember the remains of the shattered body it
was my duty to bury at Akarit. Again, understandably, my visit to his mother turned
to great sadness. Thank goodness there was no possibility of her knowing how her
son had died.
I had a pre-war pal called Don Savage. He was only eighteen and a grand lad
who had been camped at Crediton near Devon in 1939. We had been good friends.
When he left the grammar school, he joined the RAF, becoming an air gunner on
Lancasters. When he went on one of the bombing raids, he was posted missing,
never to return. He was a splendid scholar at grammar school and when I visited his
home his mother, naturally, was heartbroken.
Then I went to see the parents of my pre-war pal, Bill Collings, killed on HMS
York. They could not possibly know how their son had been killed. What an epistle
this is. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Bill had a younger brother, Vernon, who
had died from a fatal bug. Their parents were inconsolable; two lights in their lives
had been extinguished. Well, I had done my duty, but it was a dreadful leave, the
only one where I vividly remember what I did. Those pitiful memories I will never
No doubt Jack will have been in Dad’s thoughts. I know this because On the back of Jack's photo is a request from Dad to his own mother to dig out Jacks address from Dad's address book. So at this point I can only think Dad must have been overseas and sending photographs home for safety as I guess soldiers did and planning to contact Jack's parents. Sadly Jack's name isn't in his address book and that might explain why dad didn't go to see his parents in Halifax.
Jack Betley son of Ethel and Harold Betley of 20 summergate Place Halifax
He was a member of Fairfields primitive Methodist Church Halifax and Boys Brigade
Educated at battinson Road School Halifax and employed by the grocery department of Halifax co-op society
During World War II he served as a Lance Corporal with the 5th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment
Killed in action 15th of July 43, aged 20.
Buried Catania war Cemetery Sicily
Remembered on the memorial at Halifax town hall books of remembrance.
If you, listener, live in Halifax, get yourself over to the town hall and see if you can dig out the book of remembrance and find the entry for Jack Betley. Pay your respects, speak to the person in charge and tell them the full story – tell em you heard it on the FTP! And if anyone does do that, please let me know. I’d love a photo of the entry in the book of remembrance.
Mark thanks so much for the effort you made to write in – I know you’re busy – and HPBD to FIL Phil! A reminder that you can download Voyage of War by Mark Peters online in the usual places. Great tune!
Many thanks to Jaakop Lagerwhy for his expert help and patience with this project. Both you guys gave me real inspiration to put this piece of work together, so thank you so much.
I can really recommend Jakob to anyone who wants to get a black and white photo colourised because he adds more than colour – he adds his knowledge of military history and for me he was a life saver because he set me on the right track to understanding Jack’s curious war story. You can find Jakob at his amazing Facebook page or web site where you can view his impressive collection. There are links in the show notes together with pics of Jack and his badges. If Dad’s book ever makes third reprint, I may have to break the embarrassing news to them about the mix up, but at least we can now expand Jack’s story in the book.
Survey Comments 1 Chris Rosenberg
Chris Rosenberg – FAVE EPISODE German Eyes. Chris thanks for that.
Survey Comments 2 Tim Rainville
Ideas: Perhaps an episode on the organization of a regiment (armour and infantry) and how the various companies and support components functioned in action. Tim thanks for the thought and I must admit I sometimes get confused trying to scope out the size of the various unit sizes. If anyone listening has a short resume of this please get in touch. You might even have written a book on it though all I’m after is a few paragraphs and I’ll share it on the show. If there’s any stories that go with it all the better and of course we’re going to have to try to take reasonable account of any international differences.
If you want to share your views on the FTP, by all means get in touch through the usual channels but the survey on the menu at FTP.co.uk is always at your disposal.
Steven Buckley – likes Gallipoli series
Gary Heavens mentioned having difficulty finding certain photos and maps for one or two episodes. I need to explain maybe that there are two sections to each set of show notes – there’s the basic summary notes which includes links mentioned in the show and the occasional pic – and if you want to see the extended notes including show transcript and maps or photos, that’s where you have to scroll down to. Sometimes there’s a READ MORE button you need to click on. I did mention this earlier so that’s a reminder sergeant. But if you do feel something is missing, drop me a line.
Ross McElwee - Maybe explore the eastern front. economic reasons of why allies were bound to win. Post war. How the war still affects us today. There are simply heaps of angles. Air war.
A step to far for me to tackle Ross – I think the guys on We Have Ways are far better equipped to pick that one up. They’ll rattle the answer off the top of their heads before I can put finger to keyboard. I prefer to stick to stories, preferably with loads of pictures with em!
Feedback 1 George Guiver
Mon, 5 Jul at 01:05
Just started listening a week or so ago. Fantastic! I got one of the later episodes, but decided I needed to start from square one. Up to episode 13, I believe. To have these personal testimonials about the war is priceless. Although I really can’t imagine being at Dunkirk, these accounts bring it to heart. My Dad was in the Navy during WWII. Stationed just north of San Francisco. Far removed from either the European and Pacific theaters. He led his men in laying down nets and buoys to keep Japanese subs out of the San Francisco Bay. No subs, so it apparently worked. There was one sub “reported” off some small islands off the coast. He was ordered to get some men and check it out. As Dad said, all they had was a tugboat and a flare gun. Early days of the war. Dad was relieved when they got called back to base. Thanks again for your wonderful, heartfelt podcast. You tell the tales so wonderfully. God bless your Dad and all those who endured. Sincerely, George, Arizona
Feedback 2 Chris
Hi; firstly I am a massive fan of your podcast :)
I have recently come acc Ross a picture of my grandad George William rose, he landed on d-day plus one and was in a tank regiment, I have very little info apart from a picture with his uniform showing a cap badge, would you be able to point me in the right direction to find out the tank regiment so I can start my journey in finding out as much as I can! My dad sent me this message that held a bit of info,
I have Sent a copy to Paul might be able to help, ask auntie if medals were stolen when her house was burgaled George William Rose 05/ 08 1921 lived in South Norwood I think when called up was Occupation builder, I think 5th brigade royal engineers would be a good starting point d day + 1 and definitely was involved with liberation of Belson concertration camp,
Thank you so much Chris
Feedback 3 Nancy
Regards, Nancy Spencer
Paul: wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your dad's and your book. Your dad was a very honorable man, you must be proud. His description made all the situations come alive. I always laugh how we are separated by a common language - can you tell me what the following mean?
NAAFI, tannoy, on Shanks' ponies, recce, kip and Geordies, Laagered.
Geordies - Brits from the North East of England, more accurately Newcastle. Fondly known for their near Scottish guttural accent. ‘Why aye, man’ is the usual take off when imitating the accent, meaning ‘But of course my good Sir’!
Kip - Sleep, nap, 40 winks!
Laagered - To lay up for the night. Lay camp. Eg to laager in a field. Alternative modern definition, to get fully lagered, is to get drunk on lager beer!
NAAFI - Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes runs recreational facilities for the British Armed Forces. In war torn France it probably just meant tuck shop! Dad often used to bemoan the lack of a ‘NAAFI’ during the war where you could get refreshments in a canteen/cafe.
Recce – Reconnoitre
Shanks' ponies - Walking on foot!
Tannoy - Loudspeaker public address system. Sometimes referred to as The Iron Voice.
Bolshy - a Bolshevik or socialist.
Feedback 4 David Hatfield et al
David Hatfield, Elk Plain, Washington
Thank you for this wonderful podcast.
Veteran of the US Army and served as a Medic from 1980 to 1983 active.
Hi my name is Steven Hunt From New York. I love your podcast. Can't get enough! My Grandfather served in ww2 and was shot 2 times. 3rd armored division fighting with General Paton
He passed away when I was 16 and I never asked him about his war and I regret it very much.
Scary, says Rob Coles.
Feedback 5 Bobby Horton
I've been listening to your podcast since January and I'm always amazed by the stories you find, from everyday life while your country is at war, to outstanding acts of heroism. I've been interested in all things military for as long as I can remember, and at age 13 when I learnt about the Commandos in Jeremy Clarksons documentary "The Greatest Raid Of All", I thought that's the kind of job I'd like.
Now having just turned 20, I start my Royal Marines Recruit training in a matter of weeks. My main reason in writing to you was to say thank you for publishing these incredible stories, they have helped me through a long, dark, cold and wet winter of training in the Scottish Highlands (pretty close to Achnacarry, where the original commandos trained). I have no doubt that when things get rough in training I will remember them and crack on while thinking things could be a lot worse. It would be great to have an episode on the Commandos at some point, although I'm sure most of theirs tales have already been told. BBC Scotland did a program called Castle Commando a few years ago and it's now on youtube, I'd recommend it to anyone who wants find out more about how Britains fighting elite were first trained. Thanks again for all your hard work, and best wishes!
Meanwhile I’ll certainly mention your forthcoming escapade. Dad was in the army during the war and went on a commando training exercise in the lead up to D day, in Inveraray. It was only a fortnight but I think it was to toughen them up and give them a few extra skills they might need as part of the first wave on gold beach. Funny but he and Scotland crossed paths several times during the war years.
I've been through Inveraray a few times but never knew they had practiced landings there! On the shores of Loch Lochy near where I live there are random concrete rectangles scattered around the woods just in from the beach, which I recently learned are the remains of practice landing craft! I wonder if your dad ever used something similar. The following link has a picture of one in it.
Family stories 5 Herod
Your fantastic work is now my go-to listening when I’m out driving my big Peterbilt dump truck around sunny California.
My dad was one of 10 kids. All raised on a family farm in Arkansas (“R can saw”),
He and three of his brothers were in WW2, another was in Korea -
What a terrible ordeal that must have been for my grandmother! The appearance of the Western Union man or a big Army car in the area of the farm was a terrible omen; those were two ways a family found out they’d lost a son, brother or husband.
In 1940, at 16, he left school and the farm and found his way to Los Angeles where he found work on the Ford assembly line before he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 (Lived at Long Beach which is where the Queen Mary is docked).
Dad was in the U.S. First Army, 544th Ordnance. He drove a tank wrecker; he was 19 on D-Day, 20 on VE Day in Kassel, Germany.
At the Battle of the Bulge, it was all hands on deck and my father narrowly escaped being killed by some SS tankers.
But he did come away from the Bulge with a German rifle, a Mauser Model 98. My father mailed it back home to the family farm and as a fantastic outdoorsman, he hunted and fished all of his life. The gun has the swastika on the barrel. I still hunt deer and wild pig with thatb mighty Mauser all these years later.
Growing up in the 1960s me and my friends would ask my dad how he got the Mauser rifle. My father would put up his hand and say, “You don’t want to know…”
Herod Lowery Jr.
Orcutt, California USA
Pics in the show notes
Famiy Stories 10 - Pilot William Bundock
Sent in by Magnus Lundin
US servicemen standing in a field with a crash-landed RAF Spitfire LF.IX in the Loiano Area of Bologna, Italy.
November 22, 1944.
RAF 87 Squadron, Fl/Sgt. William Henry Bundock, (Colchester, Essex, England), was forced to crash land in a field near Loiano due to a ruptured oil line caused by enemy flak. Bundock luckily received only a scratched hand and a small scratch on the face.
Sgt. Clifford Caole of Trinity, N.C. [North Carolina] saw the plane coming in, while working on a road detail nearby. He secured the nearest first aid kit and ran in the direction of the plane, which crashed about 200 yards from where he was working.
(Photo by Wiedenmayer. 3131 Signal Service Co.
U.S. Army Signal Corp - 5/MM-44-30168.)
Colour by Jake
Update *** From the memoirs of the Pilot William Bundock, kindly shared here by his son Robert, "It was while we were at Florence that I was coming back from a sortie, when just before coming back across the front line my engine decided to stop. We were at about ten thousand feet and because I didn’t fancy becoming a prisoner of war, didn’t bail out but decided to glide the aircraft back to our side of things. Having crossed the front line the next thing was to find a decent field in which to land. I eventually found something which looked acceptable, and came in for a wheels up landing. It seemed to go alright but just after touchdown my starboard wing hit something, the aircraft swung around and finished in a bit of a heap.
After managing to extricate myself from the wreckage, I heard some shouting and looked up to see lots of Americans waving furiously but not deigning to come anywhere near me. I couldn’t make out what they were saying at first but managed to gather that they didn’t want me to move. After a few minutes I saw several soldiers coming towards me wielding mine detectors, it then came to me why I was standing there in isolation, I was in the middle of a minefield! Anyway they eventually escorted me out of my predicament and into the clutches of an Army Medic who checked me over and finally told me that I didn’t have any broken bones. He sprinkled about a pound of Sulphanilamide powder on a small cut that I had on my hand, and I was taken back to their Company Headquarters. This all happened in the morning and I began to realise how lucky I had been. I had landed with them on Thanksgiving Day.
I was later confronted by an irate American who told me of his experiences at my hand, apparently the reason that my aircraft had slowed on landing was that my starboard wing had hit a telegraph pole, this had jerked the wires and he was up a pole doing some repairs a bit along the wire and was flung off, he suffered some bruising but was otherwise OK. I also found out that the reason my engine had stopped was that I had received a German bullet in the engine which had severed an oil line, causing the engine to seize.
The British forces were at this time existing on dehydrated meat dehydrated potatoes and dehydrated carrots for meals and ships biscuits contained in tins marked “not to be consumed after 1933”. The Americans were looked after slightly better, so the lunch I was offered consisted of roast turkey, fresh vegetables and fresh white bread, the like of which we hadn’t seen since the war started. Apparently the American people had sent over to Italy two liberty ships fully loaded with food for their Thanksgiving Day celebrations. After I had eaten my fill, I was whisked away to 5th Army Headquarters because their Intelligence corps wanted to talk to me. Having had a chat with them I was led to their Mess where I found out that they were having their special meal in the evening, so I finished up rather full and was put to bed to sleep it off.
I was driven back to the Squadron the next day and having related my experiences to the rest of the pilots they were all resolved to force land with the Americans the next day."
William Henry Bundock memoirs
Web site news
As part of the website rebuild I’ve put a links tab in my menu which has links to all sorts of handy resources, including guidance for anyone trying to get hold of WW2 service records in UK or US and if you have advice for other countries, send it in and I'll add it. I’ve got three links sent in at the request of various people. If you scroll to the end of the page you’ll find them. My new WW2 Links page link is in your show notes, wherever the app you use allows them. This is a Second world war podcast.
War Stuff 6 – Fake bomb
Those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook will have missed the pic of a fake bomb story.
You’ve heard me talk about Allied deception plans on occasion. Well it seems we didn’t have a monopoly on such ideas.
During WWII the Germans built fake airplanes and sometimes complete airfields to keep the Allies away from their real airfields. The following story is from around the time of the Battle of Britain in 1940 when Britain was being attacked by German bombers and other planes.
There was one German decoy “airfield,” in France, constructed with meticulous care, almost entirely of wood. There were wooden hangers, oil tanks, gun emplacements, trucks, and aircraft. The Germans took so long in building their wooden decoy that Allied photo experts had more than enough time to observe and report it.
The day finally came when the decoy was finished, down to the last wooden plank. And early the following morning
a lone RAF plane crossed the Channel,
came in low,
circled the field once,
and dropped a large
I found That story on the Snopes.com web site. But can you imagine the looks of bemusement on the faces of the German military when that wooden bomb bounced on top of their Bonces -? Oh dear –I’ll leave it there.
Thank you so very much for your support and for making the time to listen to me.
And please - write, like, rate, review or share the show - howsoever it pleases you. Above all – enjoy. Please do hear me next time.
A true war time story from the Isle of Wight Facebook page Alan Marriot – kind cooperation from the IOW County Press.
Mike Wills for sending it in. It was Mike that first sent us the memoir of Dunkirk little ship the Bee, so he’s still supporting the show.
Entitled - they do things differently there!
One morning in October 1940, 19-year-old Harold Blow was driving a lorry to Newport along the Calbourne road.
He was approaching Park Place Farm when a man wearing an airman’s uniform stepped into the road and waved him down.
Harold pulled up and got the shock of his life — it was a German pilot in full flying gear.
Feldwebel (Sergeant) Horst Hellriegel had been in a dogfight over the Dorset coast when his fuel tanks were riddled with bullets.
With no way of reaching his French base he had landed his Messerschmitt 109 on Bowcombe Down near an old chalk quarry called Gypsy’s Hollow and had then made his way down to the road.
To his great credit, Harold wasn’t fazed by meeting a German pilot.
He told the County Press: “I said to him, are you armed? He said ‘no, I no fight,’ but I wasn’t trusting any German so I ran my hands over him before I told him to get into my lorry and we drove off towards Newport."
As they pulled away Horst casually said, ‘Will you pull up at the Blacksmiths Arms at the top of the hill? I could do with a drink.’
Harold was flabbergasted. “I asked him how he knew that and he said that he had often been to the Island because in peace time he worked on liners which called at Southampton.”
And so it was that a few minutes later the lunchtime regulars at the Blacksmiths were treated to the sight of a Luftwaffe pilot in full flying gear propping up the bar.
Refreshed, Harold drove Horst to Carisbrooke intending to hand him over at the local policeman’s house. Here, the plan fell apart — the village bobby was away on holiday!
So what do you do with a German pilot you’ve just captured? Well, as if the story wasn’t bizarre enough already, Harold drove Horst to his home in Gunville, where his Mum was preparing his lunch.
As the CP reported, “His captor’s mother, a strong countrywoman, said: ‘I wasn’t frightened of him. I fancy he was a little frightened of me as he kept on saying that he was not a bomber and trembled like a leaf.
"He showed me a photo of his wife and little daughter and said he did not want to fight England. I said ‘Then why do your people come over here dropping bombs on women and children?’
"He shook his head sadly and said ‘I know. It is terrible. It is very bad for our women and children too.’
“I gave him a cup of tea and a plate of meat and he took some toffees out of his pocket and gave them to my little girl. Harold went for the police and after about half an hour they arrived with eight soldiers, and two of them came into the kitchen. I said, ‘There’s no need for that — the man has already surrendered and you must wait outside until he’s finished his cup of tea!’
“He looked very frightened and whispered ‘Shall I be all right?’ I told him he would be treated well, as we didn’t kill or torture prisoners in England. As he left he shook hands with me and my son, and thanked us for our kindness.”
When Mrs. Blow later learned that there were six ‘victim’ stripes painted on Horst’s plane she said, “If I’d known that I should have felt more like putting my carving knife through him than giving him something to eat.”
However, the stripes and a large emblem of Mickey Mouse wearing boxing gloves painted on the side were nothing to do with Horst - they were the work of Sergeant Horst Jaenisch, whose plane Horst had borrowed for the day.
The story was still not over. The abandoned Messerschmitt sat on the downs guarded for the first few days, after which the locals arrived fully tooled-up and proceeded to strip the carcase clean!
Prosecutions followed, the CP reporting two weeks later, “Portions of a Messerschmitt 109, ranging from an electrical generator to an engine cover 3ft long, were exhibited in Court when seven souvenir hunters were charged with removing parts of a German aeroplane.
"They were William Adsett, 36, electrician; Robert Church, 17, apprentice; Charles Hunnybun, 17, and Kenneth Harbor, 17, labourers; Cyril Stotesbury, 15, apprentice; Clive Burt, 16, and John Upward, 15, driver’s mate; all of Barton Newport."
Edward Crinage, for the RAF, said: “On October 19 I inspected the complete Messerschmitt 109 but three days later it had been reduced to a heap of scrap.
"Everything removable had been taken, the fuselage and even parts of the engine cut out by hacksaws, and the wings mutilated."
Adsett said he went to see the plane on October 20 and found 50 or 60 people there using hammers and chisels to take parts away.
An Intelligence Officer explained German planes were only guarded until the armament, wireless, and flying instruments were removed.
Adsett was fined £2, Church and Hunnybun 10s., and the others 5s.
Horst spent the rest of the war as a POW. There were no camps on the Island until 1943 so he almost certainly went to the only British camp at that time, Grizedale Hall in Cumbria.
Sadly, despite best efforts, Horst’s post-war life is unknown.
So dear listener – if you know anything about Herr Horst Hellriegel in later life, give us a shout. If you know anything about the knicked Messerschmidt gear, keep yer head down, because the army police are still looking for it – I bet it’s worth a few bob nowadays! But do drop me a line – if I tell anybody, I’ll tell em not to tell anybody!
You know I’m such a tinker and I’m in a good mood because I can nearly see the end of the light which leads to the tunnel, not one of Paulo Bonini or Les Cook’s, but getting to the end of this episode. So to celebrate here’s a short story I picked out at random from the BBC people’s was website.
It’s about Women at war and I reckon it’s set on the South coast of England not long after D-Day.
Elsie Horton WREN
We saw some very peculiar vehicles go through Fareham where I was based (UK), each one obviously designed for some specific purpose. Another common sight, both before and after D-Day, were 'Queen Marys', very long, low articulated vehicles, which were used to transport crashed RAF aircraft.
In our free time, walking around Fareham could be quite interesting. There was a constant stream of lorries, full of young soldiers, on their way to embarkation points, and of course they all waved. After a while we learned to be careful, after we found we’d waved to a lorry load of German prisoners (and they had the nerve to wave back!)
I’m Paul Cheall saying