Air Raid Damage Repts Brentwood Division Essex Fire Service 25 November 1939

Air Raid Damage Reports Brentwood Division Essex Fire Service November 1939

Date Time Location Damage

25/11/1939 14.14 Warley Barrage Balloon drifting towards Billericay shot
down in the sea off Rochford
25/11/1939 15.15 Shenfield Barrage Balloon grounded. Property damaged.
Electric and telephone wires down
25/11/1939 15.50 Brentwood Barrage Balloon drifting towards Billericay
grounded at Outward Common Billericay.

P. Benham letter home 13 September 1939

5, Oxford Road
Getting absent minded
R.A. Mess
13th September

My very dearest Mazra and Par,

A thousand thanks for your charming letters which I simply loved reading and for the sheets and more especially for the ‘things inside’ which were most welcome. You really have both been too terribly kind to me always, and I don’t have to tell you, I know, how much I appreciate everything you have done for me, nobody could have been so lucky as I have been in the way of parents, and I only hope that what I’m going to tell you now won’t let me down in your eyes. It’s not going to be easy, but I shall do my best. I have always been in your own words ‘a very secretive old chap’, well now I’ll tell you everything and only wish I had before.
As you have guessed, I expect, it concerns Eileen. You remember that night when you said how silly you thought it was of me to be tying myself with one girl, and that you wanted me to enjoy myself while I was young. Well you may or may not have realised it but I have never got on too well with girls in general, nor like Cecil for instance, so to get hold of someone like Eileen, as I did, was to me ideal. I always was very fond of her and grew more so as time went on, but being young and unqualified could of course do nothing about it. But since we got back from Zoute our friendship has got much more intense and we are definitely in love with each other. I can honestly say that this was absolutely nothing to do with this War game and that we discovered it at least a week before the War. I have since then thought it over very, very carefully and have asked Eileen to marry me and she wrote to-day saying she would. I know you’ll think it stupid and impulsive of me but it isn’t and I fully appreciate the responsibilities.

So when I get back on Sunday week as I hope to, with yours and Pa Adams permission get engaged to Eileen. Please don’t hesitate to say exactly what you think but I don’t think it will come as a very terrific shock though, so there we are. I naturally couldn’t think of getting married to her for several years but she realises that.

Do write to me soon, remembering that whatever happens I shall always love you just as much, more really, if possible because in future I shall have nothing to hide from you. I wish I hadn’t before, but what’s done is done.

Thank you both for your encouraging letters I shall write to you again tomorrow but felt today that I must get this off my chest.

All my love to you both and thank you once again for everything
Your ever loving son

On back of envelope “tell Brian that I am writing tomorrow P”.

In cover addressed to Mrs G.C. Benham, 5, Oxford Road Colchester Essex. Postmarked Salisbury Wilts. 8 30 PM 13 Sep 1939.



Adolf Hitler’s inner circle were the most powerful men in the Third Reich. It was a finely balanced team of military commanders, administrative leaders and Ministers of the Nazi Party.
The following is a list of these men, who they were and a brief explanation of their roles.
Martin Bormann was Head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and Hitler’s private secretary who controlled all access to the Fuhrer. He had final approval over all legislation and control over all domestic matters together with all information going to and from Hitler. Whilst escaping the Red Army in Berlin, he was allegedly killed but there some doubt as his body has never been found. In his absence, at the Nuremburg Trials the authorities charged him with war crimes, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.
Karl Donitz was Commander of the German Navy’s U-boats until 1943 when he took over as Commander-in-Chief of the German navy. He was eventually promoted to Grand-Admiral. At the Nuremburg Trials, he was convicted of war crimes, found guilty and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. He lived quietly in a village near Hamburg and died in 1980 after his release.
Otto Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi SS Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust. His involvement was organising the logistics for the mass deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps. With Germany defeated in 1945, he fled to Austria and lived there until 1950 when he relocated to Argentina using false papers. Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, located him in 1960 and captured him. They then transported him to stand trial in Israel for crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was found guilty and executed by hanging on the 1st June 1962 in Israel.
Walther Funk was the Reich Minister of Economics, President of the Reichsbank and State Secretary of at the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. A qualified economist, lawyer, philosopher and also editor of a financial newspaper. At the Nuremburg Trials he was tried and convicted as a major war criminal and sentenced to life in prison. He was released on health grounds in 1957 and he died three years later.
Joseph Goebbels was Reichsminister for Propaganda having control over all news media, art and public information in Germany. He delivered emotional speeches to motivate and mobilise the German population. He was named in Hitler’s final will as the successor to the Fuhrer. After Hitler committed suicide Goebbels also committed suicide on the 31st April 1945.
Hermann Göring was Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe and, in 1933, the founder of the Gestapo. He served as Minister of the Economic Four-Year Plan. He was named Hitler’s successor in 1944, and deputy to Hitler in all offices. A former fighter pilot ace in the Great War, he received the Blue Max and was commander of the fighter wing that included Richthoffen, also known as the Red Baron. At the Nuremburg Trials he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by hanging. He ingested cyanide to commit suicide before the sentence was carried out.
Rudolf Hess was a German politician, and a leading member of the Nazi Party of Germany. He was appointed Deputy Fuhrer to Adolf Hitler in 1933. In an attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom he flew to Scotland in 1941. He was taken prisoner and eventually convicted of crimes against humanity and served a life sentence until his suicide in 1987. Hess had enlisted as an infantryman at the outbreak of the Great War. He was wounded several times and awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class in 1915. Shortly before war ended he enrolled as an aviator but never saw action in this role.
Heinrich Himmler was Reichsfuhrer of the entire SS. He was Military Commander of the Waffen-SS, Commander of the Gestapo, Minister of the Interior, Commander of the Home Army and Supreme leader of the administration of the entire Third Reich. Realising the war was lost, he attempted to open peace talks with the Allies. Hitler ordered his arrest and Himmler attempted to go into hiding. He was captured and arrested by British forces and committed suicide while in British custody on the 23rd May 1945.
Wilhelm Keitel was Field Marshal of the German Army and was Chief of the High Command of the German Armed Forces. He was also Chief of Defence for Germany and Hitler’s Chief of Staff. At the Nuremburg Trials he was charged with war crimes, found guilty, sentenced to death by hanging and executed on the 16th October 1946.
Josef Mengele was a German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer and physician in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. He performed deadly human experiments on prisoners, particularly adult and infant twins but mainly Jewish, and was a member of the team of doctors who selected victims to be murdered in the gas chambers. On the 17th June 1945, just ten days before the Soviet Red Army troops arrived at Auschwitz he was transferred to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. After the war, he fled to South America where he evaded capture for the rest of his life.
Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany, an authority on world affairs and confidante of the Fuhrer. He was an independent broker of the Pact of Steel between Germany and Italy, and also the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In 1936 he was the Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s for London and the U.K. At the Nuremburg Trials he was tried and convicted for his role in starting the Second World War. He was sentenced to death by hanging and was the first to be executed on the 16th October 1946.
Erich Raeder was Grand-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine (German naval force) and the Reichsmarine until 1943. At the Nuremburg Trials he was sentenced to life in prison but was released early due to his failing health. He died in Germany on the 6th November 1960.
Albert Speer was Chief Architect, also Minister of Armaments and War Production in the Nazi Party. He designed and constructed the Reich Chancellery and the Party Rally stadium in Nuremburg. He also designed the wide streets of Berlin and modernised the transportation system. At the Nuremburg Trials he was charged with war crimes, found guilty and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. After serving the full sentence he was released on the 1st October 1966. He died in London on the 1st September 1981.
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party did leave a legacy behind them after the Second World War. After Germany had been bankrupted by the policies resulting from the Treaty of Versailles, they began to recover economically by embarking on a rebuilding programme. When Hitler came to power in 1933, in an effort to solve the unemployment problem, the Nazi Party embarked on an interstate highway system. Hitler began the building programme by digging out the first spade full of soil for the nationwide Autobahn network. Although it was reputed to be Hitler’s brainchild there had been previous attempts to create highway system. The Nazi Party ignored this and incorporated this system into their Autobahn project. The Autobahn planner, engineer and Nazi Party member was Fritz Todt, who smoothed the way for the project to continue. Any opposition to the project found they were “encouraged” to desist to the building of “Adolf Hitler’s roads”. By 1938 over 2000 km of road had been built which had gentle curves, gradual inclines, smooth surface roadway and to enter or exit the main highway long lanes in which to accelerate and decelerate. The Autobahn system was one of many building projects planned and started before the outbreak of the Second World War.
In 1937 the Nazi Party formed a new state-owned automobile company which was eventually named Volkswagenwert, or “The People’s Car Company”. It has been disputed about how much involvement Hitler was involved in what was known as his pet project. However, the development and mass production proceeded for an affordable vehicle for the masses to enjoy. To provide the design for this “people’s car”, Hitler employed the Austrian automobile engineer Ferdinand Porsche. The design was finally settled and would eventually be known as the Volkswagen Beetle.


When the Second World War began in 1939, women were just as ready to follow the example of the previous generation. The women of the Great War of 1914 to 1918 had served with distinction in the nursing profession, the ammunition producing factories, the land armies and many occupations normally performed by men. The women of the Second World War carried out similar roles but their labours were extended to include complex manufacturing of vital war equipment. They also included many women serving in the navy, army and air force mainly on administrative duties. Tedious though it might have been it was vitally important. This freed up the men to allow them to be involved with the military and home guard roles. Women were involved with the delivery of aircraft, and were agents for the resistance movements in occupied countries. Professional performers were also actively involved in entertaining the military both on home shores and overseas. In addition to all the tasks undertaken by the women they :
The women selected do not in any way detract from the sterling works of the multitude of women participating in the Second World War, who have not been mentioned.



The award of the British Empire Medal to driver Elizabeth Glen Booth of the Fleet Air Arm was the first gallantry medal awarded to a wren. She was on duty at the Crossaig Bombing Range near the Royal Naval Air Station Machrihaigh at Argyle & Bute, Scotland when a Swordfish aircraft crashed in flames. Wren Booth pulled the observer from the burning wreck and drove him to a doctor, but to no avail. She was presented with the medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.
Mary Churchill was the youngest of the five children of Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine. Mary was born on the 15th September 1922 and was raised at the Churchill home at Chartwell in Kent. At the outbreak of war she worked for the Red Cross and the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS). In 1941 she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), serving on mixed anti-aircraft batteries in London and Belgium. She rose to the rank of Junior Commander in the ATS, accompanying her father as aide-de-camp on several of his overseas journeys. One of her trips was the post-VE meeting at Potsdam where Churchill met Harry S. Trueman and Joseph Stalin. In 1945, in recognition of her meritorious military service she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). She married Christopher Soames in 1947 and they had five children. She led a full and active life and died aged 91 on the 11th May 2014.
Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen of England, enrolled in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Services (ATS) on her eighteenth birthday the 21st April 1944. She was employed as a mechanic and driver and she took her duties seriously. Taking pride in her work she got her hands dirty in order to be called a mechanic. Every vehicle she worked on she learned to drive. On the 8th May 1945, VE day, Elizabeth and her sister Margaret were allowed to mingle with and join the crowds to take part in the victory celebrations.
Muriel Hall was born on the 24th September 1921 in Faversham in Kent. Her father died of illness in 1923 after surviving the Great War. She was sent to live with her grandparents who ran the local telephone exchange and lived only a few streets away. She lived with her grandparents until she was about 8 years old then moved to Maidstone to be with her mother who had remarried. Aged 16 she went to the Cromwell Hotel in London for an interview in the telephone exchange. She was asked to start immediately. At the outbreak of war she received her call up papers and was drafted straight into the Royal Signals as a telephonist. She spent most of the war attached to Headquarters, either the Southern, South Eastern or Scottish branch. However, Muriel was sent to a typing school to be taught teleprompting, typing and shorthand. The army also taught her how to use the teleprinter. Her experience of the teleprinter enabled her to join Reuters and she was based in Cabinet War Rooms. Muriel served in the Royal Signals Cabinet War Rooms for Reuters during the final year of the Second World War. Muriel’s words at the time were, “It was sad that it was spoilt for the King and Churchill. Someone in the USA broke the embargo that the war was over and therefore the announcement by Reuters had to be forwarded to all relevant parties”. The announcement was – “19.41 pm London Monday tomorrow will be VE day Europe full stop Churchill ET King will broadcast – Reuter”. Muriel was instructed to forward the message to all concerned by teleprinter that the “war in Europe was over”. She passed the message on and left her office at approximately 8.00 am on the 8th May 1945. After hearing that the Prime Minister Winston Churchill would be stating The King would be making a speech at 3.00 pm, she went home. She wasn’t permanently attached to Winston Churchill’s office, but whenever he needed anything typed, whom ever was available, would be seconded to his office. She took shorthand notes and his various letters etc. on a number of occasions. After the war Muriel and her husband Robert Belson, who she married in 1942, served in Malaya and she became a member of the Red Cross where she learnt to speak the language. Her husband worked as a head teacher in a local school, and he was transferred to Jamaica. Muriel went with him. After their tour of Jamaica was finished, Muriel and her husband came back to England in the late 1950s. She secured a position in the civil service until and remained until her retirement. Muriel died aged 89 in 2010.
Dubbed “Flying Nightingales” by the press, nursing orderlies of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) flew on RAF transport planes to evacuate the wounded from the Normandy battlefield. The Royal Air Force Air Ambulance Unit nurses were trained to treat broken bones, missing limbs, head injuries and burns. RAF Dakota aircraft were used to transport the nurses, stores and military to the battle area. Because of this the aircraft did not display the “Red Cross” sign, which they were entitled to, when they transported the wounded back to Britain. Most female medical and dental officers were commissioned into the RAF and held RAF ranks, whereas the Air Force nurses belonged to Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service. The WAAF was established in 1939 as the female auxiliary of the RAF and was discontinued in 1949, when it was renamed the Women’s Royal Air Force. Several members of the WAAF served with the Special Operations Executive during the war. During the course of its operations the WAAF had four Air Chief Commandants.
Dame Jane Trefusis Forbes, January 1939 to October 1943.
HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, October 1943 to August 1944.
Dame Mary Walsh, August 1944 to November 1946.
Dame Felicity Hanbury MBE, December 1946 to January 1949.
Norma Lodge was qualified in maths and physics when she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) determined to do anything but office work. As an experiment to assess her ability to take on a job that was normally operated by men she was trained as a radio location mechanic. She was posted to Charminster in Dorset where she learnt about faults and all forms of maintenance of the tracking systems on anti-aircraft sites. The work was classified as highly secret and very complicated. She was one of the first women admitted into the newly formed Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (REME).
Mariya Vasilyevna Oktyabrskaya was a Soviet tank driver and mechanic who fought on the Eastern Front against the Nazi German army. After her husband was killed in 1941 Mariya sold her possessions to donate a tank to the war effort and requested she be allowed to drive it. She donated and drove a T-34 medium tank, which she named “Fighting Girlfriend”. Mariya proved her ability and bravery in battle and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. She was killed in action, aged 38, in 1944 and was posthumously made a Hero of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union’s highest award for bravery during combat. She was the first of the few female tank drivers to be awarded this honour.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Soviet sniper in the Red Army and credited with 309 kills. She is regarded as one of the top military snipers of all time and the most successful female sniper in history. When Germany began its invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the 24year old Lyudmila was studying history at Kiev University. She volunteered and was assigned to the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division. As her kill rate increased she was promoted until June 1942 when Lieutenant Pavlichenko was wounded and her confirmed kills were recorded as being 309 including 36 enemy snipers. She was withdrawn from combat after recovery from her wounds, and sent to Canada and the United States for a publicity visit. She was the first Soviet citizen to have an audience with the U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lyudmila was later invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to tour America and relating her experiences. Her tour was a total success. Back in the Soviet Union she never returned to combat but trained Soviet snipers until the end of the war. She returned to university after the war to complete her education and began a career as a historian. Lyudmila died on the 1oth October 1974 aged 58.
Corporal Daphne Pearson was the first Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) member to be awarded the George Cross. The medal is the civilian equivalent of the Victoria Cross for gallantry and “acts of the greatest heroism or for the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger” not in the face of the enemy. This applies to members of the British armed forces and to British civilians. An aircraft crash-landed near her WAAF quarters at Dettling in Kent on the 31st May 1940 and Daphne ran over to help get the crew free from the burning wreckage, despite knowing there was at least one loaded bomb. One officer had been killed, two airmen were slightly injured and the pilot had serious injuries. She released him from the aircraft, administered first aid next to the wreckage, released his parachute and managed to get him away from the plane. When they were about 30 yards away a 120 lb bomb exploded and she threw herself over the pilot to protect him from the blast and splinters. On the 31st January 1941 she was presented the George Cross by King George VI. Daphne was born in Christchurch, Dorset on the 25th May 1911. As her father was a vicar in the church she moved with her parents onto the Isle of Wight. She joined the WAAF as a medical officer at the outbreak of the war in 1939. A month after her courageous action she was commissioned as a section officer and for the remainder of the war she served mainly in recruitment. She became the assistant governor of a women’s borstal after demobilisation in 1946. She then worked at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. Daphne emigrated to Australia after a visit in 1969 where worked as a horticulturist. She attended reunions of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association until her death in Melbourne in 2000 aged 89.
When the Great War ended Flora Sandes, the only English lady to have served in the trenches, continued to serve in the Serbian Army until finally being demobilised in 1921 with the rank of Second Lieutenant. She had been awarded Serbia’s highest decoration the Kara George Star. After demobilisation she travelled the world before marrying ex Russian artillery colonel Yurie Yudenitch in May 1927. They eventually moved to Belgrade in Yugoslavia. As an officer in the Serbian army she was eligible for recall into the service and when Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941 she once again became a soldier aged 65 years. Following the unconditional surrender of Yugoslavia Flora, evading the approaching Germans, was smuggled away in her uniform in a lorry which was evacuating the wounded to a German controlled military hospital in Belgrade. With help she obtained women’s clothes, changed into them and walked out of the hospital dressed as a woman not a soldier. She made her way back to their home and stayed with Yurie looking after him as he had been very ill until June 1941 when they were arrested by the Gestapo. They were separated, but were released and re-united after a few weeks due to Yurie’s ill health. With food scarce and Yuri needing constant nursing it soon became apparent he was dying. He died and was buried in Belgrade Cemetery and Flora stayed on in Belgrade until the end of the war. She supplemented her income by giving English lessons, after which the RAF flew her home and she settled in Woodbridge in Suffolk. She was still planning to travel when she died in Ipswich Hospital on the 24th November 1956 aged 80 years old.
Beatrice Shilling was a British aeronautical engineer and motor racer who was born in Waterlooville in Hampshire on 8th March 1909. Prior to the war she received a Master of Service Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Before and during the war she was employed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) as a scientific officer. During the Battle of Britain in 1940 serious problems occurred in both Hurricane and Spitfire fighters as their carburettors would flood performing a nose-dive. This frequently caused the engine to stall during a critical part of a dog fight in aerial combat. Beatrice devised the RAE restrictor which limited the flow of fuel into the carburettor and prevented it flooding. The restrictor was a brass thimble which had a hole in the centre and could be fitted to the carburettor without having to take the aircraft out of service. The pilots were delighted with the restrictor as it gave them the opportunity to partake in the aerial battles unrestricted by a possible stalled engine. After the war Beatrice continued at the RAE until her retirement in 1969. She worked on various projects including the Blue Streak missile. She and her husband were keen motor cycle racers and later progressed to racing cars, where they performed all their own tuning and maintenance. She was 81 years old when she died ibn 1990.


The Andrews Sisters were an American close harmony singing group consisting of LaVerne, Maxine and Patricia who were brought up in Minneapolis. They started their career singing with various dance bands and touring in vaudeville. In 1937 radio broadcasts brought them national attention. During the Second World War they entertained Allied forces in America, Africa and Italy. They performed in munition factories, hospitals, Coast Guard bases as well as Army, Navy and Marine bases. They encouraged U.S. citizens to purchase war bonds and helped out at California’s Hollywood Canteen. The Hollywood Canteen was a welcome retreat for servicemen where the trio often performed, volunteering their time to sing and dance for the soldiers, sailors and marines They often did the same in New York’s Stage Door Canteen. They were dubbed as the “Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service” and possibly their most well-known song was “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)”. Patty (Patricia) seceded to break away from the trio in 1951 and re-united in 1956 but by the Rock n Roll was the fashion and they soon faded from the limelight.
Marlene Dietrich was a German actress and singer who held both German and American citizenship. Until 1930, aged 29, she acted on stage and in silent films when she moved to the United States. She starred in numerous American films and was approached in 1938 by members of the Nazi Party to return to Germany. She refused the offer as in 1937 she had applied for U.S. citizenship and in 1939 she renounced her German Citizenship and became an American citizen. After America entered the war Marlene toured the U.S. to entertain the troops and sell war bonds. She performed foe allied troops in Algeria, Italy, Britain and France. One of her most famous songs was Lili “Marlene” which was a favourite of both sides of the conflict. For her wartime efforts she was awarded the American Medal of Freedom and the French Légion d’honneur.
Phyllis Dixey was an English entertainer who specialised in singing, dancing and recitals. She was 25 years old when the Second World War broke out and prior to the war she was a singer in variety shoes in Britain. During the war she joined Entertainments National Services Association (ENSA) and entertained the British forces. ENSA was affectionately known as “Every Night Something Awful”. She sang, recited and posed in naked shows for them, which proved to be very popular. In 1942 she formed her own company of girls and rented the Whitehall Theatre in London to put on s striptease review called the Whitehall Follies. She was known as the “Queen of Striptease”, for she considered her exotic shows were artistic. She stayed at the Whitehall for the next five years while providing the Peek-a-boo reviews. After the war her shows were not fashionable and she was forced to close down and leave the stage. She ended up bankrupt and died from cancer in 1964 aged 50.
Dame Gracie Fields, DBE, was an English actress, singer and comedienne and star of both cinema and music hall. Gracie was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for “services to entertainment” in 1938. Seven months before her death in 1978, she was invested a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II. During the 1930s she was involved with many charities but in 1939 she became seriously ill with cancer, from which she suffered a breakdown. Just prior to the start of the war she moved to Capri to recuperate. While she was recovering from her cancer surgery the Second World War began and she signed up to ENSA in order to entertain the troops. Gracie travelled to France where she performed her concerts, and visited America in order to advertise for war bonds in aid of the Navy League and Spitfire Fund. She occasionally returned to Britain in order to perform in factories and army camps around the country. Travelling as far as New Guinea she performed many times for Allied troops and in late 1945 she toured the South Pacific Islands. After the war she continued her career less actively and spent her latter years on the Isle of Capri Italy.
Dame Vera Lynn is widely known as “The Forces’ Sweetheart”. During the Second World War she toured Egypt, India and Burma as part of ENSA giving outdoor concerts for the troops. Vera was born on the 20th March 1917 and was already a star as a singer, songwriter and actress before the war. The songs most associated with her are We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs of Dover, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and There’ll Always be an England. In 1941 Vera began her own radio programme where she sent messages to troops serving abroad and performed songs most requested by the soldiers. At the end of the war she continued her show-business career and also became involved with charity work. She was awarded the British War Medal 1939 – 1945 and the Burma Star. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1969 for services to the Royal Air force Association and other charities. In the 1975 Birthday Honours she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for charitable services. She has been awarded with many honours for services to entertainment and charity.
Edith Piaf was a French vocalist, songwriter, cabaret performer and film actress who was born in Paris in December 1915. During the German occupation she performed in a famous nightclub close to the Paris Gestapo headquarters. Deemed to be a traitor as German personnel attended some of her performances. Her name was cleared by André Brigard, a member of the resistance. She was instrumental in helping a number of prisoners to escape and it is reputed she performed several times at prisoner of war camps in Germany. In December 1944 she appeared on stage for the Allied forces in Marseille. She died aged 47 on the 10th October 1963 in the French Riviera and is buried in her hometown of Paris.
Anne Shelton OBE is remembered for her radio broadcasts and personal visits to military bases throughout Britain. Her radio programme “Calling Malta” was broadcast from 1942 to 1947 and she sang inspirational songs for all soldiers. Her radio programmes were primarily for troops overseas and her concerts were for troops stationed in Britain. She was invited in 1944 by American band leader Glen Miller to sing with him and his orchestra in his show in France. As she had a prior commitments she had to decline the offer. Sadly Glen Miller died when his plane disappeared on his way over to France. His orchestra was scheduled to follow on another flight. Anne was a popular English vocalist who was born in November 1923 and was singing on the radio by the age of 12 and had a recording contract by the age of 15. After the war she continued her singing career an in 1990 was awarded the OBE for her work with the “Not Forgotten Association”. She performed at charity and anniversary events until her death on the 31st July 1994.
Jo Stafford was an American solo singer who entertained soldiers stationed in the U.S. Her wistful singing voice reminded servicemen and women of the American home front. Affectionately known as “GI Jo”, she performed with the United Service Organisations (USO) during the course of the Second World War, but does not appear to have served overseas. However, her recordings were broadcast extensively on the American Forces radio and also in some military hospitals after lights-out. She continued with the USO when the Korean War was being fought. Jo was born in California in 1917 and was singing from an early age and progressed to become a popular solo singer. Her involvement with servicemen led to an interest in military history of which she acquired a sound knowledge. She went into semi-retirement in 1959 and finally retiring in 1975. She died aged 90 in July 2008.



The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was formed in September 1939 as an aid to the Royal Air Force (RAF), but not an integral part. The object was free up RAF pilots for combat duties, and consequently women pilots were employed to deliver aircraft from the manufacturing factories to airfields all over the country. Most of the women who served were from fairly wealthy backgrounds who had been able to obtain a flying licence prior to the war and were therefore qualified to fly these aircraft but not on combat missions. After initial reluctance they were accepted by the RAF, especially later in the war when they began to deliver four engine bombers.
During the course of the Second World War the ATA employed 168 women and 1,152 male pilots.
Below are some of the women of the ATA.
Lettice Curtis was born on the 1st February 1915 at Denbury in Devon and was the daughter of barrister Lord of the Manor of Denbury. She was educated at Benenden School and St. Hilda’s College, Oxford where she studied mathematics. She also excelled at sports and represented the university in lacrosse as well as being the captain of the universities women’s lawn tennis and fencing teams. She learned to fly in 1937 where she earned a B-class licence. In July 1940 she became one of the first women to join the British ATA and remained there until the organisation was closed down on the 30th November 1945. Lettice graduated to fly all wartime aircraft and was one of the first dozen women to qualify to fly four engined heavy bombers. She was the first woman pilot to deliver an Avro Lancaster bomber and she also delivered the Handley Page Halifax and the Short Sterling bombers. She flew continuously throughout the war delivering all types of aircraft through all weather conditions to various destinations. Having flown over ninety different types of aircraft she was introduced to the US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on the 26th October 1942 as the first woman pilot to be trained on four engine bombers. At the end of the war her final ATA rank was as First Officer. Post-war she became a technician, flight development engineer and flight test observer at various aircraft establishments. Lettice took an active part in British air racing and was a founder member of the British Women’s Pilot’s Association. She qualified to fly helicopters in October 1992 but voluntarily gave up flying in 1995. Lettice died at the age of 99 on the 21st July 2014.
Mary Ellis was a pioneering aviator and woman pilot in the ATA delivering aircraft from factories to squadrons in the Second World War. She was a pilot who overcame public disapproval to fly hundreds of Spitfires, Hurricanes and heavy bombers to the front line during the Second World War. She joined the ATA in 1941, after Britain allowed women to fly military aircraft. Mary Ellis, whose maiden name was Wilkins, was born on the 2nd February 1917 and lived on a farm in Oxfordshire. She grew up with her five siblings close to a Royal Air Force (RAF) station. She took her first flying lesson when she was a teenager at a nearby flying club. After hearing a radio advertisement seeking female pilots she joined the ATA in 1941. The decision to allow women to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes during the war was met with widespread resistance in Britain. Eventually the female aviators proved they were up to the job and they were accepted by the RAF especially later in the war when they began to deliver four engine bombers. By the end of the war Mary had spent more than 1,100 hours flying dozens of different types of aircraft, including 400 Spitfires and 47 Wellington and numerous Lancaster bombers. She held the ATA rank of First Officer. After the war she was invited to the join the RAF and was alleged to be one of the first women to fly the Meteor jet fighter. She went on to work as a private pilot for a wealthy businessman, who bought Sandown Airport on the Isle of Wight, where Mary was appointed manager in 1950. She married a fellow pilot, Don Ellis, in 1961 and they lived close to Sandown Airport. Her husband died in 2009 and Mary died aged 101 in 2018.
Amy Johnson was flying an Airspeed Oxford from Prestwick via Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford for the ATA on the 5th January 1941. There were extreme weather conditions and she went badly off course. She bailed out of the aircraft when the plane reportedly ran out of fuel. The aircraft crashed into the Thames estuary near Herne Bay. Her parachute was spotted coming down by the crew of HMS Haselmere who went to her rescue, but there was a heavy sea which was intensely cold. Despite the efforts of the Haselmere commander to rescue her, Amy Johnson died in the water and her body was never found. As a member of the ATA with no known grave she is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. Amy was born in Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire on the 1st July 1903. She was from a wealthy family and finished her education at the University of Sheffield. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics. Amy worked as a secretary to a London solicitor and was introduced to flying as a hobby. She gained her pilot’s “A” licence on the 6th July 1929 and later that year she obtained her ground engineer’s “C” licence, the first woman to do so. She purchased a second-hand de Havilland DH60 Gypsy Moth with the funds her father had supplied. In 1930 she flew solo from England to Australia where she achieved worldwide acclaim. With co-pilot Jack Humphreys she flew from London to Japan via Moscow and Siberia in record time in a de Havilland DH80 Puss Moth. She married Scottish pilot Jim Mollison in July 1933 and they flew on many record breaking flights together. In 1938 she divorced her husband reverted back to her maiden name. In 1940 Amy joined the newly formed ATA and rose to the rank of First Officer. Her former husband also flew for the ATA throughout the war.
Although not part of the ATA, Hanna Reitsch was one of the best known German test pilots of the Third Reich. She was playing her part in the war effort all be it on the side of the enemy. She was born into an upper-middle-class family on the 29th March 1912 in Hirschberg, Silesia. She developed her fascination for flying at an early age, and she began flight training in 1932 at the School of Gliding in Grunau. Hannah enrolled in a German Air Mail amateur flying school for powered flight whilst a medical student in Berlin. In 1933, she left medical school to become a fulltime glider pilot/instructor at Hamburg in Baden-Wüttenberg. During this period she set an unofficial endurance record for women at eleven hours and twenty minutes. By the time she was drafted into the Luftwaffe In 1937 she had test flown many gliders both in Germany and overseas. She became the first female helicopter pilot, flying the first fully controllable helicopter, the Focker-Achgelis Fa61 for which she received the Military Flying Medal. During the Second World War she received the Iron Cross, Second Class, from Hitler on the 28th March 1941 for her involvement with the test flights of the Junkers Ju87 Stuker and Dornier Do17 bomber projects. Among the many of Germany’s latest designs Hannah was asked to fly was the rocket-propelled Messerschmitt ME162 Komet in 1942. She was awarded the Iron Cross First Class following a crash landing on her fifth flight. The crash left her badly injured for which she spent five months in hospital. She was involved with the experiments on manned flights of the V1 Rockets in 1944, but these plans were never implemented. During the final days of the war she flew from Gatau Airport to an improvised airstrip near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in order to meet up with Adolf Hitler. She flew the same plane, which was the last one out of Berlin, out of the same airstrip and the advancing Russians attempted to shoot the plane down. The Russians were afraid Hitler was attempting to escape, but Hannah succeeded in getting the aircraft away safely. Hannah and her passenger were soon captured and interviewed by U.S. military officers. She was part of a team of scientists who researched and tested fifty two different German aircraft and she was to provide valuable information regarding piloting in general. She was held for eighteen months and after her release she settled in Frankfurt. She continued flying until her death on the 24th August 1979 from an apparent heart attack. There was speculation she may have taken the cyanide pill she had been given by Hitler but it has never been proven. Hannah had never been married. Royal Naval pilot Captain Eric Brown who had assisted the U.S. intelligence when she was interviewed after her capture, referred to her as “the expert of experts.”


A major part of the naval history of the Second World War was the Battle of the Atlantic. Included in this theatre of war was the North Sea. The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign running from 1939 to the defeat of Germany in 1945.
The Battle of the Atlantic started at the beginning of the Second World War with the sinking of the British passenger liner SS Athenia by a German submarine.
The British government announced the re-introduction of the convoy system for merchant ships and a full scale blockade on German shipping on the 8th September 1939.
On the 17th September 1939 the Aircraft Carrier HMS Courageous was torpedoed and sunk by a patrolling German submarine off the coast of Ireland.
In Scapa Flow on the 14th October 1939 the British battleship HMS Royal Oak was sunk by German submarine U-47.
Germany launched the first air attack on British territory on the16th October 1939. Cruisers HMS Southampton and Edinburgh together with destroyer HMS Mohawk were damaged at their anchorage in the Firth of Forth.
German U-boats and the Luftwaffe began to attack the Thames estuary on 20th November 1939.
Damaged German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee was forced into the port of Montevideo in Uruguay following an engagement with the British fleet. Graf Spee was required to leave within seventy-two hours and her captain scuttled her on the River Plate estuary on the 17th December 1939.
The British fleet were defeated by the Germans at the Battle of Heligoland Bight on the 18th December 1939.
1940 (January to July)
On the 20th January 1940 HMS Exmouth was sunk north of Scotland whilst escorting merchant ship Cyprian Prince. Exmouth was torpedoed by German U-boat U-44 and sank with the loss of all hands and the Cyprian Prince sailed away without attempting to pick up any survivors.
West of Portugal unescorted Greek merchant ship Ekatontarchos Dracoulis was hit by a torpedo fired from German U-boat U-44 on the 21st January 1940. The crew abandoned ship and U-44 left the area before the vessel sank.
On the 15th February 1940, Hitler ordered unrestricted U-boat warfare against the Allies on supplies transported across the Atlantic.
During an air raid on the 16th March 1940 thirty-two Junkers Ju-88 dive bombers attacked the Royal Naval Base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.
The Battle for Narvik began on the 10th April 1940 when a flotilla of five British destroyers, led by Commander Bernard Warburton-Lee, entered the harbour of Narvik under the cover of heavy snow. In the surprise attack they sank two German destroyers and six merchant ships and damaged another destroyer. Five additional German destroyers joined in the engagement and fired at Warburton-Lee’s HMS Hardy knocking out his forward guns and the ships bridge. Most of the officers were killed and Warburton-Lee sustained a severe head wound. Although seriously wounded Paymaster Lieutenant G.H. Stannard took command of Hardy and ordered the ship to be grounded and abandoned. Shortly after being brought ashore Warburton-Lee died and for his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Two British destroyers were sunk including Hardy with another damaged and the remaining destroyers withdrew from the harbour. On the 13th April 1940 a total of eleven British ships arrived to find the German destroyers stranded through lack of fuel and ammunition. The ensuing battle saw all German destroyers sunk or scuttled and the only vessel to survive was the U-boat U-51.
By the 25th May 1940 Allied troops had been pushed back to the beaches at Dunkirk and a flotilla of small boats managed to evacuate over 300,000 British and French troops to England by the 3rd June 1940.
Operation Dynamo was finally completed on the 3rd June 1940 where 335,000 soldiers evacuated from the Dunkirk beaches. Britain declared this was a triumph out of tragic defeat. On the following day, the 4th June 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a great speech where he promised to defend our native island home by fighting on the beaches, landing grounds, streets and hills and that “we shall never surrender”.
Travelling through the Norwegian Sea British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and two British destroyers were sunk by German battleship Scharnhorst on 8th June 1940.
Similar to the evacuation from Dunkirk, 150.000 Allied troops were evacuated from ports of North West France by the Royal Navy between the 15th and 25th June1940, code-named Operation Aerial.
On the 17th June 1940, Cunard liner RMS Lancastria had not long left the port of St. Nazaire when she was spotted by German bombers who proceeded to bomb her. The liner had been pressed into service as a troopship with a full complement of personnel and stores. When the liner sank approximately 4000 men, women and children lost their lives.



British politician Winston Churchill and American General John Pershing stated, at the end of the Great War, that we would have to fight this war again in twenty years hence. They were both right but for different reasons. Churchill was concerned that the financial constraints would impose terrible hardship on the German nation and lead to a harsher form of administration. Pershing believed if Germany did not surrender unconditionally on German soil they would not consider themselves to have been defeated. It was to be a different type of warfare and would last six years instead of four years as did the Great War.
The Opposing Armies
Britain was totally unprepared for war. The British Army of 1939 was a volunteer army with limited conscription only being introduced in early 1939. Full conscription was brought in after the declaration of war with Germany. During the early years of the Second World War the British Army suffered defeat in almost every theatre of war in which it was deployed. However, by 1943 the British had begun to take on an offensive role. The German Army were the land forces component of the Wehrmacht, (the regular German Armed Forces) from 1935. Included in the Wehrmacht were the Kriegsmarine (Navy) and the Luftwaffe (Air Force). The German military had battle experience whilst participating in the Spanish Civil War. They developed the Great War lightning-fast war or Blitzkrieg to occupy their enemies territories.
Naval Power
At the beginning of the Second World War the Royal Navy was still the strongest navy in the world, both in numbers of ships and naval bases across the globe. During the course of the war the US Navy expanded rapidly as America was forced into a war on two front on the seas, the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. By the end of the war the US Navy was larger than any other navy in the world. The main German naval expansion was the submarine. It was realised that only a strong U-boat flotilla would have any hope of Germany winning a naval war. During the Great War some seven hundred allied escort vessels had been occupied defending against a maximum of sixty U-boats deployed at any one time. Throughout the Second World War when allied shipping losses soared, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill confided that the U-boat threat was the only thing that seriously worried him .
Power in the Air
At the outbreak of the war, the Luftwaffe had four times the number of aircraft as the Royal Air Force (RAF). Both sides had been developing aircraft during the Inter-War Period, but after Adolf Hitler came to power, Germany had been aggressively building and acquiring an effective air-force. Germany had another advantage because of the battle hardened Luftwaffe pilots who had fought in the Spanish Civil War. On the other hand, Britain was desperately trying to appease Hitler, until eventually the British government began to realise the potential danger and began the expansion of the RAF. Germany and Britain continued aircraft development during the course of the Second World War.
The Great War established the validity of the tank concept and Britain and France were the leaders in tank design. Between the two world wars, many nations needed to have tanks but only a few had the industrial resources to design and build them. The early lead was gradually lost to the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent Nazi Germany during the course of the 1930’s. Other European countries and America followed by designing and adapting their own versions of the tank. For much of the Second World War, the British Army was saddled with a succession of tanks that ranged from the bad to just adequate. Some were rushed into service too quickly and proved to be unreliable. Others spent too long in development or only achieved a degree of usefulness after numerous modifications. Nearly all were under-gunned and most lacked the armour to resist anti-tank weapons. However, Nazi Germany developed numerous tank designs during the Second World War. In addition to their own designs, Germany employed and adapted various captured and foreign-built tanks. By doing this they saw their tanks grow from “tiny 5 ton packages to 100 ton monsters.”
As far as the artillery was concerned it would take five years to complete what was needed in terms of new equipment plus the training and formation of gun crews. At the beginning of the war the Royal Artillery modernised a large number of vintage guns from the Great War. Over 60% were lost in France when the British Army were to retreat and evacuate from Dunkirk. German artillery was considered to be useful but behind the times, because it was really a perfection of the Great War artillery. Despite all this their artillery was probably one of the most lethal weapons the Germans had, with the assorted variation of the 105mm and 150mm being the most common.
Reparation Payments from Germany for the Great War
With the exception of the Hitler era Germany fulfilled her obligation to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and paid the reparation bill in full on the 3rd October 2010. The settlement closed the final chapter on the Great War that had shaped the twentieth century. The reparation payments had bankrupted Germany in the 1920s and the emerging Nazi Party seized on the public resentment of the deep sense of injustice of the 1919 treaty. Foreign bonds had been issued to Germany in 1924 and 1930 allowing them the chance to raise the cash, plus the interest, required to fulfil the reparation demands the allies made after the Great War. As Germany was deemed to be the perpetrator of the Great War they bore the sole responsibility for the war and were forced to pay crippling reparations.