Get involved: Send pictures, video, news and views - text NEWS SHOPPER to 80360 or email us
WAR: Five more war tales from News Shopper readers
11:00am Sunday 3rd January 2010 in News
In the final episode of News Shopper's Second World War series, reporters DAN KEEL and DAVID MILLS hear five more wartime tales from readers in south-east London and north Kent.
Bromley resident helped Navy gunners tell friend from foe
WITH so many aircraft flying over the English Channel during the Second World War it was imperative Navy gunners knew which planes were the enemy.
During the 1944 D-day Normandy landings, 18-year-old Bill Aitkenhead from Bromley worked as an aircraft identifier onboard an American troop ship heading for Omaha beach.
Mr Aitkenhead, now 83, said: "These Americans were follow-up troops landing after the initial early morning invasion.
"As we arrived on the beach, dead bodies were drifting out to sea in the tide and it was clear something terrible had happened.
"There were no German aircraft spotted the whole day as the allied air supremacy was so great. But at night the Luftwaffe attacked and a US Navy crewman was killed right next to me - caught in the crossfire."
Mr Aitkenhead supports the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA). To make a donation, call 0208 857 8845 or visit ssafa.org.uk
Catford youngster lived with RAF crew
AN RAF crew of six men slept in the spare room of a Catford family home during the early part of the war in 1939.
Paula Bedford, who was six at the time, used to serve the servicemen cups of tea while they operated a barrage balloon in Inchmery Road.
The 76-year-old, who now lives in Beckenham, said: "The crew were always so polite and friendly. As a child I found it all quite exciting to be honest.
"I remember they arrived on my sixth birthday. It was nice to have some new people around."
Barrage balloons were used in London throughout the war to protect the city from aerial attack. The metal cables underneath the balloons were designed to damage the wings of low-flying planes.
Deadly dogfights over Welling
SIX-YEAR-OLD Maurice Lewis used to watch deadly dogfights in the clear blue skies of south-east London during the Battle of Britain. He recalls one encounter which will live in his memory forever.
Mr Lewis, now 74 and living in Dartford, said: "Me and my friends were in Welling watching the planes fight it out.
"All of a sudden a Spitfire got the better of a Messerschmitt 109. It came crashing down in Wickham Street near Gibson's Farm and smashed into somebody's front garden - narrowly missing their house. The pilot ejected but we were told he died of his injuries."
WAAF heroes played an important role
CALCULATING the enemy’s next move is always a tricky business, but predicting where the Luftwaffe was heading saved lives.
This was one of the jobs of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), which would map the location of German planes.
Norah Joyce, now 87, became a shorthand typist for the WAAF in 1942.
Billeted to different RAF stations around the country, she would record messages locating German planes and where they were flying towards, and pass them on to the duty officer.
Mrs Joyce, from Bromley, said: “We had to answer a machine, a bit like a telephone, and got messages from stations on the coast warning us of the German planes.
“We would work during the day and over night.
“I suppose we had an important job, someone had to take down the facts someone was coming over here.”
Navy veteran defused deadly mines
NAVY veteran Richard Broadfield, from Sidcup, signed up in 1940.
Before going to sea, the 20-year-old was part of a seven-man team in Deptford nicknamed the suicide squad, which had the unenviable task of defusing unexploded parachute mines dropped on London.
Over the course of the war, Mr Broadfield, who is 90 this month, travelled the world visiting west Africa, South America, South Africa, Gibraltar, north Africa, Russia and Australia.
He escorted convoys while enduring submarine attacks and bombardment by enemy planes.
On receiving news his home in Barnehurst had been destroyed and his mother and younger sister were missing, he took leave and returned to England.
With his family still nowhere to be seen, he headed to his older sister’s in Newcastle and found to his great relief his missing mum and younger sister were there.
They had left their home hours before it was reduced to rubble.
Great-grandfather-of-four Mr Broadfield said: “Many people fell during the war which I saw with my own eyes, we would pick people up out of the water.
“But you became immune to it, you just took it as part of life.”
Comments are closed on this article.