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  • Brian Wolfe

    An Apology - of sorts

    By Brian Wolfe

    I often describe myself as slightly paranoid, which then seems to make others think I have some sort of philological issues.  I don’t believe I am being “watched” for example.  That would, in my opinion, suggest that I hold some degree of celebrity in my mind; this would also, if it were the case, indicate that I think that I am somehow a fellow of above average interest to others.  I must admit that if I were any less interesting people would fall asleep during a hand shake with me. Perhaps what I should say is that I strive to be more careful than average when it comes to making purchases and in believing everything I am told.  Purchases such as left-handed baseball bats and non-flammable candles may be easy enough to avoid.  However I have lost count of all of the collectables I have purchased and then a few days later wondered how I could have made such unwise choices. A few examples of what I allude to are, prices being far too high or items that really didn’t fit into my collecting themes.    The problem of knowing when you are being told something other than the truth can at times be difficult.  There are some physical signs which must not be taken on individual basis, such as someone rubbing their nose or excessive blinking of the eyes.  These so-called signs, on their own, can be explained away as having nothing to do with attempted deceit. Collectively such signs, along with other indications may be used, in law enforcement as an example, to accept the statement or doubt what you are being told.   The most difficult “stories” to determine their truthfulness is when the person telling the story actually believes it to be the truth.  This and the manner in which the story is delivered and the interpretation of what has been said may end in one doubting the story as being the truth.  Two examples come to mind.  If you hear someone say that smoking can be bad for you and you need to take measures to avoid smoking, you may think of someone inhaling smoke from a cigarette, which fits the caution; or something else.  If you are standing too close to your BBQ and your clothing is starting to smoke then surely you need to take measures (stepping back) to avoid bursting into flames.  My second, and last example, comes from the television comedy, Saturday Night Live (SNL) that first appeared in 1975 which is famous for their rather juvenile humour appealing to the adolescent mind.  I became rather old and stuffy about 40 years ago and therefore stopped watching SNL.  One of the sketches involved a group of people telling an individual on a beach that “You can’t look at the sun too long”.  Most of us would take this as a warning and realize staring at the sun could be detrimental to your vision and not misinterpret this as you can’t get over the majesty of the sun, for example.  Of course the poor fellow being advised took the first interpretation with disastrous results. No, my retelling of this story is not very funny however, as has been said, “You had to be there to see it”.   One of the stories  that has floated around guns shows and places where people interested in military history gather, at least here in Canada, is the topic of this blog.  Yes, I know it has taken me a long time to get to the point...as usual.  Why say something in a couple of dozen words when a plethora of paragraphs can achieve the same results? That’s a rhetorical question of course.   The story is that one can turn an FN FAL C1,or C1A1, rifle from a semi-automatic to a full automatic weapon by inserting a piece of match book in the correct place in the internal workings.  This I have always held as being complete garbage. Any of those reading this who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces in the past and used the FN FAL C1 and the FN C2 please hold off on your hate mail until the end of this blog.    The Canadians used the FN FAL C1, a semi-automatic battle rife with the 7.62X51mm NATO round from 1953, being the first to officially adopt the FN FAL, until 1984 when it was replaced by the 5.56x45mm NATO C7 rifle and the C8 carbine both based on the American US AR-15.  The British and Commonwealth Nations used the same rifle as Canada but called it the L1A1. I have read that the rifle was commonly known as the FAL however in my area of Ontario at least, we refer to it as simply the “FN”.    Here’s where the claim of using the FN C1, inserting a piece of match book to turn it into an automatic weapon, becomes argument.  In each case where this has come up in the past I have tried to delve more deeply into this claim by asking if the service person is saying that with the insertion of a matchbook into the FN C1 they have changed it from a battle rifle (semi-automatic) into an assault rifle (full auto).  Without exception the answer is “yes”.  The problem in my mind, I have just recently discovered, is not whether you can modify an FN C1 with a foreign object to malfunction and discharge the weapon in rapid succession but have you actually “changed” this battle rifle into an assault rifle.  A basic definition of an assault rifle is that it is a carbine sized firearm using a large capacity magazine capable of sustained full automatic fire.  The FN FAL, even fitted with a large capacity magazine, falls short of being an assault rifle on two of the most important requirements that I have stated, even with the matchbook modification.   To all of the servicemen in my past who have engaged me in this argument, and there have been quite a few, I apologize.  You are correct in that you can make an FN FAL C1 malfunction to fire several rounds in rapid, automatic-like, succession.  On the other hand I would offer the suggestion that this could be done with almost any semi-automatic rifle.    On the other hand (you knew there would be an “on the other hand”) to all servicemen in my past who have engaged me in argument you failed miserably in qualifying your claim fully.  You did not, I must repeat, did not, change this battle rifle into an assault rifle, and especially to one fellow who claimed to have changed the FN FAL C1 into the C2A1, the squad automatic weapon (SAW),  as the C2 has a much more robust barrel to withstand the heat generated by sustained rapid fire.  Some of our members might note that they have seen an FN FAL C1 with a selective fire option and you would be correct.  There were some FN FAL C1 rifles fitted with the selective fire option and used only by the Royal Canadian Navy to give boarding parties the option of a full automatic weapon without the weight of the C2A1.     In past blogs I have managed to attempt to prove and at times disprove some claims.  I’ve disproved some claims about the Battle of Crecy and the crossbow. We then proved the capabilities of the crossbow in experiments that were undertaken with minor casualties. These experiments also brought to light that during an apology for a range mishap the suggestion that, “It is only a cat”, is best left unsaid. I think we successively supported claims regarding the possibility of an accidental discharge of the STEN gun.  Now we have supported the claim that the FN FAL C1 can be made to fire with the insertion of a foreign object; yet without actually fully admitting that I was wrong.  It’s a win, win situation!    I will continue with my version of paranoia and look for myths that I can prove or disprove, while being on guard against my own poor purchase decisions.    The post has just arrived and I need to close now and open the shipment of prefabricated postholes I purchased on eBay.   Ever vigilant   Regards Brian      

28 October 2011

Off this weekend after two hellish days which culminated in very nearly a fight (yes, the physical kind) between myself and another supervisor in front of both officers and offenders- not good. I believe I may have some anger management issues; of course, it could be that I've come to the realization that I do, indeed, have an expiration date and no longer wish to waste the time I have left on bull sh*t, regardless from whom it may come. Oh well, three days to cool off.

Put a few new entries in the Photo Competition. All are of pieces in the collections and are "straight" photography- no weird post shoot manipulations. Reasonably dramatic images taken with a 7MP camera with a mounted flash against a black background of an item combined with a close-up of the same item and cropped in a suitable way. Anyway, have a look and tell me what you think. I chose a few of my most appealing (not necessarily the most valuable) awards- mostly for their enamel work. The idea was to concentrate solely on the beauty and craftsmanship of the award with no distraction. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the images.


Greg Collins

Greg Collins



There has been some problems with the software - I have deleted photos that wouldn't show and will post them all in this section.

Re-reading the last section I may have given the impression that we all walked around like shaking jellyfish - this would not be correct. The whole business of the War - from my point of view as a small boy growing-up, was quite surreal. I had no memories of times before these - so, strange as it may seem - these were part of my life. I think it would be true to say that everyone was worried - but life has to go on - and we , as British people, had a determination to survive and maintain our way of life. Perhaps that sounds a strange thing to say for a 7 year old boy - but we knew what was involved - we knew our heritage - and at that time in our history, we were united populations standing behind our King and Mr. Churchill.

Sometimes it takes a time of great peril and danger to cause a great Country to come together. I think - even with hindsight -
that this was such a time. We all felt it and yet 67 years later I find it difficult to describe why we had these feelings.

This is a V2 rocket - shown at the Imperial War Museum in London

Another view of the rocket with details

This map shows the central area of London. You will see the rriver Thames, the central area and suburbs. Lewisham will be seen and just above and to the right - Blackheath where I lived

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Each of the yellow bursts represents a V2 explosion. You will find the HAM in Lewisham - where I lived is buried under the explosions !

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Finally, this map shows a much larger view of the London area. Was it by accident that the City and inner suburbs had the worst of the Rockets ?

Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton


Various 'Bugs' in the system

I have been working with IPB to fix the following issues which have recently come to light:

Signatures not aligning properly within posts with images. I have rebuilt the skin and all is now fixed.

Blog images not showing in blog posts. This is still work in progress.

The following error was appearing if an URL was posted in a post or message relating to the gallery:
Fatal error: Call to undefined method skin_gallery_global_23::bbCode() in /home/macmedal/public_html/admin/applications_addon/ips/gallery/extensions/bbcode/gallery.php on line 298
This has now also fixed.

Any further ongoing issues please report them in the software errors and troubleshooting forum.






How the World has changed from these early days of WW2. Blitzkreig in 1940 - V1 Rockets in 1944 and V2 Rockets in late 1944 . Today we are so used to modern remote controlled weaponry - Tomahawk Cruise Missiles can fly hundreds of miles and land within a few metres of their targets

The point I am making is that we had suffered 4 1/2 years of intensive bombing - damage that was quite unbelievable -
and deaths by the tens of thousands. This was followed from June 1944 by the V1 rockets - known to everyone as
Buzz Bombs. We have already covered how their Buzz signaled motion - when that stopped you had about a minute before it landed. This in itself was problematic - high winds, not as much fuel , glidepath - all changed directions and distance. When it stopped we ran for the nearest shelters.

This was to change even more drastically from September 1944.

British Intelligence had known about the development of the V2 at Peenemunde and the RAF had made several daring bombing raids. However, the first ones landed as a complete horror surprise. This was war on a different level - and,
we - in London - were very frightened.


The problem with the V2 was that it was fired vertically - ascended to a height of some 60 miles and came straight down at over 2000 miles per hour (2800 kms). It carried a ton of high explosive and you had no warning at all. London was the main target - again they were primarily being aimed at the London Docks - which stretched for miles along the River Thames. However, as with the V1 they had primitive - by today's standards - steering, and could land in an area of some ten miles from where they were aimed.

One never knew when a V2 would hit - we all slept in shelters again - but , if one hit you didn't have much chance.
Mordern Road was hit at each end - but at different times. The damage was very bad and the first time my Father was involved. I can't rmember what day it was - probably a weekend - I do remember we were having a sandwich for lunch -
without warning there was an explosion which stunned us. Windows broke and we could hear crashing everywhere - I was in total shock. My Father rushed off to try and help and was gone for some two hours. The rocket had landed near the end of Mordern Road - near to the remains of the Paragon, which I mentioned in an earlier posting.

Workmen had been working almost exactly where it came down - I think they were repairing a water main - damaged in a previous attack. There were quite a number and nearly all were killed. I shall never forget my Father coming back in a state of total shock and covered in blood - this was from trying to dig out bodies. He would never tell me about the scene.

Later , we were hit by one at the other end of the Road - at night - so, casualties were not as bad - however, I think some people were killed. All security and school activities were curtailed and the streets became even more empty of traffic.
Our problem was that Blackheath was at the right distance and angle for overshoots from the dock attacks.


Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton


Getting ready to travel

Some of you may remember my situation with my Mom. Due to health reasons I moved her from Austin, Texas to West Richland, Washington on May 28th. She has a house now with my daughter living with her as a primary care giver. We had not been able to finalize the sale of her house in Austin so that has been hanging over us for the last 4 months.

Well-Saturday (10/22) I fly to Austin to close on the house on the 26th and THEN, get to have my RAV 4 back! Of course, I then have a week or so to drive back to Washington (but just think of the opportunities to collect more "stuff" along the way as well.

Just wanted to share. Hope I can get a few more shots to enter before the contest closes.

Have a GREAT weekend folks
God Bless (and thanks for your continued prayers for me and my Mom [she is doing much better])





20 October 2011

Well, I'm sitting here bemoaning the fact that my vacation has come to an end; at 0545 tomorrow I will return to the title "Sergeant" and attend morning muster at the "joint". I have enjoyed being called "Mr. Collins" and/or "Greg" these past eleven days. Did run into an ex-convict while shopping locally, but for the life of me I cannot remember her name. I guess when you deal with 1200+ on more or less a daily basis this is bound to happen. Wished her well; hope I don't have occasion to "welcome" her back.

Returned from D.C. earlier today (a bit after noon). It was good to see my Mother- it has been a year since we last saw each other although we talk by telephone at least once a week. She still has some of my best artwork and photography on her walls- Mothers are like that. Thought about entering some in the competition although I don't think that would be fair as they have already appeared publicly in print and/or exhibition.

Returned to a couple of goodies- no "great shakes" but nice additions to the collections. One interesting piece is a Rakosi-era tennis medal which I've placed in my Hungarian gallery- have a look. Nice, cased little medal. I believe I paid $6 for it. Also got word that the guy I deal with for Pridnestrovie (PMR) items has found me a copy of the latest "coffee table" book of awards the government produces for visiting big-wigs; I already have the 2004 edition, so I'm looking forward to the updated book. Should take about 3 weeks to arrive. A couple of other goodies will come with it- including a PMR MVD "egg" badge which is quite rare.

The temperature here continues to drop. Today it struggled to get out of the 50's because of the winds (gusts of 35 MPH). Not really cold unless you're used to 70's or higher (which we are). I'm no fan of winter as I no longer ski or skate (used to live in Montreal- long ago).

Will cut this short as I have to get some sleep soon. I don't know why, but the trip to D.C. is only 120 miles and yet it always seems soooooo long and really tires me out. Perhaps it is going from a rural, and fairly empty, environment to an overgrown, congested environment. Who knows?


Greg Collins

Greg Collins


14 October 2011

Still on vacation :-)!!! Got a few things done today around the house (it's been quite wet lately which has severely inhibited outside work). Also (dammit, dammit) went out and bought a new cell phone to replace the one I LOST within a 20 yard area- inside the house- I absolutely can not find the damned thing. I HATE getting old and senile :-( ! Can't see anymore; can't hear anymore and wet weather really settles on my joints. CRAP! OK, I'm ranting again... On the up side, I found a new dvd I had been wanting, "Company 9"- it's about the earlier war in Afghanistan from a Soviet perspective. Will watch and review.

Just finished putting my last Bulgarian medal into the gallery; still have several badges to add, but the big work is finished for that gallery. Please have a look if you get the chance. Most of the medals are not rare, but Bulgaria had a certain flare for engraving and some of the pieces are quite beautiful- even the lower medals.

The great thing about these galleries is that it's also helping in my cataloging the items I have which, should something happen to me, will help my wife in deciding what to do with all of this. Something to think about, especially when one is "getting on" in years or has a high-risk job, or both. A friend died very suddenly several years ago (I was one of his pall-bearers); he left his wife in debt; he had amassed an incredible collection of artifacts from the American Civil War (had his own museum of sorts); left no information for his wife to go on and, before any of us knew, the "big guys" from up north came down in trucks, offered her pennies on the dollar and hauled it all away. She was in a state of bereavement and debt- she did what she thought she had to do at the time BECAUSE there was no advanced planning. I'm not going to let that happen if I can help it. Nor should you.

Hopefully it will be a better day tomorrow and I can take a few photos...

Greg Collins

Greg Collins


Cell Phone trouble

Tuesday I thought I was going to buy a Finnish Liberty Cross 3rd Class 1918 , a real scarce award

Ok , since I didn´t want to raise the price before the last day I stayed cool and planned to give my bid on the way to Finland where I was going on a business trip tuesday-thursday .

Yep , the cell phone died in the wrong moment and then I was on the plane , no connection and so on........

It went for 180 Euros wich was way too low .....

Lessons learned ? If you want it - Buy it , bid early , bid high and stay at home at your computer

Nice weekend all






I haven't really thought what I'm going to write about today. I think we have started to get towards the last two years of the War - and that was not the quiet time that we might have expected. I will probably cover it in two parts.

I have enjoyed writing this - even if it is a little time consuming. I intend continuing until I was 12 and we left to live in Australia. I will cover the trip and stop when we arrive in Melbourne.

I have said before - and will probably continue to annoy you by repeating it at frequent intervals - there is no way to tell how many are reading the blogs. Unless you comment, it could be just the writer !

I was brought up in Australia - did my Military service there. We then moved for four years to South Africa. After returning to Aussie in 1960, I worked in Brisbane for 4 months and was then 'head hunted ' to work for 3 1/2 years in Thailand. I went back to UK and was then asked to run an advtg. agency in Sierra Leone - West Africa. I then served for 7 years in the Metropolitan Police - eventually running the family business when my Father died unexpectedly. My home in Sth. Africa was a holiday place to visit - but, a few years ago my heriditary Muscular Dystrophy got worse and I am now unable to leave this Country. I have put these details in for a reason.

Would any one of my two readers (?) like me to continue in chapters and cover the different Countries I lived and worked in ? Remember we are talking the 1960's/70's and 80's. The World was a lot different - travel was easier and everything wasn't blocked with tourists. Should I live that long, I envisage the different sections would take about 12/18 months.
Eventually, they will probably be taken to publish as a book - after some polishing.

So, the question is - do you want me to continue this as a series ?


When I started this blog I was 2 3/4 and the War had just started. Now we have reached 1943 and I am about 7 - this is an age when you understand what is going on around you - and I, and my friends certainly did. We read papers, we listened to the radio and at school were given sensible up-dates. No-one treated us as little children - we were all in the same danger and it was appreciated by adults that we needed to know for our own protection.

There were still sporadic bombing attacks and much damage - very few houses were undamaged. Our bedrooms were in the basement and my Father had made shutters to protect us from blast. Sometime during this period we had a severe night raid - I have always slept soundly and sometime in the middle of the night awoke to hear my parents in my room talking to each other. I asked what was wrong and they said the house had been badly hit - and I had slept right through all of the noise. Houses around had also been damaged, but most of the bombs had hit he edge of the Heath and it was blast that had caused the damage. Being Victorian, all of the house glass was 1/4 inch plate (1 inch = 21/2 cm.) The back of the house windows survived - everything else was just splinters - including my lovely pond yacht. That, I never forgave them for.

Needless to say - with all of the shortages - it took weeks / months to get the glass replaced. We were all just thankful that we - and our friends and neighbours had survived. The funny thing was that my little Cairn 'Tess' had not even barked.


There were no carbonated drinks in those days - soda water used a special bottle that was filled at the factory and you took the empty bottle - with it's lever action to the off license for exchange. All bottle were glass - no drinks used tins. The
usual drink was an orange or, lemon cordial which was watered down in the glass. If we wanted a 'fizzy' drink we used to put in 1/2 a teaspoon of Andrew's Liver Salts. Quite tasty - it fizzed and probably kept us 'regular'.

I can remember you could buy Heinz tomato sauce and there was a pickle called Pan Yan - which you can still buy and I am quite fond of. Coca Cola and all of the other things taken for granted today , were just not available. I think they started to come into the uk when the US joined the War and their men wouldn't fight without it. Sweets - as I said - earlier were very rationed. We would usually buy 'Bulls eyes' as they lasted longer.

With clothing being heavily rationed and my allowance going on my school uniform, things like underclothes, shirts and socks were kept in repair and seemed to have a life of their own. I have never worn a pir of darned socks since I started work. The other thing that is taken for granted today is all of the ingredients for a cake. Dried fruit had to come from the West Indies and the ships brought food that was so desperately needed. You know - thinking about it - I don't remember any fat or, overweight people. Other then perhaps people who were ill. The experts say we were the healthiest in our history.

I think Fish required points - but small things like winkles could be bought freely - if they were available.

Things had settled down at school and I was doing fairly well - I was never a brilliant student - I really only remembered the things I had an interest in. English I enjoyed - history is a given and I loved Geography. Maths, I liked the basics - but, algebra and geometry a total no-no. However, I learn't the basics and today can still add up a bill faster then I could on a calculator. For all of the ever present problems I was happy - as only a small boy can be if he has food, shelter and love. This was about to change.


This is an aerial picture of the first rocket to attack Britain. It carried one ton of explosive and was quite devastating in it's destructive ability. Everone knew them as Buzz Bombs - they droned with a steady buzz. However, they had enough fuel to take them over London - when this ran out they became silent. You had approx. 1 minute to take shelter.

They were not a joke - although we pretended they were. They were quite terrifying - whole streets were destroyed by them - and you were in great danger since you didn't know where they would come down. All of a sudden our freedom of movement was gone. Parents were too worried to let us roam anywhere. Fortunately, the RAF learnt to shoot them down - and also to flip their little wings and throw them off course. This helped, but since London was the target we were badly hit.

June 1944 was the start of the V1 Buzz Bombs - we would have voted to keep them had we known the sheer terror that was about to strike London from September 1944. This was the V2 Rocket - which came down from a height of 60 miles
(100kms) and at a speed of over 2,200 miles per hour. There was no escape and thousands were to die - they nearly forced an early peace.

Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton


10 October 2011

Finally, at long last, thought it would never come... I'm on vacation! Yep, 11 days of paid unemployment. Began with, what else, some photos to update a gallery- the DDR gallery to be precise. Came up with an idea of "ganging" series medals, much as I did with a few of the Hungarian medals a little while ago. A bit easier on the photographer (me) and, I feel, more interesting than if you had to look at a separate image for each. Take a look. Thinking of knocking the Stasi shield collection down to one image as well- more on that later.

Heading up to Northern Virginia during this time to visit my mother; may drop by the "occupation"... I participated in the late '60's-early '70's. Long hair... on my face as well, guitar, protest songs, take a drag of whatever is being passed around, "hell no, we won't go"... join the Navy four years later. Oh well... Anyway, the unions have joined in (I'm a member of one of those) and a certain political party of which I'm a member (betcha can't guess which one) has joined in the fray, so there will be friendly faces awaiting.

Also want to enter a couple more images in the contest (that should bring a smile to Mervyn). All this and what I have to do around the house as winter approaches should keep me more than occupied so that when I return to work, I should be suitably exhausted.

Greg Collins

Greg Collins


A Couple of Badges

I've been trying to sort and photograph my badges and it's a big job. Actually, it's more the fact that I keep getting sidetracked that makes it so time-consuming. A quick browse through the forums here - well there's an hour gone. Or, I'll grab Harry's photo album, maybe just to move it or put it back on the shelf, and I flick through again - another hour.....

So, here's a couple of random pieces to show you in the meantime. These, I am quite obviously going to be unable to group with any others and I just love the design of the flower one, so it always stands out for me when I go through the stash.

I'm also trying to come up with some kind of database to keep the photos and details/identifications, but time is the problem as always.

Thankyou again for the very warm welcome to the group. Just going through the forum posts, I have already been able to identify some of my pieces, and also am getting a bit of an idea of where some of the others may be from to at least get them grouped.






I was pleased to see a couple of friends have made comments - I was getting rather discouraged. There is no way of knowing if anyone is actually reading any of this - or, if any visitors are getting through. I intend at the end of today's post to show a number of wartime pictures. I was lucky enough to buy a bound volume of Picture Post - the main weekly magazine which showed the public pictures of what was happening. This covers part of 1940 - but, I have been promised the next five volumes, which will be most interesting. The Govt. placed great importance on this magazine - as can be seen from it having 65 pages - at a time when newspapers had just a double page.

The illustrations will be back a little in the time scale of this article - but cover the Battle of Narvik and also show how the British 'faced-up' in a crisis. We have done this throughout our history - slow off the mark - but determined to fight for our way of life. With so many millions of immigrants in the UK I am by no means sure the same Spirit would prevail - but, in the Falklands I was surprised at the patriotism. Many immigrants are proud to now be British - unfortunately we do seem to have let in a 5th column that could cause many problems in the future.

Enough waffling - what was this little 6 year boy up to ?


When I first went there I had to walk - usually with friends who lived around. Summer was fine - winter, very dodgy. London still experienced dreadful fogs in thos days - mainly from all the coal fires. I can remember us getting lost on many a freezing morning - and we would have to try and find a shop to take shelter. Sometimes people would see us and take us into their homes. Telephones were rare - and not a lot of people had them at home - this meant you could not easily call for help. I sometimes wonder if 6 year olds today would cope as well as we did ? There were some public telephones and my Father always made me keep tuppence (two pennies) in a separate pocket - that was the price of a public call. We were lucky and had inherites a fixed phone line.

The other problem that faced us was slippery ice and snow. Salt was hard to get and it could be dangerous walking.
Having reached school, there was very little heating - they did their best but it was heavily rationed and being an old school the windows were 18 feet high (6m). These poles were very dangerous - one or, two of the teachers would balance them on their desks - which were on platforms. When they asked you a question they moved the pole over you -
get it wrong and they dropped it ! 6/7 years old and we had a heavy pole dropping some 25 feet onto our heads. Looking back, I realise that some of this was unnecessary brutality. One teacher - the maths - carried one of the old ebony rulers - make a mistake and he smashed it over your hands. I often wonder how many of my classmates suffer today with arthritis ? The worst was our Latin teacher - a small French refugee - he carried a long length of hosepipe in his robe. Make a mistake in a Latin declension and he would seize us by our necks and strike us all over our bodies.

This came to a head when I was about 7 - I still used to wash in the kitchen sink - it was one of the warm rooms in the house. Naturally, we had just put up with this violence - however, my Mother saw the double welts a hosepipe leaves and called my Father. I had at least 12 serious double bruises. He was up to see the headmaster the next morning and ended up taking him by the throat to get action. Brother Polyanthus was quickly transferred and the bullying slowed down. This is why I said earlier I had mixed feelings about St. Joseph's. My family are High Church Protestant but, the
school was Roman Catholic they did not want Protestants and we were exiled during the first period Religious study.
Funnily enough - I have only good feelings about the Cathoilc Faith - I nearly converted at one time - I think it was just a lack of discipline and boredom that led to the ill treatment. When I was a Home Beat Police Officer (Community Constable) in the East End of London I always paid particular attention to the children and would question them if they had marks or, bruises.


The Germans wern't bombing us every day - and we had adapted over the years. There was nothing untoward in running to a shelter when the sirens went off - we recognised the different bombers and we knew all of our planes and cheered them on. I have watched many egagements fromt he back garden. Food shortages were part of life and were rarely mentioned - usually only when we had a special treat.

I eventually learned to ride a bicycle and had a kid's 1/2 size one. My friends had also learned and this gave us mobility to visit each others homes. One of my friend's from those days funnily enough a David Wolfe - owns one of the biggest clothing chains in Greenwich but, someone told me this - I haven't seen him since I was 12. We both collected Dinky toys and there was great competition between us - he got more pocket money then I did, so was usually ahead.

The popular sport was Rugby and that was where I learned to play. I wasn't very good at it - I wore corrective glasses with prisms and they were difficult to focus. I do remember we were on the rugby field playing a knock-up game when bombers were spotted overhead - the sirens sounded after we saw them - which was not unusual. They were dropping their loads and all hell broke out. 40 or 50 kids had to be rounded up and dragged off to the school shelters. Whistles were blowing all over the place and all of the teachers had turned out to get us - we thought it was good fun ! That is
what I mean when I say even the strangest events can become common place over time.

Life - as it does, continued for us over the next year. THe British were preparing for the Invasion of France and , of course, the US had joined-us. Very welcome as I think we had begun to run out of steam and resources. Rationing had
become more severe and it was a struggle to be fed and to have decent clothes. One advantage I had, was that near the school was an ABC Cafe. These were opened by the Govt. and were intended to help people have a decent meal at least once a day. Schoolchildren were particularly welcomed - along with pensioners and people doing manual labour.
I don't remember the food being terribly good - but, it was nutritious and healthy - and if I remember cost 6 pennies. (six pence.)

I will close for today - I need space to show the pictures from 1940. However, the next chapter will cover my experiences when the bombardment of London re-commenced with the V1 and V2 Rockets. This really was a terrifying time for everyone - civilian and service personnel - something those of us who went through it, have never forgotten.
Whilst I have come to terms with the ordinary German people who were the prisoners of their own Government - I have
never forgiven the deliberate attack on London and the lives that were lost so viciously - the perpetrators should have all been shot out of hand - but as seems to be the way of the West, most got off with small sentences and the Americans
actually gave Walther Von Barun - the man who invented them - sanctuary in the US - he was never even brought to trial.

This was one of the great pictures of the time. It showed we were still a powerful Nation.

Winston Churchill when he was First Sea Lord and we had just fought the Battle of Narvik off Norway

Some of the German ships we sank at Narvik

This was the German Admiral at Narvik

Winston Churchill the day he became Prime Minister

A cartoon by the very famous cartoonist LOW. Showing all the members of the cabinet behind Churchill

German paras - probably in Norway

Their Majesties King George and Queen Elizabeth at a special service at Westminster Abbey

Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton


6 October 2011

Another 2 days off is coming to an end as I have to work the weekend this week- the schedule we work gives us every other weekend off. But if I can make it through the weekend, I have the next eleven days off!!! Woopie! The benefits of having to keep your vacation time accrued within established limits. Too much time on the books.

Nothing much happening here... have had more photo opportunity regarding the galleries I'm maintaining. I've added quite a bit to the Bulgarian gallery (have a look) AND, though I was dreading it, began my DDR gallery. Only four images posted so far, but it is a beginning. And I did shoot a bunch this morning, so look for more before the day's done.

Interesting stuff going on near Wall Street. Kind of exciting; gets me feeling like the late '60's-early '70's again. Were I a bit younger, and less encumbered by the trappings of life, I'd probably go join in. Take my guitar, sing a few protest songs, indulge a bit in whatever was being passed around. Ah, memories...

Nine more days to shoot for the photo contest. I'd like to get a few more in before hanging it up. We'll see how it goes...

Greg Collins

Greg Collins




We must have moved to Blackheath towards the end of 1942 - a big thing to happen to a small boy. I had left all of my old friends behind and would be years before I saw some of them again. I think, initially, I was sent to a local prep school which was a short distance away in another part of the Heath. The English school system is quite different to most others.
You start off at kindergarden - progress to your prep school and then enter your main school. There are no junior and senior schools as in the US - although, many major schools have a separate section for younger boys.

I don't remember how long I attended the Prep. - probably not long as I have no clear memories. The War put a different complexion on nearly all activities and the school you went to had no bearing on your parents' wishes - you went to the one closest to where you lived. This turned out to be St. Joseph's - a Catholic school run by the De La Salle Brothers. They wore long black robes with a doubly white collar that hung over the front. Because Southern Ireland - or Eire , was neutral
during WW2, many of our teachers were Irish citizens - and young ! This was something I was not used to seeing - most of the people you saw working were middle aged or, retired. Our young men were all fighting for their Country.

I will talk on the school another time - I have both good and poor opinions of my time there. At this point in time I was learning new routines in a much bigger area then I was used to moving around-in.


What a wonderful place to live-in - although I am sure it is much changed now. I said previously Mordern Road was all large houses in their own grounds - at the end of the road was - or, had been - one of the architectural gems of London
- The Paragon . Completed in 1806 it was where Royalty and the aristocracy from all over Europe lived. Alas, by the time we moved it had been bombed heavily and was rubble.

This applied to at least 2 - and probably 3, of the houses in our road. It was why my Father was able to buy so reasonably. I have always been an easy person to get on with - I make friends easily and work to maintain the friendships - I still regularly see - or, have contact with friends I have known for over 60 years. The most surprising was about 5 years ago when a boy at my school I had known when I was 8 found my website and tracked me down. Rather sadly we had little to talk about - too long a gap. The reason I mention this is because I soon made friends with the local
children of my age - and , with the regulations - we were all , or would be, at the same school

I will show some pictures of the Paragon at the end of this post - they have restored it exactly as it used to look. The whole area had suffered - the original Manor House - whose land this had all been hundreds of years ago , had been destroyed with a direct hit. Everywhere you looked houses were damaged or gone.

Having bought this big old 29 room house, my Father had quick and serious decisions to make. With the number of homeless people the Councils would billet total strangers on you if you had spare rooms. We converted the top two flats into self contained flats and found two nice families who desperately needed a place of their own. The first floor were a couple with grownup children and I used to go and visit them. The elderley couple on the toip floor - the original children's floor - were retired senior civil servants from the old Indian administration. They would have been better staying in India and annoying the locals - they certainly annoyed my Father. Nothing was ever right , and if I had friends to play we had to make no noise. They never came to speak - but rather sent orders by notes - I suppose that was how they were used to living in India. No wonder we lost the Empire !

The Heath was magnificent - many square miles in size it was quite untouched in the central areas. Every year a circus
would set-up camp and had a big fair with-it. When we first went there I was too young to wander - but later, with my new friends we would explore all of the woods and pits.


Tucked away in a dip was the small village - and it was a village. There was one garage still running - a post office - the
Railway Station , opened in the early 1900's - one butcher - one greengrocer and, one grocer. There were a few other shops selling women's clothing, hairdressers and- very importantly, a toy shop. I have no idea what he actually used for stock - but, I do remember adding to my Dinky cars there.

When I described a grocer's shop in an earlier blog - I was actually thinking of the village one. The windows displayed no stock - and for the butcher - if my memory serves, there were plaster cast of bull's heads in the window. Very little meat was shown - they never had enough. Sausages, offal and birds could be sold without points - but there wasn't much of them. Thinking back it must have been dreadful for the butcher - everyone wanted to be his friend to try and get a little more Ours used to have a list of regular customers and allocated these extras in a fair way - I always remember one day when he said - your turn Mrs. Mitton to have a chicken. Everyone was so excited and were hugging and congratulating my Mother on her good fortune.

We take the riches of life so easily these days - even now I will always try to avoid waste


All little boys have to have a pet - we had brought our black and white cat Sooty with us - and following my Grandmother's orders he had his paws covered with scarce butter and was kept indoors for two days. This was to make him remember where he lived - I think witchcraft was still in existence - and as for wasting butter ! Anyway , he lived a happy life and was much loved. However, my Father decided I should have a dog - but , a small one as food was difficult and we didn't leave much. So, one day a small rough coated Cairn Terrier - called Tess (we weren't very original in those
days) appeared in my bedroom. Now, for those who don't know, a Cairn was bred to be carried in the saddle bags of the hunt master and was put in fox's lairs to drive them out - with the foxhounds outside - you will understand why a sensible fox stayed put and fought the cairn terrier. Ours was prone to false pregnancies and would prepare 'nests' for her non-existant pups. Unfortunately, this involved tearing strips off the wallpaper - which could not be replaced in the War. We had to keep her locked up wheh these phantoms happened.

I should have mentioned earler that when the house was converted we kept the basement and ground floor. Bedrooms and bathroom were downstairs and on the ground floor, the kitchen, enormous lounge dining room and study. There was also a large entry hall and all the glass was 1/4 inch thick plate glass. This will come-up again. My Grandmother had decided to stay in her house - probably safer, but it caused a lot of worry and trips when petrol was almost non-existant.
She was 69 at point in time.

Whilst all of these happenings were going on, I have overlooked to tell you that the Germans were still bombing us on a nearly daily basis - daytime and at night. We had a re-inforced small room in the basemment - and hoped for the best.

Next episode - I start 'big' school - I bet you can't wait ?

The Paragon in about 1840

Some of the War Damage

The Paragon as it is today

Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton


An Introduction

Well, hello !

I'm hoping not to waste your time here and apologise in advance for my complete lack of knowledge. Until recently, I had never really taken much interest in anything military-related....it always seemed more of a 'boys thing'.

Recently, my mother-in-law passed away and in the months following, my father-in-law brought us some items belonging to her father that he had 'collected' during the war. Now, apparently Harry was quite a character....a real 'lad', a wheeler and dealer (sounds like a fun guy, wish I'd met him). One can only imagine how some of these items came to be in his posession, or perhaps it's best not to.

Anyway, our Harry was also a very keen photographer and along with the badges, we also received a photo album. The images are amazing, some actually quite confronting in fact, but fascinating for those of us who (fortunately) have no idea what it must have been like to live through that time.

For my partner's 40th birthday, I had Harry's medals mounted in a frame with a photo and plaque denoting his service details. I also came across a book about his battalion, Muzzle Blast - Six Years with the 2/2 Australian Machine Gun Battalion AIF

So, here I am now with the book, the photos and these badges and buttons, trying to sort a collection into some sort of order, wishing we had known about this collection and the photos before he passed away. I hope you don't mind me sharing with you and asking for advice. I'll also ask that you please forgive my ignorance (feel free to correct me any time I make a mistake!).

Here is a photo from the album showing Harry (far left) while on leave in TelAviv

I will post photos of other items from the collection shortly.

Thanks for having me




Updated Chat Room

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One of the strange things that keeps coming to the surface with this article on my early War years - is the comparitive
normalacy that existed with ordinary - day-to day life. Yes, we lived in fear of the bombings and everywhere you went were bombed out or, damaged buildings. Yes, we also had severe rationing and shortages. But ordinary life went on - schools opened, business' were run, shops opened and we found ways to get around.

Just before we moved I developed a serious ear problem - something to do with the mastoid bone. I spent three months in hospital - for something today that would probably have you out in 3 or 4 days. They did not seem to have childrens' wards - at least I was in a general ward . Some civilians - but most were injured servicemen - some still in recuperation from Dunkirk.
You can imagine - I was thoroughly spoilt by everyone - I suppose I reminded them of their children or, brothers. When I was well enough to walk I used to help the nurses take medicines and drinks around. When the airraid sirens went off, those that could walk had to go to the shelters in the basements. Those in beds had to take their chances with the nurses staying.

Newspapers and magazines continued to be published and there was a great public demand for out of the ordinary items.
My Father had a two acre site in Greenwich (on the River Thames) growing fruit trees and bushes. There was great demand for these by mail order - and the Post Office still delivered very quickly. A large Nursery in Greenwich came-up for sale and the Ministry of Food asked him to buy it and produce tomatoes for London. With the loss of the Channel Islands usual supplies were gone and they were a much needed part of a staple diet.

My Father agreed and so he bacame the owner of a five acre (over 2 hectares) market nursery - which consisted of five
enormous greenhouses and many smaller ones. We were on the bombers' path so for the next 4 years he had to battle with special glass allocations to have them repaired after raids. He eventually had a shop built and supplied green grocery to the surrounding areas. I can remember going with him to Covent Garden Market early in the mornings to get supplies. It is now a street market for general goods. We had a Ford 10 cwt van (1/2 ton) and a i ton Old Morris van to move things around - with a minute petrol allowance for the two. Every week the famous old Humber car that Sir Winston Churchill rode-in would come to the nursery for tomatoes for 10 Downing Street. My Father showed me the rear window that was covered in small scratches and almost impossible to see through. The chauffer explained that it was the diamond rings of the Society women who mobbed Churchill whenever he was out

All of the above - and the difficulties of travelling - meant that we had to move closer to Greenwich. Blackheath is probably the most up-market area of London and indeed probably in the UK. It was developed in the mid 19th Century - although it is from when the Railway Station was built-in the early 20th. C. that it became so desireable. From Blackheath to Central London was less then 1/2 an hour - but, even with a horse and carriage it was probably under an hour.

Surrounding the large Heath were the houses and Mordern Road and the adjoining Paragon - a curved matching row built in 1806. were the most sought after. On the corner facing the Paragon is the famous Mordern College - this was built-in the late 17th C as Alm Houses for retired sea captains - although I saw on one stupid estate agents list that it was for retired Turkey farmers !

Mordern Road had been bombed badley - there were at least two - or, more - totally destroyed houses. This had happened in the Blitz and the rubble had been removed to be re-cycled for building material.

When Father was looking for a property he was offered this lovely Victorian house on 4 floors - 29 rooms in total. An elderly titled lady lived there and was desperate to go and live with relatives in the Country. Father made an offer of 1,000
pounds (I think the $ was on par then, so $2,000) and she accepted immediately - no-one was buying, everyone wanted to leave London. It had a large garden divided into two with trees in the middle - the far end was for greenhouses and vegs. and at the far end were the stables and staff housing. I see now that these have been separated and new houses built.

I have found this on the net - I have no idea if it was ours - but, it looks the same. Now days they are all flats. Father had the two top floors made into independent flats to help people who needed accomodation and we lived in the Ground floor and basement. The house was a paradise for a small boy and she had left all the toys in the nursery - so I found myself with a four feet long pond yacht - which I could hardly carry.

Well, in my usual way I seem to have 'rabbited ' on for pages - I do hope my one faithful reader had not become too despondent and jumped off a bridge. Next time - a different view of the War - and I start to grow-up.

Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton


1 October 2011

The weather has turned a bit cooler over a relatively short time (90's to 60's), and I'm beginning to get that sinking feeling that goes along with winter. Crap! As I have not relocated to sunnier climes, I have only myself to blame.

On the work front, the audit we were going through is now over and yes, we've been accredited yet again. Whew! Like a weight has been lifted. Our warden has moved on to much greener pastures (a promotion $$$), and we are now left wondering who's next... I have now been through 3 wardens. Had it out with my unit manager (sort of a "mini warden" for a single housing unit) and wondering how that will take shape. It was pretty bad, but it had been brewing for some time. I just "blew"... oh well, "no one expects the Spanish inquisition!". Also, and on the very down side of things, a good friend I worked with took his life last Friday. We shared the "Navy experience", had much in common, and I always looked forward to seeing him. I will miss him.

Off this weekend. Have been working on my galleries. I did get a chance to submit 4 images for the competition; hope to shoot more over the next two days, between the "must do's" here at home. More later.

Greg Collins

Greg Collins


Signature Database ?

Being a paperwork collector one of the reasons I collect the citations is for the signatures on them and as such have to trawl through books, websites and personally compiled files to find examples to provide a comparison. From what I know there are currently 3 dedicated threads/sections to signatures on the web, those being the one on Axis History, one on Dokumentenforum and the third on World War Militaria. Unfortunately the last one is a quiet forum and as such has a very limited number of people adding their examples (but has still been viewed over 10,000 times) while the one on AHF does have a tendency to stagnate and as good as it is it isn't all encompassing.

With such things in mind what are the views of members here to setting up a Pinned thread in the German Third Reich Document Section for the posting of recognised German signatures to build up and provide a database of such like for current and future collectors and not just restricted to Divisional Commanders or Luftwaffe Aces, or just military for that matter? The signatures could be members of all the various paramilitary & civil organisations, members of the 'Valkyrie' plot, as well as officers down to the Kompanie level - basically an all encompassing thread. We have all types of collectors here: TN, Polizei, Feldgendarmerie, OT, HV etc so the potential for building up a great database covering all such signatures is there.

Signatures could be from award citations, soldbucher, wehrpasse, ausweis, war time letters etc although I would shy away from post-war letters and photos due to the change of signatures due to age and the difficulty in corroborating them - but that is just a personal opinion and if the majority view it differently then so be it. All I would stipulate are threefold:

1) the person posting the signature must be the owner of the item and definitely no scans from books.
2) the signature should be shown in context (i.e. an image of the whole document is shown or at least partially shown to enable a date, location &/or authorising unit to be seen, with the owner's watermark on it somewhere obviously)
3) items published are NOT up for discussion in the thread - the idea is to build up a database rather then a discussion. If members have doubts about any that are posted then a PM to the Moderator with their views can be passed and regulated that way (or maybe an entry via this blog).

Basically if you have a signature on some paperwork and know who it belongs to then post it with some amplifying information on the signer, however basic, to build up a comprehensive database.
So with that in mind, please let me have your views and opinions.




The Nook. Chat Room

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There are limits to the amount of members that can use it at one time, but IF that because a regular issue, I can upgrade the licence to resolve that.

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Enjoy !




Memories of World War 2 - Part 5


I would like to make a personal observation - this blog on my very early life , necessarily deals with the Blitz and the dreadful and casual bombings of defenceless civilian areas. I am old enough - and well versed enough in history
to realise that the blame was not to all German citizens. There was a totalitarian regime in place and ordinary people really had very little control of what was happening. I have many German friends and have visited the Country on numerous occasions. We are dealing with historical events, that hopefully, will never be allowed to re-occur.

I realised yesterday, when checking Google under my name, that already these blogs have been re-printed. I have no problem with that - but, if it is possible to have a counter of visits it would let us know what is happening ?

This is a 250 kg German bomb - probably the most common to be dropped in the early part of the war. It would have contained nearly 440 lbs. of high explosive - allowing the remaining weight for the casing.

Along with the heavy bombs the Luftwaffe added very considerable numbers of Incendiary bombs and also of high explosive 'butterfly' bombs. These were both dropped together and caused the worst of the damage. The incendiaries
were a mixture of chemicals and could not be extinguished with water. Also, because the explosive Butterflies were dropped at the same time, you were killed whilst trying to put out the fire. Householders did their best - but most of the time the Fire Brigade couldn't even assist.

Every house was issued with two metal buckets for sand and a water bucket and stirrup pump. For anyone who has never seen one, they are used today in greenhouses. The long part of the pump goes into the bucket - you pump the handle to force water under pressure through a short hose you held in your right hand. The sand was to try and smother the incendiaries - the water to try and put out the blaze it had started. If it didn't upset me so much to write this - I could just laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Yes - we did practise - Mother was i/c sand buckets - Father was the pumper - me, at 4 years old was the supplier. I had to get sand from a heap in the back garden - water from the bathroom and, keep running next door to see my Grandmother was alright. Most houses burnt down when they were hit - the bombs settled in the lofts and people couldn't get to them. And, Yes - we were hit ! An incendiary hit the roof - came right through the ceiling and landed in the upper hall. My Father got sand on it before it did more then scorch the wallpaper. We were very lucky.

A typical Incendiary bomb.

Although the usual age for school was 5 years - looking at dates I think they must have allowed us to go sooner. Every
morning all the little children in the road met and then we had a short walk alongside the golf course to get to school. After the first few mornings parents stopped coming with us - it was a matter of a few hundred metres . I think it was one of these mornings that I knew I was destined to be a Constable............
We had a very heavy raid the night before and all of us were a bit shaken - I suppose there must have been 5 or 6 of us - all about the same age. While we were walking down the lane to the school I noticed strings of bombs hanging from trees just inside the golf course. We had regular lessons teaching us to recognise all these different things and I knew at once that they were Butterflies. I remember shouting that we had to run at once to school - which we safely diid. However, it was days before our area was declared safe - they were everywhere and many houses had been damaged or burnt.

I suppose to small children it was all a bit of a game - but, I think we did understand how serious it all was.

Some final memories of this house - we moved from Bexley to Blackheath in about the end of 1941. I mentioned earlier that we did not have an air raid shelter. When the daylight raids started in Sept. 1940 there was an urgency to having one. We started off with a Morrison Shelter , whilst waiting for the Anderson to be delivered. The Morrison was designed to be a table in the daytime - it had a metal top - also on the bottom. The sides were steel mesh and you crawled through a small door. It was horrible ! Try three of you sleeping in something the size of a single bed.

Anyway, we had to put up with it for a few months whilst the Anderson arrived and my Father and neighbours dug it's pit.
The War seemed to 'pull' people together and when something big , like the shelters had to be built - then everyone joined-in. The Anderson was six curved sheets of steel that had to be bolted together at the top. There was a metal backpiece and the front had a door opening. You made a hole about 3'6" deep (approx.1 m.) and built the shelter. The top was then covered with the earth you had dug out. They actually provided good protection - but they were damp and cold. Fortunately, my Grandmother had selected a brick shelter with a concrete roof and this was more comfortable. We used this one most of the time.

First thing in the morning - when Father opened the shelter doors - I had to rush off and look for shrapnel. Sometimes it was from bombs but, mostly from the anti-aircraft shells. All the boys collected this and by the time I moved must have had a pile about 3 feet high (1m)

When we into the shelter at night , there was always a steel box with all the family papers - insurance ID's etc. This was the only time in our history that British people had to carry an identity document.

OK - next episode, dear reader I shall be in another house - a very grand one ! The only problem was that Hitler kept trying to destroy it........

This was a Butterfly bomb - wings opened and it 'twirled' down.

A file picture of a Morrison shelter

A file picture of 2 Anderson shelters in different stages of completion

Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton


27 September 2011

It is dismal here for about the fourth day in a row... wet, dank and nasty. The sun has deserted us and I have a great crop of mushrooms- not the good kind (damn it)- growing on my lawn. It is difficult to get out and photograph more awards as I use the reflected sunlight for fill (my main light being the on-camera flash), so I'm concentrating on processing the images I already have and planning the next batch.

Most of my active collecting has been, well, over for a while now. The images I'm adding to the galleries are of awards and badges that have been with me for a good long while. Occasionally I'll get a new piece- maybe once every two months. I generally go for the "odd" things that amuse me these days (they're generally not expensive items), like the Georgia SSR Volunteer Police badge- you don't see those alot (Igor doesn't even have one right this minute).

I did get something, or a few somethings, new yesterday. Several documents from Pridnestrovie (PMR)... two large honour documents, two blank docs for the gold and silver 65th Year Victory in the GPW medals and a doc for a 50th Year Victory in the GPW ( Russian Fed medal issued by the PMR!). So, that was all good. Another doc was "thrown-in" to the mix... a Black Sea Cossack document of some kind- not an award, but maybe an invitation. More on that later.

Back to work for two days tomorrow and then off for the weekend. Added bonus... Friday is payday!!! What's not to like?

Greg Collins

Greg Collins


Memories of World War 2 - Part 4

OK - I've dallied enough - time to get on with part 4 ! I expect most of you are familiar with Blogs - I'm not, and I find it
very strange typing these old memories into space - and having no real idea if anyone is reading them - or, more
importantly - finding them of the slightest interest ? I don't expect comments, but , it would be nice if there was a counter.
I would like to just say, that I have found a few Google pictures of things I am referring to - I will post where appropriate.
I can't find my early photo albums - which is a pity. Please remember, that I am writing this from the viewpoint of a small child - there was history being made all around me that I was not aware of at that time.


So,what was the terrible surprise my Grandmother made for me ? A small uniform of an aircraftsman in the RAF. It had a tunic, trousers and the sidecap - and the trousers were held up with tape in a bow at the front. More of that later. All small
boys in Britain were put into these type of uniform - it showed our support for the troops. Why the RAF - they were the ones fighting on a daily basis to defend Britain and were the heroes of the hour.

This is what you musn't overlook - whilst it was the 'phony' war in Europe, England was being bombed on a daily basis.
These were daylight raids and this was the Battle of Britain. Basically, they were aiming for the docks and industrial areas and we were not too badly affected - although many houses were hit when they missed - or, just dropped their bombs without caring. We were always kept close to home - and of course, at this time I was not at school.

There were virtually no cars on the roads - mainly military vehicles. My Father had obtained a bicycle and it had a child's seat on the back - I remember sitting behind when he took me for a haircut. Aircraft overhead were common and I often
saw aerial dog-fights - we would all cheer for ours and I remember seeing one shot-down - to a small boy that was a dose of reality.


Britain was just so short of everything - every park had it's railings cut down to be melted. Didn't matter - no-one went out at night. I remember my Mother's Grandmother being ill and we had to catch a bus. Total darkness - torches had to have a cover with the tiniest of slits - buses had a tiny light inside and the headlamps also, had tiny slits. We made it, but
my Mother stayed the night, I was too frightened to go back in the dark. I was only about 3 1/2. I was not to see street lamps or, cars with headlights until after VDAY in 1945.

Aluminium was the sought after metal - we needed it for aircraft. People would come to the door asking for old saucepans -
in the end my Mother had to say no, and hung onto what we had.

Because we lived just outside of Central London no-one - as far as I remember - had air raid shelters. We had practise of going into the cupboard under the stairs - which the ARP Wardens said was safest (Air Raid Precautions). Apart from these incidents, life went on as normal for a small child. This was to shortly change.

One point I would like to make - Britain had double summertime during the War - this meant that the clocks were put back 2 hours to take advantage of daylight. That meant it was light at 4 a.m. and in summer dark at 8p.m. However, in Winter
it meant we were in total darkness by 2-3p.m. in the afternoon.


Normal regulations were suspended to allow the keeping of poultry - also, people were encouraged to support the War Effort and grow their own vegetables. We had a small flock of about 8 or 9 Ducks - about a dozen hens , which of course only lay in the Summer. Forget eggs at other times - we are all spoilt today with battery chickens. A chicken was a luxury food that was not rationed and my parents had to learn how to kill and prepare one. How many people could do that today ? We would have one on very special occasions. We also kept rabbits. This was a problem - I grew too fond of them and played-up when one was to be killed. I was allowed to keep one white one - and he actually won a small cup - which I still have over 70 years later !

To preserve eggs over the winter my Father had buckets filled with Isinglass in the spare bedroom. They didn't taste like eggs we know, but that was how they were preserved. I have no idea what Isinglass was. He also obtained an incubator
and at the right time would put eggs in to hatch and we raised them in the garden.

With the two gardens opened-up - the fence was taken down between them - we had potatoes and all of the green and root vegs. I have read articles in later years that say this was the most nutritious food the British had eaten and we were stronger and fitter for the limited diet. You rarely saw obese people - not like today will all the fatty foods.

We certainly needed to supplement our food rations. I think at this time an adult - on his ration book , got about three rashers of bacon a week. Butter was about 2 0zs. (64 gms.) eggs - 1 or 2 a week, Meat about 4 ozs a week (125gms.).
Of course ration books were saved and therefore for meat , we could have a whole 3/4 of a lb between three people (375gms). My Grandmother was a great cook and remembered the meals from the 1st WW - when food had also been short. Eggs changed when America entered the War and started sending powdered eggs - we also got Spam - and I still like it.

One of the most strange memories for me is that I remember a grocer's shop before supermarkets and processed food.
Tins were on shelves at the back - a front food counter held the perishables - and biscuits were weighed from the tins they came-in. Oh, Yes ! You also queued for everything - meat, veggies, groceries, sweets. There was always a line outside - even early in the morning. And, when word went round that something that had been out of stock was back -
then see the women move. When I was in a push chair I could go as well, but after that it was too long for me to stand.


The Battle of Britain - despite horrendous for our young pilots, was won by the RAF - coming to a head when we shot down over 200 German planes in one day. Numbers are contested by both sides - but, it was something around that figure. The German Airforce could not sustain losses of that size and they changed tactics.

Flying at night was difficult in those days - pilots were never sure exactly where they were - hence the importance of no lights showing. From our point of view it also made it very difficult for our planes to locate the enemy. London was ringed with heavy ack-ack guns - 3,7" and also lighter 40mm Bofors guns for lower flying aircraft - strangely, 14 years later in Australia I was to be an instructor in Sydney on these light anti -aircraft guns. Giant searchlights were also installed to
support the ack-ack and when a beam caught a bomber all of the other lights closed-in as well. Then the guns opened-up. It was strange to see this small plane in the middle of the guns and puffs of smoke going off all around.

From Sept.7th. 1940 to 10th May 1941 - 76 consecutive nights - London was bombed by consecutive waves of German bombers. The damage was unbelievable - the casualties horrific. There was no quarter given to Civilians and it was this time that Children were permanently evacuated throughout Britian - some never to return home until after 1945. We left to an Uncle in Watford for a few weeks, but both my Mother and I had a 'meeting' and decided we would go home.

This was the period of the famous London Blitz. Many people left for outer areas at night - but we stayed put. Because - like many others , we had not installed a shelter, we were very vulnerable. The Germans were trying to hit the Pool of London - West India Docks - Deptford - Greenwich and Gravesend. However, in the dark they were very inaccurate and the houses and towns around were very badly hit. Several houses around us were hit and destroyed and many fell on a golf course which was at the end of our road.

I clearly remember my Father carrying me out of the shelter one night - that is when we had one - and the whole skyline from left to right was a a red colour. This was the famous night when London was nearly destroyed - when St. Paul's Cathedral stood alone in the flames - the night that is usually credited with British people saying - Enough - we will not be destroyed ! This was in December of 1940 - I was 4 years old - and I will never forget.

Next thrilling instalment on Wednesday - is there any one out there ?


Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton