Home Guard…. Not always a cushy number….

I have been rather busy lately with work and other commitments, however I still try to keep up with my hobby and while nosing through some interesting paperwork on Home Guard (HG) awards, I was struck by the thought that people often mistake the HG for a “cushy little number” of old men guarding Britain from a non-existent invasion; However this is completely untrue and these men served a valuable purpose and often put themselves into harms way in order to save others from injury.

Here are just a few examples:

British Empire Medal:

Sergeant W. DAVIES and Private G. E. REES; 15th GLAMORGANSHIRE (GOWER) BATTALION

“On 11th December 1942 a report was received indicating that Royal Air Force personnel were in danger off Burry Holmes. Sergeant Davies instructed Private Rees to accompany him and they went to the point indicated where they saw five men clinging to the rocks in the sea some distance from the mainland. These five men had been there for three days in a rubber dinghy without food and were totally exhausted.  “In extremely dangerous conditions, at high spring tide, and in a raging storm Sergeant Davies and Private Rees plunged into the open sea to render assistance. Sergeant Davies and Private Rees reached the five men, rendered them first aid and remained with them for two hours until the tide had receded sufficiently for them to be helped to the mainland. But for such assistance all five men would unquestionably have lost their lives as they were in imminent danger of being washed away in the storm.
“The actions of these two men called for the greatest bravery and determination and resulted in the saving of the lives of the five Royal Air Force personnel.”

Sergeant W. R. GREEN; 1st HAMPSHIRE (ANDOVER) BATTALION

“On 3rd October 1943 Sergeant Green and an officer were conveying a projectile, which was thought to be defective, for demolition. A short distance from their destination the projectile exploded. The truck in which they were travelling continued on its course until it hit a hedge. Sergeant Green, though badly wounded, bleeding heavily and in great pain and unable to walk, succeeded in getting the officer out of the truck as he was too seriously wounded to move himself. Sergeant Green then crawled about one and a quarter miles to a farm for assistance. It is considered that unless Sergeant Green, by. his fortitude and presence of mind under circumstances in which he might have thought the condition of the officer to be hopeless, had striven to crawl that long distance to secure help the officer would not have survived to receive medical attention.”

Volunteer S. W. ANTHONY; 1st BATTALION ‘P’ ZONE, LONDON [later 51st KENT BATTALION]

“In October 1940 at Bromley a house received a direct bit from a bomb. When Anthony was told that people bad been trapped he went through a ground floor window, although the house was collapsing, and found an injured man trying to rescue his child. He helped the man out and then, with the aid of another helper, began the work of rescuing the child.”

Lance-Corporal E. T. MONK and Corporal E. C. SARGENT; 7th SURREY (DORKING) BATTALION

“In April 1944 an aircraft flew over Home Guard personnel training near Lowfield Heath, Surrey and was seen to crash; a terrific explosion followed. The aircraft had come to rest on its back and caught fire. Second Lieutenant Walker and Corporals Monk and Sargent rushed to the scene and, regardless of the burning wreckage and the possibility of exploding bombs and petrol tanks, Second Lieutenant Walker crawled under the wing and, assisted by the two n.c.o.’s, succeeded in releasing the pilot from his harness and dragging him clear of the flames. Had it not been for the prompt and courageous action of these three men the pilot would undoubtedly have been burned to death.”

3178648 Company Sergeant-Major E. SMITH, K.O.S.B. 1st DUMFRIESSHIRE BATTALION

“On 3rd June 1942 C.S.M. Smith was supervising live grenade practice by members of the 1st Dumfries Battalion, Home Guard, to which he was attached. During the practice a grenade hit the top of the parapet and fell back into the priming bay. He closed the lids of the fuse and grenade boxes and kicked the grenade round a corner into the passage. The grenade exploded almost immediately, severely wounding C.S.M. Smith, whose action undoubtedly averted very serious consequences and probably saved the life of the soldier who was present in the bay. Had C.S.M. Smith not contrived to kick the grenade round the corner there would have been a grave chance of it coming to rest and exploding with very serious consequences at the entrance to the shelter, which contained forty men. His courageous conduct is enhanced by the fact that he was aware that the grenade was fitted with a four second fuse. He is now making a good recovery from his wounds.”

George Medal:

Platoon Commander R. HAIGH; 9th BIRMINGHAM (PUBLIC UTILITIES) BATTALION [later 29th WARWICKSHIRE (BIRMINGHAM) BATTALION]

“At about eight p.m. on 22nd November 1940 a number of incendiary bombs fell on the Wagon Repair Shops and on Washwood Heath Gas Works. Haigh was P 19 Company Duty Officer and after one or two small fires in P 19 area had received attention, he proceeded, with Volunteer S. A. Tyler, to the Gas Works. They found two fires in the coal stack and extinguished them. Two smoke screen containers had been ignited and were burning with considerable flame. These, in the absence of equipment for dealing with oil fires, were extinguished with some difficulty. There was a plume of flame in the crown of one gasholder; at the time the crown on the gasholder was some 200 feet high. Haigh, taking the initiative and with three other men, ascended to the crown of the holder carrying sacks, and after considerable effort extinguished the fire and partially stopped the escape of gas with bags and clay. Another aperture in the crown of the holder, through which gas was escaping but not burning, was dealt with in the same way. No protective equipment was carried. The raid was still in progress, with bombs dropping in the vicinity, and the flame from the holder must have provided a continuous beacon. The action taken by Haigh and the other three men not only promptly removed the beacon, but also saved a considerable quantity of gas from escaping.”

George Cross:

Lieutenant W. FOSTER, M.C., D.C.M.; 7th WILTSHIRE (SALISBURY) BATTALION

“When Lieutenant Foster was instructing a class in throwing live grenades a Mills bomb rebounded to the firing position. Without hesitation Lieutenant Foster threw himself on the bomb one second before it exploded, thus saving the lives of his comrades nearby. This officer’s gallant action was not carried out in the heat of battle, but deliberately in cold blood, and with full knowledge of the consequences. As a result of this action Lieutenant Foster lost his life.”

 

Military Medal:

Volunteer G. JONES; 3rd MONMOUTHSHIRE (NEWPORT) BATTALION

“On 12th/13th July 1940 Volunteer Jones was a member of a guard posted in defence of a vital point. The post was bombed, one man being killed and another seriously wounded.
“Volunteer Jones, who was himself in a place of safety, heard the groans of the wounded man and at once left shelter and carried him on his back under cover. During this time bombs, debris, large pieces of steelwork and heavy glass were still falling and Volunteer Jones carried out his task with complete disregard for his own safety. His courageous behaviour set a fine example to all those present.”

 

All very gallant men, and there are many more than this, around 1000 awards in total; If you want to read more: http://www.home-guard.org.uk/hg/med.html please check out this website, 🙂

South African Air Force Pilot’s Gallantry in Ethiopia

VC010

Wheatley

Captain Wheatley was awarded his AFC on the 14th June 1945 in the birthday honours list. Captain Wheatley had on numerous occasions shown himself to be a gallant man and extraordinary pilot.

Now I am sure most of you can read the original newspaper cuttings I have posted here, but here is a quick run down of what happened:

A European Captain fighting with the Ethiopian Patriot Army had been gravely wounded fighting against the Italians during a pitched firefight lasting many hours, and needed extraction for treatment quickly, the Ethiopians set up a rough landing strip by clearing some scrubland and Captain Douglas Wheatley South African Air Force volunteered for the mission. He showed extreme bravery and skill in landing and taking off in such difficult conditions, although the captain sadly later died from his wounds.

 

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Less than 100 Air Force Crosses were awarded to South African Air Force pilots for the whole of WW2.

VC013

Captain D.G.R.Wheatley spent from October to December 1940 flying Hartbees carrying out a variety of training exercises from Dive Bombing and Ground Strafing to General Reconaissance. From January 1941 until May 1941. From June 1941 he began his combat with bombing on Billo and Baccon. In August 1941 he carried out a total of 11 bombing missions mainly on Gondar and Debareck. He carried out on these missions throughout the rest of 1941. On 11.11.1941 his Second Pilot Sefton was badly wounded in action and died the following day. He carried out his first ground strafe ten days later firing 500 rounds. Gondar surrendered on the 27th November and in the log book he notes “Saw White Flag”. [The Battle of Gondar was the last stand of the Italian forces in Italian East Africa during the Second World War. The battle took place in November 1941, during the East African Campaign. The Italian garrison of 40,000 was commanded by Generale Guglielmo Nasi ] He began Night Flights in March 1942 and in August began training on Oxfords. In November 1942 he was posted to 66 Air School, Cape Town, and began conversion to Ansons. This training led to Anti-Submarine patrols and he fired a number of depth charges and carried out numerous patrols until June 1943. For the remainder of the war he spent his time flying Ansons and continued to carry out a combination of Anti-Submarine patrols, Training, Reconnaisance etc.

 

VC009

Real life Biggles…..

Hero who makes Biggles look like a wimp: He’s flown more planes than anyone else in history – and took 2,000 Nazis prisoner single-handed. And now, at 94, he’s telling his breathtaking story

Eric Brown must rank as the most extraordinary airman alive. Indeed, open his memoirs at any page and you are left asking a single question: how on earth did this modest Scotsman live to tell the tale?  But Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown RN is very much alive and in sparkling form as he pours me a glass of sherry at his West Sussex home and reflects on an astonishing life. This is the man who has flown more aircraft than anyone else in history.  He was the first man to fly a jet on and off an aircraft carrier. He has set aviation records that will almost certainly never be broken and is revered as one of the greatest test pilots of all time.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2320463/ROBERT-HARDMAN-Hero-Captain-Eric-Winkle-Brown-makes-Biggles-look-like-wimp-tells-story.html

Eric “Winkle” Brown, holder of the AFC, DSC, MBE, and OBE (Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Member of the Order of the British Empire, and Officer of the Order of the British Empire).  He apparently took 2000 prisoners at Belsen concentration camp with only one pistol and without firing a shot… (Commando comic do daring if ever you heard it).  He later picked up a Kings Commendation for Brave Conduct (Similar to a mention in dispatches: acknowledged brave acts by civilians and members of the military in non-warlike circumstances during a time of war or in peacetime where the action would not otherwise be recognised by an existing award.)  and lastly the Queen conferred a CBE on this brave man in 1970 in recognition of his service as her Aide Du Camp.  I look forward to more information coming out about this man and his incredible story!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Brown_%28pilot%29

Minsk Partisan…..

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Commander of Radio Operations at Minsk Partisan Headquarters; Pavel Vishnivetskiy.

Little is known about Pavel (anglicised it would be read as Paul), except that from the paperwork, he joined the Minsk Partisans as a “Commander of the Communications Centre” in September 1943, and left them in July 1944, presumably the Partisan units were stood down when Soviet forces re-captured Minsk in July.

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After the war we know that he also worked as a Radio operator working in the Magadan Oblast region (Magadan being temporarily sanctioned a “Potemkin village” in 1944).  Magadan post war was a centre for forced labour gold mining.  The only airport in the area was “Magadan 13”, the airport handled primarily only Ilyushin ll-14 aircraft, he was awarded the “Flight Radio Operators Badge”, for 3000 hours safe flying in 1989. This overall is all I know about Pavel, other than his name shows he was most likely Jewish, and from this we can theorise that he may have been in the Minsk Ghetto, accounting for his late deployment to the Minsk Partisan units, he might well have been working in the underground in the Ghetto prior to this, with the date of 1943, being the year of the liquidation of the Ghetto, and of many thousands of people being sent to camps and executed.

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Partisans:

The Minsk ghetto, held close to 100,000 people, most of whom perished in the Holocaust, around 10,000 people escaped to join resistance forces and fight for their freedom.   The Minsk partisans have found fame in films such as “Come and See” and “Defiance”.

“In August 1941 about 231 partisan detachments were operating already in Belarus. The units totalled 437 by the end of the 1941, comprising more than 7,200 personnel.  As the front line moved further away, the logistical conditions steadily worsened for the partisan units, as the resources ran out, and there was no wide-scale support from over the front line until March 1942. One outstanding difficulty was the lack of radio communication, which wasn’t addressed until April 1942. The support of the local people was also insufficient.  So, for several months, partisan units in Belarus were virtually left to themselves. Especially difficult for the partisans was the winter of 1941-1942, with severe shortages in ammunition, medicine and supplies. The actions of partisans were prevailingly uncoordinated.  In Belarus, the SS-Sonderbataillon “Dirlewanger” came under the command of Central Russia’s Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer, Erich von dem Bach Zelewski. The “Dirlewanger” resumed anti-partisan duties in this area, working in cooperation with the Kaminski Brigade for the first time. Its conduct in the Soviet Union, rather than improving, worsened and atrocities were a daily occurrence. It is estimated that 200 villages were burned and 120,000 civilians were killed during the actions involving the Dirlewanger in Belarus 1942-1944.  The turning point in the development of the Soviet partisan movement came with the opening of the Vitsyebsk gate, the corridor connecting the Soviet and German-occupied territories, in February 1942. The partisan units were included in the overall Soviet strategical developments shortly after that, and the centralized organizational and logistical support had been organized, with Gate’s existence being the very important facilitating factor. As early as the spring of 1942 the Soviet partisans were able to effectively harass German troops and significantly hamper their operations in the region.

In the Spring 1942, the aggregation of the smaller partisan units into brigades began, prompted by the experience of the first year of war. The coordination, numerical build-up, structural rework and now established logistical feed all translated to the greatly increased partisan units military capability, which showed, e.g., in the increased number of diversions on the railroads, reaching hundreds of engines and thousands of cars destroyed by the end of the year.  By the November of 1942, Soviet partisan units in Belarus numbered about 47,000 personnel.  In January 1943, out of 56,000 partisan personnel, 11,000 were operating in the West Belarus.

The build-up of the Soviet partisan force in the West Belarus was ordered and implemented during 1943, with nine brigades, 10 detachments and 15 operational groups transferred from the Eastern to Western lands, effectively tripling the Partisan force there (to 36,000 in December 1943). It is estimated that ~10,000-12,000 personnel were transferred, and about same number came from the local volunteers. The build-up of the military force was complemented by the ensuing build-up of the underground Communist Party structures and propaganda activity.  In the Fall 1943, the partisan force in BSSR totaled about 153,000, and by the end 1943 about 122,000, with about 30,000 put behind the front line in the course of liberation of eastern parts of BSSR (end 1943). The partisan movement was so strong that by 1943-1944 there were entire regions in occupied Belarus, where Soviet authority was re-established deep inside the German held territories.”

http://www.belarusguide.com/history1/WWII_partisan_resistance_in_Belarus.htm

http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/belarus/bel427.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarusian_partisans

However from research conducted by my friend Sergio Rustichelli, to whom I would like to place my thanks on record, it would appear that despite a Jewish sounding surname he may not have been a Ghetto inmate at all, in fact it seems likely that he was a Russian Air force member.

“Once through its connected Paul learned that in prison Komarichsky contains two Soviet pilots who were shot down in a serious condition and taken to jail. Nezymaev won permission from the district authorities to survey the prison.  On examination, the doctor gave the conclusion that the pilots Starostin and Wisniewski need hospital treatment. A few days later the two pilots were taken to hospital. After recovery, they were transferred to the guerrilla group.”

http://old.bryanskobl.ru/projects/partisan/events.php?category=42

And so it would appear that he was a crew member, possibly a radio operator judging by his qualification badge.  He appears to have been shot down, or crashed, wounded and then have joined the Partisans later on, which would explain his rise in the ranks quickly, his position and why his service started so abruptly.

Flight Lieutenant Les Brodrick RAFVR – “Great Escaper”, Dies Age 92

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Flight Lieutenant Les Brodrick RAFVR

Flight Lieutenant Brodrick, was the 52nd man to escape from the tunnel on March 24th 1944; he was one of 76 men to escape that night, however nearly all were rounded up and 50 were executed by firing squad on Hitlers orders.

Les was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAFVR and signed up when he was just 22, his Lancaster bomber was shot down over France while he was serving with 106 Squadron in 1942, off the seven men on board just three survived to be taken to Stalag Luft III, near Sagan Balaria in Poland, which was an air force PoW camp holding 10,000 prisoners.  He was enlisted into the escape plan masterminded by RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, which was supposed to see 250 men escape simultaneously to spread chaos around German-controlled territory.

This man and the 75 others, embodied the spirit of the British officer, to whom it was a sworn duty to attempt to escape and to cause havoc for the enemy whilst in captivity.

These are the 50 men killed in cold blood; Murdered (executed denies the fact these men were unarmed uniformed combatants and belies the total disregard for the Geneva convention), in batches by the Gestapo, and others.

Name

 

Rank

Number

Service

Died

Age

Grave No.

Birkland

Henry

Flight Lieutenant

J/5233

RCAF

31/03/44

25

7.C.3

Brettell

Edward Gordon

Flight Lieutenant

61053

RAF(VR)

29/03/44

29

Coll. 9.A

Bull

Leslie George

Flight Lieutenant

43932

RAF

29/03/44

?

7.C.1

Bushell

Roger Joyce

Squadron Leader

90120

RAF

29/03/44

33

Coll. 9.A

Casey

Michael James

Flight Lieutenant

39024

RAF

31/03/44

?

7.D.3

Catanach

James

Squadron Leader

400364

RAAF

29/03/44

22

Coll. 9.A

Christensen

Arnold George

Flight Lieutenant

413380

RNZAF

29/03/44

21

Coll. 9.A

Cochran

Dennis Herbert

Flying Officer

122441

RAF(VR)

31/03/44

23

Coll. 9.A

Cross

Ian Kingston Pembroke

Squadron Leader

39305

RAF

31/03/44

25

7.C.2

Espelid

Halldor

Lieutenant

378

Norwegian

29/03/44

23

?

Evans

Brian Herbert

Flight Lieutenant

42745

RAF

31/03/44

24

7.C.6

Fugelsang

Nils

Lieutenant

742

Norwegian

29/03/44

?

?

Gouws

J.S.

Lieutenant

103275

SAAF

29/03/44

24

Coll. 9.A

Grisman

William Jack

Flight Lieutenant

45148

RAF

06/04/44

29

8.C.4

Gunn

Alastair Donald Mackintosh

Flight Lieutenant

60340

RAF(VR)

06/04/44

24

8.D.7

Hake

Albert Horace

Warrant Officer

403218

RAAF

31/03/44

27

7.D.4

Hall

Charles Piers

Flight Lieutenant

50896

RAF(VR)

30/03/44

?

Coll. 9.A

Hayter

Anthony Ross Henzell

Flight Lieutenant

42124

RAF

06/04/44

23

Coll. 9.A

Humphreys

Edgar Spottiswoode

Flight Lieutenant

44177

RAF(VR)

31/03/44

29

8.C.5

Kidder

Gordon Arthur

Flight Lieutenant

J/10177

RCAF

29/03/44

29

8.D.5

Kierath

Reginald Victor

Flight Lieutenant

402364

RAAF

29/03/44

29

8.D.3

Kiewnarski

Antoni

Major

P0109

Polish

31/03/44

45

?

Kirby-Green

Thomas Gresham

Squadron Leader

39103

RAF

29/03/44

?

7.D.7

Kolanowski

Wlodzimierz

Flying Officer

P0243

Polish

31/03/44

30

?

Krol

Stanislaw Z.

Flying Officer

P0237

Polish

14/04/44

27

?

Langford

Patrick Wilson

Flight Lieutenant

C/1631

RCAF

31/03/44

24

7.C.7

Leigh

Thomas Barker

Flight Lieutenant

46462

RAF

31/03/44

25

7.C.4

Long

James Leslie Robert

Flight Lieutenant

89375

RAF(VR)

13/04/44

?

8.D.6

McGarr

Clement Aldwyn Neville

Lieutenant

95691

SAAF

06/04/44

?

7.D.6

McGill

George Edward

Flight Lieutenant

J/5312

RCAF

31/03/44

?

8.C.7

Marcinkus

Romas

Flight Lieutenant

89580

RAF(VR)

29/03/44

?

Coll. 9.A

Milford

Harold John

Flight Lieutenant

103586

RAF(VR)

06/04/44

?

Coll. 9.A

Mondschein

Jerzy Tomasc

Flying Officer

P0913

Polish

29/03/44

35

?

Pawluk

Kazimierz

Flying Officer

P0740

Polish

31/03/44

27

?

Picard

Henri Albert

Flight Lieutenant

87693

RAF(VR)

29/03/44

?

Coll. 9.A

Pohe

Porokoru Patapu

Flying Officer

402894

RNZAF

31/03/44

29

Coll. 9.A

Scheidhauer

Bernard W.M.

Sous-Lt

30649

French

29/03/44

22

?

Skanzikas

Sortis

Pilot Officer

213

Greek

30/03/44

22

?

Stevens

R.J.

Lieutenant

47431

SAAF

29/03/44

24

Coll. 9.A

Stewart

Robert Campbell

Flying Officer

130452

RAF(VR)

31/03/44

33

8.C.6

Stower

John Gifford

Flight Lieutenant

107520

RAF(VR)

31/03/44

?

Coll. 9.A

Street

Denys Oliver

Flight Lieutenant

123026

RAF(VR)

06/04/44

21

3.A.24

Swain

Cyril Douglas

Flight Lieutenant

37658

RAF

31/03/44

?

8.C.1

Tobolski

Pawel Whilem

Flying Officer

P0375

Polish

02/04/44

38

?

Valenta

Arnost

Flight Lieutenant

82532

RAF(VR)

31/03/44

?

Coll. 9.A

Walenn

Gilbert William

Flight Lieutenant

73022

RAF(VR)

29/03/44

28

Coll. 9.A

Wernham

James Chrystall

Flight Lieutenant

J/6144

RCAF

30/03/44

27

8.C.2

Wiley

George William

Flight Lieutenant

J/7234

RCAF

31/03/44

?

7.D.2

Williams

John Edwin Ashley

Squadron Leader

40652

RAF

29/03/44

24

8.D.1

Williams

John Francis

Flight Lieutenant

106173

RAF(VR)

06/04/44

26

8.C.3

This information obtained from: http://www.stephen-stratford.co.uk/the_50.htm an interesting little site and well worth a read.

The following sites were used for information and as general reference:

http://www.hatfield-herts.co.uk/aviation/gtespguide.html

http://www.raf.mod.uk/project104/news/index.cfm?storyid=D4D0C5BF-1143-EC82-2E34F97B029FD2DA

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2308039/Survivor-Great-Escape-spared-firing-squad-Hitler-dies-aged-92.html

http://www.looklocal.co.za/looklocal/content/en/amanzimtoti/amanzimtoti-news-general?oid=4971430&sn=Detail&pid=4197417&Leslie%E2%80%99s-Great-Escape-tunnels-unearthed