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Memories of the War - John Chalcraft

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:20 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

1941. Walking down the main road in a Hampshire village as an 8-year-old, staring up in the sky watching aerial dogfights between German and allied aircraft, Messerschmitts and Focke Wulfs against Hurricane and Spitfires. Machine gun and cannon fire, wheeling aircraft in and out of the clouds. Wishing like mad that I could be in one of the Allied aircraft.

During the heavy bombing, We were about 25 miles from Portsmouth and Southampton, but the sky was a red glow from the fires, so we could sit with the curtains open and have enough light to sit around the table and have our tea.

Prior to D-Day. Word in the village was that gliders had crashed at the north end of the village. We boys jumped on our bicycles and peddled furiously up to the spot. We found that three Hawser gliders had landed in a field next to the children's home. Unfortunately, the ground slopes sharply down to a group of mature Beech trees. The gliders had crashed into them, mostly removing their wings. Fortunately, only the pilots were on board as it seemed to be a training mission.

Waking up and finding a field near the centre of the village full of Bell tents. An American airborne unit bivouacked overnight.

Hearing that a Flying Fortress had crashed nearby another bicycle journey to view the site. We boys managed to collect some pieces of the Perspex from the cockpit. With the help of a hot poker and a hacksaw, we turned into rings. We thought they were great.

My father had built an air-raid shelter next to our house. When the V1 and V2 bombs came over, you could hear the drone of their engines approaching, and hoped like hell, that it kept running. Which meant of course, that it was going to fall somewhere else. On a few occasions, the engine cut out above us, and it was a rush to get into the shelter. You just got settled when you heard the Crump of the explosion in the vicinity.

History

Person the story/items relate to

John Chalcraft

Person who shared the story/items

John Chalcraft

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Self

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

97724