Bomb Alley to Hellfire Corner

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The true-life account of a group of children getting up to mischief under the sky path nicknamed Bomb Alley to Hell Fire Corner, in Kent during the second world war, juxtaposed with sobering accounts of violence and despair. The story of Ron Shears and his pals. The only true account of life in Bomb Alley.

Friday, September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland. World War 2 begins.

On September 3, 1939, Neville Chamberlain broadcast to the nation that Britain was at war with Germany. That night on the BBC Home Service at 6 p.m. radio announcer Alvar Liddell explained in more detail what was going to happen. This announcer became so familiar that the British people looked forward to his distinctive voice and his faultless delivery of these historic events.

“The German air force is to overcome the British air force with all means at its disposal, and as soon as possible,” ordered Hitler; not the first to have fixed his gaze upon the White Cliffs of Dover and the green tranquil pastures beyond – but certainly one of the first by air.

On July 11th, 1940, the corpulent Luftwaffe C-in-C, Reichsmarschall Herman Wilhelm Goering, promised Adolf Hitler, “The defence of Southern England will last four days and the Royal Air Force four weeks. We can guarantee invasion for the Fuhrer within a month.” There were many others further down the pecking order eager for recognition, leaving the path open for the Invasion of England.

And so the stage was set: the players in place and their mounts selected. Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding – the appointed director – was pulled back from retirement by the Air Ministry and asked to remain for an ‘unspecified time.’ His second in command was Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Rodney Park, a New Zealand soldier. Unknown to Dowding and Park, their volunteer cast and the audience, it would be the finest production ever. There were no scripts or rehearsals, and the ending was unknown. Only one of two conclusions would emerge: either the Royal Air Force would hold the island fort and give Britain time to regroup, or the Luftwaffe would back up their Commanding Officers’ promise.

I was a nipper – just five years old – when The Battle of Britain began. We had the time of our lives playing outside, not realizing what the wailing sirens really signified until years later. Now, as I recall those happy memories, the realities of the chaos that surrounded us and the dangers we evaded are a source of fascination.

Home, was Chatham, Kent, midway between London and Dover. It was aptly named ‘Bomb Alley’ on account of the first 4,585-lb. flying bomb exploding there in the early morning of June 13, 1944. Bomb Alley was a sky path from Dover to London. I remember dogfights and the nightly bombings as if they happened yesterday. Before the war finished, 1,388 V1 rockets had crashed all over Kent and a further 1000 plus were shot onto the beaches along the 15-mile stretch of coast west of Dover to Lydd: thereafter named ‘Hellfire Corner’.

This collection of memories concerns my friends and me from the age of 5-12 and what we and our families endured during World War 2. We nippers had a ball as oblivious children and are no doubt all the better for it, but I do hope today’s children never have to go through such an experience.

This is the drama that unfolded for my young friends and me during Britain’s darkest hour – the writing of which is my way of saying THANK YOU to all who fought for us and kept us safe. Winston Churchill said, ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ The few numbered about 1,000 pilots, there was also a bunch of 20 skilled ground crew needed to keep each fighter pilot airborne. These were “The Many.”  The forgotten men and Women.

Pilots are were paid 11/- shillings a day, plus £25 annual flying pay and dependents’ allowance. Some too young to hold a driving licence, yet flying the World’s fastest aircraft. The incredible way they flipped over a rocket, had nothing to do with pay.

Also, read; The Skunks Room and my feature screenplay, Cast of Eagles deals with eight BoB (Battle of Britain) top guns and their meeting 10-years later. Great material for actor Tom Cruise who owns a Mustang fighter.

On November 25, 1940, Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding was relieved of his command and given just twenty-four hours to clear his office. The Air Council said, “They had no further work to offer him.” He is the only man in World history who ever won a major air battle or ever will. It just happened to be the most important one in the history of the World.

He later became Lord Dowding of Bentley Prior on 2 June 1943. He died on 15 February 1970 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. His statue stands outside the Royal Air Force Church, St. Clement Danes in the Strand, London. For which the money was raised by the RAF. In a similar political move that forced the retirement of Dowding from the RAF, Keith Park was relieved of his command of 11 Group soon after the Battle of Britain, taking up a position with a training squadron. He stayed with the RAF until the end of the war commanding squadrons in Egypt in 1941, Malta in 1942 and in South-East Asia in 1944-45. After the war, KeithPark returned to his native New Zealand where he stayed until his death in Auckland in 1975.

On the January the 15th 1940 Flight Lieutenant Eric James Brindley was awarded The Victoria Cross. He was 23 years old. It is the only one awarded to Fighter Command. The reason; witnesses were needed to substantiate the deed, not easy in a split second at high speeds. The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for gallantry.

This is interesting: An American wrote to me after reading a short piece I wrote. Unfortunately, I’ve lost his address, so if you read this, please contact gain.

Even with some of the close calls I’ve been through in my time (military and civilian), I can’t imagine what it was like in wartime Britain.

It’s good stuff for sure, but you might consider writing something from a different perspective. Granted, the dramatic elements are good for a screenplay, but historically, you stand a better chance of getting a screenplay written/accepted if you write the material as novel/short story first. That’s what happened with “Dances with Wolves”; Costner saw the screenplay, suggested the screenwriter write it as a novel, then Costner picked up the rights to it. The rest is history, and many screenplays are adapted from novels/short stories. If you’ve got that many words into it, converting it to a short story or small novel shouldn’t be a problem. One of my buddies when we were both in the Submarine Force wound up as a Chief Torpedo man on the Dallas when they filmed Red October, and he went on to write his own submarine novel

I think it would be important for others to hear your views on more of what it was like as a small kid in wartime Britain, the kind of hardships, sacrifices, and constant threats you and the British faced, but from a kid’s perspective. What were your emotions as you heard the V2’s approaching or flying over you? How did you feel when the bombs were dropping? What basics of life did you have to go without for years? How did your relatives, neighbours, friends feel and deal with the situation? While you may have been too young then to really grasp the gravity of the situation (maybe not), looking back on it now, remembering and knowing how others dealt with it is of great importance. People take their freedom and creature comforts for granted these days, 2 things that you and I know are costly and can disappear overnight if the world isn’t vigilant, and all I see today are clueless idiots like there were prior to WWII that let the world get to that point. I hate to say it, but there are many days I actually miss the Soviet Union. It’s been what, 20 years almost since the Berlin Wall came down, and the world has already forgotten how many people died trying to escape Communism? The world needs to know what it’s like to fight off a threat that has only your extermination in mind, and I think a view from a child’s perspective is more powerful.

I know you’ve included a lot of that here, but my point is that the world already knows a lot about the historical aspects of the weapons of the Nazis, the RAF pilots, and the British/German leaders during WWII, but not a lot about what it’s like to live as a child in Britain under such conditions. At least I’ve not seen such stories here in the States, other than occasional references and films depicting children in Britain during, but not as a main focus.
Anyway, I could go on, but that’s just my take on it.

 

 

 

 

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