Ted Neales' memoir

BNealeETHNealeETHv05.pdf

Title

Ted Neales' memoir
1999 Diary

Description

Memoirs of Ted Neale (written in a non-contemporary diary), recounting his experiences of an air raid on Woolwich, travelling to South Africa for aircrew training and taking part in bombing operations from Italy. Some anecdotes are repeated. This item has been redacted in order to protect the privacy of third parties.

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One printed diary with handwritten notes

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IBCC Digital Archive

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

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BNealeETHNealeETHv05

Transcription

[note]

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HILARY SALMON
Producer of BOMBER CREW BBC Programme
NEALE. MR. MRS.
NUMBERS FOR BRIGGS & STRATTON
[redacted]

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ACA SECRETARY RAY TAGLI
HON SEC Biggin Hill WING ACR
[redacted]

heures HOCINE
[redacted]

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September 1940
It was the sound of the bomb that started it all off. I had left the Woolwich Polytechnic in SE LONDON to take up a apprenticeship as a toolmaker in the Woolwich Arsenal. Prior to starting the apprenticeship I spent a few weeks in the NEW FUZE Factory, a large factory employed in producing every kind of fuze, using small delicate automatic machines up to massive heavyweights for the large shell fuzes. The whole factory reeked of the cutting oils used in these machines and the oil was everywhere. It was almost five o’clock on Saturday 7th September 1940, we were all lining up ready to knock off, the air raid siren had gone but we had heard it all before, since we had heard it on night shift previously and being made to evacuate the factory we climbed up on to the surface air raid shelters, covered ourselves in tarpaulins and watched

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the searchlights waving about, sometimes they caught an aircraft, probably enemy, since they started firing the guns at it but seemed always to be well off target and the plane would go serenely on its way to the accompaniment of loud cheers. This time was a lot different. Always just before 5 o’clock our official time, someone would produce an illicit key, open the clock door & advance the hands a few minutes & off we would go, since the Woolwich Arsenal employed tens of thousands of people, all coming out of the four gates on to the Plumstead Road at the same time, this would give us a advantage. It is quite probable that all the others had the same idea. But then we heard this succession of loud crump noises coming ever nearer, someone more knowledgeable shouted “bombs” and a rush was made to the nearest

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surface shelter, resulting in about a dozen bodies jammed in the entrance, the bombs marched on passing us by on the other side of the road, the last one hitting a air raid shelter, killing the all, including my cousin husband, a small forge was hitting scattering burning coals all over the car park, setting some alight. We were told to get away. I had about a four mile bicycle ride to my house, as I cycled along the bombs were dropping, guns were firing, shrapnel was whizzing down, fighter planes were zooming & firing their guns, parachutes were coming down. It was hectic. I was passing the Royal Artillery barracks, when some soldiers called to me to take shelter from the shrapnel which was raining down, as well as the clips

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from the fighter ammunition, these soldiers had been evacuated from DUNKIRK so they were war wise, we stood in the doorway of the barracks for a while watching events, until it calmed down a bit then I got on my bike and pedalled off home, passing the ack-ack guns on the Woolwich Common. All the way home the road was full of ambulances and civilian cars and trucks towing auxiliary fire [deleted] trucks [/deleted] tenders or pumps all heading for the scene.

Reporting back to work the next day there was no New Fuze factory, it was just line upon line of burnt out machines. On the next day I went & volunteered for AIRCREW DUTIES.

Working in the Woolwich Arsenal, I was in a reserved occupation and they wouldn’t release me. In early 1942

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I got my release, the form said released for PILOT DUTIES only. I was inducted into No 1 ACRC at Earls Court, measured for my two uniforms, had a couple of weeks of eye training, popped home a few times, not far away by bus or train. Then on to Initial Training wing at SCARBOROUGH, staying in the Grand HOTEL, bags of bull, polishing the lino, black leading the grates, marching drill session on the Promenade curiously watched by holiday makers, it was AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY TIME, up to the castle for CLAY PIGEON SHOOTING after a couple of months I was moved on to KINGSTOWN AIRFIELD at CARLISLE for GRADING COURSE ON TIGER MOTHS I had made friends with a chap called RIBBANS. We used a satellite field at KIRKPATRICK in SCOTLAND. the planes flew daily from Carlisle with a cadet as passenger, the other cadets went by

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road. One day one of the Tigers didn’t arrive, it transpired that the wings had fallen off the Tiger & RIBBANS and his instructor both bought it. Some of the moths had notices on the instrument panel warning that it should not be used for aerobatics, whether that was the cause we never found out. A group of cadets were waiting our turn to fly when we saw this Tiger coming in to land, we then saw another Tiger almost on top of it, as the lower one landed the top one landed on top of it, flipped over on its back and the lower one dug in and finished up vertically. The pilot of one was the chief flying instructor the other was the deputy flight commander. I thought that I was quite competent and soloed at 9 1/2 hrs with no problem, although I witnessed quite a few that nosed in or tried to land at 50 feet, the Tigers didn’t seem to suffer too much damage

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as all the occupants seemed to walk away. We were under the control of the Scottish Aviation company, the members who were concerned with the catering arrangement were obviously on the fiddle because the food was vile., the caterers were the SILVER GREY company who had a restaurant in the main street, a pal of mine GEORGE WARREN took a SCOTCH PIE that he had been served with and slapped it on the table of the person who was supposed to be the C.O. (he was a civilian), opened it and revealed that it was GREEN with mould. Their idea of a meal was to give you one sardine on a finger of bread cut four to the slice. It got so bad that we were reduced to creating a commotion at the head of the queue while those toward the back reached round under the counter and grabbed what we could. George and I stayed together for over a year going overseas together, training together

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then parting when he came back to England and on to HALIFAX aircraft, he went down on the TIRPITZ, it was reported to me that he was last seen trying to get his wounded wireless operator out of the aircraft while others baled out, he didn’t survive. From Carlisle we were posted to HEATON PARK in MANCHESTER where we joined thousands of others, we were assembled at a BANDSTAND and lists were read out as to our future, the P.N.B had just been pit into operation (PILOT, NAV, BOMB/AIM) since the airforce was gearing up for the big offensive against GERMANY. I was read out as being a NAVIGATOR and could have obtained my release from the AIR FORCE & gone back to my Reserved Occupation since I had been released for PILOT duties only, however apart from the rotten food I had made some good mates, I decided to stay

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on. The lectures at Heaton park were conducted by some real old sweats, one I really remember would go to the head of the class and say “Whats it today, armaments or Eskimo NELL, you could be stupid if you [deleted] didn’t [/deleted] wasn’t able to predict the outcome, I didn’t count bu the version that he told had about forty five verses, I remember the gist of the story but just about remember about a “-“ great Wheel, then it was IVAN SKAVINSKY SKAVAR and so many others. Whilst there we went out a side gate to a Pub called the POST OFFICE, it was on the PRESTON RD, we engaged in drinking contests with the women who congregated there,

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one

Thoughts in 2000

This talk of birds (women) on the front line prompted a thought which turned into a dream. I was navigating my old MK 10 Wimpey from Foggia in Italy to PARDUBICE oil refinery in CZECHOSLOVAKIA, a trip of eight hours, started off on GEE, which run out of Puff shortly, then on to D.R. It was one of the blackest of nights, with a ceiling of 10,000 ft we couldn’t get above cloud, so no star shots, bags of flak to starboard some poor sod has wandered over VIENNA, press on, E.T.A. coming up, air to air firing, someone going down in flames, 50 years later the old Wimpy is found in the bottom of a lake, the old NAV leader was still aboard. Shufty flares down, then some target markers just off to

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starboard, more over and drop the bombs, not a lot to see, then turn for home, droning on for a couple of hours, feeling fairly secure it was our usual practice for the rear gunner to be relieved by the wireless operator and come forward to stand in the Astro dome beside my position, flailing himself with his arms to warm himself, and then the old Wimpy would fill with the smoke of the W/Ops fag as he lit up, in spite of the old kite being full of holes & fumes.

But this was so different, I saw beside me this lovely young bird, same age as me, about 21, and it wasn’t cigarette smoke it was CHANEL NO 5 which she had picked up in CAIRO in the way up from 0.T.U. I gave her a flask top of lukewarm coffee and it seemed quite natural

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3/. Make for the bed, which the Vickers company & BARNES WALLIS in particular had provided, the TUBUNIC AMPOULE of MORPHIA became an aphrodisiac, and then an awful WHUMP!!, the old Wimp went all over the sky, it appears that it was by kind permission of the HERMAN GOERING PANZER GRENADIERS flak batteries, we had wandered over LINZ or GRAZ, the old Wimpy droned on as though she was used to this on a regular basis. Where did the bird go, what would she have done, we had more than 100 holes, some quite big.

You may ask what prompted this, today I received a letter from JAN MAHR of HUSOVA, MIROSLAV in the CZECH REPUBLIC requesting information about the crew members who I saw go to their deaths that day

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25-55

in 1944 and who lay forgotten by their own country, among others until a excavation took place in 1990 – 1991, by a CZECH team, existing relatives were taken out to the crash site and attended the burial of their heroes military funeral, another ironic twist here, Lillicrap was the regular navigator on that crew, but missed that “op” through illness, he joined up with another crew but got the chop a fortnight later! We had got together in England 1942, boat to S.A. together, to Palestine together for O.T.U. up to ITALY, joined the squadron together, & then!!

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written in 2002.

Will someone in about 50 years review the case of 2ND W.W aircrew and their treatment in particular, the litigious lawyers have got the “shot at Dawn” affair livened up, to whose advantage. can post traumatic stress be involved, I’m thinking of those that fired the rifles. Horrors & cruelly in wars come to be accepted, but when it comes form your own side it must be condemned. My father came out of the 1ST W.W aged 20 he’d been employed in the R.A.S.C driving ammunition wagons to the trenches (horse drawn) on supply routes targeted by the enemy, he was badly gassed and on becoming a civvy he was unemployed & unemployable for many years from the gassing. He received no benefits from the government who had proclaimed “A LAND FIT FOR HEROES.” and succumbed to his illness at the age of

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2/ 53 years, it took him a long time to die slowly.

Coming up to the 2nd WW and beyond, perhaps my experiences may shed a little light, shot at dawn didn’t figure, I was aircrew, and an almost effective deterrent was used against, [inserted] us [/inserted] I almost said cowardice, but it wasn’t that, the deterrent was L.M.F. or Lack of Moral fibre in which the poor fellow was stripped of rank (our lowest was SGT) given the lowest job G.D. and his pay book stamped large L.M.F, so wherever he went they knew, then everyone knew. So perhaps a little personal experience may help. Arriving in the back of a lorry at a vineyard & wine grove just outside FOGGIA, nothing idyllic in that we saw a collection of old beaten up ridge tents which we later found to have been all through the

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desert warfare for years, they showed their age, underneath the tents had been dug out about 2 foot so that we could just about stand up in the middle. We were told to find [inserted] an [/inserted] empty one and it was three to a tent. The empty ones were the ones where the crews had got the chop, very seldom did anyone finish a tour (40 ops us not 30 as the blighty boys). We were 205 GRP heavy bomber squadron consisting of six Wellington squadrons, one British Lib sqdn 2 SAAF Lib squdadron and one HALIFAX Sqdn as p.ff. I was in 37 sqdn and with our sister squadron 70 were on a single strip P>S>P runway at TORTORELA which we shared with the Flying Fortresses of the 99 Bomb group 15 A FORCE (USAAF) situated on the far side of the runway.

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[circled 3.] It was within a day or so of arriving that my pilot ALEC HART. (QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA) went off to MILAN on his second dicky trip (to get a taste of hostile activity and learn a few ropes, he was with a SAAF crew in a MK X Wimpy the trip being either their ultimate or penultimate trip (39th or 40th). the fact that he never came back was because of a collision over the target, he is buried near MILAN. The very next day I was listed to fly with a crew that had arrived with with us on the squadron, since their NAVIGATOR had gone sick. The pilot of this aircraft was a Canadian ART SCHLOTE who had trained in Canada with my pilot but who had come back safely from his experience trip. This trip proved quite hairy when the photo flash started to set its own fuze & had to be

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jettisoned with resultant pandemonium, no picture[ illegible] a poor start, shortly I was back with my own crew, piloted by a SAAF who had come down over enemy territory & had walked back with quite a story to tell. Over the time of my tour I was used as an odd bod, flying with new crews (very dangerous) but being assigned to this SAAF who became Flight Commander and was only allowed to fly once a fortnight. I was given the job of collecting bods from a holding centre outside of NAPLES while awaiting courts martial or summary of evidence, they having gone absent without leave & been captured in NAPLES.

A call would be made to the control tower, to enqire the time of the next Foggia Ferry, an old Flying Fortress which had been deactivated and used as a mail plane & transport all

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[circled 4] around Foggia area, my pilot would take me in his old V* Woody Ford to the taxi track, along would roll the old Fortress, a squeal of brakes, door open and off we would go to Pomigliano airport. Thumb a ride down the AUTOSTRADA to PORTICI, present a piece of paper to the guard house & collect my prisoner and back track to Foggia, sometimes all the ferries had gone so we had to sleep on the floor of the NAAFI until morning, then off. I was given a revolver but of course no bullets, but they caused no trouble. The first prisoner was a F/sgt wireless operator who had done a tour in the desert & was half way through his second tour when he became an odd bod, had a couple of shaky does, and ran away. I believe he became LMF. The next one had a rather sad tale to tell,

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[circled 5] he had been ground staff in the desert and along with 3 friends decided to volunteer as air gunners, expecting to be posted back to Blighty for training, but training grounds had been opened in the Middle east so they didn’t get home, in fact they came to our group, and one by one they got the chop, until just this one was left so away he went & was captured again in Naples.

Another rear gunner baled out in the Adriatic, lost, but another saga took a bit longer to unfold. I was signed to fly with a full odd bod crew, [inserted] we were over the [illegible] [/inserted] nothing untoward until the rear gunner reported flames from the port engine going past his turret, this was followed by the shut down of the engine & the usual feathering whereupon the old Wimp started to sink, bomb doors

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[circled 6] open, jettison toggle operated, and then gently back to base, land successfully back at base, next morning we were called as a crew to report to GROUPIE when he gave us a tremendous dressing down, we should be court martialled etc, we had the cheek to ask [inserted] why [/inserted] we should carry on with no bombs, but he insisted that we should have carried on even without bombs, perhaps we should have chucked the elsan at them but we didn’t dare suggest that, subsequent events shed a little light on this episode. Flying with this pilot once again we were approaching the target PLOESTI, reckoned to be second only to BERLIN in defences since it was HITLERS only natural oil.

Due to go forward to stand beside the pilot to record time of bombing A/C heading, height & make observations

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[circled 7] regarding the target & anything else [inserted] worth [/inserted] reporting, when I found I couldn’t open the door, it was only on a ball catch, but I pulled so hard I broke the leather loop which acted as the handle. I reported this on intercom & asked the Bomb aimer to come & kick the door open at the same time the pilot reported that he had the control right over still couldn’t get the port wing up to fly straight & level, this [inserted] had [/inserted] caused the Geodetic frame to twist & lock the door, since I was standing beside the gauges that registered the state of the petrol tanks I pushed the buttons to read & saw that the port tanks were full & the starboard tanks were well down. I shot back to the main beam to turn on the petrol balance cocks then told the pilot to ensure that the balance cock beside his

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[circled 8] seat was on, by now the B/A had kicked the door open & we took up our positions, then we were over the target and we were coned, I never believed in jinking or altering height to lose searchlights, they were faster than we were & were radar controlled so the pilot agreed with me just put the nose down for maximum speed got up to about 300 mph and finished up just above the tops of the refinery towers, somewhere on the way we had dropped our bombs but we didn’t get a photo. I later learned that this pilot had aborted on another raid & on another occasion had not appeared for take off & had been found hiding in a field. The wing commander O/C was detailed by Groupie to take the aircraft over, which he did, but the Wimpy finished up in a ditch, that C.O. had left the squadron by the next morning.

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TO QASTINA
77 OUT
Palestine

This episode started on a concrete apron at 77 O.T.U at Qastina just a short distance from Jerusalem in Palestine, it was mid March 1944, Qastina was a Wellington O.T.U using IC models. A mixed crowd of aircrew were assembled on a concrete apron and ordered to sort ourselves into crews, this apparently being standard R.A.F procedure. We had segregated ourselves into our various trades since in many cases we had trained in our various trades & knew one another. As it turned out, in the main it was left to the navigators to do the picking. My first choice was a short chubby bomb aimer, who never ever managed to get his forage cap on straight, this wasn’t the reason that I picked him, but was because we had been at the same air schools in South Africa and he was a wonderful piano player and had livened up

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[circled 2] all our parties with his playing, he came from Kingston U.K and had started a career in his local newspaper before volunteering. I noted a rather skinny looking Australian, standing alone, & made an approach, he agreed to join us, it turned out that [inserted] he [/inserted] came from a family of pineapple growers in Queenstown. That made three of five & next was the Air gunner who came from Wallington in Surrey and had started in a bank, he had trained in Rhodesia, he resembled a bloodhound in looks, his name was appropriately enough “CANNON” Last but not least was the W/operator who had trained in England, and had been born in Dover Castle where his father who was a soldier had been stationed, he was always known as Mac & had started out as a boy

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[circled 3] soldier & had transferred to the R.A.F, he had made his home in Streatham in S.E. London. We soon settled in to a good routine flying around the Eastern Med, where we were informed that all radio aid were to be treated as suspect, evidence of this came when we took a bearing on a beacon at Cairo which we could see away beyond our port wing tip, but the loop bearing from the W/op was miles out. We had a pretty good two months at O.T.U., and unlike the stories that we had heard about tragedies at O.T.U in England we suffered no losses from our twelve crews. it came close when one of the pilots who always displayed the [illegible] that he wanted to be a fighter pilot, dive bombed the ALLENBY bridge in Cairo which we had been given as a simulated target, he

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[circled 4] dived so violently that on pull out he stripped a lot of fabric from the wings and had to make an emergency landing for repair. Later when we reached the squadron he was our first casualty, failing to return from his first op. From OUT we were sent on leave [inserted] by train [/inserted] to Alexandria, which we quite enjoyed then on to CAIRO awaiting posting, we were picked up by a USAAF Dakota & after a stop at BRINDISI for fuel we landed up at PORTICI, a dirty old multi storey warehouse. Looking West we could see the bay of NAPLES, (didn’t seem all that romantic) to the east was Vesuvius to the north (about 100 YDS) was a military prison otherwise known as a glasshouse in military parlance, with which I made acquaintance later on, & to the south was Sorrento which was our rest camp. The only advantage that we had over the blighty boys, although they had the fleshpots of

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London for compensation.

The local population were in a sorry state, they appeared to be almost peasants, and the war had made their situation much worse. The children lined up all day to share out our swill bins they were so hungry, they were welcome to it since once again the RAF food was terrible, in three & a half years overseas I never once had fresh meat, except when in South Africa when the South African airforce did our catering or any of the times when I was able to eat in mess halls run by the Americans.

Whilst awaiting posting my Pilot Alec Hart & his Canadian pal that he had trained with in CANADA decided to head north for a look at ROME, I decided to tag along. To the Autostrada quite near thumbs up at the ready we were soon picked up by an open backed six wheel G.M.C

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truck courtesy of the U.S ARMY, introduced ourselves to this large black fellow sitting there, who introduced himself as JESSE OWEN the Olympic athlete who had won six gold medals at the BERLIN OLYMPICS which had upset HITLER that he refused to shake hands with him at the medal ceremony. Driving on NORTH we passed CASSINO which had been totally obliterated, covered in contiguous holes made by bombs & shells, arriving in the centre of ROME we looked around at all the sights, and also set our sights on some food. we got thrown off various chow lines, we weren’t in the right air force, we eventually made it in a big communal hall, kitted out with serried ranks of beds, fully loaded with blankets & pillows, moved on & stayed a very unsettled night in a bug ridden hotel, scrounged more food & hitched our way back to Portici

see 5 & 6 MARCH

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see 31st JANUARY

we hadn’t been missed. Then on to trucks for the ride to our squadrons. We’re 205 SQD stationed around the town of FOGGIA two squadrons were on Foggia main airfield, numbers 104 & 40, just out of town was a single strip P.S.P (Pierced Steel Plank) runway at TORTORELLA which held 37 & 70 SQDN & at REGINA a few miles away was 142 + 150. Our destination was to be 37 SQN.

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September 7th [deleted] or 14th [/deleted] 1940 Saturday

There it was & there I was. I was a rising eighteen year old student from the engineering course at the Woolwich Polytechnic, and there was the Woolwich Arsenal waiting to wrap me into an engineering apprenticeship in the Gun & carriage toolroom. The Woolwich Arsenal was a huge munitions factory, it extended over 3 miles along the South Bank of the Thames & was over a mile wide, it had been in existence [sic] for very many years, indeed the production of gun barrels had first taken place there. It had its own gas & electricity plants, its own iron & steel & brass foundries & produced everything from 16 inch naval guns, weighing in at over 130 tons, to minute watch mechanisms used in some fuzes, it also had what was known as the Danger Buildings which produced explosives & cartridge factories producing over two million bullets a week. In fact you could call this a prime target for bombing which the Germans were demonstrating their remarkable

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efficiency at so doing, on the continent of Europe & of course we were at war with Germany. In 1940 I joined the Woolwich Arsenal working in the NEW FUZE factory, whilst awaiting transfer to a tool-room to start my apprenticeship. This as the name implies was a factory producing machined components for assembly elsewhere into complete fuzes. The machines ranged from monster bar & chucking automatic ACME – GRIDLEYS, through man operated capstans
& other machines, down to small automatic not much bigger than sewing machines, set on tables and working quietly away. The place was liberally coated in various cutting liquids, including special cutting oils & the smell was decidedly oily. The factory employed a few hundred people, and this being a Saturday we finished work early at 5 o’clock, we worked week about, alternating day & night shift, we were lining up at the clocking station

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to put our cards into the time clock, stamp it by pressing down a handle & replacing the card in the “out” rack. We weren’t all that perturbed by the warning air raid siren since we’d heard them many times, in fact one the night shift you were made to leave the factory & go to your designated air raid shelter, in may case it was known as a surface shelter, a brick built affair with a thick concrete top & a baffled blast wall at the entrance. At night it was our usual practice to climb on the top of the shelter, lay down & cover up with a tarpaulin sheet & watch the searchlights search out the intruders, we would cheer like mad when the lights caught the planes & groan when they lost them we also saw the anti-aircraft shell bursts which always seemed to be well off target.

Shortly after the siren started up, we heard this loud explosion followed

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in sequence by others, getting louder, we also were hearing aircraft engines droning away. someone then shouted “bombs”, when a mad rush started for the nearest shelter, we all finished up jammed in the doorway as the bombs continued on. The “stick” of bombs continued along the road beside the factory where the surface shelters were lined up, one bomb overshot us & blew up a small forge which scattered hot coals over the car park, the coals burnt through the cloth tops of the cars & set them on fire, whilst the last bomb hit an underground shelter, killing all the occupants, including my cousin’s husband. Fires were raging all around, people were walking around covered in blood mostly from shards of glass which had come from the windows of multi storied buildings. There was no panic but there was no

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immediate relief, we were totally unprepared for this. Someone took the authority to tell us to get away home so I got on my bike and pedalled like mad along the Plumstead Road to Woolwich town centre where I turned left onto the road to Eltham my home. All the time the bombs were dropping, our fighters were attacking the bombers, shrapnel from the ack-ack was raining down, cartridge clips were bouncing on the road, aircraft were coming down & I seemed to see parachutes everywhere I looked. I was pedalling past the military barracks when I was called in to the shelter by the soldiers, it appeared that they were survivors from DUNKIRK, had seen it all before. During a lull I pressed on towards home, the roads were full of emergency vehicles, ambulances, fire appliance towed by

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civilian vehicles, fire engines, all in a constant stream heading toward Woolwich. Arriving home, much to the families [sic] relief we could see the fires & all the smoke. it appeared that this raid signalled the start of the blitz.

I went back to the Woolwich Arsenal to see what was going on, and what my instruction would be, I found the New Fuze factory completely burnt out, a start was being made to remove all the machinery for renovation, all the skilled adult workers were being recruited to join the shadow munitions factories which had been set up around the country and [inserted] also [/inserted] join what was known as the Flying Column to go to places around the country to impart their skills to those people recruited to man those factories. I was told to report to the GUN & carriage tool room. I had

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a look around the relics of my destroyed work place & was happy that I hadn’t made it to my particular shelter on the Warning siren. I was fairly convinced that the type of shelter was not all that clever, since a near miss by a bomb would collapse the brick walls & the concrete roof would come down in one massive chunk and flatten anyone who was inside. This unfortunately happened in this event. After a few days I got a start in the GUN & CARRIAGE toolroom, manufacturing jigs & fixtures, big heavy stamping and forging tools and also press tools for the multitude of factories comprising the Woolwich Arsenal with the capacity to manufacture everything from 16” Naval guns weighing about 130 Tons all the way down to minute components for timing for fuses

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In the interim I had been to the local recruiting office & volunteered to be trained as a pilot. I was told that my job was considered a reserved occupation and I would have to apply to be released, over time & not being called I wrote letters to the Air Minister complaining that I hadn’t been called, and I was writing some quite insulting letters. I left it to my mother to post the letters, she told me much later that she hadn’t posted the letters on reading them she felt that they would result in my being shot. Just over a year later I was called to report to No 1 ACRC at LORDS CRICKET GROUND at St JOHNS WOOD NORTH LONDON. this was in February 1942.

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Bombs. they’re Bombs [inserted] Someone shouted [/inserted]. The loud bangs continued to get louder as about 50 people made a dash for the air – raid shelter, just ten yards away, we just jammed together in the doorway while the march of the bombs continued & marched close by, the nearest one landed & exploded on a small building housing a small forge which scattered hot coals over the car park setting the cars alight, the last bomb landing on an air raid shelter, killing all those inside including the husband of my cousin. [inserted] It was 6 o’clock 7 Sept 1940 [/inserted] We had been lining up on “THE CLOCK’ waiting to clock off our shift in the NEW FUZE factory a large factory machining components for fuzes, from large shells down to watch like mechanisms & components for torpedos [sic]. The factory was inside the fourth gate of the Woolwich Arsenal a massively complex armaments factory

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with three miles of [inserted] south side [/inserted] Thames river waterfront & over a mile wide, it had four large gates spaced out along the Plumstead Road. and had employed over 70,000 people at one time

I was employed as a machine hand while waiting to start an apprenticeship in toolmaking at the Gun & Carriage toolroom situated up near the Main gate (No 1)

[deleted] The New Fuze factory was situated just inside the Fourth gate. [/deleted]

It was two minutes to five, just about time to open the door of the clock & advance the hands to 5 o’clock & then punch our cards & off, this being a fairly regular practice. We worked week about, day & night shift & when the siren went whilst we were on night shift, we were ordered to our air raid shelters. Over time, since nothing happened we climbed on the top of the

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shelter, covered with an old tarpaulin and watched as the searchlights groped the sky for the enemy intruders, the guns would fire away, it became almost a joke as we saw the searchlights catch the plane for an instant & then lose it, while the shell bursts from the anti-aircraft guns seemed to be not at all close. rather different to the experiences I had some years later.

However, after the bombing we were told to go home and since most of us were on bicycles we made our way post – haste, I cycled along the Plumstead road, turning on to the road to Eltham, my home at Beresford Square. By this time the R.AF fighters were among the bombers and firing was incessant, aircraft were smoking and coming down, many parachutes were descending, anti – aircraft guns were firing with thunderous roars

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bombs were falling, shrapnel from A-A shells was raining down as were bullet cases & clips. As I reached the Artillery barracks in Mill Hill I was shouted at by soldiers to join them in the doorway of a barrack block, it transpired that they had returned from Dunkirk. After a while there was a lull & I got on my bike and made my way home. In this [inserted] short time the road was nose to tail with emergency vehicles heading down to Woolwich. Ambulances, fire engines, Air raid precaution vehicles, mobile water pumps manned by civvys & towed by large cars, the effort was tremendous. I reported back to work the next day but the New Fuze factory was no more it was razed to the ground with twisted girders & burnt out machines mute evidence of what had been a very highly productive factory. Within a few days I was called to start my

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apprenticeship, and shortly after volunteered to join the R.AF. as aircrew.

I am prompted to write this letter by the article which mentioned the bombing of the Arsenal on page 6, the letters page of your APRIL 14th publication.

I have often [deleted] asked [/deleted] [inserted] wondered [/inserted] whether the bombs that fell that day at 5 o’clock on 7th September 1940 were the first of the daily blitzes on London as no other explosions were heard. and I think that the air-raid sirens hadn’t sounded.

[underlined] Yours [/underlined]

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Left Blackpool (thank God) on a dark & damp winters day, arrived at a dark and damp dockside, confronted by this monster of iron and steel, named SS. Strathmore, without any ceremony we filed up the gang plank, to be met by a flight sergeant who was giving out orders, as we boarded, he looked me in he eye and shouted, you, you are to guard the water tight doors on “H” deck, I didn’t know whether I was to stop any one from pinching them, or report whether they were there, or should they be open or shut or should I take any action in the event of an emergency. He motioned to a doorway and said, down there. proceeding down the stairways, which were lettered by the alphabet, I got well down, thinking if I have to any further I will be outside the ship &

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will have to start swimming. Arriving eventually [inserted] at H deck [/inserted] I cast around and not knowing what water tight doors should look like, I found a door & stood by it, it didn’t look out of the ordinary, just a big door, nut no one was looking so I sat down & waited farther orders. I didn’t take too long, although it seemed like ages, being all alone, when I heard a rumbling noise and realised that the ships engines were running and we were probably under way. I was eventually relieved, probably the same day, and went on deck, there was no sign of land, I hadn’t heard any bands playing a farewell lament, it would be years before I got another glimpse of Blighty.

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[circled 1] At NAV School in S.A. flying in the Anson, wind up undercart 48 winds up or down. One day an episode occurred that would seem almost impossible with few aircraft (after all it wasn’t a thousand bomber raid) one Anson settled itself briefly on top of another Anson, both flying on the same heading, they parted and returned to base with little damage, This precipitated an all round safety review of everything, including parachutes. On opening the button down flap on the chute it was found that the 2 release wires, attached to the “D” handle, used to deploy the chute, which were threaded through the steel pillars which were used to hold the four flaps covering

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[circled 2] the canopy & its lines, had been bent right round, making it impossible to release the chute, obviously we had MALANITES an organisation run by a D MALAN who were sympathisers of HITLER and anyi British, they were the “Osewa Brandwag,” on the camp.

The other occasion that I had a brush with them when we going by train from PORT ELIZABETH to Durban, we were on a single track and on reaching BLOMFONTAIN we had to wait for 8 hours for a train coming down the line to reach us where double track had been laid for us to pass. All our course of about 30 bods made our way into town, it being the beer brewing capital of S.A, with many different brews on offer. I was with my mate LOFTY WINTERBOURNE

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[circled 4] received a blow to my left eye, some of our mates rallied round and we went to the train & looked for some one with a ripped shirt, fortunately for them we didn’t find them, by this time I had a lovely black eye, but after a few beers we went on our way. During the night, on one of our train journeys across S.A. one of the fellows walked along the corridor to the toilet, opened the wrong door – fell off the train, he finished up walking along the track following the train in only his short shirt, his name was Watson, he had been named Wiley Watson after an old time Music Hall turn, Happy days, he had to walk until he came to some habitation which was far between up on the high veldt, however he eventually caught up with us.

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[notes]

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Turning off this tree lined typically Italian road onto a dirt track we arrived at TORTORELLA the present home of 37 Sqdn. You couldn’t say that we were impressed, it looked like a deserted tip. If it had a redeeming feature you could say it was the olive trees at least they looked olive, not many signs of life otherwise, no welcoming crowd, & no brass band. just clapped out old tents, showing their age after 3 years in North Africa ebbing and flowing with the tide of battle, to say they sagged was an understatement. They were the standard ridge tent, perched over a hole dug into the ground to give enough room to stand up. entrance was by sliding down the slope created by the feet traversing the entrance coming or going. After a while the the entering had contrived to deepen the slide & distribute the muck evenly over the

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bottom of the living space floor, making the makeshift beds look like sunken beds & seriously reducing the head room inside, you had two options, you either lifted the tent a foot or so or excavate the floor. The tent had a trench dug around 3 sides to catch the rain before it encroached on your salubrosity [sic] inside, there were other trenches dug at random all over the site which were there for “AIRMEN FOR THE USE” of if anyone took exception & started the war going again in our area. These trenches contained water, (rain) & diesel oil which spilled from the 45 gallon drums of diesel oil which had been purloined and decanted while balanced across these trenches, no one was silly enough to attempt to syphon [sic] by mouth, so they

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were laid on their side & rolled back & forth to start or stop the flow, spillage obviously are unavoidable & all this in spite of dire warnings against nicking the diesel because of shortages. I might point out that this was Italy in JUNE & JULY, freezing cold & raining buckets. But then we were short of replacement clothes, food was vile, no tyres for the Wing. We were assembled by the ADJ to be informed that the cupboard was bare and that if we wanted anything at all we must make our own arrangements or go without. We had chucked the local farmer out of his house for our mess, so he had moved into a barn, which when you approached it, displayed an enormous bed, I don’t know if the goats & chickens used the bed but they, including the donkey wandered around in the barn. Bartering cigarettes or soap would get fresh eggs

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or if you indicated the need for a chicken the farmers eight year old daughter would catch it, wring its neck & hand it to you warm & you cant get fresher than that.

But to go back before the beginning for some of our history. During 1942 due to the invasion of N. Africa by the Americans there was a distinct shortage of troop ships so loads of U/T aircrew couldn’t get to South Africa for further training from ITU so we were moved around like dominos, although in the main we went on block by flights. Heaton Park (MANCHESTER) BRIDGNORTH (SHROPSHIRE) WHITLEY BAY (NORTHUM for a Guards commando course) eventually we made BLACKPOOL to await (the BOAT) our crowd had been issued with tropical Kit so we were sure that we would be going to cold Canada, so sure in fact this I bought a pair of ice skates from a hard up

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Canadian, I trailed them all around the hot countries without once seeing ice, brought them back to England & sold them at a handsome profit. (about 2 QUID which was handsome in those days) In Blackpool we landed up with the Blackpool landladies who were starving us to death while flogging our rations on the blackmarket in collusion with the RAF NCO in charge & the NAAFI wallah. I could give you her name but she would still be alive, she was too wicked to die. I was in the ATTIC with a blanket (one laid over a wire spring thing which passed as a mattress & a straw filled canvas pillow. I queried why the doors were so big, it was because she had to have enough room for all the notices that were there telling you what you couldn’t shouldent [sic] or mustent [sic] do. Her idea of the main meal were a small portion of

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reconstituted Cheese dried egg on two soldiers of toast.

We always went straight out after her dinners for fish & chips & peas, it was as well that we didn’t stop there long, our money would have run out & we would have starved to death. The day came when we were told to parade with all our kit bags, we had three including our flying kit, given a pot of black paint & paint brushes & told to paint a code on each kit bag, I had been given the letters & numbers AG – AG E7P in gloss paint, then not at all sorry to leave Blackpool we departed, we had been cold most of the time, even in bed. Off we went to Liverpool docks, assembled at the dock side & marched aboard, as we stepped aboard we were given various duties. I was told to go “H” deck & guard the watertight doors. I thought that rather odd especially when I saw

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them, I couldn’t imagine anyone pinching them, they were all bolted up. As I stood there pondering there was a loud throbbing & the S.S. STRATHMORE took off for South Africa. I didn’t get the opportunity to stand at the rail & wave goodbye to England, there were certainly no families or brass bands, or so I was told. just a few disinterested dockers, muching [sic] about with bits of rope. they’d seen it all before. I eventually got upstairs and it was just sea everywhere & it was very grey as I remember. Rumour had it that we were heading south to join a convoy, but after a few hours we were heading north, nothing unusual, plans are always being altered, & so our first night at sea. We had been allocated our accommodation on “H” deck, if had been “J” deck we would have been underneath the boat (ship) We had a table stretching out from the side of the ship with fixed

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form either side, this pattern was repeated about 12 times to form our own mess deck. Over the top of our table were steel fixings for our hammocks & that was it. We had a large tea-pot & large trays which were taken up about 4 flights of steps, along a covered deck down in to the galley where whoever was duty erk collected the food. We rocked our way along, the rocking becoming pronounced, we had a battleship various cruisers & a number of destroyers which kept haring off into the distance like greyhounds, getting buryed [sic] in water as they tore about, the battleship all but disappeared at times as we got further south & the weather got really harsh. By this time 98% of the forces people on board, about 6,000 altogether were violently seasick, also 98% had diarrhea [sic], caused by their gluttoning [sic] out on tinned fruit

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& cadburys chocolate which the ship had victual up in Canada The toilets on the mess deck were permanently occupied with people who couldn’t make up their mind, both ends of their bodies heaving alternately We still had to go to the galley for grub & fetch back these big trays with pre cooked fried eggs, & rashers of bacon, pre cooked about six hours before, swimming in fat and carried across a open deck, those fellows feeling brave enough to leave their place on the bog took one look & returned. In spite of all this mess we were still required on inspection to have the tea-pot and trays clean & shiny. Up on open deck we watched the massive waves pitch the ships about. We identified our nearest companion as the CAPETOWN CASTLE the biggest ship in the convoy at any one time you could see daylight under the hull

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as she rode the waves. You heard our screws roar as they came out of the water, then plopped back in again. We seemed to sail in all directions, the expert among us suggesting that we were evading submarines, the destroyer raced in & out & bangs were heard, depth charges were suggested as the cause. Some wiseacre thought he had seen the lights on the NEW YORK skyscrapers, but that wasn’t believed. We got a message that DEANA DURBIN the film star had been killed on one of the London underground escalators but that proved false. As the days passed all fresh food ran out & we were given hardtack biscuits, these almost walked off the table they were so full of weevils. We held the biscuit over a candle when the weevils would retreat to the other side, a quick flip over & the weevils were incinerated, a quick bang on the table and off they came, I can’t remember that we

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ate them it was one way of passing the time. Slowly the weather improved & the sun started to shine & it got hotter & hotter. Tennants lager beer was readily available & off course some over imbibed & collapsed to the deck where the sun burnt them as they lay I saw the consequences, the blister covered the whole of their back, they finished up under arrest, self inflicted injury is severely punished. It was rumoured that some had died of sun stroke & been buried at sea during the night & so we sailed into Freetown harbour, massive landlocked harbour which took all our ships & many others. The bum-boats, dug out canoes came alongside trying to sell fresh fruit but they were about 30 ft down & we had been forbidden to deal with them. The local fishermen came out in their single man dug out canoes, they appeared to push off from the beach

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& let the tide take them out & come back in with the tide when it turned, those in the know on the boat were tossing silver coins over & the fishermen watched them until they hit the water, they would roll out of their canoes, and dive after them, we could see the coins turning & glinting, they never failed to collect them, they had this remarkable ability to roll back into their canoes so effortlessly, of course some on board were covering farthings & halfpennies with silver paper from their cigarette packets, which these fellows still dived for, coming up from the dive & shouting, you Bastard, Glasgow tanner. There was one of the fishermen who had on a flat topped [illegible] painted red, who slowly inched past the ship loudly singing old army ditties at the top of his voice as he drifted along between the anchored convoy. He knew all the words, particularly of Bless – em – all – Bless – em – all, except that he substituted the “F” word for BLESS, much to the embarrassment of the officers & their ladies & nurses etcetera who were lining the open upper decks which we were not allowed near. We were soon on our way again we had a crossing the line ceremony (EQUATOR) with Father Neptune and all received their crossing the line certificate. Eventually we rounded CAPE TOWN which we saw in the distance, my mate George took a picture of Table Mountain far away & then we were positioning the convoy in line astern to enter DURBAN HARBOUR which we entered via a lock-gate, all the time
listening to the lovely voice of a lady, standing on the dockside, singing through a megaphone, all

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popular songs of the day. She was the MAYORESS OF DURBAN who was given secure information of the arrival of ships, also of their departure It was all very impressive. She was born in WOOLWICH where her parents had at one time owned the KENTISH INDEPENDENT, a local newspaper. We disembarked very soon & were greeted by ladies of the Womens Voluntary services who plyed [sic] us with all kinds of goodies including fresh fruit of every description which we hadn’t had for years. & so we came to CLAREWOOD RACECOURSE in DURBAN, massive transit camp, reached by a short railway journey, full of soldiers sailors & airmen all in transit to all directions. After a week or so which we spent swimming in the Indian Ocean with shoals of Dolphins swimming around us or taking the train along the coast to Isipingo or on to AMANZIMTOTI where we took a rowing boat up a small river, we rowed until the boat

Collection

Citation

Ted Neale, “Ted Neales' memoir,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 16, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/16333.

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