Tuesday, 24 May 2016

May Day

This lovely old photo of young girls around the Maypole was taken of my Nana,Violet Popplewell when she was about 8 years old. Violet is the little girl in the front, second from the left, with a cross on her dress. Violet was born on the 12th December 1900 so this photo was probably taken in the May of 1909. It is in front of her school which was on Oxford Street, Bridlington and is still being used as a Primary school to this day. (See photo below)

The Maypole had ribbons of all different colours and I can remember my Nana telling me that her ribbon was red. I found a film on YouTube showing how the children would dance around the Maypole.

I have many stories of Violet's childhood years in Bridlington which I will share in future blogs.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Mothers and daughters in time of war - Charlotte Strickland nee Blakey and Violet Orwin nee Popplewell

Last week I wrote about my paternal grandfather and his experiences during the First World War and also about my uncle Cyril during the Second World War. Now I want to write about the women on the home front and how they coped during these difficult times, especially both my grandmothers, Charlotte and Violet.

I can't imagine the immense wory that my Nana,Violet Orwin must have had when her 17 year old son joined the R.A.F. knowing the danger that he was in during every mission, I worried when my children where late home from an evening out. Then when the dreaded telegram arrived with the notification that he had been shot down, I am sure that her sadness and grief was unbearable and that even though it must have been a great relief to hear that he was still alive, to know that he had been taken as a prisoner by the enemy. Violet's husband, my Grandfather, Herbert Cyril Orwin was also called up to serve King and Country. Even though he was already in his forties my Grandfather was sent to serve in India. I am not sure exactly when he was called up to serve, I think that it was near the end of the war, but Nana was left to cope on her own.
This is Herbert Orwin in India

My Mum Doreen Bertha Orwin was 13 when World War 2 broke out, this was a very worrying time and caused Doreen to breakout with psoriasis. With Hull being a big port it was very badly bombed during the war, Doreen’s family had an air-raid shelter in the back garden with bunks and bedding and food, but it was not very nice having to sleep there every night and hearing the sirens and the bombs falling. Doreen usually received the hand me down  clothes from her elder sister Joan, but once during the war she had received a brand new strawberry pink coat, she was so proud of it that she had it hanging in the living room to show to some friends, when her father came to warn them of an air-raid, land mines hanging on parachutes were blowing in their direction. They rushed to the shelter, it was very frightening as they could see the land mines coming down, thankfully the wind blew them further down the street and one of them landed in Rokeby Park in a lot of mud, but it caused such a big crater you could have fitted three houses into it, and the explosion caused all the windows to blow in and the plaster to fall from the ceilings. Luckily everyone was in the shelter so no one was injured but Doreen’s new coat was covered with plaster and soot so she was most upset. The buzz bombs were also very frightening, they made a horrible shrill noise as they were passing overhead, but it was when they went still that you were most afraid as it meant that they were coming down. Once Doreen recalled sheltering under the table and her mother got angry with her because she thought she was playing with a torch, “stop playing with that torch” she said, but it wasn’t the torch but the flames coming out of the back of the buzz bombs. One of the reasons that the area in which Doreen lived was regularly attacked was because close by was a park in which there where two anti-aircraft guns, these guns were called Big Berthas and for this reason Doreen hated her middle name and would never tell anyone what the B was for. 
Violet with daughter Joan and friend and Cyril in the background

My other Grandmother Charlotte was left alone with four young daughters under the age of 7 to look after while her husband was fighting for King and Country during the First World War. Hull being a an important Port made it a target for bombing, not just in the Second World War but also during the
First World War  it regularly came under attack from zeppelin raids, there were at least 12 occasions when bombs fell on the city and air-raid warnings were more frequent because of zeppelins travelling over the city to other areas. My aunt Alice can remember several of these air-raids, often they would climb under the kitchen table until everything was clear though on one occasion she can remember her mother wrapping them in blankets and taking them out to a field where they had to lay in the snow with the blankets over them until the zeppelins had passed by, this could have been the 5th of March 1916 when two zeppelins attacked Hull during the night. Aunt Alice told me the following, “I remember the 1st World War, I was at school, I was born in 1911, and I started school during the war. I remember being at school when the buzzers (sirens) would go and mother would come and get us... We often went across the road to a neighbour - Mrs Thompson they called her, during the Great War the women wore ankle length black skirts and big white aprons, sometimes flat pancake hats on their heads, their hair in a bun. My father stopped my mother going over because Mrs Thompson used to get so excited when the bombs came over because next door to her there lived a German family and she used to get big lumps of coal and throw them over next door were the Germans lived and call them all sorts of things. When the bombs were dropping we used to go under the kitchen table and when she wasn’t looking we would pinch the sugar bowl and the tin of Bourneville cocoa and mix them together.” 

I certainly feel a lot of love and respect for these strong and courageous women who were able to carry on in difficult times and where good Mothers to their children.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Uncle Cyril Orwin - Prisoner of War

                                                Roll call Stalag luft VII

After being captured and interogated Cyril was held as a prisoner of war in Stalag luft VII here follows some information about this camp.

"Stalag Luft 7 was a World War II German Army prisoner-of-war camp that was opened in 1944 in Luckenwaalde, near Bankau. (today BÄ…ków) 6 kilometers from Kreuzburg ( today Kluczbork) north of Opole in Silesia Germany (today Poland). Originally in 1 July 1944, the camp held 230 prisoners, all RAF flying crews until they were joined by members of the Glider Pilot Regiment captured at the Battle of Arnhem, (Holland) September 1944 from other camps further east, and by 1 January 1945, the camp held 1578: a mix of British, Americans, Russian, Polish and Canadian troops. On January 19, 1945, 1,500 prisoners marched out of camp in bitter cold. They crossed a bridge over the river Oder on 21 January, reached Goldberg on 5 February and loaded onto train. On 8 February they reached Stalag III-A which already held 20,000 prisoners, mainly soldiers from Britain, the U.S. and Russia."

Many years ago I read Cyril's log book which he kept during this time, I remember him writing about the forced march in the winter and how many men had sold their boots to get food. Unfortunately Cyril's log book is no longer in the family but is with his second wife but I have an excerpt here from one of his fellow prisoners, who also made the drawing of Cyril in my previous post.
"Excerpt from the Diary of fellow POW Edward Milligan -
Mon 9th April 1945
 Very dull morning, air activity in night.  Held meeting of sketch group, five present.  Do work on structures.  Get hair cut in new barbers’ shop.  Lovely weather later in day, not so cold as yesterday.  Had queer dream last night, in one, dreamt that we were relieved by USA tanks, in the other by Russian.  Rumour that new Russian offensive on Berlin was started, hope that it is true.  Planned a trip for after the war with Bill Orwin a Tempest pilot, to go to Ripon and Fountains Abbey whilst we are on leave.  Post up notice for gramophone concerts on Monday and Friday evenings at 7:30.  Must visit a few of the old pubs in Hull, architecture and the beer sound interesting.  Gave gramophone concert, crowded house!  Many turned away, played my Egmont overture, quite pleased with the success of the whole show.  Rumours circulating that the officers are moving to Munich on Wednesday and that we are leaving on Friday, hope that it is not true, don’t fancy another long journey under such conditions."
I copied the following poem out of his log book, I don't know who wrote it, whether he wrote it him self, or a fellow prisoner, or whether it is a known poem.

 To the undying memory of the fighter pilots who fell in the Battle of Britain - September 1940

 Where fly you now, you rich young blood
where drones your phantom plane
fly you in some ethereal sky
dice you with death again?

With throttle wide streak you accross
some ghost, unchartered land
or fly you in the old patrols
are all your journeys planned.

Raise you your hand in last salute,
to gallant foes who fall.
or in Valhall meet you them
old battles to recall?

Your blood was hot, your brain was ice
the cost you knew full well,
as earthwards, downwards screaming went
your burning, turning hell.

Yes you were old, tho'young in years,
from life it's treasure stole
you gripped the cup, with hand aloft
one draught, you gauffed the whole.

While we who live, still trudge the earth.
proud son, you knew your end
you "lived" your life, you silver wings
that broke, yet would not bend.

In words of one, who, grim and stern,
heads ENGLAND come what may.
Thro' sweat, thro' tears, thro' blood, aye death
unto a brighter day.

Fly on oh youth in clear blue skies,
in you, our hopes renew
for never did so many owe,
so much, unto so few.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Uncle Cyril Orwin and the Second World War

Today is the 5th of May, bevrijdings dag in the Netherlands, the day that the 2nd World War ended here in Europe. Above is a drawing of my uncle Cyril, my Mum's elder brother, drawn by a fellow prisoner of war in Stalag VII.
Cyril William Orwin was born on the 13th February 1923 in Kingston upon Hull, the eldest child of Herbert Cyril Orwin and Violet Orwin nee Popplewell. In 1939 after finishing his education he won an apprenticeship to the Royal Airforce, he was sixteen years old.
Cyril did some of his training in Canada and I have a wonderful photo of him flying a Harvard and taken by a fellow pilot.
Uncle Cyril was shot down on the 10th September 1944. He was flying back from a reconisence mission, and was flying over the Hoek of Holland when he saw a military train, he flew low over the train to see whether he could take a shot of it but on the last carriage there was a large machine gun which gunned him down. He was thankfully close to the coast and was able to crash into the sea, and he was also able to loosen his seat belts. He was pulled out of his wreak by German soldiers and taken captive and interrogated, probably in the Fort at the Hoek of Holland.
This is the official R.A.F. report of his crash and capture - " 10 September 1944

Between 13.55 and 15.45 hours 24 Tempests were sent out for an armed recognizance  flight over the Netherlands. Ships, trains and other ground targets were attacked. One Tempest had to make an emergency landing in the Sea SW of The Hague. The flyer was able to save himself.

The Tempest that was lost was from Number 3 squadron and it was F/S. C. Orwin who came into the water south west of The Hague, he was able to save himself and was taken prisoner."

When my Grandparents where notified that he had been shot down it was not certain that he had survived the crash, thankfully a Dutch resistance worker was able to inform the British that he had survived and had been taken as a prisoner. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Robert Strickland and the First World War

I never knew my paternal grandfather Robert Strickland, he died when my Dad was 12 years old at the young age of 52. He died in the early morning of the 15th January 1940 at the beginning of the Second World War. His eldest son Fred had come downstairs early in the morning but couldn't open the parlour door because something was blocking it, he pushed hard against the door and then realised that it was his father who had collapsed on the other side. He eventually managed to get in and got his father onto a chair and held a mirror to his mouth to see if he was still breathing and my Dad was sent to fetch a doctor. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do, on Robert's death certificate the cause of death given was myocardial degeneration and chronic bronchitis.
Robert's death at such a relatively young age was probably due to injuries which he sustained during the First World War which had left him unable to hold a full time job.
Robert was born on the 4th March 1888 and he married his school sweetheart, Charlotte Blakey in 1909. By the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914 they had two young daughters, four year old Annie and two and a half year old Alice and two more daughters were born in the early years of the war, Grace in 1915 and Lily in 1916.
 I am not sure when Robert enlisted but after enlisting he became a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery. I don’t know where Robert did his training, but he was trained as a Gunner and eventually was ready to see active service. This was to be in Flanders by the Ypres Salient, in the four great and terrible battles which raged around the ruined town of Ypres between 1914 and 1918 more than 250,000 servicemen of the then British Empire lost their lives, when Robert arrived in Ypres it would have been like a Hell on earth. As a gunner Robert would have been spared the miseries of trench life but the horrors of war all around him was something which Robert was never able to talk about.
The main road out of Ypres in the direction of the salient and
trenches was the Menin Road, the first significant junction on this road after leaving Ypres was known as Hellfire Corner, every night wagons carrying supplies to the forward positions in the Salient had to cross this point, and it was generally accepted that this was the most dangerous spot on the face of the earth in the second half of 1917. Because the road junction and railway crossings were marked on all the maps, the German artillery officers could calculate their ranges most accurately, and drop shells on it to within a metre or two, direct observation was not necessary. To cross Hellfire corner by day, when the German observers on the Passchendael Ridge could see the junction, was tantamount to suicide. By night, the crossing of Hellfire Corner became a nerve-tightening game of hide-and-seek in the dark. Frank Holmes, a driver with the Royal Horse Artillery recounted the following account:
“From Ypres, a long traffic-jam of wagons headed out towards the Line waited its turn at the junction. Beyond the junction, in trenches at either side of the road, sat traffic-controllers. They had red and green lamps, their lenses shielded against observation from the German side, and their job was to let each wagon across, one at a time. When the wagon reached the junction and was next to cross, the driver of the lead pair watched the lights. When the shielded red lights were covered and the green ones exposed, the whole team spurred on their horses and raced headlong into the darkness, aiming for the dark, invisible space between the green lights as fast as they could go, at full gallop. Once over the crossing, the drivers pulled the horses up to a trot, then to a walk and continued on their way, unless they were hit by a random shell. All night long there were random shells, and there were teams of men stationed nearby to drag away the debris, human, animal and material, and mend the road ready for the next passage...”
It was at this deadly junction, Hellfire Corner, that Robert Strickland was wounded and almost killed.
Back at home Charlotte received notification that her husband was missing and presumed killed, this must have come as a terrible shock for Charlotte but it was news which wives and mothers throughout the country were hearing daily. Charlotte went into mourning and had started to apply for a widow’s pension when she received what they call a field card informing her that her husband was still alive and was a patient at New  Castle Infirmary. He had been wounded by shrapnel and had a gaping wound across his back close to his spine, he was lucky to be still alive, for Robert at least the war was over.
On November 11th 1918 Armistice was declared, during those four dreadful years of war a whole generation of young men were lost, every family was affected in one way or another and those that were lucky to survive had to learn to live with the nightmares of the horrors which they had lived through