Every Which Way – the National Memorial to the Evacuation of children in Britain during WWII at the UK National Arboretum

By Jackie Daly

SET IN 150 ACRES DOTTED WITH 30,000 TREES, the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffordshire, England makes it a unique place of discovery and contemplation. (1)

Its 330 memorials – more are constantly being added – provide a chance to honour many groups of people – military and civilian, professional and social groups and those bands of individuals simply thrown together by the circumstances they found themselves facing. (2)

On 25 July 2017 I and around three hundred others guests were honoured to be invited to the unveiling of ‘Every Which Way’ – or to give it it’s proper title, the National Memorial to the Evacuation of children in Britain during WWI – at the Arboretum.

 

A general view of the Memorial. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

A view of the figures. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

After years of fundraising the British Evacuee Association managed to raise enough funds to commission sculptor Maurice Blik PPRBS, FRSA (3) to create this distinctive sculpture.

This is what Maurice wrote in his booklet about the memorial:

‘I was on a flight from London to New York when I got chatting to the woman sitting next to me. She told me about the British Evacuees Association (BEA), (4) of which her friend was a member, and how they wanted to erect a memorial to mark their evacuation as children during WWII from their home towns and cities to the relative safety of the countryside.

I was not only captivated by this idea but also identified in many ways with the sense of bewilderment and displacement that many of these children felt at being torn from their parents and sent to live in unknown locations with strangers. It seemed as if fate had seated us together and you can imagine her surprise when I told her I was a sculptor. The rest is history as they say.

The title of the memorial was inspired by one of the members of the BEA who on seeing my initial scale model for the sculpture, exclaimed, ‘That’s it exactly – we were going every which way’.

I could not have imagined a more fitting title.

 

A close-up some of the figures – note the split luggage beside the little girl. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

With the design I hope to convey some of the anxiety and confusion felt by the child Evacuees.

This is not a straight forward line of children about to set off on a journey; hands and items of clothing are back to front and luggage is split open to symbolise families being torn apart.’

 

The Duke of Gloucester and Karen Follows, Manager of the British Evacuees Association meet some of the attendees after the unveiling ceremony. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

The memorial was unveiled by Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester and was filmed by British national television.

Although the memorial depicts children it also honours all though connected in the evacuation process – teachers, billeting officers, train and coach drivers and foster parents. (5)

It is located next to the Children’s Play Area at the Arboretum.

A few of the invited guests at the memorial unveiling at the National Arboretum. Jackie is third from the right, with fellow IWM volunteer Julie Underhay, second from the right, who is also a BEA trustee. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

 

SOURCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

(1) http://www.thenma.org.uk/

(2) http://www.thenma.org.uk/whats-here/memorial-listing/

(3) http://www.mauriceblik.com/

(4) http://www.evacuees.org.uk/

(5) http://www.evacuees.org.uk/memorial.html

With a little help from our friends – part 2: Operation Wildhorn III and the V2 missile

BY RICHARD MADDOX

THE FIRST PART this post looked briefly at the work of Frenchman Michel Hollard and his contribution to British Scientific and Technical Intelligence in understanding the V1 flying bomb, an example of which is in the Imperial War Museum in London. This post concentrates on the V2 weapon.

The story of the contribution made by Polish Home Army ((Armia Krajowa – the most well-known internal Polish resistance group) to the understanding and subsequent defeat of the German V1 and V2 weapon programmes is long and valiant.

For simplicity I will concentrate on just one important aspect, OPERATION WILDHORN III.

Let me start by saying that the story of Allies (particularly Britain) and Poland is still controversial in some quarters.

I know very little about the context – a few days in Warsaw doesn’t count in my view – and so I will simply say that there are no doubt many excellent resources both in print and on the internet that will put the cases of all concerned far better than I am able to.

The WILDHORN operations (also called MOSTY – meaning ‘bridges’ – in Polish) were a series of SOE Polish section sponsored flights to and from Poland to bring Home Army field commanders to London for meetings with the Polish Government in Exile. I believe there may have been a small amount of supplies or agents delivered but this was mainly handled by other means (known as RIPOSTE missions).

As a file at the UK National Archives shows (1), the first of the WILDHORN flights occurred in April 1944 after considerable difficulties gaining a suitable aircraft and a suitably trained crew.

Planning appeared to have started in late 1943 and an undated (but probably written in or before January 1944) document in the file lists the requirements for a landing area – frozen ground, snow no deeper 5 cm, a wind less than 10 mph – and a suggestion that it should be in the Lublin area. Security and ground operations are not detailed but ‘appear satisfactory’. The operation gained approval on 21 January with a request three days later for an aircraft to be assigned so that it could be completed in February.

Then there political problems outside the scope of this post. Suffice to say ‘discussions’ between Polish and British senior officers and centred around taking an aircraft off Special Duty operations (those connected with the Resistance) in France and sending and then basing it in Italy from where it would fly to Poland.

By early February it was clear that an RAF aircraft and crew from Britain could not be spared and it was suggested that a Polish crew be trained and an aircraft (a Lockheed Hudson light bomber and maritime patrol aircraft) be allocated from the Mediterranean Allied Air Force based in Italy.

From 14 March onwards a series of dates were proposed and cancelled for various reasons including the harsh weather.

V2 facility Peenemunde A © IWM (C 4782)

Test Stand VII at the Army Research Centre Peenemunde, Usedom Island, Germany. At the bottom centre (inside the elliptical earthwork) is a V2 rocket on its trailer and light anti-aircraft positions on top of the pre-launch assembly hall at upper right. Image © IWM (C4782). Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022367

V2 facility Peenemunde 2 © IWM (C 4783)

The same area after heavy bombing attacks RAF Bomber Command in 1943. At the time this air reconnaissance image was taken (September 1944) the V2 programme had been moved to Poland. The arrows point to where the anti-aircraft guns were sited previously. Image © IWM, catalogue no C4783. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205023436

From 13 June 1944 London endured V2 attacks and there was an urgent need for as much intelligence on the missile as possible.

On 25 July it was agreed that V2 parts would be sent to London with senior Polish commanders and a Polish courier.

Having found a suitable landing ground, suitable crew and a Douglas Dakota aircraft from No. 267 Squadron RAF based in Italy all the elements were in place.

However fate was to intervene.

The landing ground (codenamed MOTYL – BUTTERFLY) was a boggy meadow, with substantial German forces nearby.

Although the aircraft landed and was quickly loaded for take-off with its human cargo and V2 material – missile parts (reported 25.000 including a new guidance system), drawings, photographs and analytical reports – it was found that the brakes were locked and the aircraft had sunk into the soft ground.

Frantic efforts were made to free the aircraft. German units were reported to be a mile (800 metres) away.

The passengers were made to get off and the V2 material unloaded.

Everyone – passengers and members of the Home Army ‘welcome team’ responsible for the aircraft landing loading and despatch – dug furiously. The crew prepared to burn their maps and other papers. Even the hydraulic lines to the brakes were cut to release the brakes.

Eventually, the hard work paid off. The aircraft was reloaded and wobbled into the air, just clearing a stone wall around 20 foot (7 metres) high.

With no hydraulic lines the reservoirs were filled with ‘liquid’ (accounts vary as to what this was) to ensure enough pressure to retract the undercarriage by hand and, having lost an hour from their schedule, they had to fly a direct route through an area known to be patrolled by German fighter aircraft.

They landed at Brindisi (on a runway being built) safely just before dark and after repairs the aircraft was flown to London via Morocco, arriving on 27 July (2).

There (according to R V Jones) the Polish courier – who spoke no English – made it apparent that he would only release his vital V2 parts to one of two Polish Officers he knew and trusted in London. In the meantime he threatened anyone who came near the parts with a knife

This obstacle was overcome when General Bor appeared ‘told our gallant Pole that it was alright for him to talk to us and show us his treasures’

The propulsion unit of a V2 missile being inspected amid damaged houses © IWM (HU 44973)

Damage caused by a V2 ballistic missile at Limehouse, East London. In the foreground, a man inspects the propulsion unit of the rocket. Image © IWM (HU 44973). Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205019013

Jones goes on to write that the Pole’s information – not just what he brought but what he had observed – was instrumental in understanding the way the missile was launched and flew (3)

SOURCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

(1) File reference HS 4/183, UK National Archives viewed 1 April 2017

(2) https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2015/09/08/operation-most-iii/ – accessed 17 July 2017

(3) ‘Most Secret War’ by R V Jones, third edition May 1978, pages 438 – 439.

Rupert Shephard and his ‘Women in Industry’ series of paintings for the Ministry of Information, 1943

BY RICHARD MADDOX

BORN IN HIGHBURY, North London and educated in Swanage and Derbyshire, Rupert Norman Shephard would become a draughtsman and towards the end of the war an official War Artist.

In a three-part oral history online interview recorded in 1978 with IWM’s James Mellen (1) (who also interviewed a number of other artists active during the Second World War) he describes his early life, his artistic influences and how he would sketch workers on the factory floor after his day job as a draughtsman.

St_John_WWII1-782x658

Second World War First Aid Post, with Three St John Ambulance Brigade Men in a Domestic Setting by Rupert Shephard, oil on canvas, 1940. Collection of the Museum of the Order of St John.  Image from https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/first-aid-post-with-three-st-john-ambulance-brigade-men-in-a-domestic-interior-135514/search/venue:museum-of-the-order-of-st-john-6474/sort_by/object.lifecycle.creation.date.earliest/order/asc/page/4

At one time Shephard was a jig and engineering tool draughtsman at EMI in Hayes, Middlesex when the factory was engaged on war work manufacturing things like their Capacitance Altimeter fitted to the RAF bomber force for blind landings and low-level anti-shipping torpedo attacks (2).

The pressures of work and his artistic endeavours caused him a breakdown in 1943.

This however enabled him to concentrate on a new career as an official war artist, selling work to the War Artists Advisory Committee.

Established by the Ministry of Information part of its purpose was to ‘to draw up a list of artists qualified to record the war at home and abroad. … to advise on the selection of artists on this list for war purposes and on the arrangements for their employment’.

Approximately half of the 5,570 pieces purchased by the Committee are in the collection of the Imperial War Museums (3).

Shephard painted industrial scenes in Britain and amongst over work made a series of five paintings entitled ‘Women in Industry’ with a series in 1943 of tasks in traditional factory settings.

Three of these – ‘A Girl Feeding an Automatic Machine’, ‘A Girl Tending an Automatic Machine’, and ‘Drilling and Milling’ – are in the Imperial War Museums’ collection. Two other paintings – ‘Three Women Drillings’ and ‘Girls Drilling’ – complete the 1943 series.

Papers in the IWM Collection indicate that he received 30 guineas – a guinea being one pound and one shilling sterling, with 20 shillings making a pound – for the ‘Women in Industry’ series (4).

He also painted a number of works showing workers in both aircraft manufacturing and repair factories.

A painting entitled ‘A Nose section after Repair: Girls fitting supports to take the bomb aimer’s window’ – was purchased for 15 guineas on its own. It shows female workers fitting the seal of the bomb aimers’ window to the the bottom of the nose blister of a  Lancaster bomber.

It is possible that this was at the A V Roe (Avro – makers of the Lancaster) repair facility at RAF Bracebridge Heath, a former First World War airfield near Lincoln (5) (6) .

A Nose section after Repair: Girls fitting supports to take the bomb aimer’s window. IWM catalogue reference Art LD 4141

On one of the images of Lancasters under repair by Shephard in the RAF Museum’s art collection the No. 50 Squadron RAF code ‘VN’ can be seen.

Shephard, Rupert, 1909-1992; Lancaster Fuselage Section

Shephard, Rupert; Lancaster Fuselage Section; Royal Air Force Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lancaster-fuselage-section-136073

The painting below (‘Filming a Practice Launching of a Rubber Dinghy in a Training Pond’ in the Imperial War Museums IWM Catalogue LD 4647) was made in May 1944.

It appears to show an instructional training film for Lancaster crews being made. Of interest is the fact that the bomber is incomplete (missing its tail unit) and also the line of figures behind the camera crew who appear to be operating a wave-making device.

‘Filming a Practice Launching of a Rubber Dinghy in a Training Pond’ in the Imperial War Museums’ collection, IWM catalogue reference Art LD 4647. Image from Art UK website ( https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/filming-a-practice-launching-of-a-rubber-dinghy-in-a-training-pond-7369/search/actor:shephard-rupert-19091992/page/1/view_as/grid )

After the war Rupert married and moved to South Africa with his South African wife where he continued to paint. Returning to the UK in 1962 he turned his attention to producing finely textured lino cut prints, often of London scenes.

The River Lea (1975) part of the series “London, The Passing Scene.” Image from Gwen Hughes Fine art ( http://gwenhughesart.co.uk/artworks/the-river-lea/ )

His son Ben, a military and medical historian, worked on the well-known 1973 British television documentary series ‘The World at War’ (7).

SOURCES:

(1) http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80003184 IWM catalogue reference 3198 – retrieved 18 July 2017

(2) http://www.emiarchivetrust.org/capacitance-altimeter/ – retrieved 18 July 2017

(3) http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-secret-purpose-of-the-war-artists-advisory-committee – retrieved 18 July 2017

(4) http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1050001072  IWM catalogue reference ART/WA2/03/228 – retrieved 18 July 2017

(5) http://www.raf-lincolnshire.info/bracebridgeheath/bracebridgeheath.htm – retrieved 18 July 2017

(6) http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1510959&sort=4&search=all&criteria=Bracebridge&rational=q&recordsperpage=30 – retrieved 18 July 2017

(7) https://web.archive.org/web/20070923050354/http://ccw.politics.ox.ac.uk/people/bios/shephard.asp – retrieved 18 July 2017