Give us your call sign by Pete Brammer

Pete’s response to ‘Fire’ Trigger.

Give us your call sign by Pete Brammer.

The surrounding area around St Paul’s Cathedral lay in rubble and ruins, as Londoners desperately tried to get on with their miserable lives. The cathedral stood defiant in the face of Hitler’s indiscriminate night after night bombardment, as if sticking two fingers up to him. On the other hand, their leader Winston Churchill did in fact stick two fingers up. This was not only in defiance, but in the sign of victory he believed would surly come.

On the 5th January 1941 in adverse weather conditions, an Airspeed Oxford flew over the river Thames. Its pilot was ordered to give its ‘Call Sign’ and identify itself.

Several times the request was made, but unfortunately this was not forthcoming, so, the Ack Ack battery guarding the approaches to the capital received orders to ‘Fire’.

Several shells exploded in the dark sky until the plane finally took a

hit, bringing it down in the murky freezing river below.

The crew of HMS Haslemere a small, former ferry used as a barrage

balloon ship, spotted the parachute coming down, and saw its pilot

alive in the water, calling in English for help.

Lt Cdr Walter Fletcher commander of Haslemere, bravely dived in,

attempting to perform a rescue. Due to the movement of the ship in

the rough weather, her crew were unable to pull it back in time and

the stern crashed down on the unfortunate flier, who was sucked

into the blades of the propeller, and the body was never recovered.

After failing in his rescue attempt, Fletcher was in fact brought back

on board, but sadly died in hospital a few days later.

The report regarding the plane being shot down by British soldiers

was quickly suppressed, maybe for moral reasons, as the dead pilot

just happened to be the legendary Amy Johnson.

The reasons for her crash were given, that she had run out of fuel

and ditched the plane.

For nearly 60 years the Ack Ack gunner Tom Mitchell carried the truth, until in 1999 he eventually told his story. Amy had failed to give her ‘Call Sign’ and correct ‘Identification Code’. “She gave the wrong one twice.” he said. “Sixteen rounds of shells were fired and the plane dived into the Thames Estuary. We all thought it was an enemy plane until the next day when we read in the papers and discovered it was Amy. The officers told us never to tell anyone what happened.”

A memorial service in St Martin in the Fields was held on 14th January 1941 for Amy. Walter Fletcher was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal later in May of that year.

As a member of ATA who has no known grave, she is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission under the name Amy V Johnson on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.

 

A Brush with the Enemy by Michael Healy

A Brush with the Enemy by Michael Healy

Father was a Military Man

Who hailed from North of the Border

Smart in his kilt, hat and Uniform

He would play his bagpipes as his team performed

A Pipe Major in the Black Watch, and proud.

Sadly the flames of World War II were loud

And he and his bagpipes had to part.

 

As war was declared he was promoted and transferred,

In charge of a battery of anti-aircraft guns, men, and kit,

Posted to London, in the middle of the Blitz,

A busy time for all, with he and his men often under attack.

Transferred again, to the Liverpool docks, they were glad to be back.

 

After so many firings the guns were cleaned

With a brush being pushed down the barrel

During one such cleaning the Germans attacked,

The orders were given for the guns to fire back.

 

After the action was over, one brush was found to be missing.

In later life my father would muse, what must the Germans have thought?

When a brush flew past from below, as those British Soldiers fought.

Despite their attempts to sweep the sky,

the guns were attacked and it seemed he might die.

 

The rest of the story as life carried on, is really quite happy and bright.

Transferred to hospital, over many months, he began to regain his light.

With the care of the doctors, and the wiles of the nurses, he started to notice their smiles,

One in particular, her name was Nurse Margery, her smile caught onto Dadsā€™ heart,

 

War over, in February ā€™47, they were happily married,

March ā€˜48, I finished their story, as that wee bairn she had carried.

Pleased to report, my occasional slumbers, were accompanied by the skirl of his pipes.

Dad would recall his stories, behind the smoke of his pipe, and as I listened I often wondered if that brush ever did come to light?