Sex, fear and looting: survivors disclose untold stories of the Blitz

Discussion in 'WWII' started by Story, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. Salv

    Salv One Too Many

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    <snorts coffee over keyboard...>
     
  2. Anything on Blackmarketeers?

    Supply and demand at it best or worst, the black market versus rationing.
     
  3. Story

    Story I'll Lock Up

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  4. Katt in Hat

    Katt in Hat A-List Customer

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    See what e.e. alluded to now?

    lao
    tsze
    certainly told
    him,and general
    (yes

    mam)
    sherman;

    e.e. cummings excerpt from (plato told)
     
  5. Salv

    Salv One Too Many

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    I've had a flick through To The Victor The Spoils, and while it doesn't, as I thought, have a full chapter on deserters, there are several references. Firstly it talks about the soldiers who deserted under fire and just wanted to get away from the front out of fear for their lives. No great surprise there.

    The more interesting aspect of desertion is those soldies who deserted and turned to crime to survive. The book mentions rumours of a Deserters Transit Camp, based near the Normandy beaches and set up by two NCOs who sold fake passsports to men wanting to travel home. They supposedly drew rations using fake requisition forms and collected the food in stolen lorries. It was never established if this was true, and nobody ever admitted to having been there - it was always a 'friend of a friend'. While this may not have been true there were certainly gangs of deserters living out in the Normandy countryside, stealing army rations. They would go on to form criminal gangs that plagued the liberated areas.

    All the deserters who went uncaught, and therefore ended up in military prisons, had to steal to survive, and the deserters who had a criminal past were the most succesful. The Navy and RAF both refused to take conscripts with criminal records, so they all ended up in the army. By the time France was liberated the gangs of deserters were well set up, and they had a lucrative business smuggling between France and Belgium. Champagne and cognac went one way, and cigarettes went the other way. Investigations by the authorities showed that Brussels was the epicentre of what became a crime wave. In December 1944 the Brussels garrison's Provost Company reported that "Some...are forming themselves into armed gangs and are living mostly in the small brothel cafes in the area east and west of the Gare du Nord."

    Gang members were often arrested, but one gang started producing counterfeit passes which they validated with stolen stamps. In November 1944 322 deserters were arrested, 43 of them in a single raid on the Cafe Blighty.

    In Ostend in December 1944 a gang posing as a Field Security Unit was arrested, all with forged ID papers that appeared legitimate, and all dressed as senior NCOs or officers.

    Vehicles of all description were a constant target for the gangs, as was petrol to fuel them, and thousands of gallons of stolen petrol were retrived in various raids in Belgium and France.

    The scale of the problem became so great that in February 1945 Operation Blanket was launced in an attempt to round up as many deserters as possible. In a single day 450 men were arrested, although only 5% were found to be long-term deserters, the rest having absconded only within the last few days.
     
  6. Story

    Story I'll Lock Up

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    Fascinating topic

    My High School French teacher proudly admitted to having gone AWOL 13 times, between landing at Omaha Beach and reaching Berlin. His rifle company was continually put out in front and since he had a native's command of French, he was frequently tasked to accompany recon patrols (which can be more even more draining).

    Stephen Ambrose's writing on the topic -
    http://www.worldwar2history.info/Army/deserters.html
     
  7. Alan Eardley

    Alan Eardley One Too Many

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  8. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    The Glenn Miller Story

    I remember a newspaper story from a dozen years ago that
    accounted the disappearance of Glenn Miller's plane over the
    English Channel. A RAF veteran claimed his bomber group; while enroute
    back to England, jettisoned live ordinance over the Channel the day
    Miller's plane disappeared. RAF Command concluded that Miller's low flying
    DC3 had been accidentally struck, and decided to secret this least
    Yank GIs would overreact against RAF crews. If true, Miller died from
    "friendly fire."
     
  9. Micawber

    Micawber A-List Customer

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    Interesting thread. Being of an age where I grew up surrounded by people who were involved in both world wars both on the home front and in service I can very much relate to how the experiences of the individuals often differ to the accepted official line.

    As an aside my paternal Grandfather had several retail premises in London from just after WWI to the mid 1960's. During WWII he went about his very respectable business, did his stints at fire-watching, put in a claim when bombs damaged his premises - all in all an average civilian going about his ostensibly unremarkable daily life.

    However, once or twice after a large lunch where perhaps the drink had flowed, I remember him making vague references to incidents including what he called ‘shoot outs’ in the docks he was personally involved in that sounded very much out of character from the respectable elderly gentleman I knew. After he died in the late ‘60’s we obviously had to go through his private papers and in doing so discovered a mass of pocket notebooks and scraps of paper containing obviously hastily scribbled hand written notes. These were accompanied by more formally written and typed up accounts describing the movements of individuals, police officers, service personnel, dock workers, vehicles etc, there were also addresses, descriptions of police raids and other obscure goings on many centred around the East End. Also in this hoard were receipts for payments to my Grandfather from what turned out to be government sources and pistol hidden amongst the hollowed out pages of a large law book - all very intriguing. His funeral was not only attended by many of his friends and business acquaintances but also by a number of people who’s identity was unknown to the family.

    To cut a long story short it turns out that the old boy was not only keeping tabs on black market gangs and their networks who were obtaining large quantities of goods and commodities directly from the ships in the docks and the warehouses. Not only this he was also carrying out surveillance on members of the police and others who were also involved and profiteering. Apparently my Grandfather was part of a small network of people engaged by a well-known barrister at the time who reported directly to government and paid by them to do so.

    His reluctance to talk about much of this was perhaps understandable when one bears in mind that this was not too long after the end of the war and some of those involved back then were now rather large players in the criminal underworld.

    All of his papers pertaining to this period are now lodged with the IWM.
     
  10. carebear

    carebear My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Many journalists consider themselves generally knowledgeable, so when they find something they didn't know, they assume no one else must know it either and then present it as some amazing discovery or lost secret.

    A little research would correct the problem, but that would force them to face their ignorance and reporting "secrets" is more notable than just reporting facts without the pizzazz.

    The trend of reporting as if everyone is stupid or ill-read has gotten worse. Smoking is bad for you! Water is wet! Kids are posting pictures on the internet! News at eleven!

    Every local hack wants to be Woodward and Bernstein.
     
  11. Lord Jagged

    Lord Jagged New in Town

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    I think we all like to focus on the good in people and its too easy to forget the bad things in our history. Lets hope that one day people are better and wars are a thing of a past that can be forgotten.
     
  12. all over the place

    There were several full scale riots between Australians and US troops stationed here in WW2 such as the famous Battle of Brisbane
    http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-battles/ww2/battle-brisbane.htm
    and lots of stories about white troops and MP's murdering negro troops with impunity, which upset the locals quite a lot. I have, as some of you might know, fictionalised such an incident in a book. The Negro troops were very popular in this country, and I personally would have loved to have seen the famous Dr Carver Club, a dance hall set up in Brisbane for the black GI's to avoid the trouble that was always brewing when white GI's saw white women talking to them.
    Very few accounts of it survive, and there are few references online, but I have seen photos and it looked pretty natty.
     
  13. Alan Eardley

    Alan Eardley One Too Many

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    Riots in WW2

     
  14. Alan Eardley

    Alan Eardley One Too Many

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    Poor research

    Well put. You can't blame them too much - they often suffer from being young...
    The so-called Glenn Miller mystery referred to in the posting above is a classic example of this. Some of the theories in this case make even alien abduction cases look plausible, and some of the facts of the 'RAF bombing cover up' (e.g. the relative timing) are just plain wrong! However, nobody seems to care. People who think some of the things in the Da Vinci Code are the truth (which many people do) will believe anything.

    Alan
     
  15. carebear

    carebear My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    It's not so much that they are foolish enough to believe they're true, what bothers me is they are credulous enough to believe they're new.

    The Gnostic stuff contained in the DaVinci Code and the "Gospel of Judas" was old hat (and addressed by the Apostles) in 35 AD.

    That things like WWII race riots, Miller's death or the explosion of an Allied munitions ship containing mustard gas in an Italian harbor during the war get reported as "newly discovered secrets" gives these "old hat" facts, and the conspiracies that resulted, new credibility.
     
  16. Tourbillion

    Tourbillion Practically Family

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    I am currently reading "Life of the Party" a biography of Pamela Digby. During WWII she was married to Randolph Churchhill, the son of the PM. It is an interesting story.

    As for the sex going on during the Blitz, it appears that most of it was with Mrs. Pamela Churchhill, while her husband was out fighting (they didn't get along anyway). She is described as being the single most informed civillian in the UK during the war in her biography. I am still reading it, but it seems her sources were her American "friends" and of course her father in law.

    It is simply astonishing.

    My father only told funny war stories for the most part, he didn't like to discuss the loss of many of his closest friends during the war. He did discuss the liberation of Paris though, wild times.
     
  17. Hat and Rehat

    Hat and Rehat Call Me a Cab

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    They called him "Uncle Joe". It's very hard to justify how much was given to Russia after the war. Death By Government is a book worth reading to sift through the official story.
     
  18. p51

    p51 One Too Many

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    This reminds me of how the histories of the US Civil War changed overnight once the final vet had passed away.
    Now that WW2 vets are everywhere you look, the truth of the horror of the war is finally coming out. Looters, deserters, cowards and profiteers. You could never mention them a few years ago as we'd placed the vets on an impossible pedestal.
    Sure, that generation saved the world, but some did a lot more saving than others.
     
  19. Hat and Rehat

    Hat and Rehat Call Me a Cab

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    I've always taken the "Greatest Generation" rhetoric with a large dose of salt. People like to believe there was a golden age of some kind in the past, but human nature doesn't change. All times are a mixed bag of good and evil, a line which, as Solzhenitsyn said, " ...passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart."
     
    Edward likes this.
  20. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    It's important to remember that "The Greatest Generation" never, ever called itself that. Tom Brokaw invented the term to sell a book in the 1990s. Before that, those Americans born between 1910 and 1925 were called the "GI Generation" or the "Swing Generation." They would have been the last people to aggrandize themselves as some kind of holy icons, and it's ill serving them, now that most of them are dead, to treat them as such today. Civic worship of the military is in every way incompatible with the principles for which, supposedly, WWII was fought. (Although those who actually saw combat would probably tell you the only principle they had in mind was "don't get killed.")
     

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