2003-09-06 - D.J. WATKINS DFC, CdeG. Obit.

" Des " WATKINS, Desmond John
08-Nov-1921 to 06-Sep-2003

Desmond Watkins was born in Llwyn-y-pia in the Rhondda Valley on the 8th. November 1921 to Daisy Watkins (nee Knight) & her husband Jim who had served from 1914-19 with The Gloucestershire Regiment experiencing the horrors of the First War in the trenches, including Somme, Ypres, PaschendaleMons & Gallipoli, as an ‘Old Contemptible’ Desmond was the younger brother of Kenneth, who later served, during the 1939-45 war in R.E.M.E. specialising in tank recovery in Europe.

Des fought in Spitfires in the 1939-45 war, after aircrew and pilot training in Rhodesia, he was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross for his gallantry in the air, with 11 ½ enemy aircraft shot down and over 186 enemy trains and transport vehicles destroyed personally. For his leadership and gallantry with 350 Belgian Squadron, he was awarded one of Belgium’s highest gallantry awards - The Croix de Guerre and later the accolade of a Palme to that award.

Des carried out one tour in defence of Scappa Flow and another in the air defence curtain defending The South of England against the V1 & V2 rockets.

On the 26th. April 1944, with Squadron Leader Geoffrey Page and others, Desmond took part in the first Spitfire sortie over Germany, participating in the destruction of a Junkers 34, 4 trains and 3 gliders and also the serious damage of 4 factories!

In the closing days of the war whilst flying from Anson strips at the front Des was involved in the relief and clear up of the horrors as Bergen-Belsen, for further details CLICK HERE, and immediately after the war he was involved in an allied project filming and photographing areas of Continental Europe to record damage and configuration.

After a brief break from the Royal Air Force after the war, spent in India as B.O.A.C.’s operations manager and then the Middle East Desmond rejoined the R.A.F. and became one of Britain’s first jet aircraft instructors; on aircraft like the Meteors and Vampires at CFS and RAF Valley..

Desmond’s log books read almost like a history of flight with entries including Tiger Moths, Chipmunk, Harvard, Provost, Spitfire, Typhoon, Pembroke, Shackleton, Comet, Britannia, Vulcan & Hunter. Des’s Aircrew Medal carries the France & Germany bar and his General Service Medal carries the Malaya bar for his service during the Malayan conflict against Communist insurgency, where he remained until after Merdeka, the independence of Malaysia. Des Watkins’ service to his country, The Commonwealth and our future freedom, both as a pilot and a serving Officer, is unarguable, in the very many parts of the world where he served.

In 1965 he took early retirement, having been invited to run the charitably maintained West Highland School of Adventure (WHSA). During the next 14 years Desmond, who was most ably assisted by his wife Winifred; whom he had married as a young WAAF in the thick of war, in October 1943, which would have made this October their 60th. Anniversary; built the school to being a huge success in its field. Its service to youth, in its time, was unique.

Des was of tireless energy and great skill with youth from all walks of life. The school, driven forward by Des & Win, was immensely valued by individual parents, industrial management in many fields, Social Work Departments and the Chief Constables of almost every force in Britain. The perceptive, accurate and incisive in depth assessments produced on every student were immensely valued as career guides and in helping the more than 5,000 young people who passed through the school under Des & Win’s guidance.

In 1979 The Applecross Charitable Trust was formed and they were invited to take over the running and management of this new Charity.

This required a new range of skills: negotiations with industry, local authorities, government establishments and the individual tenants of the huge estate that formed the backbone source of income to the Trust. In the ten years of their management and administrative control the Charity’s income from its Estate was increased by a factor of eight augmenting its capability to donate greater sums to a broad spectrum of deserving Charitable causes. During this period Des also accepted the invitation to be the General Secretary of a National Charity whose President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was pleased to frequently comment on the excellence of his service to Her Charity.

When a Youth Charity was set up in the very difficult St. Pauls area of Bristol he became a founder Trustee and rose to this new challenge by doubling its financial resources and continuing his close involvement long after retirement age.

In retirement both Des and Wyn took up a responsible role actively working for S.S.A.F.A. helping others less fortunate than they and although their ability to give of their time diminished their enthusiast remained and Des was still participating into his 80th. year.

Desmond was a man who had travelled widely and with his diverse experience and incisive intellect he could have forged a notable career for himself in almost any walk of life. Instead he chose a life of service, first in the Royal Air Force in war and in defending peace and his country and subsequently with his service to youth through charities he promoted the values his life and the country he loved stood for.

Then even when he had earned his retirement so laudably he continued to serve.

Desmond John Watkins died with great dignity after a short illness passing out of this life peacefully with his wife at his side and son Greg in attendance during the evening of Saturday the 6th. of September in the very caring MacMillan Unit of Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, having seen his remaining brother Alan, his granddaughter Kate, Win’s sister Gladys and her son Brian and Greg’s partner Lee in the days when he knew his end was nigh.
(Picture and biography from Greg Lance Watkins, son of Des Watkins)

Des' War Claims Were:

1/4 FW-190 Damaged ground
Wittenberg area

1 Ju-188 Destroyed on the ground
Wittenberg area

1 FW-190
Combat Report

1 FW-190 Damaged

1/2 He-111
Combat Report

1 FW-190
Schweriner See area

1 FW-190
Schweriner See area

1/3 FW-190
Schweriner See area

1 FW-190 Damaged on the ground
Schweriner See area

1 FW-190 Damaged
Schweriner See area

1/4 Ar-234
Hohn Airfield

In Context With Life:
The events in this blog had an effect on every aspect of my early life and long into my adult life.

The experience of being born to parents with memories of the poverty of soup kitchens, I was born immediately after their traumatic involvement in World War Two.

My life was founded in that early insecurity, in the aftermath of the war years when, 'Make do and Mend', 'Dig for
Victory', Careless Talk Costs Lives', 'Come into the Factories'. - all these slogans were used and later the 'V for Victory' sign was adopted.

I remember, well no I was frequently reminded, the average weekly spending on food was £1.14s1d, rent was 10s10d; clothes 9s 4d; fuel and light 6s 5d. Though not understanding all the implications of war for many years, the tensions of war never the less pervasive.

Although born after the end of the War - Rationing, shortages and saving, and the guilt that went with it, were all part of my upbringing.
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BELSEN & The Death Camps.

BELSEN & The Death Camps


it gives me no pleasure including this article regarding the relief of Belsen with my Father's obituary/diaries, but it was a very real part of his life right until its end as he woke frequently every week of his life, for its last 60 years, as he woke with nightmares of his experiences one of the worst was Bergen Belsen.

Bergen-Belsen where the Nazi final solution was in action for two years and slaughtered an accurately documented 70,000+ inmates.

As a front line fighter squadron he, with his fellow pilots, flew from Anson strips just behind the front line and on arrival at Belsen they went to the camp where they set to to help the plight of the victims and clear the horrors of the German killing spree!

One of the first actions was to drive into the town of Belsen where the people clearly knew wxactly what was happening at the camp just up the road, they rounded up the local council and the fit and set them to work stripping the houses in the town of linen, blankets and clothing which they took to the camp and distributed to the inmates.

They also set the fit and active townsfolk to the task of cleaning up the camp.

For the young men of the RAF not only were they carrying out their duties as pilots but also working to try to make life survivable for the inmates of the horrors of the camp.

In documenting the survivors, and helping them, it was agreed not to have eye engagement to grant them some dignity. On one occasion my Father was unable to maintain this as taking the date of birth of one victim her date of birth was the same as my Mother's and when he looked up at the naked, emaciated woman with her shaven head and gaunt and haunted eyes he remembered that face to his death.

Were this camp just a single example perhaps it could be forgiven and overlooked but when you consider there were some 1,600+ such camps CLICK HERE this was a hatred that was all pervading and endemic in Germany where treachery, torture and contempt for life was all too clear - a chauvenism that was only stopped by extreme measures that forced even the civilian populations' involvement as with Dresden and the fire bombing of Hamburg & Hannover, without which the war could well have dragged on.

Let us not forget that in Britain we had such worker villages as Port Sunlight and Cadbury whilst in Germany I.G. Faben also had a workers' village 'Auschwitz' - the aim was similar but the ethos very horrifically different!

The man who stumbled on HELL: 

His place in history has never been revealed. But a just published memoir by an SAS officer recounts how he uncovered the horrors of Belsen

  • Lieutenant John Randall thought iron gates led to a grand country house
  • Then he saw figures, dressed in rags, shuffling from a hut
  • Trying not to retch at the smell, Randall addressed the prisoners
  • Afterwards he noticed the emaciated corpses locked in hideous embraces
  • The camp contained 50,000 prisoners, most of all near death

Suffering: Lt John Randall uncovered the horrors of Belsen
Suffering: Lt John Randall uncovered the horrors of Belsen

When Lieutenant John Randall first saw the iron gates, he thought they were the entrance to a grand country house. Beyond them led a track that curved into a dark wood of pines and silver birch. Intrigued, Randall ordered his corporal to turn the Jeep to the left.
The safer option would have been to have driven on, but the winged dagger badge on his beret meant that Randall was not that type of man. The regimental motto of the SAS is ‘Who Dares Wins’, and what the 25-year-old dared to do that day would stay with him for the rest of his life.
As the two men headed into the woods, Randall sensed danger, and drew his pistol from his holster. The Jeep drove through the trees, then emerged into the brightness of a vast clearing in which stood numerous ranks of one-storey wooden huts.
Randall saw the SS guards first. Normally, he would have shot those wearing the dreaded uniform on sight, but these men seemed to pose no threat that April morning. Instead, they merely stared at the two SAS men.
Randall’s attention was drawn to something else, the like of which he had never seen. Emerging from the huts was a shuffling group of figures, some of whom were dressed in rags, while others were naked. Their bodies were skeletal, their skin yellow. Rising from them was a hubbub of noise, as they pleaded for the SAS men to help them.
Doing his best not to retch at the smell, Randall stood and addressed the prisoners.
He told them that he was simply the very tip of the Allied advance, and that he would shortly be followed by those who would be able to help.

Although he was not to know it at the time, one of those he spoke to was a 15-year-old Hungarian Jew called Mady Goldgruber.
She had spotted the Jeep through the filthy window of her hut, and despite being extremely weak, had managed to stagger outside.
After spending years in a series of Nazi camps — including Auschwitz — Mady regarded the arrival of these two British soldiers as a miracle.
Aftermath: During the liberation of Belsen in April 1945. S.S. guards were forced to remove the bodies of their victims into lorries on their way to be buried
Aftermath: During the liberation of Belsen in April 1945. S.S. guards were forced to remove the bodies of their victims into lorries on their way to be buried

Before the desperate men, women and children could grab them, the corporal drove off, pulling up some yards away in front of what Randall initially thought was a vast potato patch.
This, though, was no vegetable garden. All that was sown here was death, hundreds of emaciated, naked corpses, locked together in hideous embraces.
On that day — April 15, 1945 — John Randall made history, as he became the first Allied soldier to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany. The compound contained more than 50,000 prisoners, nearly all of whom were near to death. Around them lay the corpses of a further 13,000 — proof, if it were needed, of the utter barbarism of the Nazi regime.
Most accounts of Belsen focus on the work of a British officer called Brigadier Llewellyn Glyn Hughes and he has become most closely associated with the liberation of the camp.
Arriving shortly after Randall, it was Glyn Hughes who, as senior medical officer, had the immense responsibility of tending to the sick and cleaning up the camp.
However, as a new book reveals, it was Randall — now 94 years old — who was the first Allied soldier to enter what was undeniably a living hell.

Although he was an officer in the SAS, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw that day. He had been fighting in Europe since parachuting into France in July 1944, during which time he had served as a radio operator alongside the French Resistance.
Starved: Emaciated allied prisoners of war are released at Belsen after their colleagues stormed the camp
Starved: Emaciated allied prisoners of war are released at Belsen after their colleagues stormed the camp

Together with his driver, Cpl Brown, Randall had also seen action. Early one morning in August, the two had driven into a small village near Epernay in the Champagne region, where they saw a firing squad of SS men lined up.
In front of them, standing against the wall of a church, were six French civilians in blindfolds, all of whom were clearly about to be shot. Randall knew that he had to act quickly, and his elite training kicked in.
He stood up, and took hold of the powerful Vickers machine gun that was mounted on the Jeep. He pulled the trigger, and scores of heavy .50 calibre rounds tore into the SS men. Within a few seconds, the Germans lay either dead or dying.
Today, Randall is modest about the fact that he saved so many French lives in a single, courageous action. When interviewed about the episode, all he says is: ‘We had the satisfaction of eliminating the German patrol.’
It is that modest reticence that has seen Randall described as the ‘last gentleman of the SAS’, and indeed, the epithet fits, even if it may disgruntle other SAS officers and troopers.
Cramped: Female inmates at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, many of them sick and dying of typhus and starvation, wait inside a barrack in 1945
Cramped: Female inmates at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, many of them sick and dying of typhus and starvation, wait inside a barrack in 1945

However, when Randall arrived at Belsen, he had to summon all his self-control to deal with those who ran the concentration camp.
Those Germans who remained were a minimum staff, but among them was the commandant, Josef Kramer, and Irma Grese, who was in charge of the female prisoners. Kramer had the nerve to approach Randall and to introduce himself and the blonde Grese with a chilling half-smile.
‘To our astonishment he offered us a guided tour of the camp,’ Randall recalled many years later. ‘We followed them. We pushed open the door of one of the huts and were overpowered by the stench.
‘Emaciated figures peered out at us, in fear and surprise, from the rows of bunks. Lying among them, on the same bunks, were dead bodies.’
By now, Randall and his driver had been joined by two other SAS men — Major John Tonkin, and the battle-hardened Sergeant-Major Reg Seekings. As the British left one of the huts, they saw one of the guards beating up a prisoner — the type of event that had taken place every day for the past five years of the camp’s existence.
The German had finally picked the wrong day to do it. A furious Seekings asked permission from Major Tonkin to teach the guard a lesson. Permission was granted. ‘So Reg went over and hit the guard in the face,’ Randall recalled. ‘He got up and was then knocked out by another punch to the head.’
Conditions: Inmates of the camp near Hannover had to carry the emaciated bodies of others while hundreds lay on the floor, dead
Conditions: Inmates of the camp near Hannover had to carry the emaciated bodies of others while hundreds lay on the floor, dead

After that, Kramer and Grese were put immediately under arrest. Both were hanged that December, after a trial that shocked the world when it exposed the depths of sadism to which the Nazis had sunk. Witnesses testified to the fact that Grese — nicknamed the ‘Beast of Belsen’ — had even whipped women to death.
Randall left Belsen after only an hour. His reconnaissance mission was still not complete, and it was clear that neither he nor Cpl Brown had the ability to help the prisoners. Not only was there a terrible risk of catching typhus, but the prisoners needed specialist medical care.
That came soon enough, along with two British journalists, one of whom was Richard Dimbleby — father of David and Jonathan.
It was Dimbleby’s harrowing report — which the BBC initially refused to broadcast because executives could not believe the scenes that he described — that brought the attention of the world to the savagery of Belsen.
‘This day at Belsen was the most horrible day of my life,’ Dimbleby reported. ‘I saw it all — furnaces where thousands have been burned alive. The pit — 15ft deep — as big as a tennis court, piled to the top at one end with naked bodies.
Allied soldiers were greeted with a sea of bodies and mass graves as they arrived to liberate the camp in 1945
Allied soldiers were greeted with a sea of bodies and mass graves as they arrived to liberate the camp in 1945

‘The British bulldozers — digging a new pit for the hundreds of bodies lying all over the camp days after death. The dark huts, piled with human filth in which the dead and dying are lying together.’
Randall’s war would end when he was fortunate enough to witness Montgomery taking the German surrender, but that short time in Belsen would stay with him for ever.
In particular, the awful smell seemed to linger. ‘The stench was horrific,’ Randall said. ‘It was a mixture of rotting flesh and excrement — a smell that I couldn’t get rid of for weeks. I would wake in the night with this ghastly smell in my nose.’
After leaving the Army, Randall tried to put Belsen behind him. He married, had two children, ran a very successful business consultancy, and then became senior course director at the Institute  of Marketing.
However, nearly ten years ago, he was interviewed for a newspaper about his experiences to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen. For a 75-year-old woman called Mady Gerrard living in Wales, the article struck a deep chord, as did the accompanying photograph of the young Lieutenant Randall.
Horrifying: Some of the dead were piled up in rows in the forest on the outskirts of the camp
Horrifying: Some of the dead were piled up in rows in the forest on the outskirts of the camp

‘I screamed,’ Mady recalled, ‘because in front of my eyes was the face that I had been carrying around in my head for 60 years.’
Mady Gerrard was, of course, Mady Goldgruber. She had survived the war, and had created a new life for herself as a clothes designer in the  U.S. and Britain.
She immediately wrote a letter to Randall, and a few days later,  he called her at home. ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ Mady shouted down the phone. ‘I cannot believe that I am talking with the man who basically saved my life!’
Six decades after their first encounter, John and Mady met in somewhat different circumstances when they had lunch at the Special Forces Club in London. They chatted for three hours.
Typically, John came across as the complete gentleman, and Mady even said to him: ‘You not only turned out to be the most important man in my life, but as a bonus you are a very nice person, too!’
When Mady wrote a book about her life, John wrote the foreword.
In it, he assured readers that nothing could compare to ‘the actual experience of seeing with my own eyes the true horror of the situation at Belsen’.

  •  The Last Gentleman Of The SAS by John Randall and M J Trow is published by Mainstream at £17.99.
To view the original article CLICK HERE


>2 MFPU at RAF Guttersloh Days C1964

>2 MFPU at RAF Guttersloh Days C1964

Greetings Greg L-W from a 'ghost' from the past.
You and I have met, some  50+ years ago at RAF Guttersloh.
Your father was my unit C/O at 2 MFPU.
I came across the blog that you have published regarding his career. Flt Lt D. Watkins, what can I say that can effectively sum up  all that we felt about your father?  To me, then a young 19-year old, away from home for the 1st time, he was the role model, that I desperately needed at that time in my life. Indeed, there have been times in my life, when in crisis, that I would have dearly loved to have been able to discuss my problems with him.  You could do that with your dad, I couldn't with mine.
Naturally, as our C/O he was given the respect of his position and rank.  He was very fair, but firm. He put me on 3-days 'jankers' when others would have given me 14. Most of us were under 20, and all needed firmness, fairness and a lot of guidance. This he gave us, with equal measure, and in abundance.
Photo attached of:

an inspection of 2 MFPU, dated 22nd May 1964 RAF Guttersloh.  You will spot your father. I am located 4th from the left. The inspecting Air Marshall was ACO RAFG Dorrington thankfully passed me by without a 2nd look.
I would like to add a comment to the blog that you have published, but have so far been unable to do so. Can you help?
Incidentally, do you remember me, SAC Tom Race? I was the driver that took you to RAF Brugen or maybe Laarbruch. I can remember that you wore a very nice light sports jacket, that looked very smart.  Do you remember the Malcolm Club?  More to follow on that if you do.
With best wishes and kind memories,
Tom Race
tel: Redacted

Now living in Torquay.


WATKINS, Alan Edward - Born 21-Jan-1928 - Died 25-May-2011

WATKINS, Alan Edward - Born 21-Jan-1928 - Died 25-May-2011 

Alan Edward WATKINS
Born 21-Jan-1928 - Died 25-May-2011

Son of
Jim and Daisy Watkins
Younger Brother to

Kenneth Loraine and Desmond John
who have pre-deceased him.

Alan leaves

His Wife of 59 years, Brenda
Their Son Simon

The Eulogy Delivered by Simon Watkins
The Funeral of Alan Watkins on 10-June-2011
My Father was born in Pontypridd, South Wales, on the 21st January 1928, and moved to Yate in Gloucestershire, at the age of 2. He attended school at Chipping-Sodbury Grammar, where he met my Mother who he was destined to marry 7 years later.

At 18 he left school and with National Service to complete attended Army Officer Training at Aldershot, getting his pip at 21. 

In 1950 at 22, when both his brothers were working on Bahrain, Des running his own business marketing pumps and Ken working for BAPCo. at an oil facility on the island, he joined them, and worked there for 13 years. During that time he came back to England to marry my Mother, Brenda Corbett on 23-February-1952, and take her back with him to Bahrain. 
Ken & his wife Marjory (nee Dando)

Once my Mother was there, making Father more palatable, they met and became lifetime fast friends with Bob and Elizabeth Turnbull.

On returning to England in 1963, my Father and Mother, together with Bob and Elizabeth, started a hairdressing business in Darnley Road in Gravesend. Ultimately, in the economy and timing, the business proved unsustainable and the four pursued different careers.

My Father started at Barclay’s in 1968; where he worked for the next 35 years at a London branch, as head of the foreign department; until his retirement 18 years ago in 1993.

My Father enjoyed his retirement. He was able to spend more time with friends and family, and also to take up golf, which I know brought him both joy and frustration, although I can't say in what ratio.

He had a deep interest in the classics. He could quote at length from poems and plays alike. He also enjoyed many classical composers, and I remember he would listen to them at length in the evening to “decompress” from life in London. His taste in music was not limited to the conventional classics; he enjoyed jazz and blues and had a collection with many of the greats.

My Father did not make friends easily, although the ones he did have lasted all his life. My Father was strongly loyal to both friends and family, and I believe he would have done anything had they called upon him in need. I think this can best be exemplified when my Grand Mother, Mabel Gill, was unable to live alone and in 1969 Father took her into our home. With the exception of holidays to other family members, Mabel lived with us until her death in 1994. I think you would all agree, not many men would have housed their Mother-in-Law for 25 years.

For recreation I know that above all things he enjoyed debate. Usually taking a devils-advocate position in what would first appear to be an indefensible argument. The more contentious and provocative the better. A particular favorite was that “there was no such thing as altruism”. That at the bottom of all human actions was self interest in one form or another.
This was symptomatic of an underlying cynicism that I think he was not always at ease with! 

He did however recognize this, and once confided in me “It's unfortunate that I am a pessimist and yet still get disappointed when the worst happens, ... seems rather self-defeating”. 

However, perhaps as some of the best humor is the darkest, it did make him bloody funny.

My Father was extremely athletic. He was Games Captain at school and set many track and field records. In fact, when my Mother and Father were invited back for an alumni dinner 12 years later, my Mother noted that one of his records was still standing, an impressive record in the long-jump, it would be interesting to see when that particular record fell. 

He was highly competitive and did very well at almost any sport he tried.

Ultimately he was the most formative influence in my life. The debate made me think. The humor helped me with friends and colleagues, and the cynicism prepared me for the world. 

I'm sure my Mother can correct me, although I think it was somewhere between the ages of 2 and 3 when I first learned the expression “whoever told you life was going to be fair?”.

Although never effusive, I know he loved me very much. 

In my early adulthood, I took to riding motorcycles. I loved riding them, I just wasn't very good at it! Not being a parent myself, I can't imagine what this did to my folks each time I went out. However, when I came to buy my first large motorcycle, I was unable to arrange the necessary finances, that was until he came with me and underwrote the loan – putting aside his fears for my love of riding.

Not always the most patient of men, he was when it counted. 
He taught me to drive and he did so without a raised word or an angry tone – although there was a certain amount of sarcasm.

He was very forgiving to me. 
On one occasion when I was 15, I was left in the family car in a supermarket car park – with the keys. In the infinite wisdom of youth, I thought I’d turn the car round. 
Events unfolded - - - - badly!

On facing my Father that night, he simply said “are you planning on doing that again?”. 
I replied “no”. 
To which he said “alright, lesson learned”.

He was my Dad. I miss him now and I know I always will.

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You will note that the letter has had the address removed by censors and also various words are redacted

14, Eggshill Lane,
Nr. Bristol,

27th. Feb. 1941

Dear Ken,

Got your letter today, and with reference to the horn of mead old cock, you as near as damn it had a pint awaiting for you. I came within an ace of gracing the outer hall of Valhalla, I’m going to try to give you my impressions, and to tell you just what occurred. For censor’s benefit I’ll state here and now that nowhere in this letter will I make any reference to what Parnalls make or will I speak of production. You mentioned what they made in your letter Ken and got it censored.

It was 2.30 on a Thursday. Joyce, Olive and I and Bill Jenner were all leaning on the heating radiator talking when the sirens blew. We took no notice and just leisurely drew the curtains across the windows (anti blast precautions) suddenly there was an awfull Bop – Bop – Bop – Bop – Bop I bundled the girls under my table and dived in on top of them, Bill shot under his, just as I landed under the table the whole world split into bloody fragments. The floor heaved, the air was thick with glass and bricks, steel cabinets spun in the air like gossamer. My lungs hurt, my face stung as again and again the whole universe


Burst into scorching searing bloody madness. My table groaned under the pressure of the steel girders cabinets and debris the sickening stench of cordite filled the atmosphere. I clung around the girls like grim death, not to protect so much as to comfort my own reeling nerves. They were crying and Joyce kept wanting to get out and run, I held her there – Bill called encouragement at the top of his voice.Above the rumble and crash could be heard the scream scream scream of girls.Although I’ve been here only brief seconds a thousand impressions crowd my mind. The girls are whimpering. A man stumbles over the debris, he’s blood from head to foot Jesus its Smith our “Lie down you bloody fool, under the table you daft sod” that Bill shouting. But he took no notice, he bubbled blood and said “Laws is gone (Laws an ) “He’s dead” “Hes dead” “Hes dead” He scrabbled back the way he came – he must have been stunned on his feet.There’s bedlam all around us girls shrieking and men shouting. The main beam has sliced the steel cabinets in two. I feel outside of myself – remote, disinterested.

Bill is getting out, he stands up amid the falling debris, he scrabbles up a pile of loose stuff, an engine roars “He’s coming back for Christ’s sake get back Bill” I yelled it, but I was quite surprised


to hear my voice. The air trembled. My back and neck crawled as I waited for the awful thuds and rending crashes of more hell. We waited huddled for the world to split again. I reached out an arm and fished two tin hats under the table. Nothing came.Olive looks numbed, “Frightened” I ask, she nods dumbly.

Bill is getting out again. God what a mess. If those girls outside scream any more I must shout for quiet. They must stop screaming or my ears will burst. – They scream on.

“Quick Watty (that’s me) get ‘em out of there we’rre ablaze” that’s Bill shouting. I kick a wooden cabinet away from the end of the table – we wriggle out. My God the whole of one side is a roaring inferno. The whole building is a smoking shambles.

We scrabbled to the Main entrance or where it used to be. Bill has gone the other way.The girls legs just drag – they’re OK, but knocked silly. They’re big girls but they feel light as dolls, Everyone who can run is scrabbling madly over the mess. I’m not here really of course – that isn’t me walking down there – its – funny feeling as though you’re outside of yourself watching yourself from a distance. My God look at those Cost Office girls, ragged and bloody and powder blackened. They’re in heaps – all bloody and tangled.


Everyone is helping everyone, carrying, helping guiding. Here a man with bloody legs leans one with a bloody arm.

I can see Jotce and Olive standing shivering on the outside – I must have taken them out and come back in again, because I have a girl in my arms, there’s no muscular effort to carry her, shes a doll, a limp inert doll – but its not sawdust on her legs.

Someone must have taken her from me because I’m running up the tarmac, with the girls on each arm again, now.I went with them to Joyce’s house across the road, then I dashed home, said I was OK then dashed back. In 8 minutes from the first bomb. I was back. By now a delayed action has gone off and killed many would-be rescuers. The factory belches horror, the horror of little girls smoke blackened and crying, the horror of horrible injuries, the horror of faces all pain.

We who are OK take off our coats and wade into them – I take one of our fellows hes got another man’s brains streaming down his face – I wash him and find hes got a damaged arm, and cuts.Help me with “this one” says someone. I bend to lift a stretcher onto a lorry. But “this one” rolls his bandaged head, drums his feet under his blanket and dies. Leave him.

Oblt. Hermann Lohmann + He111 crew 
before bombing raid on Parnall Aircraft

A Heinkel IIIK dropped out of the low lying mist – visibility was almost nil. He dropped down 2 minutes after the siren with his canons blazing and dropped 8 bombs five went up and 3 didn’t one was delayed action. I find only the offices have suffered badly. Four 550lb. bombs into a space 150’ by 100’ subdivided by plasterboard walls. Almost a ton of searing, blasting, blinding, all destroying hell.

Not a soul had gone to shelter, they got it as they sat. Pretty little girls, jolly young men. All blood and rags, and dirt. Twenty two young draughtsmen alone, as many girls, making a total all round of 60 dead, and 150 injuries.

The end of the office block is Hawthorne’s (he wasn’t in it) next to it is ours, between it a lathe wall. The first bomb fell plumb on Hawthorne’s girder in the ceiling, turned off and burst in the shops some 20’ away from us, if it had richochetted the other way:---

A bomb fell on Works Orders, a bomb on Costs, one on The Drawing Office, the latter one delayed action. Which means 2 550lbers. Fell 15’ each side of me roughly and 2 within 70 odd feet.Only God knows how we got out alive. If that first one had hit that girder square it would have burst 10’ above our heads with a lathe wall to protect us.If he hadn’t cannoned us we should


Not have had time to get under the table, and if we hadn’t been cut to rags with glass, the other debris would have got us for cert.Two of our examiners got killed, 4 injured, besides Hawthorne, at first we thought he was to lose an eye, but now there is hope for it. One examiner got his head and shoulders cut off in our outer office.I could write a book on the miraculous escapes of others besides us, and the awfull injuries of others.How one of our fellows, saw a wall about to crash on him, just as it fell a cistern out of the girls’ lavatory blew over his nut, the bricks peppered on there like a tin hat. Hes in hospital with terrible bruises mind, but if it had hit his head it would have finished him. Hes very annoyed about it, he said he wouldn’t have minded one out of the mens’ bog, but one out of the girls’ he objected to.

The works nurse was dug out of debris after 45 minutes to give wonderful service at the clearing centre.How men refused treatment to severe cuts to enable those in pain to have full attention. How a man said when Bill pushed his handkerchief into a hole in his back – “I’ll see its washed and sent back – “ poor sod.Of mortuaries with pulverised remains.
Of a man beyond recognition but alive.Of the horrible discoveries they made after the fire had abated.


How Sarafian (*1) when he got home wept over the casualties.But above it all there lasts longest in my memory those awful moments under the table as the ‘world went bloody mad’. The Swish – Swish as they fell and the reverberating, ear splitting, head bursting, Bash! As they hit. With the rush of hot stifling air that burns the skin and bursts the lungs.

I went to Wick then as we had an office there, I went with Hawthorn, Bill and 2 others to headquarters to the official enquiry. I was officially thanked for getting the girls out, the cool way, the youngest member of staff had proved himself and so on and so forth – Bullshit. I was scared stiff same as the rest and what I did I did automatically and in any case I didn’t do anything – there was a lot of this back slapping mind but the big noise made a damned nuisance of himself over me.. This was at AID HQ. see. Just 2 big noises and we 5. Anyhow he treated us to a wonderful blowout.Well today is Saturday, 9 days ago the big blitz happened. Yesterday – Friday. I was in the exchange at the Canteen, with Tooth an examiner talking to 2 girls on the switchboard when a Red came through. The siren went – first since the blitz. We made to go – the girls leapt up and shut the door – made us stay.

Then the switchboard rang, and a message came through that a man had died of fright in the shelter – he had too, sheer

(*1) Doctor Sarafian’s medical practice was a family practice run entirely by his family from the right hand building at the Yate end of The Plain in Sodbury – he would have known many, if not all, of the victims.


Bloody fright – poor devil.

Then came an imminent danger signal, some 10 minutes later bugger me if I wasn’t lying on the floor going through it all again. Two frightened men, two frightened girls huddling in a heap in the corner – 2 telephone fellows came in and got on top of the heap of us as well. BASH. BASH. BASH.The bastards tipped another 8 bombs on us, I was 100yds. Away from it this time, but the terror was just as great. He raked the place with machine guns.Our guns answered – he got away with a piece shot out of his tail.I got up – Tooth and I raced down to the factory – more smoking ruins – 16 casualties, 5 dead. Jumping Jehosophat I’m bloody fed up with this. I was more scared this time – very very aware of my whole cringing (that spelt wrong) body. My hair bristled my guts crawled, and I couldn’t pull myself close enough to Betty – that’s the girl on the switchboard. Not that detatched feeling. Hawthorne and rest weren’t on the building this time only 5 AID. We got down the bottom of the tarmac in time to see the same cortage of mangled souls – smaller scale deaths but agonies to watch.

My nerves were awful last night. Bang Bang Bang, I had my tin hat and was half under the table before I realised it was the woman next


Door Knocking at the door.I shall be glad to get in the RAF for some peace. I’m OK today – theres a raid on now, but I don’t fancy his chances today, both times hes been the visibility has been nil.

I’m moving into an office in the end of a wrecked building Monday – all set for the next lot. There’s a sharp corner to go round to get to the shelters from this new office, I’m going to have a steep wooden banking put up, so I can negotiate it without dropping my speed down to less than 275mph. A man selling corks outside of Parnalls would do a brisk trade during air raids. Don’t worry about us Ken. I can take it, the family can take it, and so can Marge, but it is a bit of a bugger waiting for the next packet.
Your loving and thankful to be alive brother,


27 February 1941
This was the most serious, in terms of casualties, that Yate suffered.

At 14:36hrs. a single Heinkel He111 (G1+CC) of II/KG 27 piloted by Oberleutnant Herman Lohman dropped 7 x 250Kg. high explosive bombs on the Parnall factory.

A number of these bombs had delayed action fuses which exploded about 10 minutes after being dropped. These caused the majority of the casualties.

Oblt. Lohman flew over the target from the north and dropped the bombs from around 100 feet. The result of flying so low was that the aircraft was that Yate air defences hit the plane 15 times with their anti-aircraft fire.
Oblt. Lohman limped his Heinkel back to base at Bourges in France on a single engine.

There were 52 people killed in the raid including 3 people who were never identified.

The daed are remembered on a special memorial in St Mary’s Church in Yate. The Memorial was  erected by the Parnall Aircraft Company.
AMOS, Barbara
BARNES, Thomas Arthur
BATTEN, Edward Robert Edgar
BEGERNIE, Maurice Edwin
BOOTH, Maurice Hilary
BURR, George Alec
BUXTON, Kenneth Reginald
CURTIS, Cyril Frederick Tom
DAMSELL, Edward John Damsell
DAVIES, Edward Geoffrey Heir
DAVIS, William John
DAY, Ivy M.
DOYLE, Edith
DYSON, John Bernard
FRY, Frederick Purse
GUEST, Ronald Thomas
HATHAWAY, Charles Henry Thomas
HOLE, Herbert John
HUGHES, Stanley Herbert
HUTCHINSON, Frederick William
JAMES, Ernest N.
LAURIE, Frederick Guy Selaurin
LAWLESS, Mary Monica
LAWS, Percy Jack
LUTON, Douglas Daniel Thomas
MOORE, Thomas
NEWMAN, Rupert Maitland
ORTON, William James
PARKMAN, Betty Doreen
REEVE, Kenneth
REEVES, John William
SHOREY, Douglas
SQUIRES, Robert Colin
STILL, Arthur Albert
TOVEY, Phyllis May
TOWNS, George
VOWLES, Prudence Pamela
WHITE, Alfred Percival
WHITE, Geoffrey Barton
WILLIAMS, Douglas Lloyd
WRIGHT, Walter James

A more comprehensive list of details of the dead can be found from page 69 onwards at: CLICK HERE

Further details of Parnalls of Yate can be found if you go to:


The Bombing of Parnalls Aircraft Factory of Yate
Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs Dorothy Wall
Location of story: 
Yate, South Gloucestershire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 February 2005

    My parents were licensees of the Railway Hotel in Yate during the War and of course they were very busy because Parnalls had two lunch hours, one for the aircraft factory workers and one for the administrative workers. Parnalls had a canteen run by a gentleman who had been a catering officer for P and O cruise lines. Even so, there was only 45 minutes for the workers lunch break. so the hotel bar became very busy and there was also a market every week.     We had just closed, it must have been about 2 o'clock. The siren went off and immediately, before it had stopped, the bombs were dropping. It was a single aircraft. Some bombs dropped on the factory, but some dropped on a gunnery school which probably tested the gun turrets, a number of them were killed during the air-raid. In that first raid a number of factory workers were killed. The German aircraft came in so low that you could see the pilot, a large part of the factory was very badly damaged so they evacuated some departments and then scattered them where they could. The cider factory at Melksham was a dispersal point, one in the Keynsham area, Bath, Wickwar and also in Bristol. Coaches would pick the workers up every evening from Yate and take them to the different premises for the nightshifts and also dayshifts. Parts of the factory were still usable, the factory made gun turrets for bomber aircraft. On the next payday Parnalls set up a couple of tables in the car park and paid the wages from there.     The second time Parnalls was bombed, it was again by a lone plane, but by this time most of the production was elsewhere. The plane only had to follow the railway line to find the factory, which lay alongside the line at Yate. There were women working on the Production line at Parnalls all through the war.     Until the Second Front was opened there were always three or four long Red Cross carragies waiting in the siding at Yate until they were required.     Yate also had an engineering factory called Newmans and they made shell casings there; and there were women working there too, although it was realy far too heavy work for them.
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1945-05-13 GERMANY - Des to Ken

1945-05-13 GERMANY

Pilot Officer Watkins
350 Belgian Squadron
Royal Air Force
British Liberation Army.

Germany May 13th. 1945

Dear Ken,
I guess this is our first ‘Peace in Europe’ letter eh? Well as news goes that little bit about the capitulation was as good as any I’ve heard in a long time.

As a matter of interest Ken I lead the last sortie of the European War. I was up at Keil when the clock turned up eight oclock and as it ticked around to eight my controller called me up and said:
“Wars over chum, bugger off home” Boy did I fly careful!

I came home like I had a sack of eggs on board. I wound up with five destroyed Ken. Mostly F.W.190’s. That works out to one per head the family. That will learn the bastards to lob bombs at us!

What of the future Ken.

It looks like for the time being we’ll be ‘occupying’ these types doesn’t it. I’m facing a good year in the RAF yet, still at 25/- a day I’m not complaining. You’ll be out long before me of course. I’m wondering what my position is with Japan. I’m not over keen to start on the Nips yet. After a bit of a rest I’ll think about it, but right now I’m keen on a nice long leave with Wyn.

I’m flying over on the 16th. Ken, Wyn is meeting me at Croydon and after a Victory dinner in Town we’re slipping home, then off to the seaside for a week.

I’m hoping she will be out of the WAAF any day now. The policy is to release married WAAF as soon as possible. So I’m hoping to have a nice little civvy wife inside the next few months.I’ve saved a nice little sum of money Ken so I’m not too perturbed about the future, at least I can buy a good home for her as a start.

Are you going to take E.V.T. Ken? I’m going to occupy my spare time with it, might just as well, education has hurt no one to date.When do you get leave Ken? I’ll bet you’re dieing for it ain’t you? I can well imagine it.I applied to become an Allied Military governor I don’t know if I’ll get it of course. I want to do it.

I saw Belsen you see and I reckon I’d make a ‘lovely’ military governor in view of that.

Well Ken Drink me a toast, we’ll make it ‘skoll’ and not ‘Valhallah’ now.

Your loving brother,
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'Sailor' Malan’s 10 Rules of Air Fighting

'Sailor' Malan’s 10 Rules of Air Fighting

Adolph G. Malan 24 March 1910 – 17 September 1963

The Battle of Britain fighter ace ‘Sailor’ Malan developed a set of simple rules for fighter pilots, honed during the Battle, which he then had distributed throughout RAF Fighter Command.


1. Wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Fire short bursts of one to two seconds only when your sights are definitely “ON”.

2. Whilst shooting think of nothing else, brace the whole of your body: have both hands on the stick: concentrate on your ring sight.

3. Always keep a sharp lookout. “Keep your finger out”.

4. Height gives you the initiative.

5. Always turn and face the attack.

6. Make your decisions promptly. It is better to act quickly even though your tactics are not the best.

7. Never fly straight and level for more than 30 seconds in the combat area.

8. When diving to attack always leave a proportion of your formation above to act as a top guard.

9. INITIATIVE, AGGRESSION, AIR DISCIPLINE, and TEAMWORK are words that MEAN something in Air Fighting.

10. Go in quickly – Punch hard – Get out!
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My Fight With Evil - anon - ‘Dear Mother’ – Published in The Times, 18 June 1940

My Fight With Evil - anon - ‘Dear Mother’ – Published in The Times, 18 June 1940

an understanding of the spirit of the day!

‘Dear Mother’ – Published in The Times, 18 June 1940

My Fight With Evil

“My Earthly Mission is Fulfilled”

Among the personal belongings of a young RAF pilot in a Bomber Squadron who was recently reported ‘missing, believed killed,’ was a letter to his mother – to be sent to her if he were killed.

“This letter was perhaps the most amazing one I have ever read; simple and direct in its wording but splendid and uplifting in its outlook,” says the young officer’s station commander. ”It was inevitable that I should read it – in fact he must have intended this, for it was left open in order that I might be certain that no prohibited information was disclosed. I sent the letter to the bereaved mother, and asked her whether I might publish it anonymously, as I feel its contents may bring comfort to other mothers, and that every one in our country may feel proud to read of the sentiments which support ‘an average airman’ in the execution of his present arduous duties. I have received the mother’s permission, and I hope this letter may be read by the greatest possible number of our countrymen at home and abroad.”

Text of the Letter

Dearest Mother,

Though I feel no premonition at all, events are moving rapidly, and I have instructed that this letter be forwarded to you should I fail to return from one of the raids which we shall shortly be called upon to undertake. You must hope on for a month, but at the end of that time you must accept the fact that I have handed my task over to the extremely capable hands of my comrades of the Royal Air Force, as so many splendid fellows have already done.

First, it will comfort you to know that my role in this war has been of the greatest importance. Our patrols far out over the North Sea have helped to keep the trade routes clear for our convoys and supply ships, and on one occasion our information was instrumental in saving the lives of the men in a crippled lighthouse relief ship. Though it will be difficult for you, you will disappoint me if you do not at least try to accept the facts dispassionately, for I shall have done my duty to the utmost of my ability. No man can do more, and no one calling himself a man could do less.

I have always admired your amazing courage in the face of continual setbacks; in the way you have given me as good an education and background as anyone in the country; and always kept up appearances without ever losing faith in the future. My death would not mean that your struggle has been in vain. Far from it. It means that your sacrifice is as great as mine. Those who serve England must expect nothing from her; we debase ourselves if we regard our country as merely a place in which to eat and sleep.

History resounds with illustrious names who have given all, yet their sacrifice has resulted in the British Empire, where there is a measure of peace, justice, and freedom for all, and where a higher standard of civilization has evolved, and is still evolving, than anywhere else. But this is not only concerning our own land. Today we are faced with the greatest organized challenge to Christianity and civilization that the world has ever seen, and I count myself lucky and honoured to be the right age and fully trained to throw my full weight into the scale. For this I have to thank you. Yet there is more work for you to do. The home front will still have to stand united for years after the war is won.

For all that can be said against it, I still maintain that this war is a very good thing; every individual is having the chance to give and dare all for his principle like the martyrs of old. However long the time may be, one thing can never be altered – I shall have lived and died an Englishman. Nothing else matters one jot nor can anything ever change it.

You must not grieve for me, for if you really believe in religion and all that it entails that would be hypocrisy. I have no fear of death; only a queer elation…I would have it no other way. The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice. We are sent to this world to acquire a personality and a character to take with us that can never be taken from us. Those who just eat and sleep, prosper and procreate, are not better than animals if all their lives they are at peace.

I firmly and absolutely believe that evil things are sent into the world to try us; they are sent deliberately by our Creator to test our metal because He knows what is good for us. The Bible is full of cases where the easy way out has been discarded for moral principles. I count myself fortunate in that I have seen the whole country and known men of every calling. But with the final test of war I consider my character fully developed. Thus at my early age my earthly mission is already fulfilled and I am prepared to die with just one regret, and one only – that I could not devote myself to making your declining years more happy by being with you; but you will live in peace and freedom and I shall have directly contributed to that, so here again my life will not have been in vain.

Your loving Son