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Being born on the 11th December 1941 makes my earliest memories was somewhat different than those normally expected, one of my is that of a very loud wailing sound that seemed to get louder the longer I went on. After a while it stopped by which time my Mother, Nan and I were in the cupboard under the stairs. I must explain at this point that my mother being confined to a wheel chair and could not get to the Anderson shelters one either side of our house. Whilst in this cupboard there were loud noises that went over the top of us these were always followed by thumps or bangs that seemed a long way off. After what was a very long time the wailing noise started again at which time we would leave the cupboard.
Other prominent memories involve the fact that there always seemed to be a lot of people about and about our house. One in particular was when I was carried down the stairs past what seemed to be crowds of people sat there singing laughing and chatting to the front room where my Nan was playing the piano to even more happy laughing people who were there.
Probably the most poignant and visual memory I have is that of the time I was taken out in a pushchair and along a part of the main road running from Ringwood to Southampton. Along this road there was one continuous row of traffic containing lories, tanks, and guns and so many men. That day must have supplied me with enough chocolate to last me for months, as it seemed to me at the time, every one gave me a bar of chocolate. This convoy I learned later stretched all the way to Southampton some 20 miles away and was bound for France and the D-day landings.
Later when my Father came home from France where he was posted as he was in the R.A.F. he took me to Bournemouth where I can remember where Woolworth's now stands was bombed and then on to Pool where there had been a lot of bombing. Although my memories of the war only cover half a page they have stayed very visual ones over the subsequent years.
Paul F Sawyer
I was born in 1940,so the early part of the War was not a memory for me,but like thousands of others my Parents suffered in many ways. My Father was in a protected trade as a printer, but he belonged to the Homeguard, and I can remember him in his Uniform going off at strange hours We like many others had to offer a spare room either to the Military or someone who worked for the government. My father wouldn't have a man in the house he didn't know,so we had a Lady who was a telephonist at New Scotland Yard. Auntie Hilda as she became known to me became a good family friend and lived with us for 5years,and we kept in touch for many years after the war.
We were bombed out on July 8th 1944 when a Doodlebug landed in a field just beyond our garden. Our Bungalow was severly damaged and my Father was badly injured. As we didn't have our own shelter(we had to share next doors)we had a Blast wall outside one of the back bedrooms.Apparently my parents and I would often sleep in this room.On this night my Dad went to get a pillow from their bedroom when the bomb fell. Dad's opposite eye and ear wre badly cut and although I was only 4yrs I can remember so well seeing him with a blood stained face,and all the debris around us. The Warden arrived and we quickly went to my Aunt's house,shelived a few streets away.
Other memories I have are sharing one egg between 3 of us. White rings around the trees that lined the roads.Tanks roaring up the road Pig Bins that took any food waste. The sound of Sirens which even now make me shudder.
SAMUEL GREGORY ISAACS - MILITARY CHARACTER: EXEMPLARY
THE EAST SURREY REGIMENT
Sam was 20 on 20th April 1940 and had his army medical on 7th July, being declared A1. His first regiment the 10th Battalion East Surrey Regiment spent most of the years 1940 to 1942 in the West Country, based in or near various towns, on permanent training exercises. By 27th July Sam had had the first of many jabs - this one for Tetanus - and had joined up with his regiment at Ilfracombe in north Devon.
Sam (back row, 2nd from left) somewhere in the west country with his first regiment, the East Surreys, 1940/41
Other bases over the next 2 years included: Fremlington, near Bideford, August 1940; Elburton and the Plymouth area, October 1940 for 9 months - where Sam was promoted to Corporal on 7th October 1940 and in early Spring 1941 the 10th helped clear up Plymouth after a particularly heavy bombing raid; Helston, Cornwall, June 1941; Tiverton, Devon, July 1941 - where the battalion commenced intensive training; Crown Hill, Devonport, autumn 1941 to summer of 1942.
GLIDER PILOT ORIGINS
During this time Winston Churchill was mightily impressed with the German raid on the "impregnable" Belgian fortress at Eben Emael, in which an elite force of engineers was landed inside the giant compound by gliders. The fortress was taken with the minimum of fuss and with light casualties. Hitler eventually opted against glider borne troops due to heavy losses in the glider borne invasion of Crete in May 1941. However, Churchill was very much enamoured of the idea and requested that an airborne division should include both glider borne troops as well as paras. Between the months of May 1940, when Eben Emael was taken, and early 1942 the RAF and Army argued over who should be responsible for the newly formed Glider Pilot Regiment. In December 1940 'Bomber' Harris, wrote a memo commenting on ".semi-skilled, unpicked, infantry corporals." flying aircraft. Due to the animosity between the RAF and the Army, tug planes were not forthcoming and, quite unrelated, the gliders were slow in being built. By May 1941, the progress was so slow, Churchill finally intervened, suggesting 5,000 paras and an airborne division and by August the Army Air Corps was muted as the controlling authority for the joint para/glider division and it was finally agreed that the army were to supply glider pilots. In December 1941 a notice was placed in NAAFI's across Britain calling for volunteers for an airborne force to join the 67 ex-commandos already in training at Ringway in Manchester. And the Army Air Corps was finally adopted as the umbrella organisation of the Glider Pilot and Para Regiments. Back with the East Surrey Regiment. and in January of 1942 Sam was marked down as being AWOL twice. The first time on the 4th was actually deleted two months later, but on the 8th he was marked as AWOL from 23.59hrs to 15.45hrs on the following Friday afternoon. What was he up to? Where was he? As the East Surreys were still in the Plymouth area one can only hazard a guess, but that guess might include drink, a woman, the Japanese advance in the far east and boredom - he always cited his hatred for marching round in circles for his ultimate decision to volunteer for the GPR, that, actually doing something positive and learning how to fly.
JOINING THE GPR
On 24th February 1942 the two new regiments - the Glider Pilot and Parachute - were established by Army order and slowly, but surely, training gathered apace with Horsas and Hotspurs being the chosen glider type at this point. Sam applied to the GPR and, before being accepted, had to sit his Maths Matriculation, as he had not been able to take it on leaving school. He was posted on 27th June and finally arrived with the Glider Pilot Regiment on 29th July 1942. Sam moved to Booker in Buckinghamshire on 13th August 1942 and from there he travelled everyday to the Elementary Flying Training School at Denham. He learned how to fly on Miles Magisters and his beloved Tiger Moths. Mervyn Seabrook, a colleague on the course, attests to Sam's incredible prowess at aircraft recce - Mervyn says Sam was always willing to 'help out' in recce tests. Over the three-month course Sam flew some 18 hours 45 minutes and qualified with above average marks.
FIRST GLIDER MISSION
In the following November, on the 19th, Sam was presented with his wings. The day before he had been on a solo flight in a Tiger Moth and got lost. He finally landed in a field and, after being thought of by the locals as "one of the few", he decided that asking "the way" may not be very impressive. He accepted the hospitality of the locals and eventually called a comrade the following morning - the morning of his wings ceremony - to ask him to come and pick him up! His training moved on to Glider Training School at the Oxfordshire airfield at Weston-on-the-Green, in early 1943 - it's not possible to be more accurate the moment, as Sam's original logbook was destroyed in a fire in North Africa in July 1943. He trained on Hotspurs and gained average marks at the end of this particular course, which was completed on 28th February 1943. All glider pilots were to be Sergeants and Sam was promoted from corporal -semi-skilled and unpicked to quote 'Bomber' - on 9th March 1943 on the same day he got his Glider Pilot Regiment flying badge. By the time he left for North Africa on 30th May of that same year, he had flown well over 80 hours and piloted all the gliders available to the regiment, Hotspurs, Horsas and Hamilcars. The Hamilcar was a massive aircraft that could carry a small tank into battle and Sam flew them on a Heavy Glider Conversion Unit course in April 1943 - he had 7 hours flying time and again gained average marks.
In February 1943 Sam's next of kin is listed as Mrs G Isaacs, 11b Peabody Buildings, Rodney Road, London SE17. In the next five weeks he had ten jabs of one description or another and on 29th May 1943, preparation was fully in place for embarkation to North Africa - at last something violent to worry about other than the bloody needles! The following day, as Churchill and De Gaulle arrived in Algiers, Sam embarked to arrive in Froha, Algiers on 10th June - the two allied leaders didn't wait! On the same day that the 1st Battalion the Glider Pilot Regiment is confirmed, 15th June, Sam flies an American Waco - soon to be re-named the Hadrian by the British - in Exercise 'Eve', with first pilot Staff Sergeant Wood. The following day Operation Turkey Buzzard commenced. This was the main delivery of Waco's to five airstrips near Sousse and Kairouan in Tunisia. Initially all the gliders that are delivered are grounded for repairs - they have been largely put together by American maintenance crews. However, there are over 1800 training tugs completed in a relatively short phase - Sam completes nearly six hours flying during this time. From 1st to the 8th July heavy bombing of airfields on Sicily results in a massive withdrawal of aircraft. Only 160 planes of the Regia Aeronautica remain. Hitler persuades Mussolini to stay within the Axis alliance as the Italian leader becomes more and more paranoid with what he feels is the imminent invasion of Italy - whether it be a real paranoia or imagined, it turns out to be the former.
OPERATION HUSKY - THE INVASION OF SICILY
Nearly three years after joining up, Sam enters the war for real for the first time on 9th July 1943. His own personal 'phoney war' was over. The glider borne aspect of Operation 'Husky' was launched from six airstrips near Sousse. Sam took off from 'F' Strip with 'H' Company 1st Borderers and a 6-pounder anti-tank gun, led by Lt E S (Ted) Newport. He was 2nd pilot to S/Sgt Wood in Waco/Hadrian No: 403, chalk number 109. The pilot report reads: "A good tow, but intercom u/s (unstable?). Port light on Albermarle was u/s from start. Released at 23.45hrs at 1400 feet, approximately 500 yards off shore. Glider made perfect landing on LZ." The 'perfect landing' was between a wall and a telegraph wire and into a tomato field.
A combination of strong winds, poor visibility and even some badly set altimeters, plus panicking civilian American tug pilots releasing the British piloted gliders too early, meant that 69 came down in rough seas, 56 were scattered across the south east of the island and only 12 landed at their designated sites. 300 personnel drowned, of which 59 were glider pilots. However, the invasion is a success on the back of particularly triumphant sea landings. When the glider pilots arrived back in North Africa there were "confrontations" with the American pilots in local bars. The tug pilots were looked upon as a shambles and cowards for over reacting to the flak that was actually fairly minimal in places. When back in Tunisia, Sam flew a series of eight exercises totalling nearly five hours during mid-August. On 14th September 1943 Sam landed in Italy as part of the infantry landings at Taranto aboard the Princess Beatrix - is this the reason Mussolini re-constitutes the Fascist Party the following day? ("Hey! Thatta Sammy Isaacs is a here. Letsa re-constitute the Fascist Party, OK?") The mayor of Taranto welcomed the allies with open arms. Villa Monte, Putignano, was the eventual HQ, with the men billeted in a nearby school designed by Mussolini as a showcase for the Italian people. The stay in Southern Italy, as with most army life, was boredom punctuated with visits to various towns and sites of interest.
Sam (right) with 'best mate' Alan 'Jock' Lindsay, Italy 1943
HEADING HOME TO TRAGEDY
Next of kin listed as Mrs Rose Isaacs on 8th October 1943. The sojourn in Italy drifts on until late November when the GP's are recalled to the UK to make ready for the invasion of Europe. They embarked on two ships. The ship Sam was on was a banana boat and it developed engine trouble and had to call in to Sicily. They eventually made it back to Bizerta in Tunisia and have to then board a train for Blida in Algeria - a trip of nearly 500 miles. The other glider pilot ship arrived in Liverpool on 10th December; the second batch hadn't even reached Blida at this point. Christmas Day 1943 was spent readying themselves for the voyage back home. As the ship set sail for the UK, Sam's mother Rose died in hospital. She had developed a brain tumour brought on by a fall after a man had pushed her over in East Street market, just off the Walworth Road in South East London. She had hit her head on a kerb stone. The family claim that the tumour was finally brought on by hitting a top C while singing. 5th January 1944 the second glider pilot contingent finally arrived home. Sam, on his arrival back in Rodney Road, looked for the man who pushed his mother over, found him in a local pub and battered him. (Next of kin now listed as, Mrs R J Bailey, 25 Amelia Street, Walworth Road, London SE17, Sam's older sister, also Rose.) Also on this day the Glider Pilot Regiment is re-formed into 2 wings - strangely the new wing becomes No 1, while the old regiment is named No 2, cause for some consternation among the 'older' incumbents. After 2 weeks compassionate leave Sam settled into training for the invasion of Europe, plans for which were finalised on 8th February under the name of 'Operation Overlord'. In late February glider pilots landed three Hadrians (Waco's) with Russian troops to help reinforce Tito's Partisans in Yugoslavia. On 20th February he flew to Loughingham in Leicestershire for Hamilcar training. In fact he trained on the giant glider until 26th March. During this time the needles continue. He moves to North Luffenham where he is shown the delights of many Leicestershire hostelries by Bert Harget. In a chat in November 2001, some 57 years after their time together, Bert Harget told me about his fondness for Sam and the strong friendship Sam had with Alan 'Jock' Lindsay. While based near to Bert's home in the Olney district of Leicester, their training intensified and included the new instrument designed to show the position of the tug plane during poor flying conditions. This instrument was euphemistically called 'the angle of dangle'.
By late April 1944, Sam was back in the West Country at the final base he would fly from for D Day and Arnhem, Down Ampney in the Cotswolds. He qualified as a first pilot on 20th April, the day after he arrived at his new base. Squadron Leader John Sidebottom signed his papers. Just prior to his 24th birthday on 30th April, Sam undertook three days of intensive flying with 'Dougie' Douglas, alternating as 1st/2nd pilot with his future fellow recipient of the Distinguished Flying Medal. Sam and Jock Lindsay flew together for the only time on 12th May. They took up two Tiger Moths - numbers 733 twice and 4749 once for 3 hours 55 minutes. The first flight was for 'Pin pointing - steep turns'; the second, 'Formation cross country' and the final flight of one hour 45 minutes notes, 'Base - Milverton - Base'. Later on in May, Sam flew with Bert Harget, again in a Tiger Moth - number 323 for over five hours. And then on 29th May Sam teamed up with Bill Perry, his second pilot until Arnhem. They are finally officially posted to No. 2 Wing Glider Pilot Regiment 'E' Squadron, 12 Flight on 2nd June 1944 and Sam was promoted to Staff Sergeant.
OPERATION 'MALLARD' ('D' DAY), 6TH JUNE 1944
Sam and Bill pilot a Horsa (931 crew) chalk number 55. Their flight was from Down Ampney to Littlehampton, across the channel to Ranville and they landed perfectly on LZ 'N'. The flight took 2 hours 20 minutes and they are released from 800 foot. After a brief stay in which they contributed to the fighting at Ouistreaham, they arrived back in the UK on 8th June and appeared on the front page of the Daily Express on the 9th.
SECRET MISSION - IF I SHOULD DIE.
After two weeks leave Sam returned to Down Ampney and commenced mass landing training throughout most of June and July, totalling almost seven hours flying time. And then in late July/early August, 12 glider pilots were selected for a secret SAS mission to disrupt German communications to the south of Paris. Called off twice due to poor weather and, ironically, a communication breakdown, on the original designated date Sam stood up in the back of their three-tonner truck on the way to Brize Norton and recited Rupert Brooke's 'The Soldier'. Bert Harget was one of the other selected 11 and he asked the very relevant question of the commanding officer, "How would we get back sir?" To which the officer replied, with an almost dismissive wave of the arm, "Oh, we'll think of that later!"
THE BUILD UP TO ARNHEM
Throughout August and into September, the training became more and more intense. As an aside, on 29th August the Indian expedition, expected for the early part of 1945, was first talked of. Sam was due to be one of 1,000 Army glider pilots in a force of 1,220 that would eventually spend nearly 18 months in the sub-continent. September 6th saw black out restrictions lifted in the UK, as the Allied invasion of Europe fast overcame German resistance across a broad front of northwest Europe. Just four days later Montgomery won the long debate on the next phase. Operation 'Market Garden' was to create a 'fast' narrow channel punched into the heart of the Ruhr industrial region of Germany from Holland, as against the broad front advocated by Eisenhower. It was an extremely audacious plan and was doomed from the start. The Monday after Montgomery got the go ahead from Eisenhower 12th September 1944, the Allies moved into Holland and a scouting patrol of the U S 5th Armoured Division crossed into Germany. Sam had two days leave on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th September. Briefings were on the Friday and Saturday - just as the U S 1st Army penetrated the Siegfried Line. Saturday afternoon and early evening was spent loading and checking Horsa 448 - chalk number 289. Sam and Bill Perry were responsible for some of 181 Field Ambulance that totalled 21 men, two handcarts and two lightweight motorcycles. They would also have checked the tug plane towline with the pilot, Warrant Officer Felton - Dakota KG 411. The load was of key importance as it included Major Simon Fraser, second in command of the 181; the dental officer, Captain P Griffin, who acted as anaesthetist; half a section and several members of the surgical team.
The weather on Sunday 17th September 1944 was a bit misty, but nothing was going to stop the operation that could well bring a swift end to World War II. Final checks were made, hands were shook and the greatest airborne armada in history took to the air. Chalk number 289 took off at 10.12hrs. The only surviving member of the glider is George Aldred, who was a Corporal and Operating Room Assistant in the 181. The following are extracts from a letter George sent to me on 14th February 2002. ".I am most likely the soul survivor of chalk number 289...You will know all about the many previous operation cancellations (there were 16) and it was forecast that we were being saved for operation "Bloodbath". "We were briefed 2 or 3 days before the op I think, all I remember is us all walking out and we were all of the same opinion; no confidence in the Americans getting the previous three bridges (Eindhoven, Grave and Nijmegen) as we had been let down badly by them in North Africa and Sicily. ".the day before take off we were getting kit ready; afterwards writing family, etc, letters - missed tea, got to bed about midnight (in tents) ravenously hungry. I remembered I had a Mars bar in my pack - took it out in the dark and bit it. Ants had eaten the soft interior. I struck my lighter. I had spit out a mouthful of ants and hundreds more (were) everywhere. "We went to Down Ampney next morning and saw many fellows from other units that we had not seen from (North) Africa and Sicily - all saying the same thing. 'Hi Tom' or 'Jack' or whatever, 'We're in the shit!' And we knew it! "I don't remember anything about your dad or Sgt Perry.I remember all the way across the North Sea we kept getting messages from the glider crew, 'We might have to go back'. Apparently the Dakota kept having engine trouble. "We hit the coast of Holland, flooded. I was surprised to see some lights spiralling up to us. When one flashed by about 20-30 yards from the wing, I realised it was anti-aircraft fire - with a rifled barrel I thought just the bullet or shell twisted - but these spiralled up. " I don't remember any of the passengers on the flight, but of course I knew them all. I do remember us all loading our revolvers when we were getting near. Wally Hadfield sat next to me, he died last year (2001). "We landed on the Landing Ground 'S' (LZ 'S'). Reijers Camp, far corner, the glider was tipped on it's left side, tail in the air and we had trouble getting the tail off and the motor cycles and hand carts out. I went to the place a few years ago and picked up a stone as a souvenir. "I remember pulling a handcart with our surgical kit in down the long lane to Dautsekampweg (the site of a 1st World War POW - German - camp) and some Dutch people with apples. We opened an operating theatre in an outhouse of one of the houses." Chalk number 289 would have landed on LZ 'S' at approximately 14.00hrs. Sam and Bill dug in on the south east corner of the zone as part of the defence for the landings on Day 2. 'E' Squadron were involved in a fairly heavy confrontation with the enemy at about 18.00hrs, but fought them off - this was against the NCO Training School Battalion.
A COCKEYED GERMAN
On waking on the morning of Day 2, Sam suggested a cup of tea to his fellow slit trench occupants. He left the trench, stretched and noticed a German walking along the perimeter of the field. The German lobbed a stick grenade at the trench. Sam shouted for his comrades to move, ran to the grenade, threw it back in the direction of the German and ran for the nearest cover, the woods at the south east of the field. As Sam ran, the grenade exploded, and very quickly a tracer of bullets from a machine gun followed him the 50 yards or so to the woods. He zigzagged to safety, but the trace of bullets followed him so close as to give him minor shrapnel wounds up his back and removes a slice off his right index finger. Sam always referred to his adversary as 'cockeyed'. The second day lift is delayed by 4 ˝ hours - Jock Lindsay pilots a glider on this lift and is eventually captured and spends the rest of the war in Stalag 4B. On seeing a private viewing of 'A Bridge Too Far' in Bristol he returned home and his poor heart, damaged so badly in the camp, gave out and he died at home alone - he had divorced his wife some time before and had no children. Sam spent some time wondering around weapon less but found a sten gun and joined up with a group of 'E' Squadron comrades and, under the direction of Lt Col John Place, they headed off toward Oosterbeek, a small town outside Arnhem. By this time Major John Frost and his 2 Para had taken the bridge at Arnhem and have commenced one of the war's most futile, yet supremely brave, exercises. And, at this moment, amongst the entire attacking force of the 1st Airborne, hardly any radios were working.
THE WITCHES CAULDRON
From day 3 to 6 (19th to 23rd September) Sam was positioned on the northeast edge of the Oosterbeek Perimeter or Hexenkessel (the Witches Cauldron) as the Germans christened it. He was under the command of his own 'E' Squadron commander, Major B H P Jackson and was dug in near to the house called Ommershof. Prior to this Sam had seen a German in a window of the Wolfheze Hotel, as they marched towards Oosterbeek, and he actually saw the German fall after a burst of fire from his sten gun - something he always found difficult to talk about as this was the first man he had ever seen die from his own hand. Many from both sides died standing in the windows of the buildings that became the scene of vicious house to house, hand to hand fighting. SS Captain Hans Moeller describes one such incident. "There was fairness - but this could not conceal the fact that the battle continued with unabated ferocity.men ventured too close to window(s). An invisible enemy sniper (could) punish this carelessness with a well-aimed round. SS Corporal Tornow, a brave and circumspect leader of his men, died in this way, paying a dear price for one moment's inattention. "It was incomprehensible to us all, these vagaries of fate, the many faces of war, its unpredictable."
On 21st September the bridge at Arnhem was over run by vastly superior enemy forces and it was with an extreme sense of irony that had the push from the British tanks at Nijmegen continued with the same ferocity up to Arnhem with which they had performed in reaching Nijmegen, the bridge would probably have been re-taken immediately or, indeed, held on to. It is one of WW II's sublime inconsistencies that they halted on that late afternoon of day 5 - to wait for their back-up infantry and to have a cup of tea! On day 7 (24th September) Bill Perry, who Sam had last seen in the field at LZ 'S' and was listed as 'lightly walking wounded', was handed over to the Germans in the truce arranged between the medical officers of both sides. Later on this same day heavy mortar fire forced withdrawal from the White House to the Hotel Hartenstein - 1st Airborne HQ within the Oosterbeek Perimeter. The ninth and final day, Monday 25th September, arrived and positioned to the west of the Hartenstein, Sam was one of the glider pilot's who helped with the guiding of troops down to the river. The command for the withdrawal was given by General Browning at 13.00hrs on that final Monday.
FOLLOW ME LADS.
During the night of the withdrawal, a particularly abysmal, rainy night, Sam came across a group of lost men. With a flourish he produced his compass and declared he knew the way to the river. He ended up being dragged out of a dyke. This was very appropriate preparation for his subsequent swim across the Neder Rijn. Sam's DUKW amphibious craft developed engine trouble and he decided he had to swim from half way across the Neder Rijn rather than drift toward enemy lines on the far side. Once on the south bank, the men had to scramble up the steep muddy embankment. Bert Harget describes, ".digging our finger nails into the mud so hard it hurt. We pulled as hard as we could to reach the top. It was truly frantic and we were a desperate bunch." Of 184 in 'E' Squadron, 46 were killed, 70 were POW's and 68 crossed the river. On Sam's arrival back at Down Ampney on 29th September, he was the only member of his hut of 18 men to return.From 2nd October he was given 2 weeks leave and 1st November saw his last flight in the UK, a cross country mass landing in Horsa 568 with a Sgt Trueman.
The inoculations started again in preparation for his impending placement in India. Later on 29th November 1944 Sam was posted to 343 Wing RAF 669 Sqn, 'D' Flight, as part of a force being assembled to liberate the POW's on the Burma railway. 669 Squadron is formed in Bikram. Sam's trip to India took five days and took in Christmas 1944 in Cairo and a final arrival point of Karachi. He was eventually stationed in Poona. His first flight in the sub-continent was in a Tiger Moth and from then on there are very few opportunities to extend his experience as a flyer. In fact from 18th January to 23rd July 1945 he flew only seven hours. Another comrade, Bernard Reynard, a young addition to the Glider Pilot Regiment at this time, comments on what a very good man Sam was. So many of the more experienced glider pilots had a superior air, but Sam could not do enough for anyone in general, but the younger men in particular. Bernard had lied about his age and had been an under age recruit so was very grateful for Sam's kindness in such a far away land.
"DETERMINATION AND COOLNESS"
Bernard's main memory of Sam was the receipt of his Distinguished Flying Medal - announced on 15th February 1945 in the London Gazette. Sam was sent to Delhi to receive his DFM from Lt Col F A S Murray, but on his return to Poona his comrades held a small informal presentation with Captain Fowden re-presenting the medal on their parade ground. Bernard says Sam was very moved by his comrades actions and was rather humble at the attention given him.
His medal citation read as follows: 6149848 Staff Sergeant Samuel Gregory Isaacs - Arnhem 17th to 25th September 1944. This NCO has taken part in three airborne operations, Sicily, D Day and Arnhem. On each occasion he has shown the most skilful ability as a pilot and has landed his load safely in the correct place. His determination and coolness under difficult conditions has at all times been most conspicuous."
Sam in India 1945
On 30th April 1945, Sam's 25th birthday, there is an entry in his Log Book of nil returns, 'C' Flight. In June he had his last glider flight in Hadrian 764 with Sgt Melvin as 2nd pilot, it is for 10 minutes and lists a 270° release. And 23rd July sees his last ever flight in a Tiger Moth (521) 2nd piloting to Flight Lieutenant Stansfield on stalls and spins at Basal or Chaklala. Sam had flown in total 320 hours 50 minutes in just over 3 years of service in the shortest lived regiment in British Army history.
The Glider Pilot Regiment was finally disbanded in 1957 and always performed within their regimental motto: Nihil est Impossibilis, Nothing is Impossible. Sam arrived home on 7th June 1946 after one year, 167 days in India. His final release date was 28th August and his release papers had this statement: An excellent type of NCO with a distinguished operational record. Military Character: Exemplary.
During the war my father was too old for the army (or maybe unfit because he had been blinded by a cricket ball in one eye when he played) so he joined the National Fire Service. He was supposed to put out fires if anywhere locally got bombed. I don’t think he ever did have to squirt a stirrup pump in anger. As cricket ball making was a luxury he was also taken away from that job and went to work at Cardens Factory next to the station making fencing. This fencing was used by the tanks in the desert so that they could travel in the sand quickly. I don’t know how long he had to do this – two or three years.
When I started school it was the early part of the Second World War which started in 1939, I started school in 1940. To children this was quite an exciting time, probably because we were not fully aware of the dangers. Charcott was right next door to Penshurst aerodrome, not in full use except by reconnaissance Auster army aeroplanes, but was an emergency landing strip.
Prior to the war the field was used for playing polo although I do not remember that. My earliest recollection of the war was when a German Messersmidt coloured bright yellow crashed on the side of the airfield and my father and I went to see the pilot being taken away by the Royal Air Force. He had the inevitable moustache shaped like a couple of paint brushes across his top lip. Around the field we had gun emplacements and barrage balloons. Other than the Auster planes the only time we saw others on the airfield was when they crashed. On one day two Spitfires came down during a “dog fight”, one at each end of the field – both pilots were killed and my friend Kevin and I received a board game each from the two planes (called Sieg Heil). We have not yet found out why these were in the planes. On another occasion a Dakota crashed at the end nearest Chiddingstone Causeway, a Liberator close to the side of the road after the crew had baled out over Hildenborough, and a Flying Fortress right in the middle of the airfield. The American air force towed the Liberator and Fortress to the field immediately outside our house and dismantled them both. Kevin and I used to play around their tents, letting them down and getting biscuits and chewing gum thrown at us.
The Dakota, I believe, was also dismantled, but was not moved first. In the village we had a club run by the wife of the local landlord (squire not pub landlord). At the time of the crashes we were trying to sell bunches of lavender from the landlords gardens (probably for some charity) and I recollect a group of us had photographs taken sitting on the wing of the Dakota with several of the Americans who were working on it.
When the D-day landings were happening I know we stood outside of the house and watched hundreds of aeroplanes towing gliders all converging above us from all directions. It was a sight never to be forgotten.
My Grandmother lived in a small village called the Compasses and we used to visit her every Sunday which meant a walk. The army were at check points at the corners of the airfield and one day in the fog we arrived at the junction where we would normally turn right but my parents insisted we should bear left. I had a great argument with them and got quite scared because I though they were enemy agents trying to kidnap me but there were no soldiers on duty that time for me to tell. Eventually they admitted they were going the wrong way and we got to the Compasses.
As we had no car, very few people had, we used the public transport, rail and bus. On our return from Tunbridge Wells on the bus one day we heard a noise which can only be described as terrifying, this was a doodlebug – officially known as a V1. As soon as we arrived at the Church where we usually got off, instead of going across the Airfield footpath we hot footed it to The Compasses where my grandmother lived as we had heard the engine stop – this meant that the bomb tipped up and went down.
The doodlebug or flying bomb dropped down right by the side of the railway line in a hop garden perhaps 300 yards away from my grandmother’s house but everything was OK.
We had several sticks of bombs drop around us during the war, one lot consisted of seven bombs along the road in front of the house which did not even break a window but the blast caused quite a bit of damage to the farm house a quarter of a mile away.
Protection from the bombing was either a shelter built in the garden or an iron table erected in the house. One was called a Morrison Shelter and the other an Anderson shelter – I believe the outside one was the Morrison Shelter but cannot be sure. We had the iron table – angle iron legs with cross bars both at the top and bottom with wire mesh sides and ends. The top was one iron sheet and we slept under this in the living/dining room. The windows had to be blacked out at night so that the German fighters and bombers could not see us and this was either done with wooden framed black paper inserts for the window frames (mostly upstairs) and downstairs we had a large board with legs to lean against the front window as well as heavy curtains. This had to be put in place every night before putting on a light. At school there was a large brick building in the playground which had a very thick concrete reinforced roof and when the siren went we had to scramble out of the classrooms and accumulate in the shelter. I vaguely remember we had lessons whilst in there but I cannot remember what.
There were barrage balloon emplacements round the airfield and I remember one day when one of the balloons broke free and the cable dragged right over the roof of the house. Often the doodlebugs would hit the cables of the balloons and turn round and start back from whence they came but ran out of fuel before they could get back. We would stand at the rear garden gate and watch the Spitfires and Hurricanes try to turn them back as well, or shoot them down, or have “dog fights” with the German fighters. I am afraid it was all a game for us kids.
On one occasion when we were going to Sunday school, we went across the aerodrome footpath to get to the Church, a German fighter came across the airfield and machine gunned us – we ran like hell and got to the farm next to the Church, and Mum must have been aware of the situation as she also ran across the aerodrome to find out if we were OK.
Not far away from Charcott, towards Sevenoaks Weald, there was an army camp, known as GAZA Barracks, and once a week one of their buses would call round the local villages and collect people who wanted to go to the cinema. They had their own projector and obtained films to show so we were able to go to the pictures once a week for free.
My most vivid memory of WW2 was D.Day. I was 12 years old and because my Mother had been asked to look after a couple in their 60's, who, in her younger days, she had been in service with. I found myself staying in a Cottage tucked in the fold of the Hills, half a mile up a farmtrack near to the village of Warmwell in Dorset. On the eve of D.DAY my Mother had been asked to cook a special meal for two guests who turned out to be Senior Service Personel. Normally we dined with the family, but on this occassion we were excluded. After they had left we got the impression that something special was about to take place. Early in the morning of D.Day we looked up to see the sky full of Planes towing Gliders being joined by their Fighter Escort almost if the Cottage had been earmarked as their joining up point. At about 0900 the postman called and said if we wanted to witness a sight we would be unlikely ever to see again, we should climb the hill and look out to sea. This we did and saw both Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour overflowing with Landing Craft and all sorts of vessels. So much so that it was difficult to see any water. Later that same morning I went to help the farmer with the Hay Making and found at the Warmwell Crossroads Military police directing Amphibious and other Military Vehicles, American from the Swanage direction and British from the Dorchester direction alternately towards Weymouth. the Yanks were throwing us gum, Candies and occassionaly cigarettes as they passed the field we were working in. This traffic continued for a number of days. Later in the week I went with my mother in the farmer's car into Weymouth to get essential supplies. We had to produce an official Permit before we were allowed to enter the town and then we were forbidden to go anywhere near the harbour.
Jack A Turner
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