The modern world is still living with the consequences of World War 2, the most titanic conflict in history. Just over 67 years ago on September 1st 1939, Germany invaded Poland without warning. By the evening of September 3rd, Britain and France were at war with Germany and within a week, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa had also joined the war.

The world had been plunged into its second world war in 25 years. Six long and bloody years of total war, fought over many thousand of square kilometres followed. From the Hedgerows of Normandy to the streets of Stalingrad, the icy mountains of Norway to the sweltering deserts of Libya, the insect infested jungles of Burma to the coral reefed islands of the pacific.

On land, sea and in the air, Poles fought Germans, Italians fought Americans and Japanese fought Australians in a conflict which was finally settled with the use of nuclear weapons.

World War 2 involved every major world power in a war for global domination and at its end, more than 60 million people had lost their lives and most of Europe and large parts of Asia lay in ruins.



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This global conflict split a majority of the world's nations into two opposing camps: the allies and the axis. Spanning much of the globe, world war ii resulted in the deaths of over 60 million people, making it the deadliest conflict in human history. World war ii was the most widespread war ever experienced, and mobilized more than 100 million military personnel from 61 nations.

Total war erased the distinction between civil and military resources and saw the complete mobilization of a nation's economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities for the purposes of the war effort; nearly two-thirds of those killed in the war were civilians. Of particular note was the holocaust, which was largely conducted in eastern europe, and resulted in the killing of around or even more than six million jews and other social and political minorities by axis forces.



"THE FINAL INSPECTION"

The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

Originally done by Sgt. Joshua Helterbran US Army..

Oberleutnant Gunther Pluschow


It was an escape from a PoW camp as daring and fraught with danger as any immortalised by Hollywood. Yet the story is less familiar than most – as it concerns the only German prisoner of war to escape from captivity in mainland Britain and make it home during either World War. The one that got away: Oberleutnant Gunther Pluschow, pictured above and below in his wartime uniform, staged an incredible escape.

He is pictured right in the clothes he wore to London, where he adopted another disguise as a dockworker He had been placed in the camp that May after being caught in Gibraltar during an earlier attempt to return to his homeland. After escaping from Donington Hall, changing his appearance and blending in among London crowds, Pluschow stowed away on a Dutch steamer ship at Tilbury docks.

He talked his way past a policeman in Holland before travelling to Germany by train. Upon his return home he received a hero’s welcome and was presented with the Iron Cross First Class. His astonishing story has now fully emerged after British author Anton Rippon spent seven years researching German archives to uncover details of the escape before publishing Pluschow’s new biography 'Gunther Pluschow:- Airman, Escaper and Explorer'.. Common belief has it that airman Franz Von Werra was the only German to make it back to the Fatherland after escaping from a British PoW camp.

His story was immortalised in the 1957 film The One That Got Away starring Hardy Kruger. But, although Von Werra escaped, he was recaptured in Britain and flown to a PoW camp in Canada from where he broke out again and travelled back to Germany.


Oberleutnant Gunther Pluschow


The first two POWs, who got away from a British camp, and caught were Karl Ludwig (S.S. officer) and Heinz Herzler (Unknown). They had planned to get aboard a truck, the type of which passed Island Farm most nights. These trucks were usually bound for Cardiff Docks where their contents were loaded on to ships and sent across the channel to France.

Unfortunately, on the night of the escape, there were no trucks passing the camp. Failing to get aboard a truck the two POWs decided to try and catch a train at Bridgend railway station.. As Ludwig and Herzler made their way, they encountered a drunken man returning home. Ludwig and Herzler decided to hide in a nearby garden, but unfortunately the garden they chose to hide in belonged to the drunken man.

As the man entered through the garden gate he decided that his call of nature was too great and decided to urinate into one of his garden bushes. Unfortunately, this was the hedge which Karl Ludwig happened to be hiding ! Having releaved himself the drunken man went into his house unaware that he had done something to an SS officer that many people in Britain would have given up 10 years of their lives to do! Upon reaching Bridgend Railway station, the two men hid in a goods wagon, but the train's progress was slow and was, unbeknown to them, going in the wrong direction.

When it stopped at a little marshalling yard they got off, tried to get their bearings but were lost. They had ended up in Llanharan only 8 miles from Bridgend. Hoping to reach a main road going to Cardiff they started walking and unfortunately encountered a policeman (PC Philip Baverstock) who was on patrol who arrested them. In the police station, what intrigued Baverstock most, was the tail of a shirt.

On it was a map, drawn with painstaking accuracy showing the main railway lines and ports in southern England and Northern France. During WWII all roadsigns across Great Britain had been deliberately removed in the hope that it would confuse the Germans if they ever invaded or parachuted in to Britain.

However, when the POWs had been escorted to Island Farm initially, one of the POWs had noticed that a map of Great Britain, and its rail system, was on the wall in one of the railway carriages. Thinking that this map would prove useful, in the event of an escape, he had traced the map on to the tail of a shirt.


world War II Poster


World War II is one of the most influential events in world history. Spanning from 1939 to 1945, the war introduced new weaponry and machinery to warfare that had not been used previously. The warring nations taxed their engineering and scientific geniuses to the limit in an effort to design and manufacture equipment that would outdo the enemy’s apparatus. Troops needed a way to infiltrate rival territory, and vehicles were a key element in the fight.

Whether on the ground or in the air, World War II military vehicles directly affected a nation’s ability to win or lose ground in the global fight. The United Kingdom was the only country to enter into World War II with a full convoy of war vehicles. Many countries, including Germany, still relied on horses at the beginning of the war to move supplies and troops.

The United States followed Britain’s lead and retired its horses prior to entering the war, opting to begin the production of Jeeps to move supplies and troops in 1940, even though the States did not officially join the fight until after the Japanese Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. Jeeps became a huge commodity in World War II.

These all-terrain vehicles proved to do just what they were built to do: move troops and supplies through some of the roughest terrain in Europe and Asia. Both the Allies and the Axis had access to, and used, Jeeps throughout the war.


world War II fire trucks


Trucks and fire trucks also played a key role in World War II. In fact, 6,000 GMC model trucks aided the Allies during the Normandy invasion. These trucks were sturdy like Jeeps, but they were larger, enabling them to transport a greater amount of troops and supplies.

Many of these trucks carried gasoline, so the Allied troops were able to push forward toward Germany without having to worry about running out of gas. Germany did not use trucks like the Allied forces did and ran out of gas, leaving the German troops stuck in their position and vulnerable to Allied attacks.

Every country fighting in World War II used tanks. Tanks came in numerous shapes and sizes, but all had the same purpose: to serve as a nearly indestructible artillery vehicle protecting the contents inside. Many smaller tanks were used to scout out locations to move troops forward into enemy territory; others provided safe transport for key military personnel; all were armed and extremely dangerous.

Dr. Sanders Marbles, a World War II historian, lists the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and Germany as the countries equipped with the best tanks during World War II. Germany, in particular, used tanks during its Blitzkrieg attacks when invading Poland, prompting the Allies to up their tank production and, eventually, win the war.



World War II brought air warfare to a new tactical level. The United States entered World War II because of air attack, and ended it with air attack. Perhaps one of the more perplexing strategies exercised in World War II was the Kamikaze fighter. On December 7, 1941, the U.S. Naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor was suddenly subjected to single-manned airplanes loaded with explosives literally flying into the naval vessels and airfields.

The fearless Japanese soldiers committed suicide in honor of their country, and the planes they flew exploded upon impact, causing irreparable damage to the U.S. fleet. Nearly four years later on August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies after the United States — by air — dropped two nuclear bombs on the country.

This type of air warfare had never been seen before. In between these two key events, air warfare raged between the Allied and Axis countries. Advancements in technology enabled aircraft to do more than just fight. Aircraft and radar were used on reconnaissance missions.

They were also used to move equipment and forces quickly. But it wasn’t until the aircraft named the “Enola Gay” dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan that World War II aircraft warfare took the final step toward ending the war that had consumed the globe for six years.


Germany’s Invasion of Poland


Some would say that World War Two began with Germany’s Invasion of Poland on the 1st September 1939 and the ultimatum of Britain that without a German withdrawal a State of War would exist. Needless to say there was no German withdrawal and WWII began, Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declaring war on the 3rd of September 1939 Others would argue that world war two was simply the second round of world war one.

Although the major powers had yet to realise it the continuance of the war between the Axis and Allies would result in the end of European dominance of the world and the destruction of their colonial empires.

By renewing the fight they only ensured their own demise no matter who won the outcome. Some have claimed that the Treaty of Versailles was ‘harsh and unreasonable’ and therefore was the seed which guaranteed the second world war. Germany would seek to redress this wrong.

In truth the Treaty of Versailles was no harsher than the very terms that the Germans had sought to impose on the Russians in 1917/18 with Russia forced to secede large tracts of territory and pay large indemnities in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. In truth the greater cause of the second world war was the belief by many Germans that they had never lost the first world war.

German territory had not been invaded, the troops felt they had never lost. In reality the army had to return to Germany to preserve the state from social meltdown, as Germany was in greater danger from internal enemies than the threat posed by the allies. Hence the belief that Germany had only lost the war due to a stab in the back at home.

This breakdown however was the result of a state put under immense pressure and succumbing to economic pressure and political facture, in order to win a modern war, victory in the field is no longer enough, victory must be obtained over the whole system of the other nation. (i.e. destroy its will to fight). Germany had lost the strategic battle, its system had collapsed and hence it lost the war.

The British Navy had succeeded in its blockade of the Germany economy and had thus brought about its ruin and defeat, (even if the Navy hadn’t proven itself in open battle). Germany had lost its allies, Turkey and Austria, and had failed in production with less air planes, few tanks and had run out of manpower. Although Germany had not lost the battle, it had lost the war.


Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair

Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair


World War 2 Facts The first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940). 80% of Soviet males born in 1923 didn't survive World War 2 The highest ranking American killed was Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair, killed by the US Army Air Corps. Between 1939 and 1945 the Allies dropped 3.4 million tons of bombs, An average of about 27,700 tons of bombs each month.

12,000 heavy bombers were shot down in World War 2 2/3 of Allied bomber crews were lost for each plane destroyed 3 or 4 ground men were wounded for each killed 6 bomber crewmen were killed for each one wounded Over 100,000 Allied bomber crewmen were killed over Europe There were 433 Medals of Honor awarded during World War 2, 219 of them were given after the recipient's death.

From 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945 in Europe the Allies had 200,000 dead and 550,000 wounded. The youngest US serviceman was 12 year old Calvin Graham, USN. He was wounded in combat and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. (His benefits were later restored by act of Congress). At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top US Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced "sink us"), the shoulder patch of the US Army's 45th Infantry division was the swastika, and Hitler's private train was named "Amerika".

All three were soon changed for PR purposes. Germany lost 110 Division Commanders in combat 40,000 men served on U-Boats during World War 2; 30,000 never returned. More US servicemen died in the Air Corps that the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, your chance of being killed was 71%. Not that bombers were helpless. A B-17 carried 4 tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo. The US 8th Air Force shot down 6,098 fighter planes, 1 for every 12,700 shots fired.

Germany's power grid was much more vulnerable than realized. One estimate is that if just 1% of the bombs dropped on German industry had instead been dropped on power plants, German industry would have collapsed. Generally speaking, there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot. You were either an ace or a target. For instance, Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes. He died while a passenger on a cargo plane. It was a common practice on fighter planes to load every 5th found with a tracer round to aid in aiming. That was a mistake.

The tracers had different ballistics so (at long range) if your tracers were hitting the target, 80% of your rounds were missing. Worse yet, the tracers instantly told your enemy he was under fire and from which direction. Worst of all was the practice of loading a string of tracers at the end of the belt to tell you that you were out of ammo.

That was definitely not something you wanted to tell the enemy. Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down. When allied armies reached the Rhine, the first thing men did was pee in it. This was pretty universal from the lowest private to Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) and Gen. Patton (who had himself photographed in the act). German Me-264 bombers were capable of bombing New York City but it wasn't worth the effort.

A number of air crewmen died of farts. (ascending to 20,000 ft. in an un-pressurized aircraft causes intestinal gas to expand 300%!) Germany lost 40-45% of their aircraft during World War 2 to accidents. The Russians destroyed over 500 German aircraft by ramming them in midair (they also sometimes cleared minefields by marching over them). "It takes a brave man not to be a hero in the Red Army". - Joseph Stalin.

The average German officer slot had to be refilled 9.2 times. The US Army had more ships that the US Navy. The German Air Force had 22 infantry divisions, 2 armor divisions, and 11 paratroop divisions. None of them were capable of airborne operations. The German Army had paratroops who WERE capable of airborne operations. When the US Army landed in North Africa, among the equipment brought ashore were 3 complete Coca Cola bottling plants. 84 German Generals were executed by Hitler Among the first "Germans" captured at Normandy were several Koreans.

They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until they were capture by the US Army. World War 2 Facts The first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940). 80% of Soviet males born in 1923 didn't survive World War 2.

The highest ranking American killed was Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair, killed by the US Army Air Corps. Between 1939 and 1945 the Allies dropped 3.4 million tons of bombs, an average of about 27,700 tons of bombs each month. 12,000 heavy bombers were shot down in World War 2. 2/3 of Allied bomber crews were lost for each plane destroyed. 3 or 4 ground men were wounded for each killed. 6 bomber crewmen were killed for each one wounded. Over 100,000 Allied bomber crewmen were killed over Europe.

There were 433 Medals of Honor awarded during World War 2, 219 of them were given after the receipiant's death. From 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945 in Europe the Allies had 200,000 dead and 550,000 wounded. The youngest US serviceman was 12 year old Calvin Graham, USN. He was wounded in combat and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. (His benefits were later restored by act of Congress).

At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top US Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced "sink us"), the shoulder patch of the US Army's 45th Infantry division was the swastika, and Hitler's private train was named "Amerika". All three were soon changed for PR purposes. Germany lost 110 Division Commanders in combat. 40,000 men served on U-Boats during World War 2; 30,000 never returned.

More US servicemen died in the Air Corps that the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, your chance of being killed was 71%. Not that bombers were helpless. A B-17 carried 4 tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo. The US 8th Air Force shot down 6,098 fighter planes, 1 for every 12,700 shots fired. Germany's power grid was much more vulnerable than realized.

One estimate is that if just 1% of the bombs dropped on German industry had instead been dropped on power plants, German industry would have collapsed. Generally speaking, there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot. You were either an ace or a target. For instance, Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes. He died while a passenger on a cargo plane.

It was a common practice on fighter planes to load every 5th found with a tracer round to aid in aiming. That was a mistake. The tracers had different ballistics so (at long range) if your tracers were hitting the target, 80% of your rounds were missing. Worse yet, the tracers instantly told your enemy he was under fire and from which direction. Worst of all was the practice of loading a string of tracers at the end of the belt to tell you that you were out of ammo.

That was definitely not something you wanted to tell the enemy. Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down. When allied armies reached the Rhine, the first thing men did was pee in it. This was pretty universal from the lowest private to Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) and Gen. Patton (who had himself photographed in the act).

German Me-264 bombers were capable of bombing New York City but it wasn't worth the effort. A number of air crewmen died of farts. (ascending to 20,000 ft. in an un-pressurized aircraft causes intestinal gas to expand 300%!) Germany lost 40-45% of their aircraft during World War 2 to accidents The Russians destroyed over 500 German aircraft by ramming them in mid-air (they also sometimes cleared minefields by marching over them). "It takes a brave man not to be a hero in the Red Army". - Joseph Stalin The average German officer slot had to be refilled 9.2 times.

The US Army had more ships that the US Navy. The German Air Force had 22 infantry divisions, 2 armor divisions, and 11 paratroop divisions. None of them were capable of airborne operations. The German Army had paratroops who WERE capable of airborne operations. When the US Army landed in North Africa, among the equipment brought ashore were 3 complete Coca Cola bottling plants. 84 German Generals were executed by Hitler. Among the first "Germans" captured at Normandy were several Koreans.

They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until they were capture by the US Army. The Graf Spee never sank, The scuttling attempt failed and the ship was bought by the British. On board was Germany's newest radar system. One of Japan's methods of destroying tanks was to bury a very large artillery shell with on ly the nose exposed.

When a tank came near the enough a soldier would whack the shell with a hammer. "Lack of weapons is no excuse for defeat." - Lt. Gen. Mataguchi Following a massive naval bombardment, 35,000 US and Canadian troops stormed ashore at Kiska. 21 troops were killed in the fire-fight. It would have been worse if there had been Japanese on the island. The MISS ME was an unarmed Piper Cub.

While spotting for US artillery her pilot saw a similar German plane doing the same thing. He dove on the German plane and he and his co-pilot fired their pistols damaging the German plane enough that it had to make a forced landing. Whereupon they landed and took the Germans prisoner.

It is unknown where they put them since the MISS ME only had two seats. Most members of the Waffen SS were not German. Air attacks caused 1/3 of German Generals' deaths. By D-Day, the Germans had 1.5 million railway workers operating 988,000 freight cars and used 29,000 per day. The only nation that Germany declared war on was the USA. During the Japanese attack on Hong Kong, British officers objected to Canadian infantrymen taking up positions in the officer's mess.

No enlisted men allowed! By D-Day, 35% of all German soldiers had been wounded at least once, 11% twice, 6% three times, 2% four times and 2% more than 4 times. Nuclear physicist Niels Bohr was rescued in the nick of time from German occupied Denmark.

While Danish resistance fighters provided covering fire he ran out the back door of his home stopping momentarily to grab a beer bottle full of precious "heavy water". He finally reached England still clutching the bottle, which contained beer. Perhaps some German drank the heavy water... Germany lost 136 Generals, which averages out to be 1 dead General every 2 weeks.


Odette Marie Céline Brailly

Odette Marie Céline Brailly

She was born Odette Marie Céline Brailly in Amiens, France, the daughter of the First World War hero, Gaston Brailly, who was killed at Verdun in 1918. At seven, she caught polio, and spent a year blind and another without the movement of her limbs. She met an Englishman, Roy Sansom, in Boulogne, and married him in 1931, moving with him to England. The couple had three daughters: Françoise, Lily and Marianne. Roy Sansom enlisted in 1940.

In the spring of 1942, the Admiralty appealed for postcards or family photographs taken on the Continent for possible war use. Hearing the broadcast, she wrote that she had photographs taken around Boulogne, on the French coast of the English Channel, but she inadvertently addressed her letter to the War Office instead of the Admiralty.

As a result, she was enrolled in Special Forces of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and trained by Colonel Maurice Buckmaster's Special Operations Executive to be sent into Nazi-occupied France to work with the French underground. She left her three daughters in a convent school.

Second World War activities in France She made a landing near Cannes in 1942, where she made contact with her supervisor, Peter Churchill. Using the code name Lise, she brought him funds and acted as his courier. Churchill's operation in France was infiltrated by Hugo Bleicher, an Abwehr counter-intelligence officer, who arrested Odette and Churchill at the Hotel de la Poste in Saint-Jorioz on 16 April 1943 and they were then sent to Fresnes Prison.

Although tortured by the Sicherheitsdienst using a red-hot poker at 84 Avenue Foch in Paris, she stuck to her cover story that Churchill was the nephew of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and that she was his wife. The hope was that in this way their treatment would be mitigated.

Ravensbrück She was condemned to death in June 1943, although a time for execution was not specified, and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Odette survived the war partly thanks to her alias of "Churchill". The British had calculated that if the Germans thought she was related to the British Prime Minister, they would want to keep her alive as a possible bargaining tool.

And so it turned out, for with the Allies only a few miles from Ravensbrück, Camp commandant Fritz Suhren took Sansom with him and drove with her to the US base when surrendering to the Americans. He hoped that her supposed connections to Churchill might allow him to negotiate his way out of execution. Subsequently Odette testified against the prison guards charged with war crimes at the 1946 Hamburg Ravensbrück Trials.



S.O.E., the Special Operations Executive, was a British secret service formed in July 1940 - soon after the fall of France - to foster resistance among the civil population in Nazi-occupied Europe and to promote sabotage and subversion. Winston Churchill inspired the formation of S.O.E. and continued to support it until it was dissolved in 1946, its wartime task completed.

The Womens Land Army was established during the First World War, with huge numbers of men volunteering to fight, the country was desperately short of labour. During the fist six months of the Second World War, over thirty thousand men previously working in agriculture had joined the forces.

The government re-formed The Women's Land army and by 1944 there were 80,000 women volunteers working on the land. About a third of the volunteers moved to the countryside from Britain's industrial cities. Robert (Bob) Banbury married Joyce Pound on 2nd July 1941 at St Michaels Church, Albert Road, Stoke, Devonport, Plymouth.

The ceremony took place in what had been the church hall. The church itself was destroyed by bombing on 21st April 1941 one of the heaviest air raids of the Plymouth Blitz. The hall was consecrated as a church and remained so until the church was rebuilt in 1953.

Bob and Joyce should have been married in May 1941 but Bob was very badly injured in the air raid of 21st April and was too ill for the marriage to take place. He was fire fighting in the Dockyard that night (his night-time job during the day he was a civil servant in the Dockyard) when a bomb fell in the area where he was operating.

Of the 20 men in that area only Bob survived. If you look carefully at the photograph you can see that he has his left arm in a sling and his left hand in a splint. What you cant see is the plaster cast that encased his body from chest to hips or the huge bandaging on his left leg. He returned to hospital immediately after the wedding. He carried the scars of that night for the rest of his life. He had little use of his left hand and arm. There were large chunks of muscle missing from his left arm and leg.

His left hand (minus its little finger) had no feeling in it and to protect it from damage and the cold he always wore a specially made glove. He had small pieces of shrapnel from the bomb embedded all over his body. He used to amuse the children by hanging magnets from various locations on his body. It was a sort of magic party trick.



Everyone used torches in the blackout as the only light we ever saw outside at night was moonlight, so a lot of the time everywhere was black, if we had a long way to walk at night we would shine the torch on the ground several yards in front and as we walked we would switch the torch on and off every five seconds or so, this was supposed to make the battery last longer.

We arrived at the shelter, mom and us kids scrambled inside and made ourselves comfortable, all the dads in the street, that were not away at the war, bravely stood outside at the front of the shelter, smoking and chatting to each other across the garden fences. After this first night we spent many nights down the shelter, we could hear distant explosions but that was all, eventually it would go quiet and the long continuous sound of the all clear would wail out, Gerry has gone, mom would say then we would go back to our beds. After the war ended the shelters were sold to the tenants for the princely sum of One Pound each.

People dug them up and re-erected them on top of the ground, fitted them with proper wooden doors and used them as workshops or garden sheds. They lasted for decades after the war ended. The concrete interior was left in the ground intact, we filled it with water once again and used it as a paddling pool.


Deliverance Day in 1944


How well I remember Deliverance Day in 1944 This was the beginning of the end of our six year war. Many nations took part in this exceptional historic day To help bring back justice and take tyranny away. I watched with baited breath as our planes filled the sky Many would be wounded and many would also die. What a lot we owe to all who took part in that historical day.

They gave us back our freedom and banished evil away. We should never forget those who fought for us to survive Just Thank God they gave you freedom and you are still alive. I was 9 (Freda Hughes) living in Dyke Road, Folkestone and coming up from the harbour in 1942 near the railway.

The troops used to come up there throwing foreign coins to the kids. I used to take my year old nephew out in the pram. Across the other side of the railway there was a sweet shop. There were dummy bars of chocolate in the window (so they wouldn't melt) and the window was broken so I was taking them to play shops with. I heard a noise, I though it was a tank. It was a German plane machine gunning the railway line. I just let go of the pram. A neighbour came out and took me and the pram in. My mum said had I gone across the crossing to get home I'd have been killed.

I was frightened, the noise was dreadful. When the siren for all clear sounded, the neighbours took me home. My mother always said, "God doesn't pay his debts in money", so I thought I was being paid back for stealing. I'd never steal again it's learnt me a good lesson! During the final year of my training as a nurse, there was an outbreak of Typhoid Fever in Farnworth, amongst those affected was the parish priest. A ward was opened specially to admit these cases.

This was real nursing care. The patients were very ill, with high temperatures, diarrhoea consisting of green pea soup like stools. The rash was nothing like I had seen before, a pale rose coloured spot. Doctor drew a ring round the spots on one of the patients to illustrate to me how in a couple of days they had moved out of the ring a little. I was the only non Roman Catholic nurse on the ward, and had never spoken to a priest before.

At first I was in awe of him, however he was very easy to like. It always seemed to be my task to bed bath him and take his temperature, take specimens of both faeces and urine. He was nursed in the side ward and I remember on one occasion he asked me to describe the view out of his window, he was unable to see the outside from his bed. The view was quite pleasant but not much to see. I told him about the walnut tree, not far away. I described the old house and the lake.

The second time he asked me to tell him what was happening outside, there was very little activity, so I invented some things, and I wonder if he knew? My first memory as an eight year old boy at home in Hawkhurst in the Weald of Kent is of Sunday 3rd September 1939.

It was a glorious hot sunny day and I was playing in the garden but was aware that something of great importance was taking place as my parents and our neighbours were gathered together listening to the radio. I then remember hearing the announcement by Neville Chamberlain that we were at war with Germany. Soon afterwards the air raid siren in the village sounded and my father called me indoors.

After a while whilst we were all waiting for something to happen the All Clear sounded! Either just before or just after the declaration of war, I cannot remember which, we had a visit from some officials who wanted to see the top room in our house.

It was an end of terrace, three storeys and a semi basement house half way up the hill into the village. As the view from the attic room was so extensive we were told it might be used as an observation post or to house a machine gun if necessary.

In the surrounding countryside concrete blocks were erected some 3 foot cubed in lines across fields which were to hinder tanks in the event of an invasion.Outside of our home two large concrete blocks some 8 foot high and 4 foot square base were erected, one each side of the street. There were holes in these block into which girders spanning the road could be inserted.


4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards


I was 18 years old in February 1937 and was considering my future which was not promising as there was so little choice of employment in those days in the North-East of England, in particular West Hartlepool. I was working as a spare hand at the local steelworks which involved relieving machine operators as required. The talk was that war was inevitable and I decided that I would join the army and choose my regiment rather than wait for call-up. I would do a few years in the forces and if war did not come, I would enter the police force perhaps.

I joined the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards at the cavalry barracks in Colinton, Edinburgh and in September 1938 was detached from my regiment to a motorised squadron attached to the Scots Greys in Palestine and served there until December 1939 when we were recalled to Britain for service in the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in France.

I was there for the period known as the phony war when nothing seemed to be happening. I was home on leave when the balloon went up with the invasion of Belgium by the Germans. Returning to France, things seemed rather chaotic and I did not reach my regiment before Dunkirk was cut off, and after a few false alarms, we were instructed to get out of France as quickly as possible.

The roads were packed with refugees and were constantly being attacked by enemy aircraft. We could not get to any channel port and finished up at St Malo on the west coast and were taken off by a former holiday steamer and reached Southampton without being attacked. In all the confusion, it transpired that my mum and my dad had been informed that I was missing, believed killed. Fortunately, I was allowed a telegram when I landed to inform them that I was okay so their agony was short-lived, thankfully.


B-26 Martin Marauder


The Imperial War Museum is unique in its coverage of conflicts, especially those involving Britain and the Commonwealth, from the First World War to the present day. It seeks to provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and war-time experience. It is proud to be regarded as one of the essential sights of London. The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), was a non-military organization in WWII, which throughout its existence,

Congress maintained was an experiment. Politics ended the experiment suddenly and with little notice, but that did not detract from their work or their remarkable determination to fly. Twenty-five thousand women applied to the program.

Almost two thousand qualified and entered training. Successful graduates tested and ferried military aircraft and completed other piloting jobs to free up men for active service. They transported every make of airplane in the American armament, which included training, pursuit, and transport planes, along with fighters, and bombers. Some WASP received orders to fly planes that males had refused to fly, such as the B-26 Martin Marauder, also known as the 'Widow Maker'.

The hope was to shame the men into flying them. Although the ploy successfully made men feel 'if a woman can do it, anyone can', eventually even the Army recognized how degrading that attitude was to the women pilots. After the complete their training, the WASP lived and worked at one hundred and twenty bases around the country. They wore uniforms that followed strict military code and took orders as if they served in the armed forces. They didn't.

They had no life or accident insurance, no death benefits and could not be buried in a military cemetery or receive a burial with flags and honors. WASP could achieve no rank of significance outside their organization, nor could they give orders to men. Federal law prohibited women from flying military planes into combat or outside the boundaries of the United States, still, thirty-eight WASP died serving their country. World War II was an interesting time for women.

While a woman wearing trousers in public still faced possible arrest by a crabby police officer, (in some places pants were illegal on women) two hundred thousand enlisted in the military and twelve million, many who had never worked outside their homes, took jobs in factories, shipyards, offices, and as civilian workers on military bases.

These women preformed jobs that no one, often even the women themselves, expected they could do. Many worked in familiar roles such as sewing flags, uniforms, and parachutes, but others were mechanics, cryptographers and of course, the most famous, the thousands of Rosie the Riveters. They became a symbol for all the women workers.

When the war ended, most women returned to their lives at home, though some continued to work. The unspoken rule in Washington, D.C. was that the role of women in the war receive little attention. The military feared that women might believe they could continue to do the jobs. After the WASP 'experiment' ended, the Pentagon ordered their files sealed. For over thirty years, no one talked, wrote, or learned about the pilots, and few were interested in the women who literally kept 'the home fires burning' while they worked in defence plants and shipyards.


women at war 1940


World War II opened a new chapter in the lives of Depression-weary Americans. As husbands and fathers, sons and brothers shipped out to fight in Europe and the Pacific, millions of women marched into factories, offices, and military bases to work in paying jobs and in roles reserved for men in peacetime. For female journalists, World War II offered new professional opportunities. Talented and determined, dozens of women fought for--and won--the right to cover the biggest story of their lives.

By war's end, at least 127 American women had secured official military accreditation as war correspondents, if not actual front-line assignments. Other women journalists remained on the home front to document the ways in which the country changed dramatically under wartime conditions. In the Pacific, war was not formally declared between the belligerents until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. (See: Greater East Asia War).

However, there was active fighting dating back to the 1930s, the cause of which can be seen in the political fragmentation and weakness of China combined with a strong Japan with a militaristic and expansionist ideology. In the 1920s, China fragmented into warlordism in which there was a weak central government, and Japan was able gain influence in China by imposing unequal treaties with what remained of the central government.

This situation was unstable in that if China dissolved into total anarchy these agreements would be unenforceable while if China was able to strength, the strong China would be able to abrogate those agreements. In 1927, Chiang Kai-Shek and the National Revolutionary Army of the Kuomintang led the Northern Expedition.

Chiang was able to militarily defeat the warlords in southern and central China, and was in the process of securing the nominal allegiance of the warlords in northern China. Fearing that Zhang Xueliang (the warlord controlling Manchuria) was about to declare his allegiance for Chiang, the Japanese intervened and set up the puppet state of Manchukuo.

There is no evidence that Japan ever intended to directly administer China or that Japan's actions in China were part of a program of world domination. Rather, Japan's goals in China were strongly influenced by 19th century European colonialism and were to maintain a secure supply of natural resources and to have friendly and pliable governments in China that would not act against Japanese interests.

Although Japanese actions would not have seemed out of place among European colonial powers in the 19th century, by 1930, notions of Wilsonian self-determination meant that raw military force in support of colonialism was no longer seen as appropriate behavior by the international community. Japanese actions were therefore roundly criticized and led to Japan's withdrawal from the League of Nations.

During the 1930s, China and Japan reached a stalemate with Chiang focusing his efforts at eliminating the Communists whom Chiang considered to be a more fundamental danger than the Japanese. The influence of Chinese nationalism on opinion both in the political elite and the general population rendered this strategy increasingly untenable.

Meanwhile in Japan, a policy of assassination by secret societies and the effects of the Great Depression had caused the civilian government to lose control of the military. In addition, the military high command had limited control over the field armies who acted on their own interest, often in contradiction to the overall national interest. There was also an upsurge in nationalism and anti-European feeling and the belief that Japanese policies in China could be justified by racial theories.

One popular belief with similarities to the Identity movement was that Japan and not China was the true heir of classical Chinese civilization. In 1937, Chiang was kidnapped by Zhang Xueliang in the Xian Incident. As condition of his release, Chiang promised to united with the Communists and fight the Japanese.

In response to this, officers of the Kwangtung Army without knowledge of the high command in Tokyo decided to manufacture the Battle of Lugou Bridge, also known as the incident at the Marco Polo Bridge, by which they succeeded in their intention of provoking a conflict between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan, the Sino-Japanese War).

In 1939 Japanese forces tried to push into the Soviet far east from Manchuria. They were soundly defeated by a mixed Soviet and Mongolian force led by Georgi Zhukov. This stopped Japanese expansion to the North and Japan and the Soviet Union kept un uneasy peace until 1945. Japan's policies in the 1930s are remarkable for their disastrously self-defeating nature.

Japan's grand strategy was based on the premise that it could not survive a war against the European powers without secure sources of natural resources, yet to secure those resources it decided to undertake the war that it knew it could not win in the first place.

Moreover actions such as its brutality in China, and its practice of first setting up, and then undermining, puppet governments in China were clearly antithetical to Japan's overall goals, and yet it continued to persist in them anyway. Finally, this march to self-destruction is remarkable in that many individuals within the Japanese political and military elite realized these self-destructive consequences, but were unable to do anything about the situation. Also, there appears to have been no debate over policy alternatives which might have enabled Japan to further its goals in China.



During late 1939 and the early 1940s, we in Birmingham were to suffer from quite a few air raids. It is somewhat difficult to set down here all the experiences we encountered at this particular time. We became accustomed to spending many long hours in the Anderson shelter at the bottom of the garden. This was a wooden construction with a corrugated iron cover, most of the structure being deep in the ground with about a fifth above the ground. It had a wooden door, which we bolted by means of a wooden bar fixed into two grooves either side of it.

Inside there were two long benches at either side and in between these we had room for a small table on which we stood a small oil lamp. The benches were wide enough to sit upon and also had some space underneath for various provisions.

The entire area of the shelter smelled dank and very earthy and at first it was unpleasant but gradually our nostrils became used to the odour and we even associated this smell with safety, as this was the place where we could have some hope of escaping death or injury. Of course, a direct hit was a disaster we did not care to contemplate.


Derry 1939


I was born in a quiet and rather sad town that was Derry before 1939. In the 1930s unemployment was high, money was scarce and our sole industry, shirt making, employed mainly women, so that many men were forced to seek work in places like London and Manchester.

Along the wide river the docks lay idle as mercantile trade focused on Belfast. Yet, despite the lean times, there was little crime and my siblings and I passed our early years in a safe and secure little world. Then on 3rd September, 1939, our peaceful existence ended.

War was declared. Grown ups greeted the announcement with horror and dismay, yet the news scarcely caused a ripple in my little circle of friends. We knew that wars were fought in far off lands, nothing to do with us in Derry. Everything would go on as usual boring old school and homework lightened only by weekends and holidays. Halloween was just round the corner and then Christmas. However, we were soon to be disillusioned as events unfolded that would change everything familiar and control life to a degree hither unknown. Patricia McAdams.


Germany invaded Poland


On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, conquering it in six weeks, as the Soviets invaded the eastern areas. During the German occupation, there were two distinct civilian uprisings in Warsaw, one in 1943, the other in 1944. The first took place in an entity, less than two square miles in area, which the Germans carved out of the city and called "Ghetto Warschau."

Into the thus created Ghetto, around which they built high walls, the Germans crowded 550,000 Polish Jews, many from the Polish provinces. At first, people were able to go in and out of the Ghetto, but soon the Ghetto's border became an "iron curtain." Unless on official business, Jews could not leave it, and non-Jews, including Germans, could not enter.

Entry points were guarded by German soldiers. Because of extreme conditions and hunger, mortality in the Ghetto was high. Additionally, in 1942, the Germans moved 400,000 to Treblinka where they were gassed on arrival. When, on April 19, 1943, the Ghetto Uprising commenced, the population of the Ghetto had dwindled to 60,000 individuals. In the following three weeks, virtually all died as the Germans fought to put down the uprising and systematically destroyed the buildings in the Ghetto.


horten 229 nazi 1940's hitler's stealth fighter


Often tagged as the "wonder weapon," it could have quite likely won the war for Hitler and his gang of hoodlums. Known as the Horten 229 and configured as a "flying wing" fighter and bomber, it was almost six decades earlier but very like the Air Force B-2, including being very stealthy and with radar avoidance characteristics. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the Nazi's squandered their powers with infighting or bad decisions and the Ho 229 never saw real production.

At end of the war, American forces boxed up and shipped back to the states the prototypes and partially completed existing aircraft. Now the very same organization responsible for the B-2 took on reconstructing the Horton as simulation of radar avoidance.

At the facility in California, Northrop Grumman Corporation used money, time and original blueprints to create a closely replication of the very advanced steel-and-wood bomber, complete with the same unique metallic glue and paint. Utilizing radar of similar and frequency utilized by the British coastal defenses of the second World War, engineers quickly discovered that the Ho229 would have been almost completely unseen by the Royal Air Force.

Unfortunately this capability arrived too late to be an advantage for the Nazi forces. A flying wing was theoretically the most efficient aircraft configuration of the time, best suited to aerodynamics and structural weight efficiency. Arguably, the absence of the usual aircraft constituents, apart from a wing, must be in a natural manner consistent of benefits.

In practice, however, the wing provides necessary stability and control, imposing constraints for the aircraft's design problems. Whatever gains in weight and the reduction of drag may be negatively, or at least partially, be the result of compromises required for stability and control. On the opposite, however, a flying wing suffers from natural stability and control constraints. 

Most advanced cutting-edge high technology by the Germans toward war's end, conclusively shown by Northrop's testing, was far superior as compared with Allied radar this time," filmmaker Mike Jorgenson told the national news.

"It was significantly superior to anything in the air, operationally until the sixties." As far back as 1911, flying wing concepts were known to exist at the very dawn of aviation, with the Horton brothers as virtuosos of this format. The Horton brothers, Reimar and Walter, were for the most part, amateur and self-taught aircraft designers that were from Bonn. A third brother, also a pilot in the Luftwaffe, died in a bombing raid over Dunkirk.

The two younger boys were teenaged enthusiasts of the flying game between the two great wars, a period of time whereby Germany was restricted by the Treaty of Versailles from any sort of building advanced aircraft. German flying of this nature was forced to go underground as civilian 'clubs' with teachers and instructors being World War One military pilots. Interest by the two brothers in the flying hobby and design was seen as early as ‘25 with the joining of a club in their hometown. The two boys began work on their first flying wing sailplane large enough to include a pilot designated as the Ho 1.

Prior experiments were more of 'model' categories. During this 'Golden Age of Aircraft Design', the adherence to basics attracted the attention of an avant-garde aircraft designer named Alexander Lippisch led the two young Germans further and further from traditional trends of aircraft designing of the time that spanned more than two decades, more to experimenting with alternative and radical designs. They began building model planes that filled their parent' abode, eventually full sized man-carrying wooden sailplanes.

Their first glider flew successfully in 1933 while they were still in their teens. By now, the two boys came to the attention of a German notable pilot of the great war, Hermann Goring. The Hortens' gliders were, in extreme contrast to other craft of the time, were very simple and aerodynamically pure. They consisted, in essence, of a very large wing similar to an albatross but with no tail.

The pilot found himself prone within a sleek cocoon. Each design was beautiful and the embodiment of simplicity itself. In flight, they could certainly be likened to an oversized floating leaf or soaring hawk. But beyond the basic authenticity of what they represented was the minimal parasitical interference of their airframes. In a word, they were very 'slick' and even scalable to higher speeds. Hitler's regime in control and with the end of the Treaty of Versailles, Walter and Reimer entered the Luftwaffe as pilots. in 1939.


Predominantly used as consultants, they endured misfortune from a reputation of being very much 'regular people' within the aeronautics community rather than with official connections. The move to all powered flight came easily to the Horten brothers in 1937 when a dual engine, pusher (rather than a mule, or pulling), engines evolved.

Even with their ingenuity, the Luftwaffe was even now paying only small notice to their efforts. In 1942, however, they were grudgingly, albeit partly under-the-table, given support to their design of a twin engine turbojet powered fighter design with the wartime protocol as HO=IX. At this particular juncture of history, turbojet engines had been barely first been designed in not only Nazi Germany or, for that matter, a few nations in the entire world.

And other wartime projects were obviously much more significant to Hitler, Goring and other powers within the regime. Even though the turbo jetted HO-9 did, in fact, reach nearly 500 mph in trials, the projects was moved over to the heretofore low-tech aircraft facility, Gothaer Waggonfabrik and became the Gotha Go 229, and became a fighter of great potential, even considering today standards. It would appear that 'pork barreling' is not new in the world.

Very unfortunate for the declining Nazi formulation for the world or, certainly just opposite the rest of the world's populace, this ingenious craft never saw active service at this time. Other advanced designs of the Horton brothers during the forties included a supersonic delta-wing HO-X, a hybrid turbojet/rocket powered fighter capable of speeds over Mach 1.4.Tested successfully only as a glider (HO-XIII) and later with a piston engine.

Even more frightening in retrospect was Hitler's favorite, the 'Amerika Bomber', being obviously designed to reach New York and other East coast cities. This hideous machine would have been built capable of only one-way flight with the crew being retrieved from the Atlantic off the coast of America by submarine.

Top this off with the fact that Germany was on the way to perfecting an atomic weapon give pause to how fortunate that the second world was ended when it did. After World War Two, Reimar Horton moved to Argentina and continued designing and building his gliders and, apparently, a very unsuccessful commercial double engine flying wing transport, while at the same time pursuing his new career as rancher.

The other brother, Walter, stayed in Germany after the war and was an officer in the post war German Air Force Luftwaffe. Reimar passed in 1994 at his ranch in Argentina while Walter left this mantle of life in 1998. In 1945, the war ended in a victory for the Allies.

The Soviet Union and the United States subsequently emerged as the world's two superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War which lasted for the next 46 years. The United Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another world conflict. The acceptance of the principle of self-determination accelerated decolonization movements in Asia and Africa, while Western Europe itself began moving toward integration.


WW2 Evacuees in Kent


Rose Palmer London.

When war broke out, I was evacuated to Kent. We were taken to church by coach, the sirens went and we were put back on the coach to our houses. Nothing happened, I stayed till January 1940 and when I was fourteen my family brought me back to work. I got a job in Knightsbridge earning seven and six pence a week. Then it closed down. I went to Berkeley Square to a boutique and had an exciting time. Film stars like Vivien Leigh, Beatrice Lily, Kay Kendal, and Lily Palmer.

Lady Winterbottom never wore any knickers, and we used to have to grab the clothes and hang them on the line because they stank! When we couldnt get the material from the pattern swatch, I used to take them home and make colourful underwear and blouses and people used to admire my washing as I was living in a mews flat.

After our house was bombed, I only had the clothes I had on. When the forces came from overseas, I had a wonderful time. I was hostess at Hans Crescent American Club and danced all night but I was never late for work. I made all my own clothes, mostly from blackout material. I used to spend time with my friend at the switchboard where she worked. One night a heavy air raid was on and the engineer rang and offered to take us home.

We walked through Green Park and watched the dog fights of the planes caught in the searchlights. I was seventeen; he was eighteen, my blind date. He was called up into the navy and went all over the world, fought at D-Day and in many battles.

We married January 1st 1944. Our daughter was born April 4th 1945 My boy friend asked me to marry him because he had been issued with all the tropical gear and was being posted to the east. I said, I cant, Ive only got ten coupons. Ten coupons was a years worth of coupons. So the operator said Terminate your call, your time is up, I said please dont cut us off, this is important, he said are you going to marry him or arent you? So I said yes, he said do you love him or dont you? So I said yes.Anyway, your not supposed to be listening. He came home.

We married but he never went to the Far East, it was all to fool the enemy! Then he came home with oiled stockings, warm clothing, weatherproof coats, big boots he was nearly in tears because he hated the cold. He'd been told he was to go to Russia. He didn't go there either! Again, to fool the army. He was at the D-Day battle where he hurt his head under fire, stitched up and hat put back on, and put back on duty on the gun. The ship was a floating dock.

With my ten coupons, I made a sage green dress and jacket, made a nightdress and a padded bed

jacket out of some turquoise satin which I bought in Petticoat Lane, and brown shoes. Net wasn't rationed so I made a pretty hat with two brown birds and net. My mother screamed and told me that birds were unlucky and that my wedding wouldn't last we were married 48 years and he died on 9th May, 1991.


'Make do and mend' ww2 Poster


Clothes were severely rationed, so everyone improvised wherever possible and the slogan 'Make do and mend' was designed to encourage people to do just that. I remember my delight in coming across a dress which, the shop-owner assured me, required no coupons at all - although this was reflected in the price. It was only when I got it home I realised it was made from dyed hessian.

Shoes were made with wooden soles because that way they required fewer clothing coupons. There was quite an art in walking in them - a rocking step needed to be developed. Later, hinges were added, but these were unsuccessful as small stones became wedged in the hinge and the wearer was left having to hobble on the toe section until the offending object could be removed. The clatter they made was overcome by attaching an extra sole cut from an old bicycle tyre. Barrage balloon material made good waterproof macs so when a damaged one came down it quickly went missing.

Silk parachutes, which were constructed from triangles of material, could be unpicked, re-stitched into rectangles and re-cut to make luxurious underwear. Consequently, when an airman was seen to bail out there was frequently a race between the authorities and civilians to recover the parachute, while sometimes a portion could be bought on the black market.


Typhoid Fever


During the final year of my training as a nurse, there was an outbreak of Typhoid Fever in Farnworth, amongst those affected was the parish priest. A ward was opened specially to admit these cases. This was real nursing care. The patients were very ill, with high temperatures, diarrhoea consisting of green pea soup like stools. The rash was nothing like I had seen before, a pale rose coloured spot.

Doctor drew a ring round the spots on one of the patients to illustrate to me how in a couple of days they had moved out of the ring a little. I was the only non Roman Catholic nurse on the ward, and had never spoken to a priest before. At first I was in awe of him, however he was very easy to like. It always seemed to be my task to bed bath him and take his temperature, take specimens of both faeces and urine.

He was nursed in the side ward and I remember on one occasion he asked me to describe the view out of his window, he was unable to see the outside from his bed. The view was quite pleasant but not much to see. I told him about the walnut tree, not far away. I described the old house and the lake. The second time he asked me to tell him what was happening outside, there was very little activity, so I invented some things, and I wonder if he knew?


Hiroo Onoda


On December 17, 1944, the Japanese army sent a twenty-three year old soldier named Hiroo Onoda to the Philippines to join the Sugi Brigade. He was stationed on the small island of Lubang, approximately seventy-five miles southwest of Manila in the Philippines, and his orders were to lead the Lubang Garrison in guerrilla warfare.

As Onoda was departing to begin his mission, his division commander told him, “You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts.

If that’s the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you to give up your life voluntarily.” It turns out that Onoda was exceptionally good at following orders, and it would be 29 years before he finally laid down his arms and surrendered. In February of 1945, just a couple months after Onoda arrived on Lubang, the Allied forces attacked the island, and quickly overtook its defenses. As the Allies moved inland, Onoda and the other guerrilla soldiers split into groups and retreated into the dense jungle. Onoda’s group consisted of himself and three other men: Corporal Shoichi Shimada, Private Kinshichi Kozuka, and Private Yuichi Akatsu.

They survived by rationing their rice supply, eating coconuts and green bananas from the jungle, and occasionally killing one of the locals’ cows for meat. It was upon killing one of these cows that one of the soldiers found a note some months later. It was a leaflet left behind by a local resident, and it said, “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!” The Japanese guerrilla soldiers scrutinized the note, and decided that was an Allied propaganda trick to coax them out of hiding. It was not the only message they encountered; over the years, fliers were dropped from planes, newspapers were left, and letters from relatives with photos.

Each attempt was viewed by the soldiers as a clever hoax constructed by the Allies. Lubang IslandsThe Lubang Islands, PhilippinesOnoda and his men lived in the jungle for years, occasionally engaging in skirmishes and carrying out acts of sabotage as part of their guerrilla activities. They were tormented by jungle heat, incessant rain, rats, insects, and the occasional armed search party.

Any villagers they sighted were seen as spies, and attacked by the four men, and over the years a number of people were wounded or killed by the rogue soldiers. In September of 1949, over four years after the four men went into hiding, one of Onoda’s fellow soldiers decided that he had had enough.

Without a word to the others, Private Akatsu snuck away one day, and the Sugi Brigade was reduced to three men. Sometime in 1950 they found a note from Akatsu, which informed the others that he had been greeted by friendly troops when he left the jungle. To the remaining men, it was clear that Akatsu was being coerced into working for the enemy, and was not to be trusted. They continued their guerrilla attacks, but more cautiously.

Three years later, in 1953, Corporal Shimada was shot in the leg during a shootout with some fishermen. Onoda and Kozuka helped him back into the jungle, and without any medical supplies, they nursed him back to health over several months. Despite his recovery, Shimada became gloomy. About a year later, the men encountered a search party on a beach at Gontin, and Shimada was fatally wounded in the ensuing skirmish. He was 40 years old. For nineteen years, Onoda and Kozuka continued their guerrilla activities together, living in the dense jungle in make-shift shelters.

Every now and then they would kill another cow for meat, which alarmed the villagers and prompted the army to embark on yet another unsuccessful search for the men. The two remaining soldiers operated under the conviction that the Japanese army would eventually retake the island from the Allies, and that their guerrilla tactics would prove invaluable in that effort. Nineteen years after Shimada was killed, on October of 1972, Onoda and Kozuka had snuck out of the jungle to burn some rice which had been collected by farmers, in an attempt to sabotage the “enemy’s” food supply.

A Filipino police patrol spotted the men, and fired two shots. 51-year-old Kozuka was killed, ending his 27 years of hiding. Onoda escaped back into the jungle, now alone in his misguided mission. News of Kozuka’s death traveled quickly to Japan.

It was concluded that since Kozuka had survived all those years, then it was likely that Lt. Onoda was still alive, though he had been declared legally dead about thirteen years earlier. More search parties were sent in to find him, however he successfully evaded them each time.Onoda and Suzuki But in February of 1974, after Onoda had been alone in the jungle for a year and a half, a Japanese college student named Norio Suzuki managed to track him down.

When Suzuki had left Japan, he told his friends that he was “going to look for Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the abominable snowman, in that order.” Onoda and Suzuki became fast friends. Suzuki tried to convince him that the war had ended long ago, but Onoda explained that he would not surrender unless his commander ordered him to do so. Suzuki took photos of the two of them together, and convinced Onoda to meet him again about two weeks later, in a prearranged location. When Onoda went to the meeting place, there was a note waiting from Suzuki. Suzuki had returned to the island with Onoda’s one-time superior officer, Major Taniguchi.

When Onoda returned to meet with Suzuki and his old commander, he arrived in what was left of his dress uniform, wearing his sword and carrying his still-working Arisaka rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, and several hand grenades.

Lt. Onoda Major Taniguchi, who had long since retired from the military and become a bookseller, read aloud the orders: Japan had lost the war, and all combat activity was to cease immediately. After a moment of quiet anger, Onoda pulled back the bolt on his rifle and unloaded the bullets, and then took off his pack and laid the rifle across it. When the reality of it sunk in, he wept openly.


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