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RAF Upper Heyford in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- RAF Upper Heyford during the Second World War -

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RAF Upper Heyford


23rd Sept 1939 On the move

24th Sept 1939 

April 1940 Reformed and disbanded  In April 1940, 7 Sqd lost its identity by being absorbed into No.16 OTU at Upper Heyford.

The squadron was re-formed at Finningley that same month, but was disbanded three weeks later and the crew were distributed to other squadrons - the second time this had happened to 7 Squadron in its history.

April 1940 Reformed and disbanded

29th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served at

RAF Upper Heyford

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

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LACW Olive Nancy Harman

My mother, Olive Harman was a Driver and was based at Upper Heyford and Cottesmore. She always described her time in the WAAF as the best time of her life. I would love to hear from anyone who knew her.

Lesley Scott

W/Cdr. Ronald J "Ronnie" Hardy DSO, DFC & Bar.

The New Boy by Ronnie J Hardy DSO DFC (Written on 11th June 1941)

Two short days ago I travelled down from home with Millward my Navigator, and thanks to a little map reading and frequent questioning of road sweepers and farming people on the Lincolnshire lane, we managed to locate our new aerodrome. Everyone seemed anxious to help, and it was not long before we sighted the large water tower which indicated the proximity of our new home.

On arrival we reported to the adjutant, and went through the depressing ritual of filling up arrival forms. Somehow the ‘next-of-kin’ form always makes me feel a bit wretched, and I always picture my form being taken out of the file at some future date for the purposes of confirming my home address prior to the despatch of a telegram. Fortunately the mood very quickly passes, but I always think it a most unhappy introduction to a new station. I was then ushered into the presence of the Station Commander, a small elderly man, with greying hair, and clear penetrating eyes, which suited well his alert manner. He seemed very glad to be getting an addition to the squadron, and the few minutes talk I had with him did a great deal towards making me feel at home, and dispelling my dreadful feeling of newness and incompetence. After informing me that the squadron was known as the ‘fighting 106th, he wished me the best of luck and indicated that the interview was at an end. I discovered that I knew one or two of the squadron members vaguely, but as they were all from senior courses to myself, I sensed in them a feeling of superiority, and I hesitated to ask them what it was like ‘over their’, although I should have dearly loved to have heard anything they might have to say, especially in view of the fact that some of them had operated at least half a dozen times since I last saw them at Upper Heyford. There was an ‘Op’ on that night, and one or two of them were reading or playing shove halfpenny, which seems to be a very popular game here, and an ideal way of passing the time before take off. I was told that they were operating frequently, as the weather is good, and it is the moon period, which makes target identification less difficult.

The next morning I spent settling down, and meeting the Squadron Commander and Flight Commander, they are both first class types, and they too seemed very pleased to be receiving a new addition to the squadron. The Squadron Commander does not believe in wasting time, and he told me that he thought it would be a good thing to break the crew in right away, and that we should be flying that night. He suggested that because we were new he would give me another wireless operator in place of my own one who had done ten trips, and who would be able to give me the benefit of his experience. I thought this a good idea, although I was very sorry to lose my own WOP. I met the new wireless operator in the crew room, and heard someone say ‘Christ, are you flying with a Sprog?’ The new wireless operator informed me that a Sprog was another name for a raw recruit, which made me feel a bit small, but Sgt. Lynn, that was his name, said that he didn’t mind flying with me, and this rather praiseworthy show of confidence did a lot to make me feel better.

I had been allotted a new aircraft, X for X-ray, and we wandered out to look it over in order to check up on anything which might be different from the old training Hampdens I had been flying from Upper Heyford. There was one addition, the automatic pilot, and I got one of the ground crew to give me a few words of instruction on it as I had every intention of making use of it that night. The aircraft was new, and there was a grand feeling of pride of possession in the knowledge that here was our own machine which would be kept in first rate condition, and only fly when we did. The ground crew were just as enthusiastic, they were anxious to meet their new aircrew, and lost no time in giving us details of their last skipper, who apparently had the misfortune not to return. He was a good type they said, but assured us that with this aircraft, and their servicing, we should not suffer from the same trouble. We left, feeling that we had been lucky in our allotment of ground crew, and also feeling pleased that we had a new aircraft with which to commence our tour of operations.

When we arrived back in the crew room, we found the orderly room NCO busy filling up the board for the night’s effort, and it was with a tingling and a short intake of breath that I saw my name up there in the pilot’s column and opposite X for X-ray.

The briefing was quite a novelty and the target, we discovered, was Aachen. Immediately after the briefing the Squadron Commander took me to one side and advised me to hang about on the edge of the target and await for someone else to get caught before I flew in and dropped the bombs. I assured him that I would do this, but felt that as I couldn’t imagine what the target would look like I might have some difficulty in knowing just where the edge was. The take off was at ten o’clock just before dark, and I had the doubtful pleasure of filling in my time from briefing until then, a procedure which I found most trying. I spent it writing a few letters, trying to picture just what it would all be like, and hoping that at least we should be allowed to complete one trip in order to make some contribution towards the cost of our training.

Getting dressed in the crew room prior to take off was an interesting experience, the most outstanding thing about it being the atmosphere of forced humour. Somehow everything that was said seemed funny, the aircrews laughed and joked with each other, and although their jokes would have received a very poor reception at any other time, here they were eagerly listened to and appreciated. One crew was on it’s last trip and their superior knowledge seemed to be accepted by all. Odd pieces of advice which they tendered were lapped up by other crews, especially by mine, and I found myself thinking that the first thing I would do on return would be to look out for this crew and sincerely hoped that they would be allowed to complete their trip safely. Their gunner, a little Scotsman, said that the worst trips were the first three and the last three, this was confirmed by the rest, and several cases were cited which went to prove the truth of the saying, but little to inspire more confidence into my already turbulent mind. At last all was ready, and we piled into our trucks, strongly reminiscent of tumbrels, for transport to our respective aircraft. One by the crews got out with a final ‘See you at breakfast’, or ‘See you in Church’, until the driver shouted ‘X-ray’, and we were there. Our departure was more staid than the others, not because we were new, but because we were the last ones to leave the truck.

The ground crews were there to meet us and we had about an hour before take off. An hour can be a long time, but on this occasion it seemed hardly long enough. It was a beautiful evening and round the airfield we could see the other aircraft each with it’s own little crowd of people, some chatting, others making a last minute check of their machine. I had a hurried few draws at a cigarette, a few words with the NCO in charge of our aircraft, and then he assisted me with my parachute. Mine of course was the large seat type pack, whereas the others were using the smaller chest type which allowed more freedom of movement when inside the aircraft. The Hampden is a grand machine but built more on the style of a fighter, narrow and streamlined, and comfort has been sacrificed for efficiency. Once you are in there is no moving about, but if the pilot suffers from lack of space then it is only a fraction of what the rear gunner has to endure in the ‘tin. Sgt. Hunter, my rear gunner, is a well built fellow, not designed for the rear turret of a Hampden, but such is his Scottish make up that he never utters any word of complaint. Millward, the navigator, was just as excited as I, and he was busy stowing away his plotting board, maps ,charts and sextant in the cramped up compartment which was to be his domain for the next six hours. The wireless operator proved to be a worthy asset to the crew, he divided his time between giving us words of advice and singing a song which was very popular at the time called ‘Yes my darling daughter’, the piece about what if there’s a moon Mother darling?’ seemed very appropriate.

Time passed quickly, and clutching gloves and rations I was assisted by the ground crew up the short ladder, scrambled along the wing moving awkwardly on account of my heavy parachute, and with more assistance dropped down through the open hatch into the pilot’s seat. As I did so the thought flashed through my mind that when I next climbed out of that seat I should do so as a different person. No longer would I be the ‘Sprog’ without a single trip to my credit, and no longer would I try to picture what a target looked like. Six more hours and I would be able to mix more confidently with other members of the Squadron and perhaps put in a word when the previous nights operation was being discussed. It was a significant moment for which I had worked for twelve months, and the opportunity to put into practice what I had been taught: it was not lost upon me. The airman helping me with my straps would not guess what I was thinking, to him I suppose it was just another trip. A last rub of the windshield, and a ‘Best of luck Sir’ and he was down off the wing, and helping the others to prime the engines. The remainder of the crew were in position each checking his own equipment and I settled down to the routine check of controls and instruments, and asked Millward for the first course to steer. It was a strange thing but after getting into the cockpit there is no room for imagination. The job on hand holds first priority and I knew then that the worst was over, the waiting was finished and from then on it was routine work leaving no room for any thought but that of getting the aircraft safely into the air. ‘Contact’ from the ground crew, ‘Contact’ I replied switching on, the propellers turned and the engines roared into life. The running up was over, the chocks removed, and with a final wave and a thumbs up from the ground crew we moved out.

There were no runways and we took off in threes, my position being number three on the left of the leader. I was surprised to see that they both became airborne before I did and it was only after I staggered over the fence that I realised that I had omitted to use flap. It was a stupid and dangerous mistake and one that I will not make again but it served as a curt reminder that whatever the circumstances the brain must think clearly as mistakes do not always have such light consequences.

The journey out went well and it was dark as we crossed the enemy coast, the weather was good, searchlights were few and the flak was spasmodic, and after passing through this very first hazard we found ourselves flying almost unmolested with everything apparently peaceful. Ahead we could see bursts of flak but close at hand all was quiet and a feeling of confidence and well-being filled the members of the crew. The wireless operator however was to old a hand to be fooled by this and his warnings of ‘Searchlights’ let us know that we were not alone. We were approaching the ‘searchlight belt’ and thanks to my failing to take sufficient evasive action it was only a matter of seconds before we were fully illuminated by perhaps twenty searchlights; the time had come for action. Before I could dive or turn I heard our guns firing from the rear, and past the side of my cockpit flew a stream of tracer bullets. Although it cannot be possible I swear that I saw them and had the unpleasant sensation that they were passing right through me. The thought of the tough armour plating at the back of my seat gave me a great deal of comfort and crouching as low as possible I took the long delayed evasive action. At the same time there came a cry from the gunners and they reported that our attacker was down. I carried on with violent turns and dives until the searchlights were left behind, and the gunners reported that our adversary had hit the ground and was burning.

On arrival at the target area the scene was truly impressive. Already a large number of fires had been started which made an excellent landmark whilst every few seconds a string of white lights appeared on the ground frequently changing from white to a dull red glow indicating that more fires were being started by our incendiary bombs to the discomfiture of the inhabitants below. In addition to incendiaries the continuous flash of bombs could be seen amongst the fires and as we circled endeavouring to pick up some reliable pin-point we could see the smoke pall which was slowly rising and trying to blot out the results of our efforts. Meanwhile the enemy were not idle, their searchlights combed the sky, and in a very short space of time had succeeded in locating a target in the shape of an unfortunate aircraft. Sitting in the middle of a cone of lights it looked for all the world like a silver moth and in spite of all the manoeuvring was being held was being held with apparent ease. Most of the guns in the area were brought to bear on this solitary machine surrounding it with red bursts of heavy flak whilst up the beams of the searchlights snaked long streams of coloured tracer, reaching up from the ground like the tentacles of so many octopi seeking to drag him down into the inferno below. I found it difficult to withdraw my gaze from this fascinating spectacle but bearing in mind the instructions of my Squadron Commander I began my run up to the target. Millward had taken over and lying in the nose of the aircraft directed me in on a trouble free run. It seemed an age before he called ‘Steady’ and finally ‘Bombs gone’. There was little point in saying ‘Bombs gone’ because the machine lifted in my hands with a distinct jerk, and then happy in the knowledge that I had at least been instrumental in dropping one load of bombs on German soil I raised my eyes from the instrument panel and sought the best way out from the target. The cone of searchlights had gone and the episode I had been watching but a minute ago was over, but other duties had claimed my attention and I had not observed the final outcome. Losing height to gain more speed and weaving more violently than was necessary I breathed more freely when I had left the probing searchlights behind. One thing my first sortie had taught me is that searchlights although harmless themselves can be deadly when used in conjunction with fighters or flak, and I have decided that whatever the physical effort weaving may cost me I shall never take chances with them. We passed through the searchlight belt without further incident and when Millward reported that we were again over the sea I relaxed for the first time since take off.

Since the episode with the fighter (both the wireless operator and rear gunner had identified it as a ME 110) I had noticed that the machine was handling rather sluggishly on the controls but as it had stood up well to our evasive action I could only assume that all was in order and that perhaps my imagination was playing tricks. Engaging the automatic pilot which seemed to work very well I suggested to the crew that it might be a sound idea to have a cup of coffee and a biscuit but warned the rear gunner not to relax his vigil and report any aircraft sighted. All this was a wonderful new experience to be having early morning coffee over the North Sea at 10,000 feet, that, and the knowledge of a job well done behind us was sufficient to bring a song to my lips and I sang lustily the words and tune of ‘Yes my Darling Daughter’. It is a strange thing but although my oxygen mask was removed and I sang with all the power of my lungs, so great was the noise of the engines and so deadened were my ears that the words and tune could not be heard.

After this, time passed very slowly dawn was just breaking and my eyes were glued straight ahead for my first glimpse of the English coast. We crossed the coast on ETA north of the Wash but only spotted it through a break in the clouds which seemed to be building up below us. Some little time before I had noticed one or two dark patches on the wings and as the light improved they gradually formed themselves into alarmingly large holes. My mind went back to my encounter with the fighter and I realise how accurate his aim had been. From then on I handled the aircraft as though it were made of glass and received a message from the wireless operator with a certain amount of misgiving. The message was that our aerodrome was out in ground fog and we were to proceed to Upper Heyford where conditions were better.

We flew to Upper Heyford, circled it and were surprised to see that although we had not seen another aircraft since leaving the target here were a number of our squadron machines doing the same thing as ourselves; I suppose they also felt tired. The aircraft in front of us was flown by the crew who were on their last trip, we heard them calling their aircraft letter over the RT. When we were given permission to land, the wheels and flaps refused to come down but on final approach I operated the emergency lowering device which did the trick and we touched down heavily but safely and slewed round at the end of our run due to a burst tyre. We scrambled out and I must confess examined the damaged inflicted by the fighter with a certain amount of pride. It is difficult to explain this peculiar outlook, we had done nothing to be proud of but I think we felt we had been blooded and had passed our first hurdle in creditable style.

Later after being interrogated we were flown back home in an Anson, having been welcomed and chaffed by our old instructors at Upper Heyford. I gave a full report to the Squadron Commander who tells me that the ME 110 was seen to crash by a number of crews and that we may count it as definitely destroyed. I apologised about the damage to our machine but he said that it did well to fly back as the damage sustained in our brief encounter will keep it on the ground for several weeks, so our ground crew will be getting another aircraft allocated to their tender care, and we shall come in for a certain amount of good humoured criticism when we meet them tomorrow.

It is not yet dark and I am sitting in my room overlooking the airfield. All is quiet and restful this evening and from my window I make out the shapes of the aeroplanes which are our link between the two extremes, it is barely twenty four hours since we took off for Aachen but so much has happened in that brief space of time. I am tired but not sleepy, I must try to sleep to prepare for tomorrow. As I undress I hum the strains of a now familiar tune, there will be a moon again tomorrow night and I now know why it is called a ‘Bomber’s Moon’.

RJH. 11 June 1941

Mike Seymour

F.Sgt. Michael Arthur Cook 50 Sqd. (d.6th Nov 1944)

Michael Cook joined the airforce in Hamilton, Ontario on July 22 1943. He was 68 inches tall weighed 132 lbs. He trained in air gunner unit 10 B & G Mount Pleasant PEI . In six months he weighed 143 lb. He completed his training Jan 14 1944 as an air gunner and went overseas. His personal record states he was "fair Material" Motivation fair, very anxious to be part of any aircrew. Athletic build, will probably do well. Later it was written "This chap has tried hard for a long time to get into aircrew, in my opinion he deserves a chance, he has a pleasant manner, he realizes conditions of selection at manning and will do his best to succeed at whatever selected for. Should be good material" He was posted to Upper Heyford, Burford and St. John, England. He flew in Wellingtons, learning to fly in formation, cross country and in familiarization runs day and night.

In Sept 1944 he started flying in Sterlings on bombing raids and in OCT Lancaster bombers. He was a sergeant by this time with 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe. Lancaster III were his machines now. He was rear gunner. He flew cross country and on Oct 19th flew to Neuremburg Marshalling yards in Germany on a night run of 8 hours. Two days later he flew to Flushing and on Oct 28th went to Bergen to bomb submarine pens, another 7 hr night flight. He was now up to 150 hours of flying. November 1944 saw him flying exclusively at night to Hamburg. On Nov 6, this the last flight mentioned in his log book, he had flown a total of 100.25 hrs daylight and 90.35 hrs night. The crew of seven left in a Lancaster aircraft and failed to return from an operational attack on Gravenhurst, Germany. It left base at 16.19 hours on Nov 6th 1944; after no further news was received he was declared MIA in Nov 1944. Later it was learned he was shot down over Holland. Dutch people buried the aircrew in Heerde, Holland. An extract from German Tottenliste @264 and forwarded by the International Red Cross states that 7 were killed on Nov 6th 1944. His fellow crew men were Sgt Ralph Dowling,Toronto, Sgt George Dunkleman, Midland, Fred Horning,Toronto, Bob Rennie PEI, George Ferris BC.

They are buried in Heerde Cemetery, 9 miles SW Zwolle, Hollland. There is also a cenotaph in his hometown that bears his name. His brother John visited the grave after the war and John's daughter and husband visited in 2005.

Sharon Murphy

J. I. Griffiths RAF Upper Heywood

J.I. Griffiths was Station Commander at Upper Heywood in 1943.

F/O R. H. Potts RAF Upper Heywood

F/O R.H. Potts was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

"Chuck" Warren RAF Upper Heywood

Chuck Warren was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

J. Edwards RAF Upper Heyford

J. Edwards was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

"Johnny" Johnson

Johnny Johnson was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

"Chuck" Warren RAF Upper Heyford

Chuck Warren was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

J. Woodruff RAF Upper Heyford

J. Woodruff was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

C. Hawksworth RAF Upper Heyford

C. Hawksworth was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

Jock Ross RAF Upper Heyford

Jock Ross was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

Alex I. Shorrock RAF Upper Heyford

Alex I. Shorrock was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

N. Bromley RAF Upper Heyford

N. Bromley was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

A. Doxey RAF Upper Heyford

A. Doxey was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

R. G. Webster RAF Upper Heyford

R.G. Webster was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

J. A. Davis RAF Upper Heyford

J.A. Davis was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

R. Hawkins RAF Upper Heyford

R. Hawkins was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

R. G.H. Roberts RAF Upper Heyford

R.G.H. Roberts was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

W. Christey RAF Upper Heyford

W. Christey was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

W. Bevan RAF Upper Heyford

W. Bevan was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

Jack Rand RAF Upper Heyford

Jack Rand was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

A. Wagstaff RAF Upper Heyford

A. Wagstaff was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

Rudi Southern RAF Upper Heyford

Rudi Southern was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

G. L. Sherwood RAF Upper Heyford

G.L. Sherwood was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

J. Brown RAF Upper Heyford

J. Brown was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

C. E. Lamont RAF Upper Heyford

C.E. Lamont was stationed at Upper Heyford during 1943.

Sgt. George Stanley Barclay 166 Squadron

NZ413369 Sergeant Pilot George Barclay on graduation in Canada 27th of March 1942

New Zealander, Sergeant Pilot George Barclay joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force on 15th June 1941 and began his flying training in Tiger Moths at New Plymouth, New Zealand, on 6th September 1941. He left Auckland, NZ on 17th November 1941 on the SS Monterey and arrived in San Francisco on 5th December 1941. He then travelled by train to RCAF Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada where he joined No 44 Pilots course on 5th December 1941 to complete his flying training on Cessna Crane aircraft at No 4 SFTS. He arrived in UK on 13th May 1942 and joined Number 16 Course of 12 (P) Advanced Flying Unit (AFU) at RAF Grantham on 21st July 1942 where he flew Oxford Mk1 aircraft. The AFU course was completed on 15th September 1942 at which time he was posted to No 43 Course of 16 OTU at RAF Upper Heyford to fly the Wellington medium bomber. Having completed his training at 16 OTU on 23rd December 1942, he was posted to the Home Echelon of 150 Squadron to fly Wellingtons operationally from RAF Kirmington, Lincs, on 12th January 1943. In turn, the Home Echelon of 150 Squadron merged with the remains of 142 Squadron to form 166 Squadron on 27th January 1943. George flew with 166 Squadron until he baled out over Mezerolles, NW France, after an 'Op' on Duisburg on the night of 8th/9th of April 1943. He was a POW until escaping on 6th April 1945 and returned to UK on 17th of April 1945. George married a London girl on 16th of June 1945 and returned to New Zealand to raise a family. He turned 93 on 2nd May 2016.

Jim Barclay

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