The Wartime Memories Project - The Second World War



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Those who Served




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Cyril John Benny .     Royal Navy HMS Dorsetshire

My father, Jack Benny, served on HMS Dorsetshire from prior to the Bismarck action until she was sunk on April 5th 1942. He survived the sinking, with some assistance I believe as he was a non swimmer!

Nick Benny



PO. Cyril John Benny .     Royal Navy HMS Dorsetshire

My father, Cyril John "Jack" Benny, served on HMS Dorsetshire from sometime prior to the Bismark action until the sinking in April 1942, a non-swimmer he was assisted to some floating wreckage until rescued with the other survivors. I am not quite sure what happened next but he did spend a fair amount of 1942/43 in East Africa, Kenya/Mombasa before returning to England late 1943 or early 1944 to join the Ramilies in time to be involved with the shelling of northern France on D Day. He passed away on September 21st 1996, without ever telling his full story.

Nick Benny



Albert Edward "Bill" Benson .     Royal Navy HMS Formidable

Albert (aka Bill) Benson was my Uncle, he died before I was born. I believe he sailed aboard HMS Formidable in 1945 when it visited Sydney we have photos of Sydney Harbour and Wooloomooloo taken by him. My Mother says he changed his birth certificate to read 1924 (instead of 1926) so he could join the Navy and leave home. He must have visited Portsmouth, Aden, Colombo, Port Said and Suez, we have photos of all those places.

He then went to Palestine during the period 1946-1948 and served in the Palestine Police, his photo album includes pictures of all the Jewish blockade runners including 'Exodus'. He returned to the UK aboard 'Empress of Australia' in 1948, my father John Hogsden was also aboard the same ship returning to the UK after serving in the Palestine Police. Bill Benson then joined the Malay Police to fight the communists in Malaya during the uprising. He was shot in an ambush and was buried at Gods Little Acre cemetery in Batu Gajah in 1952.

Susan Hill



WO/1 Arthur James "Buzz" Benson DFM.     RAAF 10 OTU Coastal Command   from Inverell, Australia)

My Father, Arthur Benson is now 88 years old, and living in Australia. He was part of the Empire Air Training Scheme and was sent to Dauphin, Canada, completing his training at St. Eval in England, as a pilot.

On 14 June 1943, he was attached to 19 Group of Coastal Command and equipped wtih a twin-engined Whitley aircraft (10 OTU), was sent to help Coastal Command hunting submarines out over the Bay of Biscay. The crew consisted of Fellow Australian Sergeant R.L. 'Bob" Rennick (second pilot), Pilot Officer Tom J.L. Lee (navigator) RAF, F/O Alan Kingsley (Rear Gunner) RCAF, Sergeant George T Graves (Wireless Operator) RAF. They had seven trips in all and on what was to be their last trip with Coastal Command, spotted two German submarines. After shadowing the U-boats for two hours the crew was given the instructions to attack. As they commenced their descent, they were fired upon and the Whitley was hit in the port fuel tank. But by now they were well committed, so they continued with their attack, and sank one submarine, U 564. This submarine had already sank 33 Allied ships. With the loss of the hydraulics and fuel, and with the damaged engine about to stop, it was obvious that they were going to struggle to return to base. My Father successfully ditched the Whitley and the crew managed to evacuate into the dinghy, even though the dinghy had been damaged when the Whitley was fired upon. They had lost the dinghy pack, containing food and water, but still had 12 one-pint tins of water. The crew had carried a homing-pigeon on these trips and had managed to bring the cage into the dinghy. They attached a message to the bird's leg and attempted to launch it in the direction of base. After several attempts to get the bird to leave the dinghy it finally disappeared in the right direction. Unfortunately the pigeon did not make it back to base. Dad and his crew spent the next two days and three nights drifting on the Bay of Biscay. On the evening of the third day they were rescued by the crew of a French fishing boat. Unfortunately, the crew could not help them get back to England by boat or put them in contact with the Resistence as they were expected by the Germans to be back in their port by a certain time or there would be serious consequences for themselves and their families. The fishing boat returned to Morgat, a small fishing village south of Brest, and Dad and his crew were captured by the Germans. They were sent to Paris by train and then sent to Frankfurt for interrogation. After eight days in solitary confinement, the crew were separated and Dad, George and Tom were sent to Stalag Luft 6 at Hyderkrug in East Prussia. Tom and Alan were sent to Stalag Luft III. Dad has many stories of this time as a POW. He talks of the efficient Escape Committee and the several attempts that were made whilst he was in Stalag Luft 6. He also talks of the boredom, the theatre, the sport played to keep fit. He tells his grandchildren that he "played rugby for Australia" as there were many matches between the English and Australian and other Empire countries during this time.

On June 6 1944 Dad and his fellow POWs were moved to a camp near Thorne in Poland and then after about three months they were move Stalag 357, Fallingbostel in the north of Germany.

This is one part of Dad's story in Stalag 357, in his own words - "The need for firewood became so urgent on one occasion when were not able to go out into the forest, that Trevor Scales (fellow Australian who eventually escaped with Dad) decided that we would knock off some posts from the inner surround holding up the strands of barbed wire. Ten wires were attached to each post and had to be knocked off by detaching the staples that held them on. For the purpose I had managed to find a length of steel rood about half a metre in length. At this time the snow had thawed somewhat and we were able to walk around the inner surround for exercise. As we walked around we would have to keep an eye on the guards in the towers and those patrolling the outer fence. First we would test a post by pushing it. If it was loose in the ground we would then hit the wires and break the staples away. A night just before lights out, when it was dark we would go out and wait our chance when the searchlights were off, leave our hiding place behind the huts, make a swift dash to a loose post and whip it out of the ground, and dart back behind the huts again. Then it was a matter of dodging the guards and making it back to our hut without being seen. It worked well for us for a long time, and eventually the absence of posts in the fence must have became obvious to the guards. All the time we were working closer to the guard boxes in the corners of the lager. On our last venture we had to hide behind a hut near the guard box, and as the searchlight went off made a dash for a post. It was tighter in the ground than we thought it would be and took a lot of pulling out. However, we succeeded and with the post on our shoulders made a dash to safety of the hut. I was in front and Scales was sliding about a bit in the frost and ice. Just as rounded the corner of the hut, the searchlight came on and we were caught in the beam. I did a smart turn to the left and Trevor skated out in a large circle, but still hung on to the post. We did some quick dodging about amongst the huts before we made it back to our own hut. We hurled the post through an open window and dived in after it. All was not lost but we gave away knocking off the posts after that."

On 12 April 1945 the Air Force prinsoners in Stalag Luft 357 were told to be ready to march out of camp in two hours time - destination unknown - but it was obvious that the Allies were advancing. The first two nights they camped in the forest 'scrounging' food from the locals. During the march towards Elbe River a spitfire had flown low overhead whilst attacking a target nearby. My father, Trevor Scales and a young American lad by the name of Lloyd (Dad cannot remember his last name) decided it was dangerous to be on the march as to be escaping and were in danger of being 'strafed' by the Allies. Each morning a ration truck would arrive and the guards would be distracted, so Dad, Trevor and Lloyd used this opportunity to make their escape by running into the thick forest. They had noticed the previous day they had passed a camp of foreign 'slave workers' and went there to ask for help. They were reluctant to help but finally a group of Russian gave Trevor, Dad and Lloyd coats and hats to disguise themselves as well as some food. Trevor spoke some German and was able to ascertain that by following the railway track that they would arrive at Saltau 50 Kms away. They were stopped five times by German soldiers over the next couple of days but Trevor managed to convince these soldiers that they were civilian "arbiters" being sent to Saltau to work. Finally Dad and Trevor's luck ran out and they were captured once again, very close to the town of Saltau, by a German soldier that did not believe they were Russian. They were taken to the town of Saltau and put into the basement of a military barracks. An attack on the town started soon afterwards. The following morning the British tanks arrived. In my father's Words "Suddenly it was all over. German soldiers came into the barracks and threw their firearms into a room. They were ready to surrender. It was strange really, for they were no longer enemies, and we got into conversation with them. They wanted to know what it was like being a POW, and what they should take with them into a prison camp. They were just as apprehensive as we had been when re-captured a few hours before. Just frightened young men." After receiving food from the British, Dad, Trevor and Lloyd were told to get a car and follow the White Star Line, which was a road cleared of debris and clearly marked by large white painted stars to an "aerodrome" from there they would fly to Brussels and then onto England. Dad had been a POW for one year and 10 months. My father's story has been written up in several books including - "War Gave Us Wings" - Col King "Search, Find and Kill" - Norman Franks Dad was awarded the DFM whilst he was a POW and later promoted to Warrant Officer. Footnote: ELMS is having its yearly reunion in York, England in April and my father will be traveling from Australia to be part of this event.

Sharon Benson



Rita Benson .     Land Army




Sgt. "Ben" Bentham .     Royal Air Force 460 Sqd.

Ben bentham was a flight engineer with 460 Sqd.




Leading Seaman Jesse Bentley .     Navy HMS Halstead   from Rowlands Castle, Hampshire)

(d.11th June 1944)

Leading Seaman Jesse Bentley was killed on the 11th June 1944 on board HMS Halstead. He was aged 32 and lived with his wife and child at Rowlands Castle, Hampshire.

George Yalden



Ralph Maurice Bentley .     Royal Air Force

My late father, Ralph Maurice Bentley, was discharged from the forces, but I do not know why. It must have been serious as Britain needed every man they could at the time. My father said he was in Lockheed Hudsons, and when discharged was put in charge of German prisoners of war. All I want is the truth of what my father did or didn't do and what his illness was.

Chris Bentley



Albert Frederick Benton .     Royal Marines Turret Gunner HMS Mauritius/HMS London

I learned recently that my wife's uncle - Albert Frederick Benton - served in the Royal Marines (turret gunner) on HMS Mauritius and on HMS London. I would love to know more, as would his son who never managed to talk to Bert about his war service.

Mark Bale



Douglas Benton .     British Army   from )

I am looking for anyone that knew my father Douglas Benton. He worked in the salt mines while imprisoned in Stalag 8B. I know very little of his time there, however, I understand, that being a pugilist he would sometimes box in order to gain more rations for his unit.

Maggie Thaden



F/Sgt. A. G. Beresford .     Royal Air Force 50 Squadron




Pte. Eric Stanley Beresford .     Australian Army   from Australia)

S B Flynn



Norman Berg .     United States Marine Corps




J Bergen .     Royal Navy HMS Nigeria




J. Bergen .     Royal Navy HMS Nelson




Charles W. Berger .    

S B Flynn



2nd Lt. Joseph S Berger .     US Army Air Force   from California, USA)

I'm Looking for any information on my husband's Uncle. His name was Joseph S. Berger. He was shot down in 1943 on a bombing mission over Floesti, Romania. He was stationed in North Africa with the AAF. We think he was a B-24 pilot but some stories have him flying a B-25. His Stalag Luft 1 Number is 4596. When my husband's Aunt passed away my husband received a box with his Uncle's AAF gear and some German items. One interesting item is a German Reich Mark with several names signed on both sides. A note with the bill states that these are names of men that were in his hut in the POW camp. My husband's uncle passed away in 1959 while serving with the Los Angeles County Sherrif's Office.

Judy Ladner



Leonard Berger .     Royal Canadian Air Force bomb aimer 419 Sqd.




Cad.Sgt. Karel Bergers .     Dutch Army   from Holland)

S B Flynn



"Bergie" Bergman .     RCAF w/op 408 Sqd.

Larry Romain



Cpl. Jan Berkenbosch .     Dutch East Indies Army   from Holland)

S B Flynn



Sgt. Bernard .     Royal Air Force 32 Squadron

Can anyone help with identifying this crashed aircraft? The origional photo is 2" by 1" and the serial number is not all that visible. On the back is written Sgt Bernard 25th August 1941. I know that it belongs to 32 Squadron and that the pilot is not listed on the war graves site.

UPDATE: Looking at the aircraft, it seems to be a Mk1 Hurricane (straight tailwheel leg with ventrical fin is Mk1, wing too thick and T/E of wing at root too square for Spitfire, and fuselage aft of cockpit sloaping down to fin, pilot hand hold location in the "G" etc. etc.)

The only record I can find of an accident within 32 Sqdrn, is on the 22nd August 1940, when the plane was destroyed in a landing accident flown by Plt Off J.Pfeiffer (Polish), who was unhurt in the incident.

That plane, P3205 was delivered to 32 Sqdrn at Hawkinge in August 1940 and it was a Mk1 Gloucester built unit .

I am puzzled however, by the prescence of a wing fuel tank, and the apparent sloap on the field, and the steam roller, and the way the wings have come off.

It makes me wonder if this plane was blown over, and the wings blown off by bombing, and the roller is trying to repair the field?

Either way, the date of 25th August 1941 seems at odds with the mark of aircraft, plus the only Bernard I can find of the Battle of Britain era was an F.A.Bernard who was a Czech who served in 238 and 601 Sqdrn.

Mark Morley

UPDATE: I have since found out that Sgt Bernard was a Czechoslovakian pilot who fought during the battle of Britain, apparently he crashed the aircraft on a night flying exercise at Angle Airfield, Pembs. 1941. He did survive the crash and the war, commissioned in 1942, released after the war but rejoined in 1950. Mentioned in despatches 6/3/56 for distinguished service in Kenya, retired from service as Flight Lieutenant 23/7/64, 5 months after I joined the service.He was born on the 23/7/1914, died on the 17/7/80 in New Zealand, . There are some other bits and pieces still to find but I now have another address to try, in New Zealand, as one person said, perhaps he has family out there who may like the photograph, who knows but I will keep trying, all off the information has come from sites like your own and it is thanks to you that people can find out about our recent history and what the people went through.

When I found this photograph, I had no idea that I would come so far with it, I thought that it would remain one of those forgotten incidents and be confined to a drawer somewhere, I am glad I took up the challenge.

Eddie Smith.

UPDATE:

I have finally found out what happened to Hurricane Z5222, why it crashed at Angle Aerodrome, information as follows. This aircraft crashed at about 21;45 hrs on Angle Aerodrome on the 25th August 1941. The aircraft had been on an operational patrol when owing to weather conditions at Fairwood Common the aircraft was ordered to land at Angle. Night flying was not normally carried out at the airfield and Hurricane Z5222 landed before the flare path had been completed, hitting a "STEAM ROLLER" on landing. The obstruction was just 7 yards from the edge of the aerodrome. No blame was attached to the pilot, who was Sgt Bernard.

This was copied from a letter I received from the Air Historical Branch RAF: F/Lt Bernard Frantisek. Number 787 543 ( 120 209 ) Date of Birth 23rd July 1914. Place Stary Ehernberk. Date of Death 17th June 1980, New Zealand.

After retraining at No 6 OTU at Sutton Bridge he arrived on the 10th Sept 40 at No 601 Squadron. Transferred one month later to 238 Squadron 28th April 41 he moved to 32 Squadron. After operational service with 32 he became an instructor on the 13 Sept 41 at 56 O.T.U.. 6TH August 42 he returned to operational duty with 313 Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron, 22nd 06 43 he went for a rest and then served at the Czechoslovak Inspectorate General (CIG) in London. 01 05 44 he returned to 313 squadron in the rank of F/Lt, on the 22 05 44 he became the leader of flight "B" of number 310 Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron, he stayed there until the end of the war.

In 1948 when the communist's took over in CSR he emigrated to England and rejoined the RAF. He left 23rd July 1964 as a F/Lt and moved to New Zealand where he died on the 17th June 1980.

My next move is to try and reunite the photograph with any family he may have. I have one or two places to try, thanks to people like yourself on the internet. I had another look at the photo and I am wondering if the Steam roller in the background is the one he hit, I wonder if the driver of it got hell for leaving it there in the first place and I am surprised that the pilot got away without blame, to me it sounds like he was in a hurry (Pardon the pun) to land.

Eddie Smith




Sgt. N. D. Berndsson .     102 Squadron




Rifleman Gerard G. Bernhardt .     United States Army 28th Infantry Division   from East Falls, PA)

Aged just 17, Gerard Bernhardt volunteered for the Army and served as a rifleman in the 28th Infantry Division. When his unit landed on the beaches of France in 1944 as part of the D-Day invasion, a sniper shot him in the front of the neck and the bullet pierced his left lung. He managed to survive and was awarded a Purple Heart.

S. Flynn



Sld. Bernardus P. Berrevoets .     Dutch Army   from Holland)

S B Flynn



Doris Margaret Berry .     Womens Land Army   from Forest Gate, London)

My mum, Doris Margaret Berry, joined the Women's Land Army at the beginning of the war aged 16. She worked in the hot-houses growing tomatoes in Waltham Abbey. She says it was back breaking work lugging manure around and digging frozen ground in the winter. Unfortunately, she kept no photographs or memorabilia of her time in the Land Army but always spoke of her time with great enthusiasm and I think that she enjoyed her time in Waltham Abbey. Following the war she returned home to Forest Gate. Sadly she died Jan 1st this year and so missed yesterday's tribute ceremony in Staffs.

I would love to hear if there are any other tomato-girls left.

Irene Stewart



F/Sgt. Ernest "Bill" Berry .     Royal Australian Air Force 50 Squadron




Paul Berry .     British Army

Paul Berry was my grandfather, he was in charge of the prisoners in Easton Grey Camp, teaching them hedging and ditching. He also helped them decorate a nissen hut turning it into a chapel. The hut is still standing along with the wonderful painted ceiling. It is in private hands now as an industrial site but locals are hoping the owner will not destroy such wonderful artwork.

Howard Harding



Sergeant Thomas George Berry .     77Sqd (d.21st Jan 1944 )

flew from Elvington as a mid-upper gunner




Jack P. Berry. .     USAAF





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