Decisions During War

In the previous post, I presented four true situations faced by everyday people caught up in extraordinary times. In this post, I would would like to include more information about those situations. #1 Lasting from 1939 until 1945, the fight for the North Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign of World War II. It was a 'tonnage war' involving blockades and counter blockades. Being an island nation, Great Britain needed more than a million tons of supplies per week to stay alive and to keep fighting. Convoys from North America were lifelines to the European allies. Cut that lifeline and the war was over. Despite German U-boats sinking over 6,000 ships, the enemy's blockade failed. It was a hard-fought but successful battle, evidenced by the fact that nearly 99% of the allied cargo ships got through. By the end of the war, the allies lost approximately 72,000 sailors and merchant seamen. Add that toll to the awareness that the war scene back home was not favorable for the better part of those six years and the effect of knowing that the civilian population of U.K. was being attacked, it is not a wonder that a deep rooted feeling of revenge must surely have touched the minds of even the most disciplined officers. #2 Not enough credit goes to the brave Polish pilots who played a significant role in the Battle of Britain. The weather was grumpy on that fateful March day in 1942 when twelve aircraft of the 317 squadron of RAF Polish took off from Exeter at 15:40. Their mission was to escort five bombers and to search for enemy shipping along the France Coast near the vicinity of Tregastel. Ships were spotted but worsening weather prevented engagement and less than hour after take-off, the 317th turned around for home. As they approached  Falmouth, the fog thickened, so they steered for Predannack. They searched for fifteen minutes for the aerodrome,  but without success. First Officer Koc, using his instruments, flew just twenty feet over the aerodrome, but was unable to see it. With only seven gallons of fuel left, Koc decided to make for Exeter. Another pilot, First Sargent Brezski, safely landed at Newquay. The remaining ten decided to proceed to Bolthead. The pilots were now losing sight of each other and desperately low on fuel. Visibility deteriorated further. They had no option but to crash land. Exhausted of fuel, Squadron Commander Brzezinski's spitfire struck the side of a cliff, killing him instantly. After crash landing, Sargent Grobelny's plane collided with First Officer Mencel's plane, injuring both pilots. First Officer Lukszewicz crashed at Bolthead but survived. First Officer Hrycak bailed from his plane that crashed at Bolthead. He was admitted to RAF Hospital at Torquay. Of the ten planes that crash landed, only four were totally destroyed. polish SLdr
SLdr Jozef Brzezinski

SLdr Jozef Brzezinski

  #3 Operation Pied Piper, initiated by the British Government in early September 1939, was the largest mass movement of Britons in its history. Nearly 3,000,000 children were evacuated away from cities in danger of German attack to the relative safety of the countryside. The exodus went surprisingly well, but problems emerged at the receiving end where the Government left placement arrangements to the local authorities who were shortly over-whelmed by the numbers of evacuees. Some children arrived at the wrong area, rations and housing were inadequate, and the selection process was not much different than choosing meat at a market. "I'll have that one!" is a consistent memory of many evacuees. Incredibly, it appears from countless interviews of ex-evacuees that only a minority was ill-treated. However, we may never know fully or may yet discover the emotional scars left on families being separated for such long periods - some for the whole six years of war. #4 The English economy was indeed grim during and after the war years. If you want a taste of what it was like to shop in Britain during 1943, BBC has a brilliant interactive website at - For a single girl living in a London flat with no chance of growing a veggie garden or keeping some chickens, a week's ration would be: 1 egg, 4oz margarine, 4 rashers of bacon, 2oz butter, 1oz cheese, 2oz tea, 8oz sugar. At the start of World War II, less than one-third of Britain's food requirements was produced at home. Rationing became necessary as early as January 1940. It didn't stop at the war's end either. Post war austerity measures continued because allied troops remained and the United Kingdom needed to help feed European countries for which they were now responsible. Rationing continued until 1954. It wasn't just food either. Petrol was scarce. Furniture and clothing became utilitarian. Skirts had not pleats, shirts and trousers had no turned-up cuffs, and girls had to make-do with a bit of creative fashion without stockings. It was a grim existence for the jitter-bug generation! Along came the Canadians with their gifts of fruit baskets, chocolate, and best of all nylon stockings! Fraternization with the soldiers began as soon as they arrived in December 1939, with the first marriage registered near Aldershot just forty-three days later. Sequestered during the war to carry troops across the Atlantic, ocean liners like the Queen Mary delivered approximately 45,000 British War Brides and their children to Pier 21 in Halifax, Canada just after the war. Sadly about 22,000 Canadian War Babies, fathered by Canadian soldiers and born to mostly single, unwed British women, were left behind in Great Britain after the war. A few brave mothers defied the social stigmas of the day and raised their children alone, but many were adopted or brought up by relatives.  
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