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Frank and Joan Shaw live in Hinckley in Leicestershire. They have four children and nine grandchildren. They were born and raised in Deal, Kent and this is where they spent the war. The idea of the We Remember series came when their granddaughter asked them about the Second World War for a school project. Frank and Joan decided more memories needed to be committed to paper, and they wrote to 700 local newspapers throughout the country asking just that. They were flooded with letters, which they then self-published as five hardback books, raising over GBP100,000 for the Royal British Legion. Ebury Press are excited to be republishing them over 20 years later, with all royalties also going to the Legion.
On leaving the plane I can only say I felt very lonely, except that the sky was full of bullets coming upwards. Fortunately, it wasn't long before my feet hit the ground with a thud. Almost as soon as my feet touched the ground, I was to find that I had landed directly in front of the muzzle of a German Machine Gun and I received a burst of fire straight at me. I can remember being hit and spinning round with a sudden yell of shock and finishing up flat on my back...I lay there rather dazed for a while, expecting to be hit again at any moment . (John Hunter, Parachute Regiment, Northants). Seventy years ago, on 6 June 1944, a great Allied Armada landed on the coast of Normandy. The invasion force launched on D-Day was a size never seen before and never likely to be seen again. 150,000 soldiers, more than 6,000 ships and 11,000 combat aircraft took part in the assault. The success of that attack led 11 months later to the final liberation of Europe from a ruthless dictatorship that had threatened to permanently enslave it. Such an undertaking on such a scale could not have been achieved without tremendous cooperation between Land, Sea and Air Forces. In We Remember D-Day we hear from the men and women who were involved in the assault; those who risked their lives for a better future. Their stories tell of human bravery and endeavour, pain and heartache, and, most importantly, freedom and hope.
'I remember standing on top of our local glen with a block of wood, expecting thousands of Germans coming down from the sky. What was I going to do with the block of wood? I never knew.' Leonard Jackson On 22 June 1940 France surrendered to Germany and the invasion of Britain seemed a very real possibility. The Home Guard was formed to defend our villages and towns. Members came from reserved occupations, those who had failed their medicals, the elderly and the young, with miners and farmers training alongside former majors. Their weapons and ammunition were negligible at first, but slowly these amateur soldiers began to produce professional results. In this unique book of reminiscenses about life on the home front, we see these men as they practise with pitchforks and fall into ditches after a pint or two of ale on the job. But we also see them learning how to fire grenades after a day studying engineering and undertaking night watches after exhausting factory shifts - knowing they could be the last stop between the enemy and their families and homes.
'Yes we were scared. It could be seen on the faces of the men. No food didn't help. We stopped to suck pebbles during the day as our tongues began to swell through lack of water ... We had an order come through to us one day. Every man for himself. And then the soldiers - Belgian, French and British - were side by side in silent soddy ranks in columns, zig-zagged across the beaches. I still believe this was done to minimise casualties. We had to wade out up to our necks in water to get onto a boat, ducking under the water when the Germans tried to mow us down. Eventually I managed to grab a chain hanging off a Naval motorboat, and it was fully loaded but I hung on ...' Arthur Thomas Gunn, Walsall Between 27 May and 4 June 1940 over 900 vessels rescued 338,226 people trapped at Dunkirk. Cut off by the advancing German Army hundreds of thousands of Allied troops gathered on the beaches - exhausted, hungry and scarred by war. Operation Dynamo saw British destroyers and the hundreds of 'little ships' bring these men safely back to England, where they were welcomed back by the locals with tea and sandwiches, and hailed as heroes. In We Remember Dunkirk we hear stories from the soldiers who made the perilous journey to Dunkirk and came under constant attack from Nazi aircraft as they boarded British ships and attempted to cross the Channel. But we also hear from the nurses who tended the many returning wounded; the young women who, along with the rest of their communities, rallied to make food and gather whatever they could to give the soldiers; and what it was like witnessing all this through a child's eyes. Above all, we see how the solidarity of the British people gave rise to the unfailing 'Dunkirk Spirit'.
'I went to the public baths and after I undressed I could hear someone whistling. I looked round to see if I could see anybody about, but I couldn't, so I got into the bath and lay back to relax. As soon as I did, of course, I looked up and saw a man putting in the glass windows that had been blown out the night before.' Joan Adams, Lichfield On the night of 7 September 1940, bombs rained down on the defenceless and unprepared population of London for nine long hours. In November, raids spread to the rest of the country - starting in Coventry and taking in everywhere from Portsmouth, Cardiff, Belfast and Hull. During the nine months of the Blitz, thousands of people were killed and injured, and thousands of buildings and homes destroyed. But, with stoicism and humour, life went on. We Remember the Blitz is packed with vivid recollections from this important time in British history. Waking up in a damp shelter to the sound of bombing. Coming out of a cinema to discover that fires made night as bright as day. And, worst of all, the shock of seeing individuals and whole families killed in an instant. We hear from many who were there to pick up the pieces: ARP wardens, firemen - even the bakers, who would return to work under tarpaulin to ensure their neighbours had their daily loaf. Filled with moving but often funny memories, We Remember the Blitz is a celebration of the British spirit, and clearly shows that the battle for Britain was won by 'the many'.