Memories

“The first time I saw Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby was at the Airfield cinema in one of the Nissen huts. I recall we had two servicemen stay with us in our house in Messing, not at the same time though. One was called Burt Pascoe from the Lizard in Cornwall. He gave me two lighthouse ornaments which I still have 70 years later”
Mike Cowling

“I shipped out soon thereafter on the Queen Elizabeth. While under-way, we were alerted that we were being followed by a U-boat. However, our ship was apparently too swift for the sub to track us. On the fifth day, an English bomber flew over us, granting us some peace of mind. We landed in Gourock, Scotland & travelled via train to our permanent camp in Birch, Essex County, England. Upon arrival, I was not assigned a vehicle. Rather, I was put on duty painting road signs for the 922nd E.A.R. I thought it strange that the first real job I was asked to perform in defence of our country would be that of an artist. My days were a bit “ho-hum” until I happened to go into Colchester town, had a bit too much to drink & got a little beat-up as result of a fracas with the Air Corps Military Police. In the meantime, someone had taken a weapon’s carrier & smashed it into a pillbox that the English had constructed along the road.

The short end to the story is that I got blamed for the incident because my face had some bumps & bruises. As a result, my company commander, Capt. Gosnell, assigned me to be his driver so that he could keep an eye on me. However, because I was such a great sign painter, they turned the command car duties over to one Gordon Farr. This was very important because of what happened later on. Col. Parks needed a driver & they sent Gordon to drive for him. When Col. Parks was sent back to the U.S. to form another unit, Col. Little replaced him & inherited Gordon as his driver. Meanwhile, the European Invasion was beginning. My sign painting days were history. I was essentially made a foot soldier & landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France”
John Maruschak – 922nd EAR

“I delivered milk to offices on the airfield with the local dairyman Jim Balls of Stanway Hall Dairy. On Saturdays and school holidays we were frequently given sweets etc by the troops. I went to a few children’s parties there and again come home with sweets, a treat indeed in those war years. I lived opposite the Angel at Heckfordbridge at the time. I remember lying in bed unable to get to sleep due to the singing and sometimes fighting of the American Service men, that’s while the beer supply lasted. This pub did not have a  locals only policy, the Yanks would pay more for the
beer!”
Unknown

On August 25th we arrived at Gurock, Scotland. After debarking, we prepared to travel by train to a base in England. I will always remember the trip thru Scotland. The hills were aglow with the many colors of heather (I will note here that I was to return to Scotland later for two weeks for more radio training). Our trip into England was also very beautiful, and travel on an English train is an experience in itself. On August 27th we arrived at Birch, Essex, England. This would be the first of four bases we would be stationed at during our stay in England.We remained at Birch until September 26th at which time we moved to Wormingford, Essex, England. From there we moved to Weathersfield, Essex, England on November 23rd. We remained there thru the winter months, moving on to Great Barrington, Oxfordshire, England on the 1st of April, 1944. These many moves came about as a result of our engineering status. All of these bases were airfields from which the planes would bomb Europe or provide air cover for the aircraft (bombers). It was the Engineers job to build and keep them in repair. Our experiences, during our ten months in England, will long be remembered. We seen much of the country and met many wonderful people. They were grateful for our being there.
Rex Meir – 922nd Engineer Aviation Regiment

I was shipped overseas. I got on a train at Geiger Field, Washington and went to New York City. I embarked on the Queen Elizabeth, which was originally scheduled for 2000 people: on board there were thousands more. I had officers’ accommodations, seven triple-decker beds, 21 men in a room. There were men on deck, etc. We got to Gairloch, Scotland. The ship had travelled at 30 knots, too fast for U-boats, and it changed course 90 degrees every seven minutes…zigzagging. We were all by ourselves, not in convoy.
We got to Scotland, then took a train to Birch England, 50 km north of London…We built an airfield for the British ‘42 to ‘43. Then we were alerted to go on the invasion force. We went from Birch to southern England, then on an LST (Landing Ship Tank) with equipment. We landed on D-Day +4 on Omaha Beach, Normandy. From Normandy we worked all the way across France, Belgium, and Germany and our last reconnaissance was at the Elbe River with Russians on the other side.
In England we were 10 months building Birch Airfield…we took over the construct from the Brits.
We knew nothing of the invasion before move to coast…
Nathan Norkin – 922nd Engineer Aviation Regiment

On cloudy nights throughout the winter we could be almost sure of enemy air raiders. For several weeks in October and again in February and March the raids came nearly every night, and it became a habit to keep your steel helmet within easy reach. You might be falling off to sleep, maybe late at night, or in the early morning you awoke to hear a siren wailing in the distance, and you listened. Perhaps there was only the one siren heard faint in the distance, and you knew it was London again, and too far away yet to worry about getting up in the cold in the dark to scramble for your shoes and whatever clothes you usually pulled on to keep warm in the slit trenches outside. But you listened, and a second wailing broke closer and you could tell by the sound that the planes were nearer; then there was the purple alert, and then the red, and you thought, “Well, here we go again!” Sometimes you just crawled further under the warm blankets, until the night of December 10th when enemy planes in strength attacked Gosfield, Wethersfield, Raydon, Dunmow, Birch and other fields in the vicinity! That night you hit the slit trenches and watched the incendiaries falling in brilliant showers, there was strafing and explosions of heavy bombs and the din of ack-ack, with flak falling like rain on the roof of the big battalion day room. You watched a hundred searchlights stabbing up through the clouds, sometimes eight or ten focusing at one point in the sky, or crisscrossing as they attempted to search out enemy planes. The guns and the rocket battery at Chelmsford were firing and ack-ack was bursting overhead when a plane dived low over the field to escape the searchlight that lit up our area as bright as day, you thought, “Damn, it’s like the 4th of July back home.” The raids would go on for half an hour or perhaps forty-five minutes. For a while it would be quiet, the planes droning off in the distance; with no firing, or maybe intermittent firing and flashes across the sky from rocket bursts or exploding bombs in the distance. You would straighten up; men would crack jokes and cuss the Luftwaffe. Then, when you thought it was over and you could go back to the tent and crawl in the bunk, a second wave would come over. But they seemed to be concentrating on London now.

During our three weeks’ stay at Birch the imminence of invasion became increasingly apparent to us. We heard of big pre-invasion maneuvers off the ports of southern England and some of us saw a fraction of the material and equipment stockpiled against the day when the all-out effort would begin. The night of the 5th of June and the following morning we knew that the invasion was on. The first waves of bombers and fighter planes roared over our heads toward France; hundreds of them – wings and tails painted with three white and two black stripes, the D-Day markings.

After an unexpected alerting on Sunday afternoon the battalion left Birch on Monday, June 26th. Coggleshall, Braintree, Great Dunmow, Bishops Stortford, Hatfield, and St. Albans were all familiar, but then we were on new roads to Aylesbury, north of Oxford to Witney and Burford. We arrived at Great Barrington in the edge of the Cotswold country just at dusk, and established ourselves in the camp area assigned to us. We had expected to stay several days in order to waterproof our vehicles and get everything all set, but orders were to leave for Southampton early next morning and load at once.

For the heavy equipment section the trip to Great Barrington was a nightmare. Leaving Birch in the gloomy dawn they were on the road over twenty hours. Rain was falling and a cold wind blowing as the heavily-loaded trucks threaded their way westward. Brecheen, Huber and the other grader men nearly froze in the “cab-less” patrol graders. When they arrived in the muddy parking area at Great Barrington that black rainy night it was to find orders to pull out for Southampton just 2 ½ hours later. There was just time for coffee and route instructions, get gasoline in the tank, and they were off again, — wet, cold, and more tired than ever.
843rd Unit History

April 2 — 13th day on board and we’ve passed the mine fields. Guess we see land tomorrow.
April 3 — In the channel between [Irel/Irei] [he means Ireland] and England. Passed the Isle of Mann and out [past] signal boat. Scotland here we come.
April 4 — Anchored in Firth of Clide (Clyde?), Scotland. We sail to [glasco] (Glasgow) tomorrow up the river. First real land in 14 days. 15th now.
April 5 — Packed up and got ready to disembark. Left Saturnia at 1:00 on train, all nite [reach] Birch, England in the morning.
April 6 — Settled at [Birch]. We won’t stay here long. I guess. Went to town for first time and saw the queer English people.
April 7 — Stayed in camp and looked over equipment and really cleaned up for a change. Saw our Libs and Forts go over and blast Jerry.
April 8 — Colchester today, went to a dance and a few pubs for a beer or two.
April 9 — Easter Sunday turned out nice. We join the 9th air force today. Wrote some letters today, home and Mary.
April 10 — Went to town again today to dance to pubs and had swell time. Still no work for us and no aircraft in sight for us.
April 11 — Stayed in and went to meeting of all [Micks/Michs/Nicks?]. Got the law down on what’s what in E.T.O. Ships are in now.
April 12 — Town again to dance and to museum. Ate dinner in town but nothing to be had but fish and chips.
April 13 — Stayed in and cooked chops in the barracks and got some beer from the R.A.F. boys next door. Had fun.
April 14 — Colchester again. Walked around, went to a few pubs and back to the dance.
April 15 — We packed up today and are ready to leave in the morning. Ships are to go on ahead of us. Had steak in [bks] (barracks?) tonite. Yum.
April 16 — Up at 5:30 and left by convoy for Braintree and Gosfield, our new home. Base is pretty good and we like it.
Victor A Tarzia – Sgt, Crew Chief/Gunner, 410th Bomb Group, 9th AF, U.S.A.A.F.