How a project that you first dreamed of setting up, can change enormously as you work through it.
It started with the brief knowledge of a WW2 RADAR Station set on the cliff at Land’s End in Cornwall. A letter to a WAAF stationed at Sennen, who was she, what did she do, and many other questions came to mind. This letter turned out to be part of a collection of eighty odd (turned out to be way over 130) written to her. It opened up an intriguing trail. Some dead ends but many new avenues. I now own the entire collection.
RADAR was a particularly secret part of WW2 technology. But not only that, the people engaged in RADAR had friends, personal lives, trials, tribulations, sad times and Happy times. All of this was to come out now that I own all of the letters written to WAAF Norah Leggatt. What her friends were up to, what they did and what they got up to. The journey is fantastically interesting. Born myself in the forties. The fifties were a time of WW2 Epics such as “the Dambusters”, “Reach for the Sky’s” and so forth. These films were to me a source of historic information let alone entertainment. Bomb sites in the East End were my playground, the fifties were such a time of change but I really didn’t realise this at the time. Perhaps now (2013) watching “Call the Midwife” has bought it all back. I think the experiences learnt, in those years is instrumental in the way I can now view this project.
Sir Archiebald McIndoe the pioneering plastic surgeon rebuilding his “Guinea Pig’s”, badly burned in combat. He comes up in no small way in one of my letters. Four pages of a letter relate to him working on a WAAF friend of Norah. A “Boy Friend” serving on FDT 217, taking part in Operation Tiger at Slapton Sands Devon and on to D-Day. Other letters relate to the Dambuster Raid intelligence debriefing. So much, that in the beginning, I thought the project would conclude later this year. How wrong I was, it will take months just to understand the contents of all the letters.
Now, a half hour film has been sent to me from Canada, this film is taken onboard FDT 217. I will not publish the film until I pay for streaming rights from the Imperial War Museum. Further, contact has been made with Harold Worthington. He joined the crew of FDT 217 over the Easter of 1944. He kept a diary which he has kindly let me have a copy of. It makes interesting reading.
It is a difficult task to ensure that the information you are given is correct, for time alters our memories and perceptions of the past. In talking to various Curators of local museums their advice has been to verify the information with at least one other. A very good piece of advice. I found one account of service at Mark’s Castle which began in 1943 and accounted that the individual had witnessed the bombing of the Land’s End Hotel. This transpires to not have been possible, as the bombing took place in 1941. However their recollections will muddle a little given that the veterans are now mostly in their nineties. As with a modern day traffic accident, the Police find versions differ from witness to witness. There are many, many ways that we can check details but inevitably we will have to accept some that we can never verify. As they say “history is written by the victor”. We must remember that the generations of WW2 are in the late winter of their years and it is imperative to record now as much as we possibly can. I was extremely saddened to have arranged to meet a person within a couple of days but sadly they passed away before we could meet.
Light does shine through the darkness when I receive emails from people having found this website
“I was at Marks Castle
My name is Muriel Cook-Martin nee Muriel Steele.
We came across your website when trying to go back in time to when I served as a Radar Mechanic at Marks Castle from, we think, about 1944, but not sure about this.
I stayed at Sennen cove Hotel.
I used to do 24 hour on, 24 hour off shifts, alternating with my friend, Canadian Jessie Beckett (whom I have a photo of). I have a photo of one of the transmitters.
I think the officer I worked for was named Streater.
Your website has begun to stir some memories of my time there so thank you for your efforts.
These contacts are so welcome and this particular contact has a good deal of new iformation to impart. I pray for many more such contacts.
During the research for this project we have come across a number of individuals who we have found were killed in action (KIA) or died due to hostilities. We feel that we should make a record of such finds, most being found as a result of reading letters written to Norah which have come into my care. These will be added to as time goes on.
In a letter to Norah Leggatt from No 1377372 William "Willie" Turnbull RAF on 22nd August 1942 William tells Norah of George P Hughs being KIA. Sadly William Turnbull will be KIA the following year. He was a Gunner wireless Op on Bostons.
GEORGE PRYCE HUGHES (Argentine Anglo)
who died on July 11, 1942 Near Rejsby, Denmark
Service Number:J/4819Age:29Force:Air ForceUnit:Royal Canadian Air ForceDivision:105 (R.A.F.) SqdnCitation:1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, War Medal 1939-45, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp. Mentioned in despatches 13 June, Posthumously awarded RCAF Operational Wings in recognition of gallant service in action against the enemy, the 26 February 1947.Honours and Awards:Mentioned in Despatches.
Date and Place of Birth:October 24, 1912 Buenos Aires, Argentina Date and Place of Enlistment:October 14, 1940 Ottawa, Ontario, Canada .
Son of late George Davies and Hope Julia (née Murray) Hughes, of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cousin of Pilot Officer Richard Pryce Hughes, Royal Canadian Air Force attached to the 10 (RAF) Squadron, killed in action on 15 April 1942.
Commemorated on Page 83 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance.
Order a copy of this page.
Do you have photographs or personal memorabilia relating to GEORGE PRYCE HUGHES that you want included in our photo collection?
Send us your photos
Cemetery: ESBJERG (FOURFELT) CEMETERYDenmarkCemetery PlanGrave Reference:AIII. 11. 19. Location:
Esbjerg is a port in south-western Jutland. ESBJERG (FOURFELT) CEMETERY is about 3 kilometres to the north of the town, off the road to Hjerting, along the Gravlundvej.
Information courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.External link, Opens in a new window
Turnbull, William KIA 9/19/1943 Sgt 114 Sq Boston (Argentine Anglo)
Copyright © All Rights Reserved
There are many aspects to consider in setting up a website of this nature. Should I include technical details of RADAR? I have decided that as there is so much information on the internet regarding how this all operated, I think it best that my website covers the “Living History” of the service and civil community. Few of us need to know how it worked but love to know the life story of the three complexes during those dark days of WW2. A time of fear, personal loss, hardship and trials of the time. I have found it poignant, that when the war finally came to an end, people were at a loss of what to do next with their lives. The population were rallied together for one reason! To fight tyranny and ensure freedom. This kept them together.., the British Bulldog spirit.
“There’s a war going on! Don’t you know?”
5th March 2013
I keep saying I will catch up with the back log of work for this site. Everytime I put in work more comes along. I shouldn't complain as Chris at the RADAR museum says, "I am finding so much about the site he is amazed". I have some meetings coming up shortly to see the way forward for the project. At least I can saythis is hard work but hugely satisfying.
This single letter found by my wife listed on an online auction was the fuse to kick start this project. It was instrumental in putting the "Living" in to "Living History". A vast amount of time has been spent researching and interviewing and still there is much much more to do and people to see. I believe it is safe to say that at least a further twelve months will be required before light is seen at the end of the tunnel.
This site is still under construction.
If you would like to join us to chat on Face Book then copy and paste to your address bar https://www.facebook.com/groups/149154605236211/