My earliest memory is really an image in my head. It could only have been seen by me – the mental equivalent of a point-of-view shot in a film. I see the world through some kind of netting. Two faces appear and the netting is pulled aside. The faces of two young girls appear, one blonde, the other brunette. That’s it – just a brief flashback, but I am convinced I have not made it up or been told about it. What is odd is that I must have been no more than two years old.
I think I once mentioned this to my mother, who probably thought it was just another of my silly fantasies, but when I later learned about the circumstances of my infancy, I became convinced that the faces belonged to my cousins Pamela and Barbara. My Auntie Joan, the only person whom I have trusted to tell the truth about those difficult times, confirmed this theory years later.
The connection between RAF Dambusters Squadron 617 and Woodhall Spa is well known around here, and is nowhere more evident than in the Petwood Hotel, where in 1942 Dambuster crew, including Canadian, New Zealand, Australian and British Air Force personnel, were stationed. The Squadron Bar, virtually untouched since it served as the officers’ mess, remains a magnet for historians and anyone who, like me, as a boy, was thrilled by the Dambusters film when it came out in 1955.
I am now struck by the tenacity and dedication of those who keep the Dambusters reality alive, as evidenced not just by frequent guests and visitors, but also by numerous posts on social media and, in particular by the Dambusters Blog, written by Charles Foster, nephew of Dambuster pilot David Maltby. As well as logging fascinating biographical notes and reproducing numerous old photographs, the blog features some intriguing current stories, such as an unusual take on Barnes Wallace, the inventor of the famous bouncing bomb: Continue reading →