BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

Ordered to Kill my own Family.

by csvdevon

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
csvdevon
People in story: 
Mr Ellis Bowen Daw
Location of story: 
Old Laira Battery, Crabtree, Plymouth.
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4301317
Contributed on: 
29 June 2005

This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer Jane Chanter on behalf of Mr Ellis Bowen Daw. The story has been added to the site with his permission and Mr Ellis Bowen Daw fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.

When the war started, all was quiet for a bit (the infamous "Phoney War"), then came the Blitz which of course absolutely flattened Plymouth. After the war it was determined that more bombs fell on Plymouth per square foot than any other city, including Coventry and London.

Two bombs landed on the edge of the Laira Battery Fort where I lived with my family.

Later on in the war at the age of 13, the Home Guard gave me a .303 rifle with orders to shoot at the Heinkel bombers flying low overhead, once at the pilot, another for the rear gunner and then leap into the trenches before they shot back. I was machine gunned by them on several occasions. I was also peppered with shrapnel during the air raids and had to help extinguish the incendiary bombs with my father.

Early on, Dad joined the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers), which was later renamed the Home Guard, and became a Captain, stationed to guard the the roof of the electricity building in Plymouth. During this time the Germans were coming across France right up to the coasts of Britain ready for what they thought would be the big invasion. As they crossed France, stories were coming back from the French about how the Germans were killing the old people, how they were raping the women and girls and killing the kiddies, how brutal the Gestapo were and all their atrocities and so on.

They were now at the French coast and poised to invade England. My father came to me and gave me a French Police revolver and a handful of ammunition; I think about twelve bullets in all. He told me, 'If the Germans land, we expect them to parachute onto Dartmoor behind us in order to take Plymouth', which they had flattened already.

We thought that Plymouth was one of the many places along the south coast they would land. He told me that if they came down in the night, I was to wait until my mother, my grandmother and my little sister were asleep, I was to go into their rooms and put a bullet in each of their heads while they were asleep so they could not be desecrated by the Nazis. 'I won't be back' he told me, 'because I will be fighting in the city'. Then he said 'You take the remainder of the bullets and you shoot it out until you get killed'. In those days, your father's orders were your command and I said 'Of course I will father'. His reply was 'I know you will son'.

This still brings tears to my eyes and a frog in my throat all these years later.

Thank God our valiant RAF beat the Germans in the Battle of Britain and they never came across, so I never had to do that terrible thing. I kept the gun until the 1990's when I finally got rid of it and had it incinerated. I hope nothing like this ever happens again.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 29 June 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Did your mother have a say in this? Just wondering.

As for your prowess with an army rifle at the age of 13, I was totally unaware that a Heinkel HE 111 had a rear gunner. I knew only of the upper mid turret and the two ventral turrets. Would have been a bit awkward for you had they responded with their 20 mm cannon. Still, would hardly matter if you shot the pilot with a .303.

 

Message 2 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 29 June 2005 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

I do take it that the three people slept together so the sound of the first shot would not waken the other two who would then have started a screaming match and caused the use of the rest of the ammunition as you tried to get them. Only a thought.
Could you tell me what Mark Rifle it was as the early marks were not noted for hitting an aircraft never mind taking out the pilot and gunners.

For the sake of the Outreach team, I am not prejudging this story, I wish to add to my knowledge of the war.
Frank.

 

Message 3 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 30 June 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

But it is not just a 13 year old schoolboy who has a revolver from his father, with orders to murder his family, and who is given a rifle by the Home Guard (which, incidentally, wasn't formed until 14 May 1940 and was for men between the ages of 17 and 65), which is most odd to say the least, there is also this:

"As they crossed France, stories were coming back from the French about how the Germans were killing the old people, how they were raping the women and girls and killing the kiddies, how brutal the Gestapo were and all their atrocities and so on".

I was in Britain until late June 1940, but I never heard stories such as these. I do recollect seeing news reels of French refugees, women and children, being dive bombed on French roads in order to create mayhem and congestion, but that was totally different. I also lived for nearly two years under Nazi occupation, and although there were many mass shootings and hangings, I do not recollect hearing of a single rape or that old people and kiddies were singled out and killed. The SS could be brutal in the extreme, but they were highly disciplined and never acted individually. It was that that made it more chilling, they seldom if ever killed in a fit of rage or passion.

Of course, one cannot speculate what might have happened had Britain been invaded. But my guess is that it would have been no different from any other Nazi occupied country in western Europe. Women and children would have been quite safe and left unmolested, providing they were not Jewish or on a political death list. Unlike their bestial treatment of the Slavs, the Nazis regarded the British as being of sound 'Aryan' stock.

 

Message 4 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 30 June 2005 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Peter,
As per instructions from those who shall be obeyed, I was being gentle, that was when I managed to stop the uncontrolled laughter and scramble back up onto the keyboard.
I am with you, we did see Pathe News film of those German attacks on the French people, we did hear of Troops dressed as Nuns, there is a thought, there must have been some big muscular Nuns walking around.
We never did hear about mass rapes or the murder of the old people.
We did hear the the people in Normandy and other occupied area's lived normal lives rarely seeing the Germans apart from near the coast.
I often wonder what would have happened had it all gone pear shaped we would probably have still served in the British Army as part of the German war machins as they went on to capture the world including America.
Life would have seemed normal after a while to us youngsters and I am sure we would have survived and multiplied as people do.
At least we can reconise lamp swinging when we see it.
regards frank.

 

Message 5 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 15 July 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

My initial response to this story (Message 1) has been removed, (not merely 'Hidden') from this thread. Even the title as been removed and the thread now is labelled 'No subject'. Above it says that it is because "it broke the House Rules in some way". An Email to me informing me of this was more specific:"This decision has been made because of the sarcastic quality of the message. ... If you would like to re-write your contribution to remove the problem, then we'd be very happy for you to post it again". So here goes.

First may I point out that the author is about my age, tells a good story, so presumably is quite capable of defending himself and, perhaps, pointing out where I am in error. I apologise for having used sarcasm, I thought at the time that a light-hearted jocular approach was best suited to the story.

I was quite surprised to read this: "... at the age of 13, the Home Guard gave me a .303 rifle with orders to shoot at the Heinkel bombers flying low overhead, once at the pilot, another for the rear gunner and then leap into the trenches before they shot back. I was machine gunned by them on several occasions". Any Home Guard commander who did this would have been court martialed for gross irresponsibility. The Home Guard is now almost regarded as a figure of fun, but at the time it was well trained and under strict military discipline. At the age of 13 you could join the School Cadets, but not the Home Guard. Nor do I know of any instance of army rifles being given to young teenagers by the Home Guard. It would have been quite impossible for the Home Guard to give orders to a child to fire at bombers under any circumstances. We are further led to believe that this just didn't happen once but on a fairly regular basis, since he says "I was machine gunned by [German aircraft] on several occasions"

Moving on. "As [the Germans] crossed France, stories were coming back from the French about how the Germans were killing the old people, how they were raping the women and girls and killing the kiddies, how brutal the Gestapo were and all their atrocities and so on". I lived through those times and have read fairly widely since, but this is the very first time that I have heard of the German army being accused of "raping the women and girls and killing the kiddies" in France in 1940. There were indeed such stories of German behaviour in Belgium in 1914, by sections of the British press, later dismissed as unfounded counter-productive crude propaganda.

Then we come to this, the part which prompted me to use sarcasm:

" My father came to me and gave me a French Police revolver and a handful of ammunition; I think about twelve bullets in all. ... He told me that if [German parachutists] came down in the night, I was to wait until my mother, my grandmother and my little sister were asleep, I was to go into their rooms and put a bullet in each of their heads while they were asleep so they could not be desecrated by the Nazis. 'I won't be back' he told me, 'because I will be fighting in the city'. Then he said 'You take the remainder of the bullets and you shoot it out until you get killed'. In those days, your father's orders were your command and I said 'Of course I will father'. His reply was 'I know you will son'." Mercifully, he is not called upon to slaughter his family, but he nevertheless illicitly keeps the firearm for 50 years; after the war presumably as a souvenir, but why is he, a child, armed with it throughout the war?

If this story is true, then I can only think that the writer's father was deranged since he was inciting his son, a 13 year old child, to murder his family, indeed making him promise to do so and convincing him that it was his duty to do so. The father was leaving, there were many rumours then of Germans landing, some dressed as nuns; what if the boy took one of these baseless rumours seriously and shot his family? One part of the realm was invaded, the Channel Islands. What would posterity think if every young teenage boy (or one only, for that matter) had slaughtered the female members of his family in cold blood on their arrival?

I am also concerned that schoolchildren reading the story now might think that you are justified in killing female members of your family, rather than they be 'dishonoured'.

Peter (writing as a Member, rather than 'Site Helper')

Postscript

As I was writing this I received an email from a friend, he said, apropos this story ,"only the Germans were Gentlemen for a good while before sending all the men and boys away to work for them. What they did to the Jewish people on the Channel Isles cannot be forgiven". Quite so, I am well aware of German atrocities. Indeed there are recorded instances of surrendered British troops being gunned down by the SS in 1940 in France, and of refugees being machine gunned on crowded roads by dive-bombers. But the Wehrmacht did not rape women, not even the SS, nor did they have a rumoured reputation for doing so. The mass rapes and suicides came in January - April 1945 as the Red Army poured into East Prussia and Upper Silesia, thirsting for revenge for the German pillage of Russia.

 

Message 6 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 15 July 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Peter

I am impressed !

I've never had a letter from 'they who must be obeyed' telling me:
"This decision has been made because of the sarcastic quality of the message".

You have always occupied a high place in my esteem.... you have now gone up at least five places.

To be serious.

You and I, I hope, have always sung from the same song sheet.

When something that we read APPEARS (I put that in very quickly) to be incorrect or palpably false our hackles rise and we wish to draw someone's attention to the fact.

In an ideal world all that we should have to do is post a response that says, for example, "Dear Mr.X,
I do not believe that you could have killed Hitler in 1943 as the records clearly show that he committed suicide in 1945"

Mr.X would then reply "I apologise for my error that was made in good faith and will immediately edit my entry to make this clear"

We don't live in an ideal world and to remain in this game we have to abide by the house rules.

I would not like to see a mass withdrawal of site-helpers, including myself. Nothing would be gained by our absence and the posters of items that cause us pain would then have carte-blanche to say what they like with impunity.

Keep reading, keep writing, keep complaining when you think you have a legitimate complaint and I, for one, will back you 100%

Regards to all

Ron

 

Message 7 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 15 July 2005 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

The veracity of this site appears to be in question?
For WW2 Team,
Veracity;- Truthfulness,Honesty,Accuracy of a statement.
There are obviously some people who have vivid memory of a specific event but get mixed up about date or time. Those are easily spotted by the brilliant Researchers such as Peter whom I reguard still as a researcher first and formost. They can be passed over as easily rechecked by good researchers and added to the site.
When he tries to point out certain events that in our wildest dreams we could not have invented as not veracious (BBC Team please see veracity above) Peter is taken to task for being
sarcastic? Sarcasm;- Bitter or wounding remarks, A Taunt, To Speak bitterly. Is this what you really meant or was the word you wanted facetious!
BBC Team Facetious;- Flippant, Inoportune Humour.
In either case I believe you were well over the top.
If it is such stories of daring do you want I can point you at the comic books we all read as kids in the war "Hotspur" "Dandy" "Beano" and many others in which we read much better written and bloody stories. Oops, sorry, for Bloody see Gory, I forgot the list of forbidden words.
Right now listen up. We need some common sense and thought on all of this. You do not want stories of 15 year olds shooting down German planes with rifles when the Anti Aircraft Guns could not hit them with big shells.
You do not want stories of one man doing a full five man gun crew job loading and firing a gun three times and shooting down a German in one pass, these things did not happen and any one with a modicum of sense knows it.
We need the Peters on this site to help verify some of the stories or to correct others.
I apologise if this posting strikes you as Sarcasm, Facetious, Tongue in cheek. It was meant to have a humorous twist and that was the way Peter wrote his first Posting which was taken off for some misleading reason.
Site helper is a misnomer if all you want them to do is go with the trend, researcher on the other hand gives an authority which is badly needed to correct some of the rubbish appearing lately.
frank.

 

Message 8 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 15 July 2005 by WW2 People's War Team

Dear All

We have invited people to add memories - this means some of the content will be inaccurate. We will not be fact checking.

If you suspect that anyone has posted a story maliciously, intending to disrupt the project, use the alert button to notify the moderators. The moderators will then make a decision.

Different impressions of similar events, or the addition of information using WW2 history books as a reference, are welcome - but any site member's messages that sits in judgement on the intention of another's contribution will be removed.

Regards, Penelope

 

Message 9 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 15 July 2005 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Dear Penelope,
I get the message, your hands are tied, Hurrah, the Inquisition is alive and well roll out the rack and scourge.
We are the word and the word is engraved in stone it shall not be changed. Quantity over truth and truth loses.
Oh well at least I sleep easy knowing I tried and failed to get the truth back onto the site.
As I do not believe in wasting my time I will refrain from further one sided discussion and hope the future generations dont think we all shot down Dorniers with water pistols. Some of us lived the real war.
Frank.

 

Message 10 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 16 July 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear WW2 People's War Team

It seems we have reached the end of circular line and are right back where we started. Further discussion seems pointless, so I shall not post any further in this thread after this.

What I didn't expect was Message 8, a copy and paste of the rules. However, although I had read it previously, I was mistaken about this "some of the content will be inaccurate. We will not be fact checking". I wrongly thought that this was due to a lack of time and resources. I didn't realise it was a principle to be defended. It now really does seem that if we try to correct errors our efforts are regarded primarily as interference.

Absurdities such as, to paraphrase A4203965, "During the war I used to clean Rudolf Hess' London flat" are not only accepted but any corrections are seemingly frowned upon.

But it isn't even just peoples' memories. Even in articles by yourselves you totally disregard any corrections. I will give just one example, there are others: "Theatre of War: Italy, Greece and the Balkans"(A1062947) by WW2 People's War Team. In this you still say that "Large parts of Yugoslavia were occupied by German forces, while Greece was occupied by the Italians". I drew your attention to this error in November 2003, but nothing was done.

Regarding this, I will only mention Greece here: Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria divided the country into three zones of occupation. The Germans occupied western Macedonia (including Salonika), eastern Thrace along the Greco-Turkish border, the environs of Athens, western Crete, and the Greek islands in the north Aegean. The Bulgarians occupied western Thrace. The Italians occupied the remainder of the Greek mainland, eastern Crete, and the Greek islands in the south Aegean, the eastern Mediterranean, the Ionian, and the Adriatic Seas. Germans and Italians jointly occupied the Greek capital, Athens. For the rest of the Balkan occupation see my full posting here: F125844?thread=352062

There is still no correction to your article. Not only was there no correction, I didn't even get a response from you. I mentioned it a couple of times later but then gave up. Regarding a different article from an external author, presumably commissioned by you, you said that you would consult the author about the points I had raised, but I heard nothing further. No corrections were made in the following months, and I have now even forgotten where it was.

And getting back to transcribed memories, take a look at this F2177739?thread=672636 This is how it should be.

Please don't bother pasting in sections of the Rules again, I have read them and now fully understand them.

Peter

 

Message 11 - ORDERED TO KILL MY OWN FAMILY.

Posted on: 19 July 2005 by WW2 People's War Team

Dear Peter

We are very appreciative of your corrections of the BBC articles. We are about to commission re-writes and additional fact files and your comments have been added in to the work sheet.

I am so sorry that I did not tell you that we had acted upon your comments.

Regards, Penelope

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Childhood and Evacuation Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy