- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mr Ellis Bowen Daw
- Location of story:
- Old Laira Battery, Crabtree, Plymouth.
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- 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.
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