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15 October 2014
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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Don Howell
Location of story: 
Tottenham
Article ID: 
A4516625
Contributed on: 
22 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War warsite by Lyn Wedge from the Littlehampton Learning School and has been added to the website on behalf of Don Howell with his permission and they fully understand the sites terms and conditions

It had been a very busy day at the center I attended to dictate my story of how my crew and I came to crash in Portugal in WWII ref: Crash of Hudson 3a in Portugal. When members of staff were heard to express surprise that not one story had been “funny,” by which I assumed they meant humorous.
This posed a question in my mind “ can there be humour in war?” Emphatically no! How can conflagration which gives place to such carnage be humorous?
Yet wait a moment. A remark made or a situation which occurs in war can be funny. I hope you agree that the following stories foot the bill.

The Battle of Britain was over and Jerry had switched his machines of war to London and so in September 1940 through to July 1941 the Blitz raged.
I came home on leave to the family home in Tottenham. Our house was in Holcombe Road at the corner with Kimberly Road, some 600 yards East of Bruce Grove Station 5 miles North from Liverpool Street. That particular night a parachute mine was dropped which became caught up in either a roof or a tree and was observed to be hung up with out detonating having no doubt a delayed fuse.
When it exploded it felt as if we, in the Anderson Shelter, had been picked up shaken (not stirred) and plopped down again.
I had train with the Civil Defense Services in 1938 as an ARP Messenger until joining the RAF as an Air Crew Cadet. Thinking I could be of some help I went down the road towards the High St and heard a voice calling out quite plaintively, drawing nearer one could see against the lightening sky that the whole of one wall was missing and there sitting on the toilet was an elderly man saying over and over again,
“but I only pulled the chain!”
Picking my way through the debris I entered the parlour then the hall way and up the stairs to assist him down all the while he was repeating “but I only……” .
Having handed him over to the rescue crews I went on to the street parallel to the high road and was glad to find the families of my friends were not casualties.
On gaining the high road with a view to helping at the casualty clearing station in Scotland Green I kept stumbling over ‘Bodies’. So I began calling for stretcher-bearers! The ambulance boys joined me among the broken glass strewn every ware from the shop fronts smashed in the blat from the mine.
As we began to lift the bodies it dawned on us “these aren’t bodies they are the dummies from the Fifty Shillings Tailor Shop” our laughter broke the tension and we were glad at the mistake.

A Navy Lark
Two war ships operating as part of a Floattilla of Frigates, Corvettes and Destroyers were maneuvering and the bow of one touched the rear of the other an exchange of signals each blaming the other ensued. It finished with the Captain of the vessel whose rear had been touched sending the message
“ If you touch me there again I will scream”

An Army Caper
A young soldier fighting in Italy in WWII managed to jump in a foxhole just ahead of a spray of bullets. He immediately attempted to deepen the hole with his hands and unearthed a silver crucifix, obviously left by a previous occupant.
A moment later, a leaping figure landed beside him as shells screamed overhead.
The soldier turned to see that his companion in trouble was an Army Chaplain. Holding up the crucifix, the soldier said “am I glad to see you, how do you make this thing work?”

Not a Flight of Fancy
It was a brilliant Sunday Afternoon on the 29th October 1944 when we arrived over the Walcheren Ireland to bomb the gun emplacements at Weskapelle, which had been holding up Monty’s advance across the Scheldt. We began our bombing run with the Lancaster to our portside forward and as his load went so did ours. Almost immediately our rear gunner yelled “get up skipper for Gods sake get up” and Bert Wittaker my pilot and I were overshadowed by the black mass of the Lancaster who had turned to starboard and with his right wing hit us as he turned away just behind the rear door and in front of the rear turret.
The impact was so servere that it was as if a hand had arrested us in flight and then flipped us over to cartwheel from 12 ½ thousand feet while we fought like mad with our feet up on the bulkhead pulling back on the joystick to regain control while winding the trimming tab wheel. It was not until the alter meter which had been winding down like mad registered 1500 feet over the sea that the Halifax of 76 squadron MP’K began to yaw out of the spin. We came across the North Sea slowly gaining a little height and checking the damage. There was twelve feet of the Lancs wing through us like a harpoon and the crumpled metal had penetrated from the portside upward to the top starboard side thrusting aside the control rods to operate the elevators and rudder so that we had to use the engines as steerage wither more on the left or the right as the occasion demanded to gain direction. Finally Flamborough Head appeared and we made track for our base at Holme on Spalding More, (near Market Weighton) Arriving over the sir field the skipper thought titch Haslam should bail out. He had other ideas because of meeting a popsie that night, on the downward leg to the funnel for the runway the tower could observe the damage to our amusement a WAAF R/T operator called us “K King K King your rear door is open please shut it” but shortly after the W/CDR having his binoculars trained on us called for the blood wagon and fire engine and left the tower to join them in his jeep as we floated down the runway until sufficient speed had been reduced to let the tail down gently otherwise the tail and forward section would have parted company.
Workshops were amazed that we had ‘got away with it’ though the Engineering Officer seeing the Elsan bowed in the middle like an egg timer considered it fortunate that no one had been sitting on it at the time otherwise who ever it was would have lost something (like

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