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Joe Thornhill

by derbycsv

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Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Joe Thornhill
Location of story: 
London, Coventry, Middle East
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 August 2005

The call to war came to Joe with a tug on his trousers while he was up a ladder at DSF, Friden. He looked down and there was a soldier handing him his call-up papers! Joe joined the Territorials as a 19-year-old in 1938 and was barely back from summer camp with the Sherwoods when the call came to re-muster. Downing his electrician’s tools, he cycled home, packed his kit and reported to the Town Hall in Bakewell, where he met up with his fellow Terriers. They collected the equivalent of their ‘king’s shilling’, adjourned to the Queens Arms to spend it, then it was off to the serious business of manning searchlights on the East Coast. As an electrician, Joe was soon recruited to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (via the Royal Engineers) where his talents were put to developing the radar potential in anti-aircraft defence. Already a sergeant on detachment to the Military College of Science in Bury, he emerged as a Warrant Officer, expert on AA gun predictors, and was soon in the thick of it in the Blitz on London and Coventry — wherever the Luftwaffe were attacking. Then came the flying bombs and the development of a defensive barrage. Throughout this time, Joe was engaged in servicing and adapting equipment shipped over from America and in training junior technicians — a very busy war and, as Joe recalls from the Blitz, frequently a gruesome experience. After VE Day he was posted to Middle East HQ on intelligence duties, finding as he puts it, what the Germans had been up to. So the war that began up a ladder for Joe ended in May 1946 when he was released to resume civilian life with Pauline, now an ex-WAAF, whom he had married in April 1940 “never knowing when they would see each other again”

This story has been added to the site by Alison Tebbutt, Derby CSV Action Desk, on behalf of Norman Wilson and Andrew McCloy. The author has given his permission, and fully understands the site’s terms and conditions

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