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15 October 2014
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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
David Bell, Fred Edwards
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Contributed on: 
03 August 2005

It was in late 1942 or early 1943 that we had Fred Edwards billeted on us. Fred was 16 years of age when he came to us and had been living with his parents in Chatham, which had been declared too dangerous for children to reside. Chatham was the home of the Royal Naval Dockyard and other installations of strategic military importance, which were obvious bombing targets. The fact that Canterbury had suffered a blitz made it safer rather than more dangerous on the basis that the blitz was unlikely to be repeated.

Fred settled in and attended the Simon Langton Boys' School (now in temporary premises), where he did well. He was a bright and intelligent boy, whom I came to love as an elder brother. I would have been to him nothing more than a tiresome nuisance of 7/8 years but he was very kind and tolerant. His parents came to see him from time to time but Fred was not permitted to reside in Chatham, even during the school holidays, on account of the risks. It
must have been very hard for him having to live permanently separated from his parents but we tried to make him feel a part of the family.

Fred must have attained the age of 18 in 1944 because he was called up early in that year into the RAF to be trained as a navigator for Bomber Command. I recall him visiting us, looking very dapper, dressed in his new blue uniform and I must have bored him stiff, asking him to identify all my model aeroplanes. Of course, the extreme danger to which Fred was then exposing himself on nightly bombing missions never occurred to me. Towards the end of 1944, news came that Fred's Lancaster was missing and it was later confirmed that he had been killed. I quickly learned what it felt like to lose someone whom you loved. I had lost my only "brother". I was distraught and inconsolable. When Fred's parents visited mine to grieve together, I was excluded. That hurt even more. I loved Fred just as much as they did. Many of my school friends were in the same boat, having lost a father, uncle or brother. I now identified with them and understood how they felt. Like everything else in war-time, there was no point in moping. You just had to pack up your troubles and get on with life.

This story was added by a volunteer to the site on behalf of David Bell. David fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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