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15 October 2014
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The Wash in Wartimeicon for Recommended story

by Peter Brinkley Clarke

Contributed by 
Peter Brinkley Clarke
People in story: 
Peter Brinkley Clarke
Location of story: 
The Wash on the coast of Lincolnshire
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Contributed on: 
26 February 2004

During WW2 my father was an inshore fisherman in the Wash, sailing from Boston. He would fish in the Boston Deeps and off Skegness for prawns during the shell fish closed season, this was in the spring and summer. In the autumn and winter he would collect mussels and cockles from the sand banks which were exposed at low tide.
On several of these trips during the Winter of 1942/43 I would accompany him with the purpose of collecting winkles while he collected cockles. The winkles I collected would be taken to my home where I would boil them and when cooled I would sell them to the local children at one penny a bag, this included a pin for extracting the winkle from its shell. When I had winkles to sell I was very popular because as sweets were in short supply winkles made a nice substitute.
I remember that the during some of these trips crashed RAF aircraft would be lying on the sand banks, most of them had broken up after the crash landing and there would be unused bombs and bullets lying everywhere. The suprising thing was that a month later everything would have sunk into the sand and completely disappeared.
It was very sad to think that when an aircraft was returning from a bombing raid, probably damaged, it would often happen that the pilot would see the sand bank and thinking it was a suitable place he would land. Unfortunately he would not realize that with the return of the tide the seawater would rise by 7 to 10 metres thus covering the sands. Many airmen who had escaped being killed over enemy territory were drowned whilst trying to walk to shore. Their bodies would often be picked up by fishermen, who received a bounty for the recovery of these tragic men.
Areas of the Wash were used, in those days, for target and bombing practice and, I believe, one area is still used. On one trip with my father we had a very frightening experience when an American plane that was practicing shooting at a target which was being towed by another plane decided to shoot up the group of fishing boats lying on the sands. Perhaps the pilot could have mistaken the boats for abandonded wrecks but luckily nobady was killled by his "friendly fire" actions but a crew member on another boat was hit by a ricocheting bullet which entered the side of his neck. One of the fishermen wanted to remove it with a pair of pliers but luckily a First Aider stopped this being done. The man then had to wait for the sea to return before he could receive medical assistance at Bosaton Hospital. At this time these fishing boats had no means of communicating with anyone who could render assistance and an injured person would have to wait until the boat returned to port before an ambulance could be called.

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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 - The Wash in Wartime

Posted on: 20 March 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Peter

I found your story very interesting. A valuable contribution , like a missing piece in a jig-saw puzzle, to life during the war.



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