Thursday, 21 April 2016

Rationing Begins

On the 8th January 1940, rationing began in Great Britain. In the beginning, only bacon, butter, and sugar were rationed. Individuals were issued ration books which contained coupons to be presented at the time of purchase.

Image result for 1940 rationing begins

As the war progressed, more food items were rationed. But the plans behind the rationing of Britain's food had been drawn up as early as late 1936. When it was first announced in November 1939 that rationing was to be introduced, the press had a field day and launched into a tirade of scathing attacks in the newspapers and magazines of the day.

Bacon and ham were rationed to 4oz per week, sugar to 12oz and butter to 4oz. Later, in March, meat was included on the list. From July 1940, cooking fats and tea were added and later in 1941, preserves and cheese were included. Sweets were rationed. Other goods such as tinned foods, biscuits and cereals were rationed using a points system. Fruit and vegetables were not rationed but were often in very short supply.

In 1939, petrol was rationed and walking, catching the bus or cycling became the main mode of getting around. Clothes would be rationed later from June 1941 and soap in February 1942. Naturally opportunists seized the moment to make money and the black market sprang up. Goods could be bought without coupons for very high prices. By March 1941, around 2,300 people had been prosecuted for black market profiteering.
Rationing would continue until the 30th June 1954.



The Ministry of Food, headed by Lord Woolton, launched a massive advertising campaign to help the british people manage on the ration. In cinemas across the nation they broadcast their campaign and also printed advertisements in the weekly press. The BBC broadcast "The Kitchen Front" over six mornings each week. They introduced Dr. Carrot and Potato Pete, as a means of encouraging children to eat their vegetables. Leaflets were produced, posters too were displayed at stations advertising recipes for meals. One of the main concerns Lord Woolton and the Ministry had, was to ensure that the poorest did not suffer. In fact, during the war years, the rationing campaign was so successful that the wealthy ate less, and the poorest quite possible ate better, according to statistics available from the period, with children having access to free orange juice, cod liver oil and extra milk. Of course everyone found it incredibly difficult and hunger became the norm, especially as shortages gripped the nation.

picture courtesy of wikimedia commons

Lord Woolton led the campaign "Dig for Victory," an initiative set up by Scottish Professor John Raeburn. This campaign encouraged the nation to transform their gardens and any spare patch of green, into a vegetable patch. The Government realised that Britain could be starved by a sea blockade and so measures were taken to maximise food production. Ordinary householders grew vegetables for the very first time, and many a lush green lawn was turned over and transformed into vegetable beds. The ladies of the WI all over the country treaded the lanes where hedges grew and enjoyed days of berry picking, collecting up as much of the wild crops as they could muster for jam making.

For the people, they were doing something very worthwhile, and they were making a vital contribution to the war effort, feeding themselves as well as the nation. It was also a fantastic way of keeping fit. Children would return home late afternoon after their school day, pick up a spade and go out into the garden and dig. It was something almost everyone could be involved in.



Next time: Dunkirk.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Life on the Home Front: The Declaration of War 1939

While Chamberlain tried to avoid war at all costs, it was not to be. On the 3rd September 1939 at 1115 hours, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain broadcast to the nation that the deadline for the withdrawal of German troops from Poland had passed and as such, Britain was now at war with Germany. People all around the country, sat at home listening to their radios, silently pondering the consequences. Afterwards, young men all eager to 'do their bit' and to have some excitement, rushed out to join up.

War had been expected for some time, although Chamberlain and his government had taken action to avoid it. In the meantime, Andersen shelters had been distributed to some 1.5 million homes to people living in areas which the government thought would be targeted by the Luftwaffe. The first shelter was erected in a garden in Islington, London on the 25th February 1939 and thereafter the shelters were rolled out up until the declaration of war.

Within minutes of Chamberlain's broadcast, the air raid sirens wailed out across London and people ran for the shelters to await the all-clear. On this occasion, it was a false alarm. Following the announcement, the blackout began and the lights all across Great Britain were snuffed out, one by one when darkness fell. The fleet was mobilised, placing the Royal Navy immediately in the action and Winston Churchill was given the post of First Lord of the Admiralty - the same post he'd held during the Great War.
File:Hitler Will Send No Warning Art.IWMPST13861.jpg
By Unknown (artist), J Weiner Ltd, 71/5 New Oxford Street, London WC1 (printer), Her Majesty's Stationery Office (publisher/sponsor), Ministry of Home Security (publisher/sponsor) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Gas masks had been ordered and mass produced and issued to every man, woman, and child. These were kept in a small, brown cardboard box with a piece of string attached so you could carry it over your shoulder, like a bag. Later in the war, after the threat of poisonous gas bombs had alleviated, many young women used theirs as a bag, having removed their gas mask, something that was strictly forbidden, and in its place was the ever important lipstick and a compact.

This period would be known as the Phoney War because there were no immediate attacks from the Luftwaffe. It was quiet on the Home Front. But across the Channel, Hitler's forces were quite ruthlessly storming across Europe, bringing death and destruction to hundreds of thousands of people.

During this time, Britain prepared for war. Meanwhile, on the 11th September, the British Expeditionary Force of around 158000 men, with 25000 vehicles, left for France. The French were relying on their fortified Maginot Line, a stretch of concrete fortifications that ran the length of the French-German border.
File:Barrage balloons over London during World War II.jpg|Barrage balloons over London during World War II via Wikimedia Commons.
In Britain, signposts were removed in case of enemy invasion. Coastal defences were put in place and mines laid on some beaches. Barrage balloons were deployed and would force any invading Luftwaffe to fly even higher. Millions of sandbags were made up and distributed, being piled high at the entrances to public buildings, shops and hospitals and utilised at airfields. Many couples in love decided to get married before their men were called up and so this led to a wedding boom.

Millions of women were now readying for war. They were gearing themselves up for a fight right here, on the Home Front. Plans for the evacuation of children had already been drawn up in 1938. Following the declaration of war, 1.25 million children and mothers were evacuated to rural areas over a three day period. The newly formed WVS arranged transport and many were billeted with members of the Women's Institute.

Lady Denman was appointed Director of the Women's Land Army, and as the first President of the WI, she informed her members just how they were going to be involved in helping to provide more food for their nation. As much as two-thirds of Britain's food was currently imported and the government realised they would have to take measures to grow more of their own. Again, during the course of 1938, some preparations had been made. The Ministry of Agriculture had given a grant to the WI which enabled it to provide instruction to all its groups around the country on the methods of jam making, bottling and canning.
A fruit bottling demonstration at a WI meeting in Clapham, London. Image courtesy of Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis.
The Women's Institute was the largest voluntary organisation in Britain that was non-military and had more than three hundred thousand members before war declared. With national coverage, they were very well placed to offer unwavering support to their country in wartime, which they all did. Being a pacifist organisation, they helped in a non-military way by means of providing food, knitting, sewing, establishing and running markets and helping with evacuees.

In 1937, the Air Raid Warden's Service was created and by mid-1938, there were around 200000 people involved. By the time war was declared, there were 1.5 million volunteers in the ARP - Air Raid Precautions. In the early months of the war, each ARP warden had to visit every household in his locality and register the names of each person within each home, and his duties involved enforcing the blackout.

The next installment: 1940 arrives and food rationing begins. The Phoney War is over when Germany invades Norway and Denmark in April.


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Sir Archibald McIndoe: Part One: The Early Days

Archibald Mcindoe was born in May 1900 and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand. He had two brothers and a sister. His mother, Mabel was a renowned artist and his father, John owned a printing business. As a young boy, he seemed to have a thirst for adventure, and he excelled at everything, both sports and academics. He pushed himself to go the extra mile and was undoubtedly encouraged and guided by his doting mother. When his father suddenly passed away in 1915, Archie's mother told him that he could be whatever he wanted to be in later life, but for the time being, he had to knuckle down and study at school.

Archie did just that and went on to university to study medicine. In March 1919, he attended the Medical School of Otago University, where once again, he excelled and in 1923 he graduated. In his final year there, Archie won the junior medicine prize and the senior clinical surgery medal. In 1924, he took up his post as house surgeon at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, New Zealand. But his longing for more had never ceased and this time, he had his sights set on England. He thought it was the best place to be to gain the experience he needed if he was to become a great surgeon. While Archie looked for a way to get to England, destiny seemed to intervene.
Young Archibald McIndoe Picture courtesy of creative commons.

He met Adonia Aitken, an eighteen-year-old beauty who was a brilliant pianist and Archie was immediately smitten. At around the same time, the Mayo brothers, founders of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, paid a visit to Otago Medical School and were suitably impressed. From their visit, a fellowship was established, and it was Archie who was to be the first recipient. Before he left for America, he married Adonia, who was to remain behind in New Zealand for the time being.

Archie joined the Mayo Clinic in 1925. He studied pathology and surgery and eventually, Adonia was able to join him there. In 1927, he gained his degree in Pathology from the University of Minnesota. Archie was also awarded the William White Travelling Fellowship and decided to take a trip to England. He'd been given letters of introduction to some of the most famous surgeons, but his visits turned out to be rather disappointing as he found the surgeons to be both condescending and unwelcoming. He complained that they treated him 'like a colonial.' He returned to the Mayo Clinic and resumed his position as an assistant surgeon.

One day, Archie received an out of town call from a doctor, who claimed to have a patient, a Mr Mancini, who required abdominal surgery. It was to be done privately and so Archie agreed to see him. Accompanying the patient, were three men in suits. Archie did the surgery some days later and extracted a metal fragment from the man's stomach. Outside, in the hospital carpark, several Cadillacs waited, and one member of staff reported that one of the cars was bullet-proofed. Archie wondered why such a man had such a large entourage. A couple of days later, the Cadillacs returned, along with a black private ambulance. Mr Mancini was taken away, despite Archie's protests. One of the entourage approached Archie and thanked him for helping his 'kid brother.' He handed over an envelope which contained one thousand dollars and it was not until hours later that Archie realised he had just saved the life of Al Capone's younger brother.

It was a visitor from England that was to shake these new foundations which Archie had firmly planted in America. When Lord Moynihan visited the Mayo Clinic, he was most impressed by Archie's performance as a surgeon, and he questioned why he stayed here, telling him bluntly that England was the place for such talent. He explained how a new hospital was in the planning, and there would be a position for Archie there in London. For many reasons, Archie jumped at the chance, although Adonia was not happy. She had settled in well and had a comfortable life, but Archie refused to back down. He put their furniture up for sale, paid his debts and set sail for England in late 1931, seven years before the outbreak of the Second World War.

When they sailed into the port of Liverpool, it was a dreary, damp day. Once settled in London, Archie eventually secured a meeting with Lord Moynihan at his Harley Street practice. The news was not good. The hospital was not yet built, and Moynihan informed him that until he had the fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons in England, he would not be able to practice. It seemed that Archie may have jumped the gun.

Coming Next: Part Two: Sir Harold Gillies To The Rescue.
Image result for archibald mcindoe reconstruction of warriorsImage result for mcindoes army

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Year So Far: Books, Writing & Pitching.


Image result for historical fiction ww2

Well, the year is almost half gone and I'm still editing. I made a pact in late 2014 that 2015 would be my year. My book will finally be complete although should I be successful in finding an agent I know that the edits will continue. That's the nature of the game and there will be more work to do before a publication date is in sight. It may take time before I'm fortunate enough to find an agent who thinks I might just have a great story in the making, and they're willing to take a chance on me. I've dreamed, chatted, walked and flown across the blue siren with my characters for so many months and it's time to let them breathe. Stories need to be aired, given a voice and add to the rich tapestry of history that is ever growing, evolving and shaping our world and heritage. 'Lest We Forget.'

In January I was lucky enough to join the New Writers Scheme which is run by the Romantic Novelists Association. It's fantastic as it enables me to submit my entire manuscript for a full appraisal. Apparently their readers comprise of editors and authors and the feedback is thorough, identifying all errors and flaws. I'm hoping to be in a position to send mine away by July, so I'd best get moving.

Product DetailsA few months ago I attended my first crime writing workshop. As many of you will know, I don't write in this genre - but I could if I tried, and I found myself tempted. It was fascinating to be engulfed by a beautiful, effervescent crowd of authors who love nothing more than exposing the rotten side of people and life in all its gruesome gore and depravity. It was revelatory and after first introductions I forgot I wasn't one of them and became engrossed in the day's proceedings.

Image result for booksThe highlight of the day was the pitching workshop and learning the 'tricks of the trade', in other words, how to pitch to a literary agent. I hear what some of you are asking - 'Do you really need an agent?' Unless you’re self-publishing you probably do. Apparently around 90% of publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts so without an agent you’re left with a rather small publishing market.

It was a fantastic workshop delivered by Mr David H Headley of DHH Literary Agency. Incidentally he also owns Goldsboro Books, an independent bookseller in central London. They sell hardbacks - the ultimate, original book (remember paperbacks were a revolution just like Kindle when launched in 1935) and they specialise in rare, antique books.

And the pitching event itself? Well, I was nervous but the agent, David Headley put me at my ease almost immediately. It was a fantastic experience and I'd recommend it for those who have never done it before. There's something far nicer about meeting people in person before sending off your work. 

And so, that's all for now. This year has been about de-cluttering - my mind, my writing and my objectives. I know what I want and exactly where I'm heading. All that's left to determine is by what means will I arrive? So for now I wish you all well in life, happiness and writing. Enjoy the weekend.

















Friday, 24 April 2015

Discovering reader preferences, habits and attitudes - Announcing the 2015 Reader Survey by M.K. Tod




Writers and readers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought along with their backgrounds and attitudes to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both writer and reader.

What then do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? What are their attitudes to pricing or their favourite reading blogs? These and other questions have been the subject of two previous reader surveys.

ANNOUNCING A 2015 READER SURVEY designed to solicit further input on reading habits, historical fiction preferences, favourite authors and, for the first time, favourite historical fiction. THE SURVEY WILL BE OPEN UNTIL MAY 14.

If you are a reader or a writer, please take the survey and share the link [https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GXRD9B7] with friends and family and on your favourite social media. Robust participation across age groups, countries, and other demographics will make this year’s survey even more significant. Those who take the survey will be able to sign up to receive a summary report when it becomes available.

         HISTORICAL FICTION IS MAINSTREAM: Less than 2% of participants said they rarely or never read historical fiction.
         GENDER MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Women and men differ significantly in their reading habits and preferences and their views of historical fiction.
         AGE MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Those under 30 have different preferences for genre and time period 
and have different patterns of consumption and acquisition.
         SOCIAL MEDIA IS HAVING A BIG IMPACT ON READING: Social media and online sites play an increasingly significant role for those choosing, purchasing, and talking about fiction.
         BOOK BLOGS ARE VERY POPULAR: 1,473 participants listed one, two or three favourite blogs.
         GEOGRAPHY: Responses to questions such as the use of online tools for recommendations and purchasing and preferred setting for historical fiction varied by geography.
         PRICING: Sadly, readers are pushing for low prices. For example, 60% want e-books at $5.99 or less and 66% want paperbacks at $10.99 or less.
         ONLINE BOOK CLUBS ARE GAINING POPULARITY: 21% belong to online clubs while 15% belong to clubs meeting in a physical location
         VOLUME OF BOOKS READ MAKES A DIFFERENCE: for example, high volume readers have different expectations for book reviews, a higher interest in tracking their books, and higher usage of online tools and social media to augment their reading experience.

Participate in this year’s survey by clicking the link and please share the URL with others https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GXRD9B7.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes.
Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Years Eve December 31st 1944

England was experiencing the worst winter weather in December 1944, for the last 54 years. Across the Channel, deep in the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge was raging on. The American GI's now had the added problem of dealing with German soldiers posing as 'fake' GI's. Three Germans were already captured and executed by firing squad. Fifteen more were awaiting the same fate.
The Eighth Air Force flew a mission on the 31st December and again on the 1st January, New Years Day, dropping leaflets in France, Germany and Belgium.
Meanwhile, American bombers of the Ninth Air Force were grounded by bad weather.
American GI's in the Ardennes
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons
New Years Eve 1944 saw more than 900 B-17's launched against targets across Germany.
3rd Bomb Division crews returned to the oil production centres of Hamburg on a bombing mission but they experienced heavy losses. Having experienced particularly heavy flak, the bombers had dropped their bombs and then headed for home, turning 180 degrees to head out across the North Sea. Having turned Northwest for England, they encountered a number of German fighters at 22,000 feet.

Captain Glenn Rojohn of the 100th Bomb Group - 'the Bloody Hundredth' -piloting The Little Skipper, saw the faces of some of the Luftwaffe pilots, they were so close. The group fought hard to remain in formation but then Captain Rojohn witnessed a B-17 up ahead burst into flames and drift downward to earth. He then felt an impact and his bomber shuddered. Losing altitude, he realised that he had collided with another aircraft.
B-17 Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons
Below him, a B-17 piloted by Lt. William G. McNab, in Nine Lives, must have drifted upward as his fuselage had hit the underneath of Rojohn's B-17. The result was that the top gun turret was now lodged in the belly of Rojohn's B-17 and Rojohn's ball turret was in the top of Mcnab's. Both aircraft were in almost perfect alignment, fused together, as one crewman later said, "like mating dragon flies."
B-17 Fools Rush In  on Hamburg mission
The lower bomber was in even more trouble as the fourth engine was on fire and flames were now spreading throughout the aircraft. Both B-17's were losing altitude quickly. Rojohn tried everything he could to break free but to no avail. Aware of the fire below him, Rojohn cut his engines and rang the bailout bell.

The ball turret, the gunners position hanging below the belly of the B-17, was considered to be the worst position - a death trap. Right now, the ball turret of the upper B-17 was lodged into the fuselage of the aircraft beneath it. Staff sgt, Edward L. Woodall Jr was in that turret and he was aware of the collision. Realizing that all electrical and hydraulic power was gone, he reached for the hand-crank, released the clutch and cranked the turret and the guns until they were straight down. At that point he was then able to climb out and into the fuselage. It was then that he saw the ball turret of the other bomber protruding through the top of the fuselage.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Russo was hopelessly trapped, his turret jammed into the fuselage and despite the frantic efforts of the crew to free him, it would not budge. Unaware of the fact that his voice was going out over the intercom, Russo began reciting Hail Mary's.

From the cockpit of the upper B-17, Captain Rojohn and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. William G. Leek Jr, were doing everything they could to prevent their B-17 from going into a spinning dive that would prevent the crew from bailing out. Rojohn motioned to turn left and they both hauled the plane back toward the German coast. Most of Rojohn's crew were now able to bail out.

The B-17 below them was fiercely ablaze and flames were now spreading upward, across Rojohn's wing. He could feel the heat already from his cockpit and heard the sound of .50 calibre ammunition going off in the flames. He ordered his co-pilot to bail but Leek knew that Rojohn needed his help to prevent the bombers from nosediving and so he refused the order.

German civilians and soldiers now had the two fused B-17's in sight and looked up in wonder. Anti-aircraft gunners on the coastal island of Wangerooge, had seen the collision.

A German battery captain wrote in his logbook at 12:47 p.m: "Two fortresses collided in a formation in the NE. The planes flew hooked together and flew 20 miles south. The two planes were unable to fight anymore. The crash could be awaited so I stopped the firing at these two planes."

One of the crewmen who had bailed out watched as he glided down to earth as the bombers, trailing black smoke, fell to earth about three miles away, exploding upon impact, a fireball erupting.

Upon impact, the McNab plane underneath had exploded, propelling the upper B-17 upward and forward. Rojohn's plane hit the ground and slid along until the left wing hit a wooden building and the B-17 finally came to a halt. Still in their seats in the cockpit, Rojohn and Leek were stunned and shocked to survive this disaster. The nose of the Fortress was relatively intact but everything from the wings back was destroyed. Leek crawled out through a huge hole behind the cockpit, took out his cigarettes and was just about to light up when he noticed a young German soldier pointing a rifle at him. The soldier pulled the cigarette from Leeks mouth and signalled to the gasoline that was pouring from a ruptured fuel tank.
Captain Glenn Rojohn & crew
Of the crewmen that bailed from Rojohn's plane, only four survived. Four men from the other bomber, including ball turret gunner Woodall, also survived. All were taken prisoner.

Captain Rojohn won the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart that night. He once said, "In all fairness to my co-pilot, he's the reason I'm alive today." After the war, it would be a further 41 years before the two men would speak again. Rojohn finally traced his former co-pilot, speaking to Leek in 1986. A year later, they were finally reunited at the reunion of the 100th Bomb Group in Long Beach, California. Bill Leek passed away the following year. Captain Glenn Rojohn passed away in August 2003, the last of those surviving men from that terrible night in 1944.  R.I.P.

There were some seventy sites across East Anglia, England which became bases for USAAF's bombers during WW2. Each base was home to 2000-3000 airmen and ground crew, many of whom were volunteers. These sites became known as "The Fields of Little America."

Thorpe Abbotts Runway

Thorpe Abbotts Control Tower - Home to the 100th Bombardment Group in WW2
Now restored and a Museum.










Sunday, 28 December 2014

Remembering Major Alton Glenn Miller

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of one of the most famous Big Band Leaders, Major Alton Glenn Miller, continues to confound people still today. Major Miller disappeared whilst on a flight from England to Paris in December 1944. There have been numerous conspiracy theories surrounding his disappearance, some of which seem quite bizarre. It has been said that he was killed whilst trying to overthrow Hitler and another theory mentions a Paris brothel! However, there has been much research into his disappearance and in 2015, a book by Colorado University Historian, Dennis Spragg is due to be published. Spragg has conducted a period of thorough research and has his own conclusion on this tragedy.

Seventy years ago, the world was still reeling from the tragic and mysterious loss of Major Glenn Miller. Born in March 1904 in Clarinda, Iowa, Glenn had a typical childhood, went to college, played football and became hooked on music. He once milked cows to raise enough money to buy a trombone. His father inspired and encouraged his musical talent and Glenn joined his first orchestra in 1921 after graduating from high school. In 1928, Glenn married his college sweetheart, Helen Burger. After a succession of bands, Glenn finally found success with his own, calling it the Glenn Miller Orchestra, in 1938.
Glenn Miller Orchestra
Glenn and his orchestra had a string of hits between 1939 and 1942, with songs that included In the Mood, A String of Pearls, Moonlight Serenade and Little Brown Jug.
Having searched for some time for his own unique sound, Glenn had finally found it with his orchestra. They had their own distinctive sound, their own personality.

In 1942, after making two successful movies, Glenn made the decision to enlist in the United States Army Air Force. He was 38 years old. Eventually, Glenn was given the responsibility for the band at the Technical Training Command at Yale University. Whilst there, Glenn hand picked some of the finest musicians from the big bands who were coming into Military service. An interesting fact is that at this time, Glenn rejected a 19 year old pianist called Henry Mancini. In 1946 he went on to join the newly reformed Glenn Miller orchestra. Ten years later, Mancini wrote and arranged the music for the film The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart and June Allyson.
Major Miller with a couple of American Servicemen

In June 1944, the entire band was shipped across to England. Stationed in Bedford, they embarked upon a gruelling schedule of concerts, parties, recordings and broadcasts, all in a major effort to boost troop morale. A Christmas day concert was planned for the American troops in the recently liberated capital of Paris. Whilst the band were scheduled to fly out shortly before the big day, Glenn decided that he should arrive early and ensure that all the necessary arrangements were in place such as accommodation.

On the 15th December, Miller was preparing to board a single-engined UC-64 Norseman plane at Twinwood Farm airfield, England, bound for Paris. The weather was foul and an earlier flight had already been cancelled. The American Officer who had arranged the flight also accompanied Glenn on that fateful journey. Glenn was reported to have asked if there were any parachutes on board. The Officer reportedly quipped, "What the hell, Miller, you want to live forever?"
C-64 Norseman Aircraft courtesy of Wikimedia commons
Miller boarded the aircraft, no doubt harbouring grave reservations, especially as he was known to have a fear of flying. The weather was deteriorating, visibility was poor and the American pilot, John Morgan, was not yet qualified to fly by instruments alone. But the fact is that Miller had been trying to get a flight to Paris for several days. This flight had been arranged last minute -Don Haynes, the band's manager had an acquaintance, Norman Baesell, who was also trying to get a flight to Paris. Lt. Colonel Norman Baesell had the flight arranged for the 15th and offered Miller a ride.

Norman Baesell was a top official and responsible for setting up advance bases for aircraft repairs in Europe. He had deadlines to meet and much responsibility in the Air Force. Official reports have shown that earlier that morning, the Pilot, John Morgan had been denied clearance to fly to Paris due to bad weather - Paris was fogged in. However, Baesell gave Morgan a direct order to take him to Paris, despite the fact that he did not have the authority to order this. Morgan, being a junior officer, was not in a position to reject the order.
Twinwood Airfield
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons
At 13:55 on the 15th December, they took off and that was the last time they were seen. It was not until the 18th December that officials realised that Miller was missing, when the band arrived safely in Paris without Miller.

The headlines were dominated by news of The Battle of the Bulge, which had begun on December 16th.  A quarter of a million German soldiers battled against American forces in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg. Bad weather had kept the American bombers grounded. Finally on the 23rd December, the weather cleared and the bombers were once again airborne, providing support to the ground troops.
American troops in defence positions in the Ardennes
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons
It was not until December 24th that the public announcement was made that Glenn Miller was missing. Whilst Miller's disappearance would have been of grave concern, the Battle of the Bulge had taken obvious priority and this most likely explains the nine day delay in announcing Miller's disappearance. Of course the family would have been informed first.

If Norseman aircraft were subjected to icy weather, there was a distinct possibility that the fuel lines would freeze up, thus cutting the engine. There were also official reports that stated at the time that the Norseman aircraft in service might have faulty carburettors and so it was that they were all set to be replaced. However, the bombers and other essential aircraft took priority for repairs and spares and so not all Norseman aircraft had replacement carburettors fitted. The aircraft Miller was in was one of those that had not received a replacement part.

Another theory was that a squadron of Lancaster Bombers returning home having been recalled due to bad weather, were jettisoning their bombs over a designated area of the Channel. An airman on board one of the Lancaster's came forward in the 1980's, claiming to have spotted what he believed to be a Norseman aircraft at the time of the jettisoning. Having learned of Miller's disappearance in 1944, he assumed that the Norseman must have taken a direct hit by one of the bombs. However, the timing of the Lancaster's jettisoning their bombs does not quite tally to the time the Norseman would have been in that area, according to very recent research, utilising flight paths, take off time and airspeed calculations.

And so, having just about ruled out all other theories, Spragg suggests that mechanical failure, bad weather and a pilot who was not instrument trained all made for a recipe for disaster on that fateful day. It is reported that this was also the findings of the United States Army Air Force, a conclusion they reached a few weeks after the incident.

Whilst it was a tragedy, like so many that occur in wartime, Major Glenn Miller left a legacy that continues to play on today. The distinctive sound of the Glenn Miller Orchestra resonates universally and it seems will never fade.

Major Alton Glenn Miller, 1904 - 1944. R.I.P.
Memorial in Arlington Cemetery

Memorial at RAF Kingscliffe - site of Glenn Miller's last hangar concert.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Watch tower at RAF Twinwood restored in 2002: contains a memorial to Glenn Miller
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons