May 13 2012
My apologies that I'm falling behind in my correspondence, and will
endeavor to do better!
After Charley and I left Portsmouth, we drove to the 19th century
south coast resort town of Bournemouth, where we based ourselves for
During that time, Charley hosted dinner for his southernmost brother
Sherwood Rangers and their families at our Fin-de-Siecle,
(red wallpaper, white linen tablecloths, and scarlet velvet
chairs). It was apparent that Charley had been taken on not only as
member by the Sherwoods in attendance, but has been embraced as a
the family. As the Old Bold Pilots in Oceanside have also
word and deed, here was another example of WW2 combat veterans and
adversaries forming bonds of the deepest sort of friendship.
On Sunday, we visited the grave of Charley's closest Sherwood
Ewing, who had fought against the Afrika Korps in Tunisia, and who
welcomed Charley to the Sherwood Rangers Regiment family so warmly
years ago. Ken is keenly missed by his family and friends since his
two years ago. At his grave, Ken's children regaled us with stories
his misadventures until the tears rolled down my cheeks. I was so
had never gotten the chance to meet such a brave and courageous
funny and warm-hearted father, grandfather, and friend.
After Ken we visited and interviewed Bert, who had been one of the
"swimming tank" crew members to successfully land at Gold Beach (and
the bottom of the Atlantic) during D-Day. Bert had fought through
with the Sherwoods before being part of the Sherwood charge across
1944, when he was wounded and lost most of his eyesight. His
not stop him from becoming a professional classical musician in
Monday was our first day of rest in weeks, and sorely needed, as the
schedule had been testing both Charley's and my endurance, although
let it show.
Tuesday we toured the exhibit halls and back sheds of the Bovington
Museum with the curator and chief archivist, marvelling at their
collection of tracked vehicles, a good portion of which still run.
collection of WWI tanks is truly formidable, and some of them have
recently put out of action by increasing metal fatigue and wear
moving their massive weight under their own power nearly 100 years
they were originally in combat.
Of course we visited the Panzer III's and IV, the tanks used by
Korps, but also saw a DD Sherman swimming tank with original canvas
two King Tigers, and the formidable Jagdtiger, of which only about
made at the end of the war. George and I had met the 96-year-old
commander of one of these massive beasts at the tank reunion in
2010, but he passed away before we could properly interview him.
of his story still pains me today.
Wednesday Charley and I stopped at the Royal Navy submarine museum
way back to London. Charley admires the courage of submariners, as
should, and I was game for adventure. After touring the museum and
through the real periscopes out into Portsmouth Harbor, we climbed
around two real British subs, one of them built around 1900.
Charley is indefatiguable, and I do hope that I manage half as much
does at age 88. But alas, Thursday he flew home to Germany while I
to the Air Forces Escape and Evasion reunion in Albuquerque.
Here I have met incredible American airmen downed behind enemy lines
Europe who successfully escaped capture by the Germans, and some of
French, Dutch, and Belgians who helped them. In one of those
chance encounters I met a B-24 pilot shot down on the same bombing
Bob Sweatt. Ed Miller was in the 93rd Bomb Group, and had a
magnificent story of walking in full leather flight suit past German
soldiers multiple times in rural French villages and towns. Either
one of the luckiest men alive, or hiding in plain sight really does
maybe it was a large dose of both in delightful, comic combination.
Ed met Bob at his first AFEES reunion decades ago simply by choosing
random empty seat - the one next to Bob. In conversation they found
come down on the same run and had even been enjoying occupied Paris
same time while waiting for the opportunity to return back to
In the midst of talking to these fascinating men and women, and
notes with other researchers, the time here in Albuquerque has
too quickly. Today I fly home to San Diego, and Wednesday I can't
see my Old Bold friends.
Until then, with all my fondest greetings,