Tuesday, 16 August 2011

World War Two aircrew training day one...

This is the first entry in my father's journal from the 2nd World War, pictured top left above in one of the Wellington bombers he flew in. An earlier post, Wellington Bomber raid October 1941, narrates all the action pretty much in real time.

Entry 1 - January 7th HARWELL

I hope to be able, in these ensuing pages, to record a few of my impressions during the forthcoming year. Today has not been very productive in so much as we have done nothing.

My literary effort has been overcome by writing a foreword for Johnny's book, which has been bashfully completed. I should like to feel, that, if this book is to be read by any one other than myself (for whom it is primarily intended) they should tolerate it owing to the writer's complete lack of genius and to the environment in which it was conceived.

Harwell is an operational training unit where air crews are polished up for operations and many of us feel that, at the moment, we bear the mark of an early demise. If this is the case I hope that this book will be a close link between me and my closest friends and my parents.

Tonight I am feeling, as usual, fed up and we have expressed our feelings in no undisguised manner by turning our bunk into a beer garden. I have often wished to get to the bottom of the repression the RAF typically describes as 'browned' or 'cheesed'. I think it consists of many subsidiary feelings. Perhaps it is combined with a sense of homesickness and, above all, a sense of the futility of our present position.

Today, tuning the 1082 receiver I listened to a choir of German voices rendering a past song. I am no musician but to me it seemed inordinately beautiful and there swept over me a feeling which is practically impossible to describe. I was suffused by thought that all that was beautiful and worthwhile in this world was being overcome by brute force and not only that but I was subscribing my own effort to overcome them.

I feel in complete harmony with that group of German people, unknown to me, in a new spiritual sphere and the sense of futility is overwhelming. Am I still essentially the pacifist that harangued and argued in 1938? Have I not outgrown the out and out idealism? It seems these questions will probably never be answered and all that I stood for and set my heart on before the war will be wrecked. Could I but forsee the outcome of the next decade and I feel I should be able to die happily. Isn't something to be done for us who languish in despair at the probably fate of this world should we win or lose?

Douglas George Banks 1920 – 1989 written in 1941

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nevell said...

It's wierd seeing this written in a blog - it fits into the form so naturally, it could have been "blogged" yesterday!

Peter Banks said...

Yes, that's what I felt when I started to re-read my dad's journal recently and what prompted me to type it up for posterity...

Best, PB

Tim Abbott said...

This is so moving and so well written. Thank you, and keep them coming - you're sharing a gem here.

Peter Banks said...

Many thanks Tim (A), yes, more to come soon, promise! And there are some amazing entries...

Thanks for bigging it up on your blog too.

Best, PB

Unknown said...

It is so amazing to be reading this journal, as it was actually happening. Your Dad put so much heart into his writing, it is beautifully and sensitively written. Thanks so much for sharing them with us. Heather

Anthony Lavers said...

Shouldn't be starting reading now,as work to do,but couldn't resist just one extract. Heather's comment is absolutely right,of course.It is a beautiful evocation of a moment in a day - I certainly won't say of an ordinary man,after what I've read so far - but perhaps an ordinary day,when the human sensitivity within him makes contact with the humanity in ordinary German people.Just beautiful. I must leave this until later

Siegfried said...

Being a German, stories about World War II always hit a tender spot in my heart. Thanks Peter for sharing your father's journal! While I read it, I immediately had that song of Sting in mind: "I hope the Russians love their children too".

Peter Banks said...

Wie geht es dir Siegfried!

Really appreciate you posting comments here. Please be aware I find much of my father's journal chilling and disturbing, at times I have transcribed his writings with a heavy heart. However, I felt this particular entry was revealing in that when he heard the German choir singing, when learning how to use the 1082 radio system, it emphasised the pointlessness of it all.

Certainly, post war, when I was growing up there was much healing needed between the nations. I trust that has now changed, I have spent some time in your country and have always felt at home and am sure the converse applies too.


Siegfried said...

Hallo Peter!

Your father's job was needed to stop the horror in mind and work by us Germans, although it destroyed our cities in such a cruel way. It is said that the city of Darmstadt, where I live now, had been the major example to test bombing a city before the fire storm over Dresden started. My mother was living near Kiel, home of the German submarine. She told me about the sacking of the German households by British soldiers after the war. But wasn't all that just a reaction to the much more evil work, the Germans did before?

But be sure that there are no bad emotions at all against the British in my heart; forgiveness is such a great gift!

I learn from history that it has always been an error, when people started seperating in mind, instead of understanding each other. That is what teaches my also to react to current movements between christians and other religions. Take a look at Paris these days ...

When Your father wrote these lines he had no idea, how this all would end up. It makes it even more remarkable what he wrote.

Liebe Grüße,

Unknown said...

Hi Peter, great posts thank you - are you aware of these photos of your Dad and his crewmates from 75 (NZ) Squadron days?



I am in touch with the family of one of those crewmates, and can put you in touch.

Please drop me an email at chrisATfoodworksDOTcoDOTnz, thanks!