Friday, 13 December 2013

Weidling's surrender of Berlin

Weidling after his capture
On the 2nd May 1945 General Helmuth Weidling, Commander in chief of the defenders of Berlin gave the following order to the garrison after agreeing to the text with General Chuikov of the Russian Army:

Am 30. April 1945 hat der Führer Selbstmord begangen, und so verlassen die, die Loyalität zu ihm geschworen hatte. Laut Befehl des Führers, würden Sie deutsche Soldaten mussten auf, trotz der Tatsache, dass unsere Munition aufgebraucht ist und trotz der allgemeinen Situation, die unsere weiteren Widerstand sinnlos macht Berlin für die Bekämpfung gehen haben. Ich bestelle die sofortige Einstellung des Widerstands. WEIDLING, General der Artillerie, der ehemalige Bezirkskommandant in der Verteidigung von Berlin

On 30 April 1945, the Führer committed suicide, and thus abandoned those who had sworn loyalty to him. According to the Führer's order, you German soldiers would have had to go on fighting for Berlin despite the fact that our ammunition has run out and despite the general situation which makes our further resistance meaningless. I order the immediate cessation of resistance. WEIDLING, General of Artillery, former District Commandant in the defence of Berlin

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Drill Hall massacre in Chatham

A Gothat G.IV in flight
The four biplanes droned through the night sky at sixty miles an hour. The twelve men were a long way from home huddled in their open cockpits and gun turrets talking amongst themselves and keeping a sharp look out for enemy aircraft. The fifith aeroplane had been forced to return to base but the remainder continued on.

Below they passed over an island and suddenly the target became clear. Around the corner of the estuary lay the town of Chatham full lit in the night sky. The pilots changed course and brought the four Gotha G.IV bombers of Kagohl 3 (Kampfgeschwader der Obersten Heeresleitung 3 or commonly known as England Geschwader.) around to face the city and the Naval dock yard. They had crossed the coast at Westgate at 22:35 on the 3rd September and began their approach on Chatham and Gillingham at 22:50.

Following the defeat of the Zeppelins the German Luftreitkrafe began using the new Gotha G.IV bombers for operations against England during the day but wih improving British defences they were forced to swithc to night raids for the first time. This was the England Geschwader's first sortie at night and was totally unexpected.

Security in Chatham had become rather lax. There was no blackout and earlier that day there had been an air raid drill. Local cinemas had shown a news flash that said there would be a further drill later in the day with the Anti Aircraft artillery being fired. Now as the aircraft rumbled over head and the anti Aircraft batteries began to fire people rushed out to get a glimpse of the action and the artillery opening up as part of a drill whilst Soldiers tried to clear the streets.

The Drill hall today
The Germans passed over the Dockyard and the barracks of HMS Pembroke and released two 50kg bombs. Down below them somewhere in the Dock yard was Able Seaman Henry Sams (my Great Grandfather's younger brother) who had been serving on HMS Vanguard up until the end of May.

Due to an outbreak of Meningitus and the ensuing quarintine of the barracks quarters a large number of sailors were sleeping in the Drill hall, as was a group of Sailors from HMS Vanguard who had been rostered to return to the ship before her sinking in July and were awaiting reassignment, this group could have included young Henry Sams.

The 500kg bomb fell through the glass roof and exploded amongst the sleeping men and the blast tore through the open space but due to the Concrete floor mostly redirected up towards the ceiling shattering the glass roof and sending a shower of deadly glass shards down into the men.

Sidney A Moseley RNVR, who was the assistant Mapymaster wrote the following description;

I heard the noise of gun fire and bomb-dropping, but we had grown accustomed to such music, and I did not trouble to stir. In a few minutes, however, a steward came to infrom me that "They were over the building and had dropped a bomb."! Officers, he said, were ordered below.

That bomb, you remember, was one of the few Hun Bull's-eyes. It fell on the top of the men's quarters and killed a large number of the fellows whom I had seen drilling a few hours previously. The Huns were still above the building when I went across to the drill-hall. In the semi-darkness the scenes were weird and soul-piercing But waht was so stirring to watch was the whole-hearted contempt the surviving sailors had for the presence of danger. I believe I was the first officer present, but there was no need to give orders to such men. They worked expeditiously and carefully, removing the debris of broken glass and timber, the dead and the dying bodies of their comrades. [1]

Another witness, Ordinary Seaman Fredrick Turpin described:

It was a gruesome task. Everywhere we found bodies in a terribly mutilated condition. Some with arms and legs missing and some headless. The gathering up of the dismembered limbs turned one sick….It was a terrible affair and the old sailors, who had been in 
several battles, said they would rather be in ten Jutlands or Heligolands than go through another raid such as this. [2]
The falling quarter inch thick glass had caused many injuries including decapitations and severing of limbs as well as puncture wounds all the way down to minor lacerations. The clearance operation took until the following afternoon and lasted 17 hours, but only those with thick soled boots could work amongst the shards to rescue the injured or the dead. The wounded were taken to the Naval hospital (now Medway maritime) but the sheer number of injuries stretched the medical facilities available to the absolute limit, they were not prepared for such a disaster.

 A total of 131 men were killed and a further 90 were wounded by the end of it.
The bombers had scored a lucky hit, their bomb aiming skills were limited and their equipment exceptionally basic. The flight of Gothas also dropped bombs on Maxwell road (which killed another sailor and the blast knocked his friend and their female companions over), Maritime hospital's grounds, the Woodlands Navy cemetery, on the lines, Brompton school (which was badly damaged), Marlborough road, York avenue, College avenue and a house in May road. There was a fear that poison gas had been dropped as well as a noxious smell filled the air around May road but thankfully it was nothing. However the death toll was the highest caused by any air raid and was the highest that the UK would see until the Luftwaffe returned to the skies above Kent and London some twenty three years later, but even then this was the highest death toll the Medway towns have ever seen.

The RFC scrambled several aircraft to attempt to intercept the enemy aircraft but with a lack of any kind of detection system they were flying blind and all four aircraft returned to their bases in Belgium unaware of the devastation they had caused.

Leading Stoker W A Osborne's grave at Woodlands
Ninety eight of the killed were intered in Woodland's road cemetery in a convoy of vehicles draped in Union Jacks and followed by a procession of men who provided them will a full military burial on the 6th September 1917. Their graves can still be visited today and can be found scattered amongst the many other war dead and those killed on HMS Bulwark.

The names of the 130 are as follows:

A Goddard           J Hammond       W Wakeford
R Mayes              S Hare                E Walsh
J Abrey                F Hartnall          W Walton
J Anderson          T Haville            J Warne
R Anderson         A Haxell             H Wate
H Barker             A Hay                  G Watson
H Bavister           J Henderson       G Wooton
J Beha                 H Hill                  W Gillett
G Bell                 E Hoskins
F Benmore         A Humphrey
J Benson             J Jackson
W Berwick         S Jackson
W Beverley        H Jones
H Bird                A Kennedy
G Boyd              A Langridge
J Brightwell       C Lemmon
M Brown           W Littlewood
W Bullock         J Loose
Engineerman T S Cropley's grave at Woodlands
G Butler            F Lutitt
F Cable             S Macey
A Cairns           A Macgregor
T Carmichael   N Mackay
C Cash              J McGregor

A Charlton       A McLean
R Clark            G McLoughlin
W Clark           J McNish
C Clarke          P Moore
J Clements      A Moss
R Collett         J Nicholson
K Cooke         W Nolan
B Corker         W Osborne
F Crocker        F Parker
T Cropley       W Payne
W Curd           R Peters
F Diver           A Purton
R Ellis            J Raven
A Finlay         F Reyner
L Fish            S Rigden
R Franklin     H Sharp
T Ginn           W Shirley
A Gladwell    G Simpson
H Godden      R Smith
W Godwin     W Smith
N Gooby        W Steed
C Goodsell    A Sutherland
G Gunn         J Venney
S Hadley       A Voice

(Source of names

It is unknown how much of this was experienced by young Henry Sams or whether he was in the Drill hall on that fateful evening. He survived the war and served in the Navy into the mid 1920s, mainly around Chatham and Sheppey in training establishments and on Submarines as well as HMS Erebus when it sailed to Arkangel and shelled Bolshevik positions in the White Sea... That however is another story.

Other links:

Also; The Gillingham Chronicles by R. A Baldwin, Baggins books, Rochester, 1998.

Photographs (except the Gotha which was taken from Google) were taken by the author.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Bomben Auf Rochester

Short Stirling bomber like those built at Rochester
Rochester airport, now a familiar landmark, was built in 1933 and Pobjoy opened a factory on the site for
the production of Short aircraft not long afterwards.

Although the 23rd RAF training school was at Rochester from formation (until September 1939 and the outbreak of the war,) there were no active fighter or bomber squadrons on the civilian field. The military fields of RAF Detling, Gravesend and Eastchurch were nearby though and the Luftwaffe intelligence often confused military and civilian fields.

Pre-war the German civil airline,  Lufthansa, flying Heinkel He 111 and Junkers Ju 52 aircraft with covert reconnaissance cameras flew over much of Europe, including the UK photographing many airfields and facilities for the Abwehr. When war started the OKL (the Luftwaffe high command) had photographs of the Shorts factory and the Davis estate which they believed was part of the same facility.

As the Battle of Britain moved to the second phase, the attack on the RAF's airfields, an AufklGr ObdL reconnaissance aircraft flew over the airfield and took another round of photos to update the previous ones.

The first raid was chalked for the 13th August, Adlertag but the Stukas of Luftflotte 2 failed to find the target and instead attacked areas across Kent and Detling airfield.

The airfield had night time defences to stop a Paratroop landing with large wooden poles and anti glider defences that were dragged out every evening. In the day time the local Home guard sat in earthen slit trenches armed with nothing more than rifles whilst two scanned the skies with binoculars. Though nearby palmerston forts at Borstal, Bridgewood and Horsted were fitted witg up to date AA Batteries. 

The complex was on constant standby and the evacuation of the factory happened so often that work was constantly slowed down and almost trickled to a halt.

On the 15th a lone Junkers Ju88 A1 of 5(f) 122 was lost in the Thames estuary having flown another Recon flight over Rochester, its crew were listed as MIA. It was an ominous sign.
Dornier Do.17z bombers of the Luftwaffe

Kampfgeschwader 3 began its attacks on north Kent hitting coastal targets later that day. A large formation of 100 planes crossed the channel between Dover and Deal and proceeded to targets along the coast.

 John Chinery of the local Home guard spotted sixteen Dornier Do 17z bombers descending from the North east at 10,000 ft diving fast and dropping a mixture of high explosives and incendiary bombs. They passed low before wheeling over the residential estate and completing a loop and heading back towards the estuary.

As they approached, scaffold workers nearly threw themselves down their ladders and ropes before fleeing towards their shelters.

The raid took a matter of minutes but  300 bombs had fallen.

The damaged hanger and Stirling aircraft
The damage was extensive. The parts stores were aflame, number 11 Stirling on the runway was torn apart as well as five in the assembly hanger, the office block was also damaged, hangers had lost their roofs but fortunately the main supporting beam did not collapse which saved the rest of the aircraft in the factory. The staff canteen roof had also been destroyed with a direct hit on the car park which did no damage any of the parked cars. The Davis estate suffered five demolished houses and more damaged with a total of 9 injuries but no fatalities.[1]

There was one casualty in the factory. A fireman who was sheltering in a Fire watcher's Bell shelter (generally considered to be fairly safe and constructed of steel) was killed by shrapnel that passed through the wall.

I've consulted the roll of honour for Kent Fire service but have not found any serving Fire officer who died that day so he may have been an employee of Shorts or an auxiliary.

The Stirlings that were lost were;

No.N3645, N3647, N3648, N3649, N3650 and N3651

KG 3. was engaged by 54 Squadron from Hornchurch (Spitfires) and although I am unable to determine which Staffel took part in the raid on Rochester the following aircraft were lost that day.

(Off Reculver) Lt. Kringler's Dornier was brough down by AA fire and RAF fighters. Uffz Depenheuer, Gfr Rohleder and the Kringler were KIA but Obgfr Duda was made a POW.

Same area; Lt. Wlakter, Fw Schauer and Uffz Kirchubel and Pieronczyk were all captured.

A further five planes were lost (four over the estuary and one off Dover) from the unit as they hit targets from Margate, Sheppey, Chatham and Rochester airport unfortunatly the KAHRS had not been able to identify them.

54 Squadron's diary reads thusly;

54 Squadron Operational Record Book – 15 August
4 patrols during the day resulted in 2 clashes with the enemy. By now the order “patrol behind Dover and engage enemy fighters” is becoming as familiar as the old convoy patrols.
Flt Lt Deere claiming a Me 109 destroyed (11:18 hours).

18:28 hours: Flt Lt Deere 2 He 113s. 1 probable was gained for the loss of Flt Lt Deere’s machine when he was shot down in Kent after a flight which has taken him (unwittingly) over Calais Marck! He suffered only a sprained wrist after a parachute jump at 15,000 feet.

On the 4th September the Luftwaffe returned for a second raid. Many workers, suffering from stress and jitters caused by the first raid and the ensuing drills decided to flee to the nearby woods rather than the shelters. Unfortunately the Luftwaffe's incendiary bombs scattered into these very woods, thankfully there was only one fatality and two injuries. The Davis estate took another pounding as did housing around Borstal with six houses completly demolished causing eight injuries.

The damage from the first raid and the prioritisation of Fighter construction meant that Shorts could only think about saving what they could from the wreckage and redistributing Stirling production to other facilities including the underground works at Strood, factories in Swindon and as far away as Ireland. By the following year however, with the skies relatively clear of Luftwaffe action, Shorts returned to the site and began construction of the heavy bombers again.


Aircraft Casualties in Kent Part I, Compiled by G. Baxter, K. Owen, P. Baldock, Published by Meresborough Books, Rainham, 1990.

Kent Airfields, Kent Aviation Historical Research Society (KAHRS), "Rochester" P. MacDougall, Meresborough books, Rainham, 1992

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

General Lee's report on Gettysburg 1863

After the battle of Gettysburg General Robert E. Lee the Commander of the Confederate Army wrote this letter to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

Headquarters army of Northern Virginia

Near Gettysburg, P.A, July 4 1863

Mr President: After the rear of the army had crossed the Potomac, the leading corps, under General Ewell, pushed on to Carlisle and York, passing through Chambersburg. The other two corps closed up at the latter place, and soon afterward intelligence was recieved that the army of General Hooker was advancing. Our whole force was directed to concentrate at Gettysburg, and the corps of Generals Ewell and A. P. Hill reached that place on the 1st July, the former advancing from Carlisle and the latter from Chambersburg.

The two leading divisions of these corps, under reaching the vicinity of Gettysburg, found the enemy, and attacked him, driving him from the town, which was occupied by our troops. The enemy's loss was heavy, including more than 4,000 prisoners. He took up a strong position in rear of the town, which he immediately began to fortify, and where his re-enforcements joined him.

on the 2nd July, Longstreet's corps, with the exception of one division, having arrived, we attempted to dislodge the enemy, and , though we gained some ground, we were unable to get possession of his position. The next day, the third division of General Longstreet having come up, a more extensive attack was made. The works on the enemy's extreme right and left were taken, but his numbers were so great and his position so commanding, that our troops were compelled to relinquish their advantage and retire.

It is believed that the enemy suffered severely in these operations, but our own loss has not been light.

General Barksdale is killed. Generals Garnett and Armistead are missing, and it is feared  that the former is killed and the latter wounded and a prisoner. Generals Pender and Trimble are wounded in the leg, General Hood in the arm, and General Heth slightly in the head. General Kemper, it is feared, is moortally wounded. Our losses embrace many other valuable officers and men.

General Wade Hampton was severely wounded in a different action in which the cavalry was engaged yesterday. Very respectifully, your obedient servant,

R. E Lee,

Saturday, 31 August 2013

George Bone and the British Army 1889-1899

British Soldiers in Peace time uniforms 1870s or 1880s
On the 25th March 1889 in Gosport, George William Bone joined the Regular British Army as a Royal Engineer as he had a trade as a Wheelwright and having served in the South Hampshire Volunteers.

The Army was in a state of evolution and was far from its' completion. Indeed only lessons learnt during the Boer War and again on the bloody fields of France did they finally remove some of the notions and tactics that had been used so effectively against Napoleon a century before.

All Royal Engineers are trained as Infantry men and able to fire their Lee Metford (later Lee Enfield) rifles and cope under fire. They would also be given further training in their field of expertise as well as more general duties and skills.

The Uniforms had moved away from the traditional scarlet towards Khaki which was unofficially adopted in India in the 1950s but spread to General use after the battle of Gennis in 1885. A double breasted tunic was issued and was to be maintained by the soldier. Failure to do so would have led to disciplinary and pay stoppages for wear and tear.

For head gear the home regiments were issued helmets similar to the Prussian Pickelhaube in black with the regimental badge at the front. For active service in Africa and India the more practical Pith helmet was issued. However this was uniformly white and was obviously fairly visible over a distance and so soldiers were allowed to dye them. This was generally done with Tea but by the advent of the Boer War a cloth cover was provided for the helmet.

Gear was to be carried in pouches on belts and valise to distribute weight and allow soldiers to move more freely in combat with the pack as the standard kit carrier being relegated to marches and advances but not necessarily needed on the battlefield.

The Lee-Metford rifle was the standard rifle used by the British soldiers in the 1880s and was used up to and during the Second Boer War. The rifle used the Lee patterned rear locking bolt system which made clearing the breach easier than the predecessor the Henry-Martini as the bolt was above the trigger so the rifleman only had to move his hand a small way before pulling it to 60 degrees rather than the Mauser's 90. This should make the rifle more user friendly and up the rate of fire of the average infantryman. Indeed it had a rate of fire of 20 rounds a minute with the record being 38 aimed shots in a minute! This is despite having a magazine of 10 rounds and would require reloading the bullets which were either individually mounted or on strips of five .303 rounds.

This would have been the rifle George was trained with and used for most of his military career. It was, however being phased out by the time of the Boer war as it was still using black-powder loaded cartridges giving off smoke when fired. As the Metford could not be remodelled for cordite loaded cartridges without regular re-rifling and so an alternative was sought out.

The Lee Enfield rifle was basically the same pattern as the Lee Metford but with a squarer shaped rifling which had a greater durability with the increased heat and pressure of the cordite's reaction.

Both rifles were incredibly accurate over a range of 800 yards for the Lee-Metford and 550 for the Enfield and up to 1800 and 3000 respectively.

British troops were trained to volley fire in tight formation which could provide a deadly wall of fire. This had been standard drill for two centuries and had beaten many an advancing army. At the beginning of the First World War the German army believed that one British unit was solely armed with machine guns when in fact they were just well drilled rifle men armed with Enfields. Independent fire was not taught and soldiers were generally only allowed to fire when told to by their officers thus lowering the rapidity of shot. British officers were also prone to ordering their men to fix bayonets at the beginning of battles thus adding extra weight to the end of the barrel which severely affected their aims. Further to that they were trained to fight in close order infantry formations. These tactics worked against colonial armies at Omdurman where the enemy was lightly armed and would charge en-masse but the Boer would soon prove that an entrenched enemy with modern field guns and with trained marksmen would make short work of these formations.

Barracks life was fairly repetitive with early morning drill and inspection. As a wheelwright he would have been kept fairly busy with maintenance and training of young sappers in how to carry out the trade. As a Corporal he would have aided a Sargent in command of a squad.

Unfortunately, at the moment I know little of his military career beyond the Boer War and although it
Corporal Bone, Second from left, Second row
is possible he had served in India or Africa in any number of colonial conflicts I cannot say for certain.

I have been sent some pictures from his life, which I was exceptionally grateful for, including a picture of him in the Royal Engineer's champion tug of war (Catch weight?) team from Ireland 1897-8.

In 1898 he married Mary Ann Williams in St Mary's Church and together they moved to the Curragh Camp in County Kildare, Ireland where they would have lived in the married quarters or in the communal Engineers barracks. At the Curragh the divisions were hurriedly trained and amassed for the rising trouble in Africa.

As the tensions grew George found himself on a boat bound for South Africa as part of the defencive force to protect British interests.

This was a War that for the fighting man held little interest.Where as World War One would attract a jingoistic attitude, this was another Colonial bush fire to stamp out as far as they were concerned.

Whilst some were no doubt moved by the plight of the Uitlanders or that some of the younger lads were excited to see action I cannot help but think that George had an eye on the horizon and his wife and young son who was born in January 1899. Family myth says that he never saw his boy Albert born but at the moment but he did and didn't depart to South Africa until the summer of that year. It was a long cruise south taking several weeks in which they would carry out ship duties and have morning inspections and maintain their kit. I can't help but think that in the quite or boring times he may have had thoughts about what they would face in Africa, the war, the battles and duty mixed with feelings of regret at leaving Mary and his boy, that he barely knew behind in Ireland.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

SMS Emden and the shelling of Madras

SMS Emden
It was a normal September's evening in the harbour of Madras. Even though the First World War was already tearing Europe apart there were no Central Powers forces to worry about in the far east save for the SMS Emden which was out in the Indian ocean somewhere but her presence was not widely known and she was harrassing merchant shipping,  it was of no concern here.

At about 21.30 a four stacked light cruiser drifted in, her silhoutte looked like a Royal Navy Cruiser like HMS Yarmouth and she coasted lazily into the centre of the harbour.

Then the shooting started.

The German Light Cruiser SMS Emden was the last vessel of the German East Asia squadron in the theatre. Admiral Von Spee had taken the rest towards the Atlantic and the main German high seas fleet. Korvettenkapitan von Mueller had began raiding allied shipping to cause confusion and chaos. With a dummy smoke stack errected and the colours of the Royal Navy Emden looked like HMS Yarmouth, she would quickly swap colours, fire a warning shot and order them to "Stop engines, no wireless."

Now, in a daring move Kapitan von Mueller led his vessel into Madras harbour. Fire was concentrated on the Burmah oil companies storage tanks and after thrity well placed shells they burst into flames lighting up the night's sky.

The German raider's guns were turned on to the vessels in the harbour and the city itself. One vessel was sunk with the death of five crew and twenty six injured. Within half an hour of the attack commencing Emden, already coming under fire from the shore batteries, turned and left the port having expended 125 rounds of ammunition.

The material losses were not great but in her wake Emden left chaos.

Around 20,000 people fled the city [1] fearing that Emden may return with reinforcements, even the governor of Madras did not come to the city until 25th September (three days after the raid) after assurances the Germans had left and even then he did not linger.[2]

The British press did not want to admit that they had lost Emden and that she was still roaming the Indian Ocean unhindered. They also didn't want to publicise how easily a German warship had entered a British port and caused damage.

Their silence did nothing to belay fears of the populous and the exodus continued. Emden became synonymous with fear and cunning, mothers in Ceylon would tell naughty children that the Emden bogeyman would get them. Even today the word Emdena means someone who is crafty and sneaky.

The people of Madras always kept an eye on the horizon for the German's return and did not breathe a sigh of relief until news of her fate reached them on the 11th November 1914, but that is another story...

Friday, 9 August 2013

Who do you think you are?

George W. Bone's enlistment papers in 1889
Wednesday night I saw the episode of the BBCs Who do you think you are? featuring Minnie Driver.

It followed her attempts to find out more about her family and especially her father who had never spoken of his war service. He had, in fact been decorated for his conduct at the Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1939.

Family history is not always as fascinating.

Sometimes you will find generations of Agricultural labourers. There are some nuggets that really catch your eye - or someone who was involved with a major event. Unfortunately this is fairly rare.

Often all you will be able to gain is a snap shot of life from a census, get an idea of age, occupation, dates of birth/marriage/death etc. you can pad it out with some research into trades. For example my Second Great Grand Aunt Ada Williams was a machinist at Chatham Dockyard Ropery according to the 1911 census.

A visit to the site or reading up on the subject would give you a clearer idea of what life entailed for her.

As someone with a fascination for military history I find myself looking at the Soldiers and Sailors in the family - two of whom paid the ultimate price and died for their nation. My Great Great Grandfather George W. Bone who fell in the Boer War and my Great grand uncle Donald Homersham who was killed on the Somme in October 1916 three months after being awarded the military medal for bravery.

When reading around the subject of trench warfare and of the hot bloody fields of South Africa it is easy to draw comparisons to the lives of your family and wonder if they felt the same way or saw the same things.

Despite the frustratingly small amount that can be available for lower class families through history, there is a lot for you to find out, more than you would think. With all the genealogy websites out there it is really easy to get started and to map your family tree out.

As a starting tip I'd suggest you try and get as much starting information is possible such as your parents, grandparents and if possible great grand parents to give you as good a starting position as possible. As Censuses have a 100 year shelving period so the most recent you can get hold of is the 1911 and goes back as far as 1841. Beyond this you have to rely on Parish records for christenings, marriages and funerals which creates a sort of glass ceiling that only those with time and money to go in search of these records.

The other glass ceiling is the pay wall that plagues users. I've tried to do as much for free as possible but I'm hitting the pay wall and hitting it hard. There are a couple of documents that will clear up a lot of questions and the question of how George William Bone died during the Boer War. I do find it fairly frustrating but there it is.

It is something that is fascinating and is a worthwhile thing for at least one person in the family should undertake at some point. It is a sad fact that so much information about our ancestors are lost and anecdotes only last a few generations. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

History is all around us

Disused toilets near the Strand in Gillingham
History is a very important subject. It tells us where we've come from, where we have been and what we have done. In some circumstances it can even dictate where we are going.

History is the sum of human experience. If it is not learnt from then you are doomed to repeat it.

History is made by asking five questions; when, where, who, how and why?

Often we know four of the five but one is always a source of contention.

We know when the battle of little bighorn started, we know who led each side,  we know roughly where from the bodies discovered afterwards, we know why but we do not know how Custer's wing conducted itself or how it was defeated.

The truth will always be elusive and open to conjecture.

Local history is something that is all around us, you can't miss it. Not just the castles and cathedrals but also in other areas. The out houses behind the old Chatham Post office is clearly a stable for the stage coaches of old, plaques on houses with dates of construction, grave stones, blue plaques, missing houses in streets - it is all there.

Ever noticed that Gillingham high street has a road like layout with paving slabs on walkways along the side and a wide flat area in the centre? It is where the old tram lines used to run through the town.

You may think that nothing ever happens in the Medway towns but if you scratch the surface we have war, crime, pestilence, famine, death and a role in national and global history. There is something for everyone even if it is one thing that makes you go "huh!"

So how can you get involved or read more?

Well there are many good books in the local libraries any of the book shops in Rochester especially Baggins'.

There is also online resources both amateur and professional. You can check out Medway City ark, The kenthistoryforum and many more - just ask Google a question and the answer will present itself.

These are our towns, they are something to be proud of and generations of people have lived here and made a rich tapestry of events that is fascinating if you but take the time to look into it.

Not into Local stuff - why not take a look at your family? Lots of people get into it to see if they can replicate what they have seen on Who do you think you are? but are often disappointed. occasionally there is something really awesome that makes you think wow other times there is a lot of repetitiveness. It is worth looking into, even if you just go a few generations. There are plenty of Genealogy websites that will help you (for free to a point.) so why not?

History is not the reserve of dusty old professors who do not see the light beyond their libraries, it belongs to all of us and it is waiting for us to grab hold of it.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Guard down! The death of Officer Stites and the Battle of Alcatraz

The 2nd May 1946 was the beginning of a dark and bloody episode in the history of Alcatraz prison, an episode that saw two guards and three prisoners killed and a further two inmates executed for their role in the murder of Correctional Officer William A. Miller.

The escape plan itself was fairly straight forward and would have been a masterful move had it worked.
Officer Miller was over seeing Bernard Coy, who was sweeping the floor when he was called over to the c block door by Marvin Hubbard who had just returned from cleaning the kitchen areas. Whilst Miller was carrying out a check on Hubbard to make sure he hadn't taken any contraband he was attacked from behind by Coy and between the two men they restrained Miller, grabbed his keys and released Joe Cretzer and Clarence Carnes. Coy then scaled up to the gun gallery with a home made tool to spread the bars at a weak spot. Having greased himself up and starved himself for a few weeks Coy was able to slip in and lay in wait for officer Burch. After surprising Burch on his return he restrained him and lowered his Colt M1911, clubs and keys down to the others below.

Quickly moving on D-block they surprised Officer Cecil Corwin and forced him at gunpoint to release a dozen more prisoners, many of whom returned to their cells not wanting to be part of the escape attempt. However Sam Shockely and Miran Thompson joined the attempt.

The plan was to break out of the main doors using the guards keys and then using the guards as cover move to the launch (which docked between 14:00-30 daily) and head for the freedom of the mainland.
Luckily Miller had held on to the yard key so as not to disturb the Gun gallery guard, Burch, whilst he was on lunch, when they realised what was happening Miller quickly dropped the yard key down the toilet in the cell they were being held in. In the confusion of what keys to use the prisoners managed to jam the lock - the escape attempt had all but failed.

There were now up to nine guards held captive in cells as they each began rotation and suddenly found themselves in the Prisoner held block. In frustration Coy opened fire on guards in a nearby watch tower wounding one, he also bumped into assistant Warden Ed Miller who was carrying out a reconnaissance in force and fired on him too.

The alarm was raised and the area locked down.

Back in the block, Thompson and Shockely urged Cretzer to open fire with a Colt pistol on the guards so that they wouldn't be able to testify who was in the escape attempt. He openned fire in the enclosed space and it resulted in five injuries (three serious) including William Miller who would later die from those injuries.
At 18:00 another armed reconnaissance was organised under Lieutenant Bergen. The aim was to break into the gun gallery and gain the upper ground over the Prisoners and force them to surrender or be killed in a shoot out.

One of the guards was Senior Corrections officer Harold Porter Stites.

Stites had been born in Kansas on 3rd June 1897 and is recorded as living in Topeka Ward 2, Shawnee, Kansas on the 1900 Federal census with his father F. Herbert Stites, his mother Jennie and brother Fred.
By the 1910 census his father had died but he had a brother Edwin and Herbert.

He signed up to the Army for World War One (on 5th June 1918) where according to his Draft card he had been working as a Head waiter and was described as having blue eyes and brown hair.
His grave stone showed that he served as a Private First Class in 27th Infantry division which took part in the bloody fighting in France breaking the Hindenberg line.

Stites with his daughter Thelma

Post war he moved to Levenworth and began working as a prison guard. He married Bessie Etue on 21st November 1925 and they settled to having a family. By the 1940 census the family were living in Los Angeles and he had a Daughter Thelma (b. 1927), James (b. 1929), Robert (b. 1931) and Herbert (b. 1937). It is strange that the family lived in LA rather than on Alcatraz island itself. The guards worked six days straight with one day off and their families lived in close proximity. Even the Guard's family's laundry was washed and repaired by the Prisoners. According to Anna Thuman's book (see references) if a guard was well liked, like her step father Walter Donnington, then you could expect your belongings to be taken care of but if you were disliked then you could find items missing, ripped or buttons torn off.

 One can only assume that Stites didn't want his family trapped on the island should something happen. After all at Levenworth the prisoners would escape and disappear, on Alcatraz they could attack the guard's families, take hostages or even commit murder with relative impunity which was a constant worry of the families when an escape attempt was under way.

On 23rd of May 1938, senior Corrections officer Royal C. Cline was beaten to death by three convicts who then escaped onto the roof of the industries building. They attempted to take the guard tower on the roof and threw scrap metal at the guard on duty. Officer Stites returned fire with a rifle and the .45 revolver. Inmates Franklin and Lucas were injured but Limerick was mortally wounded in the head and died soon afterwards. Stites was called into an enquiry into the death of Limerick but was eventually exonerated. It makes sense that in the wake of this that they would have been moved off the island and Stites reassigned for the duration. This would tie into the 1940 census result showing the family in LA.

Now he was part of the team that charged C-block gun gallery. They laid down heavy suppressing fire whilst other guards tried to free Burch. The prisoners returned fire causing the guards, who were trapped in the confined space of the gallery, to take wounds. Stites was hit in the back and shouted out "I'm hit." He was quickly pulled to safety with the other wounded and the assault abandoned but was pronounced killed by an unknown assailant.

The US Marines were called in to settle the siege. At 19:00 another rescue attempt was mounted and unarmed guards rushed D-block under heavy cover from Gun galleries. One was wounded but they managed to recover the wounded guards and got them out to safety. When all was clear the barrage began. Holes were drilled in the roof of the block and grenades dropped down to corner the prisoners in a Utility corridor. By the next day they telephoned Warden Johnston to broker a deal but were told unconditional surrender was the only option. Later that day a guard on patrol was shot at and the barrage began again until 21:00. The following day armed groups of guards would sporadically run through the corridor and fire off rounds. At 9.40 the bodies of Cretzer, Coy and Hubbard were discovered and the siege was lifted.

Senior Corrections officer Harold Porter Stites was buried at Golden Gate national cemetery, San Bruno, California on 5th July. His daughter Thelma gave birth to his first grandchild the following year. His wife Bessie is buried in the same plot.

For their part in the murder of Officer Miller, Shockley and Thompson were sentenced to death together in the San Quentin Gas chamber and Clarence Carnes was sentenced to life as he was only 19 and too young to stop them from killing Miller.

References: For an overview. For details of his grave and death. on the 1938 breakout attempt on the death of Stites

Census' information from and the 1940 census here.

A Brief History of Alcatraz by the US Department of Justice, Kindle edition

Alcatraz School girl; A memoir my life on the Rock, Anna Thumann, Kindle edition

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The last stand of Inge Dombrowski

Yelena Zelenskaya portraying Inge in "Downfall"

As the Third Reich collapsed and the Red army cut through the German heartlands horror stories drifted west and filled the civilian population with dread.

The territory of East Prussia had been mauled by the advancing Russians. Civilians had been murdered, the weak, elderly, women and children. Women were gang raped by whole squads of Russian soldiers others raped to death. POWs were like wise shot, tortured or marched off to the East never to be seen again.

The Wehrmacht couldn't protect the civilians, either they were too busy fighting for their lives or using their arms to steal transport west or food. The organs of the state were similarly wreaking vengeance upon those who were seen as traitors or trying to save their own wretched hides and ill-gotten loot.

Scarily, these horror stories were true.

Anarchy and fear shook Germany to its very core. Many fled the red tide as it swept west. Others wouldn't flee preferring to fight on to buy the others time or to preserve Germany. Many could not leave for fear of retribution, lack of transport, physical inability or because they'd heard of refugees being murdered on the road or shot up by Russian aircraft.

The home front had gotten all the more desperate as time went by. As men of fighting age were quickly issued Karbiners, MP-40 or Panzerfausts and pushed towards the lines so the elderly, young boys and even young girls of the Deutsche Bunde Mädel filled in the gaps on second line positions. This included aiding the similarly aged Luftwaffe Flakhelfer.

As the Air war turned against the Luftwaffe in the skies above Germany's cities priorities for defence turned to Anti Aircraft guns over fighters. Great Flak towers were constructed and batteries of 88 mm guns were deployed. The 88 was a superb AA gun with the added bonus that it was mobile and could punch a hole through a medium tank quite easily. Like they had been on the front the 88s were deployed in the streets of Berlin at choke points to hold back the tide of Russian armoured vehicles and their barrels lowered.

In the centre of this storm and grim defenders was a teenage girl, Inge Dombrowski, a member of the Deutsche Bunde Mädel who served in the crew of one of the tank traps. There would have been shortages of ammunition, battle fatigue and somehow the knowledge that the war was coming to a close.

As a young girl, Inge would have been indoctrinated fully into the notions of National Socialism and the three Ks of the female Doctrine; Kinder, Kirche, Kuche. (Chilren, Church and Cooking.) Whether or not she was a strong believer or not can not be confirmed or denied but Nazism as a doctrine would have been drummed into her at school and at the BDM meetings etc.

The stress and the noise would have been horrendous as waves of Russian soldiers probed up the streets with heavy fire from Soviet Artillery regiments being rained down on targets the knowledge that they were only holding and unable to stop the Soviets nagging at them as they kept up a rate of fire on anything that appeared in the street before them never knowing when their last shot would be. The whole defence was an act of futility but with orders from the very top to stand their ground and for the young and indoctrinated, an unswerving belief in the Fuhrer and the promise of secret weapons or relief from the IX army to the south it was carried out. Fear of capture by the Soviets or of execution by the SS or Civilian death squads who roamed the lines looking for "cowards" and "traitors" also kept them at their posts. Boys and girls who were still of school age manning Flak guns against a battle hardened Soviet army - Chuikov's rifles had been in Stalingrad two years before and were baying for vengeance.
The incident of her last stand was shown in Downfall but is referenced though I've only found it in one book so far;  Joachim Fest, Inside Hitler's Bunker, pg 73-74. As the 88s fired until they wore down or were taken out by aircraft or their crews were picked off by snipers and infantry fire the inexperienced crews and young lads began to falter and flee for their lives.

Inge, fearing falling into the hands of the Russians because of the stories from East Prussia and other captured territories and what might happen to her, or like Magda Goebbels she believed in the Reich and Hitler to the extent that she couldn't imagine life in the world with out it and begged her Leutnant to take her life.

He is said to have drawn his Luger and fired then wracked with guilt or afflicted from the same sentiment and delusions of Nazi indoctrination, he also committed suicide.

Inge's death was symptomatic of the chaos of the end of the Reich and the desperate measures many felt they needed to take in the wake of the Soviet advance and the chaos that ensued. It is highly probable that had she fallen into Soviet hands she would have been raped and or killed as was the case for many women civilian and combatant in Berlin and with the fear of the future and not willing for this to be her fate, I can understand her choice in this.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Dornier down at Goodwin!

On the 26th August 1940 the German bomber came to rest on the sea off Deal on the Goodwin sands.
Dornier Do.17z in formation
Her surviving crew struggled free and into the sea praying for rescue as the bomber began to slip beneath the waves.

5K + AR (Werke no. 1160) had been part of the 7th squadron of the 3 bomber wing or 7/KG3 based in Antwerp-Deurne in occupied Belgium.[1] The crew of four were Unteroffizier Reinhard and Ritzel who were listed as Missing, Gefrieter Huhn who was killed and only Feldwebel Essmert was captured.[2] However Historian Chris Goss stated that two crew men were killed (one buried in Holland and One at the German Cemetery in Staffordshire) with two being captured. [3]

The BBC website ( ) has a recreation of the crash. During a raid on the South east of England  (Some of 7 Staffel were chalked to attackk the RAF base at West Malling [4]) others seem to have been raiding the coastal areas such as Margate, Folkestone and Dover around lunch time returning to base at around 12:50. [5] Whatever her target 5K + AR was damaged by fire from an RAF Boulton-Paul Defiant most likely from 264 Squadron which claimed several Do. 17s on 26th August. Fw. Essmert would have brought his bomber down to a low altitude to draw less attention and to use the aircraft's superior low altitude handling to his advantage. Also it meant if he lost power it would be easier to bring in for a crash landing. It was a lost cause though, losing power he was forced to attempt a ditched landing over the Goodwins. The sea isn't an ideal surface to land on and it appears a wing was clipped and it flipped the aircraft which is why she is laying on her back.

So why is this find so important?

The Luftwaffe had three main bombers during the battle of Britain, the ubiquitous Heinkel He 111, the Junkers Ju 88 and the Dornier Do. 17z. Where as the Heinkel and Junkers would continue on as mainstays of the Luftwaffe's Kampflieger the Dornier was gradually retired by late 1941 and replaced by the Dornier Do. 215 and Do. 217 which used similar airframes but were different aircraft altogether. No Do. 17s are known to have survived and the last was scrapped in Finland in the 50s. Most of the Luftwaffe ones were either sold on, scrapped for their raw materials or converted for other uses.

It was one of the first modern bombers to be added to the fledgling Luftwaffe's stables in the mid thirties and was tested extensively in Spain by the Condor Legion. Although she was graceful, very manoeuvrable and her slim lines made her a hard target to hit compared to the bulky Heinkel, her bomb load was lacking as was the range. As the war went on and Luftwaffe strategists had to look at the very real possibility of prolonged fighting on the front with the need to strike further behind static lines rather than impressive high speed low altitude raids. The Ju 88 and He 111 were considered better suited and the Dornier line discontinued.

Parts and bits are held by various museums and collectors but not a complete airframe (minus cockpit glazing and undercarriage doors). Although she is made of Aluminium which degrades very quickly in salt water, it has been buried under the shifting sands which should hopefully have protected it.

As the planned lift occurs this weekend archaeologists and historians hold their breath to see what they will discover in her fuselage.


[1] Aircraft casualties in Kent Part 1; 1939 to 1940, Kent aviation historical research society, Meresborough books, Rainham, 1990 p.39

[2] Ibid.


[4] Aircraft casualties in Kent Part 1, p. 39 entry numbers: 554, 561 and 567 all Dornier Do.17z's of 7/ Kg 3


Other sources:

Jon Lake, The battle of Britain, Amber books, London, 2000

Saturday, 27 April 2013

George Bone early life up to the Boer War

As my research into my Great-great Grandfather George William Bone continues I thought I would
document and share what I have discovered so far about his life leading up to his tragic death.

In the beginning I was handed the attached note by my Grandad (who had married George's Granddaughter Audrey Bone) when I first started working on the family tree.

It was intriguing and I took it very much at face value some twelve years ago and didn't research it. In 2004 I started messing around on Genesreunited and managed to clear up a couple of other details but it has only been in the last couple of months since casually starting on to pass the time that I have discovered the following narritive of his early life.

The Bone family were settled in the village of Westbourne in Sussex where William Bone (b. 1812) was an agricultural worker toiling in the fields a vocation he was joined in by his son Albert (b. 1841).

Albert married Louisa Terry (b. 1845 in West Wittering, Sussex) before 1863 and settled in to West Wittering and started having children.

Bertha (1863), Ann (1864), Edith (1868) and Emily (1870) all appear on the censuses and survive into adulthood. George William Bone was born in 1871 in Westbourne, Sussex and was the first of five boys. Albert (b. 1880), Arthur (b. 1882), Archibald (b. 1884) and Bertram (b. 1887).

The boys all seem to have wanted to better themselves and all learnt a trade. This was probably caused by the shift away from manual agricultural labour during the 19th Century, even Albert senior became a gardener as work in the fields dried up. George was a wheelwright, Arthur a groom, Archie a draper and Bertram a saddler with only Albert being different and becoming a shipping clerk.

Whether through coincidence or not, all the Bone boys joined the army. George joined the Royal Engineers in 1889 as did Albert in 1908, the others joined the Army service corp (Archie in 1900, Arthur in 1901 and Bertram in 1905).

George Signed up on the 25th March 1889 and was issued the army number 23654.

At the time of writing I have little details about his career prior to the Boer War. According to the 1891 census he was aboard a vessel serving as "Crew" in Northumberland.

He ended up at Brompton Barracks in Gillingham, Kent. It was here that he met Mary Ann Williams, possibly through her brother Richard who signed up on 23rd January 1894 and went on to become a sergeant electrician. Mary (b.1878 - 1948) was the second eldest of eleven surviving children (according to the 1911 census, Rebecca, Mary's mother, had had 12 children by her husband Richard, a retired Royal Engineer, Sadly one had died) and they lived at number 9 "Best town." Chatham in 1891. According to the author of Bygone Medway - after an exhaustive search, this is in fact where Hards town Chatham is now.
St Mary's Church circa 1905

Mary and William were married at St Mary's church in Chatham on 22nd March 1898.

War was looming though and regular soldiers were already being gathered to go to South Africa. As a master Wheelwright George would have been invaluable on the vast African Savannah where great convoys of supplies tracking back and forth laden with supplies.

The muster point was the Curragh Camp, County Kildare with his pregnant wife, though the wedding certificate states he was already at Curragh when he married Mary.. According to family myth he never saw his son Albert who was born 25th January 1899 as he had already departed for the Cape. If he had, he would have departed before the rest of the gathered forces who left later in the year. It is conceivable though, as an engineer that he might need to arrive before the fighting line regiments.

His career in Africa though is another story.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Nazism is based on Populism not on the left and right

    By Christopher Sams Ba (hons) PGC
There are many arguments and discussions about where Nazism sat on the political spectrum and the age old belief that Fascism and Nazism were the final expression of the Right is being challenged by historians who point to the Socialist policies and the deep involvement in the state as an expression of the left akin to Stalin’s regime in Russia. Indeed the article by Dr John Ray (here) that I was sent tries to link the two in quite a general way but his arguments can be quite flawed.

Nazism was reactionary rather than a thought out ideology and this was its’ great strength and its’ undoing. It reacted to Versailles, it reacted to the 1929 crash, it reacted to economic growth and it reacted to the calls of total war albeit two years too late. It reacted with whatever means were available to it and it reacted against Communism and the conventional political system controlled by moderate Conservatives, the very people that were perceived to have lost Germany the Great War.
Dr Ray uses this quote from Engels to illustrate that Hitler drew on ideals from the left concerning the rise of the German Empire and the all conquering Teutonic hand:
True, it is a fixed idea with the French that the Rhine is their property, but to this arrogant demand the only reply worthy of the German nation is Arndt’s: “Give back Alsace and Lorraine” For I am of the opinion, perhaps in contrast to many whose standpoint I share in other respects, that the re-conquest of the German speaking left bank of the Rhine is a matter of national honour, and that the Germanisation of a disloyal Holland and of Belgium is a political necessity for us. Shall we let the German Nationality be completely suppressed in these countries while the Slavs are rising ever more powerfully in the East?

It does indeed sound like a Nazi style ideal and is argued to show that Hitler had sympathies with the left. This is of course nonsensical as the author fails to remember that Engels was a German, and the German national pride over the territories of Alsace and Lorraine demanded their return. Germany was a late player on the international scene and as such had not been really involved in the great land grabs for Africa or the Pacific territories and only managed to grab the parts Britain hadn’t been to interested in or in the case of the Caroline islands, bought them from Spain in the aftermath of the American Spanish war. Alsace-Lorraine had been a heavily disputed area of land for generations with both German and French nations laying heavy claims onto it. It is not an alien concept for Engels, as a proud German and Hitler, a German Nationalist politician of Austrian decent, to agree that these territories should be returned to the Vaterland and that fresh territorial gains in Holland and Belgium should be sought. I am sure that you could not label Kaiser Wilhelm II nor any of the officers of the German General staff like Von Moltke a Communist either, yet territorial gains from weaker European nations and the gaining of a Germanic Empire in continental Europe was clearly one of their aims.
 The idea of the rising power of Russia was also not an alien ideal across the whole of Europe. In the wake of the Napoleonic wars many Western nations became concerned by the Russian military might, especially Great Britain who saw her as the next great competitor to her power. The advance of the Czar’s armies and the ease with which he dealt with Napoleon’s grand armies concerned British political thinkers for a whole century. The worry that the Russians could march through the German states or annexe the Balkans and finally gain a warm water port dominated military thought and planning and culminated in the Crimean war. Although an impasse was reached there was always a watchful eye on the Eastern borders of Europe lest the Russian Bear mobilise its armies. Being aware of this does not tie one to any ism in particular; it was just an on going fact within Political and military thought throughout the Nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Dr Ray’s article then moves to focus on Anti-Semitism as a root of all Nazi ideals and again quotes Marx:

Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew – not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money. Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Jewry, would be self-emancipation of our time… we recognize in Jewry, therefore a general present-time-orientated anti social element, an element which through historical development – to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed – has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily dissolve itself. In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Jewry.
Anti-Semitism was also not a wholly Nazi ideal, true it is what it will be remembered for and the Holocaust against all Untermenschen is a blight on Mankind’s collective history as well as Germany’s but it was a pan European ideal. Countries like Latvia, Lithuania even western nations like France and Holland showed support and willingness within elements of the population to rid themselves of “The hated Jew.” The advancing German military found to the Einsatzgruppen’s joy, that towns had murdered the Jewish populations as they reached the city limits or were willing participants in the hunting down and denouncements. Throughout the nineteenth century Anti-Semitism had been very vivid. Ghettos, labels, curtailing of political and individual freedoms – all hall marks of a later displayed by Nazi planners and the Totenkopfverbunde SS. Despite the centuries of the pan-European anti-Semitism it reached fertile ears within Germany from many political backgrounds in the post World War One era because of the perceived betrayal of the Jews. Joseph Chamberlain had stated that British policy was to create Zion for the Jews in Palestine should they win the war and it was perceived that the German Jews stopped giving their support to Germany as a way to bring about British victory. Also, with the collapse of the German economy and industry it appeared that German Jews had done quite well out of the war and ultimately prospered at everyone else’s misery thus reigniting an age old hatred.

Marx and Hitler would have indeed seen eye to eye over the prominence of the Jewish international banks controlled by families like the Rothschild’s and as an anti-capitalist in a time where Industrialist and international capitalists were causing misery to millions of workers across Europe it would have appeared symptomatic of a wider problem. For Hitler and the Nazis it was about the International threat of Jewry and their ultimate plan of world domination and self preservation. The Nazis argued that a German Jew was firstly a Jew and their loyalty was not to the state, which they believed the Jews had betrayed during World War One and this was also crudely coupled to the idea of a Jewish conspiracy and the label of “Profiteers”.
To truly understand the ideas of Nazism you must first look at the ground into which the seed was sewn. Germany had completely collapsed at the end of the First World War, the economy lay in ruins, the people were starving in the grip of the Allied blockade and the German armed forces, who were still very much a capable force in the field and had not suffered the ignominious defeats they would in the Second World War, were forced to surrender with embarrassingly harsh terms meted out at Versailles. The German people did not feel that Germany alone was to blame for starting of war. There were reactionary politics everywhere as working class people blamed the old Conservative elites for dragging Germany into this depression and darkness. The Kaiser abdicated and former nobles lost lands and titles as it was all brought down. Into this mess a fledging workers party was formed – the National socialist workers party, and eventually it was noticed by the German Military Intelligence which was trying to avert overt Communist and Socialist groups. A young Corporal who held the Iron Cross for bravery, Adolf Hitler, was assigned to monitor them. Hitler, like many German servicemen was disillusioned by the state of modern Germany and the betrayal of the fighting forces by the politicians and industrialists. Change was needed to the political and social spectrums. Germany, unlike a pre-war Britain which had, under the Liberal Governments, brought in social reform and the basis of Welfare where as Germany had lagged behind and this had attracted a lot of will for change which was desperately needed. Socialist policies, which were no different to the British Labour party in this period, were exceptionally popular amongst Germans and indeed the working classes across Europe who had to deal with the mess and death caused by Empire building Conservatives, Industrialists and Monarchists and the Liberals who had been the opposition had failed to stop this.
Hitler did not see the Nazis as either Right or Left though and stated in Mein Kampf that:

Today our left-wing politicians in particular are constantly insisting that their craven-hearted and obsequious foreign policy necessarily result from the disarmament of Germany, where as the truth is that this is the policy of traitors […] But the politicians of the Right deserve exactly the same reproach. It was through their miserable cowardice that those ruffians of Jews who came into power in 1918 were able to rob the nation of its arms.
He went on to say that the party was not indeed exclusive to any one faction or class and instead drew from all of them;
From the camp of Bourgeois tradition it takes National resolve, and from the materialism of the Marxist dogma, living, creative socialism.
Hitler redefined socialism so that it was about the social collective, in this case Germany and the German Volk and that the Nazis were basically about making the German equal to every other German citizen and what was best for German citizens. He is quoted, on more than one occasion as saying;
Every hour, of every day you must think of Germany and the German Volk.
Volk is a difficult word to define, loosely it translates as People but it means more than that, it is like the nationality and almost German race as a collective, hence Volkswagen – the car for the people, affordably produced and sold to the people, or the Volksjager fighter jet, built by the people for the people’s benefit and flown by the people rather than by the Luftwaffe.
 Undoubtedly, there were many socialist and left wing ideas used by the Nazis whilst in power. Massive state sponsored mobilisation of workers, the Org-Todt, social programs for workers. There were also right-wing moves as well, such as the abolition of Trade unions, the overtly nationalistic fervour, the Volkisch racial supremacy and belief in uniting all of the German peoples under the one German flag as well as maintaining personal property and big business. There were no collective farms or factories run by Soviets or advised by Commissars in Germany as there were in Russia, it was not until defeat was near that the State took an active role in monitoring and directing production. Big Companies, such as Krupps, Messerschmitt and Porsche were not nationalised, rather they were allowed to carry on business as before which ultimately caused problems during the war as Messerschmitt wasted many resources developing a Four-engine bomber when the project was officially cancelled by the RLM and Feldmarschall Milch. Indeed the Nazi party itself was split between Conservatives under Goring and Himmler and Socialists like Goebbels and the  Strassers who wanted to bring down the capitalist systems and urged strikes.
The National Socialist party had evolved over time as well. In 1918 they were a group of malcontent social reactionaries who wanted change but also a return to the 1914 spirit of Imperial-Military Germany. By 1926 Hitler had to call the Bamberg conference to pull all the groups together and to come up with a final plan of what the party stood for. He argued that the party was based on the Leader and their will and not on a party program. Twenty-five points were agreed and formed the basis of the party’s policy:

1.       One Germany for all Germans.

2.       Equal rights for all German people

3.       All land and territory to be returned for lebensraum

4.       Only a member of the German Race can be a citizen (So Jew/Gypsies etc. are ruled out as citizens.

5.       If you aren’t a citizen, you are a guest in this country and live under legislation for foreigners.

6.       Citizens are the only ones who can determine law and vote.

7.       The State must be changed to allow every citizen a livelihood and if that is not possible then the guests must be asked to leave to make way for the German people.

8.       Immigration into Germany is to be stopped. All those who have arrived since 1914 are to leave immediately.

9.       All citizens have equal rights and obligations.

10.   Every citizen is to work both spiritually and physically

11.   Abolition of unearned incomes and the breaking of debt slavery.

12.   Confiscation of War profits for the state.

13.   Nationalisation of associated businesses

14.   Division of profits of all heavy industry

15.   Expansion of old age welfare.

16.   Healthy Middle class must be encouraged to grow.

17.   Land reform with private lands passing to the public and abolition of taxes on land.

18.   Struggle against those whose activity is injurious to the General interest such as profiteers.

19.   Creation of a Common German Law

20.   State to reconstruct the education program and to give fairer access to the poorer elements for gifted children to university.

21.   Forming a National health, ending child labour, encourage national sports and PE

22.   Abolition of Mercenary troops and form a national army.

23.   Legal opposition to the lies printed in the press and that all members of the press are Citizens.

24.   Religious freedom for all citizens.

25.   A powerful central Reich parliament to bring these reforms into being.
As you can see there are as many right wing policies to do with race and nation mixed with Socialist ideals and changes to make Germany fairer and more open with favour for the working lower and middle classes but there are no real Marxist ideals here. Indeed, as I have already illustrated, nationalisation and the return of war profits did not happen. Modern Political thinkers would describe much of the Nazis welfare and social reform as “Progressive” rather than Socialist as the Nazis wanted those who had come off worst in society, namely the working and middle classes, to be compensated and those who were responsible, the Upper classes, to pay.
Wehrmacht troops parading in Czechoslavkia after absorbtion

As time went by the NSDAP became less radical, even sacrificing its radical street fighters, the SA so as to be taken more seriously by voters. Conservatives like Von Ribbentrop were attracted to this group of radicals who wanted to Modernise Germany but still keep the old ideals of the Pre-war Second Reich.
The key value of Nazism was fighting. When you read Nazi slogans and political papers they are always waging war upon something. War on poverty, war on economic depression, Guns before butter etc. The other factor was evolution and the mightiest vanquishing the weak. This moulded themselves into the Nazi approach to policy and Government. If an existing party or department did not work then create one that would. If the approach to the problem was not working then try something else. The other idea was that Competition was the key to forcing through the best results from departments; this is why there were Nazi sections of state competing with existing ones. For example the Ribbentrop Bureau headed by Joachim Von Ribbentrop versus the German Foreign office headed by Von Neurath. Then there was Military intelligence (Abwehr) headed by Admiral Canarais versus the SS-SD section under Schellenberg and then another proposed by Ribbentrop through the Foreign office! The idea that they would compete to provide better results to problems and court the Fuhrer’s favour only succeeded in wasting time and resources. Hitler was also willing to follow Stalin’s path and drag the state to where he wanted it. The Four Year plan, designed to modernise Germany and sort out the economic mess caused by reparations and the 1929 crash. Seeing the Soviet Five year plan as a blue print to modernise and Communise Russia as a blue print and as a threat, the Nazi Government took immediate steps and dictated where the state MUST be by 1940. Public works, removal of non-citizens to free up space for Germans and the massive industrialisation and mobilisation of Military production including ship building schemes in violation of the London treaty, aircraft manufacture against the Treaty of Versailles which saw a force of some three thousand aircraft built and combat ready by the summer of 1940 and the creation of armoured spear heads. There were also defensive programs like the Siegfried line built employing many workers, both skilled and unskilled by the state within the confines of the Org-Todt. At no point were the companies nationalised only directed and given a completely free hand and whatever resources they needed to achieve the goals. Like everything else Nazi, it was a mish-mash of lots of ideas to reach a goal rather than one political dogma.

This mixing of ideas is probably what gave it such a broad scope of acceptance by Germans from all walks of life. There was something for everyone and the party played to the popular whims and gave the people what they want. My Grandfather, a wide-eyed school boy on an exchange program to pre-war Germany was over awed by how clean the streets were, with no graffiti, no homeless people, no litter and everyone going to work. Of course he wouldn't have seen the undesirables being rounded up and taken to Dachau. Many Germans, before the Gestapo really grew in powers, were happy with the Government that solved their ills and was just the right mix of progressive socialism and older values of Conservativism.
Nazism is a strange example of a Political force with no real spot on the spectrum. Its’ policies, although full of xenophobic and racially Nationalistic bent on waging war also convoluted with progressive left wing policies that were meant to benefit the working classes. Hitler’s party was about solving problems, both perceived and actual, through action and whatever means were necessary. Hitler was not an intellectual, Mein Kampf is not a politically ground breaking manuscript like Mills or Marx, rather a collection of ideas and an attempt to cobble together a train of thought for what the author thought would solve Germany’s problems with his understanding and reactions to Geography, eugenics, race, religion, politics and military matters. Nazism died out for a reason and that was not because of the Soviet flag fluttering from the mast on the Reichstag. It died because as a system it was too chaotic and reactionary for its own good and although it achieved goals in modernising Germany and her economy it has been postulated that had the Nazi regime conquered all of its enemies be they martial or political it would have imploded with no purpose.