World War II - Gordon W. Udell
Saturday, November 10, 2018 12:00 PM
My father and his friend Junior were stationed in England during World War II and requested dispatch rider positions as "their friends would go out and get lost or crack up, never coming back". They were transferred to the 430 Squadron, which took pictures of anything that would be of interest to the military.
Dad and Lloyd White “Junior”
On the 12th of June 1943, (D plus 6) my father landed in Normandy. Most of the group arrived in France later in June. While he never told me why he was there first it was likely to allow him to get familiar with the roads in the area of Bayeux. The 39th’s first airfield was Airfield B8 in Sommervieu, located close to Bayeux. He did relate standing on a hill overlooking Caen on the 29th of June with thousands of other men while aircraft carried out a massive raid on the city. They stayed at Sommervieu until August 12th, at which time they moved to Ste. Honorine-de-Ducy (Airfield B21).
On 30 August they left Airfield 21 and headed to Avrilly, (Airfield B34) where they stayed until 22 September 1944. While at Avrilly, as Paris was being liberated, some of the men took the opportunity to hitchhike to Paris for a day or two. On the 23rd of September the 39th landed at Diest in Belgium (Airfield B64). A couple of weeks later they landed at Eindhoven, Holland on 5 October at Airfield B78, where they stayed until 7 March 1945. They were living in tents and found it chilly until they moved into barracks on New Year’s Day.
Dad second from Left
They moved to Petit Brogel in Belgium on 8 March (Airfield B90) and then crossed the Rhine and landed at Damme, Germany (Airfield B104) on 30 March 1944. The airborne had crossed the Rhine on the 24th of March and the 39th Recce crossed on 30 March, the first Allied airfield to do so. They relocated to Rheine, Germany (Airfield 108) on the 8th of April and were there until the 14th of April, when they moved to Wunstorf (Airfield B116) until the 25th of April. The next day they arrived at Soltua, Germany (Airfield B154) where they stayed until the 7th of May. The Germans surrendered the northern front to Montgomery on the 4th of May and total surrender came on the 8th of May. The 39th Recce was the deepest into Germany R.C.A.F airfield at that time.
On the 8th of May they moved to Luneburg (Airfield B156) where they stayed until August 7th.
Dad by his Jeep
My father had copies of "Flap", a magazine produced by the 39th Reconnaissance Wing during their passage through Europe, which he packed across Europe with him. In the January 1945 copy the route is indicated as Bayeux, Caen, Balleroy, Evreux in France, Eindhoven, where they spent the winter of 1944, Nijmegen and then to Arnhem.
He also had a trip to Copenhagen, taking three officers there to go through the former Nazi headquarters in downtown Copenhagen. The following is a picture of him walking outside Tivoli Gardens.
Gordon Udell outside Tivoli Gardens
I have a picture of my father on a motorcycle in Luneburg, Germany in June of 1945. He also has a series of graphic photos of the inhabitants of the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen shortly after it was liberated.
Gordon Wesley Udell in Luneburg Germany
"In May of 1945 when the war had ended, I was stationed at Luneburg, Germany. I was with the 39th Recce Wing. We were given the opportunity of going to Bergen-Belsen; it was a matter of personal choice. I decided to go. We travelled by service truck; about twenty of us went on different days.
The first thing we encountered was the terrible stench of death. We saw what looked like dead bodies, but some of them were moving. Some were propped against clapboard shacks; it was a horrifying sight. In another area we saw German prisoners disposing of bodies into mass graves. We couldn't bear this and quickly left.
It was an awful thing to see, but I'm glad I went, because I know for myself the truth and can refute those who say it never happened. One of the fellows in our Recce Wing (photographic outfit) took pictures and I have copies of them."
While in England he met my mother, Kathleen Mummery, who was born on the 11th of April 1926, the daughter of Leslie William and Mary (Barnes) Mummery.
My mother remembers the battle of Britain. She was living on Bessborough Road in Harrow, Middlesex at the time. She was outside jumping rope when she heard what was for her a strange sound. She entered the house and inquired of her mother, as to the noise. Her mother informed her that Britain was at war with Germany and the noise was an air raid warning being used to familiarize the people with the sound.
The family moved to Norwood, Surrey to live with her grandmother Mummery. My mother found this personally very frustrating. Up to that point in time school had been a joy to her, now she was being taught things she had already learned.
Then German airplanes started coming over in the Battle of Britain. She would stand outside and watch the dogfights, much to the dismay of her mother. Most people spent nights in "Anderson Shelters" in their back yards. The worst day she remembers was September 7th, 1940 coincidentally her sister Joan's wedding day. Her and her mother attended the wedding at "Burnt Oak" in London. She believes this was the first day of the "Battle of Britain". They had just commenced the trip home when they were forced to leave the train and wait in the underground. Being claustrophobic she refused to stay down there, choosing rather to sit under the glass roof. Eventually they were back on the train, resuming their trip home. By then it seemed as though all London was ablaze. The entire sky was red; the noise of the ack ack was very frightening to her mother. They had to leave the train early and she recalls taking her mother by the hand and running home.