IT IS always sad to hear of the passing of a real character in our midst, and here at The Bugle we have learnt of the death, at 92, of Doug Partridge, a Black Country man whose stories about the old days were legendary and which have both entertained and educated many people in recent years.
His daughter Yvonne Cleary contacted us with the news and we were immediately reminded of Doug's vivid memories of working on Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb, something he shared with us in our edtion of June 6, 2013. The interview was full of humour and Doug was spellbinding as he brought images of the war years back to life.
This Saturday is Armed Forces Day, and as a tribute to all those who were involved in the war effort from 1939-1945, doing jobs that were essential to keep the Allied Forces equipped, armed and one step ahead of the enemy, we delve once again into Doug's recollections of his work on that all-important bouncing bomb.
Doug was employed at Accles & Pollock in Oldbury, a company that had been heavily involved in aircraft components production during the First World War. Their expertise was again called upon in 1939 when the company came under government control and was harnessed for munitions production. Doug told us how the women at the factory produced thousands upon thousands of .303 bullets.
Remembering one day in particular in 1943, he told us: "We were working on brackets and tubes at the time which was quite unusual, but any attempt to ask what they were for was dismissed out of hand. The name Barnes Wallis meant nothing to us, we were completely in the dark regarding the operations that were being conducted to do damage to the enemy.
"I knew nothing about the Dambusters raid until a group of us lads went to our local cinema to watch a new cowboy film fresh from the US, and the latest Pathe Newsreel. I can't remember exactly how we reacted at the time after seeing the news; whether we could honestly connect our work over the previous few months at A&P with the Dambusters' success. But we all had an inkling, and back at work we asked our shop steward Sidney James, had we been working on the bouncing bomb?
"His silence was emphatic. It appeared we had."
Did you, or a parent or grandparent, work on special or secret projects during the war years? Share your stories with us: write in, give us a call on 01384 567678, or email editor@blackcountry bugle.co.uk.