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Secret journal that couldn't fall into the hands of Nazis

By Eddie McIlwaine

I'm writing today about a journal that comes complete with a dire warning that information it contains is not to be communicated either, directly or indirectly, to the Press. Nor, a directive adds, divulged to any person not holding an official position in the Government.

In case you are concerned I might be in trouble with the law, let me hasten to point out that I'm leafing through the pages of a faded Royal Air Force Journal published in February 1944, during the Second World War, with the picture of a young airman just about discernible on the front cover.

The paperback is an important piece of wartime memorabilia, believes its finder, 32-year-old Eamonn O'Neill, of Landgarve Manor, near Crumlin.

He discovered it in the attic of a house in Birmingham where he once lived.

The volume is made up of information and instructions for RAF personnel, which at the height of the war could have been useful to the enemy.

For instance there is an article by Air Vice-Marshal RHM Saundby, describing the strategic plan behind the RAF's bombing offensive.

There is news from the Air Ministry and a feature called What Shall We Do When It's Over? (meaning the war, of course).

Subjects like Driving Too Fast in the Blackout, Tributes to Parachute Packers and even one on how to make a will, are in there, too.

And there is an absorbing story about what happened when the crew of an RAF aircraft spotted a German U-boat with which they were joined in fierce exchanges before the sub was sunk; probably in the Bay of Biscay, although the location or the make of the plane are not revealed. The author here is Flight Lieutenant Frank Tilsley, obviously the pilot of the slightly-damaged aircraft which eventually crash-landed on a haystack in a meadow, with the crew suffering only minor injuries and the plane, intact, soon to be ready for another spotter mission.

The editorial in the journal contains a reminder that in the early days of the war Nazi leaders threatened that for every bomb dropped on Germany, the Luftwaffe would drop 100 on Britain.

The journal has a cheerful side, too, with cartoons and fun articles, but every word in its 73 pages was to be kept secret that second month of 1944.

Belfast Telegraph


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