As night fell, they would draw the heavy black curtains so
that no light showed through to the enemy that would fly above.
As a child, Shawn Thompson remembers the sound of the giant
anti-aircraft gun only a short distance away firing at the
German bombers flying overhead. "We were more fortunate than
many," he says. "I remember our neighbour's house being
completely destroyed when an aircraft shot down slammed into
Born in 1936 on a 200 acre dairy farm in Robertsbridge,
approximately 50 miles from Hastings in Sussex on the South
Coast, the Thompson family provided the surrounding villages
with fresh milk, fruit from the orchards and eggs from the many
hens they kept.
As was the case in much of England, German prisoners of war,
usually from downed aircraft, were put to work on farms, and the
Thompson farm was no exception. "I can't remember his name,"
says Shawn Thompson, "or exactly when he came to live with us,
but he worked on the farm for about three years, so it had to
have been sometime in late 1941 or early 1942."
At the end of the war, German prisoners in England were returned
to their home country. Before the Thompsons' POW left however,
he handcrafted a wooden plane for the then-young Shawn.
29/01/2009 10:39 PM
"I was about nine and I remember him giving me this
plane with the British insignia painted on it," Thompson explains. "He
had made it out of scraps of wood."
Looking at the plane today, some 65 years later, one can
appreciate the skill that went into its making. With a wing-span of 30
inches (76 cm) and 19 inches long (45cm), the tail that is 7 1/2 inches
(20 cm) tall and with a span of 10 inches (25 cm), it appears to have
been made almost to scale. The wheels are on wooden axle pegs so that
they actually turn as do the propellers. A gunnery bubble is mounted
underneath with tiny nails representing the machine guns that would have
been on a real plane. The aircraft is now a faded green but on the sides
the model RB 45 and the British Air insignia are still visible.
"As I get older," says Thompson, "I appreciate it more and also
appreciate the painstaking work that went into it."
A German POW, who seemingly had a love of woodworking, gave a
remembrance to a child, a child who would himself in his retirement,
become a woodworker. For Shawn Thompson, today, works with wood,
handcrafting rustic willow furniture. A coincidence or something more?