Shawn Thompson

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Childhood Memories

A Lancaster from the Past

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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 it."

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.

(next column)

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?


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