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2011-05-19 / News

Class learns about growing up during WWII

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 


“Were you scared?,” asks Sullivan Pung (left) after listening to Les Adams recall living through the bombing of London as a youngster during World War II. Sitting behind them is now retired teacher Ken Sexton, who first hosted Adams at Lynch Elementary School two years ago. “Were you scared?,” asks Sullivan Pung (left) after listening to Les Adams recall living through the bombing of London as a youngster during World War II. Sitting behind them is now retired teacher Ken Sexton, who first hosted Adams at Lynch Elementary School two years ago. MAYFIELD TWP. — Les Adams was just 8 years old when he was huddling in the coal cellar of his East London home as German bombs rained down.

By comparison the 10- and -11-year-old fourth graders in Chris Prill’s class at Lynch Elementary that Adams shared his experiences with would have been the big kids.

In the fall of 1940 bombs began falling on London and continued falling daily for nearly two months in was come to be known as The Blitz. When it ended the following spring, a third of the city was destroyed, 32,000 Londoners were dead and another 50,000 injured.

Adams, who now lives in Welwyn Garden City, Hartfordshire, England, stopped by Lynch Elementary last Thursday to share his wartime experiences with the students. “Right, children, lovely to meet you,” Adams told Prill’s class, “I imagine you’re asking, ‘What’s this old chap doing coming over here talking about bombing,” That’s how history is made, passing things on.

Born in 1932, Adams was 7 years old when his father joined the Royal Air Force and headed off to man a radar station on Canvey Island at the mouth of the Thames River. Adams recalled how upset his mother was when his father said he was going “overseas” and how relieved she was when she found out it was still in sight of the Essex coast.

Adams told the students he grew up in Hackney, a part of East London near the docks the German Luftwaffe tried to destroy to cut off England’s supplies.

He recalled how one night he and his mother went into the coal cellar at the street side of their house and a bomb fell no farther away then the road that runs past Lynch Elementary. The Adams’ house collapsed around them and the next morning a rescue crew dug them out.

Adams described the shelters Londoners used — the Anderson, an eight-foot-tall corrugated steel arch people half buried in their garden — and the Morrison, a steel plate the size of eight school desks that people huddled under in their basements.

“Was it scary?,” asked Sullivan Pung.

Adams first came to Lynch two years ago to talk to Hannah Brezinski’s sixth grade class. He became friends with her grandfather in the 1970s when they worked on opposite sides of the Atlantic for Rochester Data Products.

The friendship lead to several visits and on the latest one, Hannah’s now retired sixth grade teacher Ken Sexton invited him to come and speak at Lynch again.

Prill’s students were very quiet as Adams described the day his father went off to war. “You’re eight years old and suddenly you’re not a boy anymore,” he recalled. “The last thing me dad said to me was, ‘Take care of your mum.’”

He did and his father survived to come home. Adams and other English children had to take an additional two years of school to make up for the days lost to air raids.

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