Memories: The start of World War II – by Vibert Lampkin

Memories: The start of World War II – by Vibert Lampkin

Recently, I watched ‘The Last Prize’ which was a biography of the final years of Winston Churchill  [Wikipedia link] in office as Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War 11 and of course tomorrow is the 74th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.

I remember that day well – Sunday September 3, 1939. I was six years old and was sailing down from Mackenzie (the Town that bauxite built as it was called), 65 miles up the Demerara River to Georgetown to start school at St. Winifred’s Roman School in Newtown, Kitty, the next day. Since Guyana has no summer and no winter, only sun and rain, our ‘summer’ holiday from school was the month of August, the hottest month of the year. And traditionally as the first born, the eldest grandchild and the eldest nephew, I got to spend my holiday at the place I liked best – Mackenzie, mainly for the trip up river which – although only 65 miles – took all day on the river steamer, R.H. CARR.

I was dressed in my little white ‘sailor’ suit, with my little white ‘sailor’ hat. About 3:00 p.m., an hour out from Sprostons Stelling where the steamer would dock, on that bright sunny Sunday afternoon, Captain Benjamin of the R.H. CARR, dressed in his resplendent white Captain’s uniform, blew the whistle of the R.H. CARR to attract the captain of another river steamer docked at Vreed-en-Hoop on the west bank of the Demerara River. He held his bull horn to his mouth in his right hand and while waving his left hand in a forwarding manner, he shouted “Come to Georgetown. Come to Georgetown. Britain has declared war on Germany”. It is a scene etched indelibly in my memory. I often saw in my mind’s eyes these steamers going out into the Atlantic to meet the German threat.

Germany had invaded Poland on September 1 and Britain had given Adolf Hitler [Wikipedia link]  an ultimatum to withdraw from Poland by 11:a.m. on September 3 or there would be a state of war between Great Britain and Germany, an ultimatum that Hitler ignored. At 11:15 a.m. Neville Chamberlain, [Wikipedia link]  Britain’s Prime Minister, issued a statement to the nation declaring war with Germany.

And the rest is history.

Although Churchill won the war for Britain and VE Day was May 7, 1945, he lost the General Election on July 26, 1945 less than three months later.  The Brits considered him a good Prime Minister to lead them in war but not in peace. But he returned as Prime Minister in October 1951 and retired in 1955 after suffering a series of strokes. He remained as a Member of Parliament until 1964 when he did not seek re-election.  He died at the age of 90 on January 24, 1965 – 70 years to the day after his father Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill, who died at the age of 45 on January 24, 1895.

Vibert A. Lampkin

PS. I attach the speech of Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s Prime Minister, which he made from at 11:15 a.m. on September 3, 1939 declaring war on Hitler’s Germany.

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On September 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    It’s amazing the way a moment in our lives can be etched in our memories.

    I think now of those six-year-old Syrian children who are forced to flee their homes with their families. What will their memories be of war?

    • Marc C. Arthur  On December 23, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Rosaliene, I anticipate their memories will be very similar to the millions of refugees criss-crossing the European Continent circa late 1945. All seeking to return ‘home’. One of my teachers in the former USSR fought in that war as a tank commander. His stories, and those of may other survivors of the period are now etched in my memory. His name is Vitaly Lyashenko.

  • Deen  On September 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Remarkably vivid memory for a six year old.

  • regalq  On September 9, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Reblogged this on yvonnedeclou and commented:
    this is very interesting to know about history especially about my birth country Guyana love it

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