The Dudman Family Lived the Meaning of Patriotism and Sacrifice During World War II
Three brief obituaries appeared on the front page of the London Timesthe last week of July 1945, recording the lives and deaths of soldiers Richard Anthony Dudman, 22, Peter John Dudman, 25, and Pilot James Dudman; 26. Peter John Dudman was the "Loved Husband" of Joan Burbery Dudman and father of Nicholas and Maureen."
The three British soldiers were the sons of William James Dudman.52, and Nora Dudman, 49, who were killed by a German air raid at Ealing, a London suburb, on Thursday, September 26, 1940.
September 1940- A Fiery Autumn for Great Britain
Nora Annie Dudman, born in 1891, and William James Dudman, born in 1888, lived at 13 Inglis Road in Ealing. The Dudmans and other Londoners were civilian targets of war in the German Luftwaffe’s ferocious, systematic, day and night attacks on Britain that took place from September 1940 to May 1941- attacks which soon came to be known as the " Blitz", after the German word "blitzkrieg" which means lightning warfare. The Luftwaffe hoped to cause as much damage and death as possible to weaken British morale and compel Britain make peace with Germany.
The first day of the Blitz, the afternoon of September 7, 1940, marked a milestone in Hitler’s campaign to defeat Great Britain. During the summer of 1940, he had ordered the Luftwaffe to focus on destroying RAF airfields and radar stations to make it easier for Germany to invade Britain. The Royal Air Force ‘s gallant defense of Great Britain denied the Luftwaffe air superiority over the country and caused Hitler to refocus his campaign .He directed the Luftwaffe to destroy London.
At approximately 4 o’clock on the afternoon of September 7, 1940, tea time on a warm, sunny autumn day, 617 German fighter planes escorted 348 German bombers to London skies and for the next two hours, the planes pelted London with bombs. The blazing fires guided the second group of German planes in another attack that lasted until 4:30 in the morning of September 8, 1940.
The Blitz Doesn’t Quench the British Fighting Spirit
For the next consecutive 76 days and nights, the Luftwaffe bombed London and other English cities including Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Coventry, Liverpool, Portsmouth, both day and night. The Luftwaffe inflicted heavy casualties, destroying and damaging more than one million London houses and killing over 40,000 civilians, 20,000 of them in London.
Despite its devastating impact, the Blitz didn’t significantly damage the British war economy, soften the country up for invasion or frighten the British into surrendering. With characteristic pluck and determination, British citizens endured and by May 1941, Hitler had diverted his full attention from Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Great Britain to Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.
Although it didn’t defeat them, the Blitz took its toll on British civilians. German manufacturers poured their technical talents and ingenuity into devising weapons of terror to use on British cities. The Luftwaffe dropped a variety of bombs, including incendiary bombs, high explosives, and parachute mines.
On September 16, 1940, the Luftwaffe first used parachute mines against British civilians. The Luftmine A weighed 1,100 pounds and measured 5 feet 8 8inches, while the Luftmine B weighed 1,100 pounds and measured 8 feet 8 inches. Both were triggered by a clockwork fuse mechanism, and they were fastened to parachutes to function as blast bombs. They were rigged to detonate at roof level instead of on impact which maximized the effects of the blast.
When the parachute mines exploded at roof level, the surrounding buildings couldn’t cushion the shock waves from the explosion, enabling them to reach a wider range. Parachute mines could destroy an entire street of houses and kill at least 100 people in a single blast.
Ealing Endured 73 Nights of Bombing
Jonathan Oates in Ealing and the Blitz, wrote that Ealing was part of the western suburbs of London and bomb damage in the western suburbs was less severe than in central, south, and east London, although 217 civilians were killed in Ealing.
The Germans staged their heaviest raids in September 1940, when they dropped about 350 bombs in west London in just three weeks. Sirens had sounded incessantly through July and August of 1940, but the Luftwaffe didn’t drop bombs on Ealing until September 8, 1940.
West Ealing during World War II saw 73 nights of bombing. By the end of the blitz over 600 high explosive and thousands of incendiary bombs had fallen, causing the deaths of 190 Ealing residents and serious injuries to many more. Famous buildings in Ealing including the Load of Hay Pub, Ealing Abbey, and St. Savior church were destroyed
Statistics can’t capture the human cost of bombing and war. Names and faces and stories are needed to do that. The BBC has collected hundreds of Blitz survivor memoirs and reading them is a riveting history lesson in survival and the tenacity of the human spirit. Some people perished because they lingered in the kitchen for a cup of tea before they raced to the Anderson Shelter or Underground shelters, and other survived because they were a few fortunate feet to the right or left of a bomb landing. Many miraculously escaped houses that were nothing but piles of broken brick and rubble.
The Middlesex County Times of October 1940 reported that the Luftwaffe conducted a raid over the north of Ealing on Wednesday, September 25, 1940, and a parachute mine that fell on a house on Medway Drive in Perivale, killed six people. On Friday, September 27, 1940, the King and Queen in the company of the mayor of Ealing and other officials visited the area. The King and Queen spoke comforting words to the homeless and bereaved survivors.
On October 1, 1940, Ealing resident Erica Ford recorded in her diary…"flats shook when about 8 bombs dropped. Each one seemed nearer & really sounded as if they were on top of us."
Bombing floods the senses. Shells and parachute flares flash fire, combined and rampaging fires blaze and crackle. Burning buildings have individual scents, and the reek of explosives and gas from damaged pipes burrows into the nose and stings like a hive of bees. Dust from debris filters non-stop into noses. The earth shakes, familiar landmarks disintegrate, and the world turns upside down.
Bombing survivors reel from the assault on their senses. Bombing blows human bodies apart or shatters human structures into lethal weapons against the people that built them. Along with many of their friends and neighbors, William James Dudman, 52 and Nora Annie Dudman, 49, of 13 Inglis Road were killed on Thursday, September 26, 1940 during one of the Luftwaffe bombing raids.
Lieutenant Richard Anthony Dudman Helped Defeat Rommel
Even though the world was at war, life continued to lurch forward, and it did for the children of William and Nora Dudman. Richard Anthony Dudman joined the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry Unit and he earned the rank of lieutenant. Lt. Richard Dudman fought in the Western Desert Campaign in Africa. Commonwealth forces from Great Britain and later the Free French and a unit of Polish and a unit of Greek troops fought the Axis forces of Germany and Italy.
The battlefield stretched across the 621 miles of desert between Alexandria in Egypt and Benghazi in Libya, with control of the Mediterranean Sea the strategic objective. In February, the Allied Army managed to halt German Commander Erwin Rommel’s advance between Gazala and Timimi.
The Second Battle of El Alamein took place from October 23 to November 11, 1942, and the Allied Armies shattered the Axis line and drove the Axis all of the way back to Tunisia for the first Allied victory in Africa. In a speech about the victory Winston Churchill said, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
On Wednesday, February 11, 1942, Second Lieutenant Richard Anthony Dudman, 22, was killed at El Alamein. He is buried in the El Alamein War Cemetery approximately 80 miles west of Alexandria, Egypt.
Lieutenant Peter John Dudman Helped Defeat the Gustav Line
Peter John Dudman joined the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, leaving his wife Joan Maureen Dudman and their two children Nicolas and Maureen, living in Sefton Park, Liverpool, England.
Peter John Dudman earned the rank of Lieutenant and fought in the Allied Winter Line Operations, the campaign with the goal of breaching the Gustav Line, forcing the German Army out of southern Italy and ultimately occupying Rome. The Allies wanted to keep continuous pressure on the German Army and engage the Germans enough to prevent them from replenishing their combat divisions that they might use to defend Rome.
Lieutenant Peter John Dudman, 25, was killed in action on Thursday, November 11, 1943. He is buried in the Cassino War Cemetery which is located in the Commune of Cassino, Province of Frosinone, about 86 miles southeast of Rome, Italy.
Pilot Officer James Dudman Flies Lancaster Bombers to Liberate Europe
James Dudman joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 625 Squadron which flew bombing missions in Lancaster Bombers over occupied Europe. He had originally been reported missing, but then the Air Force confirmed that he had been killed in an operation over Europe.
Pilot Officer James Dudman, 26, died on Monday, November 6, 1944. He is buried at Clichy Northern Cemetery which is located in Clichy, a town adjoining the northern boundary of Paris. Clichy Northern Cemetery lies between the town hall and the River Seine.
Words can’t really acknowledge their sacrifice, but remembering them can.
Cormack, Andrew. The Royal Air Force – Men-at-Arms. Osprey Publishing, 1990.
Majdalany, Fred. The Battle of el Alamein: Fortress in the Sand. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.
Mortimer, Gavin. The Longest Night: Voices from the London Blitz. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.
Strawson, John. The Italian Campaign. Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1st U.S. Edition, 1988.
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