The man in the picture is the grandfather of the founding trustee Wendy. She explains his how he inspired her to start Wintergreen UK......
The man in the picture is Leonard Davies, my grandfather. He was in the RAF for the duration of WW2. Thankfully surviving the experience, otherwise I wouldn't be here now. I thought a great deal of my grandfather and he was an inspiration in many ways; a kind and gentle mannered man. It was only after he passed away in the early 1990's that I realise that the history he had witnessed had been lost.
Last year saw the 100th anniversary of the RAF and this started my determination to unearth what he did during the war. It's hard to believe that when he joined as the war started, the RAF was only in its 20th year. It is quite astonishing how far technology has progressed during that time.
He was stationed at the same RAF base for the whole duration of the war as an anti-aircraft gunner. RAF Rochford was near Southend in Essex and was renamed half way through the war to become RAF Southend. It is now Southend airport. If you know your geography you will know that this is placed strategically on the northern Thames estuary and consequently saw a great deal of action throughout the war years.
When I researched the history of Southend airfield during the war years I was astonished at how it was brutally and relentlessly attacked during the Blitz on London. This airfield was one of the most heavily bombed airfields in the country, along with Biggin Hill and Manston. During the Blitz the anti-aircraft guns on the Thames estuary were sometimes successful in turning back the Luftwaffe. Heavily laden with their cargo of incendiary bombs they would often drop them over Southend town. One night during the height of the Blitz, over 40 bombs hit the airfield; it took them only a few days to be up and running as an operational runway. Truly a remarkable testament of the grit and determination of military personnel.
During my research I came to realise that my grandfather would have been one of the very few people above ground during the Blitz on Southend. Most civilians and non-essential service personal were safe in the air-raid shelters. It must have been like hell on Earth during the firestorms. He must have witnessed some appalling scenes and yet he never seemed to show any after effects of the war. I realised that this was a generational thing and most men did not speak of the horrors of what they saw.
It is my belief, that without a doubt, many men like my grandfather suffered in silence for the remainder of their lives. This is what inspires me to do what I can to repay those men who lost their adulthood to trauma, PTSD, depression and other mental health conditions. I can't help those who have already passed but I can help today's veterans.