Amblers at War

Kenneth joined the Royal Air Force in 1942.  He was sent to South Africa to train as a bomb aimer. Ken was always very expressive and he wrote well. From the day of his leaving England by ship for South Africa, until his return, he kept a journal.

On the 13th March, the day of sailing for Freetown, he wrote;

"I was (and still am) eager to go overseas, but when the time came for me to step aboard, I had a terrible feeling of regret, I felt I couldn't leave that country which had given me birth..." The journal goes on to describe his time in South Africa, the people he met and the day to day living of an airman in training in a strange land.

The journey to South Africa took 31 days, under very poor conditions aboard ship.  The food was bad, the conditions were extremely hot, and there were the tensions of being in constant danger of enemy attack on the convoy.

Ken was in South Africa for 10 months.  He trained in Durban and East London.  While he found Durban beautiful, he didn't find the people very hospitable.  East London he said, "more than made up" for Durban's lack of friendliness.  He was quite disappointed that in all that time he never once saw "trackless" jungle.

While there, he trained as an air bomber at 48 Air School. There is a photograph of the course group in his journal. I wonder how many of these fine young men survived the war.

48 Air School, South Africa

When he returned to England after his training, Kenneth was transferred,'loaned', to the Royal Australian Air Force. He was posted to 460 Squadron RAAF to fly in Lancaster bombers.

460 Squadron 1945

In addition to him, Ken's crew were the pilot Don Heggie, F. Brook, H. Dunkerley, W.J. Dean, D. Robinson, and Jerry Flanagan.  Dad never spoke much of his air raid experiences. His flight log gives the details of where and when they flew; raids over Dresden, Hamburg, Koln and many other well known targets, but he never talked about them. He spoke often, though, of the Air Force and the men and women he had known.

He had a gift for storytelling and would regale us with all the old RAF tales whenever he was given the opportunity...but none of the battle stories, no word of bombing raids, except to say that he had been on them.

Their aircraft was shot down over the Black Forest of Germany, on April 22nd 1945. All members of the crew, with the exception of Don Heggie and Ken Ambler were killed. (Jerry Flanagan was not aboard that day, he had appendicitis.) They are buried in a Commonwealth War Graves listed cemetery in Germany.

Ken's Lancaster Bomber

Vera received a telegram from the War Office telling her that her husband was missing, presumed dead. For six weeks she didn't know if he was alive or had been killed. Ken and Don were prisoners in Germany until the end of the war. All that we ever heard of his time as a POW was when he rebuked me if I left food on my plate, telling of how hungry he had been and how he would have appreciated any kind of food. He couldn't abide waste in those early years after the war. What we were to find out later was that he was part of the "Great March" of Allied airman across Germany in appalling conditions, with little food and no shelter.

Towards the end of WWII the POW camps were emptied by the Germans and their inmates force marched West across Germany.  My father always said that he believed his group were marching around in circles because the invasion of US, British and Russian troops made it impossible for their captors to get them to a camp.  It was not until we saw a television program that told the story of the Great March that we realised he had been a part of one of the most horrific journeys in the history of Europe and that he was fortunate to survive.

Kenneth was demobbed in 1946. He entered the Fire Training College, winning the Silver Axe as the top graduate. He became a fireman in his home town of Preston. Leaving the Preston fire brigade he worked for a while in the atomic energy plant at Salwick and then took up a position as Chief Fire Officer at Whittingham Hospital, Europe's largest psychiatric hospital.

Latest News

S5 Box