Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembering

To my knowledge, no one in my family died in either of the so-called World Wars, but the impact of both conflicts impacted profoundly on my mother's family in Belgium and France.

She was born in 1917, and often spoke of how few of her schoolmates of the same age had fathers still living. Her  beloved father had undertaken several tours of duty at the front, and survived.


In the second war, too old for active service, he stubbornly refused to rush down into the cellar when there was a bombing raid; he would prefer to stand outside and watch the dog fights in the sky above, willing the Allied planes to victory. She remembers him shaking his fist at the German planes, the rest of the family frantic with worry in case he was hurt.


She herself was caught in an air raid, and was pulled alive from the rubble of a house where she and another woman with a small child had sought shelter. They died; she was saved because her hand protruded from the ruins and the watch she wore reflected the light and caught the attention of rescuers.

The scar on the back of her thigh, just visible if she wore shorts, would enthral us as children; that was from "Mummy being bombed in the war".


After the war, she met my father when both were stationed in Berlin, she with the French Army, he with the British; she would talk of the pathways bulldozed through the mountains of rubble that the city had become. In her papers we found the official permit that had allowed her to cross the Russian Zone to return to Ghent to visit her parents.

So on this day, the 11th of November, I think about not only those who died, but my family who - like so many other families -  lived, suffered, endured, and survived to remember. And to pass on small fragments of those memories to us, the privileged, who grew up in freedom.

16 comments:

Toffeeapple said...

Thank God for people like those of your family.

Arthur Ransome said...

Thank you. We have no idea how lucky we are.

Val & the Girls BK & CK said...

A lovely story :0)

Rattling On said...

My Grandma's Dad was killed in France before she was born. Her Mum went a bit potty due to it and her Mother brought up the baby.
Your Mother had a fascinating life. I love the top photo, especially the lady on the left!

Belinda @ Wild Acre said...

So important we honour these memories - a lovely reminder of how fortunate we are and how much we owe. Thanks for telling us about them. x

frayedattheedge said...

What a lovely piece of family history. My Mum and Dad met in the war ..... and she never let him forget that she was a Staff Sergeant, whereas he was 'just' a sergeant!!

Lyn said...

It is so important to remember those who fought for our freedom and also those that lived their everyday life during such conflict.
xxx

Noelle said...

A very thoughtful post Rachel! Both 'GrandPeres' fought in the trenches, one came home only with one working lung due to the gases. Granny was one of the many forced marched from Heyst sur Mer to Bruges by the Germans, 'Bobonne' was safe in St Truiden...A war not to be forgotten ever!
God bless (and lots of hugs to Flossie, Tosca and all the rest of your little family),

Rose H (UK) said...

Thank you for sharing your familes war experiences. Aren't we lucky not to have had to live through such times.

June said...

I am fortunate to be at such a remove from the two World Wars' events. Dad was in Belgium in WWII but I lost him when I was so young that it's all just stories to me. Lucky me.

the veg artist said...

I would not be here had my father not survived WWII in Burma. When he left home, he was newly married with a young son. My mother was a farmer's daughter, so no doubt she was kept busy, but I can only imagine what they went through, not knowing whether they would see each other again. I was born much, much later!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

It's hard to imagine having to live through any of it , let alone year after year . Re-reading the family's wartime letters today brought it all to life .

elizabethm said...

My FIL served in Orkney during the war and his tales of sailing up and down the islands are fascinating but far from the forced marches and harshness of Europe. As a young man from a poor part of Lancashire he couldn't believe his luck to be surrounded by teeming fish and milk and cheese and beehives! He knows how very lucky he was.

Marcheline said...

Wow.

knutty knitter said...

I have a box of shells from Emerau on the equator, sent to my mother by my grandfather who armed and fitted bombs and ammo onto planes. He survived but two of my great uncles weren't so lucky. One was killed during the Somme in ww1 and the other at Monte Cassino in ww2. Another really unlucky uncle got interned at the fall of Singapore. He lived but his health was wrecked by it. They did tell us yarns but only the funny ones.

viv in nz

fiftyodd said...

It's amazing to think how many of us wouldn't be here if our parents hadn't survived wars. My dad was born in 1917 and my mom in 1919. They both survived World War2 (obviously!). My dad was in a 'vital' job and wasn't called up. He's still going at 94. My mom made it to 90.

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