June 6, 2014

The Love of a Good Man

Posted in Faith, Just Life, WWII tagged , , , at 8:55 pm by catsinboxes

70 years ago, today, a young soldier landed on Omaha Beach. He arrived in a later wave, not one of the first waves, waves that were mown down by machine gun fire.

Charlie - Dover - April 1945

Later, he would remember and tell his grandchildren about the dead rabbits he saw. Since the Germans had blocked the beaches, the rabbit population had thrived, but the initial allied bombardment had killed many of the rabbits. He never mentioned the bodies, just the rabbits.

He was 18 years old the summer of 1944, the son of a Georgia sharecropper. He had wanted to join the war and fight for his country, and he was glad when he was drafted. His employer was not glad and quite upset to be losing such a fine, hard-worker.

In the days following D-Day, the young soldier’s unit moved across Normandy. He remember these days and would tell the light-hearted stories . . .

The time he hit the ground during machine gun fire, only to find himself in a bed of the most delicious strawberries. . .

Or, sober stories:

As a forward observer, his pack got tangled and his buddy, Private Walter Moore from Chatanooga, TN, was trying to loosen it. Moore had just given up when a German round, probably a mortar, exploded right next to them. Moore took the full impact of the explosion.

Years later, after the war, the young soldier took a train through Chatanooga. He wanted to stop, to find Moore’s family and talk to them, but he was not able to do it. Like many soldiers, he would be haunted by the question, Why him and not me?

Only God knows the answer to that question, but I know the rest of the young soldier’s story.

Charlie at Siegfried Line, Germany March 1946

He served in Europe through the rest of World War II. After the war, he became an officer. He returned to Europe during the postwar years, and also served in China until the Communist take-over.

While in Germany, he met a young, American school teacher. He returned to the United States, but a correspondence blossomed. He proposed in a letter, she accepted, and they were married.

Charlie and Jan in front of Chapel - July 14, 1962

He served in two more wars: Korea and Vietnam.

He was the father of four daughters and, in time, the grandfather of 11 grandchildren.

Charlie with Holly - 10 weeks

Last Sunday, he went home to be with the Lord. He was 89 years old.

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He loved God. He loved his family, and he loved his country.

He was my grandfather.

His story is not unlike the story of many other men whom we remember today, yet for me it is so much more than a story. It is a life well and fully lived. I am proud to be his granddaughter.

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December 5, 2013

A Book Lover’s Christmas Gift

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Favorite Quotes, WWII tagged , , , , , at 6:49 pm by catsinboxes

Looking for a good Christmas gift for a history, aviation, and/or WWII lover?  Look no farther, for I have a perfect suggestion!

A Higher Call: The Incredible Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World   War II, by Adam Makos with Larry Alexander, 2012, 371 pages

This has made the New York Times bestseller list for good reason.  On December 20, 1943, a  remarkable incident occurred in the skies over Oldenburg, Germany.  It was an event that would not be told to the public until decades after the war.

A Higher Call traces the lives of the two men who ultimately would encounter each other that day.  The book is highly readable and incredibly interesting.    Unlike many books, it focuses more on the German side of the war.  Through the eyes of Franz Stigler, readers will learn about Germany’s elite class of fighter pilots.  The perspective is fascinating and well-researched.  It is also a poignant reminder of a nation’s folly:

“When Franz looked at Mellman [young pilot], he knew he was looking at Germany’s great tragedy –a generation of innocents too young to have seen the rise of Hitler or The Party who now were forced to pay for their leaders’ sins.”

April 3, 2012

What a Resource!

Posted in England, Home Front, Just Life, WWII tagged , , at 10:50 pm by catsinboxes

For all you primary source lovers/WWII buffs out there, you should read this from the WW2 People’s War archives.  It’s an account of the ordinary life of one young woman in England during and after World War II.  She worked in a small shop, though she did apply for the Land Army.  It seems that, at 18, she was considered too old to join!  I love the way that she remembers and carefully explains some of the small details of everyday life.  (One prime example is how the currency system worked.)  I hope that you enjoy this resource as much as I did.  And have fun in the archives; I love reading through the different stories.

February 21, 2010

The Women’s Land Army

Posted in England, Farm, Home Front, Land Army, WWII at 12:14 am by catsinboxes

The Women’s Land Army was formed June 1st, 1939.  Its purpose was “to increase the amount of food grown within Britain.”   After Britain declared war against Germany on September 3rd, the Land Army insured that British agriculture did not suffer from a shortage of laborers.

All British women from the ages of 18 to 50 had to register for National Service and were liable to be drafted.  Many, however, voluntarily joined the Land Army, entering at the minimum age, 17.  Reasons for joining varied.  Some loved the country, some loved animals, and some didn’t fancy getting a “desk” job or working in a munitions factory.  According to statistics, about a third of the Land Army girls were from large cities.  Many had no farming experience and were in for some surprises.

After joining, girls were given a uniform consisting of a pair of corduroy breeches, several cream blouses, a green “jumper” (sweater), a green tie, woolen socks, an overcoat, and a pair of brogues as well as a pork pie hat.   It was hardly a flattering uniform, one mother’s response, upon learning that her daughter had joined the Land Army was, “Why not join the WRNS [Women’s Royal Naval Service] and get a decent uniform?”  But as one Land Girl philosophically wrote afterwards, “The uniform was not what you would call glamorous, but in keeping with the work.”

Women's Land Army recruits ~notice the recruitment poster

Most new recruits then went through a series of classes, preparing them for their work.  Girls were given the choice of animal husbandry, with the possibility of specializing in dairy, poultry, etc., while other fields included horticulture and forestry.

Beginners at the Devon War Agricultural Executive Committee Training Centre, Whimple, learning the points of a cow from Miss Smithson, the Instructress. Land Girls had a month here before going on to Farms in Devon.

After a period of training, often in excellent, modern agricultural conditions, reality set in.

If farmers were in need of labor they would apply for some “Land Girls.”  Usually the girls worked together, at least two per farm.  Based upon recollections, many girls were given the choice of living with a farming family, in their own quarters near their farm, or in a hostel with other Land Girls.  Many enjoyed the social life of a hostel, though for some girls, who until now had lived at home, it took a bit of getting used to.  For those who stayed on farms, conditions widely varied.  Some were treated as part of the family.

But, above housing, the greatest adjustment for Land Girls was the work itself; hard manual labor.  Work started early in the morning.  Some girls’ tasks shifted every several days, but for others it stayed consistent.  In this and following posts I will explore the different jobs of Land Girls, beginning with …

Dairy:  While some farms had electric milkers, many still depended upon hand-milking.  Given the choice between hand milking and machinery, most girls preferred the former.  That is, those girls who braved the dairy.  It is quite interesting reading the different accounts of girls’ experiences with cows.

For Marjorie Pearson, after finishing her training milking a model “wooden” cow, hand milking was, “Utter bliss by comparison with the wooden cow, although that didn’t have a tail to swish and catch one’s face a stinging blow …”

The tail was one thing that many girls recalled, one recollecting, “I, like many of the Land Girls, learned to stay clear of the cow’s tail as it swished away at the flies. It really stung when it hit you in the face.”

Land girls milking at Carpenders Park Farm, Hertfordshire

Some girls truly enjoyed the animals they worked with, Catherine Henman remembered that, “Each cow knew just where to go in the milking shed and if another one got in the way, she would bump it out the way. Very intelligent animals, and we knew them all.  I didn’t like rounding the animals up on a Saturday to go to Bedford market, because we made friends of them.”

Mavis Young, gives a very thorough description of dairy training,

“I was soon to learn that there was much more to milking a cow than sticking a bucket underneath it. Before we were even allowed near a cow we had to learn the skills of hand milking from charts and diagrams, and even a model cow. We had to learn how to calculate the milk yield and enter it on the Government forms. Buckets and equipment had to be scrubbed and sterilised, and as machine milking was also taught, I would get a mental block trying to assemble the machine, and I always had a few pieces left over!

We had to be shown how to soothe a recalcitrant beast and to tie a downright bad tempered one. We were also to learn that feeding played an enormous part, which included carrying the heavy sacks of fodder, bales of hay, and buckets of sliced mangolds into the cow sheds. Mucking out had to be accomplished to such a standard according to our tutor that one could eat off the floor. The cows themselves were rather a mixed bag, as they were long past their best as high yield milkers, and, therefore, all getting on a bit. As a cow will not willingly give its milk to an inexperienced operator, nobody could blame those in authority for not letting us loose on valuable cattle.

I shall never forget the first time I milked a cow though, the feel of her hairy warmth and I dug my head into her side, the soft crunch of her munching hay, and the occasional low or belch and the sweet smell of the warm milk as it hissed into the bucket. When I had finished, the cow looked round at me as if to say ‘Not bad’, then promptly had an ‘accident’ down my milking smock!”

Oh, the joys of milking!

Resources used:

Home Sweet Homefront: The Women’s Land Army (Recruitment poster)

http://www.homesweethomefront.co.uk/web_pages/hshf_wla_pg.htm

Lawson, Don.  An Album of World War II Home Fronts. New York:  Franklin Watts,  1980.

Mere Museum (Land Girls group picture):

http://www.meremuseum.org.uk/galleries/wla.php

National Archives:

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/womenslandarmy.htm?WT.lp=rg-3157

Reading University Museum of Rural Life (1st two dairy photographs, excellent website)

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/research/countrysideimages/merl-list.aspx

http://landarmy.org.uk/home.html#link3 (Last picture, not very informative site)

World War2 People’s War:  (All Land Army recollections)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/categories/

February 17, 2010

An Interesting Resource

Posted in England, Evacuees, WWII at 4:31 am by catsinboxes

Recently, I’ve been reading up on evacuees during World War II.  The best resource I’ve found is BBC’s WWII Archive.  It has, according to the website, 47,000 recorded civilian memories.  These memories are classified quite well, by region (ie. Wales, Shropshire, Devon) experience (Land Army, Home Guard), event (Dunkirk, The Blitz, D-Day), etc.  Some memories are quite brief, some are a little disjointed or rambling, but many are very interesting and include tidbits about everyday life that you don’t find in history books.

There’s a handy search engine at the bottom of the page where you can enter something specific, like “farm,” if you’re trying to find something on farm life within the region of Wales.

The link to the website is:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/categories/

Several stories that I particularly enjoyed were:

Recollections of a Wartime Childhood   (Published in three parts, this is a very interesting account of growing up during the War.)

A Day I Shall Never Forget  (It does have a rather dramatic title, but once you read the story, I think you’ll understand.)

The Spitfire (This might be an ambiguous title, the one I enjoyed starts out, “Whilst on evacuation” and recounts the adventure of a little boy and, of course, a Spitfire.)

If You Smell Geraniums (The title intrigued me, and I found the story quite amusing.)

That’s all for now … just one legal note … the above image is the property of the Imperial War Museum.