A chance meeting on a mundane trip into Welshpool a couple of weeks ago and I met 93 year old Ethel. Through their teens and during the war years she was my late mother's best friend. She said that she had some photos and would I like them. Would I? You bet I would. A few days later I phoned her and she invited me round to her little bungalow. What an amazing beautiful lady, I could have spent hours talking to her. While my mother married and stayed at home looking after me and my sister, Ethel joined the ATS Auxiliary Territorial Services - a country girl, who'd never ventured further than the nearest town in her life she suddenly found herself being transported all over the world and doing all kinds of work, more than she could ever dream of. She told me about a poignant moment of how she was working in a canteen in Belgium when her brother who'd also signed up, unexpectedly turned up in the same canteen. You can imagine what that brief reunion in those times must have been like for them. Ethel showed me her little box of photos and I asked if I could take a digital snap of one of her in her ATS uniform.
'Course you can, but you don't want a photo of me.'
She chuckled at the thought
She was like that.
On the other side of the family - Curley was my hubs uncle. Until the last couple of years of his life, he lived and worked on the family farm he was born on and only ever moved out of the village on the rare day trip. The farthest he ever travelled was to the Motor Show in London but that's a story for another day. The outset of World War II must have radically changed so many people's lives and yet the farming community in a way lived life in almost oblivion - no television, no mobile phones - no phones even. News came by British Pathe screened at the cinema, radio bulletins or word of mouth. Just an ordinary day in Curley's life .......
|Curley driving his Fordson Major EN27|
On this particular cold joyless morning Curley's SF would not even grunt. An American lorry pulled up by the roadside gate. As it happened, the GI's were passing through towards Welshpool from their base camp at Queenshead, West Felton - a small village just outside Oswestry some 10 or so miles north of the farm. They'd called in for a few barn eggs and a cut or two from the side of bacon on the metal hook in the scullery. This being a popular custom of the time. Seeing Curley's predicament, they immediately offered to tow his tractor behind their vehicle to Reginald Tildsley's Garage six miles down the road on the outskirts of Welshpool. All roped up and away, the American Servicemen were not renowned for hanging about. Batting along, oblivious of the tractor in tow and several bendy stretches in the road - Curley had no way of attracting their attention and had to hang on for grim death. He reached Reginald Tildsley's ashen and in dire need of a clean pair of corduroys.