Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Letter Home

John Rennie & Ruth Davison, ca. 1933

No. 7 Group  (Civil Affairs)
B. L.A.
12 Nov. 44
Hello, Sweetheart,

Your letter No. 53 and your unnumbered note written at Canteen on Hallowe'en arrive the other day...

Things have been running along here quite smoothly, and now that I'm really settled down to work I'm finding that I have a big job which takes a tremendous amount of research and preparation...

Yesterday was Armistice and a big day in this part of the world.  It was the first time in four years that those people have had an opportunity to really give vent to their feelings.  They certainly made the most of it.  
There was the usual parade and laying of wreaths, and also a church service.  Many important people graced the occasion, and Johnnie tagged along.  When these people put on a parade it is really something.  Bands played; flags flew; picture cameras ground away; and the crowd cheered themselves hoarse.  If you happen to get copies of some of our local papers it is quite possible that you might see a picture in which you would recognize me.  I doubt though if that will be possible because I imagine that the local news does not geet any very wide distribution.

To-day has been quite quiet....I had a tea invitation which I felt was going to take just about all the time I could spare...In this case it is an English family...They were in France at the outbreak of war and just didn't manage to get away.  Their story of the last four and a half years makes an excellent chapter in the book of German atrocities...The father died during the occupation; their property was taken from them by the Jerries and used during the occupation.  It is now a total ruin.  They themselves were imprisoned for a short time, but were finally released and have been living here ever since.  Living I might say in conditions that you would consider acute poverty -- two little rooms that scarcely suffice for their needs.  Obviously insufficient clothing and a shortage of money.  The two older ladies appear to be well up in their sixties, so you can judge that it hasn't been easy for them.  D. was to be married in 1940, but of course never got back to England for the wedding.  A few months later she heard that her fiance, a British officer, had been killed in action.  Just three weeks ago she received another message saying that he is alive and serving in another theatre.  So, of course, the wedding is on again just as soon as the exigiencies of the service permit -- and that is a mighty indefinite date.  Meanwhile she keeps the family alive no by coaching in English Literature...They gave me a very simple tea, and I must say that I enjoyed the two or three hours I spent with them...

Having related my social activities in detail this epistle is beginning to take on the size of a large volume.  I really think it should be continued in our next -- so finis.

Regards to everybody and all my love to you,


P.S. Just discovered that I left out mighty important news -- the other day a package of Laura Secord's [chocolates] arrived.  That was the finest thing that has caught up with me yet.  It was mailed from Montreal on Sept. 19th and really chased me around a bit before it got here.  Thanks muchly for it, and, by the way, if there happen to be any more spares floating around they will be received with great joy.

The above is an excerpt from a letter my father wrote to my mother while stationed in Europe during WW II, a few days before his 40th birthday.  He was in the Canadian Army -- Black Watch -- and seconded to the British Army for most of his time there.  Given his eyesight and age, he was taken into service only because of his experience as a teacher and skills as an administrator, and he remained in Europe until late spring 1946, when he was injured while in charge of a trio of Displaced Persons (DP) camps in Germany.  I have transcribed the letter just as he wrote it, though it was several pages long and I have quoted only a portion of it here.

The photo is one of my parents when they began dating.  My mother was about 17; my dad, 28 or 29 at the time.

NOTE: I never met my father; he died of his war-induced injuries on February 13, 1952, almost a full seven months before I was born.

No comments: