- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Joseph Grew
- Location of story:
- Across Europe
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 November 2003
Im 18 years old and have just begun university. I always close to my Grandad, and although I was only young I can remember some of the stories about the war that he told me. As I was leaving home for the first time i thought I would discuss with my Dad in more detail about my Granma and Grandads experiences during the second world war. Although both my Granma and Grandad spoke very little about the war, my Dad was able to explain in more detail for me some of the aspects of a truly amazing story that lead my grandparents to meet up and fall in love. This is their story of the reason that 'some things are just meant to be'.
At the beginning of the war my grandparents were both 19. My Grandad was already in the TA but only in an academic job. However, at the outbreak of war as he was officially a member of the British army he was expected to go and fight immediately. He had left school with many distinctions, and wasn't prepared for what was ahead. He was sent to Norway from somewhere in Scotland. Him and his fellow soldiers were told to pack their suits, football boots, and I believe had 1 gun and 1 round of ammunition between the whole group. The British view of 'it will be over by christmas' was certainly used by the officers at the time.
It didn't take long for my Grandad and his fellow group to be taken as POWs, I believe they only lasted a few months in Norway as the Germans easily overran the country. For the next 5 years my Grandad was under German supervision. I know he took part in the thousand mile march, and was situated in camps in both Poland and Germany. I can remember his toes looked odd when I saw them, a result of frostbite from the freezing conditions duirng winter. He also had a piece of shrapnell in his shin from an explosion he received some time during the war. When he was liberated I believe he was in Stalag 21B, I always remember this as he told me Friday 13th was his lucky day, as this was the day when the Americans liberated the camp.
However this was only 1 half of the story. Many veterans will be able to relate to my Grandads experience, but it was during this awful experience that he met the love of his life, a young Polish woman, who would become my grandmother. Im not totally sure where they met, but it was in a work camp somewhere in Poland. I think my granma had lived near Danzig, some where in the Polish corridor before the war. This meant she already knew German, and as my grandad was an academic at school he had picked up a sound knowledge of the language and so this allowed them to communicate.
I know inside the camp my Grandad held special privileges because of his German knowledge, as he was able to relay information between prisoners and German soldiers. My future grandparents would often meet up, and one occasion were nearly caught by an SS car. My granma said she would have been sent to Auschwitz, with my Grandad shot dead on the spot had they been caught. It was a terrifying time for them both, made even harder by the growing feelings that they held for each other. There were a few occasions when my Grandad said he escaped, with fellow prisoners but there was simply no where to go, so it was pointless. When my Grandad left my Granma he gave her a piece of paper with just his name, rank and serial number on. They never expected to see each other again.
The only other stories I remember hearing were that my Granma was more petrified of being liberated by the Russians than living under the Germans, and that my Grandad was lucky to get out of Germany at all. The Dakota in front of his moving POWs back to Britian took off and crashed immediately killing all on board. After spending a considerable amount of time in hospital my Grandad got a job at Dunlop, in Coalville near Leicester. He recieved a phone call one day saying that a woman who didn't speak a word of English was standing at the war office in London, asking for him. This was my Granma, and she had flown out of Eastern Europe on what I believe was one of the last planes before the iron curtain came down.
The couple met up, fell in love again and got married. They had 2 children, including my Dad, and lived the rest of their lives in Ashby, Leicestershire. At first it was hard as they had to communicate in German, and few locals appreciated any German speaking people during the aftermath of the war. I know many of the details are sketchy but as you can imagine my grandparents were very reluctant to talk to anyone about the war and how they met. However, i think this story is remarkable and needs to be told. For something so wonderful to emerge from such a troubled time in the worlds history, it needs to be shared.
I write this story on Remembrance Day as i believe we should remember all those who lost their lives and loved ones during all wars. In many ways my grandparents were lucky in the fact that they found each other, when many others lost so much.
The fact that we can remember, means that we must.
LEST WE FORGET.
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