- Contributed by
- BBC Radio York
- People in story:
- Mary Sinclair, George, Osborne and Edna.
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 September 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by RICHARD FIELD on behalf of MARY SINCLAIR and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
By Mary Sinclair
(as related to Richard Field)
It was much too windy for tennis as we four were lounging in the garden. George, my brother, and his pal, Osborne, had just finished Higher School Certificate. I was home after one year’s teaching in London, while Edna, my friend, was on leave from medical school in Edinburgh. It was August 10, 1939.
‘Let’s take a picnic and fly kites on the Knaresmire’, suggested George.
The boys fixed the kites, simple bamboo frames with sturdy calico covers and coloured tails.
We packed the hamper — Cornish pasties, a round of scone split with jam and butter, fruit cake and Wensleydale cheese, apples and two Thermos flasks of tea.
All strapped on securely, the wind at our backs, we cycled easily the four miles and dumped the bikes and the hamper under the trees.
The Knavesmire is a high stretch of grassland outside York City walls. It was once boggy and wet and the site of Tyburn to which many a felon was marched from the City Prison to be hanged.
Today it is the home to many minor league football and hockey clubs, and provides herbage for a few cows and is the site of a beautiful racecourse - the Ascot of the North. But that day it was ours.
The kites needed quite a lot of effort to get them airborne, and then they plunged and danced like mad Dervishes.
We pulled and dragged the kites and laughed and shouted with joy. After a while we collapsed to the ground and I presided at our tea party. We cycled home as the sun was setting.
The following spring, George, by then a Yorkshire Hussar serving in Palestine, wrote: ‘We were exercising the horses and we halted on a ridge to watch the shepherds tending sheep just as in the Bible when a sudden gust of wind reminded me of the day we flew the kites, and I longed to be home’.
I, too, thought of that day as I trudged my London evacuees through the leafy lanes of Kent, and saw the Spitfires from Biggin Hill in the Battle of Britain, weaving and dipping high in the sky, just as our kites had done.
Osborne, home of leave in 1944 with a shattered leg, said: ‘I was on a stretcher in a field outside Caen and thought about the devastation and futility of war when I remembered the picnic on the day we flew kites. I knew then we must keep fighting for such freedom’.
It was after VE Day when we received one of the precious notes from Edna, nursing in Burma.
‘The heat, the stench, the flies and the inadequate supplies in this hospital are unbelievable. I went outside and longed for home, and I remembered the day on the Mire when we flew kites and had a picnic. I wept’.
We four were never to be together again.
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