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- People in story:
- Geoffrey Stringer, Margaret Stringer
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- 16 April 2005
That was not the last telegram we received. My eldest surviving brother Geofrey, who had
volunteered before the war at the time of the Munich Crisis, had seen action all through the war. First right through the Desert War, and then he was in the Solerno Landings, and afterwards the Italian Campaign.
The war in Italy was almost over and we were beginning to hope that it would not be long before my parents only remaining son, and the last of my brothers, could come home after having been abroad for five long years.
This hope was shockingly taken away by the third telegram to be delivered by the telegraph boy whose unenviable job it was to deliver them. The telegram said "We regret to inform you, that your son Geofrey Stringer has been seriously wounded".
My Mother was inconsolable, my Father devastated. There was no hint or clue as to the type of injury. The shock of this third telegram was so cruel when we had all thought that soon he would be home safe and sound. Waiting for further news was a time of endless speculation as to what type of injury Geof could have received. Eventually after some time we were told that he was recovering from his injury. It seems that he and his friends were enjoying themselves in a village bar, when Geof who spoke quite good Italian, got into conversation with a local man, who seemed very friendly, and invited him to his home. As most of the locals had welcomed the British Army, and appeared glad and relieved that their War was over Geof was quite unsuspecting.
When they entered his house, however, the Italian closed the door, and then produced a knife, saying that he was an Italian Fascist, and that he had not given up, and therefore he intended to kill him. A desperate fight ensued during which Geof was stabbed in the face. The knife went through the left side of his cheek and emerged on the right side. It must have been a dreadful struggle, but somehow he managed to get away and run back to his friends who immediately put him in an ambulance and drove as fast as they could to the nearest Field Hospital. By this time he had lost a lot of blood and the first Doctor they saw said that he was sorry, but he could not do anything to save him. Luckily, Geof was sufficiently conscious to hear this, and managed to say to his pals, "Well bloody well take me somewhere else where they can"
Fortunately, there was another Hospital not far away, and his friends rushed him there, where with great good luck there was a specialist Plastic Surgeon, who operated and saved his life. The scar that is left is hardly noticeable. The Italian fascist's house was traced by the trail of blood leading to it. He was sentenced to a long period of hard labour in an Army Prison in the desert in Egypt. Geofrey came home at last just after my Mother's birthday in August 1945. He had been away from home for five long years. I had been a teenager of 14 when he went. Now I was 19, and at first he did not recognise me. I had grown up and was no longer his little sister. My parents too, had altered quite a lot. The grief and pain of the loss of first Arthur and then Ralph, had left their mark. Indeed the pain of losing two sons lasted until the end of their lives. Geofrey was married to Barbara, who had been engaged to him for all these years, shortly after his return home. I was the only one still at home.
How many homes were visited by the anguish and sorrow of the war years? How many fathers husbands, sons, brothers, sweethearts were lost? Do politicians think of this when they go to war? Arthur is buried in Cherbourg Cemetery, and I visit his grave almost each year when we go to France. He was engaged, but never married, and I wonder how many unborn children who never were, but would have been, are lost too? Ralph has not got a grave. His resting place is in my memory, as it was in my Mother's until the day she died.
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