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The War in Germany - Chapter 3

by Genevieve

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Archive List > Family Life

Contributed by 
Genevieve
People in story: 
Dorothy
Location of story: 
Germany/UK/Shropshire
Article ID: 
A6883086
Contributed on: 
11 November 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Genevieve Tudor of the BBC Radio Shropshire CSV Action Desk on behalf of Dorothy and has been added to the site with her permission. Dorothy fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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I grew up knowing my mother as giddy and pleasant but very - the word I suppose you'd use now is neurotic, edgy. For instance, I've always liked walking, my mother loved it too, but we do it in different ways because I've grown up free.

We would go to the Severn Pitches and I'd walk my dog - alone. I took my mum one day, quite late in her life, and we were walking on a beautiful sunny afternoon with my dog, just the two of us, and a man is idling his way towards us with his own dog. My mother was grabbing my arm "There's a man. There's a man coming. Quick! Quick!" She was frightened out of her wits. I couldn't understand it. I put it down to nerves.

A knock on the door would have her freaking out "Who's that?" Of course it was because of what she went through but I didn't know that. She would never have told me. If my father hadn't told me ... I asked her why she didn't tell me and she said, "It's over, it's finished. You don't need to know things like that" I said "But I do because what's happened to you is what has made you what you are today" - which I don't think she liked very much, to be honest, because of course she was very clever, very funny, everybody liked her but she was jumpy and she suffered."

If you want to put the way people felt and were affected by the war, one of the most profound things happened within months or weeks of her death. My mother died when she was 82 or 83. I was living in Leeds and used to come down to spend time with her a few times a year. In the last couple of years, every time we had our meals, there was less crockery on the table. In years gone by my parents had been keen campers and within months of her death she had actually brought out the tin camping plates.

I remember saying to my mother "Where are your plates? Are you breaking things?" She said "I don't know". So I asked dad. "Dad, where's all the crockery?" "Oh, I think she's clumsy and she breaks some".

Although I stayed at the house, which had been the family home since I was a child, I respected their privacy and I never poked about during her life time. After my mother's death, we had to put the house in order because it had become extremely neglected. My mother's health had failed during the last few months of her life and the house had become dirty so my brother and I literally cleaned the house from top to bottom. We found all the crockery carefully boxed and hidden under the beds; every piece. She hadn't broken anything. Everything she'd had all those years had been carefully put away, wrapped in tissue paper and put in a box. It's obvious she was hiding it and we wondered if in her last few months she was re-living the war years and she thought "They're coming!"

I must admit that it reduced me to tears when I pulled out all this stuff and I thought, "What's she been doing?" Of course I only found this out after her death so I couldn't ask her what had motivated her. Both my brother and I found this to be pretty heart-breaking. And my dad didn't even know; he had no idea. He honestly thought she was just breaking things. My mum died in 1992 - fifty years after the war.

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