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Oral histories: What was it like during the war, mum?

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 07:20 pm
I’m fascinated by the stories of ordinary people & their experiences during times of hardship. The little stories, of personal experiences during significant moments in history, like during war times. The small details: like what they wrote in their letters to family members at the front, what music they listened to, what games children played during the Blitz in Britain, what they had for dinner during times of severe food rationing, the times when dad came home from the front on leave ... those sorts of experiences.

Like these:


Quote:
...My Dad was away in the army, somewhere in Europe and my mother was very nervous. She was a young woman in her mid 20’s, with a little girl (me) and a new baby, and she wanted someone to look after her, and there wasn’t anyone to do it. So she cried a lot, and when the siren would go off to warn of an air-raid, she would scream in fear. I always felt responsible for her, like I should be her mother and take care of her. But I was only three and four and five and six and didn’t know how, except by not being a burden...
Pamela tells of hardships in London during World War Two.


http://www.openwriting.com/archives/time_witnesses/

Quote:
...There was one source of help which stood out and which I will always remember - the school meals provided by the British Red Cross. We had each day a thick nourishing soup in our little pots with handles, and before any holidays we received an exciting parcel with dry food, e.g. a tin of chicken soup with rice, a bar of chocolate, a tin of sardines and other goodies. It was a great help - sometimes we were allowed to take seconds home. In the cold winter of 46/47 I often had a pot full of soup which was awkward when I wanted to skid home from school...
Geseke recalls hard times in Hamburg during and after World War
Two.


http://www.openwriting.com/archives/time_witnesses/

Quote:
"Dear Uncle Sam" includes a delightful letter from another boy, a 12-year-old in Louisiana named "L. J.," who wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 and offered to serve as a "mascot of the Marines." He even invited Roosevelt to visit his home "if you get tired up there in Washington," but insisted that the President bring his own ration book.

"A lot of people are going to kid me about this letter," he wrote, "but I don't care." He signed the letter: "Your friend and also a Democrat L. J. Weil."

Records show that L. J. received a polite "brush off" from the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters a week later, applauding his patriotism but asking him to wait until the "required age for enlistment" in order to become "a real Marine."


http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/fall/extraordinary-stories.html

Quote:
....But I was far more worried about the film than the air-raid (on the cinema). By this time air-raids were old hat: a film was something completely new. I was too young to understand the difference between reality and make-believe. To me what was happening on the screen was real- after all, I could see it with my own two eyes, so it had to be happening. It was an early Technicolor film called 'The Blue Bird', a Hollywood version of a German fairy-story. I can still recall one scene quite vividly of a small boy and girl (Shirley Temple and Johnny Russell actually), dressed like Hansel and Gretel, running through a burning forest. Trees were crashing in flames behind them. This really frightened me. I was certain they were going to get killed. But what actually happened to them I shall never know, because at that moment a stick of incendiary bombs came through the roof.....


http://timewitnesses.org/english/johnm.html

So over to you.

Do you have any such stories you’d care to share?

It doesn’t matter which war or which country.

It would be terrific if you could share, whether your anecdotes & stories are from your great-great grandfather & were been passed down through word of mouth for generations, your own recollections, or during the Vietnam war, whatever applies to you.

Oh & your stories don’t have to be deadly serious or sombre, they might be funny, they might include extracts from letters, you might want to include photographs or music. Etc, etc, etc .... Completely to you.


`
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 07:31 pm
@msolga,
Here's a story from my family. I wasn't even around during most of this period. : My parents spent some (enforced) time in Germany, during WW2. Apparently, when the air raid sirens went off, they'd take shelter under a table in their lodgings. For some years after, when my family had migrated to Oz as refugees, my sister would bolt & hide under the nearest table when hearing any sort of siren .. police, ambulance, fire, whatever ..
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  2  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 07:45 pm
Canada today remembered the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and for the first time since the end of the First World War, there were no soldiers left who'd served, the last surviving Canadian First World War soldier died earlier this year
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 07:48 pm
@djjd62,
Yes, the same here, djjd. I believe our last ww1 veteran died recently, too.

Now they would have been able to tell some amazing stories!
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 08:02 pm
Looking for some material to inspire you (I hope), on Youtube ... the impact of all those US soldiers in Britain during ww2:

msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 08:14 pm
Back later.
I hope you have your think caps on (thinking, thinking ...) & that this is not too hard to respond to! Smile
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 08:28 pm
@msolga,
In the meantime .. a little wartime nostalgia from Vera Lynn. We'll meet again.

0 Replies
 
CalamityJane
 
  2  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 09:43 pm
There is a book from a German writer who wrote about the tales of WWII
as her grandmother had told her. "Stones from the River" by Ursula Hegi (it's available in English). I highly recommend it!
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 11:32 pm
@CalamityJane,
Thanks, Jane. I will see if I can track it down.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 11:42 pm
In the meantime, do any of you in the US have a great -great Uncle Ulysses or Aunt Charlotte, who told lots of stories, or wrote lots of letter, of life during the civil war which have been passed down through the generations? Smile
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Fri 9 Apr, 2010 11:47 pm
And now for something entirely different . . .

My mother was a combat veteran in Normandy, so to speak. She was a nurse in a field hospital. She landed on day 16, and on day 17, an Atlantic gale roared in and knocked out the artificial harbors, so they were cut off--they had to use the supplies they had on hand, or what the Air Force could drop in for them.

When i was a liddly, she used to sing German lullabies to us. She learned to sing them phonetically from the German officers. The Canadians were fighting the SS Hitler Jungen Panzer Grenadier Division, and most of them were kids 17, 18 or 19 years old. They were pretty scared i guess--they were wounded, they were POWs in an American hospital, and they couldn't be evacuated. So their officers taught the nurses to sing them to sleep.

Later on, they were sent up pretty close to the American lines in the Norman bocage, so they could get supplies from the air drop. They were set up near one little Norman village, where the people had been hiding food from the Germans for four years. So, they brought out all kinds of goodies like fresh or canned fruit and vegetables, and they milled a bunch of wheat, and began baking fresh bread, which they shared with the Americans. The hospital didn't have any fresh food, but they had literally tons of canned food--meat, peaches, apple sauce, peanut butter. So the two groups got together and made a feast. It was the first fresh food the Americans had had in weeks, and the canned hams and the corned beef was the first opportunity the French had had to gorge themselves on meat in four years.

(EDIT: SS Hitler Jungen--if i'm spelling that correctly--means the Hitler Youth Division. Wars are obscene.)
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 12:13 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
When i was a liddly, she used to sing German lullabies to us. She learned to sing them phonetically from the German officers. The Canadians were fighting the SS Hitler Jungen Panzer Grenadier Division, and most of them were kids 17, 18 or 19 years old. They were pretty scared i guess--they were wounded, they were POWs in an American hospital, and they couldn't be evacuated. So their officers taught the nurses to sing them to sleep.

Later on, they were sent up pretty close to the American lines in the Norman bocage, so they could get supplies from the air drop. They were set up near one little Norman village, where the people had been hiding food from the Germans for four years. So, they brought out all kinds of goodies like fresh or canned fruit and vegetables, and they milled a bunch of wheat, and began baking fresh bread, which they shared with the Americans. The hospital didn't have any fresh food, but they had literally tons of canned food--meat, peaches, apple sauce, peanut butter. So the two groups got together and made a feast. It was the first fresh food the Americans had had in weeks, and the canned hams and the corned beef was the first opportunity the French had had to gorge themselves on meat in four years.


I love hearing stories like this, Setanta!

The just plain ordinary goodwill & commonsense of ordinary people in such difficult circumstances. Smile

Quote:
Wars are obscene


No argument from me! Accept in some exceptional circumstances. Like fighting to survive against invasion.
0 Replies
 
saab
 
  2  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 12:17 am
A Danish lady writing from Sweden May 11th 1945 - shorter than the original.

Believe me, we have celebrated here too, but not as loudly and much as you have in Denmark. We have tried to call you, but only life important calls can be putthrough, cables will take a few days, so I am writing a letter . that is faster.
It all started Friday when I was down town shopping and saw in a newspaper that the Russians had invaded Lolland-Falster, Mön and put parashuters on Zeland. Friends whose radio is brooken called, but I did not want to call back until I had heard more news.
Later we turned on the radio and there were extra news and we heard "Kong Christian" being played and the Swedish news speaker said how much the Swedes shared the happiness of the Danes. As soon as the news were over people started calling us. We stayed up til after 1 o´clock to listen to the radio.
Next morning I got up very early so I could get the Danish radio and listen to the churchbells in Copenhagen and friends started to come with flowers. Later when I went shopping the city was decorated with Danish flags and red and white colours.
In the evening the city was going to congratulate Denmark. The students were going around in trucks with Danish and Swedish flags and colours. Our friends whose radio does not work will come and stay with us so they can listen to the Danish King speaking.
At 2 they came together with other Danish friends and I decorated the coffee table in red and white. After wards we all went down to the square to march to the sports arena with music and Danish flags. . There was music, speaches and it was all very beautiful.
Afterwards a Danish refugee family invited all Danes, their friends to come home to their large villa for coffee, cakes, wine and icecream. We were 300.
We could not go as we were invited for dinner and had a very wonderful evening celebrating peace until 3 o´clock.
Next day we had lunch for our Danish friends and again dinner in the evening.

Tuesday was again a festiv day with all the schoolchildren marching with music and singing and speaches and the churchbells ringing. This time we all marched with Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Czeck flags and colours. There were around 85 flags and it took one hour from the first ones arrived till the last one got there.
Then there was a regatta on the river. The evening we spent with Danish friends.
Wednesday we went to the movies to see a film about Copenhagen.
Yesterday thursday and there was a Danish-Norwegian churchservice beautiful and after that coffe and cakes in the conditorie.
In the evening we were invited to Danish friends. We were 110 Danes, Norwegians and refugees.. Lots of good food, music and singing. Later coffee and cakes. I sat at the same table as some of the Danish Jews who had been in Teresienstadt. They told how hard they had had to work.

I would love to come to Denmark and see you all, but as a Danish citizen I have to have a visa to get back into Sweden, so as soon as I can get a passport and a enteringvisa for Sweden I will come.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 12:19 am
@Setanta,
Songs crossed borders, too!

0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 12:28 am
@saab,
Quote:
I would love to come to Denmark and see you all, but as a Danish citizen I have to have a visa to get back into Sweden, so as soon as I can get a passport and a entering visa for Sweden I will come.


Thank you very much, saab.

That was a terrific first-hand account. (I could almost feel the excitement of the occasion, all these years later! Very Happy )
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 12:37 am
@msolga,
The Brits used to say that there were three problems with the Americans: they were overpaid, oversexed and over here. There's a wonderful book on the subject: Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-1945. This is by an English historian, David Reynolds. The review i've linked here is long, but it, as is the case with the book itself, is worth reading.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 12:44 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
The Brits used to say that there were three problems with the Americans: they were overpaid, oversexed and over here.


So did the Australians! What a coincidence! There might well have been some truth to this theory! Wink

Checking out your link now, Setanta.
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 12:50 am
@msolga,
American private soldiers were paid as well as or better than junior officers in the Commonwealth armies. They also had access to things in the PX (Post Exchange, a kind of army general store) which were unheard of luxuries in the countries they were stationed in. One German officer was brought a cake which had been captured when an American position had been overrun. He despaired, and when they asked him why, he pointed out that the Americans had enough planes and fuel to fly a cake that a private soldier's mother had baked for him across the Atlantic.

Field Marshall Alexander, who command the United Nations army in Italy, once responded to a question with some asperity by saying: "The genius of American supply is to have ten times what you need on hand at all times."

But there's another side to this that the Brits and Aussies didn't understand. The kids who fought that war had just come out of a decade and more of some grim poverty. Now their nation was at war, and their government spared no expense or effort to give them the best of everything. In that sense, it was Fiddler's Green for them, too.
saab
 
  2  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 12:59 am
My grandparents moved from Denmark to Sweden and the whole family became Swedish citizens. At that time my father was 12.
By the time he was 18 he got a letter from Denmark saying they did not want him as a soldier as he might be spying for the Swedes and on the same time a letter from the Swedes saying they did not want him as a soldier as he might be spying for the Danes.
A few months later my grandfather got a letter from Denmark saying they were looking for my father as a deseter. And a letter from Sweden saying the same.
Now my father wrote to both countries and got the same answer from both - choose whatever country you want to be a soldier in.
He choose Sweden at that time and later during WWII was a soldier in Sweden.
roger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 10 Apr, 2010 01:09 am
@saab,
Wow. You could base a book on a simple story like that. Could we call it Catch 22?
0 Replies
 
 

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