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The Day Before Yesterday: 75 - D Day

...It seemed to be a time of 'live for today' with families breaking up, some being separated so long, they took comfort where they could or formed new relationships at home, as well as in the forces. This seemed to be commonplace. The children too, who were moved to a safe place out of the bombing, didn't know their parents and would not want to leave the people who had cared for them so long...

Gladys Schofield tells of crucial wartime days.

To read earlier chapters of her autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_day_before_yesterday/

As I passed the long line of hawthorne bushes, I could hear people working in the field over the wall. They were gathering in the hay, heaping it high on the horse drawn wagon but my eyes were on some cows who had managed to get through a gap in a fence from another field and were now just ahead of me.

I was afraid of those big animals at the best of times, they were much too big and lumbering for me and what was worse, one or two, seemed to have taken an interest in me and were walking towards me. I stood still in my tracks as I had nowhere to run. I just froze, as the beasts came one after the other.

Someone had noticed my dilemma in the hay making field, as he stood on top of the wagon, forking the load into place. The young man jumped down and was over the wall in an instant and sent the cows running with a few loud commands. Then he turned to me with a cheeky grin, he said "No wonder they fancied you Gladys, they could smell the apples" and escorted me through the next stile.

My young gallant walked back to his work amidst a chorus of wolf whistles from his mates but I dare not look back. That young man I knew very well, had he not told me he loved me, when we were twelve. I had not seen him since before my wedding and didn't know Kenneth would be amongst the exempt from the war but farming was classed as an important job.

Our decision to marry had been so sudden, we never even got engaged and so I was saving up weekly to buy Cliff a ring for his birthday. The prices had changed a lot in the last few years but I purchased it and had his initials engraved on the front. It looked very smart and I sent it off as he didn't get leave that Christmas and his birthday was next month but when he did get leave, he brought it back saying he dare not wear it at work, he may spoil it in his job but I have the feeling he thought it unmanly to wear a ring, as he has never worn it.

I sometimes saw my sister Dorothy and her daughter Jeanette. She often came to Mum's and the children would all play together. They were very safe around the large gardens and just a lovely place to explore. A garden seat perched high on one piece of ground and you could see for miles in every direction. Her husband was a quiet man and was only in the Army a few months, before he was discharged. Some psychological reason but Dorothy seemed to be on her own more these days. She wasn't one to talk much and it was her affair.

As the summer came around again, we knew something big was afoot. All leave had been cancelled and troops were massing all around the South of England. Russia had turned the tables on Germany, on the other front and were now pushing them back to their own country. All over the world, where troops were engaged, we were at last gaining the upper hand. Only Japan was the most cunning and devious, they would commit suicide to sink the ships by flying their loaded planes straight into them, killing themselves at the same time.

it was June, the sixth, when the invasion of France began. They called it "D Day" although great secrecy was kept, there was still a great loss of life and troops from all the allied forces combined together, to rid us of this menace that had plagued us so long.

The progress was very slow at first in France and we could only wait and wonder if our boys were safe in all this. They were not supposed to go overseas before the age of nineteen in the Army and we heard later Ted was shipped to France on his birthday, which was the sixteenth of June, so he missed the first few days of the onslaught. It was a few weeks before Mum got any news at all and that was a telegram saying Ted had been wounded and had been flown back to England. He was in hospital in York, if Mum would care to visit.

She lost no time in doing this, imagining all sorts of terrible things but he was not bad at all. They had advanced a bit too far, just a few of them, as the enemy retreated and Ted's arm got in the way of a bullet, which took some of his tunic into the wound with it. So, by the time the rest of the Battalion caught up, his wound was turning sceptic. A French lady and her two daughters, had taken him into their home and had been caring for him. They were so grateful to be free at last and did look on Ted as a hero, as they sent gifts of French perfume to Mum and my sisters and wrote letters for quite a while after.

It was very kind of the Army to send Ted so close to home to recuperate but as soon as he was fit enough, he was back in the thick of it again.

Each man in every unit had the responsibility of keeping things running smoothly and Cliff was responsible for looking after two of the engines on one side of the aeroplane. They were very big bombers, about ten foot from the ground and he had to be careful in the cold weather as ice formed on the wing and you could slide off. The planes often came back crippled and had to be fixed as quickly as possible. The pilots got very little sleep, in fact no one did at this time, as they paid the Germans back for what they had done to our cities. It was their turn to see what it was like and no mercy was shown.

It seemed to be a time of 'live for today' with families breaking up, some being separated so long, they took comfort where they could or formed new relationships at home, as well as in the forces. This seemed to be commonplace. The children too, who were moved to a safe place out of the bombing, didn't know their parents and would not want to leave the people who had cared for them so long. Some were alright if they had kept close contact and a few were worse off than if they had stayed but all this and more is what a war can do and I hope we never have another.

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