Tag Archives: ww2

By the Butterfly Tree – Part Sixteen

And so the story continues. Once again, if you’re new to this little saga, it’s best to begin here.

Archie and Helen now lived in an old, but cosy and refurbished, cottage in a village some fifteen miles out of the city. They had moved there after they had both finally retired from the shipyard and the hospital, having lived, to begin with, in the small town-house that had first belonged to Helen’s parents.

When Ross reached the cottage by bicycle, on the Thursday evening after Laura had told him the story of her granny’s bequests, he hugged his step-grandma in greeting.
“How are you, Grandma Helen? You look younger every time I come.”
Helen grinned back at him. “Och, you with your flattery – what are you after this time?”

When she had married Archie, she had been deeply conscious of the special place Jenny had had in the family, and didn’t want to presume to walk into their lives. Archie, on the other hand, had wanted her to be welcome and at ease. As Jenny had always been ‘Granny’ they had settled on ‘Grandma Helen’ which, everyone said, suited her fine.

Over tea and biscuits, Ross explained slowly about how things were between him and Laura (as if I didna ken, thought Archie) and then Laura’s problem. Archie and Helen listened with interest, nodding, smiling, and then sighing as the story unfolded. Finally, Archie confirmed Ross’s thoughts.
“I think what you said to Laura’s about the size of it, laddie. The more details we’ve got, the better. Names, addresses, dates, whatever. If her auntie could write it like a letter, and sign it, that would be good too, I think. It might at least be a lever to put a bit of pressure on the provost’s office. I’ll go up there, if you like. Of course, a lot of the folk I knew in the fire service and such will have retired now, but… you never know…”
Ross finished his tea, had a look at what Archie and Helen had been doing to their little house and garden, and went home.

After work the following night, he called to see Laura before she visited her auntie and uncle, that weekend. On the Sunday afternoon, Uncle Fred would take her to the nearest branch-line station, where she would get the last train home.

She saw Ross only briefly, after both of them finished work, on Monday, but told Ross that her Auntie had listened to what she’d asked her, and would write down all she knew in a letter, then post it to her.
“She even said she’d look through a tin box that was in the attic, for old letters and stuff. She didn’t want to get anything wrong, and spoil any chance there might be.”
“Well… At least we’ll all have made an effort, poppet. We’ll see what Grandpa makes of it.” Ross himself was rather dubious, but hadn’t the heart to say so.

The promised letter came the following Monday. Laura passed it on to Ross that evening, and on the following evening, he made the journey to the cottage once again. The day had been dull and rainy at times, and further rain was likely, so he didn’t stay long at the cottage. After quick drink of orange squash, he started on his return journey, and, indeed, just reached home before the skies opened again.

When Ross got home from work on Thursday, a letter was waiting for him. It was from Archie, and very short.

Dear Ross,
I’ve read the letter and notes that Laura’s Auntie wrote. I’d
like to check a few details. Could you and Laura come to
tea on Saturday? We’d love to see her again, anyway.
All the best, laddie.
Love from Grandma Helen, and me too,

Saturday dawned fine and warm. As Laura now had a bicycle of her own, she and Ross decided to cycle to the cottage together instead of taking the bus. It would give them an appetite for tea, which, Ross said, they would need.
When Helen had given them drinks and biscuits, Archie first took Ross outside. “We’ll talk the serious stuff in a few minutes. I just want to show you something, before I forget.” Leaving Laura and Helen together, Archie led Ross to the small yard that was covered by a lean-to roof, supported on the cottage side by metal brackets, which were badly rusted.
“I was wondering, laddie, do you think you could get some fresh ones made, at your firm?” Ross was sure that he could, and together, they measured the brackets before returning inside.
As they sat down in the living room, Laura seemed a bit upset, Ross thought. O well, if so, she would tell him later.
“Right, then,” Archie began, cheerfully “I think Grandma Helen and Laura have had a wee chat, so that’s something cleared up…?” As both nodded, Archie saw Ross’s puzzled face. “Don’t worry, Laddie, you’ll understand very soon. One more question…”
Archie dipped into his pocket, and placed a small, battered, fibreboard box on the coffee table in front of him, opening it as he did so.
“Is this the one, do you think…?”
Laura and Ross gasped in unison. A beautiful diamond, flanked by two vivid pink sapphires, flashed up at them from a gold ring. Helen held Laura as she slumped backwards. Ross’s face became a puzzled frown.
“But… Grandpa… How did you do this so quickly? What about all the legal checks, and stuff…?”
“Ah, well, you see, I didna have to trouble the City Hall. I just had to go to the garden shed.”
The young couple’s faces made a picture no artist could ever aspire to producing.

Slowly and carefully, Archie explained about the walk he’d taken, that summer, all those years ago. About finding the gas-mask case, and leaving it to Jenny to take it to the police station. And how Jenny had been struck down with her illness before she could make the errand…

In the height of Archie’s concern for Jenny, the gas-mask case had been forgotten. It had lain on the cellar-head shelf until the time when Archie had moved out when he married Helen. She had helped him to clear the house. The contents of the cellar shelves she had put into some old packing-cases, then transferred to the cellar of her own house, intending to go through the stuff with Archie, later. Some memories would still be raw, she had thought. Then, when they moved to the cottage, the same packing-cases were put in the shed. There they remained, undisturbed, until, on Tuesday evening, Archie had opened Kath’s letter and read the words ‘They lived at number fifteen, Trafalgar Terrace…’

Laura took Ross’s hand and led him into the garden. She leant against his chest, sobbing, and gasping for breath.
“I’m sorry.”
Ross held her, gently patting her back as if she were a baby. Finally, he asked her what the matter was.
“My baby sisters. I should have told you. You see, ever since that foggy day when you walked me home, I loved you. But I’d always said to myself that I wouldn’t let any boy make friends with me, just out of pity. So I said nothing. Then, somehow, as we got serious, it got harder. Will you forgive me?”
Ross’s eyes were filling, now.
“My dear precious poppet, there is nothing to forgive.”
Their faces closed on each other.

After a lovely meal, Laura felt better. Ross, of course, now realised that the discussion about the lean-to had been a ploy to leave Laura and Helen alone together. Wise, kind old grandpa. Now, he led Laura outside again. They had offered to help wash up, but Archie and Helen had told them to take time together. Wise again, thought Ross.

They were standing within sight and scent of the buddleia in the cottage garden.
“Laura, my poppet…?”
“Yes, sweetheart…?”
“I’ve a wee box in my pocket. I wondered… whether you wanted to, you know, try something on?”
This was the moment Laura had been longing for. With great difficulty, the steeled herself.

“Ross… Leslie… McGeoch. When it comes to trying anything on, you are the best, all right. On. One. Knee. Now!”

* * *

It was time for two blissfully happy young people to cycle home. But before they left, Archie had one more question. Had had agreed to keep the gas-mask case and the rest of the papers, for the time being, but he showed one very small one to Laura, that had been enclosed with the ring. It carried only the words ‘To E.M.E. From A.R.B. 22 March 1920’.
“Laura, your auntie said that your granddad was Alistair Buchannon, and had been in the RAF, is that right?”
“Yes, I remember being told that much.”
“What was your granny’s maiden name, did you ever hear?”
Laura frowned, screwing up her eyes in thought.
“Yes… Wait a minute… Got it! She was Elizabeth Ellison.”

Part seventeen is now published here!

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By the Butterfly Tree – Part Fifteen

OK, so it’s been a while. But what better time to release a bit more of this treacle-tin serial than Valentine’s Weekend? And once again, if you’re new to this little effort, it’s best to begin here.

“Just look at that!” Ross was awestruck.
“Wow!” Laura whispered.
The young couple gasped as seagulls soared, turned and dived in the sea breeze, the sky full of a non-stop display of aerobatics.

“Love it. Almost as much as I…”
Ross cut her off with a kiss as she began to blush, and she squeezed his hand. He would have taken her to the pictures or dancing more often, if she had cared for that. But she loved walks at the coast more than anything else, after the first time Ross had offered and they had taken a bus trip one Saturday. They had done the same this time; Laura had made a packed lunch for them and Ross had bought lemonade and some sweets and chocolate for the journey. They often joked about Laura being a cheap date.
“Told you before about that, poppet. Nothing cheap about you. Just not expensive to keep…” And so the lovers’ banter would go on.

They fell silent as they walked on down the cliff path to another vantage point, where they sat on a wooden bench and finished the last of their lunch. The breeze brought with it the tang of salt spray. Arms at each other’s backs, they gazed into the distance, to the outlines of the islands westward. After a few minutes, Ross felt the weight of Laura’s head falling against his shoulder. As he caught the clean smell of her hair shampoo, he saw that her eyes had closed. He was thoughtful as she dozed. He knew that her working week tired her out; she left her cousin’s house at seven every morning in order to be in time for work. She was home by six, if she was lucky, and her bus ran to time. And yet, as he held her close, it somehow felt so right. He waited until she woke with a start.

“Laura, poppet…”
“I’m just thinking we might do something different next Saturday. Just for a, y’know, change, like…”
Laura recognised the mischief in the way Ross left the suggestion hanging. She tolerated this for three and a half seconds.
“Out with it, then, ye wee terror!” As a general rule, the more excited or impatient she got, the more her mild-mannered parlance would metamorphose into the vernacular. Ross , at just over five feet ten tall compared with Laura’s five foot three, and (on Laura’s own admission to her aunt and her cousin) gentle as a lamb, would probably always be her ‘wee terror’.

“Well… I was thinking we could maybe go into town. I’d a wee bit shopping in mind. Like… looking for a ring for the fourth finger of somebody’s left hand. Yours, for instance.”

There. He’d said it. Words he’d wondered for ages just how they would come out. And as it happened, words that Laura wanted to hear, yet dreaded. There was nothing for it; she would have to face him out, right now.

“Ross, sweetheart… There’s something I need to talk about.” It came out in a sudden rush.
“Erm… you’ve decided you don’t want to marry me quite so much after all? Is that it?”
“Of course not, ye daft lummox!” Playfully, she punched Ross’s shoulder. Too late, she saw the grin. “Listen. I wanted to tell about this before, but somehow, I just couldn’t. You see, I didn’t want you to think I was rushing you.”

Help. Girls. How could you ever understand them? Understand this one, anyway?

“Could you explain yourself, if that’s possible, O dearest light of my life?”
“Ooh, am I really?” It was Laura’s turn at mock seriousness before Ross caught the look in her eyes. “Well, it’s like this. I knew you’d want to do… what you just said. Sometime. But, you know that first time you came with me to Auntie Kath’s, and you noticed Sarah’s wedding photo?

This was making less sense than ever.

“Yes… What’s that got to do with the price of cheese?”
“Well, you know how you remarked on the necklace she was wearing, in the photo? And how I said it was a sort of family heirloom? It was my granny’s. I didn’t know her ’cause she died quite young, and my granddad did too. But, you see, in her will, she said that Auntie Kath’s first daughter should have the necklace, and my mum’s first daughter should have her engagement ring. So Auntie kept the necklace safe, and mum kept the ring – I don’t know where. I saw it once, when I was a wee mite. It was beautiful. I think it had a diamond, with pink gems at each side. I didn’t know it was meant to be mine, then. Auntie told me about it one day. Anyway, there was the war, of course, and then…” Laura sighed. “…there wasn’t mum to ask, when I grew up. I know our house was bombed, and mum killed. But… I just wondered if there’d be any place it might have been taken to. You know, to the City Hall people, or something. Did they check houses before they pulled them down? Of course, I know a lot of stuff was just blown to bits. But what do you reckon?”
“Well…” It was Ross’s turn to sigh. “Now I get the idea. I can see why this means a lot to you, poppet. But I’ve no clue how to find anything out. Wait, though. My grandpa was a volunteer fireman in the war. They must have had rules about that sort of thing. We could ask him, if you don’t mind him knowing, you know, how serious things are with… us.”
“’Course I don’t. He’s guessed already, if I know your grandpa at all. But would you talk to him, sweetheart? And, if we did get it back, and I wanted it to be my engagement ring, would you mind?”
“If that’s what you’d like, Poppet, I’m happy. I go and see him one evening in the week anyway, now I’m not at college. You go and see your auntie and uncle, don’t you? Can you find out as much as you can, like, say, what the ring looked like, the address of your old home, the date of the raid when your poor mum was killed, all stuff like that? Anything at all. I mean, if it is safe somewhere, I don’t suppose they hand out lost property like this on a nod an’ a wink.”
“You’re on. I see Auntie, you see Grandpa. Is that it?”
“And if nothing comes of it – though it would be lovely if it did, for your granny’s sake, too – I get to buy you a ring. But if we do get your granny’s ring back, I buy you a necklace, or something like that. Whatever you’d like.” Ross went on, mimicking the accent of one of the American characters in the last film they had been to see together. “Do I have a deal, Miss Millar?”

Laura’s reply wasn’t given in words.

Part sixteen is now published here.

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A Platinum Jubilee?

This week, our ‘100 Word Challenge’ which you will find explained here, along with
links to all the responses, is to write a piece including the word ‘Wednesday’
along with a further 100 words. 

Today is the sixtieth anniversary of The Queen’s accession. But there is another anniversary, in August this year, that is noteworthy.

Seventy years ago, as part of Operation Pedestal, the American tanker SS Ohio entered Valletta Harbour, Malta. Badly crippled and assisted by two other ships, she had brought  fuel oil and kerosene to the island whose people had shown tremendous courage.

On Wednesday, 15th August, 2012, let’s remember the brave men of the Ohio and all who served in that operation, which had great strategic implications. Their platinum medal should be in our hearts.

To all of them: THANK YOU.

All of you who are interested should look up more of the history of the
incredible achievement that was ‘Operation Pedestal.’ 

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Are Bells Ringing?

This post was prompted by the ‘100 word challenge’ here. Please read that first,
 so that you understand the idea.

“You know, Jen, if Mother asks once more whether she can hear bells, I think I shall get tinnitus! I know she can’t help it, ’cause of the blast. But honestly…”


Jenny ran home to tell her sister the news. She had hardly got the words out before they heard their mother shout from upstairs.

“Harriet! Haaaarriet! Is it me or are bells ringing?”
Hetty ran to her  mother’s room, breathless, tears welling in her eyes.
“Yes, Mother…  This time you’ve got it right. Your ears and brain do not deceive you. I think every church bell in the country’s ringing right now. The war’s over!”

This account is fictional, but there must have been hundreds
of real-life occurrences like this on the 8th of May, 1945!

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The Gallery: Week 79 – Faces

For this prompt, I’m going to show you some photos taken the a ceremony held in Derby on September 3rd, 2009, to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of World War Two, when wreaths were laid at the war memorial in the market square.  I have already drawn on this event last week, from a different standpoint – it was a very simple, very respectful, and very moving occasion.  I witnessed it purely fortuitously – I just happened to be in the city centre at the time.  This underlines the maxim: Carry your camera – always.  So first, I’ll just illustrate the ceremony:

Now let’s have a look at the face of the standard bearer as he remembers the fallen:

…and then, as he presents the standard.  (Yes, it’s the same man!)

Now see the solemn respect in the mien of this young sea cadet, who hasn’t known war for himself directly:

On that day, however, the square was not entirely filled with sadness.  These four veterans had time for a picture, a chat, and, despite some grim memories, a laugh!

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The Gallery: Week 66 – Travel

I nearly passed up on this one because I am not, relatively speaking, all that much of a traveller, at least, not by today’s general standards.  Then I remembered an outing to the RAF museum at Cosford, where I took quite a lot of pictures.  This museum, by the way, is well worth a visit, not only for  the opportunity to study a great wealth of aircraft of all kinds and how they find their place in history, but also for the visual feast of shape and line.  It’s very much about travel, mostly, of course, air travel.  It’s easy to travel to the site – by road, as I did, or by rail.  And while you’re there, you will ‘travel’ back in time…

This shot, I think, fits our theme best.  Anyone interested in aircraft, world war two, or design and shape for its own sake should go and see the rest for themselves.

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