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Published: August 2nd 2019
A good jitterbug dancer with an effective right hook
Doug was barely 19 when he landed on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944 - D-Day.
Hazel was 16.
Doug had been training in England for the previous few years along with the ever increasing numbers of allied troops prepping for the inevitable invasion of France. No one except the top brass knew when or where.
Doug ended up stationed in Bournemouth.
Life in Bournemouth - as in all of Britain and most of the world - was not easy during the war - food, clothing and essentials were rationed / families torn apart - Hazel spent many hours in long queues hoping that 1) there was something left and 2 ) that it was something her family needed - bombing raids had started in September 1940 and while London was the target of most raids - coastal towns including the coastal resort town of Bournemouth was not left unscathed - blackout regulations were imposed and fear of the next air raid filled people’s lives and many of Hazel’s dreams.
It is here - in Bournemouth -where Doug and Hazel met.
They met at the St James’ Temperance (no alcohol) Hall - at a dance.
An all round good dancer
Hazel and her Aunt Hilda both loved to dance. Most of the local men were overseas fighting. Most of the young men who attended theses dances were American or Canadian soldiers. Big band, swing and jazz were the music styles of the day - the crooners of the day the most popular. Mom was almost 16 - dad was eighteen. Dance -especially to upbeat music boosted morale and was a temporary escape from reality.
They fell in love - within a year they were engaged.
The Canadian men spent that winter in tents in the New Forest - The American troops stationed near Bournemouth had first dibs on the hotels and other lodging available.
On the days leading up to the storming of the beaches of Normandy no stone was left unturned - in light of the lessons learned the hard way on the beaches of Dunkirk, Dieppe, North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio etc.. to name a few. The military operation “Overlord” would become the largest assault in history planned by persons Herr Hitler called “military idiots”.
The allied troops would not know until the 11th hour of their departure. When Doug found out - that
At the garden fence.
Taken by Mom’s Mom - of course
very night he assembled a Morrison shelter in the Barrow‘s living room - a cage like shelter designed to withstand an upper floor collapse in a bombing raid - to be slept in at night and used as a table during the day.
Hazel slept in it every night for the rest of the war.
I can’t imagine what was said or left unsaid that night as Doug headed back to camp for the last time - not knowing whether they would ever see each other again.
The good - falling in love especially in dangerous times
The bad -
My dad never once talked to me about his war years. I didn’t even know he was in the war until I was about 13 or 14. Come to think of it I don’t remember any of my uncles reminiscing either - even at our many family gatherings - even amongst themselves. I can only imagine it was a combination of protecting us from the horrors they witnessed and / or themselves from revisiting the nightmares.
The truth be told I probably would not have been interested even if he had wanted to talk to me. It was the late 60s - peace and love and rock and roll. Navigating through my adolescence was the only thing on my self indulgent mind.
In hindsight I wish we would have had the opportunity to speak about it.
The ugly -
War and all that it encompasses- the loss of lives, resources, innocence and most of all the scars it leaves on the souls who live through them. In England alone over 2,000,000 children were sent away from their parents to live in safer parts - the operation named “Pied Piper” of all things.
The funny -
At the dances there was a dance called the “excuse me” dance where someone could cut in on the couple dancing - very civilized - someone tapped Doug’s shoulder three times to cut in with Hazel - on the 4th try my dad knocked him out cold - not very civilized.
Every night when Hazel walked home from the dance her Mom would be waiting down at their small garden fence making sure that Hazel made it safely home - my dad’s reputation was preceding him.
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