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Published: August 31st 2019
The war in Europe is over.
Celebrating was fervent in North America - massive crowds filled Canadian streets - there were parades, band concerts, tickertape was dropped from the sky by aircraft -offices and some factories (not churning out war materials for the ongoing Pacific battles) closed and students left their classes to participate. There were many prayers and tears of relief. Many cities wisely prepared for the surrender announcement by ordering liquor stores and drinking establishments be closed to prevent over "exuberance" and potential looting.
In the Netherlands there was great celebration as well - for the Dutch there was finally food and freedom - every village, street and house was decked with red, white and blue Dutch flags and orange streamers. The Canadians - Private Kelley included - were greeted with a tumultuous welcome.
For the first time - in the rest of Europe - cities and towns that had been "blacked out" for years were suddenly brilliantly illuminated. Edinburgh Castle was flood-lit for the first time since 1939.
At sea the North Atlantic merchant ships and warships became veritable Christmas trees after five dangerous years of "blacked out" steaming.
For Canadian service men
their thoughts turned to home. There were 200,000 men and women from the First Canadian Army still strung out all throughout Europe. They were a formidable force - there was also arms, artillery, tanks, fighter bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, warships, smaller vessels etc... that would need to be "demobbed" /moved / repositioned.
The troops wanted nothing more than to shed their uniforms and go home - but there was not enough shipping to bring them all home as quickly as they wished. The RCAF and Canadian army had a complicated system for determining when their members could "demob" - go home. Length of service, marital status and the peacetime job at home played a part in the general rule of First In - First Out.
Private Kelley qualified to demob in 1945 but something stronger than his desire to go home to his beloved Aylmer prevented him from doing so - Hazel.
His brothers - Bob and George - did return home in 1945.
Hazel's parents insisted Hazel be 19 before she married Doug - as such Private Kelley volunteered for further duty with the occupation force in Berlin for two more years.
One of Private
Kelley's duties was to be the personal driver for General Maurice Arthur Pope - a close friend of Canada's Prime Minister - Mackenzie King. Motorcycles and war vehicles now competed with a limousine for Private Kelley's time. General Pope and Private Kelley spent some of their time in Germany tracking down huge church bells. Between 1939 and 1945 175,000 bells were taken by Nazi Germany and transported to "bell cemeteries" to be delivered to foundries to be melted down and used for arms and munitions. These bells were a focal point and held a special place in their communities - it was a joyous occasion when a bell was repatriated.
Over the course of these two years Private Kelley only saw Hazel when he was back in England with the General - which was rare. Mom recalls that on one of these occasions she, Molly and her Mom came out of a movie theatre only to be surprised by Dad who took them home in the General's Limousine - they felt like Royalty.
These two years of service in Berlin were no walk in the park though. Almost 9% of the German population had been killed in the
war. The country's cities and infrastructure were severely damaged from heavy bombing. After the war 25% of Germany's territory was ceded to Poland and the Soviet Union. The German population in those areas were expelled - scattering them throughout the rest of Eastern Europe (refugees) - almost two million German people died in this process alone. An attempt was made to convert Germany into a agricultural nation - only allowing light industry. Berlin itself would also be split up. Germany (including Berlin) would quickly become the focus of Cold War politics. By 1949 Germany formally split into two - by 1961 what was to become known as the Berlin wall was started - at first with barbed wire and eventually fortified with concrete and always heavily guarded. Dad mentioned on more than a few occasions that it was dangerous to be in Berlin for those two years - Soviet soldiers caught looting were executed on the spot by their own - you did not want to come across a Soviet looter in action.
Back in Bournemouth times were slowly starting to get better after the war although stringent rations of food and supplies would remain in force over the
next several years.
Hazel worked as a clerk in the books and records department of Bollom Cleaners - a chain of over 30 drycleaners owned by two brothers.
Doug and Hazel married in Bournemouth on March 22, 1947. General Pope had an airman deliver an unfrosted two tier fruit wedding cake - wrapped in a tablecloth - it was left on Hazel's front door step. Neighbours and friends chipped in their ration coupons so that they could get enough ingredients for the icing as well as for supplies for a small gathering. They had a small honeymoon not far from home in Brighton with the couple that put Dad up while he was getting his vehicle mechanics paperwork. They had one room, shared the outside toilet and helped out with the washing up after meals. The woman of the house would join them when they went out to a movie. There was a great dance hall near by.
They both sailed home on the last war bride ship - The Aquitania - to Pier 21 in Halifax. In all over sixty different ships would be used to transport war brides over to Canada including the Queen Elizabeth
Computation of war gratuity
A whopping $ 1,047 dollars for 1712 days or 61 cents a day
1 and Queen Mary 1.
Private Kelley - still in service - was charged with guarding Zombies on the crossing back home - men that refused to "go active" (fight) in the war. The zombies were widely hated by the men that had volunteered for overseas service. Private Kelley's job was to ensure they were not abused or thrown overboard.
It must have been heart-wrenching for 19 year old Hazel to say goodbye to her family, friends and her way of life.
Private Kelley and Hazel did not sleep in the same quarters - Hazel - the only newlywed on board - was in a six bunk cabin with 5 other brides - all 5 had their babies.
Almost all of the war brides on ship on this last crossing were bringing with them their newborn children. 48,000 young women (war brides) married Canadians and would sail to Canada along with their 22,000 children over the course of this exodus. There were a few Canadian servicewomen who married British husbands - their husbands were called male war brides.
Most war brides described themselves as being homesick, seasick and heartsick. The war brides also had to
Hazel and me
Love you Mom
endure the constant crying of their cabin mates and their babies as well as the constant smells associated with endless nappies. Even though they were transported on huge troop ships and luxury liners converted and equipped specifically for them the crossings were anything but luxurious.
Hazel and Doug could only see each other on the upper deck once Dad had completed his daily duties.
They disembarked at Pier 21 and were transferred onto War Bride trains for the final leg of their long trip from Halifax to Ottawa - from there they crossed the Ottawa River to Doug's beloved home town - Aylmer, Quebec. Doug and Hazel were greeted in Ottawa by a number of Doug's family and friends - a small armada escorted them over the Ottawa River to Aylmer. Doug had been away from home a long time... A party was held at Doug's parents' house (to be their home as well for the next two years). Hazel was overwhelmed with all the new faces and the huge tables of food and drink.
For every war bride challenges lay ahead - adjusting to their New Lives in a New Vast Land - including adjusting to
new cultures, languages, customs, religions, foods and isolation from the loved ones and way of life they were accustomed to and had grown up with. There were also many challenges ahead for the service men and service women adjusting to a civilian life they had not known in many years. The challenges would be compounded for those who came home with war brides - helping them try to adjust to a new way of life altogether.
Doug and Hazel were no exception as they adjusted to their new life together - there would be much joy and many tears over the next years of their lives in Aylmer including raising a young family in the war home project.
But this is where my telling of Private Kelley's and Hazel's story ends kind reader.
I followed in my Dad's footsteps/tiretracks from Juno Beach to Nijmegen as I had hoped to do. It was not the way (walking) I initially had wanted to and the experiences were not at all what I expected - but in the end it was exactly what was needed - no more - no less. This is often the case in life. I know
The Kelley plot
I put the acorn on top and sprinkled a little of Juno Beach sand
no more now than when I started as to where exactly Private Kelley was in Europe during his war years but that is ok - a general idea will do.
I felt on more than one occasion that Private Kelley was actually with me - these moments will be cherished always.
I can now also finally understand why Private Kelley never talked about his war time experiences - some things are better left unsaid / some things too horrific to relive.
Having said this - Dad I wish we had had more time with you to talk about this part of your life - we both left it too late...
I want to thank Hazel (Mom) for filling in so many of the gaps and providing so many of the missing details (sometimes reluctantly) - I know it was often painful for you to delve back into your past (over 75 distant years) and relive the good, the bad and the ugly of those times.
I want to thank Danielle who had to put up with much present day good, bad and ugly while accompanying me throughout this journey - too may war cemeteries, war
A week later - acorn is still there
I wonder when a squirrel will bet it
sites and war museums. I especially apologise for the published picture of us in the war helmets and all the time I spent blogging .... I really know how to show you a good time - right?
As always kind reader you were the best travelling companion - thank you especially for overlooking the many mistakes/liberties with historical facts that I am sure I have made/taken.
Til next time.....
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