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Toni Pyl

 – Part 11 War Memories (Final)

May 15, 2019 May 2019 No Comments

Now we started talking about our old village and my mother managed to obtain a permit as a former resident. We went on one of the few trams that were operating  and then walked the rest of the way. The village was a sorry sight with barbed wire and empty ammunition shells everywhere. A wooden bridge replaced where the pasture nearby had been dug up to make a deep tank trap. Houses were badly damaged as all the wood had been taken out, leaving only the brickwork and they all had to be pulled down, including our old house.

Sometime later it was announced that the  Council had repaired some of the houses and we could return. We could choose which one to live in so we ended up living in the lovely village again but not in the same house.

Because of food shortages caused by allied action, lots of children were weak and underfed so England (feeling responsible) offered to organise health camps. Only one in every family could go there and I was the lucky one (my sister went to a camp in Holland). We only took a few clothes with us as we we were going to get new ones in England. It was all very exciting but first we had to be de-loused at the local medical centre.  Army trucks collected us and we were driven to Rotterdam. The boat journey in itself was exciting as we went on a big passenger ship, which formerly went to Indonesia and was converted for the army. It took three days to get to Southampton because we went so slowly through a channel in the sea with lines of mine sweepers on both sides.

On board we were looked after by the W V S ladies. This was a different world altogether.

We went by train to the Midlands and I was very impressed by the mountains, vast rivers, wooded hills and tunnels. When we drove through stations, people were waiting, cheering and waving at us.

We stayed at a camp near Leeds for three months, which actually turned out to be a bit boring as we couldn’t leave the camp without being accompanied by an adult. Now and then we would go on nice trips in the neighbourhood and to the Pennine Mountains. Those who were members of the Girl Guides were allowed to attend English Girl Guide evenings. We also went on shopping expeditions to Woolworths to buy peanut butter and cinnamon. I learnt about Guy Fawkes and we went to visit one of the bonfires but we weren’t allowed to buy any fireworks. Some children did anyway and they let them off in the corridors.

The food was not bad but it was different and we didn’t get very excited about it. After three months we were glad to return again, to home sweet home.

Because of the housing shortage, we had a Russian woman and her daughter staying for a while as well as their little dog. I loved that little dog and she promised it to me when she left. However I forgot to get some shopping for her once so she gave the dog to someone else as punishment, which really hurt me.

It took a few years before life returned to normal. By that stage, I was planning to emigrate from Holland with my future husband as was encouraged by the Dutch Government.  We chose New Zealand because of the lack of people and beautiful scenery.

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