In war – determination.
In defeat – defiance.
In victory – magnanimity.
In peace – goodwill.
Wise words from Winston Churchill.
During World War II and even up till 1948, many German prisoners of war (PW) were kept in the United Kingdom and proved to be most useful as a labour force, especially on farms, auf dem Lande.
All the PW’s would be dropped off at their place of work at 0700 every morning. They would have head back to their PW camp, a converted manor house, in the evening. Their rations for the day: a tin of corned beef, barely edible for a dog, let alone a man working in the fields.
One such PW worked on my great-grandad’s farm in the Yorkshire Dales. I forget his name (It’s mentioned in a recent letter from my 80-year-old uncle A from Bedale.) Let’s call him Ralph.
When his employer’s family found out that Ralph:
- Was not a Nazi, just another conscript, doing his job
- Was a motor mechanic
- He was a good “grafter,” full of Teutonic efficiency
- Had food rations thatwere not fit for purpose
- Was an all-round nice guy
the family pretty much adopted him.
They invited him to join them as honoured guest for lunchtime every day, including Sunday roast with gallons of gravy and Yorkshire pudding.
Finally, when Ralph was sent back to Germany in 1948, home addresses were exchanged. Every Christmastime Christmas cards would be exchanged between t’Dales and Hamburg, Ralph’s home.
In 1964 my Uncle A was posted to the BAOR, British Army of the Rhine. He then visited Ralph in Hamburg and had a few beers with him, also meeting his wife and children.
Uncle A and Ralph kept in contact for years even when Uncle A was posted to Northern Ireland. Eventually the Christmas cards stopped. Ralph had passed away. The final correspondence was a condolence card sent to Ralph’s family some time in the 1960’s.
Aus Feind wird Freund.
Have a friendly day, won’t you!