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MONDAY, 15th MARCH 1943

by Chris Myers


Monday, 15th March 1943.......

Hello again.

Quite a bit of time has passed since my brother set off down the drive, looking back at us over his shoulder and waving cheerio (which I told you about before). About five weeks in fact. No news since then. Measles spots have long since been forgotten by me and I have been back at school for ages. It is now Monday, March 15th. Laundry day for my Mum but I haven't been there to see all the frantic activity. Thank goodness.

I think about my brother a lot. But I can't say that I'm worried about him. I leave things like that to the grown-ups. I know something is going on and Mum and Dad are a bit quiet but they don't burden me with their worries.

If I were to think about it I would realise that everyone seems to have worries of one sort or another in these extraordinary times - extraordinary to the grown-ups, that is, because that's what they call them but they are quite normal to boys like me.

Mrs. Bacon next door has worries. Mr Bacon has been stuck on Malta for the last three years and his daughter, who was born just before he left, only knows him from a photograph on a bookshelf which she chatters to while her mother looks anxiously out of the window for the postman - and please, please, may it not be the telegraph boy who knocks on the door. Everyone knows that these days it is a telegram which always brings the bad news. If we ever get one of those everyone goes very quiet when the door knocker goes and we see it's the telegraph boy standing there, holding his bike and with the telegram in an outstretched hand. Mum or Dad grabs it, fumbles for a threepence to give him and off he pedals down the drive. The telegram is torn open. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAL, LOVE FROM GWEN.  Everyone sighs with relief. We are happy again and the grown-ups forget just how worried they were a couple of minutes ago.

 Mr. Behague on the other side of us, at no. 99, is a fireman in the NFS and disappears for a long time to serve in cities other than Birmingham when they are under attack. Mr. Woodward over the road is never seen and is somewhere or other on the high seas in the Royal Navy. Mr. Coates has also disappeared, probably to the Far East, and won't be seen again for years. All their families have to put up with long periods of hearing nothing at all from them.

And a lady in Balsall Common - near where Mum and Dad grew up - called Mrs Milburn writes every day in a diary (which obviously I shan't know about for a long time). She survived months of worry when her son in the 1/7 Warwicks disappeared during the retreat to Dunkirk in May 1940. Then over the following weeks and months he was rumoured to be a prisoner-of-war, then rumoured to have been wounded, then found to be in a permanent prisoner-of-war camp from which a letter, finally, in January 1941, 8 months after he disappeared, came from him confirming that he was OK. Now, on the first of this month, Mrs Milburn notes how glad she is that there has so far been no snowy winter to cope with. On the 4th she reports a dreadful tragedy in a crowded tube shelter in London the previous night when someone slips on the steps and in the ensuing chaos 178 people are suffocated or crushed. Last Friday she quotes the February air raid casualties figure: 252 killed and 347 injured in the south-east, south and south-west. Birmingham seems still to be getting away with it. The war ebbs and flows in Russia and North Africa, good news, then bad and then ..... There can't be too many people around without some sort of worry.

Grown-ups, that is. I'm OK.

This isn't to say I don't think about my brother a lot. My Dad took a picture of us during the Embarkation Leave at the end of January. I've shown it before but I'll put it in again here in case you didn't notice it.  It was taken at the end of our garden overlooking fields which much, much later will be buried under the houses and gardens in Kingscroft Road, Streetly. I'm very proud of him.  None of my friends have elder brothers who are soldiers. Some of their dads are in the Army or RAF, though.

While he was home, Dad and Graham must have had a conversation, based on my brother's six or seven months of military experience and what our father learned on the Western Front - that was exactly 25 years ago in the spring of 1918 before he was wounded and sent home. They agreed two things. The first was that each letter from the family at home or from my brother abroad would be given a serial number. In this way each side would know when something had gone missing. The other thing was that a private code system was agreed. In this way, from time to time, my brother could let the family know where he was at that moment. This is to get round the censor: each letter from a soldier has to pass through the censor's hands and even a hint of any information of that type is snipped out. As of today I don't know anything about this. But very quickly I shall become aware of it and that will always surprise me in the future – that I was trusted with knowledge of something which could get my brother, and perhaps the whole family, into very serious trouble indeed.

But that is for the future. Today we have no idea what is happening to him. Nothing at all since he left us. I have just got home from school. There has been nothing in the post.



This family and local history page is hosted by 
(The Home Guard of Great Britain, 1940-1944)
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All text and images are, unless otherwise stated, The Myers Family 2022 

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L8J2 June 2022 
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