God Bless the Soldiers

At Herschel for Barbara Millard and Gervas Hughes wedding in April 1936: John Barbara, Monica, Gervas, Theo, Joan and John

In Happier Times At Herschel for Barbara Millard and Gervas Hughes wedding in April 1936: Barbara, Monica, Gervas, Theo, Joan and John

God Bless the Soldiers 

Dr. Millard bought a battery wireless. The months went by with news of the war ever on their minds.  They never missed the news bulletin, sometimes Joan translating from Afrikaans. The children were fascinated but it was never turned on except for the news.

God Bless the Soldiers

Her brother John wrote about Crete and Madagascar. (Later, he would be badly wounded in Sicily and be among the first to land in Normandy on D-day. He ended the war as a colonel.)

South Africa was very divided about the war.  Although many Afrikaans lads joined up and a large contingent went to the Western Desert and Far East, at home others were bitter.  When there was a German victory the church bells in many a dorp (village) rang out.  There were ‘fifth columnists’ who radioed news to Germany.  German submarines lurked offshore and attacked convoys rounding the Cape.

There was no news of the man she loved, Brian Freyburg.  Was he still alive?  Had he escaped the prison of war camp?  There were no letters. The war went on and on.

She did not have much time to feel resentful that she had to live with her father, niece and nephew and drop her career plans.

Food was plentiful because they were almost self supporting but it was plain.  Sweets were only given on Saturdays as a treat.

“Isn’t it sweetie day yet?” they would ask on Tuesday.

At Herschel the shops didn’t have clothes and material available for sale. But the children flourished under her strict routine.  They had lots of fun, picnics and barbecues.

She made pyjamas out of old sheets and dresses out of curtains.  She had never ever felt warm in the house at Herschel.  She unpicked some of her hand knitted sweaters and knitted the wool into jerseys for the children. She ran the local Red Cross and taught African women to knit squares for blankets.

She knitted socks by the dozen out of army supply wool scraps which were dispatched to the soldiers.  After the war Brian reported that he gratefully received a Red Cross parcel.  On parade one sock was very uncomfortable and marching was painful.  A dear lady had tucked into the toe a note on stiff marble paper God bless the dear soldier who wears this sock.

Excerpt taken from Rain on the Roof, by Joan (nee Millard) Freyburg (1999) ISBN 0 646 38477 5 with  family permission.   Tim Hughes has made electronic copies of this wonderful book that may be available on request via the comments section of this blog.

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