In Limbo


Tim Hughes recovered a full head of hair following his bout with ringworm contacted from a shipment of wool from Argentina

In Limbo 

It was 1944.  Joan had had no news of her fiancé, Brian Freyburg, for nearly eighteen months.  She could only pray he had escaped and was in hiding, but it was a difficult time of waiting.

Her airman suitor, David, wrote to ask if he could come and see her on his next leave, but she felt strongly that she must have definite news of Brian before she committed herself and wrote and told David so.  She never heard from him again.

In Limbo

Months went by.  The children, Angela and Tim, were still battling the dreaded ringworm.  Joan was taking them to the doctor weekly for a check.  Finally, the verdict came.  They were cured.  They could go to school.

Rejoicing, they came back to the flat.  Joan began to make plans to get them into a school and make transport arrangements.  Next came a job, and finally a car of sorts.

Rosemary was away but had asked Joan to make marmalade for her as she had managed to augment her sugar ration.

“There’s the phone, Joan,” called Angela.

“Tell whoever it is that Rosemary is away,” she shouted.  “I’m just too sticky to come to the phone right away.”

She came back looking alarmed.  “He says he is a policeman and he MUST speak to you,” she said.  Joan immediately thought of Rosemary and a car accident, and ran to the phone.

“Is that Miss Millard?” asked a man’s voice. “The Red Cross Society have asked me to inform you that your fiancé is alive, but very ill.  He sent you a message which I will read.” Joan reached weakly for a chair and fell into it clutching the phone.  The message read ‘if you are still Miss Millard, i.e. not married, I will be coming back sometime and I love you.  Message ends.

“How wonderful,” she gasped. “Thank you very much.”

Laughing hysterically, she hugged the two solemn children.  Tim asked, “Is Brian coming?  Didn’t he go up to God after all?”

“No, no, he’s alive! We’re going into town now to have ice creams.

“Don’t forget the marmalade,” said Angela.  Joan rushed off just in time to prevent it burning—a major calamity in those days of sugar rationing.

Going to town was a rare and wonderful treat as visiting the doctor being the only outing the kids had had for months.  Now what? Joan’s mind was in a whirl.  Would she and Brian feel the same after so long a parting? Where would she and Brian go?  Did Brian have any money at all?  How ill was he?

What about the two children?  They were a real anguish.  If she married right away where would they go?  It was impossible to find housekeepers.  Every able-bodied woman was doing war work and boarding schools were overcrowded and very difficult to get into.

A letter followed fairly soon after the call.  It was written from a hospital bed.  He was in Cairo and ‘pretty sick with malaria and dysentry…and malnutrition and looked terrible.’ He would come as soon as possible.

After that—silence.

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