Thursday, February 27, 2020

Marietta National Cemetery

The Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia was established in 1866 to provide a resting place for the 10,000 Union soldiers killed during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. And you did read that correctly, ten thousand. While national cemeteries were originally created to honor Union soldiers killed during the Civil War, they are now national memorials to all U.S. veterans. At the Marietta National Cemetery, there are an additional 8000 graves from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. (There is a separate cemetery for the Confederates a short distance from this one pictured here. The next time I am in Marietta, I will try to visit there and get photos of that one also. History is something that should be preserved and remembered, I believe.)

If you are American and are reading this, I hope that the mention of a national cemetery will remind you of the famous speech by Abraham Lincoln given at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Known as the Gettysburg Address it is an incredible piece of writing.  At the Marietta National Cemetery, there is a large stone with these words written upon it. I hope that this is so for all the National Cemeteries in the USA.

If you notice the date on the stone, President Lincoln delivered this address while the Civil War was still going on and the cemetery was on the site of one of the battles  so that will help you understand his words a bit better.  If you are from another country and are reading this for the first time, I hope you will be impressed by the intelligence of our 16th president who was born in a log cabin and was completely self educated. (And his birthday is in February, as is the very first president, George Washington. So, in honor of these two great men, we have "President's Day" and public schools and government offices are closed and we have mattress sales. Yes, my friends, that is about how it goes.)

There was a very large memorial and from a distance, I couldn't make out what was on the top of is in honor of the Union soldiers from Wisconsin, the Badger state. That is a badger on the top. (I have some blogging friends in Wisconsin, so I hope they see this.)
There, I told you ten thousand...the number was 10,132 to be exact.  I found an essay about the Civil War dead written by Drew Gilpin Faust... it was called "Death and Dying". I wanted to have a link for you but I can't seem to find it. Looking up the author's name, I see that she is a woman and a very accomplished woman at that! I think I would very much like to read these books by her: "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War" and " Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War." 

If only I could express how moved I was after our visit here! My husband and son were both with me and I know they felt the same way. This cemetery is only a short distance from the "square" in Marietta, which is now a very trendy, busy spot with shops and restaurants and yet, the Marietta National Cemetery is just steps away. (We have only one other national cemetery in the state of Georgia, in Andersonville, which is one that I need to visit and tell you about.)

Friday, February 21, 2020

100 Years Ago

I've been telling you about my husband's father lately. Today, Feb. 21st, 2020, would have been his 100th birthday.  Richard wrote something on his Facebook and he has allowed me to share it with you here.  (The photo above is of his parents on the beach in Eastbourne sometime in the 1950's.)  

100 years ago today my father, William  "Bill"  to family and friends - was born in Holborn in London. Twenty - something years later when he and his two brothers were in various parts of the world fighting for their lives and our future, the family home in London was destroyed by the Luftwaffe but none of my family was seriously hurt. Tragically, my father died in 1959 - almost certainly as a result of his service during World War 2 - having spent five years of his short life in military service. When at last the war was over and my father returned from Burma to the family home - which was by now a prefabricated house in the southern suburbs of London - he arrived at the front door in the middle of the night. Rather than wake the family, he sat outside and waited for the day to dawn! This may be hopelessly sentimental but I imagine he enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the English night as he sat outside and probably smoked a pipe or two of tobacco. I hope there was a beautiful sunrise and dawn chorus as all the while he was looking forward to the first of many happy reunions. My father did come home from the war and I know hundreds of thousands did not, but the inscription on the Kohima Memorial in India to the fallen of the Campaign in Burma still seems appropriate to me: " When you go home, Tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, We gave our today. " We owe so much to the Greatest Generation! Thanks, Dad! Wish you could have had a lot more time with us! And thank you, my friends, if you've made it through this! " At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them."

There...I hope you found that as moving as I did. The story of him getting back home and staying out in the garden...perhaps relishing the sound of the dawn chorus and the peace of being back home. It does paint a picture, doesn't it?  

 I knew that Richard was writing this and the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" came into my head. I think it fits this post. So, I have it for you here...

Sunday, February 16, 2020


Shetland.  What is the first thing that comes to mind? The Shetland Pony? (The little long-haired pony has been there for 4000 years!)  "Shetland", the TV series that is filmed there based on the books by Ann Cleeves?  After reading my post, I hope that you will also think of "Shetland Bus" whenever you hear "Shetland".  (And Shetland is situated in the North Atlantic between Scotland, Norway and the Faroe Islands.)

After Norway was invaded in 1940 by Nazi Germany, some 300 boats filled with refugees left Norwegian shores by heading west. The majority of these went to the islands of Shetland. If these boats could get to Shetland, then they should be able to return, it was reasoned. Those who returned could execute clandestine missions. This became known as the "Shetland Bus.".

So, the Shetland bus- not really a bus, but a wartime resistance movement using boats between Norway and Shetland.
"It was a dark and stormy night"...that is a phrase that should come to mind when you read of this because the most favorable conditions for entering Norwegian waters were on the darkest, stormiest nights, so that put the boats in danger not only from the Germans but also from severe weather. (However, such was the skill of those involved, I think I've read that no boats were lost.)  It soon became apparent that bigger, faster boats were needed. The U.S. Navy donated three American sub-chasers.  I found a video of the sub-chaser and it is much larger and I assume faster than the fishing boats that were used. I can't get that same video on here but I do have another one...

And please look at this link...Shetland. It is an excellent source of information.  While there, pay attention to the map showing the location of the Shetland Islands and that will help you understand the importance of the islands in relation to Norway during World War II.

Like many people, I used to only think of Shetland ponies when I heard the word "Shetland" but years ago, I read a book called "We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance" by David Howarth. The book is an amazing true story of Jan Baalsrud and his escape from Nazi occupied Norway. It is one of my favorite books of all time. It became a film in 1957, "Ni Liv", which means Nine Lives" in Norwegian. The author, David Howarth helped to set up the Shetland Bus and was second in command at the Naval base in Shetland. When he died in 1991, he asked that his ashes were to be scattered over the waters of Lunna Voe, Shetland  which was the first base of the Shetland Bus. His request was honoured.   

Why am I telling you about Shetland? Have I ever been there? No! It is because we recently discovered that Bill, Richard's father was stationed there in World War II.  Some 20,000 British troops were stationed there during the war and that number was greater than the residents. It was very much feared that Germany could invade Britain beginning with the Shetland Islands. (Therefore, the reason for all those British troops.)  There was a very large Nazi occupying force in Norway.  If you draw a straight line around the coastline of Norway, it would measure about 1,650 miles. However, with all the islands, fjords and bays, it measures over 15,000 miles. The Germans thought (incorrectly!) that the Allies might have their landings in the North Atlantic.

Apparently, from what I have read, the people of Shetland were very welcoming to the troops. Just as I hope Bill was able to hear the lady sing in South Africa,  I also hope that he was able to enjoy some of the local entertainment on Shetland. 

I hope my research has been accurate. Please forgive any mistakes that I have made.  All respect and honor to all the brave men and women in the "Shetland Bus" and to all who served on Shetland.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Lady In White (I HOPE Bill Heard Her Sing!)

When we were in London in October, we visited the Holborn area which is where Richard's father grew up and lived with his parents, twin sister and two older brothers in the Laney Building on the Bourne Estate.   While Bill, his twin and both brothers were in the war, the family home was bombed in the Blitz.  Reading about it, the Laney Buildings were mostly spared, although many other buildings were bombed in the area during World War II. I do know that they were bombed out, and that when Richard's Dad came home from WWII, that his parents were living in a house in Bellingham. (During the Blitz, more than a million London houses were destroyed or badly damaged and more than 20,000 civilians died in London alone.) Richard's father died in 1959, just after his 39th birthday when Richard was just 3 years old. His Dad had spent five years of his adult life in the British Army in the Royal Corps of Signals. (Will tell you more about that in another post.)  Richard and I have just spent some time looking up the places that his Dad wrote down in the small journal that he kept while in was in the Army. His Dad's name was William but he was called "Bill". 

Durban, South Africa...that was one of his postings. What do you know about it?  Let me tell you one thing that I have learned...

During World War II, Durban was a very busy harbour with many troop ships and hospital ships. What do you think I found out? Oh, you will never guess...there was a woman who would come down to the pier and she would sing to the troops as the ships went past! Coming or going and she never missed one!  Her name was Perla Siedle Gibson and she NEVER missed a troop ship, not even on the day that she lost her oldest son in the war. She was called the "Lady In White" because she always wore the same outfit- white dress with a big red hat and a red necklace. (You may read more about her just here.)  How wonderful would that have been for the men to hear her sing! It is believed that she greeted over 5000 ships and that a quarter of a million men heard her sing. And she would sing through a megaphone to be sure that she could be heard.   Now, I am hopeful that Richard's father heard her sing! It is very likely, is it not? 
Here, just listen to the quote from Perla Gibson herself...."I adore British Tommies, they make you sing and sing and sing and never let you stop. I once sang six hours at a stretch for them".
You see, the men would sing along with her! Have you ever heard Brits singing together? To my American ears, they all sound so very good together!

Perhaps you have heard of Vera Lynn, the Forces Sweetheart, she is well known for her songs during World War II. Vera Lynn and Perla Gibson met after the war and became friends. Well, of course, they would! These women are just my kind of people, both of them, after my heart, I tell you!
(And Perla Gibson was also an anti-apartheid campaigner for democracy in South Africa, I am happy to say.)

Perla Gibson died in 1971 just before her 83rd birthday. Vera Lynn is 102 years old now. (If anyone knows this great lady, let her know I have two of her songs on here!)

Now, I urge you to look up more about Perla Gibson. I think you would agree that her story would make a great film! Who could play her? Perhaps Kathy Bates? Don't you agree? (And how about a film about Vera Lynn while we're at it!)

Now, let's get back to Bill, Richard's father who was in South Africa during 1943 on his way to Burma.  I very much hope that he heard Perla Gibson singing through her megaphone!
One of the songs that she would have sung would have been "There'll Always Be An England'.  Why, I even have the lyrics for you, you can sing along like the servicemen did! 

Bill, Richard's father would have been 100 years old this month. I will have more about the research I have done about his time in the Army. I hope to write more about him this month. Our son has a resemblance to his English grandfather, I believe.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters

Every year these daffodils push up through the Earth and bloom. The green blades come up first, reaching towards the sun, pushing aside all the dead oak leaves. They are not native to the USA but were first planted by the British colonists, so you could say that they have "naturalized" here. Daffodils are always a welcome sight for me. The same flower in England and in Georgia! (Of course, the daffs bloom here much earlier, the photo above was taken on Jan. 25th!)  I am certain I have told you this all before but it bears repeating!

Today is Groundhog day! Apparently, the groundhog saw his shadow, so that means six more weeks of winter. we will have early Spring! (Please forgive me, I live in Georgia and it really does not matter what the groundhog sees in Pennsylvania! We have Spring for about 5 minutes and then, it's summer until November.)  More importantly, I hope you have seen the film "Groundhog Day"! Please say you have, it is so funny. The man who wrote the screenplay and directed the film is no longer with us, Howard Ramis. (If you remember, he is the actor who wore glasses in "Ghostbusters", the film from 1984. Harold Ramis shared the screenplay credit with Dan Akroyd.) The film is not just funny but it makes you think. The day was EXACTLY the same for the character but it all changed when he changed his attitude. Now, I have to tell you some happy news, there will be a new" Ghostbusters" movie coming out this year! Many of the same actors from the 1984 film will be in the 2020 film. That is good news, don't you think we need to laugh more?

Look at this little Carolina wren perched on the "wing" of the iron humming bird. Nice of him to pose for me while I snapped the picture for you! (See the nice long stick that Richard put at the bottom of the suet feeder where bigger birds can perch? Nothing is too good for our birds!)
Now, I know I must have told you this poem by Emily Dickinson before...but here it is again! (You all might think you are in the film "Groundhog Day" with my post today!)

Hope is the thing with feathers,
that perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops-at all.

And sweetest - in the gale- is heard
and sore must be the storm-
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land-
And on the strangest sea-
Yet - never- in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

My friends, people are going through so many things just now. We need to try to be encouraging and hopeful. Have you heard about the people who live in the high rise buildings in Wuhan, China and they are locked away because of the deadly virus and yet, they will call out, "Be strong, Wuhan!". That is what I am talking about. We need to try and outdo each other in giving hope and encouragement.