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.




40 comments:

  1. Your son does look like his Grandpa! My Dad would have been 100 this February also. He died young too but a little older than Bill. What a great story and I'm sure it would make a fabulous movie. We certainly had many heroes in the Greatest Generation. I loved seeing your daffodils from your previous post. It will be atleast 2-3 months before we see any up here! Have a nice Sunday!

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    1. You have your daffs to look forward to! Maybe you could do a tribute to your Dad too this month, in the month that he would have been 100. All honor to him and his generation. xx

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  2. What an interesting story! Yes, there's a movie in there somewhere!

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    1. Wish I could make movies, you know I have tons of subjects!!

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  3. Kay, I would like to think your husband's father did get to sing along with the lady. Sad that he died so very young. I am always amazed at the pictures of men during WW11...but then they were all just boys really. Blessings, xoxo, Susie

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    1. They really were so very young. I tried to get a photo of Bill and our son at close to the same age and I realized how young Bill was in WW2.
      Blessings on you and hug your TEddy bear for me. xx

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  4. Thanks for the link, that is a powerful song. My dad would have been 101 this week. A great generation indeed, and that is amazing about the lady who sang to the troops so faithfully.

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    1. All honor to your Dad's memory. I am glad you like the story of the Lady In White also, I do wonder why I am just finding out about her. "Sang to the troops so faithfully", I love that, for that is exactly what she did. x

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  5. I agree that your son resembles his grandfather. It is amazing how those things happen.

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    1. I know, I find it fascinating, the "gene pool", if you will...my Grandfather would tear up every time he saw me, he said I looked just like his "Ma". She was born in the 1860's!

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  6. I think your son looks like his granddad! What an interesting story you have created here-with the life of Richard's dad. How wonderful that he kept a journal. So many did not..and now you can retrace his steps in a way.
    I hope you have a wonderful Sunday, Kay. xo Diana

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    1. I know other vets have written long journals, but Richard's Dad just had a few notes of his postings in a small notebook, so we are trying to track down all the places he went in the war. xx

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  7. Oh yes, there’s definitely a resemblance, Kay. They were/are very handsome men.
    Yes, you made me look up Perla Gibson. I wish there was a YouTube of her singing. What a remarkable lady. Her story would certainly make an interesting book. I love how they’ve even erected a statue for her.

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    1. Very handsome men, I so agree!
      Kay, I also looked up YouTube and couldn't find anything by her. I think someone has written a book about her but you know what it's like these days, unless it is on a screen, no one pays any attention! And I saw that statue too!

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    1. I thought so too!
      Lovely to see your comment, John!

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  9. I bet Bill heard Perla sing. Her story would make a good movie. Do the English still like to drop by the pub during the evening for a sing-song, or is that just something that happened in old movies? I had no idea Vera Lynn is still alive.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Why does the paper in the last photo say Christopher Guest? His movies are usually hilarious.

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    2. The pubs are not around as much anymore, I never heard those singalongs in England at pubs but my sister did, she was astonished! (This was in the 1980's.)
      So glad you liked the story about Perla also!

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  10. I do think Christopher looks a lot like his grandfather...Most of my D.E. Stevenson friends are fans of Vera Lynn. We played some of her music at our gathering in Edinburgh in 2010. But I didn't realize she was still alive. My mil lived to be 102 which is Vera Lynn's age now. I love the story of Perla Gibson which I'd never heard before.What a kind and generous thing she was doing.

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    1. So kind and generous! We need more people like her and we need to highlight those like her!

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  11. When I read the headline of your post in my reading list, I thought this was about a ghost story - and then I looked at your first picture, and I can definitely see something like a white-clad figure at the window, do you see it, too?
    I was still expecting a ghost story post, but as I read on, I realised it wasn't at all what I had expected. Still wonderful, but definitely no ghost story. Was I just being over-imaginative?

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    1. I looked closely at that first photo and it is a reflection of the building opposite so perhaps that is a ghost of the buildings that were lost.
      Now you have made me get the tune "Ghostbusters" in my head. I will be singing that all day now!!

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  12. For dads record try this.
    https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records

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    1. Thanks! We will try to look that up and will let you know! By the way, you will hear about Scotland and Shetland in future posts.

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  13. I LOVE this post! I'm always interested in history, it is after all the story of people, not just boring dates and time lines which is what many people think. You've learned a lot with your research. How wonderful you've been able to visit and photograph these places where family have been. I've done some of that myself and find it really rewarding. I've heard of Vera Lynn, but not Perla Gibson, so am going to do some reading about her. Thanks for posting this. Swing by for a visit.

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    1. Thank you, Sandy!! It IS about people, real people who lived and laughed and loved just like everybody!!
      I try to read as much nonfiction as possible, that is what I most enjoy. xx

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  14. How wonderful you have a journal like that to refer to. That is a treasure to keep for sure. How wonderful too to know that perhaps his father was entertained by the lady in white!

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    1. I do hope that he heard her sing through that megaphone, I truly do. xx

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  15. What a lovely thing to do, greet every ship! It just goes to show that everyone pulled together to do what they could to help at a time when help was so sorely needed.

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    1. Had you ever heard of her? I hadn't and I was amazed that there is so little about her! Like I said, I want to make a film about her! And there are so many other people like this with inspirational stories.

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  16. A wonderful post. It's been a long time since I was at "Blogger". There's a lot of water under the bridge for me. I'm retired a bit against my will and intention and will look for another congregation to serve. I also see the family resemblance between son and great-grandfather. Good to see and read you again!

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    1. Hey Dennis! I just thought of you this very morning! I was reading the BBC and they just had a very windy storm there, named CIARA, I think. They are about to get a very cold storm with snow and it is named DENNIS. When I read that, I thought, I wonder what Dennis is up too out west?? And then, I see your comment here! Remember when the door closes a door, a window is opened somewhere! Oh, and Bill would be my son's grandfather! Lovely to see and read you again, also! Take care!

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  17. A beautiful post...it brought tears to my eyes, Kay.

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    1. Oh thank you so much, Lee! Sometimes it's hard to write when you feel so much about something, it is for me anyway. xx

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  18. Interesting history of that time period. Richard's father and son are good looking.

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    1. Thank You! I will tell C. you said so! xx Aloha

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  19. Popping in to say hi as make my blog rounds. Hope all is well with you.

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    1. Thank you, I am well, just very busy these days! Just did a post today, about Shetland if you can believe it. You might think I have been there, WRONG! That doesn't stop me from writing about it though! :-)

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  20. I can see the resemblance, Kay! I'm reading backwards, so I just learned how young Richard's father was when he died. Now that photo of his parents on the beach in Eastbourne is really heartbreaking. I too am very busy these days, and I'm retired. I just can't catch up! LOL

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