Bygones: Memorial to
MOTHERS SONS WHO MADE A LITTLE
GIRL FEEL SO EXCITED.
Nottingham writer Joan Wallace.
As a little
girl gazing out of my bedroom window on a warm, summer's evening in
June, how could I have known I was witnessing part of a most memorable
time in the history of the Second World War? Standing outside the Royal
Oak public house – which was about 200 yards from the back of our
garden...and outside toilet, was a crowd of young, handsome American
and friendly banter floated through the air. I opened my window wider
and leaned out towards the fun.
women, dressed in their best clothes, had gathered around the smartly
dressed paratroopers. I imagined I was taking in a Hollywood film.
Radford had never looked like this before.
in wide-eyed amazement, my stomach turning over with the excitement of
it all. What where they all laughing and talking about?
the young women – and not so young – hugging and kissing the young men?
you out of bed?" Mother's voice called from the bottom of the stairs.
looking at the soldiers, Mam. There's loads of them Americans – those
out of the tents on Wollaton Park.
all get inside the pub...they're all drinking outside. Are they having a
mother answered. "I'm just going across with your Auntie
Flo and some of the neighbours to have a
drink with them. They're all going away soon.
Lacey's opened a special barrel and I don't want to miss it.
Won't be long."
door closed and I watched as Mother clip-clopped in her best high-heeled
shoes, down our cobbled entry.
along Denison Street and into my own Hollywood movie.
those handsome, young paratroopers enjoyed their party. Hope they drank
Jim Lacey's pub dry – because for many of them, it was to be their last
would be slaughtered, as they drifted down beneath their parachutes,
over the beautiful Normandy countryside.
of the 508th
Parachute Infantry Regiment, heroically sacrificing
their lives for us. The kindly pub landlords, little girls peeping
excitedly out of bedroom windows, innocent babies fast asleep in their
prams. They protected us all.
they were strangers in a foreign land called England, the 508th didn't
July, on another warm summer's evening, I can recall little groups of
women standing huddled together on Independent Street.
forget how sad they looked. Crying, they let the tears flow unchecked.
asked my mother what was wrong, she replied: "It's the Yanks...off
Wollaton Park. Loads of them won't be coming back. They've been killed."
still crying as she added: "Some mothers' sons... they were all mothers'
that expression a lot during the war. It was not until I was older that
I realised just what she meant.
lost sons...all those heartbroken mothers. But when you are 10,
everything seems so exciting.
2009, some of the surviving 508th PIR revisited Wollaton Park. I was
befriended by their treasurer, Ernie Lamson, and was thrilled to be made
an honorary member of their association.
returning to Wollaton again this year, on June 27 to be precise, for the
official unveiling of their memorial. The ceremony begins at 1pm.
wait to see them all again.
I can still
remember looking out of my bedroom window – that wide-eyed little girl –
as if it was yesterday.