Churnet Valley, May 1945

Churnet Valley, May 1945

Barry Edge provides another of his memoirs – this time dating from the eve of the German surrender in World War Two…

Barry Edge writes…

Whilst it’s a quiet part of the off season, I thought you might be interested in one of my mum’s favourite stories which, in part, includes Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces in 1945.

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Churnet Valley, May 1945

My mum loved to share this story of camping in the Churnet Valley in May 1945 (she was a brilliant storyteller). In my mind’s eye I can see dad smoking his favourite briar pipe as mum, stopping to muse for a few seconds, would look at dad before beginning.

It goes without saying that the Churnet Valley represented one of those memorable experiences in mum’s lifetime because it was magnificently capped off when dad came back from the Michelin.

With the expectation that WWII in Europe was all but declared ended there was excitement across the land and our kith and kin were preparing V Day celebrations.

It was late April 1945 when my second eldest brother Alan – then 11 years old – persuaded mum and dad to take us camping at Consall near Wetley Rocks. My sister Jocelyn was nearly 5, and me not quite 3½.

Fortunately mum and dad loved camping, and with dad on leave we were all set to go on Friday 4th May.

Early Friday morning we travelled to Consall via Wetley Rocks. The weather was said to be unusually fine, and mum said the walk to the camping spot seemed never ending – even though there was a beautiful, meandering brook to guide us, a quaint little bridge to cross over, and a pub nearby. By nightfall our tents were up and mum had conjured up a meal on several ‘Primus’ stoves – something she would do time and again over the years.

The narrative tells of sunny days and warm nights with a mum and dad said to be well pleased we were in the Churnet Valley.

Although dad was on leave he still needed to go to the Michelin to collect his wages, so it was planned that he would leave early on Monday the 7th May and be back in camp late evening the same day.

However, on the evening of May 6 the rain came down, and down, and down, and it was taking mum, dad and Alan all the best of efforts to keep us dry. Needless to say this very wet interlude dampened mum and dad’s enthusiasm for camping and they determined we were to pack up in the morning and go home.

Monday morning came, and so did the sun – bright, warm and beautiful. A quick conference between mum and dad resulted in a reversal of the decision taken when the rain had been flooding us out.

So, as dad set out for the Michelin on the morning of May 7, mum set about drying our gear whilst Alan was given temporary charge of Jocelyn and me.

It goes without saying that the Churnet Valley represented one of those memorable experiences in mum’s lifetime because it was magnificently capped off when dad came back from the Michelin.

But why was it so memorable? The answer dear reader is found in the knowing of my dad.

For the most part my dad was a quiet man with a language salient, succinct and finely nuanced, and when speaking you paid attention because he was not fond of repeating himself. He also had a sense of occasion when sharing important news.

As promised dad was back in camp late evening and after supper Alan, Jocelyn and me were settled down for the night.

At this point in the telling of the story mum would glance a smile towards dad.

Sitting and drinking a cup of tea before getting horizontal (as dad would say) dad said to mum…’By the way, the Germans surrendered today’.

Mum said although it was nearly midnight they sat in silence whist looking up at the star filled heavens.

See you later,

May 7, 2018

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Nice one, Barry.