When my mother opened the door on the morning of June 6th 1944 there was a pile of tin cans on the step, and the path, dozens and dozens of them.
I looked out of the fields that surrounded Knowle Cottage seeing them empty. It was the first time in an age that they hadn’t been full of tents housing American soldiers. The field nearest us had housed the biggest tent you can imagine and that was the cookhouse and eating area for the troops. Some of the strange but mouthwatering smells that came from that tent could have you salivating in minutes.
They had started moving out the day before, everything was getting packed up and moved onto huge olive green trucks. The kitchen and dining area was the still working, soldiers wandering in and out of it on breaks between their massive packing spree.
George was the cook, a mountain of a man with gentle manners and a ready smile. He was the first non-white person we had ever seen. He spent hours talking to my father, discussing vegetables and having a smoke, my father was a pipe man, George smoked cigarettes.
He would wait for father behind the cookhouse tent, they would sit under the hedge there chatting like old friends, and eating pineapple chunks! George always sent a can home for the rest of us.
George had three children, a boy and two girls and a wife called Delores. He was from Idaho.
It was George who had left the tins of food. I still have the note that was with them.
“Well Erney, we are outta here. Thank the Missis and kids for the eggs, I’m can’t think how the farmer never mised so many. I can’t tell you any thing about what hapens next, but I’ll drop you a line when all this crap is over. I hope the kids enjoy the froot and stuff. Your frend, George”
That letter never did arrive, but my father always hoped it would. He talked of George often, saddened that he never heard from him again.
Every year, on Remembrance Sunday, we would all gather at the monument in the village to lay a wreath for ll those who died. Every year as people started to move away after the service father would walk over to the monument, put his hand on the rough stone and say
“Thank you George”
Down in the deep countryside the men here were not conscripted to the army for the whole war, they were left behind to provide food for the war effort, or served and were then demobbed after two years. My father always felt he should have been there with the other servicemen, there to the end not just for his two years conscription and then back to the fields. He saw action of course, but was then sent back to the land.
I know that if he were here today he would still be thanking George, and everyone else that took part in the D-Day landings.
On his behalf, Thank you all.