Remembering Cecily

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Today is Rememberance Day here in Canada. I didn't take in any of the ceremonies this year, in person or on television. Instead I chose a few quiet moments to myself to reflect on my family. Thoughts of my Grandad and my father but mostly my Grandmother this year. While searching for something completely unrelated, I came across a folder of photocopied items my Aunt had sent to me last year or the year before. Inside the folder were letters, newspaper articles and other items written by or about my grandmother, Cecily Eardley-Wilmot, while she served in the Canadian Women's Army Corps. (May 1942 - July 1945).

I'm not going to go into detail about her service or what she was like. You can read some of it here and here. I loved reading her letters and was particularly taken by a lengthy letter she wrote home on July 19, 1944. At the time, she was stationed in London as a driver. In early July, both she and her friend "Cubby" were given leave for the weekend so they decided to bike to Canterbury. Yes, they were crazy and didn't realize how far it was (my research says approx 100km). Heading out early Saturday morning, they finally made it around 8PM and were lucky enough to find rooms in the Canadian Y.M.C.A. under the watchful eye of a "Mrs. Findley" who was kind enough to provide the two women with breakfast in bed on Sunday morning: bacon, fried tomatoes, toast, marmalade and tea (sounds familiar...). A nice change to the stale bread and "meat paste" that they had brought along (apparently someone in my grandmother's family had sent it to Cecily in one of her care packages).

The highlight of their trip for my grandmother was the their visit to the cathedral. She had visited a number of other "famous places" and been very disappointed but was in complete awe from the moment she arrived. I don't blame her, the cathedral is beautiful. Her description of the interior and of the service she and Cubby attended covered 3 full pages. I only wish that I had read this particular letter before I headed to England back in March.

Their adventures continued as they hurried onto a train in order to make it back to London that evening. On board the crowded train were R.A.F. servicemen, a bride and groom cuddling in a corner, a colonel from Cubby's home town, sailors failing asleep standing against the wall, and a young woman who fainted. When one of the servicemen helped her come to and told her to put her head between her knees, she thought he was being fresh and stormed off into one of the other cars. At one of the stops, one of the sailors who got on got his thumb caught in the door. They eventually freed him but the door wouldn't close properly for the rest of the ride and ended up flying open at one point while they were at full speed!

Arriving back in London, Cubby and Cecily got off the train at an early stop in order to free themselves from the cramped conditions in the car (and to get away from a "brat" sitting beside them). According to her letter, they biked the remaining ten miles and stopped off at the Knights of Columbus for "cokes and chocolate cake with nuts on".

While I'm sure that her life in London during the war was not as fun and carefree as this particular weekend but it's nice to read her words and realize that she even in the smallest things (such as cokes and cake, or a weekend jaunt with her best friend), she was able to escape even if for only a brief while the horrors of war.

I miss her.


* (asterisk) said...

That's cool about Canterbury cathedral! Yep, getting there by bike from London... that'd take a fair amount of time, I reckon...

tweetey30 said...

That is a cool story. People dont realize what these people on war go through really. They only look at the blood and gore that comes with it. They dont think that these people actually get away from the other stuff. I am glad you have those letters and such. they are great keep sakes..

Candy Minx said...

What a beautiful post. I was thinking about both my grandpas yesterday too.

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