1943 -a War Story Chapter 5
War stories 1943-chapter 5.
As I hugged my Dad and smelt the familiar aroma of tweed and tobacco smoke mixed with sweat, my restless soul seemed to find a moments peace. At last there was something familiar in my life. Around us people were shouting greetings, crying in joy, hearts in turmoil as injured men were carried off the ship, but I was home again. Well not really home, but back in my country and with my Dad.
“How is Mom? What news from Albert, Charl and Jessie? How are you Dad?” The questions came tumbling out of my mind and onto my lips like an animal that had not eaten for a week, desperately hungry, not knowing where to start and not wanting to stop. “Hang on my child”, my Dad held me away at arm’s length and looked at me. “First tell me how you are? When did you last see Hub? How was the journey? How is the baby?”
We both stopped and began laughing as we realized that the need for information was so desperate that it was going to take some time before we could even begin to satisfy our appetites. “Just hold me Dad, it has been so scary and I have been helping others for so long I just need to feel safe, even if for just a few moments. I love you and missed you so much!” In my heart I thanked God for the parents that I had who could make me feel so good and safe even when so much of the world around me seemed to be falling apart.
The journey back to Pretoria gave us the opportunity to catch up on news, and if not all the news, then at least on that which was important. Dad, because of his position as former head of the Railway Police, had been able to secure a double cabin on the train which was soon chugging its way up the escarpment to the Highveld, and the farm near Pretoria. We rode through the “Valley of a thousand hills” and passed towns like Howick and Harrismith - so green in the early summer; then Bloemfontein and Kroonstad on the flat plains of the Orange Free State, and finally arriving in the bustling railway junction town of Germiston. Here we changed trains for the short journey to Pretoria station where we were met by Mom, Boet and Helen. After a joyful round of hugs and hellos and questions that would have to be answered in full later on, we all squashed into Dad’s new, brown Chevrolet and headed for “Fonteinblauw”, the farm about 20 miles out of Pretoria, named after the area near Paris that the Cilliers had originally come from.
My prayers that news would all be good when I arrived home were partially answered. News from the fronts in both North Africa and Europe were sketchy to say the least and the only bad news as far as our family was concerned, was that about my younger brother Charl. He had been wounded in his upper leg by a piece of shrapnel but was doing well in the military hospital in Paris. He was now waiting for a passage back to South Africa. In comparison to the many families who were receiving news of loved ones killed in battle, even this bad news was good!
And then there was the letter from North Africa, with the Egyptian stamp on it, waiting on the polished side-board in the dining room. It was addressed to me. How I read the letter over and over again; then held it in my shaking hands against my heart. Crying and laughing at the same time; reading and re-reading every word and then sleeping with it under my pillow as if I was afraid it would somehow disappear! Here was confirmation of the love we have for each other. The words spoke of the joy that beat in our hearts.
End war! I need to feel the arms of my loved one before my longing consumes me!