1943 a War Story. (Chapter 6)
War stories, 1943 - chapter 6
The farm is just as I remembered it. All though it is only about a year ago that I had signed up “to serve anywhere in Africa” as the form in the recruitment office in Pretoria stated, it seemed much longer. A lot of work had been done on the 55 morgen that lay between the dirt road from Pretoria towards Cullinan and the Moraletta River that formed the other boundary.
A diesel pump at the borehole that had been sunk, supplies the concrete dam and the water tanks with enough water for household use. A noisy generator some distance from the house supplies electricity to the farm house, with its Cape style gables and large back “stoep” or verandah. Here milk is converted into butter by means of the hand turned separator.
The servants’ houses, the large chicken runs and camp for the cows, which included milking sheds, are a few hundred yards away past the large concrete dam. The dam is used to irrigate the gardens and fruit trees but also serves as a swimming place for family members to cool off on hot summer days.
It is amazing what Mom, with the help of the black farm workers, has managed to achieve in the last year when the men were away at war. The young fruit trees are looking promising, the rose garden is flourishing and vegetables from the garden supply us with regular salads and other dishes. It is so good to be home, if only the rest of the family could be here to!
At times I feel guilty that I am here and that they are in the war zone. Then the baby, growing daily in my womb, kicks and reminds me that new life is being created even while many lives are being lost. In a way it seems senseless and yet in another way is makes perfect sense; that I am here in the safety and care of my parents.
Dad, after returning to the Railway Police on a temporary appointment, is spending some time at home but then is of again onto the road or perhaps “onto the rails”, trying to secure the railway lines from the threat of sabotage by Robey Leibbrandt and his followers. Later I was to learn that Dad had arrested several Ossewa Brandwag members, including John Vorster, at the Durban Station. At this stage however everything is hush, hush. When he returns to Fontainebleau for a couple of days, he seemed tired and often worried, but the challenge of farming and building seems to restore his soul.
At the same time there is great excitement in the air as we listen to the daily news reports coming over the radio standing in the corner of the sitting room. By tuning into short wave we can even, on occasions, pick up BBC news from London. By all accounts things are not looking good, but then another Allied victory gives us hope again. News of the surrender of 11000 men at Tobruk seems devastating. As more details came through the decision by General Klopper begins to make more sense, in that many lives have been saved in what was a hopeless situation. Our army is now entering Italy and fighting one of the most difficult campaigns in the war.
News from Hub and my brothers and sister is scarce, and any letters we receive are shared and reread time and time again. How we long for the war to end, and how we dream of fond reunions, only to find, on waking, that they were only dreams. Perhaps tomorrow there will be news that peace has come, but meanwhile we can only hope and pray. As time passes, the child growing inside me is nearing its time to enter into the world. Hopefully it will be a world of peace. When Christmas comes the due date will be only three months or so away. Come March and come the end of war, but which would come first?