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War Stories Chapter 10
War Stories - chapter 10 (Hub is coming home on leave)
The excitement on the farm is tangible. The Italian prisoners of war, who have been seconded to Dad from the nearby Baviaanspoort “prison turned into a prisoner of war camp”, together with the farm workers, are building a brand new house. This is Dad’s idea! “You and Hub will need a place to stay when he comes back from the war”, he argues. Although I know that Hub will not want to be dependent on Dad, it would at least be a place to start our new family.
Dad, like most Dads, is not wildly excited about the choices his two daughters have made in marriage partners. Helen was the first, marrying the ambitious young Afrikaner lawyer, Boet van Aard. Boet enjoys life in the fast lane and is as far right in his political views as you can go. His law firm in Pretoria specializes in contractual business and trust funds rather than criminal matters. If Robey Leibbrandt had not left South Africa for training in Germany, Helen may today be married to him, so Dad has mixed feelings about the choice Helen seems to have made.
Hubert, as Dad referred to Hub, is a divorced man from Waterfal-boven, where he grew up. Coming from a railway town on the edge of the escarpment, the son of a railway engineer who had immigrated to South Africa from Tilburgh in Holland, it was almost inevitable that Hub would also join the railways. In contrast to Boet, Hub is left wing in his political views, he plays the trumpet, and was the lead singer in the local and only band in Waterfal-boven, and in Dad’s eyes is hardly a great catch.
But that is how life is. Dad knows that all his children are rather stubborn and even a bit hard headed and so he and Mom choose to love and support then in spite of the choices they make, good or bad. That is what mothers and fathers often do.
In my heart I know that I have made a good choice. Yes, he is a dreamer who always has a “get rich” scheme up his sleeve which he is sure will secure us with a great future. Somehow it is not difficult to believe him. My brother Charl, who has been wounded in Italy has been transferred from the field hospital to Gibraltar and then sent down the West Coast of Africa by boat to Cape Town. He is now in the hospital in Voortrekkerhoogte near Pretoria, where he has met the love of his life. Crene, a volunteer army nurse, has been looking after Charl and other wounded soldiers who are in re-hab. It has, howeve,r been love at first sight and perhaps this will be a better match in Dad’s eyes, as she comes from the family of Dr. Bodenstein, the medical doctor in Lichtenburg in the Western Transvaal. Charl is hoping to continue his law studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in the near future. The fact that he may have to walk with the aid of a walking stick does not scare him.
Charl’s injury has ended his cricketing prospects where, as a promising fast bowler, he has represented Northern Transvaal and South African Schools with honor. He had been earmarked for higher honours. These dreams ended when the stray piece of shrapnel seriously damaged his leg. So many dreams have ended in the war. Hub’s sister, Betsy, was in love with a young man who was accepted into the air force and he has sadly been killed in action.