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War Stories Chapter 14 the war ends
War Stories Ch 14 The War has ended!
We have to some degree, got used to life on the farm and the war sometimes seems to exist in a different world, but then news from the front brings us back to reality. While the news of battles won or lost in North Africa or Europe becomes part of our consciousness, it is when the telegram arrives with a personal message that reality jumps into our lives: “Sorry to inform you that…… has been killed in El Alamein”. This is so different from hearing that we suffered heavy losses in that battle – this is so personal!
The local news tells us that Robey Leibbrandt has been arrested in the Soutpansberg and that he is being tried for treason. As a family and as individuals we have mixed feelings. This is someone we know personally and so we follow the trial with rapt attention. When he is found guilty and sentenced to death we are shocked, but the debate about the death penalty hardly seems relevant at times like this, times when death is reaching its icy fingers into almost every family. We rush to comfort friends who receive the message from the front that no one wants to receive.
Sometimes I am too scared to watch when Dad comes back from town, dreading that the telegram will come that I fear most. I have been so lucky so far. In fact, it is as if our family has a guardian angel looking after it. I believe it does, and so I pray often and desperately.
The capture of the 6th S.A. Infantry Brigade at Tobruk means many of the soldiers who we know, have been transported to concentration camps in Italy. Most have ended in Sulmona, near Rome. Strange that we have Italian soldiers on the farm and as we get to know them, we realize the terrible truth about war. Normal, good people on both sides are dying for political agendas they don’t fully understand.
Again news from the front is scant and we have nightmares about life and death in distant land that had, until recently, only been a name on a map. Robey’s death sentence has been commuted to life and we, and especially Helen, are somehow relieved. The loyalty to the different warring parties divides families and the country. What will happen after the war?
Another question that I ask myself is “what work will Hub do when he returns?” He only has Std 10 and some experience as a clerk in the railways and I know Mom and Dad are also concerned. My love for him, and knowing his optimism and resourcefulness, helps me to put aside any of the concerns that gnaw at my heart and mind. Many will return home after the war and then will have to face life in a country that, in many ways, will have to be rebuilt. A country with big political questions and problems that need to be asked and answered.
The news has come, the war is over! We can hardly believe it and as troops are demobilized, ships start leaving from North Africa and Europe, if not on a daily basis, on a weekly one. We wait desperately to hear when our loved ones will arrive.
Again I stand on Pretoria station as the train steams into platform four. Little Johan hangs onto my hand and I can feel the new baby, that is soon due, moving inside me. At least Hub will be with me when the child is born and that is how it should be. Will it be a boy or a girl? Now I see Hub waving his cap out of the window of the train and my heart leaps with joy. Will I ever be so happy again? I hope so, but at the same time it does not seem possible!