The war in Ukraine reminds me of my mother’s escape from the Nazis.
Sir, – Seeing the war in Ukraine reminds me of my mother’s escape from Leuven in Belgium during World War I when the Nazis invaded.
As the Germans drove through town, the family fled through the back door.
The young children succeeded but they caught her parents and she never saw them again.
My mother’s name was Sidonie Maria De Meyer. She arrived in the seaside town of Folkestone with a wonderful man who accompanied so many people across the Channel and who was the Mayor of Leuven.
There is a picture he painted of their arrival and this hangs in the Grand Hotel in Folkestone.
This incredible man has been on the boats bringing back refugees from France time and time again, a very dangerous crossing as you can imagine. My mother came to Henley and worked in Orchard Dene along the Fair Mile where she met my father, Thomas Henry Chaplin.
They got married and had six children, of which I am the youngest.
I remember my mother caring for a lot of refugees during WWII and our house was always spotless with good home cooking. However, I wondered who all these people were (I was three years old at the time).
When they had the 100th memorial service in Folkestone, which Prince Harry attended, my mother’s story was read in the port where she had arrived all those years ago with thousands of others.
Unfortunately, she died when I was 12 and my father died when I was 13. Three of us were still in school and two in the army and marines. Albert, who was then the youngest, had already died at the age of two.
Times were very hard for so many people. Now this is happening in Ukraine and let’s hope that the Russian people who have a crazy leader among them will prevail.
My first and only job before my marriage to Geoff Wright was at Higgs & Co and the Henley Standard for nine years.
My employer, Tom Luker, who I believe was a councilor at the time, worked in the housing department, so they looked after us in Henley. He was very nice to me and later John and Anne Luker were too. They were a wonderful family.
My sister Margaret trained as a nurse and received her SRN from Douglas Bader at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. There’s a picture of her in the book The History of the Royal Berkshire Hospital 1839-1989.
Our eldest daughter is Sidonie Maria after my mother and is now matron of the community, married with four children and a wonderful daughter.
Incidentally, our next door neighbor was Percy Coleman, who was the editor of the Henley Standard at the time and his family.
His lovely wife was Julia and while I was still at school she cooked me a meal and sent one of her boys (there were four of them) with it and a pudding too.
I have often wondered if they draw lots to see who should go each time. – Yours faithfully,