Category Archives: WWII 1944

March 18, 2017 – Thoughts on our trip – 3- France

Have to start by saying today was a wonderful day.  Temps in the 50’s and we took a hike in Rock Creek Park in DC and it was delightful.  Being in the woods, walking along a river, climbing hills and walking down them again.  The girls were wonderful and good sports.  We will all sleep well tonight.  The parents are out having a date night which we always try to provide for them when we come down.

So, now thoughts about France. We both enjoyed our visit to France. Going to Normandy was a good thing to do and I think we could have used one more day to see all that I wanted to see or maybe even two.  The hotel we stayed at in Bayeux was lovely and they were very helpful to us.  The one in Rouen on the other hand was not so nice and I would not send anyone else there who speaks English.  Or I would take a refresher course in French before returning there but would not stay at that hotel.  They were rude and the idea that a hotel in a tourist area only has staff that speak French is weird. No where else that we visited on this trip or others have we run into a problem where hotel staff could not assist us and just gave us the “No English” statement.  Not even the staff in the little restaurant for breakfast were helpful.

Seeing just one of the cemeteries from WWII was moving.  The men were so young and there were unmarked graves, they know the soldier was a Brit but they did not find their ID.  I imagine today they should be able to use DNA to figure out who they were.  We did not get to the Juno Beach as I wanted but that was because I was sick to my stomach that morning..  I think more time is needed to deal with and confront feelings as one visits the various sites.  By the time my Aunt Pat arrived in Mid July 1944 the troops had moved on as they were pushing back the German’s pretty quickly at that point.  Things were slower in Belgium and that is where Pat really experienced bombing and large numbers of soldiers coming in quickly from the front either to be fixed up to be sent home or to have their hands held as they died. And some went back to fight another day.

War is not something I have ever had to confront myself and even during the Viet Nam War I did not have close friends that I knew were there.. I might have found out about old classmates much later but not during the actual War.  And I do know if my brother had been drafted I would have taken him to Canada and left him there. No way would I have wanted him over there. It was a useless war and not one that brought about feelings of patriotism.  They were no direct threat to us so why were we fighting them.

But in WWII it was obvious that we needed to be there.  I had two aunts, and one uncle actually over there near or in the battle areas.  Also another Uncle worked with the US on developing treatments for those coming back with what we now call PTSD.  I found some articles he had written about this.  And on my Dad’s side he had cousins who lived in England fighting from the very beginning of the Brits being involved. And some lost their lives.  I never knew any of this but research has opened up those pages of the family history in both World Wars.

France was nice but either we needed longer or a different approach to our visit.  Maybe going their first and then up to Belgium might have helped give a clearer feeling about Pat’s travels. I will never know one way or the other now will I?

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February 18, 2017 – War Day

We changed our plans this morning after I was up again last night in the middle of the night.  My stomach definitely is not happy with the food in France.  I decided no matter what I would stay off of gluten today and proudly I did.

What we did today was walk up to the Museum of the Normandy invasion.  Boy it is enough to make you sad and mellow.  They had very little about the hospitals but some about the Canadian 3rd Division that Pat writes about all the time since her friends were all part of it.  So tragic the loss of lives over the month of the assault on Caen.

I did get a picture of the Bridges’s that she talked about in her letters across the Seine that the engineers were able to make usable after being bombed.  It was impressive to see pictures of them.  I did not focus on the machinery or the weapons.  It was a just war but still so painful for so many.

After that we walked over to the British Commonwealth memorial and the cemetery.  Again so sad to see all those graves and the book of names of the dead.  Especially the graves with just no name on them but maybe a rank and group they belonged to but unidentified.  It is a very quiet place as people walk around.

From there we went down into the town again and got some lunch. I had a stuffed baked potato with cheddar cheese and onions and a little salad.  It was really good.

From there we walked to the Tapestry Museum.  This is a must see item if you are traveling in Normandy.  It is the story of the Battle of 1066.  William the Conqueror battling Harold.  It is huge and they have finally figured out how to display it without damaging it further.  70 meters long and 55 centimeters high.  They give every one a hand held speakers to listen in their own language to the story of the war as displayed in the tapestry.  They believe the stitching was done a few years after the battle but they are unsure where it was done, England or Normandy.  It is impressive and worth seeing.

Then on the other two floors they have displays and a movie.  I was so tired I fell asleep during the 20 minute film.  They were just retelling the story of the tapestry so I don’t think I missed much and really needed the rest. Was wishing we had sat through the next French version of the film so could have slept longer.

Walking back to the hotel we stopped for coffee and a sweet at a lovely shop. I had a raspberry  thingy which was soooooo good and my third cup of coffee for the day. I never do that.  And even at that when we got back to the hotel I fell a sleep again.

After a rest we went out to dinner which I hardly ate, hate wasting good food and money but my stomach was just not up to it.  So after I finish writing this I am going to sleep.  Taking something to hopefully keep me asleep until morning.  We have a cab coming at 10 to drive us up along the coast to our next hotel.  Should be a nice ride and hopefully he won’t mind stopping for a few pictures a long the way

the following two sites will let you learn more  about what we saw today..

 

http://www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/la_tapisserie_de_bayeux_en.html

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayeux_Commonwealth_War_Graves_Commission_Cemetery

 

February 17, 2017 – Short but Sweet

Yup, that is me…  Also my day today.  Actually last night was a rough sleeping night for some reason.  I woke up in the middle of the night and did sleep again but not well.     We were up early and left the hotel and headed for the train station.  Stopped for something to eat before we hit the station.  We were very early for our train so we went on line and caught up with the latest news.  All bad of course.

We got the train for Caen and the ride was lovely.  Saw lots of farms, small villages, horses, cows etc.   It was not a long ride, just about two hours. Then we had 20 minutes to find the train for Bayeux.  Only issue was they did not have an escalator and I cannot carry my big bag up and down stairs so Denis had to do both of them.  The ride was only 19 minutes but we got to ride in one of those cars with private doors for each group of seats.  The kind you see in the movies.

We arrived and walked down to the hotel.  It was about half a mile to get here.  they don’t have an elevator so the woman at the desk carried my bag up the stairs.  It is a nice place so no complaints.  After settling in we headed down to the tourist office and got some info on what we could do to get to the landing beaches where the Canadians entered France.  We tried to see if anyone was doing a tour tomorrow but no luck.  We really did not want an all day tour of all the various beaches since Juno is where my Aunt Pat and all the other Canadians arrived.  So after trying several tour companies etc and knowing the price of a taxi we are opting to try and rent a car in the morning just for the day.  If that works we will do that otherwise we will hire a taxi for four hours or so.  Really, it is just money right?

Then we took a walk.  The old town is so charming and the streets much narrower than some of the other towns.  I love the architecture of the old buildings.  The Cathedral was open so we went in and walked around a bit.  Then went and found someplace to eat since we really had not had much all day.  I was starving.

Am not putting up pictures at the moment because I have to fix something with my system.  I think I am going to bite the bullet and pay the cloud for some space and that should fix the problem.  I am tired of deleting pictures from the last couple of years that I am not sure i have on my computer at home.

So not sure what the adventure tomorrow will be but it will be what it will be.

Sweet dreams all and I hope I have some myself rather than the yucky ones I had last night.

A picture I got off of Wikipedia.  Shows you the charm of Bayeux. I took a picture looking the other direction as I was standing on that little balcony looking at the water wheel.

October 4, 2015 – Toys, puzzles and farmers market

I was too tired to write last night after the drive down here.  I had awakened at 5:30 am in a panic and could not get back to sleep..  My stomach calmed down around 9:30 and I was able to get away shortly there after.  After all the weather scare all week about heavy winds and rain it did not happen.  I got here around 4ish and surprised the kids since I could not get bars on my phone so could not call them to say I was in the neighborhood.

As we were unpacking Sol grabbed one of her presents and opened it and was happy as a clam.  I told her no more until later.  Turns out the Friends Lego set is just her thing.  She was able to follow the directions and put together everything herself.  She and lIttle Bear spent time playing with it and other Lego set characters they have. After dinner she got the rest of the presents and was so happy.  They were up late putting together the larger Lego Friends set – a Vet hospital – so bed time was a little hairy.

Turns out Ian’s training does not start until Tuesday so tomorrow they will take care of the coming and goings.  Then Tues, Weds, and Thurs I am in charge to dropping off and picking up from school.  And as it turns out school is closed on Friday for teacher conferences so the girls and I are going to have a day together.  I figure we will go to the play ground, out for lunch, movie time and then more outside play time.  They are hard to get away when they are playing with their legos and other toys.  They are so imaginative and get into playing very seriously.

We stayed up chatting last night so it was around 1 when I went to sleep and then the same thing happened again as the morning before. Woke up early in a panic.  Did some breathing and relaxation and eventually took some medication to slow things down a notch.  Don’t have a clue what the stress is about but I find it entirely too annoying. Going to try and figure somethings out and maybe go up to the Coop tomorrow and pick up some natural cures. Drinking lemon/ginger tea to try and keep the stomach calm.

I have a theory about what is happening but it does not make a great deal of sense to me.  It has been almost two years since my last attack of dry heaving and not being able to eat. Every time I have to travel I am afraid it will happen again after getting one in Seattle which I had known was coming on in retrospect since for a month before the symptoms had been happening – drop in appetite, trouble sleeping etc.  My doctor says I have a right to feel anxious since that was darn scary out there. The other two attacks were when I was at home and perfectly happy except for the symptoms which started the month before each attack.  The first was after my gall bladder surgery and I was sure that it had something to do with that but the surgeon did not want to hear that. And they found 18 polyps in my stomach and I figured that was it.But then it happened again and then again.  So who knows what the heck is the matter with me but I am sure angry about worrying about it happening again.  At this point my appetite is hearty so I don’t think another attack is coming on but how not to think about it is another thing.  Oh well.

Two letters from Sheila tonight. Figure I owe to those of you who read this to read the letters.  Tomorrow I am going to start working on putting some of the letters from the two sisters into a format for publication so it will be interesting to see how it flows.  And I might start putting some other historical information on here as well.

29 Nov 1944

Dear All:

Received letters from Mom written the 20 Nov, and Dad, Eileen, and Ferg and was so pleased and glad to get them, they were grand. I have up to date received Xmas parcels from Mom & Dad, Eileen & Mary, Ferg & Connie, Mary, Norah, Auntie May Shea, Helen O’Connor Jarrell and have loved them all.

I am wondering Mary if you would take some money from my bank account of get Carmel, Agnes, & Helen something real nice for Xmas for me, and I would appreciate it so much as I just can’t get them anything here as things are too high or too many coupons, one or the other always seems the case.

I open Helen O’Connor’s and it was a grand box with Helena Rub., face powder, lipstick and creams a grand box and I loved it.

Doylie and I went to Bournemouth, it was a 6 hr drive but we were both in high spirits so we really didn’t mind it, in fact we enjoyed it very much as it was all cross county, we left from Hayward Heath station, by way to Brighton, then to Southhampton to Bournmouth, you can see it all on a good map of England. It was all new country to me and I enjoyed it all so very much. At Bournemouth, it is wonderful, we went down to the coast and walked about a mile along the sandy sea shore and looked out over to where France is and it gave us a real thrill to think we were actually there, saw the tide come in and it was so very nice. Stewart Boyd had left so I didn’t see him, but Joe Doyle, Mary and I had a grand time just talking and fooling around. Took pictures which I shall send when we get them. It was a grant trip, even if we didn’t have much time, I enjoyed it all very much.

Well dears, this is all for now and love to you all and I miss you all.

Love Sheila

2 Dec. 1944

Dear All:

Received Mother letter of the 27th to-day, our mail is really going very well and fast, but I’m afraid you are not getting all mine, because I wrote Mom & Dad a letter, letting you how much I loved your box and Mom said in her letter she couldn’t figure out why I had not received it. I loved it each and every little parcel and as yet have not opened the unfood ones. Also received a parcel from you with soap, stockings and photo album and loved it all.

By the way on the customs slip that you paste on my parcels, you should put Patt’s address for the other address, as occasionally they get mislaid and in that way one or the other of us will get them.

Thank you very much for sending me the papers & magazines, I loved them so much, as we never see any Kingston paper around here.

So glad Hap Lorenzer arrived safely back and hope you see him soon. I shall be anxious to hear what you think of the presents I sent you.

I am coming off nites, Monday the 4th and shall not be sorry, in fact I shall be very glad to get on days again. Dolyie and Suddsie are on days again. Doylie sends her love to you all and Suddsie sends hers to, says she feels she knows you all, as I talk about each one of you so much, now she asks when I get a letter from Marg or Norah, she will ask about the kids. Funny but nice eh?

Well dears, shall close for now and Mother dear, do take care of yourself, and I hope Eileen is much, much better now, and I miss you all very much. Shall write soon again.

Love Sheila

September 27, 2015 – Forty years have passed

I just realized that forty years ago my Dad died.  It was just two weeks after his 65th birthday and he had gone out sailing in Long Island Sound.   At some point he started to have pain and some how got himself back to the Yacht Club and literally crawled out of the boat on to the dock.  Good thing some of his friends were there.  Some one brought him home to my mom. They called his Doctor and the doc took my Dad’s self diagnosis of a Kidney stone as a probable cause and gave him meds and told him to go to bed until the stone passed.

My sweet mother nursed him through the evening and all night he was in pain until about 4 am when he got quiet so she went downstairs to get a bit to eat since she anticipated a very long day ahead.  LIttle did she know how long that day would be.  When she went back upstairs he was dead.  She called their good friends next door who came over and agreed with her that they needed to call some one.  Not sure who they called but his death was confirmed.

In the meantime over in Rotterdam we had taken the three kids to church .  Ian started to kick up a fuss at 9 months of age and Norah decided to follow suit.  That would have been okay but Father Vail was in the middle of his sermon and ended up stopping and announcing he would wait for the Brennan’s to take the noisy children out of the church.  I took which ever child I had outside and maybe Tim came with me.  Denis refused to leave for a while longer. I really don’t remember if he ever left the church.  At communion time we went up to receive and as I did Fr. Tom looked at me and said ” you win, we will start a nursery”.  I could not believe that he thought for a minute that all the noise was for his sake.

When we arrived home my mom called to tell us that Dad had died.  It was a terrible shock and poor Timmy who was so close to his grandfather was really angry.  I don’t remember a lot of it because of the shock.  They had just been at our house and we had made plans and they were leaving for Ireland in two weeks.  We rushed to pack clothes and get everything the children needed and then headed for Westchester.  From there on so much is just a fleeting memory.

When we walked in the house it all looked so normal.  My Mom sitting in her favorite chair. Dad was usually away so his being there would not have been particularly normal.  And what mom had arranged was for his body to be cremated as soon as possible and that there would be a memorial services in a few days.  She did try to contact our parish priest but we never heard from him.  Although I think he showed up at the memorial service.. I think we decided he had a bit of a problem with alcohol.  By then it did not matter as Mom and others of us had planned the entire service and speakers.

The one thing that happened at the service which was cute or amusing was the two guys in suits.  We saw these two guys standing outside as we were all waiting to go in.  They were under a lamp post and we watched them wondering who they were. Turns out they were sent by the FBI to represent one of my brother and sister in laws employer  It was pretty funny and a good distraction for us all.

Death of a parent especially a fairly young one is difficult.  65 seemed way to young and the idea that our other children would not have the memories of my Dad the way the older kids did was sad.  He was like this techie kid himself with all his camera’s and making sure we had the latest and greatest.  He put seatbelts into all our cars and brought us all fire alarms as soon as they were available.  He would get frustrated when the kids got into all his “stuff” after he had initially encouraged them to see what he had.  And then there was the time he was helping Denis upstairs and his foot slipped off a beam and he ended up breaking through the kitchen ceiling  and was hanging halfway into the kitchen.  There was never a dull moment with him. He is buried with my mom and I hope they are together in the next life and that he was surprised to find out there was a next life.  I don’t know if he was an atheist, I know he was anti catholic but I think for good reason now that I know the story of why he was so angry.  Rest in peace Dad.

Milt_and_Norah_Laughland_tribe_1972

I have caught a cold from someone and am not feeling great today. I did get to church as it was my turn to do coffee hour and to the Farmers Market to get some fresh veggies.  Once home I crawled into bed after eating my GF scone which is my sunday treat so here is another letter from Sheila since I think I am going to fall asleep again.

19/11/44

Dear All:

This shall just be a note. I’m working very hard on nights and just don’t seem able to write at all, don’t know why but it just seems as if there is really no news. Work all night, sleep all day.
Want you to know I’m alright

Nov 20, 44

Didn’t get this letter finished last night so shall try to get it finished now.

Received Mom’s letter of the 12 and Dad’s written a bit sooner. We were so glad to get the clipping of Claire Kennedy’s wedding, as Mary had not heard a word from her family till today and even then they didn’t enclose the clipping. So thanks a lot Dad from Suddsie and me. It was so sweet of you to send it.

I was a bit worried about Mom’s eyes but hope by now you have discovered just what the cause is. Glad you enjoyed your trip to Buffalo and can just imagine how thrilled they must have all been.

But Mother, I do not want the purple coat as it is too heavy and stuff to have over here, so I’m sorry about the tweed one, but guess we had better forget about the coat for awhile.

Am wondering if there is anyone in particular you would like me to send Xmas cards too. I have sent them to everyone that gave me a gift going away but just don’t seem to have Darley’s address.

I am wondering if Lorenza has been over to the house yet with my Xmas parcel. Hope you like what I sent.

Paul, Doylie’s friend came down from Borden last week-end and with him he had a friend. I thought the guy looked very familiar when I saw him, so said, “you are from Kingston” he said, “yes, in a way, I am” so we went to work and discovered he was Bill Judge, worked in the Bank of Nova Scotia for years and knows Dad, Ferg & Maurice, well. Remember him. He was a Kiwanis? With Fergie. It is a small world eh.

Well dear, this is really a small world for all eh.

Love and shall write soon again, Sheila

September 26, 2015 – Drug Take Back and sore feet

Today was all about Drug Take Back Day.   Got there before 10 and people had already been there dropping off drugs before the event started.  We had lots of volunteers helping between 10 and 1 which left me free to jut facilitate things.  Christina our DEA officer who has been with us since 2011 was there again and it was wonderful seeing her again.  She was prepared for a good turn out since we get a great number of folks coming every time we do the collection day.  We also had a Nisky PD officer with us and he was in charge of putting together boxes and chatting.

Once we were up and running the cars were non-stop from start until about one.  We thought maybe it would get really slow but actually it stayed pretty darn busy and in the end we counted about 235 cars had come through and at least 15 boxes filled. One fellow showed up with four large boxes of his own that were totally filled so I guess they count as well.  Very exciting for me since this is the one of the projects I really think effects the youth access to pain meds and other addictive medications as well as being great for the environment.  We also gave away Files of Life so people can put their personal info on their frig in case there is a medical emergency.  Those were well received.

At the end of the Drug Take Back I headed for the grocery store as we really needed some updating with food.  So at least we are good for a while. By the time I got home I was beat.  Good thing I had a pot of soup that I made yesterday. So we had a simple dinner while we were watching the Pope in Philly.  I ended up watching him all evening and it was inspiring.  The man is amazing and what he says hits right to home.  Loved it.

I am very tired so will post one of Sheila’s letters then hopefully the news will come on so I can see myself on TV then go to bed.  Yeah, Channel 13 interviewed me. Heard from one of my buds that it was okay.

No date but based on following letter this appears to be in sequence Also mentions her friend had to go to London on weds Nov 8 1944 and did so after that date

Dear All:

What a grand surprise I got to-day when I looked into my mail box and got 2 slips for parcels, I went over and there were Mom and Dad’s and Ferg and Connie’s. I opened them up and Doylie and Suddsie took them away from me, and stored them in my tin trunk. I was so thrilled and can’t think of waiting till Xmas to open them but know the kids will make me wait and it is best that way. I know so I shall have lots of open at Xmas.

They are starting plans for Xmas now and I guess it will be a lot of fun, first mainly because we really won’t be thinking of ourselves but of all the guys who will spend Xmas on the front or flat on their backs in all these wards.

The hospital is full again and we are very busy. I’m on Medicine which is made up of mostly chest conditions. Poor lads seemed to get shot there so often, skin cases, and a few nerve cases.

Suddsie, Doylie and Bluie and I all on nights and it is best that way, as Suddsie and I room together so we both sleep and don’t disturb one another.

We have been going out a lot with the pt. officers and Suddsie has been going with a Jack Mitchel from Winnipeg, back from France and he got the DMC medal and last week got a letter from the King. Such excitement it was it was so unreal to actually realize it was from the King, telling him to be present in Buckingham Palace, on Wed 8 Nov so Mitch was very excited and Wednesday morning off he went to see the King and it was so grand, we were all excited for him. He came back and they had a big party for him but I could not get off. Doylie and Suddsie were off and enjoyed themselves a lot.

I have Sunday night off and as yet don’t know just what to do but shall find something to do before then.

Well dears, this is all the news for now and must make rounds.

So Love to you all,
Sheila

September 16, 2015 – Debates, kids came home and sunshine

Watching the CNN debate and it really is chaotic.  These guys need help to stop being so nasty.  I love listening to the Donald deny he said the things he is quoted as saying or saying “I didn’t mean it that way”.  The politicians actually know how respond without looking angry or prissy. Interesting the ones who don’t get to speak. Why do they show “the Donald” on his faces when others speak…  wow, this is not like any debate I have ever seen before… wow.  John Kasick? is the only one who gets how the government should work.

The day was interesting. It was lovely and sunny.  Had someone come to drop off the materials for the Drug Drop Off Day. And after she left I went to a doctors appointment. and then shopping for some food I needed.  I went to the airport at 2:45 to picture up my little girl and her sweetie returning from their wonderful vacation.  I am jealous… they had a great time and they are right. It was like 5 separate vacations. -== Venice, Milan, Switzerland, the Neuburg ring? and Amsterdam.   I would love a week or two in Switzerland.

Took a walk with the big guy and then made dinner.  And now sadly I am watching this sad debate.

Armed Forces Air Letter – Air Mail – Field Post Office 239 Oct 25, `44 – S O’OConnor

Dr and Mrs Fergus O’Connor Jr / 264 Barrie St. / Kingston, on. / Canada

23-10-44

My dear Ferg + Connie:

I received another parcel from you yesterday and I believe it was in June and went to No. 1 C.G.Hosp. in Italy and back, it was a little jumbled out, but really in good condition, for having travelled so far and so long. Thank you very much from Doylie, Suddsie (Mary Kennedy) and myself.

Ferg, Connie, I am so lucky to be with those kids, they are really so sweet and we have a barrel of fun just beefing if we haven’t anything else to do and poor Suddsie is feeling a bit low these day as her sister Clara is being married the 4th of November to a boy Suddsie has never seen or heard of till Clara wrote and she is her only sister, but she is patiently waiting for letters to tell her all about it.

We really haven’t been doing very much. I had a grand time on my leave and really saw a great deal of the country one way or another and I think London is perfect. Got books for the children for Xmas from Patt and I but just when they will get them is another thing but with the boys going back, I hope to get them back.

How are Mary + Michael. I bet Michael is changing more now. I will not know him pretty soon. How is Mary talking now? Gee I would like to see her, as I can imagine she must be getting very very cute. Have Bertha + Grandma gone back? Say Hello to them for me, if they haven’t. I haven’t got around to write Aunt Bessie, because she is miles + miles away from me, but shall write her soon. Give Mary + Michael a kiss for me and one for yourselves. Thanks for parcels,

Love
Sheila
S. OConnor C.A.O.