On the eve of World War II, my mother was engaged. His name was Richard (I’m not sure of his last name, but it might have been Hudson) and he ended up in the Royal Air Force, not as a pilot, but as an aircrew member in the RAF Bomber Command. Based on my mother’s age in 1939 (she was born in 1908, so 31), she and Richard must have decided to “wait” to marry until the war ended. Statistics for survival were slim. Forty-six percent (46%) of the 125,000 aircrew were killed. That’s 57,205 men. In addition, 8,403 were wounded in action and 9,838 ended up as POWs. That’s a total of 60% of those airmen. In June 2012, the Queen unveiled a memorial to them. Richard was one of the dead.
My mother was a trained “almoner,” the term in the UK for a medical social worker. She was stationed in Stirling, Scotland, but periodically travelled to London for her work. As a result, she experienced some of the London Blitz, which ran from September 7, 1940 – May 11, 1941. One of her experiences early in the Blitz was meeting the woman who became the main character in my book. This woman, in the French Resistance, had been “extracted” from France because the Germans were getting too close to her. “Extracted” was the term used to describe the process of taking someone out of danger, often via plane. Ironically, there she was, in London, during the Blitz, for “safe-keeping.”
She had an older brother. The siblings had been born in the same house in the region of Alsace in Eastern France. Her brother was born in 1917. She was born in 1920. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles that officially ended World War I included a section that ceded Alsace and its northern neighbor, Lorraine, from Germany to France. Between 1871 and 1919, the regions of Alsace and Lorraine had gone back and forth between France and Germany five times. As a result, no one worried about citizenship because there was constant shifting and there was no point in changing.
When the brother was born in 1917, he was German, as Alsace belonged to Germany at that time. When the sister was born in 1920, she was French, as Alsace was now part of France (it has remained so since that time). When World War II came along, the brother was drafted into the German army as a German citizen. She ended up in the French Resistance.
I knew I could make a story out of this.
Meanwhile, by 1940, both my parents had lost their partners and had to struggle on through the war with grief in their hearts.