The Liberation of France
Copyright 2017 by Margie Hofman
I know we all know about it – but do we?
friend has a small apartment in the south of France, in Nice and she
made friends with a schoolteacher who is teaching French children
English. The teacher herself is English and started telling them the
war time story of the little boats that went out from England to
rescue our army at Dunkirk – the children laughed “How
was it possible to get 300,000 men away in small boats” The
teacher explained that they were ferried to the big boats .
children aged about 14 or 15, knew very little about war time France
and the teacher asked if she knew anybody who had written about war
time for children – as I have several stories on the internet,
she gave my name.
teacher downloaded some of my stories and used them as their English
lessons! The pupils were fascinated. She asked me if I would consider
going to France to talk to the children in person. So there
I was in February in Nice, getting ready to go into school.
first class consisted of 20 pupils. The next day word had got round
and I spoke to 40 pupils and three teachers!
spoke about my father leaving when I was four months old, landing in
France on D Day in 1944 with his tank and fighting his way through
France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. The children asked me how old
I was when my father came back. I think I was about six when
home permanently and it was very strange to have a man in the house.
children asked me “Why did you have food rationing”
Because the U.K. is an island and German submarines were sinking our
boats. Most of our food went to feed our army, there were no fat
children around then. I told them we grew our own food when we
could. Our meat ration for three of us was four ounces of meat –
a week – about 2 eggs a week if you were lucky.
asked if I remembered being bombed – yes I do. Being out in
the street and having to run for shelter. When we saw British planes
flying low we would always go into our garden and wave at them as
they came back to their bases in England. One day we heard a plane
and rushed out to wave - suddenly my mother said “Get in. Get
in. There is a black cross on it . Its German.”
told the children when I went to school, all the teachers were women.
They asked what I eventually did for a job. I told them I was a
shorthand typist. “What is shorthand” Nobody does it
now. The teacher asked me to write shorthand on the blackboard. The
children shouted out sentences and I wrote it on the blackboard, they
asked me how I worked for the English BBC – because my typing
was very fast, people would record something on a ‘casette’
bring it to my house on motorbike and I would type – sometimes
through the night to get it ready for collection the next morning. E
mail had not been invented then – the kids thought I was very
old. We did not even have computers – just electric
told them the story of Michael Trotobas who had a French father and
English mother. He escaped from Dunkirk but volunteered to return to
France to blow up the railways in Lille to stop the Germans coming
over to the coast on D Day. He was half French, but is not known in
England. He got shot when Germans raided his house, the first officer
through the door Michael shot, he was killed soon after. He is well
known in Northern France.
south of France near Nice is the holiday place for millionaires with
their yachts in the harbours.
mentioned to an ex soldier in England, how ignorant the French
children were of events in their own country in war time. He said “
The south was known as Vichy France and they were sympathetic to the
Germans” that part of their history is not talked about.
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