The Liberation of France


Margie Hofman 


© Copyright 2017 by Margie Hofman

Photo of liberation parade in Paris.

Yes, I know we all know about it – but do we?

My 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 .

The 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.

The 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.

The first class consisted of 20 pupils. The next day word had got round and I spoke to 40 pupils and three teachers!

I 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 he came home permanently and it was very strange to have a man in the house.

The 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.

They 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.”

I 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 were fascinated.

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 typewriters.

I 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.

The south of France near Nice is the holiday place for millionaires with their yachts in the harbours.

I 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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