Monday, June 08, 2009

Chris and Nell











Here is Christopher's service record given upon his discharge from his regiment in 1952:

Christopher Cater
Service with The Colours, showing transfers, if any, to other Corps

Grenadier Guards

Home 22.5.44--1.3.45 284 days

North Western Europe 2.3.45--2.5.45 62 days

Home 3.5.45--25.2.46 299 days

British Army of the Rhine 26.2.46 --5.12.46 283 days

Home 6.12.46--10.4.52

Length of service – 8 years British Army of the Rhine

Certificate of ServiceArmy number – 2625429

Surname – Cater

First names – Christopher Leslie

Enlisted at – Wolverhampton

Enlisted on – 22.5.45

Corps for which enlisted – Grenadier Guards

Description of Soldier on leaving The Colours:

Year of birth - 4.5.1921

Height – Five foot, eleven and a quarter inches

Complexion – fresh Eyes – hazel Hair – brown

Final Assessment of Conduct and Character(To be completed by the Commanding Officer)Military conduct…exemplary

Testimonial (to be conducted with a view to civil employment)

A thoroughly conscientious and hardworking man, who has done consistently well throughout his service. Clean, honest, and sober.

21st February, 1952Regional Headquarters: Birdcage Walk.

Dad was overseas for the 2 final months of World War 2 and then in England for 299 days before being sent back early in 1946 with the British Army of the Rhine to help oversee prisoners of war in Germany. He was there until the end of 1946 and while there he made friends with some of the men he was guarding. I have a letter written to him several years later, by one of the friends he made, an engineer, and the pencil portrait of Dad was drawn by another of the German soldiers. It is signed KG and the date is June 20 1946.

In 1947 he was back in England and in the barracks at Caterham in Surrey.

Meanwhile, in January of 1947, one year after being released from prison in Holland, Nelly, now 20 years old, set sail for England. She was an au-pair for 9 months, for a familynamed Krausz. Mr. Krausz was Austrian and Mrs. Krausz was Scottish. Nelly looked after their 3 year old boy named Tony and was supposed to do the cooking. There was one problem; Nelly did not know how to cook. She got around this by asking how to cook various dishes. She would say to Mr. and Mrs Krausz, “You might not like it the Dutch way.” Since it was the language common to them all, they spoke German.

It was some time between January and September of 1947, that Nelly and a friend went to Hyde Park in London. The photo above could have been taken on the very day. She and her friend were standing listening to a speaker at Speaker's Corner, when her friend noticed two soldiers in the crowd, also listening. Her friend pointed to one of them and said, "I'm going to marry that one," and before too long, they were talking to them. Nelly's friend did marry the soldier as she predicted, and Nelly became friends with the other one, whose name was Christopher Cater.

Nelly went back to Holland in September, but returned in April of 1948 with another friend, Mies, and they went to work in a hospital this time, in Farnborough, Kent, as domestic workers, starting in the nurses’ rooms, then being promoted to working for the Sisters, then the Head Nurses, who all had their own apartments. They also worked for the Matron when her personal maid was on holiday.

Chris and Nell (he always called her Nell) continued their friendship, which had now become a courtship. At 27 and 21 they had lived through deep pain and trauma and carried within them the wounds.

Next week: Chris and Nell's story continues.

8 comments:

Dave Hingsburger said...

We read a lot of fiction set in these times and it's easy to understand why. They were times of great import, the world was shaken up, brought together and torn apart. I look eagerly forward to these Mondays but I imagine some of the tale is hard to tell. You are doing a wonderful job of it.

Belinda said...

"Hard to tell." You are right, my friend. Last week's post in particular, was emotionally exhausting as I put together the pieces in a way I never had before. It was actually such a relief to move beyond the part of our family history that has haunted me since my teenage years. Back then, as a child of the carefree sixties, I heard a true story of the forties that was devastating to me. I'm glad I got that part out though, and the rest won't be as hard! :)

Angcat said...

Dear Belinda,
I echo Dave's comments of 'hard'. I can't imagine. You are brave and the healing is in the telling. Nobody is culpable. It just happened the way it did.

I am amazed at the information and photos that you have.

I have a cousin who is the family historian for my Mum's side.

You inspire me to sit down with both my parents and learn their stories in more depth.

Love A

Dave Hingsburger said...

Angcat, do you really believe that no one was (or by implication is) culpable for their behaviour? I strongly disagree and am concerned about the 'not my fault' attitude that permeates society. i believe I am responsible for my actions and the results of my actions. I may be 'forgiven' but a state of grace does not equal a state of blamelessness. Belinda describes her family engaging in acts of friendship, not collaboration - these things got confused in an emotional time ... even so we live the live we live and need God because we are who we are.

Belinda said...

Yes, Dave, I agree, although, me being me, I think I know what Ang meant. She was being kind and expressing the truth that people didn't always see where the road they were on was going to lead. I know that was likely the case with Mum's family, but it led somewhere ugly and by that time there was no turning back without the kind of heroism that I think is rare outside of the movies.

Angcat said...

Hi Dave and thanks Belinda for knowing me well enough.
Please forgive me for not being clear in how I stated about not being culpable.
We are definitely all responsible for the decisions we make and the outcomes, but Belinda was right and more eloquently said it than I could have.
I too hate the 'not my fault' way of thinking and am constantly trying to teach my children that freedom comes with accepting responsibility for our choices.

I didn't mean that no one was to blame for what happened in that terrible time in history. But if this one family reached out in friendship to these two boys who were far from home, on a terrible tour of duty, then I cannot blame this family. If we all only knew the big picture of the decisions that we make, we might make them differently.
Yet I'm willing to believe that these friendships were a safe and loved haven for those German boys, and that God must have had His loving hand in those relationships too.

Thank you for challenging me on this. These dialogues sharpen us, our ideas and the way we communicate them.

Ang

Dave Hingsburger said...

Hey Angcat, I hope I wasn't too harsh in my comment, I didn't mean to be. I understand now much better what you were saying. My reaction is due to hearing someone say, 'I wouldn't have abused my child if I had been given more support.' I was so upset by that remark, I can't tell you. A couple hours later I read your comment and, of course, my reaction was coloured by my emotions.

Joyful Fox said...

Belinda,

I am responding late to this post.

As I read about the lives of your family on Mondays, I am deeply moved. Moved because the care you've taken to find out their stories and the courage you muster to tell them.

The heritage you have, the legacy that has been left to you, and the new chapters your life will add to your family story, are interesting and delightful.

I guess I am amazed at what a small part we play in the big picture of life. There are 6 billion people in the world. You and I and all of us are only one. That is humbling.

Yet our lives matter significantly when we each tell our story. When we look at the tapestry of our lives, chase down those threads, rich colour and beauty emerges.

Yet there are loose threads, and the back is never as neat as the front. Meaning I guess, that no life is without its messes, its stray threads, yet the beauty is in the whole piece. It is only the Master Weaver that can weave such intricate designs for each of us.

Thanks for sharing your story and may He bless each word you write and heal every part of you. May you emerge from this, a pilgrim who reaches that beautiful mountain - free of this worldly load.

Love to you my friend