Tuesday, November 11, 2008


My grandfather was a navigator in the Royal Air Force during WWII.

He told me stories from time to time about the war itself, but he mostly told me anecdotes about the more pleasant memories. I guess this was in an effort to protect me from the gory details, or perhaps it was in order to protect himself from remembering the worst. He spent quite a long time in a POW camp, long enough that when he was released he burnt his diary. He told me what he missed most while in the camp was brushing his teeth. They never once let them do that.

One story he always fondly told me was about a small german boy. My grandfather's plane had been shot down and he and a couple of the other survivors from the plane were wandering on the german countryside, not yet captured. They came upon a river and decided to strip down and get clean, having not showered or bathed in some time. While they were wet and, as he tells it, quite enjoying the day and the fresh water, a young boy approached them. Immediately they recognized the child to be german, and thought this was the end of the line for their freedom, if not worse. The child shouted something to them, turned, and ran away.

The men hurried to get clothed again, struggling, trying to place wet feet in their boots. The boy rushed back out to them, barrelling down hill from a farmhouse, his mother not far behind. They were sure now, they were caught, this was it.

When the boy got close to the river, he began speaking to them again. They stood, waiting, wondering what would happen. They could make out some of what he was saying, but not much. When his mother finally walked up behind him, the men could see she was holding something close to her body. They were sure it was a gun.

Instead, she had a bunch of biscuits, as my grandfather calls them, not the cookie kind, but the sort you'd get down south with gravy. She had them in her apron, which was rolled up towards her body to keep them secure. She unravelled the apron, and left the biscuits on a rock. She gathered up her son under her arm, and started back to the farmhouse without saying a word.

My grandfather said they were the best-tasting biscuits he ever ate in his life.

He and the others were captured a few days later.

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