Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Enemies are Just Friends You Haven't Met Yet.

Tangmere. History makes me cry.   (bbc.uk.co picture)


Reading my good friend, Joanne's wonderful blog (Cup on the Bus: Old Stories, Old Things), reminded me of something . . .
My Husby worked for Alberta Culture. Specifically building the great museums for which Alberta is famous.
The last two museums had been announced.
One to house a collection of cars and trucks and thing that go. Or fly.
The other to showcase the horse-drawn vehicle era.
Both having to do with transportation.
In preparation for this, my Husby was sent to the UK.
They have museums.
They could offer insight.
Thus, twenty-five years ago, he went.
Taking me.
Because.
It was a wonderful, informative, exhilarating, exhausting, emotional trip.
We saw farm museums. Transit museums. Air museums. Automobile museums.
We even went to the mews at Buckingham palace and got up close and personal with the gold coach.
But one visit stands out above all of the others.
Oh, we had seen exhibits expertly assembled.
Cunningly and beautifully displayed.
Extensive, professional artwork in beautiful buildings.
And trained, informed staff.
But none of them could compete with the (then) little museum, Tangmere.
Near Chichester, England, on the site of the old RAF Tangmere Airfield, this museum was almost exclusively manned by airmen who had served there during WWII.
Perhaps that is what made the difference.
The displays came to life when your guide, who had known the showcased men personally, described them.
He had many stories to tell.
And no few tears were shed in the telling.
One, in particular, I remember most vividly.
The worker/veteran described a gentleman entering the museum.
Alone.
This man wandered from exhibit to exhibit, reading the hand-lettered cards and information.
Studying the artifacts.
Finally, he approached the desk.
"Have you a cemetery?" he asked in heavily German-accented English.
"Why yes, sir. It's just through there." The worker pointed towards a door.
"Thank you." The man went outside.
I'm not sure if it's still there, but there used to be a small cemetery directly behind the main building.
It housed everyone lost during the August 16, 1940 raid on Tangmere during WWII.
Everyone.
The visitor stayed outside for a long time.
Finally, he re-entered the building and returned to the front desk.
"Please excuse me, but I couldn't help but notice that you have buried the German dead with the English."
The man telling the story got a bit teary-eyed at this point.
"Why yes, sir," he told the man. "They were each and all someone's son."
The German visitor began to cry. Finally he whispered, "I was in the wave of German fighters who bombed you."
The Englishman put out his hand.
"Well it's nice to actually get to meet you!" he said heartily, shaking the other's hand. "And I should tell you that you and your boys made one hell of a mess!"
The worker looked at us. "I don't know what we were when he came in, but we parted friends," he said.
I cried all of the way back to our hotel. 

18 comments:

  1. And now you've left me in the same mess and I don't have a hotel to go back to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry about that, Delores! I guess misery, like happiness, wants to be shared . . . :)

      Delete
  2. Wow. Just wow.

    How come you never told us this before?!?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Umm . . . better late than not at all!?

      Delete
  3. AND THESE WERE THE KIND OF STORIES MY DAD TOLD ME TOO.
    THE NAZIS WERE BAD BUT THE REGULAR PEOPLE WERE DIFFERENT. THEY TRIED TO HELP THE POWS TAKING RISKS BECAUSE THEY TOO HOPED SOMEONE WOULD SHOW MERCY TO THEIR BOYS AND THAT GOD WOULD SEE EVERYTHING.
    ONCE HITLER TOOK OVER, EVEN HIS SOLDIERS FEARED HIM.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it amazing that one person can make such a difference? Fortunately, it works both ways . . .

      Delete
  4. Will have to add this museum to one we need to visit before we head home.:) Great story

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely a must-see! I understand it is quite changed from the little single building manned by the men who had served there, but still with the same spirit. Post pictures!!!

      Delete
  5. I even cried on this one. This was a very sweet story thanks for sharing it.
    Blessings to you for a lovely story today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry that you cried, LeAnn, but happy that you enjoyed the story! Blessings to you as well!

      Delete
  6. I left a comment but maybe pressed the wrong button lol
    I was saying many germans feared Hitler and did a lot of underground work to help POWs. When asked why they said they had sons fighting and hoped others would show them the same mercy. My Dad always taught me you will find good and bad people every where and never to lump them into a group.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your Dad is so right. There are good and bad people everywhere! I have good friends who are German and they are the finest people I know! They fought on the other side during the war. For their country. That says it all . . . :)

      Delete
  7. Wow. First, what a wonderful story. Second, I just posted a story with grave markers and then came over to see what you're up to. 'Nuff said.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joanne, you and I are obviously on the same page. I promise not to get coffee rings on it . . .

      Delete
  8. It reminds me of when my late friend, Rob (more affectionately known as Toad), restored some old photos which were devastated almost beyond repair. He worked with them tirelessly and found what were once mere shadows turned out to be a crew of sailors standing on the deck of a U-boat. Now we all know what the U-boats did but they were manned by sailors under orders. The customer was so thrilled that his pictures were restored. He tearfully introduced Rob to all of his former comrades and couldn't thank him enough. I'm sure that by now, Rob has had the chance to meet them all in person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amazing story! Hadn't heard that one. Sounds like the basis for a great short story . . .

      Delete
  9. Wasn't sure what to expect when I read the title of this post - actually, I was all set to disagree! But now I'm thinking of my 'enemies' and what trifles we're 'enemies' about compared to this ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sort of puts things into perspective, doesn't it! Sure did for me!!!

      Delete

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