The Polish Connection 5
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Tuesday morning was much like Monday, except Beth and I didn’t go up the hill with Rebecca. We spent as much time and effort in washing Peter’s clothes as we had in the whole wash of the previous day. And not being able to hang them out in the sight of the neighbours, I put up a clothes rack in my bedroom, and lit the fire to make it warmer. We are so lucky to have effective fireplaces in each of our rooms, (they are also rather unique in being on an angle in the corner) and to have a very pleasantly warm house.
I realised that I had been remiss in not inviting Peter to have a bath when he came in last night, and resolved to do that tonight. I would in fact have the bath run by nine pm when I expected him to come up so that he could quickly and easily deal with this while I fixed him a bit of supper.
Beth seemed a bit less worried by being left alone today, and she spent some time playing in the back yard on her own while I was washing. I showed her how to make a daisy chain and she spent a long time picking the early dandelions and buttercups and daisies.
After our usual lunch of soup and bread, I dressed Beth in her new coat (from Rebecca of course) and decided we would take a trip up to the library at the Jubilee Methodist Church on Compstall Road. I was hoping her little legs would carry her all that way as I had no desire to have to carry her myself, if she should tire. I decided we would make several stops en route to give her a chance to rest.
First stop, was at the shoe shop, as she desperately needed decent shoes. Mr. Fred Harrop was as humble as ever, bowing and scraping and being ever such a gentleman. We found a pair of strong lace up shoes that will do her nicely and she seemed to find them comfortable so wore them from the shop. I told Mr. Harrop to dispose of the old ones as we wouldn’t be needing them again.
Next we stopped at the Co-operative Store on Lower Fold. Again, I met friends and introduced Beth as our new family member. Then on past Ludworth School and the gas works, and with a short break on the bench by the pub at the Windsor Castle, we went on past the Spring Gardens Pub and eventually got to the church. I knew the minister’s wife, Mrs. Arnfield, ran an excellent free library and wouldn’t mind me having a look through her encyclopaedias. If I couldn't find what I wanted, we could stop at Miss Hadfield's in the village who runs a private library. But I was very lucky and found exactly what I was looking for and copied it all out and also found a book about Belgium which I asked if I could borrow.
After we left, I thought Beth might enjoy the view of the train station from the hill and I let her sit on a bench and watch a train arrive, discharge its passengers and puff off again towards New Mills. One day soon I will take her for a ride on the train, perhaps up to the Peak District.
Beth did splendidly on the trip, and although she was exhausted by the time we returned home, she had not required me to take the part of a pony. But she curled up on the couch in the lounge and immediately fell asleep and was still dozing when Rebecca returned from school.
“How was your day, dear?” I asked her.
“Same as ever,” she replied, “Did you find out anything of interest about the Belgians?” So I showed her my carefully copied notes and we set to work creating our fictional history for Beth and her father.
I remembered my promise about the bath for Peter, and as soon as I heard him open the back door at nine, I whispered to him that he should go and have a bath, as I had the water run and that there was a fresh towel there for him. I also had put out some of my husband’s underwear and socks and another clean shirt which I trusted would not be too large on him so as to be uncomfortable in the wearing, but I did not feel I could mention this to him, as it would embarrass both of us.
Fifteen minutes later he emerged smelling of soap and with wet shiny hair. I saw him go into Beth’s room, and a minute later heard her gentle laugh and knew he was telling her a story. I was pleased that he was speaking to her in English, and although she had said hardly anything to me so far, I knew she understood quite a lot of the English we spoke to her. But now she was trying out the odd word with him as he read to her.
It was nearly ten when he came down again, and I motioned for him to come into the dining room where I had set out a meal for him. It was only the leftovers from our stew at our meal earlier, but he looked so appreciative. I had even opened a bottle of wine, and asked shyly if he would join me in a drink. I love wine but don’t feel that I can drink it when I'm on my own. He agreed, and we both enjoyed the occasion. I must admit that I had greatly looked forward to his presence in my house, and hoped very much that he would continue to be a part of our household, but knew that if he found somewhere more comfortable where he felt safe, that he would choose to take that.
“And did you find work, today?” I asked.
“No, but I did get an indication that something might be available. I went to see Mr. James Law, the manager of Marple Gas, as you suggested. He interviewed me and seemed very interested when I told him I was by profession a scientist. It seems that there is a plan because of the war to involve the gas works in the making of various chemicals such as nitric and sulphuric acid and ammonium nitrate. These of course are used for explosives. I am not sure I want to be involved in the war by making the products that are used to kill my compatriots, but of course I didn’t say that.”
“So will you see him again, to find out if there is such work?”
“He said that Marple was not likely to get involved, but that the larger companies in Stockport were already doing so, and he would make inquiries, and asked me to come back to see him next week, as he would have had an opportunity by then to speak with his fellow engineers and managers.”
“That is hopeful then. I had another thought of somewhere you might try. There is a firm called the Rammy Company at Primrose Mill. It is some distance to walk, but I can show you a short cut over the hills. They originally made fabric, but now the mill is making gas mantles, and I would think that they might have a job for you.”
“If you give me the details, I will try them tomorrow. I must not count on the gas works job, and will take whatever comes to hand.”
“I will write them out and slip a note under the back door, so you can take them when you go off in the morning.”
“I must say goodnight for now, and make my way downstairs in the dark. I thank you most sincerely for the most wonderful evening I have spent in many months,” and again he kissed my hand. But as he did so, he looked into my eyes, and the look I saw there was one of tender care, and not a little bit of male interest. I blushed although the light was too dim for him to make it out I am sure.
Too long delayed, I had to write my promised note to John. I briefly mentioned Beth and how she had come to be with us and then went on to tell him about Joe, and also another local tragedy which had just been mentioned in the paper.
The news which has been received at Marple, this week, while not official, leaves no ground for hope that Col. Frank Bradshaw-Isherwood is alive, but everything points to his having fallen at the battle of Ypres, somewhere about the beginning of May. On Saturday last, it was reported that an identification disc bearing the Colonel's initials, was found.
Frank Bradshaw-Isherwood was probably the best known of the Marple men fighting in the war. His family have been the most prominent in the area for centuries. They live in Marple Hall and are also owners of Wybersley Hall. He leaves his wife, Kathleen and his sons, Christopher, 8, and Richard, 6.
Mr. Isherwood was a career soldier, and had joined the York & Lancaster Regiment in 1892. He had been through many campaigns with them, notably in South Africa where he was present at the relief of Ladysmith, and fought in actions at Tugela Heights and Pieters Hill, where he was Mentioned in Dispatches. He was a recipient of the Queen's Own medal with seven clasps.
He embarked, for France, with the 2nd Battalion Yorks & Lancs on 8th September 1914. The battalion were soon involved in the fighting and on 20th February 1915 was again Mentioned in Dispatches, for conspicuous bravery and distinguished service. On 27th Feb. he was promoted to Lt. Col. and on 29th April he took command of the battalion, an honour which was to be unfortunately short lived.
He was involved in the Battle of Frezenberg. On 2nd May the battalion left Ypres and occupied a new trench line running through Verlorenhoek. During the following week they experienced heavy fighting and suffered many casualties. The 4th battalion's trenches were subjected to a very severe bombardment and were in several places blown in. On the afternoon of the 5th the enemy attacked in great numbers, protected by artillery fire, but, by placing every spare man in the front line, the German assault was repulsed.
The 6th & 7th passed in comparative quiet and on the evening of the 7th / 8th the battalion was relieved and went back to billets in Ypres where they were re-enforced by a new draft of 487 Officers, N.C.O.`s & men.
At 11.45 am on the 8th the battalion's supposed rest was shattered when it was ordered to recapture some trenches that had been lost during the night. By 5.00 pm they were in position in the support trenches south east of Frezenberg, having been shelled all the way up to the front line. Once in position the full force of the enemy's bombardment was felt and casualties were beginning to mount up. Regardless of this the battalion attacked at 8.00 pm with no preliminary bombardment or covering fire. The German trenches were reached and a few men even managed to enter them but were immediately bayoneted.
In this attack every officer but one was killed or wounded and at midnight the battalion was ordered to attack again. This order was stopped when it was realised that only 83 men under the command of a sergeant were left out of approximately 700. Between 23rd April & 8th May the 83rd Brigade had lost 128 Officers & 4379 men.
Although Frank's body has not been found his I.D. tags were returned to his wife (Mrs. Isherwood) having, apparently, been found on a German who was taken prisoner, who handed them over to the Red Cross authorities.
Since then reports have come from Red Cross hospitals in the country. The one from a Scottish hospital, and which we published last week, has been found to be reliable.
Mr. Henry Isherwood Bradshawe (his older brother), who resides at "The Oaks", Norton Woodseats, near Sheffield, caused inquiries to be made at the hospital in Scotland, and these have been found convincing. The soldier, it will be remembered, paid a tribute to the great gallantry of the Colonel, and spoke of his high abilities as an officer. He was beloved of all the men, and they all lament his death. He told how he saw the Colonel, bleeding from the head and chest, and as they were retreating they could render no assistance, as the order had been given. It is quite possible that the Colonel having fallen, mortally wounded, lay there, and the German soldiers who were advancing passed by. It might be that in the subsequent retreat the German soldier who picked up the disc was captured, and that is how the definite, tangible proof has come to England. This will probably be all that will be known of how the gallant officer met his death. It is a death that thrills, and as, hundreds of years ago, Colonel Isherwood's ancestors fought for the glory of this land, so in this year a brave man, who has given his all to the country which he loved, and which honoured him so recently, has laid down his life while leading his gallant men.
Colonel Isherwood was known to most Marple people as a quiet, unassuming, modest country gentleman, whose life was spent in the service of the country, and in the quiet of his home. His military duties never permitted that he should take a very active part in the public life of Marple, but he was often to be seen accompanying his venerable father on his daily visits through the village. The intense anxiety of the public has been to a great extent removed, but it has given place to a profound sorrow. The public mourn the loss of a member of the illustrious family, which has retained its ancient dignity and honour from the earliest time down to the present day, for there is not one in the district but feels a deep and honest reverence and esteem for the family of Isherwood.
He had a week's furlough in March, when he was seen in Marple village with his father. He was then in mufti, and though his appearance had changed considerably, owing to exposure on the field, the people of Marple knew him, and greatly admired his fine military gait. He spoke little of the hardships he had to undergo during the winter campaign, but he had shared the vicissitudes of the men, and had undertaken much arduous work.
When the news was made known in Marple, on Sunday last, the flag at All Saints was hoisted at half mast, as was also the one on the Conservative Club.
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oh, a bit of hanky-panky on
oh, a bit of hanky-panky on the home front. I never understand what it means that men are said to love their officers. Whenever I hear that I just think bullshit. But I do know what is meant is he wasn't a complete arsehole. Of course if you read Shakespeare everyone loves their king, but it was more a convention of fealty, a duty. Anyway, back to the story, coming along nicely.
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Lots of interesting details
Lots of interesting details in this.
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Christopher Isherwood Berlin
Christopher Isherwood Berlin Diaries are wonderful.
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'The common cormerant, or
'The common cormerant, or shag
lays eggs inside a paper bag' Christoper Isherwood
And speaking of Christopher Isherwood, he sure did have a way with words, too. As do you
Like Bee, enjoyed the detail.
Congrats on the more than deserved cherries, jean.
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Sorry, my thoughts about her
Sorry, my thoughts about her English answered here.
I think I disagree with CM's comment about men loving/respecting/being grateful to their officers. I'm sure it did mean different things at different times, but I think there are lots of very authentic accounts from that time of a really good relationship, and men appreciating someone who not only led well, but was thoughtful for the needs of his men, taking up issues for them with those above him, and being sacrificial in trying to help in awful conditions. I heard of one where he crawled out into danger to get a boot off a dead German for a soldier in dire need. There will always be the less worthy around too.
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