A Love Story for a Royal Princess in London

April 28, 2011 No Comments

Grandma Josephine was a Morse code operator during World War II for the British Army.

Watercolor by Kate Rose Johnson

She worked tirelessly in a bunker for most of the war, but one special night, while at a dance, she fell in love with a dashing, young American soldier, Grandpa Alan.  I had always thought their story was one of the most romantic I’d ever heard.  It was a bright spot in an otherwise dark chapter of history.  On their wedding night they went up to the roof as bombs rained over London in the distance.  I never tire of being told their story and am ever curious for more details.  Now, I find myself in London, visiting Grandma’s younger brother Herschel.

Herschel takes us to the Royal Air Force Museum and brings the antique planes to life with facts and anecdotes about them and the daring missions that they went on during the war. Suddenly, I’m seven like him, watching as the planes take off for the continent and hoping they come back.  Proud and envious of the young British men.  I hear the sirens he describes and think of what it must have been like to go into an air raid shelter.  At the beginning of the war they would run to the shelters, until he came down with a severe chest cold, and then his stoic mother decided they would rather take their chances at home.  He tells me again about how glamorous Josephine or Fifi, as they called her then, looked, in her smart uniform and how gallant Grandpa Alan was.  Once Fifi was hospitalized, he gravely remarks, and Alan hitched a ride on a bomber from his station in Belgium to visit her under the pretext of getting more medical supplies.  It’s amazing to realize how easily England’s fate and my own could have been (and was) changed by the terrible war.  In a museum full of dusty planes on the outskirts of London, my family’s history, love and destiny are brought to life by Great Uncle Herschel’s illuminating memories.

Watercolor by Kate Rose Johnson


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