Thursday, October 15, 2009

The aftermath of war

stalaag 8B

My father's mother died on December the 23rd 1932 and was buried on Christmas day. She left his youngest brother,who was 15 years old at that time to be raised in a family of adult brothers and father. It was the height of the depression. My father's brother was Edgerton, known to his nephews and nieces as Uncle Edgie. He joined the Canadian army after schooling and was shipped to England as a corporal in the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division. He was part of the Dieppe raid on August 19, 1942 and was captured by the German army after 4 days inland. He was to remain a prisoner of war in Stalag 8 b for the remainder of the war. I must have written to him when I was 8 years old because he wrote to me thanking me for the carton of cigarettes and the chewing gum. I still have the letter from Stalag 8 b with the censor stamp. When he was repatriated he tried a variety of jobs in the Okanagan where his brother and sister lived, but he was rootless. He became an alcoholic and was convicted of manslaughter and jailed when he had a drunken car accident with a friend, who died. He was jailed again for cheque passing and forgery. Thoughout the time we knew Uncle Edgie he was sweet and kind to his nieces and nephews and always interested in us. There was a Jekyll and Hyde quality to him in retrospect. He eventually came to realize that he couldn't cope with the "civilized world of the 60's" and learned to cook and spent the rest of his life working in the mining camps of northern Alberta and the Yukon. He wrote to us at Christmas and more often to his sister. My father received a letter sometime in the 80's from a friend of Edgie in Edmonton who reported that he had been in hospital with TB and had died several weeks earlier. He left no possessions of value and he had no issue. He had enough money to pay for his burial. His family had eventually despaired of him and came to try to forget, as much as one can.Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not defined in Edgie's time. We were black and white people in those days and wondered why they didn't, "just get on with things!"