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Weekend at war

Tim Coghlan takes a lighter look at a remarkable re-enactment in which he survived an air raid, met the idle women, ate spam-a-lot, and kept smiling through…

Having prepared myself for something completely different, it still came as a surprise when it happened. I had arrived a little early as I had to be back to the marina-day-job by late morning and I wanted to see as much as I could. The offi cial car park at the top of the hill by Stoke Breurne’s church was almost empty and there was no one to collect my money for the advertised £10 car park charge to gain admission. I walked down an almost empty lane to the village and just as I was rounding the car park at the back of the Boat Inn, she was there with her young boy – like seeing a ghost from the past – just the three of us in the autumnal stillness. “Will me boy be safe ‘ere, after all them bombings we been through in London?” she asked me in all seriousness. She was wearing a well-worn brown female WWII coat, and carried an old cardboard suitcase in one hand, whilst the other tightly held the hand of her young boy in his grey school uniform with long shorts – possibly the only decent clothes he had. Over his shoulder hung a khaki canvas case for his gas mask, and round his a neck was a label which read, Alasdair Grant aged 7 years. He seemed to share his mother’s anxiety. It was all so real, and poignant – a mother parting with her evacuee child, her husband far away at war. It brought back memories of real evacuees I have talked to in my time, and that awful moment of departure. I was simply lost for words. “Well done”, was all I could come up with.