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This may be unusual as it is not a story about any army serviceman or woman but of the terrible plight of a family torn between two countries and the devastating effect it had on that family
The family concerned is my family and my family held a secret which they were too afraid to speak about. This went on for two generations. My mother was the youngest of eight children and was just 7 years old when her mother died in 1917. My mother never spoke about her parents as she did not know anything. Being the youngest her siblings brought her up and she knew nothing of her parents. That went on during two world wars and perhaps would have remained a mystery if fate had not stepped in. After the death of one of my aunties an old brown suitcase was discovered and amongst its contents were some very old torn letter. My mother was given these letters by my aunt's sons and they revealed the truth. These letters were from my maternal grandfather to his family.
They were from Germany and were very, very sad letters from a father taken from his children. It took years and years of research but I finally discovered the story. My grandfather, Adolph Wieland, had come to this country in the late 1890s He met and married my grandmother Amelia in Bradford, Yorkshire. She was the daughter of a coachmaker and the niece of the then Lord Mayor of Bradford. Adolph was a master baker and for some reason the family moved to Manchester where my mother and her seven siblings were born.
After the sinking of the Lusitania in 1916 there were many anti German riots in many of the major cities of England. The angry crowd threw bricks through the windows of their home and forced my grandmother into the street where they attempted to cut off her lovely long hair because she was married to a German. Many in the crowd were neighbours who my grandfather had given bread and cakes to in order to feed their children The police apparently took her into custody for the night for her own protection. As for my grandfather he was taken into custody and interned at Knockaloe P.O.W. camp on the Isle of Man. Can you imagine the fear these children felt?
My grandfather stayed in this camp until about 1919 when he was sent back to Germany. He was not allowed to stay in this country as he had never taken British citizenship. Apparently he wanted to take some of the younger children back to Germany but was not allowed to do this by the British Government. One of the letters tell the family that their aunt had beds ready for them and how sad they all were. Apparently this aunt had no children of her own and was prepared to give them a very good home.
Then of course came WW2 and that same fear of being identified as German still remained with the family although they were by this time married with families of their own. They had sons and husbands in the forces bombing Germany and visa versa. This is why this suitcase along with the letters had been hidden away My mother recalled that aunt Edith always took this suitcase into the shelter with her when there was an air raid. She said it contained insurance policies. I think we all know why she really would not be parted from it. She was frightened of the house being bombed and these letters being discovered. My mum recalled one time when we were all running into the shelter at the bottom of the garden. Aunt Edith went running back into the house. My mum asked "Where are you going?" Aunt Edith kept on running went into the house and came out with the suitcase. I am pleased to say that my family and I have been to my grandfathers home in Germany and discovered family who knew nothing about us. So you see this fear had broken up a whole family. I am pleased to say also that we have met wonderful family and paid our tribute to Adolph at his graveside.
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