Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Cornflowers in Belaria

The simplest things can evoke a memory.
Today I worked on 'setting the scene' for the men of Stalag Luft III: the history of camp, why the site was selected and the particular features that made it attractive to both the Germans and potential escapers. I also looked at how the men responded to the camp when they first saw it. Most waxed lyrical about the forest and the louring pine trees, or spoke about the sandy soil. Some mentioned the dust or mud, depending on the season, and all of course talked about the weather.
Doug Hutchinson, however, noticed something different. He was writing just after the invasion, and was hopeful that he would not be a prisoner for too much longer.
Doug Hutchinson. Courtesy of the Hutchinson Family Archive.
He had also recently 'celebrated' his fifth wedding anniversary, and the fourth he had spent away from home.
Doug and Lola Hutchinson on their wedding day. Courtesy of the Hutchinson Family Archive.
He was still very much in love with his wife, Lola, and missed her terribly. I'm not surprised his eyes took in something more than just the dust and trees:
'This morning I gathered a large bunch of blue cornflowers from around the [Belaria] compound. They are the national flower of Germany and grow wild all over the countryside. Somehow, when I see beautiful flowers, I always connect them with you, my dear. Two beautiful things together. Do you remember how happy you were when picking flowers from our garden, and how you delighted in giving large bunches of them to your friends? Those days will come again, but till then all I have are the memories.'

Cornflowers in Germany. Nicked, with gratitude, from
The memory of Lola was so important to Doug that, on the forced march from Stalag Luft III, where space in knapsacks and on makeshift sledges was at a premium, he tucked in all the letters she had written to him during the almost two years of his captivity.

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