The Amazing World of Si Hart

Amazing insights into my mind as I battle against the inefficient world of the library, moderate a message board, write Doctor Who audio adventures and try and stay sane!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Chance Encounter

As some of you will probably know, one of the TV shows I adore is Secret Army. It's BBC drama of the 70s at its very best. It's one I've been revisiting recently and I greatly enjoyed watching series 2 while I was unwell the other week. For those that don't know (and really if you haven't seen it, you should try, I promise you won't regret it) it concerns the work of Belgian evasion line trying to get stranded RAF men to safety from under the eyes of the occupying Germans.

Anyway, this afternoon I met a real life WWII evader. He came to Birch Hill Library to do some photocopying. He was a sprightly 88 year old (and he really didn't look that old) who had come in to copy some forms in order to get hold of a disabled badge for his wife who is now wheelchair bound. I gave him a helping hand with the copier and got chatting to him. Anyway, we got chatting and he showed me what it was he was photocopying. A photograph of a rather gaunt, earnest young man. He explained that was him, on discharge from a German Prisoner of War Camp. He was in the RAF. His plane was shot down over France, and he was picked up by the French resistance. They made him false papers, gave him a French name and clothes and were helping him escape back to England, when he was caught by a German patrol. He was captured, as it turned out he couldn't speak French, and taken to the POW camp where he was imprisoned until the end of the war and the camp was liberated. As he;d been in civilian clothing rather than his uniform he was imprisoned as a spy.

One of the documents he was photocopying was the false papers he'd been carrying when he was captured, along with the documents typed by the Germans when he was imprisoned that he;d kept all these years. They were amazing to see.

What got me was how matter of fact he was about it all. It was something that happened to him, but nothing amazing. He was just doing his duty and doing what he could to survive. I found that incredibly moving.

He finished his photocopies and went on his way, but shook my hand and thanked me for all my help. Somehow I felt that it was me who should have been thanking him for all that he did- him and others like him that fought for us in WWII.

So that was one of those chance encounters that happen when you work with the public, but something I shan't forget.

I hope he gets his disabled badge without any fuss.


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