Dec 18th, 2019
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  1. A ‘Sort of’ Christmas Story! The story of Bill and Peg (1946)
  2. Kristin Dockar
  3. In 1946, just after the end of WW2, most of Hannover in Germany, had been reduced to piles of rubble as a result of heavy bombing. One young woman, Waltraud, had fled the city some months earlier as the bombing intensified. When she returned it was to find that she no longer had a home. The beautiful four storey 19th century house which had housed her family was reduced to a mound of rubble. She had lived in that house with her parents, grandparents and sister since the day she was born. Now she looked at what was left and realised she had absolutely nothing. From now on all she could do was learn to survive.
  4. One dank, dreary March afternoon, Peggy sat in the park surrounding the Rathaus. The ornamental lake was completely iced over, and a sprinkle of snow covered the ground. She felt lonely. Passers-by noticed a pretty young woman with shoulder length ash blonde hair and pale blue eyes who looked malnourished, wafer thin and cold in her threadbare coat. Her hands were mottled with the cold and she hugged her arms around her trying to keep warm. She held herself very still.
  5. Sitting there quietly she watched as a young British soldier walked along the path towards her. He was tall, dark-haired and walked with a swagger. He was smoking. As he passed by, she spoke to him in heavily accented English ‘Have you a cigarette for me to spare?’
  6. The soldier paused and walked over to her. He reached into his tunic pocket pulling out a pack of cigarettes. He tapped one out and held it towards her watching as she placed it between her lips. Never taking his dark brown eyes off her he reached into his pocket again and pulled out a packet of matches. He gave them to her.
  7. ‘Won’t you light it for me?’
  8. ‘You speak good English. Where’d you learn that?’ he asked in a heavy cockney accent.
  9. ‘I work as an interpreter for the Americans’.
  10. The soldier introduced himself as Bill and asked if he could meet her later. She told him her name was Waltraude. Bill said ‘I can’t get that mouthful out. What’s your surname?’
  11. ‘Peck’
  12. ‘OK, that’s it then. I’ll call you Peggy Peck’.
  13. She grinned at him.
  14. Bill looked at her again, and then said, ‘Could we meet up ab it later?’
  15. ‘OK soldier Bill, meet me back here at 7pm.
  16. There was something lively about her that attracted Bill. He liked sparky women. As they got to know each other they found they were very different people. Peggy had lived a wealthy privileged life. Even though her home had been reduced to rubble, and the family’s wealth was gone, she was still an awful snob. She thought Bill was ignorant, bad mannered, sometimes boorish and domineering, but she was still strongly attracted to him.
  17. Bill was an East End boy born in Limehouse, London. He was crafty and cunning, a true survivor. On the first day of the second world war, when he was just thirteen years old, he had been evacuated to Norfolk. Once there he had never really gone back to school. He had learnt the more rural pursuits of cunning, such as poaching. He could be a bully and wasn’t averse to using his fists to get his own way. He was poorly educated but not unintelligent.
  18. For a long time, Bill was puzzled because Peggy would never let him take her home. Then one night after they had enjoyed a good evening, drinking, smoking and laughing, he had watched as Peggy walked away and then turned off towards the old town. She walked across the rubble, towards some bombed out buildings. Then to his immense surprise she simply disappeared.
  19. ‘Where is home?’ he had asked, but she was always non-committal and would change the subject. His naturally suspicious, jealous nature got the better of him. One evening, after saying goodbye outside a beer cellar, he let her go, and then followed at a distance. Moving cautiously around the broken buildings he began to realise people lived there. In the rubble.
  20. His heart lurched, and he felt so tender towards her. He identified with the poverty and the deprivation he saw around him. Growing up in the East End of London had been hard. But it was nothing compared to the sheer poverty and deprivation he saw around him now. He wondered how she kept herself so clean.
  21. Bill didn’t let on that he knew where and how she was living but he was infinitely kinder towards her and she responded to this with a gentleness of her own. She would sometimes stroke his face and call him ‘Mein Liebling’. But in April, just a few weeks after meeting him, Peggy told Bill she was pregnant.
  22. He erupted angrily. ‘You stupid cow’ he snarled like a cornered fox ‘haven’t you heard we’re not allowed to fraternise with German girls, you’re still seen as the enemy’.
  23. He spoke as if it was nothing to do with him. Peggy shrugged.
  24. ‘I’m not getting rid of it. I’ve already done that once. Do what you like’.
  25. She walked away.
  26. ‘Wait’ he shouted after her ‘I can’t do nothing. I’m already engaged to a girl back home. I’ve tried to tell her about us, but she says she’ll sue me for Breach of Promise. I have to go back to England’.
  27. Peggy didn’t turn around, just shrugged her shoulders again.
  28. ‘Do what you like’ she said again.
  29. For a while Peggy didn’t bother. She knew where his barracks were, and she knew enough of his comrades to get a message to him if she wanted to. When she was six months pregnant, she found a room to rent. She had been selling cigarettes on the Black Market for a while and she had saved a deposit and two months’ rent. It was the first sensible thing she had done in a long while. Then she sent a message to Bill letting him know her address. She also knew she would ask him for nothing.
  30. In December, just before Christmas, Peggy went into labour. It was too early but on the morning of December 22nd, she gave birth to a baby girl. The baby was tiny, but she survived. Peggy wrote to Bill, again care of the barracks, and told him he had a daughter.
  31. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, she heard a rumble outside her window. Looking out she saw an army lorry pulling up onto the pavement. It was full of soldiers and driving it was Bill. Peggy held the baby up at the window and a huge cheer went up. Bill called up ‘Do you want me to come back later?’ Peggy noticed his usual swagger wasn’t there and he looked a little tearful.
  32. ‘Of course. Your daughter wants to meet you. Happy Christmas’.
  33. Turning away from the window she danced her little baby round the room.
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