I’m writing my memoirs, Me, My Beard and I. It was Grandson Jake’s idea and Daughter Megan suggested the title. I have completed the first draft and, to my surprise, written about 145,000 words and I expect it to be about 150,000 when finished. The idea is to write of my early life, my parents and close relatives for the children and grandchildren and my Mother’s story is part of this. I was always told that my mother’s first , and I think, only love was a Polish Naval captain whom I only knew as Wiktor. They were not allowed to marry as he was “foreign” and that he was Catholic I suspect. I only remember meeting him once. Dad financed a fish and chip shop for him after the War and I went there once with my parents in about 1950. It must have been difficult for him after the excitement of the war being helped by the man married to his Love.
My mother drove an ambulance in and around Rochester during the war and was bombed twice in the depot so she too had an exciting time. She and her sister Margaret would visit the officers’ mess on one of the Polish Navy vessels where the officers would ply them with vodka and one of them was Wiktor.
The three sisters. My mother on the right, Margaret the centre and Georgie on the left. At this time Georgie was away in the Wrens.
I had seen photos of Wiktor in my mother’s wartime album but I could not read her hand writing so could not decipher his last name. Whilst choosing photos for the memoir I mentioned this to a Polish friend and she offered to see if she could read his name and so I now know him as Wiktor Szabunia and his photo is to the right. It would have been taken in my Grandparent’s garden. Though they were not allowed to marry my Grandfather did much to entertain both British and Polish Naval personnel.
Justyna Googled Wiktor and, to her surprise found a Facebook page dedicated to the Polish Navy and that Wiktor was one of 12 officers rescued after the ORP Grom was sunk by a Henkel bomber in May 1940. The Grom was the most feared ship in the Norwegian waters because of its relentless pursuit of German naval vessels. Wiktor must have been posted to a vessel in Chatham where he met my mother.
The featured image is of the 12 officers but I would like to repeat it here.
Wiktor is, I think, on the far right.
I suspect from the coquettish look on my Mother’s face, Wiktor took this photo.
In July 1953, there is an entry in my mother’s autograph book that Wiktor Szabunia and Helen, perhaps his wife, came to dinner at the same time as Ebba and Torben from Denmark. It is interesting as Ebba was my Father’s lover when he was in Denmark at the end of the War. I can remember Torben for some reason but not the others though shadows are beginning to appear in my mind as I write. It was only eight years after the end of the War so it could have been some sort of reunion.