Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Personal connections with history

Four years ago (just after we moved out here), I got a bunch of phone calls from family members telling me that I really ought to have been at our recent family reunion in Saskatchewan: at the reunion, my Grandma's cousin Muriel revealed that she'd worked closely with Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill in the British Cabinet War Rooms during the Second World War. Until about 2005, everything about her work in World War II had been classified information, and now that it was declassified she was in demand for interviews. (In fact, she'd been on her way to London to be interviewed for a documentary when the July 2005 London bombings occurred.)

This information has always been a little surreal to me, processing the fact that this sweet little British woman I'd met at family gatherings had worked closely with Prime Ministers in the Key Points Intelligence Service, had worked in Churchill's secret bunker, and then spent six decades not telling anyone about it.

Dad called today to tell me that this week Muriel's been interviewed by a bunch of major newspapers, coinciding with a new exhibition of the War Rooms. This is the first article he found, and then we found this one, and then this information about the exhibition.

I'm so glad that her stories are getting out now. And I finally have some documentary evidence to support my assertions when I cite "my Grandma's cousin Muriel" as informing me that Neville Chamberlain was already preparing to go to war with Germany when he made the Munich Pact of 1938; he was just trying to buy more time for Britain before they went to war, because they'd been so badly hit by the Depression.

So, I find that all to be cool.

Update: My dad just sent me this article he found that has more of Muriel's story, as she was relating it to some schoolchildren in Bath (where her daughter lives, I believe). It's still strange to hear her referred to as "Churchill's secretary."

Update 2: In response to hearing that Grandma's cousin was Churchill's secretary, Chris exclaimed "You're only three degrees of separation from Hitler!" Thanks honey.


Julia H. said...

That is so awesome. You are somehow related to someone who literally watched a huge part of world history unfold, far from the eyes of the everyday Joe. And they are still alive. Very cool. *Slightly Jealous!*

jo(e) said...

That's really cool.

Anonymous said...

that is soooo cool! wow.

The Blog Fodder said...

The Russians are now claiming they signed the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact to buy time. Except that Stalin did nothing to prepare for war with Germany.

It will be interesting to get a new take on Munich now that there is more information available.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Yeah, that's where having Muriel still around is really useful, because she firmly asserts that they were actively preparing for war between the Munich Agreement and 1939. (Which would be why she was already working in the War Rooms by 1938.) I would be interested to hear in what way they were preparing, because it couldn't be any overt mobilisation that people would have noticed.

LynnieC said...

I love Chris.