|Eunice Audrey Jay, circa 1943|
RIP, Flying Officer (Pilot) Richard Norman Foster
No. 183 Squadron RAF - 149358
Shot down 31 January 1944
by flak near Guidel
on attack on Kerlin-Bastarde Aerodrome
My Mother's Love
Mom, circa 1943
Imagine, my mom was driving a Velocette motorcycle around England in 1943. She was 19 then. She had a boyfriend who was a pilot. They used to read poetry to each other at Harrow on the Hill by Byron's tomb. They were in love. My mom was stationed at Biggin Hill fighter station. Her boyfriend, Richard, was stationed at another airfield flying Typhoons. They lived fast and true to their hearts. There was no time to waste by not feeling, blocking and worrying if it was right. Life was so tenuous - up for the lottery every moment as planes fell from the sky, bombs fell from the sky and buildings crumbled around people daily. The world was at war and nothing was forever. There was only the moment in which their truth existed. Richard was shot down over France on January 31, 1944. He was killed. His grave is in Guidel Communal Cemetery in the Bretagne region.
Richard's Grave site,
Photo - Courtesy of Alain Octavie / Pierre Vandervelden **
In 1948, my mother married my father at Harrow Church. They had four kids, moved to Canada from England twice, started their own business, and divorced in 1975. My mother continued to work to support the two children she still had at home. She created a new career for herself and kept my brother and I in school, in good clothes, with enough food to eat and the occasional vacation and special treat. She did well by us although I believe she was always a bit sad - she had lost a part of her self in the process of all this.
At 58 years old, she died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease); robbed of her retirement and her chance to go to Europe and explore the arts of the countries she had spoken of so passionately over the years. I don't know if she knew Richard's grave was in Bretagne - there was no internet in her lifetime. It is one of my goals to visit his grave and honour him - the life he gave for his country and the love he shared with my mother.
Her wish was to have her ashes taken to Byron's tomb to be spread in the place where she remembered her passion, her love and her truth. This was done. I hope that my mom and Rich's molecules are dancing together still.
Live; love; be brave.
Below is a stanza from a poem by William Morris, The Message of the March Wind that Richard wrote out for my mom. No wonder he only used the one romantic stanza for his love, as the poem is largely about socialism which probably wouldn't have been popular among his fellow Brits during the war! I found it glued to the inside cover of a book he had given her about the Cotswold Country in Gloucestershire - the area where Richard's family lived on a beautiful dairy farm in a stone house with a thatched roof. I visited there with my mother and my brothers when we were young teens. Richard's dad, Bill Foster, taught me how to milk the cows and collect eggs from the chickens. They were lovely, warm people. I suppose they may have looked on us as the grandchildren they never had. Anyway, more on this story another day. Here is the poem:
To Celebrate a Day in May, 1943
From The Message of the March Wind
"Now, sweet, sweet it is through this land to be straying
'Mid the birds and the blossoms and the beasts of the field;
Love mingles with love, and no evil is weighing
On thy heart or mine, where all sorrow is healed."
(?) and Richard Foster (Brothers) and Edward Smith (my uncle)
Through the Gate at Harrow Church
Photo by Brian Francis Cornwall, my father.
**Special thanks to Pierre Vandervelden and Alain Octavie for their assistance with photos and information and the incredible work they do at: http://www.inmemories.com/index.htm
(Post revised this year) by Gillian Cornwall, November 10, 2013.