Sunday, November 10, 2013

Love and Molecules - Lest We Forget

Eunice Audrey Jay, circa 1943
My Mother
RIP, Flying Officer (Pilot) Richard Norman Foster
No. 183 Squadron RAF - 149358
Hawker Typhoon 
Shot down 31 January 1944
by flak near Guidel
on attack on Kerlin-Bastarde Aerodrome
circa 1943
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,
Bretagne, France
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
William Morris

"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)
circa 1943.

Through the Gate at Harrow Church
Photo by Brian Francis Cornwall, my father.
Circa 1948.

**Special thanks to Pierre Vandervelden and Alain Octavie for their assistance with photos and information and the incredible work they do at: 

For more information on FO Richard Norman Foster, visit, the Lost Aircraft site 
Aircrew Remembered:
(Post revised this year) by Gillian Cornwall, November 10, 2013.


Hotel_Goddess said...

beautiful memories and love story. you are a lucky girl to have such a brave mom

Gillian said...

Thank you Angela.

I was very lucky to have learned so many great lessons from her life. Our greatest inheritance is the lessons we learn from those who come before us.

I am grateful for the life she gave me and so much more.

Cathy (@DustypupVI said...

Gillian, your mom and dad would be so very proud of you. It touches me that you care so deeply and share your love for your family with us in this way. Your mother was a trail blazer, a free spirit, who I'm sure took great pride in raising her family. Mothers sometimes lose a piece of themselves as they give all to raising children. It's not a selfish thing, but having worked so hard to raise you, I wonder if she was perhaps sad that work and life's struggles took away from her spending more quality time with her beloved children.

Cathy said...

PS: I see where you get the great smile from! :)

Karen Jay said...

Gillian - how moving. Such evocative writing about such a unique time in history. I'm still fascinated by the two sisters (and our grandmother). Thank you so much for this piece. It touched my heart.
Your cousin xxx

irishminx said...

OMG Gillian..... words fail me. What a beautiful but sorrowful love story. Thank you for sharing xox

Gillian said...

Thanks so much for your kind comments Cathy. How lucky I am to know this story and to share it with all of you! xoxo

Gillian said...

Dearest Cousin, the women in our family were such powerhouses. Now it is you, me, Tess and Nick's girls. May we fill their incredibly strong shoes! Love you more than you could ever know. Xoxo

Gillian said...

Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. It means more to me than you could know. Xoxo

Janet said...

Hi Gillian. Such a touching story. I am sure you have captured this in a way that would make your mother smile. Nicely done.

Gillian said...

Thanks so much Janet. Hoping to make a screenplay of it one day. I enjoy your blog as well!

Holistic Sailor said...

A beautiful post Gillian. Amid the horrors of war runs a thread of love. I don't know why love can't exist without the other but it seems to be so.

Gillian said...

Thanks for reading and for the comment, Tara. I am happy to know so many people still care about, and think about, those who served in WW2 and lost their lives for our freedom.

Luanne said...

Hi, Gillian, what a beautiful story. Richard was my mother-in-law's 'Uncle Dick'. My husband's middle name is Richard, and our son is named Foster. We'd love to get into contact with you, if you'd like. Luanne

Gillian said...

Hi Luanne!
So pleased to have spoken with your mother-in-law and to be able to connect and learn more! Thanks to you for reaching out and ensuring we made the connection.
Very best wishes,