LIMBO: In the Heart of Normandie Chapter 2 – Left in Limbo By Sharon Collins

Word Count 499
In the Heart of Normandie
Chapter 2 – Left in Limbo
By Sharon Collins

Granddad’s orders required he report by midnight on June 4th. Gram believed his rank had provided that privilege. I think her contributions to the war effort also counted. No Donut Dolly, she was one of Dilly’s Fillies, the cadre of brilliant, female codebreakers working for Dillwyn Knox at Bletchley Park. Although she truly admired her boss, she never did care much for the nickname.

Gram, was recruited 1940 after graduating with degrees in mathematics and linguistics. Her French and German fluency plus her lightning speed at solving crosswords made her a perfect choice for Betchley. Signed and sworn to secrecy, she was assigned to Hut 8 where German Naval signals were dismantled and deciphered. Her superior talents recognized, she quickly moved to The Cottage to work beside Knox himself. On January 13, 1941 when all Dilly’s Fillies solved the famous Daily Telegraph Cryptic Crossword in under twelve minutes, Gram solved in six. Knox was awed and even Alan Touring, was impressed.

A month later when the four Americans arrived at Bletchley under cover of darkness to share military intelligence, Gram was one of the few to witness this clandestine meeting and the birth of an alliance. Later, when the U.S. sent Bletchley 100 cryptologists to assist and integrate, my Gram, like so many of her English Rose sisters, fell for a dashing American. Samuel Kent Beech, it was said, was love-struck by two British “bombs”: Turing’s Bombe, a device used to decipher German Enigma codes and a bombshell named Allison Rose. It was love at first sight. When Gram told her boss she was going to marry her American soldier-boy, Knox congratulated her and sent them a matched set of Mont Blanc fountain pens to do their crossword puzzles together.

Although released from service thirteen months ago, on that June midnight Gram still knew secrets enough to fear the worst, and was already referring to what lay ahead as D-Day. A military wife, she knew the signs; the massing began weeks ago. Most soldiers of Mission Overlord had been sequestered and kept in uneasy ignorance awaiting optimal weather and tides. That now shared unease nagged in tandem with the dull ache at the small of her back Gram saluted, blew a kiss, whispered, “Ducks for Luck” and turned home. He was onto his next mission. She must onto hers…

Thirty hours later, waters broke on both sides of the Channel, over the stern of the Higgins boat as it disgorged my grandfather, weighted with radio gear, into the hell of Omaha Beach, and also onto the kitchen floor of their small flat. In simultaneous battles, both my grandparents gave life. I like to believe my dad and granddad embraced each other on their respective ways through, one exiting and one entering as dawn broke on June 6th, 1944. I am sure in Gram’s heart she already knew, but her mind refused to believe. During those dreadful limbo hours between fearing the truth and accepting the truth, my dad was born.

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