A Touching Memory
1945 the war had just ended. I was with the 72nd Mid-Regt R.A. We had left Luneburg Heath where Monty had signed the Armistice and moved all our guns and equipment to a golf course near Hamburg for the start of Germany's occupation.
One fine Sunday evening my three friends Bill, Ron, Harry and myself went for a walk around a part of Hamburg. With the monumental amount of carnage, devastation, rubble and debris there were hardly any buildings left standing. The RAF had done their job pretty well. It was just getting dusk when we came across the unusual sight of a church surprisingly still standing and barely damaged. Deciding to have a look inside we opened the large heavy creaking doors and entered into the total peace and tranquillity. There was the church organ, seemingly undamaged and untouched apart from a thick layer of dust. "What about giving us a tune Bill?" said one of the lads. Bill was the battery pianist and a very good one at that. He sat down on the rickety seat while Harry pumped the organ. Several notes were missing but he managed to start playing the song 'Lily Marlene' which was also the battery band signature tune. He continued to play for about five minutes with us quietly singing along. It was a weird sensation. After Bill finished playing we heard a gentle noise from the back of the church. At first we thought it was a pigeon we had disturbed. But no, in the dim light we could just make out an old lady dressed all in black trudging slowly up the isle towards the door. As she passed she quietly murmured, "Schon, dankerschon, gute nacht" (Beautiful, thank you, good night).
We were truly astonished by the experience. Had she gone into the church to pray, or was it her sanctuary for the night? That, we will never know. However, for me it is a somewhat haunting though cherished memory that will remain for as long as I live.
There is a sequel to my tale. At our last Regimental Reunion, London 1995, in the presence of Vera Lynn the event was recalled. Asked if she would sing, Vera apologised since she had no pianist. Up went a shout, "Bill Decker will play for you" and Vera kindly agreed. Sadly, Bill died in 1996 but I have a copy of that tape which I shall always treasure.
Mr. E. Pryer (aged 88) Mildenhall, Bury St. Edmunds.
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