Friday 22 April 2016

Vera Maddigan

This month's edition is tinged with considerable sadness as my aunt, Vera Maddigan, nee Yeomans, passed away on 30th March after a short illness. Those readers amongst you will, no doubt, recall that Vera had attended a couple of the most recent meetings in the Kingsley centre at which all things Kingsley past were remembered. 

Vera was born in Standford, near Whitehill, on 10th June 1926 and was the eldest of two girls in the large Yeomans family of seven. Moving to Oakhanger shortly after her birth, she remained there until marrying and moving to Canada at the age of nineteen. She, like the rest of her brothers and sisters attended Kingsley school and, as was the way of things in those days, made the journey to and from school on foot. Upon leaving school she worked in the village shop which was then Coxes, later to become Shadeys, shop and bakery. She met her husband Russel as a result of her father's regular visits to the Red Lion pub in Oakhanger. Russel was stationed, at the time, at Bordon camp with his regiment in the Canadian army. Having discovered the Red Lion he made it his local and consequently met Alf, Vera’s father and my grandfather. Invited home by Alf, Russel met Vera, and their romance began. They were married and left for Canada in 1946 just after the war ended. 

Russel was one of two boys and had been born in Kingston Ontario, his parents were of Irish origin. Russel's father had, like Russel, been sent to Europe with his regiment during the first world war. He was sent to Belgium where he met his death close to Ypres. Having, many years earlier researched these matters, I was able to track his movements to an incredibly degree, thanks to the quite splendid Imperial War Museum and their superb staff. Russel's father was extremely unlucky as he was killed on the eve of his departure from the area on rest and recuperation. He, together with a comrade,was sent out between the German and Canadian lines on a scouting mission. Sadly the German artillery opened up and both were killed. It was around 0100hrs in the morning. They were, like thousands of others, never recovered from the battle field. Russel's father is commemorated upon the Menin Gate memorial. Who knows what might have happened, survival then was very much a lottery. It is known, had he survived Ypres, he was destined to go with his regiment to Vimy Ridge. Vimy Ridge being the scene of massive Canadian activity and of huge strategic importance. A high ridge, Vimy overlooks the mining area in the valley below and was fought for by both sides of the conflict with tenacity and, consequently, huge losses. For much of the time the front lines of both sides were just a few yards apart, the enemy could not only be seen but heard as well. Now a magnificent Canadian memorial garden, Vimy was not a place to find oneself as life expectation was often measured in hours rather than days.

So it was that Mrs. Maddigan senior found herself a widow with two small sons. Fortunately she was an astute business woman. She became employed in an estate agency and went on to build a considerable property portfolio which included a farm and several houses. She successfully raised her boys until they, like their father, found themselves in the army and fighting another war in Europe. 

For English girls marrying a soldier and crossing the Atlantic it was also very much a lottery in it''s own right. So many war brides, as they were know, found misery and disappointment. Vera was not one of them. She was adored by Russ, ( as he was generally known ), and lived a full and happy life in Canada. When Mrs. Maddigan passed away the two boys inherited her property and, although they continued to work, they probably didn't have to. Russ was a few years older than Vera and he passed away several years ago. Vera remained in Canada until 2010 when she made the decision to return to England. Many of her lifelong friends had passed on and her family were back in England. She bought a flat in Alton and was living there at the time of her death. She would have been ninety in June of this year. R.I.P 

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