The Silver Cross

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Chapter Twenty-Four

The morning of 9 September dawned bright and fair. John’s ceremony was beginning at 11am sharp, and we had strict instructions from Barry not to be late.

It was quite exciting getting dressed up, with Carol and her husband Trevor making a big effort, which was really sweet. She had brought over with her a few of William’s diaries for us to look at. One was the diary before William had left for Canada, in which it said that the night before they had left they had all “gone to the Arms for a farewell drink with friends and family”. Then there were the ones written during the war in which he tells about John dying, and him coming over to visit the house in Lavender Road and the Council, and what happened. William had indeed met with Councillor Duncan. We compared the writing with John’s diary, and were amazed by how similar it was.

“You never know, you may find some more diaries hidden away somewhere,” Carol said.

I laughed but had to agree with her, if one twin had always kept a diary then I’m sure the other had, too. It was something for me to investigate at a later date. I let her hold the silver cross and the medal, because I was sure John would have liked that.

Carol had found some more photos, including one of William and John together, and had made copies of them for us. She also had a photograph that looked like it had been taken at the same time as the three pictures we had, of just Catherine holding Margaret. It showed the house number ‘25’ very clearly behind them. It would go very nicely with the other photos which we had framed and hung on the wall by the fireplace.

Mum was most fascinated by Carol, and kept staring at her. “You remind me so much of my mother,” she kept saying.

“I think there’s a strong family resemblance with all of us,” Carol replied.

“Even me?” I was surprised.

“Yes, you look like my granddaughter, Bethany. She’s about your age. When you visit I’ll arrange a family get-together.”

We were already planning our trip in October, when Carol said the skiing would be very good in the mountains of Vancouver. We had decided, however, not to tell them the whole story about Terence Duncan, and only of what had happened during the war.

As Mum said, “We don’t want to scare them with stories of mad Englishmen.”

At nine-thirty the taxi arrived to take us to the cemetery. Barry was already there, talking to some men in uniform from the Royal Corps Signals. I thought they looked very smart. One of them was carrying a bugle because he was going to play the Last Post just before the headstone was unveiled. I had asked Julian, Karina and Annabel to come, and they arrived together soon after we got there and joined us, with Carey and Kevin in tow. Trevor suggested that we should all go to the Signalman’s Arms after the rededication ceremony, and although I was a bit apprehensive I knew it was the right thing to do. Julian gave me a reassuring hug.

At 10 o’clock we had a private ceremony where Mum unveiled the new headstone on Nan Margaret’s grave, which now had her right name and date of birth on it. She had also added

the words “tragically taken from us” underneath. Then we laid flowers and spent some time there paying our respects.

At 10.30 the communal area plaque was unveiled by the Mayor of Wadham. First he made a lovely speech about how the Council was very sorry and were trying to make amends for all the heinous acts that had taken place under Councillor Duncan. The gold-plated plaque listed the names of all the victims that had been uncovered, including my Great Grandparents, Frederick and Catherine Brent, Great Nan Catherine Unwin, and Joan Smith. They had left a space at the bottom in case any more names came to light in the future. Carol and me laid a bunch of flowers on the grass next to it, as did lots of other people.

The press were there, who took dozens of photographs. So were all the members of VOCAL, including a lady who introduced herself to us as Patricia Smith, a cousin of Joan Smith. Mum and I hugged her and thanked her for coming. Then Mr Richards came over and shook our hands warmly and said that I was a heroine too, which made me blush.

Finally, we stood beside the grave of John Unwin. Julian was standing next to me holding my hand, and Mum had Tom next to her, as the Sergeant Major gave a short speech to say that they were there to honour a fallen comrade who now had the recognition that he deserved, after which the Bugler played the Last Post. At 11 o’clock Barry and the soldiers all saluted, and I bent down and pulled the sash to unveil his headstone. This had been polished and looked as good as new, with the letters ‘MC’ added after his name. Mum, Carol and I all laid flowers on his grave.

We thanked everyone for attending the ceremony, and then I took John’s medal out of its box and held it against his headstone, when Mum took a photo. Finally, I took the silver cross out of my pocket, tapped it twice on top of his headstone and said:

“God keep thee well, John Unwin MC.”

The cross flashed twice back at me in the morning sun, as I knew it would.


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