In 2015 My parents took me to Berlin to show me where I had been born when they were based there with the British Forces.
It was during that visit that it struck me what they had actually done some 44 years before - My mum aged 18, and dad, arrived in Berlin, on an army flight, into a besieged city, in which a wall had gone up less than a decade earlier to separate its citizens and divide a country. She would have been transferred by army transport and deposited along with my Dad at the Flat where they lived when I was born. She didn’t speak the language or have a mobile phone, indeed they didn’t even have a house phone. There was no news outlets, television, no emails, text, google translate. Indeed my own birth was announced via telegram to the wilder family back home in the UK, meaning…a story she loved to recount… they all thought I was born on the 27th May as that was when they received the news. I was born the day before.
We had a fabulous time that weekend in Berlin, they both recounted endless stories and we visited many of their old haunts, turns out they were party animals even back in the day but that’s a different story. The picture on the front of today’s order of service was taken there on that day. She looked so happy and it is one of our favourites of her.
I realised how brave she was and what she has done. She has always risen to a challenge and welcomed people with a smile - She never complained, she delighted in continuing to throw herself into the many of “postings” her and my dad found themselves at around the world and she spent every single minute of her life creating a home in every place for us all. And not a home just for my dad, myself and Caroline, but for various friends that joined us along the way for various lengths of time.
After Berlin, in 1972, we moved to Elswick, where my first memories were formed, a particular favourite the fact she worked in a biscuit factory and left me two biscuits at the bottom of the stairs every morning. I remember our new home well, mum had made it ours and kept it in immaculate condition. Whilst finding her own identity and place within the regiment.
We moved to Minden and were back in Germany in 1975. I remember fun times and it being very hot and playing outside with army friends. - Then the inevitable happened - Caroline was born in 1977. I was no longer the centre of her attention, we both were and she made that absolutely okay and the way it would be - forever. My Nana visited. We all travelled everywhere on caravan holidays - Italy, Austria , Germany, France, Venice, Holland. We had great fun and it didn’t matter where we were as long as we were together.
In 1978 we moved to Warminster, There was The School of Infantry, tanks, guns, planes, our first cat Tibby, Battlesbury Hill and the shooting ranges constantly firing the soundtrack to our stay there. There were party’s - she would always bring home something from their countless “mess nights’ - streamers and balloons, sometimes even raffle prizes - From here we explored the South Coast and the New Forest. It was a happy place and time for her.
We moved to Tidworth in 1980, it wasn’t her favourite posting, Dad was away often, he visited Belize for a length of time. I remember it being miserable and cold with snow forcing food shortages at the Naffi, of course this didn’t faze mum - she just baked her own bread and cakes and checked up on others to make sure they were ok. We had our first phone! Well actually it was a box at the end of the road. I went to boarding school Mum never showed me then that she was devastated, as her son went away for months at a time, I understand how she felt now, being a parent myself. She was always ready to make me feel incredibly special and important when I came home for the holidays to explore our new home and surroundings. I loved every moment of my schooling and that was very simply because she made it all okay.
We moved to BallyKelly in Northern Ireland in 1982, a scary prospect then, but never the less a beautiful place, there were tragedies during their time there, but despite these and the continuing threats she got on with it and met great friends, including Wendy who when she knocked on the door to introduce herself to my mum was greeted with - No! I’m cleaning the floors. Come back later. They knew then they would be lifelong friends. She was very excited to welcome her sister Yvonne and my cousin Darren to see the amazing country it was. She would fondly recount the story of Yvonne asking what Caroline was doing with a big torch and mirror under the car - “Oh, checking for bombs” came the reply.
It was here that she set up coffee mornings and activities for the Wives of soldiers from Signal platoon who were out on operations. This later developed with the help of Angela, the wife of the Officer Commanding and they kept the club running during their tour of Hong Kong
1984, Hong Kong, the most exciting time of our lives, new country and culture, for me long distance flights, long distant telephone calls, blueys home demanding more pocket money at school - Caroline tells me she knew when I was due home at Christmas because they tree went up the day before and mum would tidy, again! - Hong Kong almost depleted her love for shopping and she thrilled in visiting all the new places and exciting sites. She went on to host visiting ex members of the regiment when volunteers were asked for, they all became firm friends. From Hong Kong we had a spectacular family holiday in Thailand which we all loved. Mum and Dad even managed to sweet talk the American Navy into letting them attend a party with half the American 7th Fleet who were anchored offshore whilst we were there.
After our stay in Hong Kong we moved to Chester to the aptly named Simpson Road, It was temporary accommodation but she still made it welcoming and beautiful. It was the first home I visited regularly at weekends from school. The closest she had ever lived to her own immediate family since 1970 - she delighted in visiting them all, especially her dear mum, our Nana.
When we moved to Hasslington in 1986 it was our first house! By that I mean one we owned. We thought it was the best place we had ever lived because it was ours - but as time moved on they realised it wasn’t the bricks and mortar that made it special. And when a job opportunity opened up for dad in her beloved Warminster it was a no brainier , off we went - Back to army quarters - How exciting to return to a place she loved and we all knew well, I would visit often with friends from school and she always welcomed them into our home - I celebrated my 18th there with my very own “mess night” with my Dad.
So by now She had toured the world with my Dad and us in tow, experienced many cultures, tried everything, done everything but in 1991 they made the very exciting decision to settle down. To Runcorn.
They bought a house , only their second, and this is now the place they have lived the longest. I’ve never lived here myself - but it is always simply called “Home” Because that’s where she was.
Shortly after arriving in Runcorn, the day before her 40th birthday she attended the Queen’s Royal Garden Party as the Officer Commanding gave them an invite. Her 40th! She’d done all that before 40, I didn’t go to Berlin again until I was 44.
Then came the Somerfield Years, she started on the fish counter and soon was duty manager, and travelled around other stores improving their operation and as usual, was devoted to her work. It then became Co-op then Morrisons, and as we know, she never forgave Somerfields for leaving Frodsham. There was a time you couldn’t walk down the high street with her as every single person knew her , it would take forever - she would always stop and ask how they were and knew incredible amounts of detail about them!
The grandchildren arrived - who she adored - Jacob and Emily, and later joined by Ethan - Life changing for all of us - who doesn’t know our Simpson version of the Christmas Story of when she fainted during Jacob’s birth on Christmas Eve, ending up unconscious in casualty whilst Caroline was in maternity with my dad running up and down corridors between the two of them.
Her love for travel and adventure never wained, she visited Paris with Debbie, Caroline and Jacob. There were the annual trips to Chamonix in France with all of attending in some shape or form over the years. She went to Corsica with Dad, again helping support youth doing the GR20. She often accompanied dad on CCF and Duke of Edinburgh’s adventure training weekends as female support.
She had threatened to leave the supermarket for years and 24 years later when she eventually did I think she was incredibly shocked but absolutely loved the outpouring of love from friends and colleagues as she departed, she simply couldn’t believe it. Some of those guys have remained firm family friends.
She and Dad were brilliant hosts. We’ve had countless days and nights of friends welcomed by them at their home - Boxing Day was often carnage but fun, bodies everywhere in the morning - but they all got up and tidied away respectfully and she would make a breakfast and we recount the ridiculousness of the activity the night before.
Even as she became ill, we were still making plans for visits, holidays, family times together. All with her and my dad firmly at the centre of our lives. She and we believed they would happen. She received hundreds of flowers and well wishes from all over when people heard she was ill which were an amazing comfort to her.
Incredibly she found time amongst all that to continue to be an amazing devoted wife to my Dad, during lockdown they played scrabble every night at 1700hrssharp! - she finished the champion, of course, 486 games to my dads 484 - they love each other dearly, they still kissed every day, right through their 53 years of marriage. My dad led the way but if he stepped out of line a firm but loving “MICHAEL” quickly corrected any situation.
She would have loved today, seeing all the faces here. She was our absolute centre…our world. All through her life, she’s put us and others ahead of herself, always. Her selflessness and above all, love, proved that wherever she was, we were at home.
Thank You Mum.