English

We often see dramatic words being used in the Israeli-Palestine conflict about people – and children – getting killed – even though many – if not most – are accidental. It seems people today do not remember – or realize – that in war accidents do happen. They happen – almost like a force of nature.

Going to school

My mother never had an easy relationship with my grandmother. Often quarreling – seldom friendly – I guess my liberal mother was a disappointment and embarrassment to my (conservative) grandmother.

Yet – one story my mother often told me – was when grandmother saved her life.

My mother was about 7 years old – she was dressed to go to school – walking down the stairs in the small house they lived in. Grandmother – who was already up – noticed a hole in one of her socks – and insisted on fixing it immediately. Appearing perfect was much more important in those days.

As she was fixing the sock – the alarm in the city went off. An alarm indicating an air raid.

It was early October 1944, Norway was occupied by Nazi-Germany. Out in the Atlantic American and British ships were sunk by German submarines – and my hometown had a submarine harbour for German submarines.

This morning – just after 9 – about a hundred British planes came to attack this submarine harbour. Quite a valid military target – if they took it out they would save many Allied lives.

They missed.

The bombs fell all over the area around the submarine harbour – a narrow area between mountain sides and the sea. Apparently the smoke from the first bombs made it hard to see anything.

One bomb hit my mothers school – Holen school in Bergen – where she would have been had it not been for my grandmother and a hole in her sock.

It killed 60 children and two teachers.

My mother sometimes mentioned a distant cousin who died in the air-raid. I think she liked him a lot. She – and my grandmother – never blamed the British – they did their job – it was the bloody Germans who were at fault.

In December Oslo will give a Christmas tree to the British – to be put in Trafalgar square. A symbol – a thank you – to the British for helping to liberate us – a tradition going back to 1946.

Many people who remember those days have passed out of time. So has my mother and grandmother. Perhaps I can thank the RAF for their efforts – even though its just a distant memory brought down through generations.