Why did I go to Germany in 1949? Certainly not because I had consulted Margaret! In those days, and for years afterwards, I would have an idea, and then think it over, and even pray about it: and would then tell Margaret what I had decided to do!

This time, I was prompted by a note in the Church Times that the War Office was offering special 2-year Commissions to clergy who would volunteer to go to Germany as Army Chaplains. This appealed to me for several reasons (some of them hidden at the time). Having a German name, and a German great-great-grandfather, I was concerned about Germany, and in 1939 had joined the German-British Christian Fellowship, that had been founded by George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester.

I did not do much about this until, soon after the end of hostilities, I had received a letter from him, telling me that a first party of German students was soon to visit England, and would stay at Wistow Hall in Leicestershire, a Refugee Centre of which I had not previously heard. English members were invited to go to Wistow to meet them, and to help them in whatever way they could. Of course I went and, among the German vistors was Dieter Goldschmidt, a young man of Jewish ancestry, who was, at that time, the Editor of the Students' Magazine at Göttingen University. Meanwhile, as I recognised that our little Church at Billesley Common would have neither the means nor the courage to be host to a couple of German visitors for the week that had been requested, I thought I knew a Church that would! That was the famous Carrs Lane Congregational Church in Birmingham.

Carrs Lane did duly invite two of the Germans, and one of them was Dieter. He and a German girl duly came to tea with us at Holy Cross Vicarage, and we learned that Dieter was married, and that he and his wife, Ursula, had a little boy, Johannes, who was about the same age as our younger daughter, Elizabeth, and, like her, was still 'in nappies'. As Margaret and I then realised, though soap was rationed in England, there was a much more severe shortage in Germany. So, when the Germans had gone home, we posted to them some of our soap and, for good measure, a bar of our rationed chocolate! That was how we began a friendship that has outlived Johannes (who, after getting an English degree in Mathematics, and settling here and marrying an English wife, sadly died of cancer when not yet 40 years old), has blossomed and continued for over 45 years.

So that offer of 2 years as an Army Chaplain in Germany was very attractive to me, and I confessed this to Margaret. The problem was "How could she, and our three little children, manage without me?" My solution, which was loyally accepted by Margaret, and welcomed by my father, and Joanna and Diana, who were then living with him at The Old Garden, Hoylake, was that I should resign the living of Billesley Common, and that Margaret and the children should go to live with them at "The Old Garden" while I was in Germany.

Though it was very difficult for Margaret to give up our own home and go to live with relative strangers, the adventure worked out far better than anyone had dared to hope! My father and the girls had been having a difficult time togther. Rotha was also living at The Old Garden part-time. Hamin was in India, and Giles was living mainly with Granny Maclver and her maids at Wanlass Howe at the head of Lake Windermere. The children settled in well, and so did Margaret, though she had a severe illness towards the end of the first year, and had to have a 'Volvulus' operated on in Clatterbridge Hospital.

Meanwhile, I had exchanged the cold and the scarcities of post-war Britain for the privileged life of an Army Chaplain in occupied Germany. I had expected this adventure to be a sacrifice, made in order that I might do the military service that I had missed through deciding to stay on as a Curate in Swinton (because, at the end of the 'phoney war', the Parish had just had its first bomb), and so that I might learn something about the 'National 'Service' men in the Army. However, I found that, after a freezing fortnight at the Chaplains Training Centre at Bagshot Park (former home of the Duke Connaught), as soon as I got to Germany, I was living in luxury in the spacious and overheated 'Montgomery Barracks' in Berlin (Kladow), where the view across the wide Havel River reminded me of the Lake District. The real difficulty was the shame of living in such comfort while the Germans around me were hungry and cold, and surrounded by a city in ruins. The half-mile wide Havel was very like the lower reaches of Lake Windermere, except that it had strings of large barges on the way to and from Hamburg and the Elbe.

Oct 1991