Skinner remembers German women and children
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | November 8, 2018|
There’s a green photo album with a padded cover, held together by a black string tassel.
The front cover is embossed in gold lettering … 2. RCHA Deilinghofen Germany 1953-1955.
RCHA stands for Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, Angela Skinner Penn explains as we flip through the album at The Highlander one day.
On the first page, we are introduced to her father, Ivan Skinner, who stands tall in his military uniform, next to a little girl named Bonny, or so the album says.
It starts in 1951 at home, then shifts to Kenora, then the base at Shiloh, Manitoba, before moving on to Germany in photos from 1953.
There are images of good times: men drinking beer in camaraderie. There are photographs depicting hard work. Skinner was a gunner. Two typewritten pages fall from the album, automatic transmission shift and pattern adjustments, 2 ½ ton GMC (SMP).
Images of a military funeral jump from the pages in 1954, Then, pictures of a fawn the men must have encountered. There are no more hand-written descriptions on these pages.
Amid ordinary pictures of military life, there are disturbing images, such as a photo of a sign that simply reads “Here lie buried 800 bodies, 24.4.45.”
Skinner, 88, moved to Wilberforce in 2015 after retiring in Boulter east of Bancroft. He now lives in Bancroft’s Riverstone retirement home.
Skinner says in an interview he went to Germany in November of 1953.
“I was in the artillery and it was actually five years after the war was over. And we went over as occupation troops and that was in November and then the following September the Germans got their independence back and we were goodwill ambassadors from there on.”
He said they initially had to accompany German police as they patrolled the streets. “We were the law.” After that, they did military training.
He said going to Germany was “a real eye opener” for him, experiencing the lifestyle of an old country, but even more so, seeing the damage and destruction the war had caused, including bombed out buildings.
“I couldn’t imagine what was going through the minds of the women and children being born and raised in that time period … the fear of that war must have been devastating. That’s why I took the pictures and kept them. At the Legion, we say ‘we will remember them’ and that’s what I did.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.