Nanna Liz's precious photos
SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia
"Gather round, and I'll tell you a true
story about those two photos sitting there on the cabinet," Liz
Coulthard told her grandchildren in Christie Downs, South Australia, as
she settled back into her comfortable armchair. This is her story.
It all began a long, long time ago, during the second World War, when I was a
little three-year-old girl living in a place called Bootle, near Liverpool, in
the northwest of England, (no, love, it had nothing to do with the Beatles. They
came later, but they too lived in Liverpool).
My dad - your great-grandad - was away fighting with the British forces in
Italy. I missed him so much that I kept his picture under my pillow until he
finally came home, then I let my Mum put it on the mantlepiece for everyone to
Liz showed them this photo)
It was only by a great stroke of luck that we ever got hold of that photo in
the first place.
In January 1944 my Mum went to the pictures. That's what we called the local
picture-palace or cinema. There was no TV in those days. They screened a
newsreel called "Snow in Italy", that showed Tommies (that was what British
soldiers were called) helping to clear snowdrifts around the country - and in
one scene there was a clear shot of my Dad!
What happened next is told in this old clipping from one of the local
newspapers. I'm not sure which newspaper it came from, but it would have been
the Bootle Times, the Bootle Herald or the Liverpool Echo.
Liz showed them this clipping)
Sees husband on News Film
Mrs. McLeod, of Hood Street, Bootle,
was in the audience at the Gainsborough Cinema recently, to see
"Five Graves to Cairo". She arrived just in time to see the
news-reel, and watched the show showing our soldiers in Italy with
particular interest, for somewhere out there Signalman Joseph
McLeod, her 30-years-old husband, was fighting. On to the screen
flashed a picture of soldiers drinking cocoa and others digging in
the snow. Mrs. McLeod looked at it for a few seconds and then
thrilled with excitement, for she recognised her husband as one of
the men. Mrs. McLeod knew many other women who had thought
erroneously that they recognised husbands, brothers or fiancés in
news-reels, but her belief was confirmed when she saw her
mother-in-law, who had seen the shots at the Princess Cinema, and
was convinced that she had seen her son.
A letter which removed any doubt
arrived the following morning from Signalman McLeod. He told his
wife and mother to "look out for him on the pictures," and described
the scene in which he appeared.
Mrs. McLeod, Jr., went to the
Princess Cinema, Kirkdale, so that she could see the scene again.
After the show was over she explained to the manager her interest in
the film, and he gave her a cutting of the strip. Unfortunately,
this could not be reproduced.
Signalman McLeod has been in the Army
for three years, and was posted overseas twelve months ago. He has
one child, a girl aged three.
That little girl was me! What really happened was the cinema manager kindly
agreed to re-run the film for a private viewing, and gave my Mum a single frame
from it, and she later persuaded someone to turn it into a print. And that's the
photo I've just shown you - still one of my proudest possessions.
But that's not the end of the story. After leaving Commercial College in
Liverpool I became a shorthand typist for two years - just waiting until I was
old enough to join the Bootle Police Force, where I was employed as a
policewoman for four years.
Then I married your Pops, and retired from the police when I was expecting
our first baby. Next, we migrated to Australia, where I've worked as a sewing
machinist, presser, store detective, and a pattern maker for a wetsuit
About 18 months ago I had tried and tried to find out where I could get a
copy of that wartime film, or at least SEE IT. I knew the name of the clip, and
one evening at home, whilst using the internet, I decided to look at ITN's
Archive site, for clips of the old serials like Coronation Street, that I'd
watched in England.
I noticed that ITN also had some old wartime newsreels, including wartime
clips from Pathe News. I forgot about Coronation Street, and after typing in
ww2Snow in Italy it came up with several possibilities, and I finally found
it! I was so delighted I burst into tears. I had been trying to find it for more
than 60 years!
We first read a shorter version of this delightful story in a
newsletter published by LOST COUSINS, one of Britain's best genealogical
websites, which helps thousands of virtual visitors locate their cousins and
other relatives. Its founder, Peter Calver, kindly asked Liz Coulthard to
contact us, and she was happy to recount the details.
Story first posted
Copyright © 2007