Saturday, July 26, 2014

EAST HAMPTON | Bois Books at Children's Fair 2014

Featured Book: Little Old
by Hilda van Stockum
Boissevain Books LLC - which was originally created by her children to keep alive the books of Hilda van Stockum - will be represented at the East Hampton Library Children's Fair in the afternoon, 2:30 to 5:30 pm, of August 10, 2014.

Little Old Bear, by Hilda van Stockum, is the featured book. It will be read out to any children stopping by the table by the author's son,  John Tepper Marlin - or possibly daughter, Brigid Marlin, who illustrated one of Hilda van Stockum's books, King Oberon's Forest.

The Boissevain Books team has been involved in bringing a Harvard singing group, the Din & Tonics, to the Children's Fair at 4 pm.

I described the last one, a year ago, here. There were 2,500 children and their families visiting the fair.

I will be reading out Little Old Bear to anyone who will listen, in the book area under one of the tents. It takes me less than five minutes to read it out. Little Old Bear was written by my mother and I try to keep it in print by reading it out. It's a great story that appeals to young and old (the bear, after all, is old and is blind when you first meet him) and I never get tired of reading it out.

The book authors are arranged alphabetically, so the van Stockum table is likely to be close to the end of the line, by the cash register.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TIME BOMBER | Monument to Plane Crew

L to R: John Ellyatt, John Tepper Marlin and Cpl. Pamela Turney, 
pointing to the crew members to whom they are related. The 
crew members named on the monument are:
Flying Officer Willem Jacob Van Stockum, Pilot
Flying Officer John Ellyatt, Flight Engineer
Flying Officer Gilbert Daniel, Navigator
Flying Officer Robert Keith Marshall, Bomb Aimer
Sergeant Alfred Charles Perkins, Wireless Operator AG
Pilot Officer Fred Beales RCAF, Upper Gunner
Sergeant Albert Mason, Rear Gunner
The hero of Time Bomber is Willem van Stockum, my mother's brother.

Last month I attended a ceremony in France right after the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

The ceremony occurred 70 years after the downing of the MZ 684 Halifax bomber, at Entrammes, near Laval, Mayenne, France - south of Omaha Beach.

My uncle Willem was the pilot of the plane. He and two other crew members were represented by their families at the unveiling: John Ellyatt's son John Ellyatt and Fred Beales's great-niece Cpl. Pamela Turney.

In 2011, four of the seven crew members were represented by family at the Vaufleury Cemetery. The additional family member then was Robin Sumner, nephew of Gilbert Daniel.

Top photo shows two relatives of the crew of the MZ 684, 
JT Marlin (your blogger), nephew of Willem van Stockum, 
and Pamela Turney, great-niece of Fred Beales. The newly 
unveiled monument to the 1944 crash is in Entrammes.

The same day, another monument was unveiled, at Saint-Berthevin, dedicated to the MZ 532 Halifax bomber and its crew.


Uncle Willem was the person who brought my parents together. He roomed with my father at Trinity College, Dublin in 1929-32. When my father discovered that Willem had a sister, he set about wooing her.

They were married in 1932, had their first child in 1934 (my sister Olga will be 80 this year), and ten years after they were married they got me (#5 out of 6 children).

When Uncle Willem died in 1944, a light went out in the lives of my parents. It was unspeakably tragic for them and for my Granny who lived with us. She lost her husband and both of her sons within a period of a few years. Her daughter was the only one left. Granny died in 1949, the same year as her brother Eugen Boissevain, husband of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

When we came to visit the graves in 1954, the 13 RAF-administered British and Commonwealth graves had tombstones. My uncle's grave just had a simple wooden cross. I remember my mother burst into tears because she couldn't understand why her brother was singled out for not having a tombstone.

"Time Bomber", by Robert
Wack, centered on the life
of W. J. van Stockum.
It turns out it was because Willem was still a Dutch citizen (he was seconded from the Royal Canadian Air Force but was still Dutch although he had applied for American citizenship and was subject to the draft). The Dutch Government had asked my mother what she wanted to have on the tombstone and she said: "Greater love hath no man..." The tombstone arrived in due course, but my mother never came back to see it. My brother Randal and I have been back several times. The Dutch tombstone is very impressive, but it does not have on it the epitaph that my mother requested.

On the other hand, my uncle is the only one so far of the 14 members of the crew to have a book written about him - Time Bomber, written by an unrelated U.S. Army Major and pediatrician, Dr. Robert Wack.

I recommend the book for three groups of people: (1) those interested in the European theater of World War II, (2) those interested in the scientists who have examined time travel, and (3) those who are interested in the motivation and challenges of a soldier's and airman's life.  The story is based mainly on factual material about my uncle and the life he led until it was ended. The additional elements that have been added to the story, what we could call the sci-fi meta-story, make several important points that are hard to discuss any other way.