2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, a time of jubilation around the world. It was a moment that defined a generation after six years of struggle and left many with memories they would rather forget.
But, along with the struggle there was also hope – and Aurora residents Douglas and Louisa Moores are perfect examples of finding joy amid the sorrow.
The couple, residents of Chartwell Park Place (formerly Park Place Manor) celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary this past February and they are notable not only for their remarkable marriage but for their service and heroism as well.
Douglas, who was born in Canada 97 years ago, was working for Vauxhall Motors in the United Kingdom when war broke out in 1939. Drawn by the sea, he declined an opportunity to enlist in the Army, and although he didn’t know how to swim, he made the unlikely decision to join the Royal Navy, where he enlisted in April 1942 before beginning active service that June.
“It was just one of those things,” says Douglas when asked why he opted for service on the sea rather than theatres of war over land. When asked where he saw service, he replies with a chuckle, “Have you got a long piece of paper?”
The Royal Navy took him to India, Singapore, Malaysia and other locations in the Pacific Theatre, but it was his service in Europe which became an inextricable part of his life in countless ways.
He saw active service in Normandy the day after D-Day. A machinist with Vauxhall before the Navy, he was a “Stoker First Class” working to keep flotilla ships in service.
“We were there to help guide the troops and the soldiers in and I don’t know what else,” says Douglas with what daughter Carol Corporon describes as typical modesty, noting that whilst in France he had the difficult task of burying his best friend who was killed in the conflict.
Despite his modesty, he proudly bears the honours of service, including the Legion of Honour from the President of France.
While Douglas saw active service abroad, Louisa was making contributions of her own.
A native of a coal-mining village in south Wales, Louisa was an active member of the Women’s Land Army, whose ranks became known as The Land Girls.
The Women’s Land Army was formed to pick up the work when farmers had been called off to war.
“I was digging up spuds just to get us out there,” says Louisa, now 94. “We just wanted to help in different situations that were needed. We gave the farmers help in this, that and the other.”
One of nine children, Louisa found herself at a farm in Penzance at the age of 16 or 17.
In addition to tending the “spuds”, she put her needlework skills to good use repairing soldiers’ uniforms before taking on additional work in a munitions factory, working on bombs.
“I was frightened, mind you,” she says with a wave, but she went where she needed to be.
As did Douglas, and, during his service, his ship docked in Penzance for naval exercises.
“We came ashore and while we were walking along the dockside, these two girls came along,” he recalls, adding that he and his fellow sailor sped up to catch up with the girls and secured themselves a double date. “I said to him, that Welsh girl is mine!”
“Well, it was a thing about me – I did like sailors for some reason!” says Louisa, picking up the thread. "I liked his face, we got chatting and the next thing you knew, we had a date and here we are. I took him home and my mother liked him right away. She took me into a corner, pointed her finger and told me I better behave myself because he is a nice boy. I had so many guys that I talked to or was only a couple of weeks with – she knew what I was like and she said, ‘Just behave yourself. That is a lovely man you’ve got there. I better not hear another word from you about going out with someone else.’ It was good advice.”
Indeed it was – and Douglas beams when Louisa tells her side of the courtship.
One of the things that brought them together was dancing – “I wanted to show off my sailor,” says Louisa – and, after war’s end, Douglas re-joined Vauxhall and was presented with an opportunity to join their Canadian operations.
He was reluctant to return to Canada at first, but Louisa was much keener to cross the pond.
“There was a bit of adventurism in her!” he says with a smile.
As they sit in the Park Place garden surrounded by poppies made by residents, a colourful alternative way of remembering when members of the public are discouraged from attending in-person events this year due to the global pandemic, Remembrance Day brings out mixed emotions for the couple.
They remember the friends and family they lost, they remember the worry of being apart from each other in the dying days of the war, they remember the contributions they made. Perhaps something that, to them, was simply a matter of them doing their duty, but for us is nothing short of heroic.
“It has been a very new experience for me because my parents never talked about the war,” says Carol, adding they never really opened up about their experiences before Douglas received the Legion of Honour. “It was like everything started to pour out of [my father]. I am just so proud of them. They went into the war because they thought it was going to be adventurous and it changed their lives. I am very grateful for that because my life was easy because of them.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran