Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Coventry Blitz Civilian Memorial, London Road Cemetery, Coventry

Sometimes a week is a stellar one.

And this is exactly what the last seven days have been for the man and me. Here are the highlights:

My work days are beginning brilliantly;  I am walking to work via the clifftop path and down past the beach. Yes, the views are amazing, but there is the other big plus, it allows me time to just be. This enjoyable stroll (no speed records here) sets me up for the day.*

Being back at my home site has also confirmed for me that I made the right decision to return and not seek any further promotions. The job is an excellent fit for where I am in life and I enjoy it. I will therefore happily stay in it until I am in a position to reduce my working hours as planned.

The second thing that has happened is that I have discovered the whereabouts of my paternal great grandfather’s grave.

The cousins in Coventry,  England, contacted me after reading my posts about graveyards. They were looking for the final resting place of our great grandfather to no avail. Could I help? .

For those readers who don’t know, Coventry was a major player in the English engineering industry, making  among other things bicycles, motor cars, and aeroplane engines. During World War Two, its manufacturing base tooled up to produce machinery for war. These included being a big player in the making of parts for British war planes, and armoured cars. It was therefore a no brainer that the German Air Force included this city on its bombing schedule.*

Coventry Cathdral after bombing
Coventry Cathedral after bombing

Seventeen small raids took place here during the Battle of Britain (August and October 1940). However, it was on the night of 14/15 November 1940 that 449 Luftwaffe bombers executed the  biggest assault on the city. Understandably, my father, who was 11 years old at the time,  remembered it vividly.  Called Operation Moonlight Sonata, the bombs hit numerous factories, surrounding houses, and the 14th century Coventry Cathedral.  Approximately 568 people died that night, including the baby sister of a friend of my father’s who was lying in her pram when the air strike happened. In addition to the deaths, there were another 863 badly injured and 393 people who sustained lesser injuries ( )

Among the wounded was my 80 year old great grandfather, John George Downing. For five months he fought for his life in the No.1 Canadian General Hospital at Marston Green, near Birmingham; a battle he finally lost on 17 April 1941.

From the information available on Family Researcher, it appeared that his final resting place was in the Meriden Rural District. My cousins had, however, visited the St Laurence churchyard, the local cemetery there, but  could not find his grave. It was at this point they emailed me.

After four weeks of trying every avenue I could, including obtaining his death certificate, using the expertise of the family history librarian and trawling through databases, I resorted to using a process of elimination  i.e. writing to every likely cemetery authority I could find. This rather tedious process provided the answer: he was buried in the London Road Cemetery in Coventry. It is a fitting place for his final resting place as this was where the mass funerals took place in the days after the raid. It is also where the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Civilian Memorial is situated remembering those who perished in this air strike.

One of the mass funerals in days following November 1940 raids
One of the mass funerals in days following November 1940 raids

The cousins will visit the grave shortly and we will in August 2016, which is a nice segue into the next momentous thing that happened this week.

The man turns 60 next year. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, he wanted to go to Alaska. This week we purchased airline tickets to Canada and the UK. Details are a work in progress for this six week trip. The sojourn to England will include catching up with family, both dead and alive,  and friends (all breathing).

Now confession time: we have totally lost the plot regarding getting the yacht ready to sell. Weather has played a part in this, but the main reason it has taken a back seat is we have been busy doing other things including taking moulds off the Albatross, the man’s sea kayak design. This is for a collaborative business venture, but that is another story.

We are  also getting ready for a family wedding for which we both needed new shoes: the man has held true to our commitment to buy NZ made, and is now the proud owner of a pair of McKinlays. And as for me? Well, I spotted some shoes that met my brief. Two pairs only left, with one in my size. They will look corker on my feet at the wedding. It was meant to be.

Life is good. The man and I are making the most of it. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

*From next week, with changes in hours, I’ll walk home most evenings too.

***There was further bombing of the city in over the nights of 8/9 April 1941. This resulted in 451 dead and 700 seriously injured. The final bombing was  3 August 1942, in which 6 people perished.