Portsmouth labour camp survivor, 99, tells of 'nightmare' as Britain marks Remembrance Day
A LABOUR camp survivor who married a British army medic after being liberated has praised those who heroically made the ultimate sacrifice as the city stands together on Remembrance Day.
Magdalena Shrimpton, who will turn 100 in August next year, witnessed at close quarters the terror of the Second World War after spending most of the conflict in a labour camp in Germany.
Magda, who is a resident at Bluewater Care Home on Kingston Road having lived in and around Portsmouth for much of her life, said of Remembrance Day: ‘(It is about) the freedom of all our nations and the great will to live through hard times, and of course all of the brave people who gave their lives for us.’
Speaking of the gruelling ordeal she suffered at the hands of the Nazis for nearly six years, she added: ‘It was a nightmare that everyday you prayed would end.'
Magda lived in Catawithz, in Poland, on the German border until the war struck and her life was turned upside down in 1939.
When the Nazis invaded Poland the whole village where Magda lived was rounded up and shipped to Germany into labour camps where she stayed until the end of the war.
But despite being dealt a cruel hand of fate in her early years, Magda’s life was to change for the better after the British army liberated the camp.
Magda, who spoke to The News ahead of ceremonies today for Armistice Day and this weekend’s Remembrance Sunday, struck a close bond with a British army medic named George Shrimpton during the liberation.
Magda and George became very good friends and when the army left George promised he would send for her when he got back to England.
George was good for his word and six months later two Red Cross nurses arrived and told Magda to pack what she had before taking her to London to meet George, who then took her home to live with his parents.
Their relationship blossomed despite Magda not speaking English and only knowing some German, while George only knew a little German. Despite this they were still able to communicate.
George bought Magda a Polish/English dictionary to teach her English and after a few months he said ‘you have learned enough’ and would send her to the shops with a list and housekeeping money. Magda always said if she couldn’t say it she would ‘point to what she needed’.
The couple went on to have two sons after the war. In 1946 she had George Albert and in 1948 she gave birth to Michael Andrew.
Magda said that period of her life was a ‘happy time’.
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Meanwhile 102-year-old war-survivor Dorothy Aslett said she will never forget the sacrifices made by those who lost their lives.
The Oakland Grange Residential Care Home resident still has memories of Remembrance Day when she was a child.
‘I remember when I was in school as a little girl aged about five, they used to assemble all of us in a big hall in the school to listen to the prayers for the soldiers from all the services who lost their lives during the war,’ she said
‘I remember those days mostly because I was so impatient with the memorial as I wanted to go back to the playground and enjoy playing with the other children.’
When aged 14 Dorothy started work in a corset factory and recalled honouring a two-minute silence each year.
‘We used to keep to the silence for the heroes of the war and for the ones who were lucky to come back to their lives and families,’ she said.
‘Those two minutes of silence continued every year for me on the Remembrance Day at work. I also remember going to the cemetery, alone or with my family, to lay flowers on our relatives' graves in memory of them and all the heroes of the war.’
Dorothy, paying tribute to those who served their country, added: ‘In the end, I would like to say that I will always remember all the people that lost their lives during the war, because they loved England and they fought for their beloved country and for all the values we are believing in today as well.’
Dorothy is joined at her Southsea care home by another war-survivor - resident Doris Janes who is 100 years old.
Charism Williams, manager of Oakland Grange, said: ‘Remembrance Day is an important day of the year to many of our residents, especially those who have suffered and lost loved ones in war. We will be participating by observing two minute-silence to honour our soldiers at 11am and will be listening to Vera Lynn.
‘We will ensure to give our residents a choice to have privacy and space to reflect and be able to talk to us about their experiences if they wish to, particularly if they lost someone who are close to their heart.’