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Brownen and Gemma at ScopeBronwen Jones is a customer of Scope, and is currently working with one of Voluntary Arts Wales' Bronwen and Gemma at ScopeCulture Guides - volunteers who mentor or support people and groups to participate in local art and culture activities. Written by Bronwen, 'Angel With Black Wings' is a gripping love story that gives us insight into the passage of time and the precious relationship of Sissy and Jack... it's sure to bring a tear to your eye.

Angel With Black Wings written By Bronwen Jones

Sissy Gregson was looking through a dusty old trunk in the attic bedroom when she came across a shabby old book. She blew the dust off the cover to reveal a black hardback front with the words, “Sissy Gregson” on it. Old memories started to return, “This is my old diary, I’d forgotten about this” said Sissy to no one in particular. She opened the book to find three pressed red roses and thought back to her younger years, and how she met the man who was to become her beloved husband, Lieutenant Jack Henshaw.

Willow Brook Barracks, 1955

Fay ran a Bed and Breakfast. Sissy had gotten up extra early this morning as she knew it was an important day. However, Fay needed help to prepare the rooms as she was expecting a large group of guests later today, so this put Sissy behind schedule.

Sissy was hurriedly to arrive late. She threw on her apron and flung open the canteen doors. Martha was already there busying herself with opening a fresh pack of bacon. “You’re late Sis. You know we’ve got a special meal to prepare? For the American GI’s?” Sissy cut her off, “Calm down Martha I haven’t forgotten. I had a bit of trouble at home. What do you need me to do?” “Fetch six tins of tomatoes from the pantry please? Sorry if I snapped Sissy, It’s a busy day.” Sissy replies, “Six? That’s a lot isn’t it? How many American’s are coming?” “About fourteen I think, but you know how American’s are when it comes to food Sissy, don’t tell them I said that though.” Sissy chuckles and starts to open the tins.

Just then, Private Banes came into the canteen, “We’ve had an update from the American’s. They want to meet some personnel from the base and you two have been chosen.” Martha and Sissy are rather taken aback, “Us?” replies Sissy “Why would they want to meet us?” Private Banes told them that they had been pre-selected from around 60 names due to their high qualities and their passion for the camp. Martha and Sissy exchanged a silent look.

Willow Brook Barracks, 16:00 hours

Clouds were gathering over Willow Brook Barracks, the type that threatened to burst at any moment. At the gates a party of vehicles had arrived, Sissy and Martha had finished preparing the meal and were waiting inside the canteen for the doors to open at any given moment.

They heard the faint rumble of vehicles growing closer, and they knew it was time. Several moments the doors opened and in walked 2 men, outfitted in American officer’s uniform. They could tell by the markings that the taller man was a lieutenant and the shorter was a sergeant. The Lieutenant spoke first, “Lieutenant Jack Henshaw, and this is Sergeant Josh Madison. I understand that we are to be given a tour by you ma’am? We’ve come to Willow Brook to see if it’s feasible to move our men in and expand the camp.” Sissy replied “That’s correct sir, my name is Sissy Gregson and this is Martha Hurst. We’ve been asked by Sergeant Madison to show you around.” Jack replied “Excellent! Lead the way Sissy.”

Willow Brook Bay, 1959

Sissy gingerly started the tour of the camp, however she was apprehensive, as she had never had to do anything like this previously. The camp was very picturesque and surrounded by woodland. This proved to be very useful for training exercises as it was very secluded. During the tour the Lieutenant and Sergeant revealed to Sissy that they were very impressed with the camp and wanted to use its facilities, however they were at a loose end as they had nowhere to stay during their visit to the UK.

Sissy quickly replied, without thinking, that she lived in a family run bed & breakfast. She informed the Lieutenant that as soon as she returned home she would enquire if there were any vacancies. Upon returning home that evening, Sissy couldn’t wait to tell her mother all about her special day. She was so excited she could barely get her words out to ask her mother about the vacant rooms.

Sissy was in luck. Fay revealed there were two empty rooms at that precise moment, however they would soon be snapped up, so she would need to be quick in confirming that the Lieutenant and Sergeant wanted to occupy these rooms during their stay. The following day, Sissy returned to work. She was looking forward to telling the Lieutenant that she had found them a place to stay. Sissy approached him to deliver the news but the Lieutenant was unfortunately far too bogged down in paperwork to speak at that moment. He asked Sissy if they could meet at one of the bunkers at 18.00 hours. Six o’clock came around, Sissy left the canteen and headed for the bunker, she took a shortcut over the field rather than follow the roads. Her wellington boots were squelching in the mud. As the bunker came into sight, Sissy saw that the door was already open. Lieutenant Henshaw must already be inside, Sissy thought. The bunker was a dimly lit place, expansive and echoed, the splat of Sissy’s boots reverberated around the bunker like mortar fire. Lieutenant Henshaw smiled and beckoned her over. Sissy said, “I have some excellent news Jack.”

Willow Brook Bay, 2014

“Mam…Mam…Wake up.” Shouted Rita, Sissy and Jacks daughter. “What year have you returned to now? You always seem to be daydreaming and in a world of your own. Can you tell me what your thinking? Sissy looked straight ahead at the beach out of the sitting room window, and all she mumbled was Jack! “Jack with memories like mine, you’ll never decline. As I look across our beach, it’s for your arms I reach.” Sissy couldn’t wait to share the news with Jack that the rooms were available, however she also couldn’t wait to explain to him that it wouldn’t be an entirely relaxing stay as they would be expected to assist with the daily chores! ‘That’s ok Sissy, said Jack. We are used to pulling our weight.’ However, upon seeing Sissy’s mother it became apparent to the Americans that they would have their work cut out as she appeared to be extremely frail. ‘Mam’ said Sissy softly, ‘How can we help? And don’t pretend you don’t need any assistance as I know you do.’ ‘What can we help you with ma’am’ asked Jack kindly.

‘Well we have got a tea dance coming up, so if you would like to take some stuff over to the
aircraft hanger, that would be extremely helpful. Would you please take me over with you as I have all this food and am unable to manage alone? ‘Consider it done’ said Jack.

Willow Brook Bay, 1959

Instead of jumping into the jeep and driving up to the hangar they decided to walk up to the hangar where they had found the bomb being silhouetted by the moon light as they walked after a twenty-minute journey they arrived at the aircraft hangar but to their surprise there was already a light shining over the beach like a beacon. Jack and Josh approached the hangar cautiously and enquired “who’s there?”

Not knowing who was outside Sissy and Martha went to investigate the strange voices. They realized it was Jack and Josh as soon as they heard the voices. All four of them decided to stay at the hangar and plan what to do with the rooms. The hangar was quite huge so Sissy was allowed to have two rooms. She was excited about choosing the decoration, all the different materials and colours. The possibilities were endless.

Once the hangar was all done everyone was really pleased with it. It was a proper team effort. It took 3 weeks altogether. Whilst at the aircraft hanger one evening Jack notices an old unexploded bomb. Not wanting to alarm the ladies he carefully goes to explore further with Josh. Upon realizing what needed to be done they abandon for the evening promising to return the next morning.

Keeping his promise, they went to deface the bomb. Josh knew he had to be very careful because there was a mineshaft nearby. The following morning Jack and Josh had woken up very early and get dressed and creep down the stairs leaving extremely quietly. Cautiously, they approached the bomb Jack did not know about the mineshaft. Josh appeared nervous so Jack decided to take matters into his own hands. He stepped forward. “Wait!” but Josh’s cries were drowned out by the explosion.

The smoke cleared. Sissy and Martha came running out. Sissy looked down to see the blackened epaulette at her feet. She sank to the ground in tears, silently whispering Jack’s name.

A year later Sissy was at the tea dance. She went outside for some air. She was wearing the same black velvet gown that Jack had bought for her. It was looking shabby but she still wore it. She looked to see a shadow. It was the outline of Jack. She could hear him saying that he would be back to protect her. “Go back and enjoy the rest of your life.”

The Lost Letter

Two years later, Sissy was clearing up her side of the hanger, when she noticed one of Jack's old uniform jackets draped over the arm of her cosy chair. The chair was surrounded by cushions, individually named with each little ragamuffin’s name. Sissy slowly went over to her chair, sat down and put her hand in the pocket of Jacks jacket, to pull out the visible note, which she saw.

Opening the letter slowly she began to read "My darling Sissy" it read, "I am sat in the middle of a rain sodden field, with bombs ricocheting at each side of the camp, I am sat in a bunker writing the log sheet out for the days work, but I cannot concentrate, because all I can think about is you".

"I am cold, wet and hungry, and it isn't even supper time yet. The only bit of light I have are some candles and they are flickering out slowly, which is my only form of heating here. I wish you were here alongside of me, as I won't be home for weeks. What have you been up to lately? Are you still the storyteller? When I come home from leave I can give you a rest and take over from you.

I have still got Rusty Bridges after me, he is giving me all these orders and I've got no time to do what I would like. But that's army life for you! "By the way Sissy, I know our little secret! Have you told anyone at home yet? I hope you're well and the baby isn't causing you too many problems.

"I have to go now my darling, as Rusty Bridges is calling me back onto base so I have to sign off for now. I am counting the days until we are reunited. My love for you and our baby is all that is keeping me going. Forever in my thoughts. If anything happens to me Josh will look after the baby.

All my love.

Jack