Georgette Gabrielle Marie Deakin/Demolin 1910 - 1991


I was born on 14 July 1910 at Lambersart near Lille, France. I was told that my father was anxiously waiting for my arrival as he had to go early for the Bastille Day Parade.

I was given three names: Georgette (from my father's younger brother Georges), Gabrielle Marie (my two grandmothers).My parents moved to Versailles as my father had to resign from his job at the hospital in Lille because the Council did not allow him to have two jobs (he was in an orchestra in the evenings and weekends for six months of the year).

The first thing I really remember was in 1914. My father was doing a one year period of military service near Arras, so mother and I went to Lambersart to stay with my Demolin grandparents.

When the Germans entered France we all four went to some friends who kept a pub in Lille, so there were deep cellars in which to shelter. I remember candles stuck on the beer barrels. As things quietened down we went back to Lambersart and my grandfather went on with his job of typesetting for a newspaper. Of course, I went to school whilst in Lambersart, and my three cousins were there too.
Then we were told to billet a German soldier. He was, as many others, not anxious to fight and told me in bad French that my father must put his name on his front and back and "Richar not do poum poum on him". We usually had one German billet, but occasionally two. They were no trouble to us.

My mother made an application to the Kommandatur for our repatriation to Paris. Some people went from time to time, but towards the end of the war - early 1917, food was getting scarce so all left on the list were told to assemble. We were taken to Tourcoing for three weeks. This town was chosen as there were no German troops there. We lodged with the inhabitants, and once again the children attended school.

We were told that we could only take personal jewellery, and that it must be worn. My grandmother had given mother her earings. Mother's ears had been pierced years ago, but the holes had closed. They had to be reopened (a knitting needle and a cork was the way).

As we were not allowed to have lists of names and addresses, we used to learn them every night (myself included) and we remembered them all when we reached Paris.

Dear Mother,

I know that this year, this day is very sad for you, as it reminds you of my dear father's absence.

But to console you dear mother, I promise that this year I will be better behaved than ever. Every day I wish for the end of this sad time of trial and for the return of my dear father, and as the wishes of little children bring happiness, they will surely soon be granted.

In the meantime, mother dear, I embrace you for father and myself Your daughter Georgette.
l January 1917

Georgette and Memere at 3 Months 1910 , Lille France
Alphonse Demolin June 1916 - Georgette's father whilst serving in French Army
Before getting on the German train everyone was searched thoroughly. Those searched by German nurses had a terrible time. Luckily Mother, myself, and a friend had a nun to search us. She saw I was terrified and she was gentle.
We went through Belgium and Germany being given black bread and cabbage soup at certain stops. Luckily everyone had taken some food. I can't remember how long the journey lasted, but at one station most of the Germans left the train, except those needed to run it.
We then stopped at the Swiss frontier and were ushered into a Swiss train. Luxury after the wooden seats we had been on before. We were given some food and I always remember being told to look on one side of the train to see the "Chutes du Rhin" (Rhine waterfalls or rapids).
When we arrived in Geneva we went to a huge hall (I suppose it was the Casino). Lots of tables with white tablecloths, we had cheese rolls and chocolate to drink, There was probably more but this is what I remember. At the end the band played "La Marseillaise" and everyone burst into tears.
The next day we were on the train to Paris where my father met us. He had a long black beard and was in the uniform of the military hosspital as he had been and was still ill.
We then went to Versailles where my maternal grandmother lived. She was in charge of a creche and there were babies living there full time and some for day care. Once again I went to school. My mother went to the doctor as she was very run down and was told "No more children" and that is why I have no brothers or sisters

We had a flat in Versailles before the war. My grandmother had let it to some people while we were away, and after a while we were able to go and live there again. So on to my fourth school.

By that time my father was very ill and had to have a serious operation. When he came back home mother used to take him out every day to sit in the sun in the park which was close by.

The war was now over and Father got a job in Versailles, but he wanted to go back to his double bass and play in a good orchestra, so we moved to Paris (another school), and he joined one of the big symphony orchestras in Paris. He was also playing in the evening in a theatre giving musical shows such as Rose Marie.

When I was twelve I sat several entrance exams for different schools. I got a place in the one we wanted - Sophie Germain, and there were sixty pupils in each class. After leaving school I went to work at "His Master's Voice" offices, which at that time were situated in an old house on Boulevard Richard Renoir. I had to walk there and back as there were no buses or metro to go that way from our flat on the lie St. Louis.

My father was working in those offices, and that is how I went there. My job was to open letters, stamp them and decide which office they had to go to. I had a grand time as there were offices on four floors.

My father was in charge of organising the orchestras for recordings and also for finding suitable musicians, so on Saturday afternoons we often went to a Music Hall to find if someone was particularly good. On one of these occasions Jack Hilton's jazz band was on stage, and that was a marvellous show.
It was interesting to listen to the sample records coming from the factory, after which the musical director and father would decide if they were good enough to publish.

After two years I was transferred to my fathers office where with Marguerite we had to fill in papers to send to the factory for the labels to go onto the records, and for the publicity.

Shortly after this we moved to an office in a newly built office block. This was near a metro station, so travelling was simpler. Father had to pay the members of the orchestra in cash, so I would get the cash from the cashier (it was quite a lot), and pack the money in a cardboard record box, well tied up, and carry it home at lunch time. Father would take it to the concert hall in the afternoon to pay the musicians.

When I worked at the old office I met several of the recording staff from England, as there was an old fashioned studio on the top floor. When electrical recording came, the studios were moved to Salle Pleyel, a new building with three sizes of hall.
Annette, who was secretary to the Musical Director, spoke perfect English, so was very helpful to the recording staff. One evening she took me to a concert and introduced me to George Deakin who was interested in speaking more French.
She knew I wanted to improve my English. So we started going out, George speaking French and I speaking English, each one correcting the other when necessary. Well - you know how it ended.

Before we were officially engaged I went to England to meet George's parents. was rather anxious of course, but when I saw them at the station I knew everything would be fine. George's mother and father were very nice.

We were married at La Madeleine de Nonancourt in Normandy, where my parents and grandmother had gone to live. A large number of family, friends and musicians were there. We had lovely weather and all walked down the hill for the reception in an hotel in Nonancourt. We had rented a flat near Paris, and after a day or two there we went off to Brittany for a fortnight. Then we settled in the flat and George went back to recording.

While recordings were going on at Salle Pleyel, I remember two visits I made there. One was a rehearsal of a recording by Chaliapin who got in a terrible temper because his son, playing the bells in the orchestra, could not get it to his liking.

The other was Yehudi Menuhin who took Minnie on his knees and made her play some notes on the piano.

In 1933 Minnie was born at La Madeleine during a power cut, so out came the paraffin lamps. When she was two and a half years old and already speaking quite a lot of French we left Paris to settle in England, so she had to start speaking English.

One day I asked her to go to the shop for two slices of ham. I followed her to make sure she did the right thing, and she asked for three slices of JAM!
During that period gramophone records were not selling well, so George started teaching evening classes, so when HMV wanted to send him to Nigeria for two years with no guarantee he would get his job back in England, he resigned and started to look for a fulltime teaching job. Stroud Technical College offered him a job, and we loved being there.

Sylvia was born in Stroud in 1938, and there was no power cut. We were living in Stroud throughout the war, and my French passport enabled me to visit my parents in Normandy when that area was freed, although other parts had not yet been liberated.

I went first to Paris to see Mme. Bouniol, whose son Lucien had been looked after by my parents, and who was about the same age as Minnie. When I arrived at the Bouniol place there were a number of people there and I thought I had made a mistake. I found that her husband who had been sent to Germany to work in a factory had been killed when the factory had been bombed by British planes. You can imagine how I felt, especially as Mme,. Bouniol's mother had prepared a very nice meal for me. My appetite was not up to it, and I had to force myself to eat as she was getting upset.

The next day I went to see my schoolfriend Lucienne. Rationing was still quite bad, and I had brought some tinned food from England which they insisted on opening so that I could eat it with them.

When at last I reached La Madeleine I found my father, mother and grandmdother in fairly good health as, living in the country they had hens and rabbits and a vegetable garden. Also when a farmer killed a pig there was always something (meat or sausages) for my father who, being mayor, was able to help them with paper work. If I remember correctly, when an animal was slaughtered during the war half of it had to be given to the Germans.

When the Germans arrived near La Madeleine my parents and grandmother got in the car (with mattresses tied on to to stop shrapnel) and went towards Cherbourg where they hoped to catch a boat to England. They drove part of the way, but the Germans were advancing too quickly, so after staying a while with very friendly people they decided to go back home.

My Grandmother,who had been in occupied territory in1870,and once more in 1940 had to be told to be quiet when the Germans came to the house. She hated the 'Boches' so much that things could have become very nasty.
The Canadians liberated the district and were very welcome. When Evreux, the main town of that area was liberated, the Canadians found some mail in the letterbox of the German Headquarters. One was an anonymous letter accusing my father of being pro-British as his daughter had married an Englishman.
We loved living in Stroud, but one day there was an advertisement for a job as Head of the Manual Training School at Christ's Hospital at Horsham in Sussex, the school George had attended as a boy. That was a great change after ten years in Stroud., and a very different lifestyle. It was rather difficult for curtains as there was rationing then and the windows were big. Anyway we got nice ones.

My grandmother died at La Madeleine aged 88. As my mother had been paralysed for several years after strokes, both she and father came to live with us at Christs Hospital where Mother died in 1949.

Father played in a small orchestra at Crawley, near Horsham, and met Margaret Taylor who also played double bass. She realised she was not very good at it and asked Father to give her some lessons. He also played occasionally in an orchestra in London, and enjoyed that. As we had no car, he could not get back from Horsham station, so he slept at Margarets when he returned from London.

After a change of headmaster George was most unhappy and he happened to see an advertisement for a job at Kuching, Sarawak. He applied and got the job.
Preparing to get off was quite a job, especially with Minnie getting married in December. Father decided to stay in England and asked Margaret if he could have the spare room in her flat. She was delighted, and as she was still working Father was doing the housework and cooking. Before long Margaret thought the neighbours would find it strange for her to have a man in the house, so she asked him (leap year) to marry her, which he did rather reluctantly.
We left England on the P&O boat Canton. Sylvia came with us. I must admit I felt very worried about this big move, though we had met a few people from Sarawak when they were on leave. John and Pam Weeks were the most helpful in the settling in period.

We settled in; Sylvia seemed to have shed her asthma (Sylvia thinks otherwise!) and got a secretary's job in a British firm. Unfortunately she was paid the same salary as the Chinese girls whose English was very poor.
Sylvia's asthma came back at times. The main trouble was that there were few girls of her age. However I think she enjoyed herself but after a year she went back to England.

Charles and Margaret gave her a home for a while and helped her to take her UK driving test. The Sarawak one could only be used for six months. Then Sylvia went flatting with two nurses, one having been at Saffron Walden with her. She had a job with Pye's and met Ray there and got married.
We got to know Ray on our first long leave. We had come home via Mexico to meet Martin's parents. We enjoyed our visit to Mexico.

Back in Enland we stayed at Sylvia and Ray's London flat for day, Ray came with us to collect our new car and in the evening he drove us to Ada and Alfred Matthews' house. The next day we practiced driving the car in quiet streets. We stayed a while with Ada and Alfred and took them for a trip or two as they had no car.

Then we set off for Scotland where we had booked a small flat for a month. Ray and Sylvia joined us there for two weeks, so we really got to know Ray. He was happy to do all the driving which suited us too.

Back to Kuching. We were given another house and started unpacking again. This flat was much nicer than the previous one. George got back to his battle of persuading the Head of Education Department to have several courses started - all in different buildings. I had private students for French lessons.
Boon Eng, our amah (maid) had to leave us to help her mother, but we found a nice Dayak girl through the Salvation Army. She was very happy to come as long as she could keep her baby. We agreed. Boon Eng came every day for a while to show Mangi what I wanted done (I was working mornings at the Sarawak Museum, and afternoons I was teaching). Mangi was so well trained by Boon Eng that everything went smoothly. The baby was lovely and we considered her nearly as a grand daughter. Her name was Senorita.

At the end of that second term George's contract was not renewed. At the Museum I had seen in a magazine a similar job offered in Brunei. George applied, but it had already been filled. We sent all our stuff back to Horsham and travelled through to California to visit cousins (Gladys and Harry Orme) their daughter, husband and children. Then on to Vancouver and by train to Banff. We had a very interesting holiday. Next we flew to Regina where we were met by Minnie and Bob (cousins) who lived in the prairie in Saskatchewan.

We spent a few quiet days with them and helped to pick fruit. Their garden was protected by a tall hedge of trees. The apple trees were only about 4 ft high so that in winter they would be completely covered in snow, and would not freeze. Their garden had raspberries, strawberries, black, red and white currants, as well as lots of vegetables.

Then on to New York for two days, then to London. We stayed at Horsham with my fat her and Margaret and spent alot of time at the library looking at advertisements for suitable jobs. It seemed impossible, but as we were beginning to despair, a letter came asking if George was still interested in the job in Brunei as the person who had been appointed had decided not to come.

Of course we jumped at this, and all was settled. On the way to Liverpool to board our boat we stayed at Auntie Florrie's, we were glad we did this as she died while we were away. We travelled by Blue Funnel Line which stopped several days at Rotterdam, so we had a good look at Holland, especially the tulip fields as that was the full season.
While travelling on the boat (I can't remember the name) we had a message announcing Alice's arrival (mother and daughter well). We had a few friends for drinks that evening.

The voyage was disappointing as we had been told it was a marvellous line. The trouble was the captain who was rather keen on keeping his officers away from passengers, and he liked to hold forth in the evenings. A couple who had travelled from Hong Kong to England on a Blue Funnel ship of that line found it so marvellous that they booked their return on the same line. They were very disappointed.

As usual we stopped for two days in Singapore before flying to Brunei. We were met at Brunei airport by Norman Bradbury from the Education Department. We were put in an hotel for a few days. In the evening we went for a meal at Barbara's (matron of the hospital) and Norman. Both were very pleasant and we saw a lot more of them and had quite a number of bridge evenings with them.

George found the Director of Education much more friendly and ready to help than the one in Sarawak. Also he did not have to share his office, except for emergencies.
We moved to a house which had been freshly repainted. The first evening there when pulling on the lonq shutters to the verandah, the end near wall came off!
Then I found you could push your finger straight through the fresh paint and into the wood. The place was riddled with white ants. I rang up the Public Works Department and they found the nest in the garden, broke it and killed the queen. The whole thing was most interesting, and we had no more trouble after that.
In Brunei it was much more difficult to find amahs, so I had one sent from Kuching She was not bad, but nothing like those I had been used to. When she went back to get married I tried one or two others who only stayed a week or two. Then
someone offered me a Hong Kong amah. She was very good but did not like me in her kitchen. I found out later that she did not like the fact that we had very few big parties where she could shine, making flowers with carrots and other vegetables. When we once had a big party for 14 July and I went in the kitchen to make sure she was preparing a dish I especially wanted, she said "Missy, you go to bed and have a rest."

I could not get a job either until the wife of the Governor asked me to tea, warning me that there were some strings attached. She wanted me to take over as Hon. Secretary of the Red Cross. I agreed, but as the former secretary had left things in a mess, it took some time and help from the Headquarters in London before I got it sorted out. I enjoyed that and made very good friends. There were some amusing episodes. Each year I had to send a list of officers to London HQ. I got a letter

saying "What happened to PKI?". It was simple, he had got a new title from the Sultan, so the name was completely different - and that happened every year.
I found a friend to keep things ticking over while we went on leave and I took over for another two years when we left for retirement in New Zealand. However a new secretary was found and I had time to show her what to do.

Two years before our retirement, and on our last leave we went to New Zealand and decided we would retire there, so we bought a house in Papatoetoe. When we got to Auckland we stayed for a short time with Sylvia and Ray. Alice, about two and a half at the time came into our bedroom while we were dressing, looked at George's underpants and said "My daddy doesn't wear pants like that." She was very advanced in her speech at that age.

Then we moved to our house in Papatoetoe. After about six years there we decided it would be a good thing to move nearer to Sylvia and Ray. They had a garden which was too big, so we bought part of it and built a house there.
We had some nice holidays in New Zealand. It really started when Margaret and Lucy (George's sister in law and his sister) came to stay with us and Margaret offered us a coach tour of South Island. We were very lucky with the weather, but unfortunately Margaret was not so lucky with vegetarian meals which had been ordered.

We also went to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tahiti. We had decided to go to New Caledonia again, to the lie de Pins, but had to forget about it as George did not feel up to travelling that distance. From that time we had short trips in New Zealand, but before long had to stop these too. George got very tired and little by little spent more time in bed.

However when Sylvia said they thought of moving to Beachlands one day,. George asked why they had to wait. When she answered she could not leave us at this stage, George decided we would go too. A house was found, some work was done to enable us to have a bedroom dining and sitting room. We would share the kitchen, but that would be easy as our meal times were very different from those of Sylvia and Ray.

We moved in, but eight days later George was taken to hospital with very bad jaundice. The first few days he was quite happy, but all the tests tired him. He had to be taken to Auckland Hospital for a scan and later that day we were asked to go to Middlemore. He was under morphia and did not know we were there. The whole family turned up, but I made them go home. Sylvia had been marvellous, but I could see she was exhausted, so I asked Ray to take her home. Minnie and Martin stayed with me to the end. At least George did not suffer as he was under so much morphia. That was 23 June 1989. 

At the funeral records of Gegorian Chants were played as George had recorded some at the Abbey of Solesmes in France.

Sylvia suggested I ought to stay at Beachlands with them and take my meals with them too ... (?) Sylvia - this began while Dad was in hospital, and made sense as we were in and out so much. Later it became a problem as Ray and I needed to have more privacy, but it was very difficult to tell Mum this - I did manage to in the end, but felt such a traitor!
In 1990 Sylvia suggested that I go to France and England, at the same time that she was going to England. I first went to stay with Peggy and Sydney Stray, who made me very welcome, and invited some old friends to come and visit. Sydney took me to Christs Hospital where I saw the changes and also the trees planted in memory of George. Helen Dealy (granddaughter) had arranged for this with contributions from relations and friends.
Then I met Sylvia at Victoria Station and we went by coach to Cheltenham where Beryl and Harry met us and took us to their home. We had a most interesting time as they took us round the Cotswolds including Stroud, where Sylvia rang the bell at our old house and asked whether we could se~ inside. We were left to roam around as the lady was busy with her children. The changes were interesting, especially the central heating.

I visited Margaret Deakin, who luckily had a big party for her brother's 90th birthday, and Sylvia and I were there so we met the nieces and families without travelling. I spent several days with Margaret; she is incredible, in spite of her bad back.

I then went for a weekend ;with Ruth and Ali. They took me on to Lucy's, who was fairly well at the time. I got to know Ernald better too. Then on to Ada. At 92 she is marvellous. We had really long talks.
Then on to France I was met at the airport by Andre Lix, husband of my school friend Lucienne. It was so nice to see Lucienne again. She is the only school friend I kept in touch with. Then on to Renee Louis. I remember her as a young baby and now she is a grandmother.
Michel and his wife came to fetch me there. Michel remembered Renee very well as she used to spend quite a lot of time with my parents at La Madeleine. They took me to the house at St. Germain and had invited his brother Robert and wife, also Jean's widow Jacqueline to stay. One day Genevieve came with Robert Rigollot so it was most interesting to meet them all.

We went to La Madeleine and saw from the outside, the houses where my parents and grandmother had lived. It all brought back a lot of memories as we were married at La Madeleine.

Andre Brunot has a house at St. Remy, all in the same district, and invited Michel and wife, Robert and wife, Jacqueline and myself. Marie Therese is a marvellous cook and we had a first rate meal. Then Michel and Jeanne-Marie took me back to their flat near Paris and after two days they took me to the airport to get to Heathrow. Then I had a plane for Singapore, where I stayed for two nights and met an old friend from Brunei.
Back to Singapore airport for the flight back to Auckland, but at Christchurch we had to change planes because of a defect. When I got into the arrivals lounge at Auckland there was no-one to meet me. In the end I managed to reach Minnie on the phone and she told me that Sylvia was at the airport. I asked for her to be paged, and all was well.

I was beginning to feel that should I get ill, it would be very troublesome for Sylvia, so with the help of Minnie we looked at several retirement villages and decided that one was more to our liking. I moved into a self contained unit which was vacant on I October 1990 until a new one which was being built was available. I have already made several friends here and the staff are most helpful.

Note from Minnie.
Mum lived very happily in her unit, and I remember how pleased Sylvia and I were, that after several years looking after Dad, as he became increasingly dependent through Alzheimers disease, Mum was again able to lead a much more social life. She died suddenly on 22 May 1991. Her funeral was held at Purewa Crematorium, Auckland, where many moving tributes were paid to her by friends and family. Her ashes are under a Kentish Fillbasket apple tree at 35 Pohutukawa Avenue.
15 November 1944
Translation of letter from Georgette to Suzanne Decouflet
11 Nelson Street Stroud

My Dearest Aunt,
I wait impatiently for news of you. I'm sure that you must have written, but nothing has arrived yet. The only thing I've received so far is a card from father written Sept. 25, one from Marcelle dated 23 Set. Both arrived on the 14th October. I've sent several cards and two letters to my parents, as well as cards to you, Helen, Marcelle, Rigollot etc. Yesterday I heard that we can send telegrams. I sent one to Nonancourt immediately, in case they hadn't received my letters and were anxious about us.
We had no problems during the war, except for our concern for your well being in France. The Red Cross messages took so long to reach us.

We were safe from bombing in our safe haven 'petit trou'. We had enough food. In fact I didn't lose any weight, far from it, despite working so hard. We had people billeted with us (1 public servant for a year and then a young girl (Ruth) for a year, and then two men for three months). I have the house to look after, and one afternoon each week at Minnie's school (High School) where I helped with the washing up and every Sunday evening from 6-10 pm working at the Forces Canteen, you can see that I kept busy.

George too has plenty to do at the technical college, for three years he was helping with the Air Cadets. He had to give that up as there was an increasing work load at the College.

Minnie is at secondary school. She keeps well but doesn't work hard- ne se foule pas au travail. Sylvia has asthma. She is having treatment and is much better. She enjoys school and has hardly missed a day.
Since July Margaret, Charlie's wife and her two daughters, have been living with us, as their house was badly damaged by flying bombs. We don't know when they will be able to return. Charlie left for Africa in June, two days before the liberation/invasion of France.

I regularly receive news from Jean (Andre and Helen's eldest son). In his last letter, he told me that he had had a letter from his mother. I hope that by now, you've received the photos which he has sent you. Helene must be eager to meet Jacqueline. She looks very nice (in wedding photo she looks like a gazelle!). I wonder whether their baby has arrived yet, Jean looks so proud to be a father! Jean tells me that

Michel has gone to the United States. In what capacity? The marines or merchant marine? Please send any details.

And Robert, what is he doing? I suppose my uncle will have work to do not (Andre is an architect). Was there much damage done in Versailles?

How long is it since you've seen my mother, father and grandmother? How are they? Father says that they are well, but I'd like some details. Has mother's condition remained stable? I can't believe that her condition has improved under war time conditions. And grandmother, she must have aged. I expect that father had a lot to do at the Mayor's office, and some work which might not be pleasant.

Are you still fostering a child? How are the Thibaults. And Renee and her parents, have you heard from them? I could go on asking questions! I hope to have a long letter soon, with good news.

I doubt whether I'll be able to visit you for some time to come, I would so like to see you all! Pass my letters to Helene and love to you all from

George, Georgette, Minnie & Sylvia

© Copyright M.& M.M.O.Dealy

This page last modified on Wednesday, August 30, 2017