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  • Claire Jordan

Farewell, Dear Husband, My Life Is Past

The terrible beauty of love to be found in every ancient village churchyard, if you stop to look.

Tucked just behind the proud War Memorial in the tiny, picturesque village of Loose, which nestles into a fold of the Kentish Weald just south of Maidstone, is the grave of 24 year old Leading Aircraftswoman Gwendoline Peach of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, who died in February 1944.

Her epitaph reads: “Farewell, Dear Husband, My Life Is Past.”

What happened to Gwen? Were these the last words she wrote to her poor man?

A little bit of digging leads you to this handsome face, Gwen’s Dad John Garfield Hancock, who himself served with the Machine Gun Corps during the Great War but who was discharged after becoming profoundly deaf due to war service.

He and his steadfast wife Emily raised a family in Bodmin, and a quarter of a century later, during another World War, their daughter Gwendoline would meet and marry John Peach at the end of 1943.

But she herself would be gone by the spring of the following year.

She was not accidentally killed, not machine-gunned by the enemy as they attacked her RAF station, nor was she the victim of a doodlebug.

Instead, she died at Ashford Isolation Hospital, of TB and meningitis.

John Peach, who chose those haunting words for Gwen’s headstone, was remarried after the War to a lady called Margaret.

He and Margaret had just one child the year following their wedding, a baby girl.

And they named her Gwendoline after John’s first brave lost wife.

So there was, again, a Gwendoline Peach in the world, and love proves, again, to be so much greater than death.

Lest We Forget

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