A church service has help to heal the pains of war baby Rosemary Lever whose tragic story has moved a community.
The service was held on Saturday at St Giles Church in Horsted Keynes where Rosemary’s mother, Winifred, married Ronald Knapp on July 31, 1943, two years after her baby daughter was born.
But tragedy destroyed any happiness Winifred and Ronald may have had when they were mown down by a train the very same day as they returned home from seeing their wedding guests off.
To the day, 70 years on, a ceremony was held at St Giles to bless a new headstone on Winifred and Ronald’s grave, that also commemorated their joint service in the Armed Forces during World War Two.
After the Middy published the story of the blessing, Rosemary came forward as Winifred’s illegitimate daughter and we published her story.
Subsequently, Canon John Twisleton, rector of Horsted Keynes, asked to be put in touch with Rosemary in order to ask her and her husband, Don, to an All Souls memorial eucharist, the annual occasion when the church invites prayer for the departed.
Fr John said the service on Saturday remembered Winifred and Rosemary was able to meet Pam Irlam, whose late husband, Tom saw to renewing her mother’s headstone.
Fr John said: “It was a very moving occasion for the 25 to 30 present who included families who’d been bereaved over the last year.”
The occasion also touched on the fact that Rosemary’s birth certificate records her father as “unknown” although the Fragile X Syndrome that has affected two of her four sons is believed to have been carried by him.Rosemary told the Middy that she still hoped to find out who her natural father was in order to be able to tell other members of his family about the possibility of inheriting the condition. One of her sons, Nick, died recently.
Fr John said: “I said a prayer with Rosemary that she will soon find her father so that he and any other of his descendants may be made aware of the Fragile X Syndrome which has so affected Rosemary’s sons and may affect any cousins they have.
“The whole thing has reminded me of how important local papers are and what healing they can bring.”
Our story of Rosemary’s circumstances included how she discovered the tragedy of her mother’s death, in a newspaper cutting from 1943 that she discovered after her adoptive mother passed away in 2004.
The cutting included a picture of Ronald with Winifred in her wedding dress and told how they were hit by the train as they walked home to Nobles Farm in a terrible storm. A blood-stained cape was found on the front of the train suggesting it had been used to shield then from the downpour, possibly adding to their lack of awareness of the approaching train.
Fr John said local farmers had told him that the couple would probably have chosen to walk down the railway track, where trains were often infrequent, to avoid the muddy lane to Nobles Farm.
Rosemary, who Winifred put up for adoption so she would not be orphaned during the war, visited the new headstone on her mother’s grave before the All Souls service.
She said: “It was all just lovely. Everybody was very friendly and I met the lady whose husband arranged for the new headstone to be made. It was also lovely to sit in the church where my mother was married and where her funeral service was held and to remember her. It was like a sort of closure.”