Black Beacon – Tragedy to Hope

My latest book, Black Beacon: A Christmas Ghost Story, is inspired by the story of my German grandfather, Egon Korn, who was captured in the Second World War and who met and married my grandmother whilst a Prisoner of War in Eastbourne. I adored both my grandparents, so in this post you’ll find a few photos of them (including a baby Steve and his young mum!)

Egon and Pam Korn, 1970s

I’ve been fascinated with the experience of being a Prisoner of War ever since I began the research for the novel. There’s an excellent (albeit harrowing) film – Life of Mine – about German PoWs in Denmark, where Hitler thought the allies would launch their invasion. You can read my blog post about it here.

My grandfather was captured at the Battle of Caen. He was aiming his anti-tank gun at a British tank but was seen by the tank commander, who fired his machine gun at him. A bullet hit a stick grenade on my grandfather’s back, which exploded, killing his loader and seriously wounding him. He was saved by the Red Cross, sent to Canada, Scotland, and finally Eastbourne, where he met my grandma.

Wedding of Pam and Egon Korn

Like most Germans, my grandfather was not generally treated badly in England. From what I’ve read, many locals began to feel sorry for the PoWs who, whilst treated well and ‘rehabilitated’ from Nazi propaganda, were also kept working for longer than in most countries (partly because so many British young men had been killed or injured). 25,000 of these 400,000 PoWs decided to stay and a few of them married local women, like my grandfather (796, according to Wikipedia). It must have been a very strange time for them, despite the sympathy. Especially as some – like my grandfather – were only 17 when they were captured. What a way to start your adult life.

My grandfather was adored by all in my family – my mum, grandma, dad, and me. He died when I was 10 years old, of lung cancer, but I will always remember the war stories he told me, the scars from his injury, and above all his gentleness, and loving kindness.

After he died, my grandmother became committed to the cause of peace. Having refused to evacuate and remained in Eastbourne despite regular bombing, she knew the pain of families who lost loved ones on both sides of the conflict. She was a lifelong member of CND and even joined the Women’s camp at Greenham Common.

In remembrance of all who died and continue to die in senseless war.

Me, my mum and grandfather

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