The Simple Things
WHAT I TREASURE
My grandmother's bracelet by Frances Ambler
Like many treasured pieces of jewellery, this bracelet – originally a gift to my nan from my granddad – means something for being passed down through the family. It’s got the added charm of being out of the ordinary – created from 26 Dutch 10 cents pieces, each about the size of a five pence. Each coin bears the face of Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands, who was exiled following the German invasion in 1940, and dates from between 1936 up to 1944, the year it was given to my nan.
On 6 June 1944 at 10am, Granddad was part of the D-Day landings and moved across Europe over the following months. By November, his regiment was stationed at a Dutch farm – they slept in a barn, and were invited in for meals. He liked the family and somehow communicated to them that he wanted to buy a gift for his wife. A few days later, he was handed this bracelet.
My granddad was a very gentle man – in volume, he was always overshadowed by Nan. He didn’t talk about the war but, through this bracelet, I learned about some of his experiences. During those months, he saw extraordinary things – such as the pianos of German collaborators being thrown into canals – but also moments of lightness. He would chuckle remembering how the farm’s hens laid eggs in his tin hat. How alien it all must have been to his previous life as a Lincolnshire brickie.
He arrived home on Boxing Day. After Christmas, he was meant to be going to the Far East, but he never went; his hearing had been damaged on D-Day. Instead, he went back to his trade, answering the new need for his country – reconstruction.
The bracelet hangs loose and heavy on my wrist and I hear it clink as I move. But actually I don’t often wear it, preferring to sit with it and run it through my fingers, feeling each individual coin. It helps me to remember the people that gave this bracelet to me, but also to consider all the events that brought it here, into my hands, and to be thankful for where I am today.