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Barbara still recalls waving off her hero

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: November 10, 2012

By Geraint Thomas

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IT'S a classic scene from the movies: a new bride standing on the train station platform waving her beloved off to the horrors of war — yet for Barbara Rodon at Swansea's High Street Station in 1945 it was reality.

A year earlier she had become a GI bride after falling for an American soldier stationed in the area ahead of the D Day landings, which were to liberate Europe.

GI Pedro Rodon, who survived the fierce fighting on the beaches of Normandy, was tragically killed by a land mine a week before the end of the war.

With Remembrance Sunday almost upon us, memories of her first love have come flooding back to the 84-year-old, who lives in Swansea Marina.

Of their first meeting in September 1943, at the age of 16, Barbara Donne, as she was then called, said: "Being the eldest of five I was in Swansea doing the shopping for my mother. I came out of a shop in High Street with my bag and somebody asked me, in an American accent, if they could carry it.

"I said no thank you and kept on walking. Swansea had been heavily bombed and so the bus stop was all the way across town by the YMCA but he followed me. When I got on the number 77 he got on as well.

"He got off at Morriston but I had arranged to meet him again. We went to the Regan cinema in Morriston."

There followed a year-long courtship, with Barbara recalling: "He was very nice. He was stationed in Clasemont and he used to walk down to Cwmrhydyceirw to see me. My father accepted him; and you know what fathers are like."

With her parents' approval a year later, after the New Yorker popped the big question, the pair were married in the Guildhall.

"It was just four or five of us and the neighbours all chipped in for the reception, which was in the house because you couldn't afford things in those days," she recalled.

After a brief honeymoon, spent at home, the groom was back to the war.

Barbara said: "He left in late May, shortly after the wedding, and he didn't say at the time but it was for the D Day landings. I didn't hear from him for three months.

"He came home again in April 1945 and our baby, Peter, was seven weeks old."

With the end of the war in sight the couple began making plans to relocate to America.

"He said, 'I will be coming home to get you and we will be going over by boat'," Barbara, who had even been to London to arrange visas for her and their son, recalled.

Then came the worst possible news.

Barbara said: "I can remember running out into the garden to our son after finding out.

"I was told that he went down to the beach in Le Havre, where he was stationed, for the day instead of going to Paris with his mates, and he stepped on a mine.

"His friend later told me that he was writing a letter to me at the time.

"It was May 1, 1945, and war was over seven days later."

Tomorrow Barbara, who visited Pedro's grave in a war cemetery in France with their son Peter several years ago, will watch the Armistice on television at home.

Her thoughts will be with her GI husband and her eyes will turn to a photograph of him and their son.

"The photograph was on him when he was killed, that's why it's scratched," she said, lost in the past.

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