BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY My Father's "Brown Babies"
Author: Rachel James - Ohio - U.S.A.
Looking for My father's "Brown Babies"
My father's name was Rempson Miller. Against his will he had to leave his "babies" in England after World War II. He was a black American GI.
I first heard the term "Brown Babies" when I started the search for the children that my father left in England after World War II.
I grew up in Rutherford County, North Carolina which is in southern U.S.A.
This was my Father's hometown. I remember my him speaking of "the babies" that he left overseas and how he would hold them and sing the song "Hush little baby, don't say a word daddy's going to buy you a mocking bird......"
I would later discover that his army unit was stationed in England. His regiment was the 244 Quartermaster Batallion. They docked at Liverpool on 12 July, 1942. Part of the regiment traveled to Bristol by train and was put in charge of a warehouse there.
The other part went to Burton On Trent and became Company C which was renamed 3264th
Quartermaster Service Company. Some of the GIs in Bristol would travel by train
when they could, to Burton to visit GI friends camped there. I was told that one
black GI from Bristol named Esau Carole also had a girlfriend who worked at the fish shop in Burton On Trent. Her name was said to be Linda. Her parents possibly owned or was managing the chip shop.
The mother of his children, I was told, may have worked at a fish and chip shop in Burton On Trent. Her name may have been Joyce. I was also told that she may have lived near the water, possibly Heath Road. He lived at their home for a while and would go back to the army base to carry out his duties. His unit moved to Wem in Shropshire at the end of 1943.
Rempson Miller was a quite man of average height with nice curly hair and when he walked he had a sort of bounce. He had a shy beautiful grin and would fold his arms when he stood. Many people said he was very handsome when he was young. He had a little scar over his eye. When he would drink a little too much he would talk much more. He liked to play the harmonica. (at least he did when I knew him)
He and his best friend Fred Baker were dating sisters.
Fred Baker was very fair skinned for a black man and was sort of short.
One of his eyes did not focus correctly.
You would think he was looking passed you instead of at you. He had another friend named Payton Edmond who left a son in England.
I also learned that girls from other areas came to Burton to meet the GIs.
There were two girls from London who were seemingly staying in Burton during the war. These girls were sisters. One was white and the other was mixed race because her father was a black GI from WWI. I was told that these sisters were dating two friends at Wetmore Road. I often wondered
If one of these sisters is the mother of my siblings.
The following is a story that I wrote concerning my search....
"They came over here in the early 40s, young and fresh faced, first time away from home for most of them. They came to help us out. They were polite and well mannered. They gave us rations, and most important, they gave us hope. People of my age group will never forget."
These words were penned in a letter that I received last year from a man who lives in Derbyshire. He was referring to his memories of the American soldiers who were camped in the nearby town of Burton-on-Trent, England, during the Second World War. My father was one of them. He was an African American.
I don't know what really prompted me to begin my search, but suddenly I came to understand and with the understanding came a deep sadness for my father and the children he left behind. So I began a transatlantic search to make a bridge for time and memory to cross.
I did not know that my search for them would touch lives all across the United Kingdom, Australia and some other countries.
My father spoke of his "babies that he left overseas". They were always on his mind and in his heart.
He was wounded in France in 1945. Along with those wounds he had to deal with the memories of the horrors of war. He spoke of seeing comrades die (one in his arms). He had to help pick up body parts of the slain, crying as he did so. Some of them were just teenage boys who had wanted so badly to go home.
I was told that he helped save the lives of some civilians. He saw many hungry children, especially in France. I believe that he sometimes gave his rations to these children and did without food himself. He spoke of being hungry. He spoke of unimaginable horrors of war.
When he came home, his spirit was broken. He was hospitalised for seven months. He knew that he would never see his children again because there were barriers that could not be crossed. His "babies" that he had held in his arms and sang a lullaby to faded in the distance as he was transferred home.
The memories never faded, they grew ever stronger until his death. I never got their names, although I thought the name Iris was mentioned. As he spoke of the past, his words were not directed to me, but he spoke as if he had to audibly release the memories. I did not listen carefully, in fact sometimes I did not listen at all because his words seemed unreal and about things I could not or did not want to comprehend at the time.
After my father died, I began to understand and the search began. I had to piece his army records together and found that he had been stationed in Staffordshire, England. I wrote to organisations who dealt with "war babes" and children's societies and adoption organisations.
I had to spread my story in hopes that his children knew his name because I did not know theirs. My information was sent to various agencies and I began to receive letters from many places asking for my help to locate American GI fathers from the Second World War. I connected quite a few, with the consent of the American families.
A few years ago I received a call from a lady who lives in Lichfield, Staffordshire, asking for my help to find her husband's American GI father. I found his father who lives in Washington. She and her husband came over to meet his 81-year-old dad for the first time. Newspaper reporters from London came with them to cover the story.
With grateful hearts, the family sent me a copy of the article. A picture showed him looking so much like his father and both of them looking so happy as they greeted each other for the first time at the father's door. The dad had not known that he left a child, which by the way is his only child.
Having found out that my father's unit was stationed at Wetmore Road in Burton-on-Trent, I advertised there and received quite a few letters, mostly from "war babes", wondering if they were my siblings, but it did not turn out to be.
So over the years, as the letters have poured in, my heart has poured out to the senders, some who have never touched or heard the voice of another person who was biologically related to them - the consequences of a climate created by war, the time, and of distance and circumstances separating men from what sometimes, (in normal circumstances) would have been marriage and a family.
Some looked back but could not go back or even reach back. In the 40s and 50s the way back was blocked for certain ones, but that is another story.
There are many people in England that I want to thank for helping in this search and one day when this journey ends I want them all to know that their help along the way made it possible.
I especially thank my husband and children who have supported me in what seems impossible, but impossible things are happening every day and even every hour.
A famous man once said: "I cannot discover that anyone knows enough to say definitely what is and what is not possible".
The words: "You will reap if you don't tire out", are always before me in another important aspect of my life so I apply it to this search.
I want to deliver the words to my father's children that I believe he wanted to say. The words: "I did love you and I am sorry that you had to grow up without me." I want to give them an inheritance, a "welcome home".
I hope they had a good life.