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Love In War

To mark #ValentinesDay 2024, we're sharing a story from our new blog series #LoveInWar; a collection of blog posts highlighting love stories from our Oral History Collection.

Sam and Freda

Our first story is that of Samuel (1919-1995) and Freda Quigley (1925-2011), a written account shared with us in 2021 by their nephew, Martin Quigley.

Sam and Freda on their wedding day
Sam and Freda on their wedding day

Samuel was born on May 1919 in Co. Antrim, at the outbreak of war Sam was involved in a rear-guard action with the Irish Guards as troops were being evacuated at Dunkirk in May 1940 and in the mayhem that followed he was taken prison at Boulogne. After digging mass graves for the many fatalities, Sam was sent to Stalag 21b at Szubin in Poland. Over the next four years he would work as a building and agricultural labourer in POW camps across Germany and Poland. While imprisoned at Luckenwalde camp, Kümmernitz in Germany he befriended one of the local farmgirls, Toni who was dating one of Sam's fellow prisoners, it was Toni who introduced Sam to his future wife, Sophia Freda Rohl.

Sophia, who preferred to go by her middle name Freda, was born in December 1925 in Berlin, before moving to a farming community close to the Polish border following her fathers death and mother's remarriage. Freda was 15 when war broke out, as her family lived so close to the Polish border they were immediately affected by the German advancement. Unfortunately, they were unable to prove their German citizenship and were seen as Polish refugees within their own country, with the family split up and working as agricultural labourers near Brenz, Germany. It took nearly three years until Freda's mother was able to source the necessary paperwork to prove their citizenship and they reunited at a farm in Hellburg, where she befriended Toni and ultimately met and fell in love with Sam.

In April 1945, taking advantage of the German disarray and chaos as the allies marched towards Berlin, Sam & Freda made their escape with Toni and her boyfriend, stealing a hay cart and horse for transport and chickens for food. Their journey was fraught with danger not only from the German Army but also from the advancing Russian and American forces, eventually making it to allied occupied Lüneburg in Northern Germany. They journeyed from Germany to Brussels and then onto London, before they eventually set sail to Belfast together on the 21 May 1945, marrying a month later on the 22 June 1945 in St. Judes Church of Ireland in Muckamore, Co. Antrim.

Freda and Sam had faced a lot of atrocities and hardships during the war years, so one of the greetings they recieved when they arrived home in Muckamore, Co. Antrim "what are you doing bringing a bloody German home..." or words to that affect, was nothing they couldn't deal with. They went on to have six children and lived the rest of their lives in Northern Ireland. Sam died in 1995, with Freda passing in 2011.

If you want to know more about Sam & Freda, their family published their full story in November 2023 - The Greatest Escape: A Real-life wartime story of true love and escape https://www.foyles.co.uk/book/the-greatest-escape/samuel-and-freda-quigley-and-family/9781739825850

Did your parents or grandparents meet during the Second World War? Feel free to get in touch with our Research Officer, Michael, by emailing projects@niwarmemorial.org or calling 075 8863 4847.

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