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Helene Marie BROOKS (née CAUDRON) [1919-2006]
My mother, Helene Marie Caudron Brooks, was the 2nd of the three daughters of Maurice (Kleber) and Marcelle Caudron. She was born in Ohain, Nord, France and as a young girl went with her family to live in Singapore for a few years before moving with them in her teens to Hong Kong in the early 1930s where her father set up a trading company operating between France and Hong Kong. He family retained their property in northern France and she travelled there often.
Helene assisted her father in his business and joined the HK Riding School, becoming a keen horse rider, competing in events. At the Riding School she met Roland (Ron) Brooks and they were married at the Rosary Catholic Church, Kowloon, on 22 November 1939.
Shortly after returning from their honeymoon in Australia and New Zealand, WWII broke out. Within months Helene was evacuated to Sydney on a shiip with other women and children from HK. It would be five years before she would see her husband again. Ron was interned in Stanley Prison Camp by the Japanese for the duration of the war.
In Sydney Helene was confirmed a "Gaullist" and was employed by the Australian Army making Bren guns at a factory in the Blue Mountains. She then went to work for the American Army as a decoder and also worked for the Free French in their newspaper office as a typist - hence I have a copy of La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem, on American Army letterhead!
During this time she shared lodgings with her close friend Marie Darkin, another French woman who had also been evacuated to Sydney from HK. Marie, who made hats, had her three children with her. The third child, her daughter, being born just prior to the evacuation.
Helene was re-united with Ron when the Allies freed the prisoners at Stanley Camp Hong Kong in 1945 and he arrived in Sydney to recuperate. They had a second honeymoon before he had to return to Hong Kong a few months later. The women and children were to follow in six months time, but Helene was due to have her first child by then and was not permitted on the ship. Three days after the ship set sail her daughter (myself) was born in Sydney.
Helene's friend Marie Darkin stayed in Australia with her and together with the children they all returned to HK a few months later on a cargo ship. Marie became the Godmother of Helen's daughter. Helene and Ron had two sons born in HK. Ron became a Chief Officer of the HK Fire Brigade and retired to Tauranga, New Zealand in the late 1950s on the ss Changsha.
In NZ Ron bought an orchard and became Manager of a fish processing company. During this time Ron and Helene unexpectedly had another three children. Tragedy struck in 1970 when Ron suffered a heart attack and died, leaving Helene with three young children to raise - fortunately she had the assistance of her three much older children. She died in Tauranga in 2006.