Past Encounters – Facts

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This book is set during the Second World War. The town where Rhoda and Peter come from is Carnforth. Carnforth is a small town and civil parish near Lancaster in the north of Lancashire, situated at the north east end of Morecambe Bay.

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Rhoda works at the  Carnforth station where the film A Brief Encounter was filmed, and that is how she meets Matthew. Carnforth railway station serves the town of Carnforth in Lancashire. The building was designed by architect William Tite and was used as a location in the 1945 film Brief Encounter. It is now operated by Northern.

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Brief Encounter is a 1945 British romantic drama film directed by David Lean about British suburban life, centring on Laura, a married woman with children, whose conventional life becomes increasingly complicated because of a chance meeting at a railway station with a stranger, Alec. They inadvertently but quickly progress to an emotional love affair, which brings about unexpected consequences.

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The film stars Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway , who Rhoda meets when she is hired to serve the food there.

Dame Celia Elizabeth Johnson (18 December 1908 – 26 April 1982) was an English actress, primarily of the stage.She began her stage acting career in 1928, and subsequently achieved success in West End and Broadway productions. She also appeared in several films, including the romantic drama Brief Encounter (1945), for which she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

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Trevor Wallace Howard-Smith (29 September 1913 – 7 January 1988), known as Trevor Howard, was an English actor. After varied stage work, he achieved star status with his role in the film Brief Encounter (1945), followed by The Third Man (1949). This led to many popular appearances on film and TV.

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Stanley Augustus Holloway (1 October 1890 – 30 January 1982) was an English stage and film actor, comedian, singer, poet and monologist. He was famous for his comic and character roles on stage and screen, especially that of Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady. He was also renowned for his comic monologues and songs, which he performed and recorded throughout most of his 70-year career.

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Apart from Canforth, there is Lancaster where Helen lives. Lancaster  is a city and the county town of Lancashire.

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Ruislip is where Matthew’s parents live. Rhoda goes to visit them after his death. Ruislip is a town in West London.

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In Peter’s parts we see the life of a prison camp. The men often refer to the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment in war.

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The first place where Peter is sent is Lamsdorf in Silesia , Poland. Stalag VIII-B Lamsdorf was a notorious German Army prisoner of war camp, later renumbered Stalag-344, located near the small town of Lamsdorf  in Silesia. The camp initially occupied barracks built to house British and French prisoners in World War I.

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After Lamsford, the prisoners were forced to walk towards Germany. In January 1945, as the Soviet armies resumed their offensive and advanced into Germany, many of the prisoners were marched westward in groups of 200 to 300 in the so-called Death March. Many of them died from the bitter cold and exhaustion. The lucky ones got far enough to the west to be liberated by the American army. The unlucky ones got liberated by the Soviets, who instead of turning them over quickly to the western allies, held them as virtual hostages for several more months. Many of them were finally repatriated towards the end of 1945 through the port of Odessa on the Black Sea.

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One of the last parts about Peter in Germany is when they get to reach Dresden after it is bombed. The bombing of Dresden was a British/American aerial bombing attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, that took place during the Second World War. In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 6.5 km2 of the city centre. An estimated 22,700 to 25,000 people were killed.

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In 1955 Rhoda refers to Ruth Ellis’s case. Ruth Ellis (9 October 1926 – 13 July 1955) was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom, after being convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely. On Easter Sunday 1955, Ellis shot Blakely dead outside The Magdala public house in Hampstead, and immediately gave herself up to the police. At her trial, she took full responsibility for the murder; and her courtesy and composure, both in court and in the cells, was noted in the press. She was hanged at HM Prison Holloway.

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