ROYAL AIR FORCE IN OHIO DURING WWII
In 2002, I decided to begin a search for my biological father from England. I was 57 years old. All of those years of longing to know, I had put my own needs aside to spare the feelings of my family. Beginning this search, I steeled myself with a commitment to have “no regrets” no matter the outcome.
This is the story I grew up with that has shaped my life:
In December 1944, I was born to Bess, a young woman who left her family’s farm in Southern Ohio to work as a secretary at Wright Field, near Dayton, Ohio. There she met and fell in love with an Englishman Cyril Hogbin who was with a contingent of Royal Air Force personnel on assignment to the United States for two years during World War II. In Cyril’s off-duty time, he produced and directed plays, acted, and sang with a choral group and was “much loved by all who knew him.” In March, 1944, Cyril received orders to return to England where he had a wife and children. Before he left the USA, Bess told him she might be expecting a child. He left an address where he could be reached.
Bess’s father was very strict with his eight daughters and infuriated that Bess was expecting a child. She was forbidden to contact Cyril. The plan was for my mother to allow her sister to adopt me, but Mother couldn’t give up “Cyril’s baby”. My grandfather insisted Mother marry one of the local men. When I was about a year old, Mother married the man I grew up knowing as “Daddy”. Even though he loved me and cared for me all of those years, he and my mother had a very unhappy marriage. Mother continued to dream of Cyril returning to claim us.
Because of the secrecy surrounding my birth, no one ever talked to me about me having a different father than my younger sister. I always yearned to know more about the Englishman who was my genetic half. Occasionally, Mother showed me a picture of Cyril. I knew it hurt her if I asked questions and “Daddy” refused to talk about it—he considered me his own daughter. I held my curiosity within my own thoughts and dreams.
Mother died in 1994 and “Daddy” in 2002. It was then I decided to begin my search. I wrote to Pamela Winfield and she included me in the membership of TRACE. Since all I knew was the name Cyril Hogbin from England, she didn’t hold much hope of me finding my biological father. However, the support from all of you wonderful people was invaluable to me. Without so many of you encouraging me, I would never have continued my search.
Many months of research revealed a United States death certificate, a social security application, and obituaries for Cyril Hogbin, who I thought lived in England. I learned that Cyril, his wife and two children returned to live in the United States in the 1950s. Cyril died in Asheville, North Carolina in February 1972, at the age of 60. His son Tony died in Florida in 1991, at the age of 50, and his daughter DeAnne died in North Carolina in 1998, at the age of 58. DeAnne has two sons still living in that area.
How fortunate I was in November of 2003, that both of my nephews welcomed me to their family. What an overwhelmingly joyous occasion for me! My nephews Ted & Paul gave me a scrapbook of my father’s that is filled with news clippings and memorabilia of Cyril’s time in Dayton, Ohio. The first entry is aboard ship crossing the Atlantic in September 1942; the last entry, his orders back to England in March 1944. This scrapbook tells the story of Cyril, just as my mother described him to me.
Both my nephews insisted I contact friends of Cyril’s who worked with him during his RAF stay in Dayton, Ohio, and who had also returned to this area after the War. They are dear friends to me now too. What a bonus to meet people who actually knew my father as a young man--the one my mother loved.
In 2005, my English cousins became aware of my existence. What a loving family they are to me, sharing their family history and photographs. A dear cousin in Norway writes often. In 2005 and 2006, I visited some of my Hogbin cousins living in England and Scotland. One of my cousins and his wife honoured me with a visit here in Ohio last year.
Regrets, which I vowed not to have at the beginning of my search, are few. Perhaps if I had searched for my father sooner, I could have actually known him and my half sister and half brother. The sister I grew up with and my three living aunts are not happy with me that I have opened the secrets of my birth. All of the years of longing to know who I looked like, why I was so different from the rest of the family, feeling guilty for my mother’s suffering because she loved the Englishman back in 1944, now all of these feelings are resolved for me. I have NO regret in making my search. How complete my life has become—learning about the missing half of me.
To all my friends at TRACE and www.gitrace.org , I am forever grateful to you for your help and encouraging me in my search. To those of you still searching, I do wish you success. If there is ever any help I can give to anyone, I will be most pleased to do so.
Daughter of Cyril Hogbin