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Woman finds out about father who served with enemy forces in Second World War

Pauline Botting’s mother told her that her father had been a French soldier who had died.

A woman whose father served with enemy forces during the Second World War has spoken to relatives about him for the first time.

Pauline Botting, 75, was born in Jersey in 1944, when her father was part of the German forces occupying the Channel Islands.

He was posted to France before she was born and a blank space was left in the “father” section of her birth certificate.

Ms Botting said she only discovered she was “illegitimate” when she applied for a passport at the age of 18.

Her mother, Olive Le Brun, who died 15 years ago, told her that her father had been a French soldier who had died.

A young Pauline Botting with her mother Olive Le Brun
A young Pauline Botting with her mother Olive Le Brun (BBC Inside Out South West/PA)

He was in fact Paul Klimaszewski, who is believed to have been a Polish conscript.

Ms Botting, who lives in Somerset, told BBC Inside Out South West: “Everyone wants to know where they come from.

“I think it’s terrible for people to die and take secrets with them to their grave.

“I’d like to know: Did he die? Did he make a new life? To get to 75 and know nothing is very sad.

“I’ve got friends who have known me 40 years and they do not know anything about this.

“I know it wasn’t my fault, I was just born, but you carry that shame.”

A photograph of Mr Klimaszewski was discovered in the possessions of Ms Botting’s late maternal grandfather during the 1970s.

Pauline Botting (right) with her cousin Gladys Vautier
Pauline Botting (right) with her cousin Gladys Vautier (BBC Inside Out South West/PA)

Mr Klimaszewski was one of thousands of enemy troops stationed in the Channel Islands in the 1940s, until liberation in 1945.

Women who spent time with the soldiers were shunned and called “Jerry-Bags”.

Ms Botting said: “The shame of being illegitimate 75 years ago is horrendous, but double on top of it was being the child of a member of the occupation.”

In a BBC documentary, Ms Botting finally speaks to estranged family members who knew her father.

She is told that he was an assistant to an officer stationed at the Le Brun family’s house.

Her cousin Gladys Vautier was a child when Ms Le Brun fell in love with Mr Klimaszewski.

She described him as “a very kind person, very gentle”.

“I think he got on well with the family,” Mrs Vautier said.

“I understand how her mother could have fallen in love with this German soldier.”

BBC Inside Out South West will air on BBC One South West at 7.30pm on Monday and is available on iPlayer afterwards.