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  • Writer's pictureNigel Green

Dad In His Own Words

Chapter 1: Liverpool to Romford

I was born on 7th December 1922, at 58 Tynville Road, Walton, West Derby, Liverpool, to mixed parents. My mum was an English Rose from Enfield, Middlesex, who had been in a dreadful Victorian orphanage from the ages of 3 to16 years whilst her widowed mum worked as a domestic cook, and my Irish dad, was a proud Dubliner and staunch Orangeman, who eventually served 23 years in the Brigade of Guards, during which he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery on the Western Front.

The stay in Liverpool was quite short, before we returned to the family home at 133 Judd Street, Kings Cross, London WC1.,a 4-storey, corner building, with a basement and two subterranean ‘areas’. The ground floor was mainly occupied by a “Laundry Receiving Office”, but the remainder was “our house”, which I shared with mum, dad, gran’ma (Mum’s mum), two older brothers and eventually, two younger sisters.

What a marvellous area for a boy to grow up in! Three mainline railway termini to explore, the Grand Union and Regents canals close by, plus Regents Park and the Zoo, (to which impoverished, but astute little boys gained free access by scaling the high wire fence adjacent to the canal.) For a short walk, there was also the British Museum, and others, the West End, the Royal parks,Trafalgar Square and the Thames Embankment etc. If one was very lucky and had 2d [two old pennies]., there was also the opportunity to take a tram-ride to Parliament Hill Fields and Hampstead Heath. Very occasionally, the family went on a day trip by paddle-steamer from Tower Pier, down the Thames to Southend-on-sea, and return after a couple of hours-or-so on the beach.

For long holidays, we boys paid 6d per week (supplied by Mum) into the “Children’s Country Holiday Fund”. One year this enabled my two brothers to a couple of weeks with a charitable family in Deal, Kent. In another year I had a similar holiday with my eldest brother, to a tiny thatched cottage, where the cooking was done on paraffin-fired twin stoves, and water was collected from a nearby stream, shared with cattle, at Box, near Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. My last trip was to Rattlesden, near Stowmarket, Suffolk; where I spent a holiday with my second-eldest brother, courtesy of yet another charitable family. The girls were too young to go on these expeditions!

Then there was school: I attended Manchester Street School (it probably has a different title now) until I was about 10, where I was being ‘groomed’, with extra homework, for a scholarship to the Stanley Central School in Camden Town. It didn’t happen! Because we moved to Eastern Road, Romford, Essex, in connection with Dad’s work. In those days it was a lovely little market town, and our house was a Victorian ‘semi’ with back and front gardens in a tree-lined road. The back of the house had a very big lean-to shed attached, and the long back-garden terminated with a high blue-brick wall which supported the LNER East Coast mainline railway, and so afforded us the opportunity to view the bustle of a variety of trains, either flashing, or just chugging past.

I attended Hylands Senior School, in Hornchurch. Essex.The curriculum seemed far removed from that in London. The LCC appeared to offer little more than a grounding in the 3 R’s, whilst Hylands, under the aegis of the ECC, offered such subjects as Geometry, Algebra and Trigonometry in addition to the normal (at the time) subjects. We even made a crude, wooden, theodolite in woodwork class, which was quite effective in use. However; family funds were low; so I left school at 14 and started work at a Builders Merchants, owned by a tight-fisted, self-professed “Christian,” for 10/-d. Gross, per 48-hour, six-and-a-half day week, with a week’s paid holiday per year. Fortunately, he was also a master carpenter, and I learned a great deal by observation, which proved very useful in later life.

On my first Easter Sunday from work, I was playing with my siblings in the back garden. We were throwing a ball about, when it became lodged on the shed roof. I climbed up and threw the ball down, but in the course of descending, I somehow tripped and fell about 6ft.into a flower-bed, landing on my left elbow. It was very painful and the area just ‘ballooned’. In response to my cries, Mum attended and made a splint with a bit of wood, before I was carted off to Oldchurch Hospital, nearby.

Things went downhill from there. The emergency department was manned by a Dr.Stevens, probably a houseman who had, “drawn the short straw”. He made a snap (and catastrophic) diagnosis of a dislocated elbow-joint. Sitting me down, he told me to look away as he put his knee into the crook of my arm...and pulled! I yelled the place down, and a nurse was summoned to put my left wrist into a ‘collar-and-cuff’ sling before I was transferred to a ward for a few days. Following discharge, I started an outpatient course of therapy. Three times weekly I paid 1/6d (supplied by Mum) for a stamp on my attendance card, which entitled me to have my injured arm, dipped in several layers of hot wax, followed by massage and/or diathermy to the joint, trying to get my arm, normally kept in a sling, into a lowered position. This continued for about a year, with little sign of improvement, so I was admitted for ‘manipulation’ under general anaesthetic. This achieved only a partial improvement. So, after about another year of massage etc.,I was re-admitted and, after taking X-rays, for the first time, it revealed that I had had a fractured, dislocated elbow! After surgery, to try and fix the broken bits and get my arm down further, they whacked a plaster on for a month and, after removal, resumed the massage etc.routine for almost another year. Eventually, I tired of the lack of improvement and stopped attending. Nowadays such treatment would be grounds for “medical negligence”,with possible compensation. But this was the 1930’s, and attitudes,”Joe Public v the professions” was very different, so nothing happened, and my left arm is still bent.

Incidentally; Whilst I was in hospital for surgery, my “Christian” employer posted my ‘cards’ to my home, which meant I was sacked. But whilst I was recuperating, he sent his youngest son to implore me to return... for a magnificent 15/0d gross per week! Foolishly, I complied; because Ron and I had always got along well, as his outlook was nothing at all like his father’s.


Chapter 2: The War Years

Came the war at 1100, 3rd Sept.1939, and shortly thereafter I had a career change (following that of my eldest brother), and became a projectionist at the Odeon cinema in Forest Gate, London E2. Learning, on the job, the intricacies of the BTH carbon-arc projector, handling acetate film, and the use of colour on various ‘tabs’ (curtain types), together with appropriate sound levels, to enhance a film’s presentation. The job also entailed responsibility for everything electrical in the theatre and eventually, due to staff shortage, we projectionists took on the role of stokers for the boiler!

September 1940 brought the Blitz, and East London was heavily bombed. However, our indigenous cinema patrons refused to be denied the value of their 1/9d or 2/3d expenditure, so sat tight, and we continued the programme as the bombs rained down; probably aimed at the nearby docks.. Some nights I stayed at the cinema; ‘fire-watching’. On other nights, I got on my bike and, in the blackout, pedalled the 15-odd miles home, which sometimes entailed hurling myself into the gutter for protection when a bomb sounded a bit too close. Eventually the cinema was hit by a cluster of incendiary bombs. It happened on the night of the ‘Chief’s’ ‘day off’, and the ’Second’ was away, ‘sick’. That left just me, and the 15-year-old ‘rewind-boy’,Peter, (euphemistically referred to as, ‘4th projectionist’). Looking through the ‘porthole’, studying the film, I became aware that the auditorium was being illuminated. I thought that the lighting had been accidentally switched on, but a glance at the switchboard showed otherwise, and it was apparent that the ceiling was on fire! Not a good idea, when we had 1200 people below.

I called to Peter, and together we crawled into the roof space. Armed with buckets of sand and a double-ended rake-and-scoop, we managed to quell the cluster of blazing incendiaries which had penetrated the roof. There were no casualties, but we had to terminate the programme due to the damaged roof and the “Blackout” regulations. But, on 21st April 1941, on a night when I had elected to go home, the building was badly damaged by a parachute-mine landing close by, and the cinema closed down until 4th August 1941, after having been ‘patched up’.

Meanwhile, having duly registered for National Service, and awaiting news from the Admiralty that my assistance was desperately required for the war at sea, I worked in a factory from 0730 to 2130, with occasional overtime, six days per week, manning a press, making ammunition-boxes. In my spare time I joined my dad as a Private in the 4th battalion, Essex Home Guard; armed to the teeth with a 1917 American Garrard rifle, and 5 rounds of .300 ammunition, guarding the local Gasworks. We did have one trip to a rifle-range, where I managed to perform well guided by Dad, who had been classed as a “Sharpshooter”,in the Army.

Eventually a ‘little brown envelope’ arrived in the post, enclosing a railway warrant, and a letter from the Royal Navy entreating me to report forthwith to: HMS”Duke” (a ‘stone frigate’ in Great Malvern, Worcs.) for basic training as Sto.2nd Class,KX151992.

It happened that; coincident with my need to catch a train from London; my Uncle, who with my aunt, was staying with us, was due to go to Buckingham Palace to be presented with the George Medal, (For gallantry during the ‘Blitz’ on Liverpool .as a police officer) So we travelled en masse to London, where we parted, and I headed off to Paddington Station and whatever Fate had in store for me.

On arrival, at Great Malvern with several other bewildered young men, we had our first Navy meal. A strip of bacon like lampwick, with tinned tomatoes (ever after referred to as ‘train smash’) served on a saucer, a slice of slab cake, and a cup of tea. We were then allocated our quarters. I joined 9 other chaps in a room with wooden two-tier bunks, which was to be our home for the next 5 weeks. The following day we were photographed for our S43a Pay & Identity book, kitted out with uniform, boots, kitbag, small attache-case, a couple of hammocks, ‘nettles’ (the bits of string) a palliasse, soap-bag and a couple of towels. After a medical examination and a lecture from the medical officer on the evils of VD, it was off to the dentist, where any tooth looking even slightly suspect was extracted without delay. Following an armful of quite painful inoculations; probably my most ‘life-changing’ event was the awful realisation that Mum was not readily available to darn socks, sew anything that needed skill or, even worse; do the laundry! One was compelled to learn to do such things in a hurry.

During my spell in Malvern, it appeared that the ‘good’ residents were rather unhappy about the number of personnel from all 3 Services, (training in the area), thronging the streets of the town. This resulted in a complete ban on any Service personnel, apart from those on necessary duties, being in the town on Thursdays; so that the residents could, “enjoy having the entire place to themselves for the day!” To my knowledge, Malvern remained completely unscathed throughout the war; unlike many of the subject Service people.

On completion of the basic course, which included infantry drills and rifle-shooting, I was selected for training in RDF (later called RADAR) and having exchanged a boiler-suit for a seaman’s knife and “Manual of Seamanship Vol.1,1937”, I became Ord.Sea. RDF, P/JX350026. There followed a fairly rudimentary technical course in Portsmouth Signal School, where living conditions were far worse than those at “Duke”, (I had secreted a saucer from which to eat my food...with the aid of my seaman’s knife, and had a tobacco tin as a mug....until it was stolen by someone!! ) It was also where I was introduced to sleeping in a Navy hammock. Months later, during a further short spell in barracks, some light-fingered person also stole my, little attache-case, containing all my ‘valuables’. With an ever-changing transient population, security in the Signal School just did not exist.

n.b. At this point I must state that my “active service” records have been ‘sanitised’. Details are unnecessary. Post-war publications and films, have already highlighted the various campaigns by all Services 1939-1946. Details can really only be understood by those directly involved.

It was something of a relief in Jun ‘42. to join HMS”Suffolk” a ‘County’ Class heavy cruiser, at Middle Dock, South Shields. on Tyneside. “Suffolk” was originally built (in 1928) to serve in China Station with a peacetime crew of 610, which escalated to 1005 in wartime. This latter, ensured that, apart from the officers, one could never be alone in any situation. The ship also had 8 feet ‘tween decks (floor to ceiling), and ‘trunking’ with adjustable outlets for directing a flow of air to keep the mess-deck cool. The trunking, in turn, was fed from “spray-proof ventilators” on the fo’c’s’le. Unfortunately, in an Arctic seaway they were often buried under tons of icy seawater, which cascaded down to the mess-deck, and made life very uncomfortable. Particularly, as the flood built up to about 6-10”of sea-water which, mixed with vomit, the contents of ‘gash’ buckets, and that of somebody’s locker which had burst open, sloshed from side-to-side. In such conditions we ‘dined’, sitting on the mess-table with our feet on the mess-stools. This state continued until we arrived back in base.and had a thorough clean-up. An Arctic convoy escort round-trip, averaged about 20 days and nights.

To resume: Leaving the Tyne, we sailed to Scapa Flow in the Orkneys, for ‘working up’, prior to heading for our base in Hvalfjord, on the West coast of Iceland, where we dropped anchor. Very picturesque; but boasted little, other than a small jetty and a couple of Nissen huts wherein, with a ticket, one could buy 2 tins of “Esslingers”(American) beer, and/or a fried gull’s egg. This little cluster of real-estate was named “Hvitnes”, for some obscure reason. At the far end of the fjord, the US Navy had set up a base which they had named,“Falcon Landing”. Complete with a parade-ground/cum baseball pitch, and flag-pole from which fluttered “Old Glory”, they had also installed all the necessary elements to sustain quite a comfortable lifestyle. Their base also supported the light-cruiser, USS “Tuscaloosa”, which occasionally put to sea.

We had little contact with the Yanks; but they were once very generous when our on-board mini-NAAFI ran out of ‘goodies’.

Our job was to provide long-range escort to a number of merchant-ships, originating from Loch Eriboll, Scotland, and joining more merchant-ships gathered in Hvalfjord, to form a complete convoy to the Russian ports of Archangel and Murmansk.

In the course of the journey it became necessary sometimes, to rotate the turrets, elevate and de-elevate the big guns about every 15 minutes, to break up the formation of ice. Accrued thick ice elsewhere we broke by percussion (Clobbering it with anything heavy). In passing, and for historical accuracy, I must record that our Arctic dress was: our normal winter uniform, plus the loan of a duffle-coat, and the issue of 2 pairs of ‘long-johns’. The latter were beautifully-made,with two layers of soft wool. But,I cannot recall anybody ever wearing them, for two very good reasons, (1) Soaked with water they became very heavy and could freeze and,(2) How could we launder them? Because of the primitive conditions available for bathing etc., it was customary to buy a bucket at the first opportunity, which one used for that purpose, and also for ‘dhobeying’ (laundering). When necessary the bucket could be easily accommodated in a kitbag. It may also be worth mentioning here that, unlike the Army or RAF, Navy personnel were required, after their initial issue, to buy all uniform replacements. For this purpose, we were allowed £2.4s.6d per quarter.

With our 3 sister ships, also armed with eight,“8-inch” guns, eight “4.75” guns and a couple of anti-aircraft ‘pom-poms’.(We, also had a hangar with two “Walrus”amphibious biplanes, and a retractable catapult athwartships.) we were required to engage with any enemy warships leaving their bases in ‘occupied’ Norwegian fjords; pending the arrival of our battleships from Scapa. Between these duties, we patrolled Denmark Strait (the stretch of water between Iceland and Greenland), to intercept any enemy units trying to break-out into the Atlantic. Each day, or night, regardless of any previous engagement, ‘Action Stations’ sounded off at dawn and dusk...which could be very close to each other in the Arctic winter. My ‘Action Station’ was manning the Long-Range transmitter on top of the hanger. Negotiating the ice-covered ladder at the rear of the hanger in a heavy sea could be quite challenging....especially at night! Knowing that enemy U-boats, surface-ships, and aircraft would also be troubled by bad weather and lack of sleep, was little consolation!

Each individual was also allocated an ‘Abandon Ship’ station, ‘just in case’.....Mine was a share, with some theoretical 50-or-so other souls, on a large Carley raft secured to the housing at the base of ‘X’ gun- turret. Fortunately, the need to possibly release the raft, and getting it to float, never arose. In any case, with the prevailing water temperature, it would probably have been a pointless exercise. Looking back; the only uplifting things I can recall are: the breathtaking spectacle of the “Northern Lights”, and the occasional magnificent sight of Nature at her icy best. After about 5 months without leave (There was nowhere to go, and the Allies were not popular in Iceland anyway, because we had occupied the country to stop the enemy getting there first.), we returned to Scapa from Hvalfjord (it took 5 days), for further repairs to the bows, before creeping down the East Coast to Sheerness. There, we ‘de-ammunitioned ship’ prior sailing to Katherine Dock on the Thames, (Now the site of London City Airport) for a full refit, during which our two “Walrus” aircraft and catapult were removed. But the hangar, with it’s upperworks, remained for a variety of reasons, and was occasionally used as a cinema!!

As the Navy,at that time, had recently lost the battleship “Prince of Wales” and the battlecruiser “Repulse” in the Far East from attacks by Japanese aircraft; “Suffolk” was additionally armed with several, twin 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon on hydraulic mountings. They were made by “Rudge-Whitworth”, a former cycle and motorcycle company which had been absorbed into the newly-formed EMI group of companies. The refit lasted several months, during which we were able to get occasional shore-leave, and extra training in the evil confines of Chatham RN barracks.

In the course of the refit, there were many consultations between ship’s officers and Rudge-Whitworth, so “Suffolk’s” chaplain (Rev.Lancelot Mason) took the opportunity to liaise with the welfare-officer of “His Master’s Voice Gramophone Company”, which was also part of EMI. The result was that HMV ‘adopted’ the ship,and donated gramophone-records and several electric-irons for use of the crew. Previously, we ‘ironed’ our clothes whilst they were still damp, with the back of the hairbrush supplied as part of our original kit.

It transpired, that some of the girls at HMV wished to write to individual members of the crew. So my “mess-killick”, a doughty Yorkshireman, produced a sheet of paper and asked the names of those ready to reply to the girls. None were forthcoming. So he submitted the names of everyone in the Mess.....except his own! Personally, my total was 10 young women, and, yes, I wrote to them all for a short period, but they gradually dropped down to just two. Then one wrote to say that her fiance objected to her writing to a “strange”(?!) sailor, so had to discontinue. Just one; Dorothy, continued writing.

At the end of the refit, my Action Station was changed to a compartment on the upper-deck, where I manned a new gunnery-Radar set. This enabled the two 8” guns in ‘B’ turret to be used in an anti-aircraft mode. They didn’t need to be very accurate, as the shell fuses were set at a predetermined height and range, and an 8” salvo exploding at altitude would be devastating over a vast area.

We returned to Scapa again for ‘working-up’, before heading to the Clyde, where we joined a convoy of troopships which we then escorted via Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Simonstown in the Cape, en-route to Bombay. Apart from unsuccessful attacks by a German “Condor” aircraft, and an Italian submarine, somewhere around Biscay, the trip was quite uneventful. The Italian sub, was sunk by escort ships, and later, we were even able to hold an impromptu “Crossing-the-Line” ceremony, for those of us crossing the Equator for the first time. Welcome bit of fun for a few hours.

We heard later that, unfortunately, one troopship, which also had a contingent of nurses aboard, didn’t make it to Bombay.

For the following 14 months (without leave again, just like the Arctic!) we pretended; under Admiral Sir James Somerville, C-in-C, to be the “mighty Eastern Fleet” which Churchill had announced in the Commons! This was achieved by steaming all over the Indian Ocean, making brief appearances in Durban, Mombasa, Diego Suarez, Port Louis, Bombay, Colombo, Trincomalee and Fremantle; in between covering ‘Aussie,’Kiwi’ and ‘Yank’ troopship convoys from Fremantle to Bombay, and various other patrols.

Unfortunately, the delights of being mainly in tropical sunshine, rather than Arctic chill, was somewhat tempered by the number of huge cockroaches which festooned the deckheads and dropped into our food. It was necessary when drinking, to clamp one’s teeth, firmly on the brim of the cup, to strain off the interlopers. Our bread; kept in a metal locker, assumed the texture of a sponge, and it really was impossible to avoid swallowing the occasional extra ‘helping’ of protein!

Eventually; whilst the ship was in Bombay for some modification to the bridge structure, we were taken off whilst it was sealed and fumigated for a couple of days, in a (vain) endeavour to overcome the problem. We were accommodated in a partially-built block of flats, where we laid our open hammocks on crudely-made charpoys. There was no lighting, but with the aid of matches, we quickly discovered why sleep was so uncomfortable. The charpoys were absolutely alive with bugs, and we were all well-bitten!

Return to the ship was very welcome.

Our excursions in the Far East once included a short foray into the Southern Ocean, on the fringe of Antarctica, whilst hunting for a German U-boat supply ship called “Brake”, at large in the area. In tropical dress it was very cold! “Brake” was later tracked and sunk by a couple of destroyers whilst supplying a U-boat, which escaped. After several months, the Admiralty was able to ‘rustle-up’ a few more warships, which; resplendent in fresh paint and a new camouflage system, we found anchored in Trincomalee harbour. As we entered, rust-streaked, salt-caked, and low on fuel, the Admiral (wearing his flag on HMS”Tarantula”, a river-gunboat!) signalled: ”Ships in company; The ship now entering harbour is my “Eastern Fleet” from six months ago!”

After cleaning and painting the ship in the new camouflage, we eventually joined with warships from Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Free French, and units of the US Navy, which included the aircraft-carrier, USS”Saratoga”; and our own HMS”Illustrious” We now looked something like a ‘fleet’, and set out to upset the Japanese plans to conquer the Far East. Initially by supporting an air-attack the port of Surabaya, in Indonesia. At this time I also upgraded my ‘survival kit’ attached to my lifebelt: 8 cigarettes, the side of a matchbox and a few matches, (split lengthwise with a razor-blade), in a tied condom from the sickbay, plus a block of Canadian dark chocolate from the NAAFI . It was around this time that I somehow contracted malaria, and spent a week in sickbay, laying in a small, swinging cot. There were about six of them, and all too short for my 6’2” carcass. Treatment was, “starvation, and draughts of evil-tasting quinine”. Yuk!. Otherwise, one depended on one’s messmates to bring an occasional cup of tea. After a sweaty few days, I asked a sick-berth attendant if my bedding could be ‘sorted’. His response was, “If you want your bedding sorted, then, (Expletives)....hop out and do it yourself”! I complied, on my ‘wobbly’ legs. Angels of mercy, the staff were not. The ship’s company was also plagued with outbreaks of jaundice, and foot-rot. The latter; as we walked about barefoot. My feet were very sore, and I was walking on the sides of my feet, rather than the soles, for several days. The treatment was generous applications of “Gentian Violet”, which one had to avoid getting on to our clothes, and towels. Because the stain was permanent.

When “Suffolk” eventually returned to Durban dry-dock for some necessary repairs and, allegedly, long leave at last. I was astonished to be drafted to HMS “Assegai” the local shore base, following a signal from the Admiralty, to,” await transport to the UK”, for an extensive RADAR course! After which I would be returned to the Far East to instruct others in the latest equipment against the ‘Sons of Nippon’.

Whilst at “Assegai” I requested to see the Commander to apply for the 14-days leave which “Suffolk” had, at last, commenced giving to the crew. Having checked the lack of “long-leave” entries in my,‘S.43a. Pay and Identity Book ’(known to the troops as the ‘Breathing Licence’),for the past 14 months, he was quite sympathetic, and awarded me 10 days leave, with the proviso that I stayed within the Durban area, and was instantly accessible for recall. It was fortunate that I, and a few other servicemen, had been befriended by the wife and children of Gordon Jacob, the manager of “The Edward” hotel on Durban seafront, and I was offered free accommodation for my leave in one of their own personal rooms. I was also able to buy in town, some civilian clothes and shoes to wear, as a welcome change from uniform!

I wrote to Dorothy, my HMV pen-friend, offering to try finding another correspondent on “Suffolk” to continue writing about the ship. Bearing in mind that our mail was always subject to rigorous censorship. It even included mail sent in our occasional “privilege envelope”, on which one signed a declaration on oath, that the content was safe. Oh dear; it’s a wonder that the paper didn’t scorch with Dorothy’s refusal to consider the notion, so we carried on writing. (Digressing, for the moment; I eventually met Dorothy for the first time in 1945 and, in 1947 we married, for over 65 wonderful years, during which we had two children, Julia in 1953, and Nigel in 1956.)

To resume: Shortly after return to ”Assegai” following my leave, I, together with a few others, boarded a troop-train in the Base for the long journey to Cape Town. There, we embarked on TSS”Nieuw Amsterdam”, a Dutch liner, and flagship of the “Holland-America Line”, which had been chartered by our Government as a troopship to carry potential RAF aircrew who had trained in Rhodesia, or South Africa, back to the UK. The RAF were all sergeants, but there was also a few Army chaps, (who had been badly wounded in North Africa, being repatriated home), a sprinkling of Navy personnel,.....and several thousand Italian POW’s under the command of a magnificently attired, Italian military police NCO!

It was very uncomfortable. Because we Navy passengers didn’t have access to our kit-bags, or our own hammocks. Instead, we were loaned hammocks without a palliasse, and a thin blanket attached by a bit of string through two large brass eyelets. We slept on the exposed ‘Rubber Deck’; the RAF, and Army were on bunks fitted in the former ball-rooms etc., and the POW’s ‘roughed it’ in the lower-deck cabins!

Bathing relied mainly on salt-water showers. Feeding was done in groups. My group ‘dined’ at 1030 and again at 2030, waited on by the POW’s. It was hardly ‘haute cuisine’, and consisted, in turn: of sweet-potato, semolina, and/or soya-link sausages, with reconstituted, powdered, skimmed milk, tea. That, at least, was different, because the Navy always used, “Ideal” tinned milk, even in port in the UK. We did once have fresh milk, in Fremantle, when a farmer in W.Australia donated a churn of milk and a box of apples, although at that time the Australians themselves were very short of basic food.

Reverting to the troopship: I was detailed to help the Dutch crew as an assistant steward to the officer passengers, and selling bottles of Coca Cola in the canteen. The ship sailed unescorted, relying on speed to dodge the enemy and, steering a zig-zag course through the Atlantic, arrived safely at Gourock, on the Clyde a couple-or-so weeks later.

The Navy contingent was swiftly disembarked; given a couple of corned-beef sandwiches, a small bar of ‘blended’ chocolate, plus the loan of an Army water-bottle and enamel mug, before boarding a troop-train for the long journey South. As it was not a corridor-train and each compartment was packed, some ingenuity was necessary on certain occasions en-route. In the middle of the night we stopped at York station, where the Army dispensed a dark-brown, fluid, which they referred to as “Tea”, into our enamel mugs. Thus refreshed (?) the journey continued to London, where we transferred to another train to Chatham and RN barracks.

Upon arrival, I swiftly completed ‘joining routine’, a process which, with skill and cunning, one could normally drag out for 2/3 days. I was then awarded (I think,10 days) leave. and losing no time in getting the necessary paperwork, I was soon on the train for home. Bliss!

I arrived in the blackout, to the utter astonishment and delight of Mum and my sisters (Dad was at work and returned later). From the last of my mail, they had assumed that I was somewhere distant on the planet. My two brothers meanwhile, were with the Army in Europe. In those times, like most people, we didn’t have the luxury of a ‘phone, or other means of rapid communication.

One day, during my leave, the postman called, and I was able to collect a food parcel which I had sent home from South Africa a couple of months earlier! The days flashed past, and all too soon, I was back in RNB Chatham from whence I was despatched to, HMS” Valkyrie”, a collection of requisitioned boarding-houses on the promenade at Douglas,Isle of Man, where the first part of my course was based,

From then on it was ‘nose to the grindstone’, absorbing details of the latest equipment. Everything had to be memorised, note-taking was very strictly forbidden. The next part of the 11 week course entailed travelling down to HMS”Heron”, an airfield in Yeovilton, Somerset, where we grappled with memorising various R/T “Allied Fighter Control” codes, learning to print backwards and upside-down, absorbing the use of the RAF ”Craig” navigation computer, plus practising aerial, surface, and sub-surface plotting, There was no leave, apart from overnight leave, even on Christmas Day when there was a parade at 0800 to ensure that there were no absentees.

I shall now digress again, thus: My eldest brother, (conscripted into the Army in July 1939 for, allegedly, six months, and demobbed six years later), had been based near Taunton, and in 1943, had married a local girl. So, as Christmas Eve 1944 was a Sunday, I thought I would take the opportunity to try and meet my new sister-in-law for the first time. I walked the few miles into Yeovil, and, having checked that there was return service that evening, boarded the Blue Bird coach to Taunton. On arrival, and after a few problems finding the address, I spent a few very pleasant hours with Daisy and her family, before returning to the coach station to catch the 2030 coach back to Yeovil. I asked the coach inspector for the boarding point and was told there wasn’t one! I pointed out that I had been assured about the timing before I had left Yeovil. He replied, that the coach departed at 2030 on a normal Sunday but, as it was Christmas Eve, a different programme applied and that the last coach for Yeovil had left earlier!! There was no alternative; so I had no option but to start walking, confident that in full uniform, I would get a lift. Taking leave of Daisy and her dad, who had come to see me off, I started my trek. Some time just before midnight I heard voices in the darkness, and a group of people enquired if I would like to join them at Midnight Mass! I said that my priority lay elsewhere, but could they confirm that I was on the correct route? Due to the anti-invasion plans most road-signs had been removed, and one which I had found and read with the aid of a match, said “Curry Rivel”, which conveyed nothing to me. I was assured that, “Yes, you are correct, but it is a very long way!” Thanking them, I resumed walking and was, in turn, passed by a lady on a bicycle, a US Army ambulance going the opposite way....and a cow wandering in that direction too.

The moon had risen, which made things a little better, but after about 23 miles when I was feeling very thirsty and dehydrated, I spotted a chink of light from the window of a little cottage nearby. I approached, and hearing voices within, tapped on the door, which was slightly opened by a young man, who, having decided that I wasn’t just a drunken sailor, invited me inside following my request for a drink of water. He introduced me to his wife, cuddling their very new baby, and made me a cup of tea. After listening to the reason for my trek, he said, “Oh, You can borrow my bike for the rest! I work at the Westland hangar; so just leave it there and I’ll get a lift in after Christmas”. I gratefully accepted the generous offer and persuaded them to accept, at least, a half-crown for the baby’s money-box. I finally tottered into my bunk at about 0330, and duly paraded at 0800, after which I took the young man’s bike across to Westland’s hangar. I do hope that he got it back OK.

With Christmas over, the course resumed and we were then sent to HMS”Dryad”, the Maritime Warfare School at Southwick, Hants.,where we were accommodated in Nissen huts, set in the grounds of this magnificent country mansion, for the last part of the course.

Finally, after exams.,which I managed to pass, I rose to the dizzy height of, “Leading-hand” (‘Corporal’ in the other Services, and usually referred to as,“killick”). The RADAR division had earlier been absorbed into the Navy’s ‘Seaman’ branch. But after a medical, I was deemed to be physically unfit to be a ‘Leading Seaman’ per se, and was given the title, Ldg.Sea,(Radar).RP.,which did not require me to qualify in the necessary seamanship role..... but paid less!

Course over; we were on our way again...back to RNB (Royal Navy Barracks)) Chatham, where I wasted no time in applying for “End of Course” leave, which should have been 7 days. However, in true Navy fashion, I was, instead, granted 5 days “Draft” leave. The ‘upside’ of this development meant that my draft was to a Home Service ship. Had it have been 14 days, it would have meant travelling to HMS”Golden Hind”, the base in Sydney, NSW, probably by troopship, for 2-3 weeks! Not a very welcome prospect.

My 5 days vanished in a flash, and I duly reported back to the Drafting CPO for my travel documents to my new ship, HMS”Tyler”. As the name was unknown to me, I enquired of the office staff, the type of ship? It was variously suggested that it was a ‘Woolworth’ carrier (a merchant ship converted to a mini-aircraft carrier), or possibly, a “T boat” (slang for “T” class submarine)! Anything was possible. However; armed with a railway-warrant, etc. I arrived at Belfast Lough the following morning and discovered that “Tyler” was, in fact, a “Captains Class”, anti-submarine, frigate, part of the 5th Escort Group covering Atlantic convoys. Brilliant. Now I could really put my new aircraft-carrier skills to use!! According to the engraving on the ship’s bell,“Tyler” had been built by the Bethlehem-Hingham, Shipyard Corp’n. In Boston, Mass. in 1943, apparently to a British design. She was about the same size as a destroyer, with a crew of about 100, but significantly different in many ways. The mess-decks had folding, metal bunks, and the catering was canteen-style, on metal trays, shallowly indented to accommodate various foods. Not very good at sea. For at the first wave, meat, veg. sweet etc. mixed into one soggy mass, which was something of an acquired taste, But we were all young men with huge appetites, and accepted this peculier cuisine. Easy. when there’s no alternative! There were no portholes, but the ship also boasted a tiny sick-bay fitted with an operating-table and a host of surgical/medical equipment. Unfortunately, there was only one doctor in the Group, and he was on a sister ship. We eventually received a sick-berth attendant, who had never been to sea before, and was often too sick to be of much use.

Aboard: a covered ‘corridor’ ran from fore to aft with a couple of wider openings. In one were about 6 hand-basins with taps, and “the heads”( nautical parlance for WC’s.), These consisted of 5 pans facing inboard, and 4 facing outboard. In this situation; apart from when using the odd pan facing inboard at “peak periods”, one established very close contact with the person opposite! On the other side of the ‘corridor’ were 4 shower to passing traffic; which became a trifle embarrassing in Belfast, where the ship was sometimes boarded by female dockyard workers. Although they appeared quite unmoved by the situation.

As an anti-submarine ship,“Tyler” carried a vast, double-row of depth-charges down each side of the upper-deck, and had “Y” guns (bit like a half eggshell) from which depth-charges could be fired as an alternative to rolling them over the stern. In addition, there was fitted, at the base of the bridge-structure, an array of 24 metal stalks, each fitted with a 38lb bomb. These were fired into the air in a pattern, to fall ahead of the ship and explode on impact with the target, which was more accurate than depth-charges, which had to be deployed as the ship passed over the target at speed in order to avoid self-damage. For defence, there were four 3” guns mounted singly, fore and aft. The hull was skinned with steel, 5/16ths of an inch thick (or thin). Presumably to compensate for the huge weight of ordnance carried. With our 4 sister-ships we worked about half-way into the Atlantic, taking over convoys from our Canadian counterparts. After being on a big ship in the Arctic, the motion of a smaller ship in the mighty Atlantic swell needed a different approach in trying to maintain one’s equilibrium. I also recall traversing the upper deck one starlit night, and looking up at the crest of a vast mountain of water, bearing down on the ship, which was tossed like the proverbial cork in a pond. Nature, showing her strength!

Our R/T callsign was.”Toyman”, and the Group, “All Apache”. The Commander-in-charge of the Group was designated, “Father”, or “Apache”, depending on the content of the call.

There had been (to me) one other significant event when I joined the ship. The ship’s complement had been short of one Leading Seaman and, in true Navy fashion, I had been drafted to fill the gap despite my apparent shortcomings in proven seamanship! On reporting to the Captain, a very pleasant Lt.Cdr.RN who, aware of the discrepancy, asked me if I would assume the full role of Ldg.Sea.? Rather than face a return to Chatham RNB I agreed, and successfully fulfilled all the necessary seamanship requirements for the rest of my time in the Navy!

With the war in Europe drawing to a close, “Tyler” was dispatched to a fixed point somewhere to the southwest of Iceland, where we remained for several days, helping USAAF crews to find their way home. The idea was, having a chain of ships, about 200 miles apart, from Scotland to Iceland, Iceland to Greenland, and Greenland to Newfoundland, burning navigation lights, plus transmitting on RADAR and R/T, so forming a line of beacons to guide the aircraft safely across the ocean, which was an unknown route to many of the crews.

We returned to Belfast the day after VE Day, and the non-duty watch were given overnight leave. Later, most of the duty watch were also allowed ashore.. All the officers, CPO’s and PO’s disappeared too, leaving just the remainder of the duty watch,“men under punishment” and myself, as duty’ killick’, looking after the ship. As it was such a unique and historic occasion being celebrated in town; I decided to release the rest of the duty watch and the “men under punishment” too at about 2100. Touring the ship later, revealed that just the ship’s cat and I were sole guardians of “Tyler”, until others slowly returned in the early morning.....mostly looking the worse for wear!

After a week-or-so, the ship was to be returned to the USA, to be made back into razor-blades or whatever, and required just a ‘skeleton’ crew. So the majority, including myself, were despatched to Chatham RNB. Hopefully, to be speedily demobbed in my case. I learned later, from a former shipmate who had sailed, that, en route to Philadelphia during a storm one night, the ship had lost all power and rolled into the trough of the waves. In danger of being swamped and capsized the Captain had, in desperation, considered launching the ship’s motor-boat, and using it to try towing the ship’s bow head-to-waves. As I had been one of the two former motor-boat coxswains, I was glad that I hadn’t been selected as skeleton crew! Although the RNR Lt,Engineer, had managed, eventually, to get one engine working ,and the danger passed.

Meanwhile, back in Chatham, I was based in part of the Regulating Office, allocating ratings to working parties and collecting their Station Cards. This enabled me to go home every other night which was an acceptable way to pass the time whilst awaiting my imminent demob-group number (44) to appear. But, after a couple of weeks, a chap in the Drafting Section called across, “What’s your Service number Jimmy? (In the Navy if your surname was “Green”, one was called “Jimmy”, regardless of the wishes of one’s parents. There were similar appellations to several other surnames, e.g.”Jumper” Collins, “Knocker” White etc. I never discovered, why?) Anyway, When I told him, he said, “You’ve got a draft chit”!

I was staggered. I had not realised just how valuable I obviously was to the Admiralty. So, after 5 days leave, I was in Portsmouth, joining HMS ”Savage”, a ‘Saumarez’-class destroyer, and the only one in the Navy with twin 4.75” guns in an armoured turret, in place of ‘A’ gun. It didn’t have a ‘B’ gun. The turret leaked copious quantities of hydraulic-fluid down to the mess-deck, where I happened to be the mess ‘killick’, and made life a bit sticky, despite our efforts to cope. However, after about 4 months, during which new officers played at launching practice torpedoes at various targets, I was returned to Chatham once more, to await demob.

I might have guessed that it couldn’t last, and soon I was on 5 days draft-leave to join HMS”Steadfast”, another unknown quantity. Whilst on leave, I was returning home from shopping with Dorothy, my then, steady girlfriend. Going into the living-room I noticed that it was time for the 6 o’clock news, so switched the wireless on (we didn’t call them ‘radios’ in those days). After the valves had warmed up, the first words uttered by the announcer were: “The mine-sweeper, “Steadfast”, blew up and caught fire off Dover, this afternoon”!! H’m! That will have put paid to my draft, and I’ll get a recall telegram, as the Navy wouldn’t allow leave to a sunken ship. But I was not recalled and on return to barracks, I was handed a railway-warrant to Dover to join the ship, which was a bit burnt and damaged by what had been an accident, in which one man had been killed. So the morning following my arrival, we set sail to sweep a minefield in the Channel, clearing up the ship’s damage, and painting en route. Simultaneously, my pay increased by 1/6d per day, danger-money! I was also designated motor-boat coxswain again.

“Steadfast” was a ‘Catherine” class, Fleet minesweeper, that is, a ship built for the job. About the same size as a destroyer, rather than a converted fishing-boat She had been built in the US, and had similar fittings to “Tyler”; although we slept in hammocks again. The ship was designed to cope with any, contact, magnetic, or acoustic mines, and to lay, and recover ‘dan-buoys’, which were used to mark borders from notoriously inaccurate charts, between ‘swept,’or ‘unswept’ sea areas.

From the Channel we progressed to sweeping in the Hebrides, before negotiating the rigours of the Pentland Firth to Port Edgar, at the foot of the Forth Bridge. There, the Captain, an RNR lieutenant-commander, and former trawler-skipper, decided to paint the ship in peacetime livery. His ambition was to be the first ship in the Navy to do so. Consequently, he reduced our dinnertime from 60 to 45 minutes and, despite pouring rain, demanded that work should carry on by demonstrating how it would be done. With a wad of cotton-waste in one hand, and a brush full of paint in the other, it was, ‘wipe, paint, wipe again’...and so on. In this manner we painted the entire upper-works and hull, dangling over the side precariously in ‘bosun’s chairs’. I was also roped in to help change the style of our ‘pennant number’, painted on the bows, as the Captain didn’t like the existing US-style numerals! Having completed the task, one would have thought that all was well and life would resume something akin to normal Navy routine. Not so. By our labours he had had the ship painted the wrong shade of grey! The ‘Old Man’ was furious, and our lives suffered, as he stopped shore-leave and kept us at it, repainting in the correct colour grey as we sailed to Butler’s Wharf on the Thames, below Tower Bridge, where we were to form part of the Victory celebrations and open to the pubic.

Since joining “Steadfast”, my number had been published, and I had pointed out to the Captain several times that, as I was therefore technically a civilian, I should be returned to barracks for my trilby-hat and chalk-stripe suit. His response was always, “You can’t be spared...until your replacement arrives.”

Eventually, I was advised that mine was en-route. Good, couldn’t be too soon. Unfortunately, when the fellow learned that the ship was a mine-sweeper, he went AWOL! A few days later, another chap arrived; one I knew from a previous ship. He stayed, and I tackled the Captain again. Whether it was the booze, or a sudden change of heart he agreed! So, despite an Admiralty Fleet Order forbidding draft movements through London during the Victory celebrations, I was soon back at Chatham RN Barracks. The demob. people were unable to find a suit to fit me so I was measured, and assured that,,”it would be in the post...sometime.” At the Discharge Centre I expected to revert to a civilian again, but was instead, astonished to be arbitrarily: “Discharged to the ‘Z Reserve”, an unpaid period during which I would be, “.....subject to recall to active service”, until my 45th birthday, (21 years hence!) and, after 52 days paid leave, would be.... free to take up civilian employment.”

My ill-fitting, chalk-stripe suit eventually arrived in the post, and from a grateful Admiralty, I received a Post Office Savings Book, which indicated that a sum of (I think) £54, had been deposited to my account in Hope Street, Edinburgh, Post Office branch. Riches beyond dreams of avarice!


Chapter 3: Swapping Uniforms

It was now time for me to consider my future. So much in my life had changed over the war years, like that of tens of thousands of other young men and women. We had ‘grown up’, in a hurry, and Dorothy and I were thinking of getting married, ‘some time’. That would need funds; which neither of us had, aside from my gratuity. Dorothy had been raised by her paternal grandmother and step-grandfather, as her parents had divorced. Lovely old couple but, poor as the proverbial church-mice and glad of Dorothy’s wage input.

Dorothy’s father had been conscripted into the RAF and shipped out to Singapore just in time to be taken prisoner by the Japanese invaders. Somehow he had survived, but was in very poor health. After prolonged rehabilitation, and training by the “St. Dunstans” centre for blind Servicemen, they had set him up in business. He had opted for a tobacconist and newsagents shop at Kenley, in Surrey; which he ran successfully with his new wife, and Dorothy as assistant. This meant that Dorothy was paid, just bed-and-board, and pocket-money. Little chance of savings.

So, in order to accrue as much money as possible, for I needed to pay for my keep at home too, I took a job in Ford’s steel-foundry heat-treatment department in Dagenham. Stripped to the waist, and heaving great red-hot metal castings about in a 3-shift system. Horrible conditions, which resulted in a steady turnover of employees. The sole saving-grace was that it paid well at that time, in exchange for a full 60 mins. graft per hour.

I kept at it for 10 months and then, my eldest brother and his new wife, living in a tiny stone cottage in Norton Fitzwarren, a little village in Somerset, offered to accommodate Dorothy and me, so that we could get married at last. We accepted, of course, and after a typical ‘austerity’ wedding, (we couldn’t afford the organist), and the honeymoon was a week at a guest-house in Eastbourne, courtesy of one of Dorothy’s aunts’, who owned the place. We then moved down to Somerset, and I joined with my brother, working at a wool-mill in Wellington, several miles distant, as a ‘wool-comber”.

The mill; Fox Brothers, had been in the same family since 1775, and produced wonderful cloth for ‘high-end’ tailors. We worked a five-and-a-half-day week on a two-shift pattern; mornings and afternoons. Pay was at West Country rates, which was lower than that in the London area. For transport, we had to rely on my brother’s ex-Army motorcycle, as there was no alternative. Petrol was severely rationed and, with great difficulty, my brother was awarded a ration, just insufficient for our needs! This required a little ingenuity on our part to overcome the problem. One night, returning home and ‘coasting’ down a village street, there was a loud, “bang”, as part of the bike’s frame snapped and the crankcase hit the road! We managed a temporary repair with the aid of my leather-belt supporting the engine and, with brother on the saddle and me sitting on the rear number-plate, we completed our journey. A quick trip to a blacksmith in the morning, restored our steed to ‘normality’.

I had not considered doing my current type of work permanently and my uncle had suggested that the police service offered a steady income with a few fringe benefits. So I applied to join the Metropolitan Police in London. This entailed taking an educational exam at Taunton Police HQ.,before I would be considered as being suitable for summons to London for detailed interview. In the interim, relationships at the cottage had deteriorated. With two newly-married couples crammed into the tiny building in fairly primitive conditions, it was inevitable I suppose. I gave my notice to Fox Brothers, and Dorothy to her employers; packed our sparse belongings and departed for Dorothy’s grandparents......the only place we could think of where we might be temporarily accommodated. We had no means of quickly warning them, so arrived unannounced, several hours later. Fortunately, they were very understanding, and offered us the spare bedroom in their tiny house.

It became our base, and after a week-or-so I received a letter from the police, inviting me to London for interview. I was accommodated by them in a police Section House with several other applicants for the couple of days or so, of ‘grilling’ by a group of senior officers and sitting a Civil Service educational exam. Then there was a medical exam, before I returned home to await the outcome...”in a couple of weeks”.

In the interim it was necessary for me to find an income of some sort. I went to the Labour Exchange, where I was required to detail exactly, the type of work I was seeking. I told the clerk that any job would do, as was only for a couple of weeks. He pointed out that, at that time, one could not just change jobs without permission from the Ministry of Labour.....a wartime directive still in force. So I was offered, and accepted, a labouring job on nights, at a local rubber company! The work entailed hacking off chunks from a great sheet of raw rubber with the aid of a large knife, to be processed through a couple of huge steel rollers. It was horrible! I tasted rubber, breathed rubber, and stank of rubber for a couple of weeks until, mercifully, the letter arrived from the police to say that I had been accepted for training. How Dorothy had put up with me until then, I’ll never know.

So, on 8th March 1948 I embarked on a new lifestyle at Hendon Police College, where I shared a room with a former REME sergeant, for the 13 weeks of the course. We were joined by 15 other entrants to form a class, under various Inspector, or station-sergeant instructors. My colleagues were a mixed bunch; one had been a ‘wavy-navy’ lieutenant, another was an Irish, former Captain in the Brigade of Guards, two were ex-Navy signalmen, and the rest, an assortment of ex Navy, Army or RAF servicemen.. We all got on well together, partly due to the antics of “Smithy”, a Yorkshire man, and former drill-sergeant in the Seaforth Highlanders, who conspired with Mick, the ex-Guards Captain to ease the burden of studying in various ways.

Similar to ‘demob’, in reverse, we were measured and issued with kit: 2 helmets with plates, 1 Serge jacket,1 Broadcloth jacket, 2 pairs Broadcloth trousers, 1 Oilskin cape and support sling, 1 Greatcoat, 1 “British Warm”, 1pr. White cotton gloves, 1pr. Woollen knitted gloves,1 leather ‘snake’ belt, 1 Hardwood Truncheon, 1 Whistle with chain, plus a leather wallet for each Process book and Note book. Handcuffs were kept at the ‘nick’, and boots etc., were supplied by each individual at their own expense. The uniform was modified in 1950 and the serge jacket collar was changed from the ‘dog-collar’, to an open-type to be worn with a pale-blue shirt and black, clip-on tie.... both supplied! The broadcloth trousers, incidentally, were truly thick enough to almost stand on their own, especially when wet!

In uniform once more, and looking like a police officer, (number 762TS), the real work began!

In the classroom, we were each issued with the, “Instruction Book”. This thick tome was constructed in a manner that allowed extra pages to be inserted, dependent on large changes in legislation. Minor changes were squeezed between the lines by the holder in ink....and had to be legible. (Ball pens hadn’t been invented.). Sitting at our desks, like new schoolboys, we met our first instructor, a station-sergeant. This affable worthy told us to open our books at the page headed, “The primary object of Police”. Reasonable. After, reading it through with us, and discussing the content etc. at the end of the session the sergeant said, “Mark the page margin, in pencil, ‘W/P’, to indicate “word-perfect”. The remainder of the day continued with more discussion, and a general outline of what would be expected of us in our new career. We then adjourned for dinner and a free evening.

The following morning we were assembled for inspection and foot-drill, before resuming classroom study. Having greeted us, our affable sergeant asked each of us in turn, “The Primary Object”?. We each gave an outline of the printed page, to be asked, “Gentlemen; Did I not say to you yesterday, mark the page ‘Word perfect?’ That it is exactly what I mean; you are required to remember precisely what is printed on each page, word for word!. Because one day during your service, you may, in High Court, be confronted by a lady or gentleman wearing a black robe and a horsehair wig. This person will have spent many years studying English law, and will endeavour to exploit any weakness or possible irregularity, in evidence which you have given under Oath, whether for the prosecution, or the defence.” I think that many of we aspiring police-officers, considered at this point, whether or not we had made a ghastly mistake, and chosen the wrong career!

The pressure was relentless for the rest of the course, with page after page of English law to be absorbed, covering everything to do with personal safety and property from murder, Offences against the person Acts. Cruelty to children and animals, burglary, larceny, arson, public disorder. The list seemed endless! And, to add spice to the mixture, there was “Traffic”. Highways Acts, dating from Victorian times but still statute, and the multitude of various Road Traffic Acts which could have filled a book alone.

Each of us had our own ways of coping, in the evenings and/or early mornings, wrestling with the written word for five-and-a-half days each week. On Saturday mornings there was recapitulation by our instructor on everything we had studied, . Failure to pass would result in being retarded for a week to a later class of students, and two passes meant, “Goodbye”! I used to go home from Saturday lunchtime until Monday 0830, taking ‘the book’ with me. Then Dorothy would open various pages and ‘hear’ me, correcting as necessary. By the finish of the course she had also gleaned great chunks of the contents!

There were three examinations during the course and each had to be passed in order to move to the next. As a relief from our studies, we had one hour each week when a guest speaker would talk about music or paintings, with recordings and illustrations.

In the meantime, concurrently with law studies, we were required to take the St.Johns Ambulance First Aid examination, and failure to pass would also result in immediate retarding.

Together with the foot-drills we were taught self-defence, and prisoner restraint methods. These could be quite interesting (and sometimes painful!) as we played out various scenario with our instructors.

Inevitably, the Final exam loomed and, for some reason I have never been able to comprehend, together with a chap named Hutt, we each scored 100%! I was astonished, and Dorothy too. We had thought, something in the region of 75-80%. Now, issued with my warrant-card, I became a probationary police constable for the next 18 months, subject to weekly 1 hour sessions with a Station inspector, and monthly sessions at Division HQ with all other probationers in the Division. Thereafter I would be deemed a fully fledged Metropolitan Police officer and subject to the Police Discipline Code which usually meant, loss of pay for minor infringements.

As Dorothy and I were ‘lodged’ with her grandparents in Hayes I was allocated to that local police station, part of “X” Division, with the sub-division HQ in Uxbridge. Divisional HQ was at Harrow Road police station in West London. Reporting for duty at Uxbridge was quite memorable! Stepping out in public, resplendent in uniform for the first time alone, and walking to the bus stop on the main road, I prayed that nothing untoward would happen, in case I couldn’t remember which page would be relevant! Happily, all was fine, and the bus conductress even declined to collect my 2d proffered fare.

Helped by other, experienced officers, I soon settled into station routine, guided by a sergeant who had been appointed as my mentor. For a couple of days I was accompanied by a fellow PC who pointed out the boundaries of the 5 beats forming ‘our ground’, before I was let loose on the unsuspecting public.

Strangely, the first job I was called to, by a member of the public, was over the boundary on “T Division” territory. A small boy had been knocked down by a car, but fortunately not badly injured, and I remembered completely ‘the page in the book’ and dealt with the incident successfully.

The remainder of my time as a PC was a ‘mixed bag’, We didn’t have the personal equipment issued nowadays, so relied on truncheon, whistle, and self-defence training, to cope with ‘awkward’ situations.’ In those days, fortunately, there was not the volume of knife and gun crime rife today. Most violence was related to pub brawls, with strict licensing hours and lack of available unlimited alcohol from supermarkets. When called to a pub brawl, one endeavoured to join with a colleague-or-two if possible, and enter the fray with a truncheon up the sleeve of one’s jacket. This made it easier to ‘elbow’ through the mob. But in the main, the local public were quite compliant to reasonable requests.

On occasions, we were ‘loaned’ to other Divisions to assist in matters like, lining the route for the State Opening of Parliament, and similar Royal occasions etc. On one such outing I found myself, with a colleague from another Division, directing traffic in Parliament traffic-lights installed in those days!

My worst occasion to assist was to Ruislip, a fellow-station in the sub-division, when a Scandinavian DC6 passenger aircraft, and an RAF York aircraft carrying the Governor-General of Singapore, collided in the air over Northolt Airport. The Scandinavian aircraft crashed in flames, in Mad Bess Wood on the edge of Ruislip town centre, and the RAF aircraft fell near Bovingdon, several miles away. Sadly, there were no survivors from either aircraft.

So, on a wet July morning, several of us were despatched to the scene in Ruislip, and we spent the next few days mainly collecting body parts of the victims, which was very gruesome and messy in the mud. But, at least, we were provided with gloves and, at the conclusion, one PC discovered an entry in “General Orders” which clearly stated that, “......handling a decomposed body attracted a payment of £1.” Since our pay was about £7 per week we obviously applied for payment; to be told by the ‘bean-counters’ in “CO” (Scotland Yard) that the money was intended to apply to Thames Division. The “book” made no such reference, and despite the fact that we had been handling very decomposed bodies, payment was refused.

We also had the job occasionally, of individually calling on families with news of fatalities etc. On two occasions I had to get relatives to identify bodies in the mortuary. The first was a man in bib-and-brace overalls, to identify his 18-year-old son, who had had a heart-attack whilst cycling to work, and the second occasion was for a man to identify a similar young man who, riding his racing-bike along the A40, failed to notice that a lorry had stopped ahead of him, and collided at speed, fracturing his skull. His dad was, of course, absolutely distraught, and said, “What on Earth can I say to his mother? She is 6 months pregnant!”

The final occasion during my service was following a, “call for Police”, to a house. On arrival, I was approached by a painter, who pointed to the open door of a nearby house, and just said,”In there”. Inside, jammed behind the kitchen-door, was a young woman of 33 years, clutching the lead for her electric-kettle, which was seared into her hand. She had made the common error of having the lead switched on whilst connecting it to the kettle. There had been a ‘short’, and she had died instantly. In the sitting-room, in tears, was her young next-door neighbour, who had ‘popped in for coffee’, consoling the victim’s 18-month-old baby. To add to the tragedy, the victim’s 9-year-old daughter was at school and shortly due home for her dinner, and her husband was away working down the coast. At the inquest, which I had to attend, the husband revealed that he had earlier replaced the element in the kettle, where a tiny leak had triggered the whole tragic chain of circumstances. It was many years before I allowed an electric-kettle in our house, despite the vast improvements in design, and I drummed into the family never to handle a ‘live’ lead.

Daily life on the street was fairly uneventful in Hayes; mainly Traffic and public order problems, minor thefts and, of course, drunks, Which meant attending the ‘Petty Sessions Court’ in Uxbridge, although I once went to the Quarter Sessions (now Crown Court) at the Guildhall, in Westminster. There, the Oath read, “ I swear by Almighty God, that I will true answer make to all such questions as the Court shall ask of me”! Typical legalise! In 1948, London hosted the first Olympic Games after WW2 in Wembley, which required police officers in attendance from all over the ‘Met’ at various times. With a couple of colleagues from my sub-division, I spent several days helping to cope with the huge number of visitors from far and wide, with a variety of problems in many languages! My highlight of the occasion was being posted inside the stadium,beside the running-track finishing-line when Fanny Blankers-Koen, a Dutch athlete, won one of her four Gold medals.

The crowd went ‘potty’, and it was impossible to stop some invading the track.

As a matter of interest: At that time, starting-blocks had not been invented, and the runners used pointing-trowels to dig holes in the track for their toes! They were not ‘Tartan’ tracks.

Round about that time I had a letter from an old shipmate who, with his wife, was buying a detached-house in Sudbury Hill, Harrow. Following a visit by Dorothy and me, they offered us two rooms accommodation to rent! They were struggling to meet their repayments, and we were desperate to find somewhere to live, so we leaped at the offer. The Police then transferred me from Hayes, to Harrow Police Station, which was unwelcome! The latter worked from a ‘Beat’ book, which restricted one’s freedom of movement. Harrow also suffered from having one of the last “Station Inspectors”, a throwback from the days when Lord Trenchard was Commissioner. He fast-tracked individuals who had absorbed plenty of theory, but had never walked a beat, felt a collar, or spent time at “the coalface”. They were not popular with the old hands, if only because they blocked the promotion ladder for more deserving officers. My first meeting with the individual didn’t go down very well. Having reported from transfer, he suggested that I should put my name down for a 5-mile road walk which he had ‘organised for the probationers’. I declined; pointing out that, (a).I was not a probationer and (b), In my view it would be utter folly to indulge in such an exercise without first training. We never did have a warm relationship thereafter. Particularly when a couple unfortunate probationers were off ‘sick’, following their participation (under duress?).

By now, the style of policing was beginning to pall, and the long hours and 7-day working week were not conducive to family life. The system was, e.g. Monday ‘Off’, this week, Tuesday next week, and so on until Saturday was followed by Sunday, which meant a whole weekend ‘Off’, The shift pattern was a week of ‘E’ followed by a week of ‘L’, two weeks of E, and a week of L. Then four weeks of Nights, and back on to ‘L’ again. Which meant that one was away in the evening for six weeks. Not good for a marriage. Particularly since days ‘Off’ could be cancelled or suspended “for operational reasons”, and attendance at court when on N duty meant less sleep. Annual Leave was allocated without choice, and permission had to be sought to be away from home overnight on that precious weekend. Which was more precious because Dorothy was also working part-time as a clerk with GEC in Wembley..


Chapter4: Swapping Uniforms Again

As I had always been interested in aircraft and aviation, in general, I decided to apply to British European Airways, based at Northolt, to see if they had any vacancies. And one morning, sleeping from N duty, Dorothy woke me up to say that BEA had replied, with an offer of a post as a clerk in their Freight department at Northolt! I went for interview and was accepted, despite the fact that I was required to give four weeks notice of resignation to the Police.

On the ‘down’ side, the starting pay would be less than I was drawing, but there were opportunities for advancement, plus the ability to enjoy occasional flights at only 10% of the normal fare. The work also encompassed a three-shift system, but with colleagues in company the workload, extremely busy at times,was quite equitable. After one year I was appointed shift-leader, which meant a welcome pay increase, as Dorothy had become pregnant and we were desperate for better accommodation. The situation was worsened when Dorothy miscarried and was whipped into hospital in Edgware. There, the nurses, generally, seemed to be under the completely mistaken impression that Dorothy had deliberately aborted, and were far from sympathetic to her plight. For,despite our living problems, Dorothy was looking forward to being a mum, and was distraught at this setback. Eventually, Dorothy became pregnant again, and on 21st April 1953, at about 0200, woke me with a jab in the ribs and announced that the birth seemed imminent. I ‘phoned for an ambulance, which took Dorothy and me, to Perivale Maternity Hospital where she later gave birth to our daughter, Julia. The new father also had some exercise; walking the couple of miles-or-so back home, and hoping not to be stopped en route as a vagrant. For I had just chucked on a pair of trousers over my pyjamas, an old raincoat and a pair of shoes. No socks, no money, or even a hanky.

At the airport, my then current boss had a car, and after a few days, kindly took me to collect my enlarged family from the hospital and back home.

Whilst our fellow residents were generally flexible with the changed living circumstances, it soon became imperative that Dorothy and I, with our new infant, sought better accommodation. We were helped in our quest by Dorothy’s father who, having received the accrued pay from his POW years, offered a loan towards the initial deposit of buying a house. There was no other alternative. The local council had nothing to rent, and Hayes Council’s ‘points’ system, put us a long way down their list, as I had not been a long-term resident in the area, and Dorothy’s points, plus my ‘veteran’s’ points were insufficient for a higher placement.

The search to find a house with affordable mortgage repayments, led us to a run-down 3-bedroom terraced property in Cromwell Road, Hayes End, which we were relieved to occupy when Julie was about 1 week old. Our new ‘Utility’ bedroom suite, we were lucky to have completely, because we had not been awarded sufficient ‘points’,but the friendly dealer in Shepherd’s Bush, had managed to ‘massage’ the figures a little! The dining-room suite was “bespoke’ish”, having been made in oak by a carpenter emigrating to N.Zealand.

Unfortunately, and for whatever reason, he had then painted it in red and green with “Liquid Lino”, a paint designed for floors! However, it was very cheap, and better than nothing in our then current financial state. Delivery was achieved by a small sum handed to a helpful laundry-van driver.

Our new home was situated virtually midway between Northolt Airport and Heathrow, where I would eventually be based, plus shops, a bus-route and children’s schools were close-by. I relied on my trusty bike for transport and Dorothy embarked on her career as a full time mum and housewife. She had ‘inherited’ an ancient, hand-driven, Frister & Rossmann sewing-machine from her grandmother and, with great skill started what would be many years of making, curtains, dresses, children’s clothes etc., mending and adjusting as necessary. Otherwise, she would be knitting, cooking, cleaning, or doing the washing by hand, with a scrubbing-board in the deep kitchen sink. Plus all the myriad tasks that befall a full time mum and wife. In the meantime, it was my job to try and spruce the house up from it’s run-down state, to something more acceptable......a task that was to carry on interminably! But nevertheless, we were quite happy and content to have a base to work on,.and we also had the benefit of a 125-foot back garden, which terminated with two massive elm trees, and a paddock which eventually became part of the grammar-school playing-fields.

In 1952 Northolt Airport had been handed back to the RAF and I was one of a handful of staff tasked with transferring BEA commercial operations with H.M.Customs, over to Heathrow. The main office buildings had been closed, and we worked out of a small office in the Import Cargo warehouse, clearing bulk aircraft loads of goods, (which Heathrow were unable to accommodate), through Customs. So, on one sunny Saturday afternoon I was the duty clerical person with four loading staff, working with a very irascible Customs Landing Officer; when a loader, who had been gazing out of the warehouse door, wandered over and said,”An RAF ‘Viscount’ has just landed”. Knowing that the RAF did not have ‘Viscount’ aircraft, I went to the door, to be greeted by a car bearing a young, very agitated, RAF officer, who exclaimed,”Nothing to do with me. You must do something!”.

Oh dear. It transpired that an “Air France” Viscount passenger aircraft had landed at Northolt (NTH), in mistake for Heathrow (LHR)! Now Custom regulations,v ery archaic, required that, “a foreign vessel. arriving at a UK port must first clear Customs, before.....” proceeding, with sealed hatches under Coastwise Bond to another UK destination....” Naturally; this would require Customs authority after completing the necessary, detailed, documentation. I found the “irascible Landing Officer”, and requested his permission for the “Coastwise” transfer to Heathrow of the “foreign vessel”. “Get that **!!**..**, out of here!”, he responded. Authority having been achieved, without the tiresome need of paperwork, the unfortunate French Captain was permitted to take off for Heathrow with his bewildered passengers.

Some long time after I had left Northolt, a “Pan American”, Boeing 707 Captain, made the same mistake! The reason was, because there were two identical German designed, static gas-holders in the area. One in South Harrow, close to Northolt, and the other in Southall, near to Heathrow, and it was, apparently, customary, for some crews to use these landmarks as a visual aid to their final approach and touchdown. The problem was resolved, by painting in huge white letters, “NT”on one, and “LH” on the other! Too late for the unfortunate PAA Captain, as the 707 was too heavy and could only take off after being stripped out of interior fittings and, with the barest minimum of fuel, re-position to Heathrow.

On transfer to Heathrow I resumed work for several months, in reforwarding Import Cargo to UK consignees, or arranging transhipment overseas, when a friend and colleague suggested that I might care to join him in applying for a post in Ground Operations, who were advertising vacancies. The idea of a complete change was very attractive, so I duly applied. There was no difference in pay, but the position was uniformed, which was a save on clothing anyway. In fact, it was very liberal!. Two bespoke uniforms, raincoat with detachable warm lining, six shirts (annually), two ties, two pairs of shoes, uniform cap and badge. Thus attired, I then had to pass the test for an Apron Driving Permit, necessary for driving a motor vehicle in a ‘live’ aircraft manoeuvring area, which the work entailed in my new job as an “Apron Observer.”. Really a mobile ‘trouble-shooter’ with a radio, acting as a link between aircraft and Apron Control, co-ordinating passenger movements to their flights, catering, baggage-handling, aircraft cabin cleaning, baggage.freight and mail loading etc.,and close liaison with flight, and cabin crews, and engineers. The latter responsible for aircraft safety and refuelling.

The aim was to overcome problems in any area to achieve: aircraft doors closed within 3 minutes of scheduled departure time, and if not, to establish and record, the reason for the delay. After a few months it was decided that Apron Observers should also qualify in ‘Load Control’, planning safe distribution of individual aircraft loads to ensure that it conformed to the legal safety requirements laid down by the ‘International Civil Aviation Organisation’, based in Montreal, and part of United Nations. The work was quite intense; for every civil aircraft (even today), carrying load for business, is bound by the same stringent rules, and every aircraft is individual, regardless of size or manufacture. At that time, BEA was handling agent at Heathrow, for 19 other airlines, and every one had a different system for achieving ‘trim’, even if they operated the same aircraft type! Safety was paramount but challenging, e.g. Amongst the load for the holds one could have offered, “human remains”, live animals and ‘radioactive’ material as well as mail and baggage. All had to be sensitively accommodated, whilst also achieving a correct ‘trim’ and a scheduled departure. Unfortunately, one did not know until the flight ‘closed out’, exactly how many men, women, children and babies and volume of baggage had to be loaded, To add spice to the problem, there could sometimes be a call from the Captain for extra fuel. Having, hopefully,overcome these hurdles, one completed the loadsheet (a legal document) and trim-sheet, signed them as being true and accurate confirmation that the aircraft did not exceed it’s “Maximum Authorised Take-Off” and Landing Weights”, presented them to the Captain for scrutiny and counter-signature, before sending the flight on it’s merry way. Oh.if only modern computers had been invented! 6-8 flights per shift was the norm.

Eventually, there was a change of system and, following interview, I was promoted to Station Officer and moved from a weekly wage to a monthly salary. My job, with others, was to control the Apron Observers and liaise with the many foreign aircraft representatives, and other bodies like Customs, Special Branch and “Live Organ Transplant Service” with the object of achieving a smooth programme.

In 1965 BEA moved to a Traffic Dispatcher system and, after visits to outlying areas like Waterloo Air Terminal (long ago defunct) and Manchester Airport , plus written exams on passenger ticketing, meteorology etc. I became a ‘Red Cap’ as TD’s were designated. Sort of mixture between Station Controller and ‘super’ Apron Observer. One had more authority and, of course, greater responsibility, with bigger aircraft and mechanised loading systems etc. ‘Airbridges’ were being installed....and I still have my licence (No.16) to operate power-operated gangways at Heathrow! Later, following a successful interview, I was elevated to the status of Senior Station Officer, and “Terminal Coordinater, Terminal 1, Heathrow Airport”,.in turn with five colleagues on a shift basis, covering 24 hours, 365 days per year. We were based in a control room at the top of the Terminal, with a view of the apron and close aircraft stands. At certain periods, we were responsible for all the Company’s staff within the building, together with those working on the apron, totalling at times to 710. In liaison with Air Traffic Control we allocated stands to all aircraft, using Terminal 1, including those of other Company’s, using a staff of about 12, men and women, in various grades, as assistants. They supplemented a large screen across one wall, on which we could see the current schedule, and which the staff updated constantly, reflecting the immediate status of each flight. We also had six ‘phones, R/T to contact dispatchers. a separate radio frequency to speak with aircraft Captains, and three “in house” computer terminals to reflect the precise situation of incoming flights, aircraft availability, and passenger bookings and routings.

To achieve the best possible results, we (Coordinators) also had the benefit of sitting beside a Senior Licensed Aircraft Engineer, with whom we liaised constantly to meet our different needs, but leading to the same goal. This was my final position in the airline, (which had earlier become “British Airways”, following the merger between BEA and BOAC). and, after 30+ years service, I applied for early retirement and left in August 1981.

Whilst I was following my career, Dorothy had not been idle! Besides raising our children, she also worked part-time locally, first as a clerk with the Commercial Ignition Company, and later, as a counter-clerk with Barclays Bank in Hanwell. This, in addition to her full-time mum and house-wife duties. She was a really remarkable woman and forever, the love of my life.


Chapter5: An Unfinished Symphony

I have difficulty in recalling the sequence of ‘happenings’ as the years passed; the children seemed to have rocketed from toddlers to teenagers, overnight. Julie finished at grammar-school and refused to consider Uni. Instead, she started her career in Social Services, an occupation which receives more ‘brickbats’ than bouquets. Nigel, on the other hand, was in the ‘grammar-stream’ at the local Secondary Modern school, before joining a chemical company in Uxbridge, which triggered his interest, and subsequent career in the world of computers. In the meantime, Dorothy and I, somehow survived the turbulent effect of ‘teenagerdom’ on our parental lives, and the children equally survived our (ineffectual) constraints on their freedom. The upshot is that we all gained the loving relationship we enjoy today, which helps the pain of losing their mum, and my soul-mate, Dorothy.

After I left British Airways, Dorothy and I pondered on the notion of moving away from Cromwell Road, which had become clogged with vehicles. This was helped by a ‘gypsy’ family who had bought the garage area a few doors distant, where I garaged our car, to stable their horse(!),and start a renovating business for cars bought cheaply at auction. This activity resulted in an increase in the ambient noise level. Particularly as it seemed to be necessary to have a radio at full volume to achieve the result. The vehicles were then parked along the road, as they awaited disposal. Incidentally, the horse.”Prince”,was a magnificent animal, and was taken by the owners to ‘harness racing’ events.

Meanwhile my life changed when I was approached by “Thomas Cook”,(the world’s oldest travel company, (Est.1841), to join them by looking after their big business clients passing through Heathrow.

It entailed shift work, mornings and afternoons only, a reasonable salary, although pension contributions were compulsory, extensive uniform and clothing subsidy, and generous allowances to cover ‘phone bills, travel &c. So our relocating plans were put on hold temporarily, although Dorothy and I still managed to drive hundreds of miles on my days ‘off ‘looking at likely areas, mainly in Southern England counties.

I enjoyed the change of career, as I was enabled to assist many travellers, other than clients, out-of-their depth, through the bewildering mass of signs designed to help them. Often, their eyes glazed over, and they searched instead for anybody that looked comfortable in the environment, wore a uniform, and held a radio in their hand. This usually generated a small queue!

Between looking after the big business, mainly oil tycoons, I also helped the girls with their holiday clients. off to Spain for a couple of weeks, Their preparations didn’t always go to plan, which is not unusual. Hardened travellers, on business or holiday worldwide, make mistakes too, often concerning their passports. The commonest is, either ‘out-of-date’, or insufficient validity for their period abroad. I recall a lady heading for the USA to visit her resident brother for 6 months, had omitted to pack her Driving Licence and asked my help. After checking the obvious solutions, I was able to whisk her to a ‘Passport Photo’ booth, and then to the ‘AA’ caravan in a distant car park, to buy an International Driving Permit, valid for a year. Problem solved. Then there was the dear old couple, off to their ‘holiday of a lifetime’ who approached me for directions to their check-in. Oh dear; looking at their tickets (originating from a Thos,Cook branch!), it erroneously showed their flight leaving from Heathrow, instead of Gatwick. They were quite distraught. But I was able to quell their fears and even brighten their day by putting them on the helicopter service which operated between the two airports in those days, and even checking their baggage through, direct to their Spanish destination. I then ‘phoned Gatwick to ensure that they were met. Good to have a positive outcome.

However, the urge to relocate was undiminished, and our quest moved farther afield as we searched for something we could afford, without another mortgage. I cannot recall exactly, the precise sequence of events which led us to explore East Anglia. But, on my “days Off”, we had driven hundreds (? thousands) of miles over several months, roaming through the Home Counties, Oxfordshire, Dorset, & Devon in our quest.

We enjoyed East Anglia, but decided it was a bit too flat for our choice. Leaving “Wells-Next-the-Sea”.I drove Westwards and, at Dorothy’s request, headed across country to Wales! We night-stopped in Leamington Spa and eventually saw a sign marked “Leominster”, which led me into the town, to call in at our bank branch, to collect a few ‘readies.(There weren’t any ATM’s in those days). Having completed the transaction, I emerged, to discover that my loving wife had disappeared! So, as a dutiful husband, I ‘hung about’ to await developments. Eventually, Dorothy emerged from an Estate Agents, next to the Bank, clutching a few pamphlets. “There’s some quite interesting properties in this area”, she said. ‘Dutiful husband’ grunted, and pointed out that we still had quite a few miles to go, to reach her preferred destination, which I recall was Newquay, and another B&B..

The following morning we resumed our journey home, trickling through the magnificent Welsh countryside. Before facing the challenge of negotiating the badly-signposted route through Birmingham’s heavy traffic, to Worcester, Oxford, and the A40 home..


Maybe I'll pick up the story from here one day - Nigel.

A Poem from Sister Sheila for his 80th

"Twas in the year of 22 when life had first begun,

For a certain little fellow who was Mrs Green's third son.

The patter of tiny feet once more would be heard about the house,

Unlike those born in London, he had to be a Scouse!

The 7th of December was his special day,

A trifle inconvenient, with Christmas on its way!

Most of that years' history, had already been and gone

And unconcerned, as he was then, he's getting it now by the ton!!

Other births that year, though not especially great,

Perhaps should be included like Judy Garland, Yitzhak Rabin and The Irish Free State!

There were records that were broken, as no doubt you might have guessed,

Breaking this and breaking that, and probably in vests!!

In March it seems that fashion, was given "plenty of rope',

Deemed far too revealing, a campaign against it was urged by the Pope!

He had no need to worry though, just being an illusion,

On the 7' May 'Skirts below the knee', again, that, a forgone conclusion!

Ghandi was arrested and Mussolini marched on Rome.

In the light of all that happened, they should have stayed at home!!

The highest temperature earth ever made was in Libya - El Aziza

136 Fahrenheit or 58 Centigrade - Tricky without a Freezer!

The chickens must have run for cover, a good job they have legs

Trying to avoid the possibility of laying hard-boiled eggs!

The British Broadcasting Company in October was begun,

Resulting in Walkmans, Ghetto Blasters, Jimmy Saville and Jimmy Young!!

"David Lloyd George Resigns' in the daily papers did appear,

And licences for radios were a staggering, 10 shillings a year!

Archaeologist Howard Carter in Egypt, digging in a tomb,

Unearthed the king with the golden mask, who was, of course Tutankhamun!

The boy of December 7th, grew tall, -…- you know,--- that teenage thing

And caused quite a stir falling off the shed roof, which made his elbow go 'ping!'

Suddenly the house in turmoil, as they rushed him through the door,

Sheila with her doll and its cot played happily on the floor.

"Toots', the favourite doll, which possessed no golden locks

Slept in a very humble bed, namely, a tomato box!

Splints were urgently required for the brothers damaged arm.

Yes, it didn't take the bells to ring to cause me great alarm!

"Toots was now awake and flying, like I never knew she could!

And nevertheless they managed to get their piece of wood.

Dislocated Elbow was the damaged he sustained,

"Toots' however had a fractured skull and her health was never regained!

Getting into the bathroom was rather a difficult task,

Whilst he was in occupation the waiting time was unsurpassed,

Taking the 'Hotspur' with him to read in that quiet place,

Not heeding the words of the queue outside whilst they began to pace!

Eventually, after an hour or two, or so I have been told,

He would finally emerge, withered, white and shivering with cold!

He tried to chop his thumb off once, but fortunately didn't succeed,

Staggering in the door and looking as weak as a weed

The arm was folded up to portray a damaged wing,

About his neck a piece of rope he was using as a sling.

Mother made a cup of tea whilst I sat there to wince,

He said,' " No sugar in the tea please Mum" and hasn't drunk tea with it since!

Had to wear a sailor's uniform, complete with matching hat,

No 'kiss me quick' hatband, there wouldn't be time for that!

You would think that in the Navy, one should try and learn to swim,

Imagine the great sigh of relief then, when they placed a large ship under him!

It was certainly the 'roaring forties' trying hard to survive it all

Sailing midst all that' hardware' and the other lot, not playing ball

Times it must have been unnerving and times when it needed a lark

Time for a bit of cheering perhaps, when Suffolk first sited Bismarck!

He had travelled halfway round the world to fight the common foe,

Common, because there were quite a lot of them you know!

Of his active navy days, only he recalls

And possibly of being on leave and Mum washing out his "smalls"!

Being fed homemade meals, made from a meagre ration,

Eating was something he enjoyed, jam poppets' being a passion.

The uniform, as time went by, needed vast amounts of repair

And at the end of the war and his service, he was beside himself with despair!

Nothing to do with the prospect of demob and getting back in the race

Having to pay for a new uniform was something he just couldn't face!

Mum with her great sewing skills worked with all her might

So the gossamer like knees in his bellbottoms, once again were sealed and water tight!

Then came the chalk striped demob suit and didn't most of them get that?

A shirt, two collars, a tie, a pair of shoes, and a hat,

Two pair of underpants, a mackintosh and two pair of socks,

Two studs and a pair of cuff links all packed in a flat cardboard box!

If it fitted you were lucky, measuring, if any, done, in haste,

Jacket too tight or the sleeves too short, trousers likewise and too big in the waist!

They didn't seem to have a problem being dressed more or less the same,

Just happy to be back, in 'civvy' street once again!

In the following years it was time to think of work and marriage and stuff,

Furnishing ones nest, if you even had one, was exciting but nevertheless tough!

As one of the first houseguests, which I think I can claim to have been,

They made it extra 'homey' and I slept on a sewing machine!

Finally getting their own house was one of the targets to reach,

And the arrival of Julia and Nigel, making it one of each.

Enlarging that in later years just to make it cosy,

With Nigel's wife Denise and their daughters Lizzie and Rosie.

He decided he would enrich his life with the prospect of being more mobile

Owning a Tandem, (with sidecar), plus a 'banger' that wasn't too docile!

What else could anyone expect, for it was as plain as plain could be,

The problems that one might incur with a van numbered WAR. 111

Without a doubt he could himself, write you several sonnets,

Touching on the life and times of his head under various bonnets!

London Airport was where he worked, though nobody knows quite why,

Maybe because he couldn't swim, he thought that he could fly!

He joined the Metropolitan Police once and discovered he didn't like that,

Maybe he just wanted to wear the uniform and fancied a strange looking hat!

Joining B.E.A as it was then, brought a different one on parade,

Must have saved on the clothing bill, maybe that's why he stayed!

He got his deserved promotion and gold braid for the uniform aspired,

And after over 30 years of sterling service, it was thought, it was time he retired.

Now at 80 years of age one should be feeling quite sublime,

The trouble with old age is, it always comes at the wrong time!

Telling a tale of this ancient man can make one feel quite euphoric,

The fact that he's ten years older than me makes him well, almost prehistoric!

Apart from the lengthy rhetoric and some thrown in ready wit,

(Glad he lasted this long, otherwise he would have missed it!!)

One would need to write a book to cover all the history,

So loads and loads and loads of it will have to remain a mystery.

But, how can one write about those 80 years that have swiftly gone before,

It's more than quite impossible on just 3 sheets of paper size A4!

One thing, is more than possible and that's to wish him on this day,

Health, happiness and good luck, which he's already getting,

Cos' there's nothing more I'm going to say!!



He kept this a secret! As Julie says "Typical!"

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