The War was finally declared over in September 1945 and consequently hundreds of thousands of men and women from the forces found themselves on the other side of the World a long way from home. One can only imagine what their emotions at that time were. On the one hand glad, relieved and extremely thankful to be alive but……. on the other, what is home going to hold in store for me, if its still there even ? Up until the point in my life when Dad and I spoke about this, just a few days before he left us, I had only really considered the turmoil of the British troops but of course there were hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth troops, Russian, French as well as the defeated German troops that were rapidly being herded into prisoner of war camps that had been confiscated from the German war machine. One hell of a problem for those trying to sort it all and trying to make some kind of sense of it…….hell indeed !
My Dads battalion had been instructed to “volunteer” ( yes that’s exactly what happened ) to stay on their current tour of duty to help with the problem. Remembering here that a lot of Dads squaddie friends had volunteered to go into the army and were therefore still very much a part of it. The conscripted troops were returned home as soon as was possible via air or sea (mostly sea it appears). Dad and his mates were sent from Rhodesia to India (Delhi ) to help with the problems and repatriation of men and women to their homelands. This was, according to my Dad, the longest period of loneliness he ever remembers in his life. One can only try to imagine the feelings of these (not just my Dad, bless him) young man and women, knowing that the long awaited peace had been declared but not for them a triumphant journey home to their loved ones but back to work as usual was the order of the day! My Dad and his mates only returned to Britain one year later in September 1946 !!
Back home in Ashford where Mum and Patsy were waiting for the return of their own ‘hero’ life must have been difficult also. My Grandad (Mum’s father) who had his own small painting and decorating business which was doing extremely well rebuilding and redecorating war damaged properties locally, was eager to welcome my Dad back home to help him in the business as a partner. Of course my Dad had no idea about this but it was, of course, a wonderful opportunity for him, if he indeed wanted it ?
I know from what he (and Mum) had told me over the years he still desperately wanted to emigrate to Rhodesia as soon as he could. He had, in fact, been offered a good job within the Police force and was still full of hopes that he could persuade Mum to leave England for Africa and start a new life. Please don’t misunderstand me here, he loved being back home with his new family and after what must have been a somewhat difficult ‘settling in period’, he could finally relax and enjoy his married life and baby. The flat upstairs had been redecorated (of course!) and new furniture installed instead of the second hand pieces they had been very kindly given by friends and relatives to start them off in their new life. He greatly enjoyed being home and being “my own boss” with Sam(Grandad) and they were working “all gods hours”, having so much work on hand. Strangely enough the biggest job they had (along with a couple of labourers) was painting the new council houses that were being built locally to accommodate local young couples as well as displaced Londoners whose home had been demolished. This estate was to be our home for the next sixty eight years, number thirty five Arnold Road. They never moved from there and both my lovely parents were buried from the house. That house has such many and varied memories for us all, I’m sure but most of all it was our home and, to me, always will be.
In February 1947 Mum and Dad moved away from my Grandparents in Chesterfield road to start their own life anew. It must have been exciting, intimidating and a whole lot more I guess. My Mum was six months pregnant with her second child, my sister Pam. I’m sure that there were quite literally dozens of young parents to be living on that estate at that time. I certainly recall there being no shortage of neighbours kids when I was growing up, all trying to get in my light !! I was born in number thirty five as indeed Pam and all following six siblings were too. Crowded doesn’t cover it, trust me but the one thing that there was an awful lot of in the house, apart from towelling nappies, (ask yer Mum) was love…….We didn’t talk about it, didn’t say it to each other (if I recall again!) but comfortable wrap around love. Priceless, because goodness knows there wasn’t a lot of anything else around to shout about, times must have been extremely hard for our parents in post war England, with rationing, shortage of just about everything we now take for granted in the World, just little things like bananas and oranges….they might just as well have been gold dust. A truly difficult time for people trying to make their way in the World that they had just saved from disaster. These wonderfully strong people must have, on many an occasion, thought…….’what the hell was that all about’??…….