Part 1 : Get To Know Me

My father was one of seven in a poor South London Baptist minister’s family who succeeded in going to Westminster School and from there graduating to Christs Hospital, the famous Blue Coat public school now in Horsham.

Born December 1925 the son of an actuary who was gassed and injured in WW1 I grew up in the small sea side resort of Herne Bay Kent and lived in a small cottage one mile inland with open views over the golf course. It was a very quiet area but my small private grammar school was only a few yards down the lane. There were some boarders who came from all over the world.

It was close to the main bus route to Canterbury and that was the most exciting place in my young days together with Christmas trips to stay with relatives near London and their visits at Easter time

The winter could be lonely apart from some good neighbours but during the summer I spent a lot of time rambling on the downs and promenade by the sea.

In 1936 I remember the excitement of the Munich war scare and how we all got identity cards being so close to the continent and how I hated trying out my gas mask.

My favourite subjects at school were geography, English and even maths but I hated Latin and French.

I played Rugby football, hockey and cricket and excelled as a wing three quarter as I was a sprinter and the fastest in the school at 12.

We had a good sized garden and ate in it a lot in the summer and my family were also local teachers and we did have a lot of private pupils and friends come up the small path off the lane to see us.

My sister Betty Joy was brought up by another friend near London due to my fathers earlier illness throughout my young life and I missed her a lot as she was only one year younger.

In those days we were still in short trousers at 13 but when war came I went into long pants overnight and came back from a Baptist church summer camp near the cliffs of Dover in a rush.

I was a patrol leader of the swift patrol in the local school scouts and given the honour of being the company scribe.

Quite suddenly half the school was taken over by the army and I was summoned to the headmasters office to be told I was to be a messenger runner with my bike for elements that were organising underground resistance in the event of an invasion.

This was exciting schoolboy stuff and rather different to the three previous occasions when I had to suffer a whack on my backside with a slipper which is unheard of today.

I spoke some German learnt from a next-door neighbour who was in fact formerly Dutch and she used to give me lessons as she had a lot of friends out there. In addition my best friend at school was a German Jewish refugee with his family fleeing from Hitler. He had to go to the States due to the invasion threat and we are still in touch today.

At 14 in 1940 I spent long hours watching the luftwaffe passing over and being shot down from the garden. I used go and collect bits of aircraft afterwards and we used to compare our trophies at school.

We had no air raid shelter and had to crouch down in our small hall for safety several times, listening to the whine of a bomb. They missed us and fell on the golf course a quarter of a mile away and that was all part of normal life.

In 1942 ay 16 I joined the local home guard and used to go on duty at night patrolling a lonely stretch of the nearby coast with a school friend.

I was fully armed with a Lee Enfield 303 rifle and 50 live rounds and it all stood in my bedroom when off duty, my family soon got used to the idea that I was no longer a school boy who used to scare them with an airgun.

Many of my school friends were farmers sons and used to shot guns. Sunday morning was machine gun practise from the top of the cliffs and my first pints at the local for 6 pence.

Nights were often exciting watching the searchlights chase the bombers and wondering if I would have to help to round up baled out enemy aircrew.

Some of the older school members had already been killed. One lady we knew had lost both her sons in the air in their early 20s.

My school folded up when I was just 16 and I never could take any exams and the future was very uncertain.

Jack Wood of Canterbury who was my best friend got his father to let me help with the harvest in 1942 when I was 16 and I got to drive the tractor as well. It was the first time I had done any hot sweaty work but it was so satisfying when we had a break to sit and eat his mothers wonderful home made cakes. He paid me One Pound and Ten shillings for a week which was lot of money in those days for a 16 year old and I used to put those notes under a book and just look at them in awe. Compare that with the fact that as a new recruit in the army a year later I only got One Pound and One Shilling weekly.

My father put me into the Shorts seaplane works at Rochester when I was 17 to hopefully keep me as safe as possible so he thought and I lodged with friends walking distance from the job. After 6 weeks I walked out as I could not stand the noise and dirt and smell and I always considered myself to be a clerical type. I felt very miserable about having let him down and later registered for the army instead so I could stop worrying about my future in a sense and be like many others I knew.

Instead of waiting for my call up at 18, I got my papers to report for duty in August 1943 at the age of 17 and 8 months as a volunteer. Its amazing how adventurous one felt at that age but there were plenty of shocks around the corner.

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