Life & Times of Donald Charles Williams
only Son of Charles James Williams & Dorothy Williams.
I was born on 9th January 1932 at 8 Pulross Road Brixton London (now demolished) to my Dad, a Butcher's Assistant and mother, a Butcher's Bookkeeper.
For the sake of history and perhaps for your future interest I've tried to illustrate my illustrious past!
I was taken to Goodmayes in Essex shortly after, where Dad bought a Butcher's business, but this failed and my earliest recollections are, of living at Woodlands Park, near Maidenhead, Berkshire. Dad managed a Butcher's shop with accommodation attached.
I can recall an occasion when I almost fell into the cesspool, which was on the forecourt of the shop, and just being grabbed in time, by some gent - I was about 4 or 5.
Aged 5, I went Bourne End school near Maidenhead in 1937, but this was short lived as Mum had answered an advert for a butcher's bookkeeper at Rottingdean, working for a Mr W.R. Dean who had three shops, Barcombe, Rottingdean and Saltdean. He apparently required a Manager for the Saltdean branch and suggested to Mum, would Dad be interested. He was, so we duly moved to 14 Westfield Avenue on the Mount Estate at the back of Saltdean Sussex about 7 miles East of Brighton. This was a new estate of small bungalows (still there) originally erected for the purpose of a holiday homes. We rented one from Saltdean Estate Agency. They cost about £350 in those days and can still be seen in 1997, now fetching possibly £60000 to £70000. I think it was in the Summer of 1937 that we moved here, as I know it was lovely to run across the road into the lush long grass and to be able to play in the nearby small wood with no fear of molestation from anyone. I soon got to know other small boys of my age and remember for the first time seeing, in Summer, the Walls ice cream man on his 3 wheeled tricycle coming down the road ringing his bell and the words 'STOP ME AND BUY ONE' painted on the side of the ice cream container. It was designed with a freezer compartment and contained all sorts of ices for just 1 penny (old money).
The Mount estate continued to expand and it was a small boy's paradise, watching all the road maintenance machinery (very old fashioned) at work and one day in my exuberance, somehow got round behind a excavator digging out the chalk, and, as it swung round, trapped me against the wall of chalk, but fortunately the driver stopped at that precise moment and went back the other way, so I escaped being crushed!
Dad used to walk about 2 miles every day to work across the grassy slopes and cornfields, (Something that can’t be done now, as all the land that he used to walk across has been built on, and the landscape has changed forever) so decided to move closer to his shop. He found a flat over the then Westminster Bank at 21 Longridge Avenue where we stayed for a couple of years ‘til moving to a house name ‘Founthill’ in Founthill Avenue. Here we remained until about 1945/46 when our final move was to a bungalow named ‘Upway’ in Saltdean Drive. Unfortunately all these properties were rented and therefore did not know how long we should be staying at each.
The Butchers’s shop was quite a big and consisted of an office where Mum used to help out as the Bookkeeper . In those days, the shopmen used to call out the weight and type of meat and Mum was able to calculate mentally in her head, what the price was to the customer. I used to help out, delivering meat etc. on a Saturday would set off with a carrier bike, that had a large basket fitted to the front, full of meat/poultry etc, each piece with a small ticket attached with the customer’s name and address. I was given 10/- float to enable me to give change. The round used to take best part of the morning covering about 3 square miles.
Longridge Avenue runs up from the South Coast Road and in those days was only chalk rutted. There were a few shops, and even today there are not many more.
The Ocean Hotel (currently owned by Butlins) was built half way up Longridge Avenue and was occupied by various categories, including the Army, and later as a recuperation centre for all the firemen throughout the country, who had been in the 'Blitz' around the country’s cities. They were able to take a breather and at the same time improve their skills at fire fighting. There used to be hoses all over the place, whilst they pumped water from the Ocean Hotel swimming pool to the Lido on the seafront. I used to go with Dad to the Hotel because he had the contract to supply the meat etc.
After the war when it returned to private ownership, I and my friends spent many hours making use of the lovely dance hall and the swimming pool.
It was as a result of the Fire Brigade being there, that Dad suffered damage to his lovely Rover 12 saloon. It was parked outside the shop facing downhill, and one of the Fire Brigade’s lorries rolled off on it’s own, down the hill and crashed into the back of the car. In those days there were very few car repairers about and arrangements had to be made for it to be shipped all the way up to London, where Rover cars had a repair depot in Lillie Road Fulham. I think it was away for months but finally we got it back. It had quite a memorable number C.M.E. 849 ( See me at eight fortynine!).
Other times I used to wait for the milkman to come round and I’d have a ride on his cart which was horse drawn with all the crates and churns of milk on board. He used to come from ‘Filkins’ dairy in Rottingdean and the old horse knew exactly where to start and stop but one day I grabbed the reins and gee’d him up and he took off at a gallop - I panicked and jumped off in the opposite direction and went ‘base over apex’. I learn’t very quickly to always jump off the way the cart was travelling and have never forgotten that advice.
I don't remember how we came to get a dog, but he was a black & white collie called 'Ceasar' He followed me everywhere and had the freedom of the downs and became a great companion, but sadly in December 1941 he had to be put to sleep for some reason I can't recall now. He was replaced with another faithful friend, a bull terrier called 'Son', but I wasn't to keep him long, before he too had problems and I lost him in November 1942. That was the last of my doggy days. They were both buried at a kennels which still exits in Westfield Avenue at its far end.
There were miles and miles of open downland, over which I roamed in complete safety in those days (1937-1939) watching the local road men at work building the roads, which were barely more than mud tracks. They used the old heavy rollers to break up the ground with two long iron spikes dragged through the ground and then the laborious tasks of rolling hard-core and covering it with macadam - a very time consuming and labour intensified task - but they had endless time to complete in those unhurried days of pre-war Britain.
I went to the small Church of England School in Rottingdean, the Headmaster being Mr Dutton with a super daughter called Cynthia, whom I fell in love with (couldn’t help it even in those days!)
I progressed from the infants class to the senior class until I was eleven.
I joined the Cubs and then the Scouts whilst there, and stayed until 1943. I don't recall much about the time in the scouts, we had meetings and went for rambles, but its all a bit vague now.
The war started in 1939, and, on its outbreak co-incidentally enough I
was in Terminus Road Eastbourne with my Mum & Dad, on a daytrip from Saltdean, when the first air raid siren was set off, and can remember a policeman running down the middle of the road with a gas mask on, waving a rattle, shouting to every one to take cover, because of the eminent prospect of a German raid with the likelihood of some sort of gas. It was all a non starter, because nothing happening, and, as history related it was the start of the 'phoney war' - the all clear sounded and everyone carried on normally, but that was a turning point in my young life. Restrictions were placed on where the public could go, street lighting was extinguished, all private transport was banned, every window in the house had to be blacked out at dusk and wo-betide anyone who showed the glimmer of light from their windows. There was mass evacuation of the coastal towns and villages and all parents were advised to arrange for children to leave and go to addresses miles away in Wales and Scotland. It was fortunately not compulsory and I did not want to go, so happily, I stayed with Mum & Dad, and on looking back it turned out ok.
Life for small boys became quite exciting in a funny sort of way because we did not realise the true significance of warfare and found all the Army and Air force quite fascinating. Many soldiers of all nationalities passed through Saltdean and large numbers of tank and armoured regiments were billeted in and around us. This of course was like a magnet - we soon got to know the soldiers and enjoyed many hours riding on the lorries and tanks and watched them firing their guns in practice - climbing up and down the cliffs and shooting at the German planes which flew over Saltdean regularly. Along the Vale there was a searchlight and gun battery where I used to go and visit and on several occasions had to lay flat on the grass whilst the soldier let fly with his twin machine guns at German aircraft overhead. When German planes came down it was a time of excitement for all the neighbourhood and there were two occasions when this happened. A Messcherschmidt 109 fighter came down on farmland beyond the Mount Estate and a Dornier 217 bomber crashed and exploded on open ground beyond Holmbush Avenue ( it is recalled by photo and writings in history books of the time). Dad and I were at the cinema in Brighton and it was flashed up on the screen that there was a ‘raid alert’ and we decided to make our way home to Mum. It was very foggy and when we got home, were told that the plane had crashed on the downs. I was curious and went to see. I found a German airman’s boot and his foot was still in it.
There is a book published called the history of Saltdean and reading this book it relates to the above Messerchmidt 109. The young pilot was a 19 year old Austrian, Karl Raisinger, who was marched away under escort. He was part of Unit 1 of Jagdgeschwader (Fighter Group 77) 3 Staffel, (No 3 Squadron) (whew! what a title) based at St.Omer France and I can recall the yellow cowling with the number 13 on the fuselage just as it states in the book. When I found out where it had come down I went to the site and it was being guarded by soldiers, but
in due course I asked if I could sit in it. (Recently I saw the attached photo in a Book Named ‘Battle over Sussex). Apparently after the war he was a successful Banker and in 1979, returned to Brighton and was entertained by a local P.C. who arranged for him to visit the 'lock-up' where he was held in 1940.
There was an old barn (still standing) in Saltdean Vale which housed what was know as the East Sussex War Agricultural Estate with dozens of tractors and masses of Landgirls (alright to do a bit of flirting with)! I soon made myself known and perhaps a nuisance, but became very much a part of the agricultural scene, driving every and all shapes and sizes of tractor on my own at the tender ages of 10-13yrs. I was out all day helping stack the corn sheaves and making Hayricks where it was stored until the time came for it to be threshed and bagged up to go off to the flour mills.
I was out from dawn to dusk ploughing, discing, harvesting, looking after the sheep and was convinced my life was going to be that of a farmer. I used to come home stinking of paraffin and Mum always moaned at the smell.
Although it was war time there was plenty of open space over the downs and we often went out looking for lethal unexpired shells and ammunition, which could be found laying about after the troops had finished manoeuvres and in fact, brought bullets, piat bombs and bits of old phorous shells home.
The clocks were put forward two hours, so we had double British Summer time and it stayed light beyond 11pm. Troops came and went and we had regiments of the tank corp and artillery units with all their ancillary equipment, which as a young boy was very intriguing and I spent all my free times clambering over these vehicles and having meals with the soldiers in their cookhouse. In fact this particular cookhouse was the scene of two boys getting caught by the local ‘bobby’! One was me and the other was a friend call Gerald. At the time this cookhouse was built in the back garden of one of the shops in Longridge Avenue (which is still there today, shop I mean). It had fallen into dereliction as the army had moved out and so it attracted us at the time to be ‘vandals’! Gerald got onto the corrugated roof and commenced to bale water through the open roof to my delight. (We were 10 years of age at the time) I suddenly looked round and found the local bobby, P.C. Westlake looking at me. We were both marched off down to Dad’s shop and given a dressing down!
Life carried on without much interruption from the Germans although in 1940 there were continuous dog fights overhead with our fighters harassing the German raiders, fighting the much talked about Battle of Britain.
We did have German and Italian prisoners of war working on the land, but didn't have much to do with them. Bombs were dropped off the shore line and on the Downs behind Saltdean, but one air raid sticks in my memory, when I was in school at Rottingdean. It was my job to open up the shelters built under the playground at the sounding of what were known as the 'pips'. These were heard from a loudspeaker in the classroom and were an advanced warning that the sirens would soon be sounding off. I think they were operated by the local observer corps. As soon as I heard these 'pips' I had to run over to the shelters and switch on all the lights. On this particular occasion it turned out to be a reality and a Junkers 88 bomber flew over Rottingdean dropping about half a dozen bombs. Mum at the time had left her office in the High Street and had gone to a dairy near the crossroads Called ('Filkins'). She was about to come out of the shop, but luck was on her side because she had forgotten to pick up her shopping , and went back to the counter for something. As the bombs fell she flattened herself to the floor - if she had not done this, there was a strong chance she could have been killed by the blast. One of my school friend's dad (named Stone) was a war time policeman, and was at the crossroads when a bomb hit the block of flats on the seafront. He was unfortunately caught by the blast and died.
The vicarage received a direct hit and other properties were damaged but we escaped to live another day.
There were nights when the air raids were on, and we spent hours in the large meat fridge in the shop and on one occasion there was the incessant droning of what we thought were enemy aircraft overhead, but when morning came found it was the motor rescue launch operating out to sea picking up shot down aircrew, so we could have stayed in our beds!
I didn't sit the 11 plus exam to enable me to go to either a secondary modern or Varndean School in Brighton, I implored Mum & Dad not to send me to Whitehawk Council School because I had heard they ducked 'new' boys down the toilets! - so managed to persuade them to pay for me to go to Xaverian College at Queens Park in Brighton at £5 per term. It was a Catholic school (of which there were several dotted about Sussex) run by 'Brothers' who wore long black habits, like monks.
I started in Form 3 and finished up in Form Lower 5. ( It was demolished after the war and town houses built on the site, but the driveway is still there with one pillar with the word ‘College’ thereon).
Having moved to this school in Brighton in 1943, it was another episode in my life having to travel on the buses which were manned by the conductresses known as 'clippies'. Some were very 'glam' and I got to know most of them on our routes and they allowed me to overseer the passengers and 'ring' the bell which at 12 years of age I thought was the bees knees! I would often get on and off the buses several times on my journey to school to make sure I didn’t miss my favourite 'clippie'! When the buses didn't come along I often got a lift home in an Army lorry and on one occasion rode from Brighton to Saltdean on top of a tank!
As I've said it was a great and exciting time for small boys who loved to get mixed up with all the paraphernalia of war, cadging buttons and badges off the soldiers and wearing army forage caps and steel helmets and acting out being soldiers with our imitation 'Tommy guns' made of wood and rat a tat tatting at each other! I became quite adept at handling armoured lorries and bren gun carriers and never missed out on an opportunity to have a drive.
Another bit of reminiscing comes to mind. Whilst running down the pavement outside the shops in Longridge Avenue was bowled over by a dog which came out from the local sweet shop. I went ‘flying’ and was knocked unconscious for quite some time.
Well I think Dad's lease on the flat ran out in 1943 so we moved again to a house in Founthill Avenue (still there) named Founthill, on the corner of Chichester Drive. Our little gang of boys & girls used to play in the gorse bushes along the Vale (now gone and built on), and from time to time got into empty houses, which had been evacuated by the owners and on one occasion we were all playing in one, when I caught site of the top of a policeman's helmet - I was off up to the top of the garden like a rocket and hid behind the hedge, but after a while somebody came up and said the policeman wanted to see us all in the house. He took our names and then threatened us with dire consequences if he caught us again. We all ran off in different directions frightened out of our wits that our parents would find out. We never heard another thing so life resumed its thrill. There were lots of open space in those days and my time as a young schoolboy was spent out enjoying this environment - playing in the various Gorse bracken that housed our camps and climbing trees taking pot shots at rabbits and birds with our catapults (not the restriction on their use in those days) Of all the escapades that we all got up to in those days one sticks in my gullet, literally. One day whilst playing in the Gorse I tripped and fell on a twig which had shaped into a loop - my foot went under I fell and took a lump out of my neck resulting in a trip one Saturday morning to Brighton Hospital. At the time it gave Dad a scare because it was a busy day for him in the shop and I walked in clutching my neck with blood stained handkerchief. I think his first reaction was I'd cut my throat. Nevertheless the hospital stitched it up leaving pieces of wood bark in the wound and I had to make several trips to the hospital to have it dressed.
Whilst living in Founthill Avenue I did my bit for D-Day. With obviously all the secrecy going on about the eminent invasion of France, the whole of the area was flooded with army equipment and as a 12yr old I remember being given a large lump of green gunge by the soldiers and told to slap it into all the cracks of the lorries etc. I could find, and later realised this was the water proofing needed, when they were off loaded on to the beaches.
Well, May 1945 duly arrived and we all celebrated VE day with a big bonfire and fireworks (no restrictions then - I had pockets full off bangers and we would let them off all over the place - they only made a ‘bang’ - quite harmless). It was like having a blind fold taken off, there were still many restrictions although it was nice to be able to switch on a light at night without worrying about the blackout. After some time the mines and barbed wire defences were removed from the beaches and it was a great time when we were all allowed to go down on the beaches again. I had been given a lovely model yacht by the late Stanley Lupino, a well known actor of the time. I would insist on taking this down on the beach without Dad and one day I set the sails incorrectly and a gust of wind sent it seaward. I waded out in the water up to my chest, but had to give up only to see the yatch in all it's glory heading out towards France. With tail between my legs I had to report to Dad that I had lost this lovely yatch - he was not pleased! We were later informed that for the princely sum of £5, a boat from Newhaven could have been hired to recover it.
I soon learnt to swim by falling in the water one day in an attempt to recover a jelly fish - lost my balance and plunged in fully clothed that was another event which didn't go down too well when I got home, soaked right through. But from then on I could swim so it had its compensation.
Again for reasons I was not told, we moved yet again in 1946 to a bungalow in Saltdean Drive named 'Upway' (still there). There were times when it fell to me to organise cricket games among all the local lads and it was always easy to muster 10 or 12 of us to play.
I had my first taste of motorcycling here. We had a friend Peter, who bought a 125cc excelsior and he let me have a spin on it and I got the bug and pestered Mum & Dad to let me have one. Eventually when I reached 16 they capitulated and I bought a 250cc BSA C11 a very modern bike for the day and had great fun, but of course petrol rationing was still on so wasn't able to go too far. I seem to remember I still had this bike when I went in the RAF and used it to go back and forth to Compton Basset in Wiltshire. Later on I acquired a Triumph 350cc twin quite a bit faster and considered a good touring bike.
We still had food rationing and petrol was by coupon and the wait for a new car was two years if you were lucky! It was the dawning of a new consumer revolution with the coming of new technology learnt from the war. People wanted fridges, washing machines, T.V. and a host of material things which helped to take the drudgery out of their lives. By this time I had met and fallen in love with Mum (Gwenda) who lived at Telscombe Cliffs. There was an olde tyme dance evening once a week in the Telscombe Cliffs Hall and I used to go along with Mum and it was there that I first set eyes on Gwenda and eventually plucked up courage to ask her to dance. From then on it was a regular rendezvous and the start of our romance. We seemed insepartable and went for walks and played tennis and shared our group of friends and generally had a good time. At the time she was working for the big department store called 'Hills' of Hove as a corsetiere. In 1949 I started driving lessons with the Hove School of Motoring in a Singer motor car, I can’t remember how many lessons I had, but I was 17 in the January and passed my test on the 5th March, first time. I don’t think it was as difficult to pass as today, because the roads were empty in comparison. I used to badger Dad to lend me his car - it was a 1938 Austin 10 considered quite modern and I thought I was the bees knees taking Gwenda out in it. We had lots of good times visiting Brighton and the dance halls at the Regent (near the clock Tower) and the Aquarium near Palace pier. It cost 11d return from Saltdean to Brighton, that’s the equivalent of 5 new pence and the cost to get into the cinema’s was between 1/9d and 4/6d. There were about a dozen in Brighton and they were all packed out every Saturday. When these cinemas turned out there were hundreds of people wanting to get home and the Southdown Bus Company in those days used to put on extra buses late at night and there were always plenty of crews available.
A customer of Dad’s, a Mr Branford, was the General Manager of Coutts & CO., Royal Bankers, of 440 Strand London WC1. apparently had said that when the time comes and I wanted a job he would be willing to offer me a position with their printing department at 19a Floral Street WC1 right in the heart of the then Covent Garden market. It would mean travelling to and fro to London daily.
As National Service was looming in 1950 they thought perhaps it would be wise to take up this offer with so many young men coming out of the services looking for jobs, so in January 1947 I started work in London, but it was short lived because I was off work for a month with chicken pox, and as it was the worst winter for snow, and for some time I had the time of my life tobogganing. However when the time came to resume work I had to be up at 5.45am to catch the 7.8am train to London Bridge and then on to Charing Cross, and then a hectic dash to reach the firm before 8.30am, to clock in, otherwise one lost an hours pay. I was paid the princely sum of £2 per week when I started rising to £2.10s. by the time I left in 1950. I enjoyed printing and soon learnt about the work and my efforts were recognised by the Manager Mr Millard who lived with his Secretary Peggy, who always dressed quite ‘glam’ and I always got on with her, she would favour me with some of the printing jobs I did. When Mr Millard promoted me and gave me my own offset litho printing press, which was only one of two in the firm, I think Peggy had a little say in the matter! I did see her again in 1976 when she had moved to Peterborough as Mr Millard had died in the 60’s or 70’s. There were about four or five of us young lads in our teens and it was our duty in turn at the end of the day to clear up all the waste paper laying about the various printing rooms and bag it up. We were allowed to start at 4pm and could leave as soon as we finished. It was a hectic time, but if I managed to get done by 4.30pm, could run like hell to Charing Cross Station hop on a train to London Bridge and, if I was lucky just catch the 5 o’clock non stop to Brighton arriving about five to six and home by half past. It was a devil of a rush, but worth it in the summer to get a couple of hours extra in the evenings to go out.
When I look back I wished I had investigated more of my mother and fathers life, before I ever knew them, but sadly missed the opportunity (but have put some notes down against their personal roots file).
As history is recorded all young men of 18 years had to spend time in the Armed Forces and had some small chance of stating their preference and my time came in April 1950 when my call up papers arrived for National Service and having elected the RAF, was lucky to get my choice and duly required on 26th April to make my way to Warrington in Lancashire on route to Padgate which was the reception camp (RTU) for all National Service Airforce recruits. Depending on the luck of the draw one either stayed there to do eight weeks square bashing or was posted to one of several training camps dotted about England. It fell my luck to stay at Padgate for 8 (at the time horrible) weeks! However it was a case of getting pushed in at the deep end with 100 or so similar lads from all walks of life and backgrounds and making the best of it . One had no choice. But it was truly remarkable what a shambling group of recruits could achieve in that 8 weeks. and when the time came to leave in June after 2 months it was quite enlightening to see the result of this period and how smart and proficient we all became at all sorts of tasks.
During the 8 weeks we were allowed one 48 hour and a couple of 36 hour passes. I managed to get home on the 48 and I think I went to Blackpool for one of the 36's. Gwenda wrote to me every day and then in April 1951 we decided to have a mutual parting and did not see each other for about 6 months. I think as a result of bits of information that we gleaned on the ‘grapevine’ she wrote to me asking me if I would like to meet up again. Of course I was dead keen and in October 1951 we arranged to meet at a bus stop on the seafront at Saltdean and rekindle our friendship.
From there I was posted to RAF Compton Bassett in Wiltshire near Calne where I had chosen to take up Teleprinting in the signals 90 Group. (It was here that I met up with a young Jewish lad named John Bloom who was a very enterprising chap. One of his business ideas had the local Coach company on the run because every weekend 'Cards' of Devizes provided coaches on a Saturday afternoon to take the airmen to London on their 36 hour passes, but Bloom caught on to this and together with a contact at his home in Stoke Newington decided to contract cheaper coaches to come from there and take the chaps. He made quite a lot of money in his 13 weeks at Compton Bassett so much so that 'Cards' finished up only running a couple of coaches. John followed me to Bletchley and then managed to get a posting to Bush House in the Aldwych on the grounds that his mother was not well so lost sight of him until 1957 when it was splashed all over the Evening Standard that he had made a 'Million' on importing the first twin tub washing machines which were to become all the rage. He had bought the Rolls Razor Company in Cricklewood Broadway NW2 and called his washing machines ‘Rolls Twin Tub’)
This course was to last 13 weeks and we were taught how to touch type first on old typewriters and then after 2 weeks on Teleprinters. I managed to get up quite a good speed. The regime was more relaxed here and the 'bull' was very much less and we had quite a relaxed time compare with Padgate. We got leave every weekend and I travelled back and forth in either Dad's old Austin 10, which I persuaded him to loan me (which he did without any fuss) or on my 250cc BSA motorcycle. It was over 100 miles and I can recall always leaving Saltdean about 11.30pm and picking up another lad called Robert in Brighton who rode pillion all that way through. the night often arriving about 3am frozen stiff. Fortunately we had no mishaps of any kind and passed through this era into the next which had me off to RAF Bletchley in Bucks, the HQ of 90 Group signals centre. Here we were billeted and bussed daily in Bedford coaches called 'Garrys' to and fro from Bletchley to RAF Stanbridge near Leighton Buzzard in Beds about 10 miles away.
This was the main signal centre for all RAF communications and we transmitted all over the world, including Australia, America, South Africa, Ottawa the Middle East and many hundreds of RAF stations Worldwide.
Initially our service was to be only 18 months but the Korean War started and conscripts had to do an extra 6 months, which didn't go down too well at the time. I managed to reach the exalted rank of L.A.C. (Leading Aircraftman the highest rank for a National serviceman).
It was also here that I met Derek Merison from Harrow and he was courting Margaret. We stayed friends for many years, but in the passing of time have drifted apart, they still live at 38 Abercorn Crescent South Harrow. However April 1952 arrived and on the 26th I was duly demobbed to 'Civvy' Street. At that time it felt as if I had resumed living again after so much rigid routine. but now came the task of obtaining some employment. In the 50's work was quite plentiful and one was able to pick and choose. As I had some contact with a local Policeman (not in his official capacity I might add!) he encouraged me to have a go, dangling the security carrot as an enticement. I applied to Brighton Borough Force as it was then known, but they had no vacancy, so I tried the Metropolitan in London and was duly asked to attend for interview held at Beak Street in the middle of Soho. This culminated in a series of educational tests and a medical and in due course I was notified that my application had been successful and that I was to report to Peel House in Regency street Victoria on the 30th June 1952 at 9am. So out of one uniform into another and back to rigid routine of discipline etc. which I had been longing to free myself from for the past 2 years!! Again depending on the time of the day one reported determined whether you stayed at Peel House or went to Hendon. I stayed at Peel house for the next 13 weeks and put through what was a demanding course on every aspect of Policing and never had a minute to oneself although did manage to get home to Saltdean to see Gwenda at the weekends. In due course I was enrolled as a Constable to keep the Queen's peace and my warrant no was 138093. I passed out from Peel House in October '52 and was posted to Paddington Green Police Station ( later to feature in the film 'The Blue Lamp' starring Dick Bogarde and Jack Warner) I was billeted at 'Elliott House' off Crawford Place W.C.2. (room 11) and given the number 284'D'. There were many memorable moments during my time at the Green and I spent four enjoyable years there. Here I was, a virtual ‘green’ member of society, but soon learnt about London life and the vagaries of the human species. It was a daily round of Court attendances dealing with drunks, thieves, prostitutes, murderers, barrow boys and sorting out the failing lives of the populace. The motto that “Dull it isn’t” rang very true. One did not know from one minute to the next what was in store and this made it full of interest and I suppose excitement for a young man! Night duty was a non stop 8 hours of activity clearing the streets of the flotsam and jetsam of the nation.
Gwenda and I decided we would like to spend our lives together and on the 4th April 1953 we married at Telscombe Village church and the reception was held at the Castle Hotel, South Coast Road, Peacehaven, with about 40/50 guests. We had a lovely day and I had hired a Vauxhall Velox 18 hp saloon for us to set off on our honeymoon. We motored to the New Forest near Lyndhurst where we had our first married meal of egg/sausage/chips. We continued on to Christchurch
nr. Bournemouth for our first night and finished up next morning shaking all the confetti out of the bed. Next day we drove to Torquay for the 2nd night and then on again down to Lands End where we stayed in the hotel at Sennens Cove. It was lovely weather and we strolled along miles of golden sands with not a sole in sight. Next, we were off to Newquay and then stopping overnight at Ilfracombe.
By this time it was Thursday and decided to make our way back to the to a room at 10 Porchester Square Paddington, which, before we were married had been occupied by a couple of drunks to whom I had been called, the owner wanted them ejected. I said to him I was looking for accommodation and he was delighted to have a policeman living in the building, so on our return, had to set to and give it a thorough clean! The rent was the princely sum of £2.17s 6d per week(£2.85p). It was on the first floor and had a balcony overlooking the gardens at the rear. We had to share a communal loo and wash room and only had a small portable oven in our bedsit. Not much of a homecoming for a newly married couple, but at least it was a start - accommodation being hard to find in those days. We stayed there, I think for a couple of months until Gwenda happened to see an advert for a basement flat to let at 9 Westbourne Terrace Road, still in Paddington known in that part as Little Venice, because it bordered the Grand Union Canal. It was self contained and consisted of a bedroom, lounge, minute kitchen, bathroom, with an old fashioned gas geyser for hot water and outside loo under the pavement. (That was a bit primitive especially in the winter).
Vivienne Linda was conceived here and was born in St Mary's Hospital Praed Street on 9th April 1954).
We bought a little Austin Seven (PN 7506) for £40 and travelled back and forth to Peacehaven loaded to the gunwales to visit Granny Poole and sisters. It was a nightmare in the wet, especially on wooden block roads that abounded in those days and what with the tramlines it was like a toboggan on wheels! That was eventually exchanged for a £100 Ford 8hp (CXD 89), which served us well. It had no heater so in winter I used to put a paraffin lamp behind the front seats to keep us warm on our journeys to Brighton!! The flat was leasehold and the freeholders were the then Church Commissioners who owned a lot of property In London. They eventually sold out to the London County Council in 1955, so we then became council tenants.
It meant maybe there was the chance of a transfer to another area. During these times the Government had a programme of building new towns on the fringes of London, such as Roehampton, Boreham Wood, Welwyn Garden City etc. This having occurred, prompted us to put in for a transfer to one of these estates and having found out that Shenley/Boreham Wood Herts was within the Metropolitan Police District submitted an application to my Superintendent, who put it forward to higher authority.
It was sanctioned and in August 1956, much to our then delight, we were allocated a brand new flat at 210 Thirsk Road, Boreham Wood, Herts. It had two bedrooms and was self contained and felt marvellous after living in the damp conditions in Paddington. I was posted to the little village of Shenley, which had its small Police station dating back to 1839 and a refused charged book, which is a large ledger type book that all stations had. It had only used 25 pages of its thick volume since 1839 and it was fascinating to read. I had to buy a bicycle, because we covered the small town and council estates that were Boredom Wood. (The home of Elstree Film studios) becoming overnight a village bobby from a West End copper. This is where we bought our first TV set for £49 from L.T. Read of St Albans and the owner had a 1934 Standard 10 for sale which I bought.( Can't think what happened to it!).
Prior to leaving Paddington I was turned down for Traffic patrol and became a bit unsettled and started looking around for another job and saw that a company in Liverpool called R.Silcocks & Sons were looking to recruit salesmen to market there products of animal feeds to farmers etc. There was a car with the job, which was thought in those days to be a real perk, so I applied and got an interview at the HOTEL RUSSELL in Russell Square London and was shortlisted down to the directors interview to be held at the Royal Exchange Hotel in Liverpool, but then the Suez war broke out and the company announced that as petrol rationing had been introduced, future salesmen would conduct their business by Vespa scooter. As I didn't relish the idea of riding around East Anglia on a scooter, wrote to the company stating I was no longer interested. With hindsight I should have gone on and our lives would have changed quite dramatically, but it's always easy to be sorry after the event.
I became a real old fashioned village copper with a push bike and cycle clips - far removed from the noise and dirt of Paddington. Life was much slower and we decided that another baby would be lovely and Caroline was born on the 19th December 1957.
Boreham Wood had its own temporary Police Station built in the form of a prefabricated building rather like the present day Park homes and I was posted there and then Shenley converted to just an out station with just a phone and all the area Shenley had covered was transferred to the new station.
However, having moved to the country, I thought I would try again for Traffic Patrol and in due course my application was approved and I went on another selection board and this time I was successful, being transferred to Hendon District Garage as a Traffic patrol on 30th June 1958, which was my ambition and I do not regret this now as it was a marvellous time in my life - full of excitement and never boring. I duly went on Motorcycle and car courses at the world famous Hendon Police Driving School and passed all my courses taking first position in the class and eventually qualified as a Class 1 car and Motorcyclist which is highly respected throughout the World. From this garage we covered an area from Tottenham in the East to Edgware and Bushey in the West and down as far as Maida Vale Paddington. We had a variety of patrols both on cars and Motorcycles. Our cars ranged when I first joined, Wolseley 6/80’s 6/90’s 6/99’s. In 1962 we heard a rumour that we were to get Sports cars and in fact in August there duly arrived a black shiny Daimler SP250 called the ‘Dart’ capable of speeds in excess of 120mph and a Humber Super Snipe estate car which was specially equipped for dealing with major accidents. We all got a posting to these cars and in my time had many exhilarating rides. Our area covered from Maida Vale W2 to borders of Hertfordshire Nr. Watford to way over to the East towards Tottenham and up to Cheshunt in the North. We had a month at a time in all these areas and alternated with motorcycle postings and spells on the nondescript car which was used for detecting all manner of offences. We covered the court areas of Hendon, Highgate, Tottenham, Barnet, Watford, Harrow, Marylebone, North London, Enfield, Ealing, Uxbridge, West London and Willesden and that kept us all very busy. There were times when VIP’s had to be escorted including the Queen and Princess Margaret.
Our garage which was one of 8, was the busiest in London for escorting large loads consisting of weights up to 200 tons, which came from the Midlands and the North of England to be taken to every part of the South of England and the docks, in all weathers, some warm and others freezing!
Many times we travelled right across London through the night sometimes being soaked to the skin.
In 1958 we managed to buy a 3 bedroomed semi-detached house at 56 Lamorna Grove Stanmore for the princely sum of £2550. This was much nearer for Hendon and stayed there until 1963 selling it for £4500. Whilst here I bought an old Ford prefect from an auction at the Alexandra Palace at Muswell Hill for £90 and then a Morris minor, and at one time motored all the way to Loddiswell in Devon whereupon Caroline caught chickenpox. I think this was about 1961/62.
In 1963 we bought 8 Weald Rise Harrow Weald for £4850 and this was where Nigel was born on 4th October 1966. In 1965 a new division was formed called ‘Q’ and as a result about half the garage at Hendon was transferred to Wembley to form a new unit named ‘TDQ’ My number changed from 337’S’ to 173’Q’ and this is where I met Bob Marshall, Tony Head, Brian Laundy, Mini Cooper and many other good friends. Bob and I formed a very successful partnership, generally being posted together and the was the start of a very interesting and varied time dealing with all manor of incidents which never ceased to bore us. The cars we used in those days were Wolseley 6/90’s & 110’s, Austin A110’s, Jaguar 3.8 ‘S’, Daimler ‘Dart’ SP250, Triumph ‘Tigers’ (4.7 litres) Rover 3500, Humber super snipes estates, and of course a selection of Triumph motorcycles.
Once again I changed my car to an Austin Somerset, about a 1962 model I think. Kept this for a couple of years and in 1965 changed again to an 1960 Austin A55 Cambridge (65 YMC) for £365. I kept this car until 1970 when I bought a 1966 Ford Corsair. Then in 1973 changed this for a 1970 Renault 16 TS (CPE 1H).
In 1968 I bought a marine ply motor launch and named it ‘VICAN’ after the three children. We used to tow it down to the Thames and on one occasion down to nr Chichester. But on its first outing to Marlowe on the Thames it came off the supporting bilge rollers on the trailer and punctured the flooring which resulted in an abortive first outing. We did manage to have several outings with it on the Thames, but unfortunately my ‘crew’ mutineed and in due course it was sold! However in 1972 we entered the world of caravanning and bought a brand new Europa 390 in which everyone felt safer. Apart from local trips in the UK we planned a trip in 1973 to travel overland to the Cote D’Azur with Bob & Mavis and Tony & Barbara. We set off for Dover Tony picking up a hired caravan from Townsend ferries. We had quite an interesting journey through France and duly arrived at Port Grimaud nr St. Tropez where we stayed for about a fortnight.