History in Kent => Life Writing => Topic started by: peterchall on January 24, 2014, 08:38:54

Title: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 24, 2014, 08:38:54
Much of my story has been on KHF already, so I propose to give only an outline here (until I get carried away, that is!), but am happy to enlarge on anything I’m asked to, especially if it helps the youngies to get the feel of what life was like for we oldies in the ‘good old days’ when we were youngies.

I was born on 25/6/1929 at my Maternal Grandparents’ home at 88 Queen Street, Rochester. My father was a Sergeant in the Queen’s Own  Royal West Kent Regiment and my parents lived in Married Quarters (MQs) at Maidstone Barracks. My mother had been a domestic servant (the occupation of a vast number of working class girls in the early 20th century) for a family by the name of Sullivan in a big house on Maidstone Road, Rochester. I have no idea what the Sullivans did, only that my Grandmother also worked part time for them until somewhere about the mid-30s. My Grandfather was a machinist in the Dockyard. To complete the picture of my mother’s side of the family, she had an older brother who started working life as a Dockyard Apprentice but I first knew him as the Police Sergeant at Eccles – he had 2 daughters, one about 5 years older than me and one a few months younger. Mum’s younger brother was only 9 years older than me and so was still at school when I first remember him. He became a plumber and eventually became Clerk of Works at the army Barracks in Gutersloh, Germany in the 1960s and later Clerk of Works at the RAF base at Lyneham, Wilts. Because of the small age difference, we were more like brothers than uncle and nephew. He had a daughter who in turn has a son who works at the head office of my youngest daughter’s firm, thus they have met via company meetings without, at first, realising they are related – small world!

All I really know about my Paternal Grandparents is that my Grandfather was landlord of the Man of Kent pub in John Street, Rochester. Dad’s older brother had 3 boys who I used to associate with loosely as kids, and he also had a sister who I never met.

My father is the soldier at the front:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/ManofKent004.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/ManofKent004.jpg.html)

In early 1930 Dad’s Battalion – 2nd Btln RWK – moved to Guernsey and we had MQs in Castle Cornet, St Peter Port. The MQs were the block at the left in this photo – I only wish I could remember it!
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/IMG_20241.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/IMG_20241.jpg.html)

I’m the one on the seat:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/img117.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/img117.jpg.html)

Then in 1932 it was to Napier Square, Blenheim Barracks, Aldershot.
Napier Square:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/img153.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/img153.jpg.html)
Note the communal washing lines – out of sight is the communal laundry block.

Unlike Maidstone or Canterbury, which were towns with a barracks, Aldershot was a lot of barracks with a town attached - it still calls itself “The Home of the British Army”
This kind of thing was a common sight:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/img120.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/img120.jpg.html)
My dad is 4th from the back in the near column.

It was from then that I have my earliest memories.

The Kitchener stove in the living room, on which Mum did all the cooking, summer and winter - ours had the fire on the left:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/img152.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/img152.jpg.html)

Our dog Bonzo, who got run over – the first tragic event of my life that I remember:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/Bonzo.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/Bonzo.png.html)

 Some Random Memories
•   There was the regimental band, with its white Billy Goat mascot in his brightly coloured coat, headed by the Drum Major.
•   The annual Aldershot Military Tattoo.
•   Getting milk from a horse drawn 2-wheeled milk float, served from open churns into your own jug that you took out to the milk-float.
•   A pair of runaway army horses dragging the wreckage of some sort of wagon down Queen’s Avenue.
•   I think it was there that we had our first radio, although since in those days they needed a long outdoor aerial and we had a ground floor ‘flat’ with no garden, I’m not sure how it could have been arranged.
•   Going to see the Battalion off for its annual camp and getting upset because dad, in the Regimental Cycle Platoon, was looking the other way as he went past, so didn’t see me waving.
•   Picnics on The Common overlooking Farnborough airfield and the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

I started school in September 1934 at a civilian school in Farnborough, so perhaps the army schools were full. But I don’t remember much about it because before the end of the year the Battalion moved to Shornecliffe, Kent.

And so we found ourselves in Shornecliffe camp, in a MQ identical to this:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/ShornecliffeMQs.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/ShornecliffeMQs.jpg.html)
We had a top floor quarter overlooking the channel and could see the Goodwin Sands lightship (North or South Goodwins?)

I went to the army school in the barracks and the teachers were Queen’s Army Schoolmistresses, employed by the army and not the LEA. For some lessons at least, we wrote with chalk on slates, and heating was by pot-bellied stove in the middle of the classroom. I was taken to/from school by an older girl and on the way home one day jumped up and down in a puddle and got wet though. When I told my mother that I’d fallen in the puddle the girl told her what had really happened and I got an ear wigging for telling lies – rotten ***.

There was a scare when Germany sent troops into the Rhineland (the area between the Rhine and the German border with Holland and Belgium) and the Battalion was put on some sort of alert to do something about it – but nothing happened, the German troops stayed put and WW2 came one small step closer.

Dad was getting towards the end of his army service and I have a memory of him having been away for the day on a job interview and coming back to say he hadn’t got the job. It was a time of high unemployment and, even as a 6-year old, I could sense my parents’ worries in that respect.

For some reason I have a clear memory of a discussion with my parents about the year 2000. When it was worked out that I would be 71 in that year there was a general acceptance that I would not see it – thus has our expectation of life increased since then.

The whole of my parents’ married life had been spent in fully furnished MQs, and Dad commuted part of his pension to get a lump sum to buy furniture. I remember going shopping for almost everything from cutlery upwards, and I still have a book-case and a gate-leg table that I inherited from that shopping spree.

And so, after 20 years service, Dad left the army in April 1935 to face the uncertainties of civvy life.

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on January 24, 2014, 08:52:45
Thank you Peterchall.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: oobydooby on January 24, 2014, 09:08:22
Thanks, a good read, and you're so fortunate to have some photographs to illustrate your story.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Paolo on January 24, 2014, 09:29:03
Fascinating stuff, PC, especially with the supporting pics. 

The lightship visible from Shorncliffe would have been the Varne.  In days gone by the Mayor of Folkestone would visit the vessel at Christmas laden with goodies from the townspeople.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 24, 2014, 12:32:37
I pity that poor horse in the photo of the outing. I wonder where it was going - probably no further than the Strand.

A sign of the times, and still much the same in my early days, is that everyone going on the outing was a man. All the women were probably indoors making the sandwiches.


Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Paul on January 24, 2014, 13:06:54
:)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 24, 2014, 13:48:25
A great start PC. Thanks for sharing.

We had a stove exactly like that one, in Blue Town, the only time it went out was for my mother to blacklead it and brasso the brass label and handle!

My eldest granddaughter was born in Aldershot, her dad (my son) was in the RAF but on detachment there with the Paras.

Loved the photographs, they certainly bring things to life
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 24, 2014, 16:36:13
Ah, the blackleading of the stove - as far as I remember it was always immaculate, even when alight - perhaps a bit of ash round the grate, but no more!

Also memories of mum heating the iron - like the one in the photo - on the stove, and spitting on it to check if it was the right temperature. Nothing as posh as an ironing board, just a folded blanket on the table.

I'm sure the stove was the only means of heating and must have been kept alight night and day throughout the year - dad liked his cup of cha too much for it to have been allowed to go out. We did have another room with a sink and dresser etc that we called the scullery but I'm sure there was no gas stove there - actually the lavatory opened directly off that room!

Talking of cha, after 7 years in India such words were a natural part of dad's language. Burgoo = porridge, budgee = time (it was always "what's the budgee?" to dad), dhobi = laundry, wallah = person (hence 'cha wallah' and 'dhobi wallah'), bundook = rifle.

Regarding gas stoves, I spent much of my childhood in MQs or other government premises - as will be revealed later - and they always had that luxury that was uncommon in working class civvy houses - electricity. I don't know if it applied to all of them, but our bungalow in Chatham Gun Wharf  was 110 volts DC, presumably supplied from the Dockyard. (Sorry if I'm getting out of sequence, but I mention it while I think of it)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Bryn Clinch on January 24, 2014, 16:56:18
That brought back some memories! Gas Mantles, the kitchen range, the flat irons, the blanket on the table and the scullery, walls `running` with condensation on Mondays and ten times worse when Mum steamed the Christmas pudding. Did you have a copper in the corner and a copper stick to hoist out the washing? Then came the mangling, etc..........
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 24, 2014, 17:13:09
That's it, the fizz of the spit on the flat irons, a wipe on a bit of cloth in case there was ash....and then the kitchen table.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on January 24, 2014, 17:28:39
Your post has blown away a few cobwebs here  :) The kitchen range, Mum heating the iron and the spit and hiss ! we did have an ironing board ( Dad made it, complete with asbestos pad to stand the iron on !) and was in use many years later when it passed to me on my marriage  :) The scullery, the mangle in the back yard , the tin bath hanging above it on a nail. I can even remember we had a rexene and velvet sofa in the usual brown colour . How it fitted in that small room with the range I have no idea. Gas mantles too . We did have a front room but it was never ever used ? as far as I can recall anyway.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: afsrochester on January 24, 2014, 19:27:10
Thank you PC! Most enjoyable! :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on January 24, 2014, 20:24:11
Great PC have only just had time to read this.  Very interesting. :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 24, 2014, 21:15:03
 :) :)
First to clarify the Napier Square photo. I got it during a visit to the Army Museum at Aldershot and it is of the opposite side of the square to where I lived and was taken during demolition. I have a recollection that the laundry block was in the middle of the square, so may have been demolished. But I don’t remember what it was like inside – I probably never went in it, laundry being a communal affair I was probably ‘baby-sat' while it was done. But I do remember the communal clothes lines supported by forked wooden props, probably kept in the laundry block.

I don’t remember much about the MQ at Shornecliffe but, like Aldershot, it had no outside space. The block at Aldershot backed directly on to Queen’s Avenue, the main road between Aldershot and Farnborough, and the one at Shornecliffe backed directly on to one of the barrack roads – there were no back doors.

Regarding coppers, there was a coal-fired like attachment 1 one in my grandparents’ kitchen at Queen Street and we had a gas-fired one like attachment 2 almost everywhere I lived after dad left the army until about 1960. My mother still had one in her flat on Corporation Street, Rochester, when she died in 1971:

Another memory is of my mother using curling tongs on her own hair. She heated them on the gas and tested them on a piece of paper. I think if they scorched it to a light brown they were at the right temperature. How she never got burns on her scalp, neck or ears , or didn’t set her hair alight, I’ll never know!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: smiler on January 25, 2014, 07:25:03
Very good pc and I can still smell my mums hair singeing when using her tongs
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 26, 2014, 11:02:29
Part 2

So in April 1935 it was to a rented house at 54 Longley Road, Rochester, a 2 up/2 + kitchen down terraced property and for the first time in my life we had a garden:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/PC.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/PC.png.html)

 The downside was we had no electricity. Lighting was by gas lamp hanging from the middle of the ceiling – in my grandparents’ house the gas lamps were on the wall above the fireplace. The gentle hiss from them tended to make us dozy of an evening! Gas was also used for the street lights, which were turned on each evening and off each morning by the Lamplighter on his round.

Never one for street activity, most leisure time was spent at a friends house and he at mine – Bob Hazelton. It was about then that I learnt of Dad’s attitude to war, when Bob and I were playing rather enthusiastically at soldiers – “If you knew what it was like, you wouldn’t play at it” we were told. He saw his role as a soldier to be to prevent wars rather than fight them.

The main interaction with other boys at school was via exchange of cigarettes cards by various means – it was from them that I learnt that a Rolls-Royce car cost £1000. The only mixed sex activity that I can remember is that we all played chase together in the school playground. It was also then that the inviolable Saturday afternoons at the pictures with mum began and went on until well after the war – I eventually had to gently mention to mum that I would prefer to go out with my mates on Saturday afternoons.

Favourite comic was Mickey Mouse Weekly. I took a great interest in the competition which was going on at the time between the LMS and LNER for the fastest times from London to Scotland but, while a certain KHF member will find this hard to understand, I never wanted to be an engine driver; Prince Bira of Siam was at the height of his career as a racing driver, so I did want to emulate him; Sir Malcolm Campbell was breaking land speed records; there was fierce competition for the Blue Riband – the prize for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by sea; aircraft were developing rapidly, although they were rare enough for us to go outside to look, if we heard one. It was a great time for a boy interested in technical stuff.

A regular outing during school holidays was a boat trip from Sun Pier to Upnor, or a Sunday afternoon walk to Upnor for a pint in the pub (for Dad that is – it was a stout for Mum and lemonade for me), then the bus home. Another popular outing was the bus to the Strand. Holidays away from home were never even thought of – apart from the cost, it was not until 1938 that one week’s paid holiday per year became a statutory right for hourly paid workers. Any time away from home was usually spent visiting relatives. Dad and my maternal grandad used to go out each Friday evening with 1/- (5p) each, enough to buy a couple of pints each (Dad always advised me to carry a penknife, a piece of string and 4d. The 4d was for a pint of beer, but I’ve no idea what the knife and string were for)

We had a cat until mum, having been putting up some curtains, trod on its head when getting down off the chair she’d been standing on – another of those experiences which taught me that life was not always pleasant!

In those days it seemed that the remedy for dental problems was to have all your teeth out to be replaced by dentures – another unpleasant memory is of dad going through the process. Mum and both my grandparents had ‘full-sets’ but I don’t remember them getting them, only the ritual of taking them out to put in a glass of water each night. Another more-or-less routine op was for kids to have their tonsils and adenoids removed, and I was ‘done’ at St Bart’s Hospital. I had the usual childhood illnesses of mumps, measles and chicken-pox, but escaped whooping-cough and scarlet fever, all accepted as the norm.

There was no NHS and, unless one belonged to a Friendly Society, medical treatment had to be paid for (or overlooked to some extent by many GPs, in the case of poorer families). There were many Friendly Societies which, in return for subscriptions, paid for medical treatment up to a degree – my family belonged to the ‘Oddfellows’ (No comments, please :)); a bit out of sequence here but I recall the later experience of being ‘sworn in’ at a certain age and undertaking obligations long forgotten. Hospital treatment was paid for by putting money into a ‘Hospital Box’ which was emptied at intervals by someone from the hospital – St Barts in our case, so presumably available only at that hospital. I believe each case was ‘means tested’ by the hospital Bursar, who decided how much the patient could afford. My younger uncle was seriously ill with appendicitis and in hospital for several weeks - my grandparents weren’t rich but didn’t end up in the poor house, so it was paid for somehow.

There was a 999 call system, but very few working class homes had phones and call boxes were few and far between, so calling the emergency services wasn’t easy and the first resort was often the local doctor. In the case of my uncle mentioned above, he collapsed at home one morning after having been in pain all night; and my grandfather walked to the doctors and asked her to call, which she did after her morning surgery and diagnosed acute appendicitis. I don’t know how my uncle got into hospital – whether by ambulance or if she took him in her car – but it was an immediate operation and he was placed on the ‘Danger List’ for some time. Being on the Danger List meant you could receive daily visits, whereas normally visiting was Wednesday and Sunday afternoons only. The doctor concerned was Dr Anne Duigood (aptly pronounced ‘Do Good’), known to us as ‘Dr Anne’ to distinguish her from brother ‘Dr William’, and they had no appointment system – you just arrived and took your turn. They dispensed most of their own medicines, which were put on a shelf in the waiting room for collection – probably little more than coloured water anyway! A common question of hers when mum took me to her, or she visited, was “How are his bells?” – mum had to explain to me that she was asking about my bowels!

I went to Troy Town School:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/TroyTownSchool.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/TroyTownSchool.jpg.html)

The Infants, or whatever it was called in those days, was on the ground floor and the headmistress was a Miss Webb. One memory of my class teacher is that you got a rap over the knuckles with a rule if you got ink blots on your work, but the main one is of starting the day by chanting our times tables right through from “two times two is four” to “twelve times twelve is a hundred and forty four” and I have found that to have been useful all my life. The ‘Big School’ was on the upper floors, with boys and girls separated, and for some reason I dreaded going there.

Whether he got the job before or after leaving the army, I can’t remember, but dad’s first civvy job was as a cashier for the Chatham and District Traction Co, in their Military Road office, receiving cash from the bus conductors. Soon after, he was ‘promoted’ to conductor on the buses themselves.

http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=5113.0

It obviously entailed shift work with its mix of advantages and disadvantages, but an aspect that I don’t think would be acceptable today was the ‘split-shift’, entailing operating a bus during the morning peak for a few hours, then having to go back for a few hours for the afternoon peak. All peak hour extras for C&D were to/from the Dockyard. It was then that I learned that, as well as being birds, ‘sparrows’ were fares taken as passengers got off a crowded bus before tickets could be issued for them, hence no record of the cash taken – I wonder what happened to that?

Then dad got a job as labourer in Chatham Gun Wharf, an RAOC clothing depot, so was again in his ‘comfort zone’, working for the army if not actually in it, and his job became secure when he was ‘Established’ after a few months.

I think there was more interest in politics than there is today, and my mother’s family was staunch Labour. Dad, as befitted a soldier whose duty was to ‘do or die’, was apolitical. As a kid I knew little more than that my mum would like to do nasty things to certain Tory politicians, and that there had been fights in Chatham High Street between Communists and members of the British Union of Fascists. My younger uncle belonged to the Labour Party League of Youth, so I knew that MUST be the party to support..

The wider world was in some turmoil at the time – the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, the Japanese invasion of China, the Spanish Civil War (I remember newsreel reports of Spanish refugees arriving at Southampton); Germany under the Nazis was flexing her muscles and thoughts of possible war began to arise. Mum’s idea was to lock all the politicians in a room and let them fight it out among themselves.

Other more memorable events were the Silver Jubilee of King George V’s reign, his death and funeral, the abdication of Edward VII, and the Coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth, an unprecedented flurry of top level activity in just two years. For we school-kids, the Jubilee and Coronation were exciting because they meant school holidays and parties. There was no TV to watch it on, but we probably listened to it all on the ‘wireless’ (as it was called then) and certainly saw it on cinema newsreels. I still have the book ‘The King’s Grace’, given to us at the Jubilee and from which I learned much about what was then called ‘The Great War’.

Then in late 1937/early 1938 came another change of address when Dad was offered, or applied for and got, the job of Resident Foreman at Sheerness Gun Wharf.

To be continued……
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on January 26, 2014, 11:19:25
I fully appreciate the desire not to be on a noisy footplate doing the ton on one of the mighty LMS or LNER Pacifics. I would like to have emulated the great Prince as well. I really do get 'it' Peterchall and you lived through an amazing era of transport developement, on that with the beauty of hindsight I envy....

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 26, 2014, 13:06:26
I recognise so much of this as if it were a few years ago, PC. 
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on January 26, 2014, 16:51:20
Another interesting read PC.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: JohnWalker on January 26, 2014, 17:21:53
Good stuff PC - really enjoying the read.  Although I grew up later, from the late 40's, many of your memories of home life have a parallel with mine.  I think I was in trouble a lot more than you though.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 26, 2014, 20:04:23
Many thanks for the compliments :)
I don't think I was a particularly good child - perhaps I just didn't get caught :)
But I do remember sometimes developing a severe tummy ache on the way to school, usually on a Monday morning, which  led to mum taking me home again. But that stopped when she realised that the tummy ache miraculously went after the time for school had passed!

It was about then that I was introduced to Dinky Toys and Meccano, and I had (or, more correctly, dad had!) a Hornby model of the SR 'Lord Nelson'. But it had only a few trucks and short lengths of rail that had to be assembled for each time of use and, being clockwork, it was difficult to control and didn't catch-on.

Another memory is of seeing a fire one morning on the way to school. It was in King Street and we were drawn to it by the column of smoke - it wasn't on my usual route to school - because the house was well alight and even the far away Gillingham Fire Brigade attended. Nearly everyone was late for school that morning. I don't suppose AFS Rochester would have any details?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on January 26, 2014, 20:20:29
Ooh a Clockwork Nelson from Hornby..... Awesome, totally awesome....

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 26, 2014, 21:05:35
But you couldn't play trains with it - it was controlled by rods that had to be pushed in/pulled out, sticking out of the back of the cab, one for forward/reverse and one for stop/start - I think -  almost impossible to get hold of once on the move.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on January 26, 2014, 21:09:48
I know the loco PC. I always wondered how these gentlemen who had these vast garden lines between the wars managed with them.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 27, 2014, 12:55:28
More memories of Longley Road days – we haven’t got to Sheerness yet!

Gas was paid for by coin-in-slot meter, so that if the money ran out and the gas was cut off we had to check that everything was re-lit or turned off when more money was put in, especially the cooker and any gas fires..

Weekly pay was in cash and mum had a box about a foot square by 2” deep, with about a dozen compartments for ‘Rent’, ‘Groceries’, ‘Milk’, etc. into which dad’s pay was religiously divided up each week. Dad’s and grandad’s Friday evenings out might have been to get a tame publican to split the notes into coins for the purpose. Not that there would have been many notes – dad’s pay as a bus conductor would have been about £2/week and grandad’s, a skilled machinist, probably a bit more. The money might have been swapped from one compartment of the box to another as necessary for minor adjustments, but one thing was for sure – the total had to do for the week.

I think Hire Purchase was a recent innovation, but probably not available to working class families – ironically, you had to have some money in order to borrow. Falling into debt was to be avoided, and if my parents wanted anything big they saved-up for it. Saving (‘putting something away for a rainy day’ was the expression) was by Post Office Savings Account, by which money could be deposited and withdrawn at any post office. Saving for Christmas was by joining a Tontine Club which many, if not all, pubs ran.

I can’t remember if I got pocket money. Probably not – I was only 8 and-a-bit when we moved to Sheerness, so as far as I went on my own was round the corner to Bob Hazelton’s house, or along to the Morden Arms to get a packet of fags for grandad from his home in Queen Street; and I actually got served!

Which evokes another memory – getting beer in an open jug from the pub off-licence (not me personally, but my parents), and peas-pudding and faggots in my grandparent’s house, bought from the shop almost opposite.

Perhaps to Sheerness next time….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 27, 2014, 13:23:17
Do you remember the speed that the 'gas-man' counted out the coins after he had opened and emptied the meter? He placed them on the table in columns, and in the end he pushed a few piles back to the customer. My mum pocketed them before my father took them down the 'Waterman's Arms'. (Blue Town)

The Post Office Savings Book (POSB), was issued to each RAF bod, when I joined-up. There was no choice, they automatically took 10 bob out of your pay and put it in the account. Each pay day there was a queue of Airmen outside the post office to collect two brown envelopes. You put the book and the SAE in the larger envelope and off it went to Gloucester for the book to be brought up to date. A week later, when the books came back, there was a queue outside the post office to draw the 10 bob out.

A few prudent guys didn't draw it out. These were considered to be mean 'POSB gits.'  Although the title vanished over time.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: grandarog on January 27, 2014, 15:37:14
Well you learn something every day on here.We never had the Post Office books. Our RAF apprentice pay was docked and the lump sum was dished out at a special Pay Parade prior to going on leave. The phrase POSBy Gitt. was still in use during my time but I had never realised how or why it had orriginated. Thanks John38 .Thats a few more memory cells in the old brain loaded up. :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 27, 2014, 17:26:31
Do you remember the speed that the 'gas-man' counted out the coins after he had opened and emptied the meter? He placed them on the table in columns, and in the end he pushed a few piles back to the customer. My mum pocketed them before my father took them down the 'Waterman's Arms'. (Blue Town)
I certainly remember getting some of the coins back, presumably an amount depending how much was in the meter. I think mum used to put them straight back in the meter. But I can't remember their denomination. Was it just a penny, bearing in mind that this stage in my story is 1935-37?

But I don't remember any connection with the POSB in the RAF (1950-52).

Other memories of those years are of the annual Navy Week, and Short Brothers works. In the latter case you could walk along the river front right past the factory and, if lucky, see one of the flying boats being put into or taken out of the water - it was the time of the building of the Empire Flying Boats.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on January 27, 2014, 17:47:51

I certainly remember getting some of the coins back, presumably an amount depending how much was in the meter. I think mum used to put them straight back in the meter. But I can't remember their denomination. Was it just a penny, bearing in mind that this stage in my story is 1935-37?

Our gas meter was still taking pennies in the 1950s, PC. Always a shilling's worth ready on the top of the meter, with a penny 'up the spout' for instant use if the gas began to die.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 27, 2014, 19:23:37
You could tell my father was a skilled engineer by the way he could remove the lead seal from its wire on the gas meter, he took out enough coins for the pub and was gone. I have an idea he could wind the meters dials back, but that might be my imagination.

Yes I only remember pennies.

I was amazed in later years to find that the POSB era was short lived. But interesting to know that grandarog remembers the term :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: JohnWalker on January 28, 2014, 11:16:58
Your mention of gas meters has brought back memories of my Nan's house.  Her meter was in the hall by the front door.  There were large gaps between the floorboards and over the years a number of coins had dropped through them. Every visit to my Nan's house would find my sister and I trying to devise ways of retrieving the coins.  We tried all sorts including bent bits of wire from the garden.  We never did manage to get any through the gap but it kept us amused while the adults were in 'whisper' mode about something or other.  Children weren't included in 'grown up' conversation in those days.
JW
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 28, 2014, 11:31:02
''Children should be seen and not heard' is a phrase that comes to mind.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: GP on January 28, 2014, 12:37:23
Thanks PC. I like the way you have set out your story, with paragraphs and spacing. It makes it much easier to read, than large blocks of text.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: JohnWalker on January 28, 2014, 13:31:32
''Children should be seen and not heard' is a phrase that comes to mind.

Spot on peterchall  :)

I use to find it quite unsettling when adults went into that secretive whisper mode.  It always seemed like something unpleasant was about to happen - or I was in trouble - yet again!
JW
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: oobydooby on January 28, 2014, 13:35:59
With you on that JohnW, except in my case I think it was more other adults whispering about mum and another scandal.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 28, 2014, 16:14:12
Part 3

And so to Sheerness Gun Wharf 1937-38.

First to set the scene.
The dividing wall with the Dockyard runs up and left from the bottom-right corner of the photo. Our bungalow is ringed at bottom-right.  Garrison Point Fort is at the top and the ‘dock’ at the left is the ‘Camber’ The building at the right, marked with a ‘X’, has a special significance.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/SheernessGunWharf4.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/SheernessGunWharf4.png.html)

This oblique photo shows the site more clearly, but our bungalow is barely visible, or is not there.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/Sheerness0031.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/Sheerness0031.jpg.html)

The far end of the large L-shaped building is behind my Grandmother in this photo, and the near end of it is on the left.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/SheernessGunWharf1002-1.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/SheernessGunWharf1002-1.jpg.html)

The building with special significance is on the right in this photo.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/SheernessGunWharf1003-1.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/SheernessGunWharf1003-1.jpg.html)

So what was its significance?  In October 2009 there was an item on local TV about scorpions in Sheerness Docks which gave the impression that they were a new discovery, whereas I knew there were scorpions in those buildings when I lived there. I surfed for information about how to put them right and came across KHF. There were questions being asked about Chatham Gun Wharf to which I had some answers, so I registered. Those scorpions have got a lot to answer for – it’s their fault I joined KHF.

That L-shaped building was full of trench making material – duck-boards, props, sand-bags, etc – all ready to re-fight WW1. It also contained dad’s office in which was a TELEPHONE with a little generator which had to be wound by hand to call the operator, but since the only other person we knew with a telephone was my policeman uncle at Eccles, its private use to us was rather limited. Because he was the only WD employee it was more accurate to call dad the ‘Resident Caretaker’ than the ‘Resident Foreman’.

However he did have work to do because kept in the Camber were:
•   A steam tug used as a ferry to Port Victoria and to tow targets for the guns on the fort.
•   A Customs launch, taking Customs Officers out to search ships.
•   A couple of RAF Range Safety Launches, for the bombing and gunnery ranges associated with Eastchurch RAF station
•   A Pilot Cutter for Medway and Swale Pilots
•   For some of the time, a private cabin cruiser belonging to an Air Commodore (Probably some sort of fiddle)

The building next to the fort – behind my grandmother and the resident moggie in the photos - was used partly as a billet for the crews of the RAF launches and partly as some sort of workshop, probably for the garrison Works Department. There was a lathe in there and dad got someone to make something for him. I can’t remember what it was but it was heavy and dad dropped it on his toe and was working in one shoe and one slipper for a few days – since it was a ‘rabbit’ job I suppose the purists would say it was due justice!

The bungalow end of the building on the right contained a laundry room with a brick-built, coal-fired copper – like the one in Queen Street, illustrated in an earlier post - and a sink. The scorpions lived in the back wall of that and part of the rest of the building and, possibly because they lived mostly in the dark and ran for the nearest crack in the wall when the light was put on, they were white.

The bungalow had those luxuries that we had enjoyed in army MQs and missed in Longley Road – electricity and an indoor toilet, but we were once again without a garden. On the other hand we did have the whole of the Gun Wharf to ourselves, plus access to the beach round the fort, and it was in complete safety that I learnt to ride a bike.

I went to the primary school on The Broadway, somewhere near the church, and for part of the time I was allowed to walk to/from school alone – I could walk along the sea front all the way from the school to some steps that came down into Garrison Road near the fort. At other times dad took me to/from school on his bike – we had an altercation with a copper one day who stopped us and said it was illegal to carry me on the crossbar of the bike, until dad showed him I was sitting on a properly fitted saddle; the thoughts of me sitting directly astride that crossbar make me wince! But there was a close call one day when the Colonel i/c the Garrison visited when dad had only just got back from the school-run. For a while I got a lift to school with the milkman on his horse drawn float on the way back to the dairy, but the horse would never hurry and I was often late, so had to give that up.

There was an Officers’ Mess across the road from the Gun Wharf, near the fort, but whether army or navy, I can’t say; but if they had a ‘do’ on the Gun Wharf became a car park and it was then that I first saw posh ladies in long ball gowns. Dad’s ‘civvy’ rank entitled him to use the nearby NCO’s mess, which became our ‘local’. But again I can’t remember if it was army Sergeants’ Mess or navy Petty Officers’ Mess. There was a small naval barracks along Garrison Road (HMS Wildfire), but I don’t remember what army units were stationed there, or even an army barracks – could they have been combined messes?

There was a floating dock just off the dockyard that could take ships as large as a destroyer, if not larger. The largest ships that could get up river past Sheerness were cruisers, but I remember at least one visit of a battleship that moored in the river for several days, and the ceremony when it sailed – crew lined up along the rails, band on the after deck, etc – I think it was HMS Resolution. There was a RN destroyer in trouble somewhere – I think it had run aground and was either lost or in danger of being lost – we had a special service in school assembly and I first head the hymn “For those in peril on the sea”.

Incoming ships requiring Customs examination would blow Morse ‘C’ (long-short-long-short) on their sirens, and those requiring a Pilot would blow Morse ‘G’ (long-long-short, but why ‘G’ and not ‘P’?), whereupon the Pilot Cutter would take the Duty Pilot out to it, which leads us to the story of the most enjoyable part of my childhood.

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 28, 2014, 19:24:30
This is really interesting at a number of levels, PC. Primarily, it is a good and interesting read, but additionally:

My father worked on the Gun Wharf (circa mid 50s) as a civvy engine fitter working with the REME who had launches there (no sign of the RAF).
I spent quite a while in the Boathouse which looked out across the small basin shared with the Gun Wharf, albeit still inaccessible from the Dockyard.

I remember the Pilot's cutters going and the Red and White pilot flag.

Really looking forward to next bit :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 28, 2014, 20:37:42
The REME launches are interesting - I wonder if they were the equivalent of the steam tug. The REME didn't exist then, of course - my dad, and probably the tug, worked for the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC). The RAF had left Eastchurch by 1950.

I'm trying to find a photo of a boat similar to the pre-war pilot cutter, but not much luck. But I bet when I describe it you'll find not much resemblance to the 1950's version. We had 2 cutters, one in use and one up on the quay, changed over at intervals.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on January 28, 2014, 20:43:19
I'm enjoying your posts PC, very interesting.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 28, 2014, 21:12:36
Thanks, and compliment returned :)
I'm finding all these life stories interesting.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 28, 2014, 21:33:21
The REME launches were more lie the RAF Air Sea Rescue launches <twitch>.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: helcion on January 28, 2014, 21:39:29
PC     -

Quote
Incoming ships requiring Customs examination would blow Morse ‘C’ (long-short-long-short) on their sirens, and those requiring a Pilot would blow Morse ‘G’ (long-long-short, but why ‘G’ and not ‘P’?)


The siren signals were the same as the 'Pilot Flags' that would be hoisted  -

G   -   Pilot required
H   -   Pilot aboard

P    -  Vessel will sail shortly  [the famous 'Blue Peter]

Thanks very much for your 'life history' & to the other forum members who are doing the same  -  absolutely fascinating & KHF is mining a rich seam of memories that might well be otherwise unknown  -  I'd like to do the same, but most of my working life was outside of Kent & I certainly don't have the 'total recall' of  our 'auto-biographers' [if there's such a word !]

 
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 29, 2014, 08:35:26
Thanks for the info :)

Re the total recall, I've commented elsewhere that one memory begets another, and things that haven't come into my head for years come back out of the blue. But I do realise there is a danger of 'auto-suggestion' filling gaps, and don't object to being crested.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 29, 2014, 11:52:21
PS to previous post: I meant I don't mind being corrected!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: grandarog on January 29, 2014, 12:20:18
Thats a relief peterchall. I thought Kyn had invented a new punishment to keep us in check. :) :)S4 will be relieved as well. :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on January 29, 2014, 12:25:22
You're not kidding................. :) :) :) :)

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 29, 2014, 13:47:41
A quick Whip around for S4?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on January 29, 2014, 15:09:18
S4 fine, just too damn tired to write at the moment, the Romney bit of mine wiped me out emotionally for a while. Now fitted with a Frankenboot instead of cast on damaged ankle so getting there. This is excellent stuff PC, I'm really enjoying.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on January 29, 2014, 19:18:48
Take it easy, S4. Time is on our side(ish) so any time in the next couple of hours will do :0)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 30, 2014, 12:26:36
Part 4
I don’t remember how it all started – probably someone noticed a 9 year old boy looking wistfully at the boats in the Camber and said “would you like a ride?” But it started a very happy period of going out in those boats listed in Part 3 of my story – except the Customs launch and the Air Commodore’s cruiser. The opportunities would have been during school holidays, weekends, and the lighter summer evenings. I don’t know which boat it was that started it, so let’s look at each in turn.

The steam tug had a deck crew of 2 and I think 1 man in the engine/boiler room. It was used to take men across to Port Victoria, whether as a regular service or on demand, I can’t remember, nor can I remember who the men were – presumably not dockyard workers. I went across and back now and again and I remember a trip up Yantlet Creek to drop something off or pick it up from a wharf there – to this day it is marked on the OS map as a “Danger Area”. The tug was also used to tow a target for the guns on the fort. The target was a raft with a bit of wattle fencing about 10 ft square painted in red and white squares, kept on the quayside beside the Camber. Since the gunnery was usually on a Sunday afternoon it spoilt dad’s almost sacred Sunday afternoon kip.

The RAF launches looked like this, and I think there were 2 of them – definitely more than one:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/magm20411.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/magm20411.jpg.html)
Their job was to prevent boats going into the danger area when the ranges were in use. An aircraft from Eastchurch crashed into the sea and I think one of the launches recovered the bodies. I got at least one trip on one them and remember they were FAST. I probably got invited because I used to talk to the men in their crew-room.

But the real involvement was with the pilot cutter. It was an open boat about 20 ft long with a square stern. About 4 ft of the bow was decked to form a locker, as was about 2 ft of the stern. There was a seat across the stern and seats down each side, and it was steered by a tiller. The engine was just ahead of the rear seat with a throttle sticking out of the back of the casing, and a forward/reverse lever, all within reach while at the tiller. There was a mast about 6 ft high at the front, on which was hung an oil lamp with red, green and white glasses, reachable by standing on the foc’sle (note the nautical term!).

There were 3 boatmen, ‘Uncle George’, ‘Uncle Ken’, and the one who became almost family – ‘Uncle Joe’, who lived in a weather-boarded house in Blue Town and was a real old Sea Salt – what he didn’t know about ships wasn’t worth knowing. While the others took me out with them because it was the ‘thing to do’, to ‘Uncle Joe’ I was his crew and he let me DRIVE, and I became proficient at getting the cutter alongside a moving ship and going at the same speed without dropping the pilot into the water. Fortunately for me Joe was the senior boatman and was mostly on duty during the day when I was available to assist.

The pilots’ hut was on the sea-wall near the fort and I spent many happy hours there with Joe and the Duty Pilot. If a ship blew ‘two longs and a short’ it was down to the Camber and away – at low tide it was a long way down a vertical steel ladder to the boat and I got used to not looking down. If I was not in the hut Joe would blow a whistle as he crossed the Gun Wharf to the Camber, but if I didn’t respond he obviously couldn’t wait. Taking the pilot off an outbound ship was pre-arranged, and at the appropriate time we would wait for it out beyond where the ‘Richard Montgomery’ is now.

Another occasional job was to visit the Nore Lightship, I think to take newspapers on Sunday morning, and come back with a load of fish. It was then that I learned that a skate has nasty barbs on its back and you had to be careful if it flapped its ‘wings’ while still alive.

One Sunday afternoon Uncle Joe arranged for me to go with the Pilot aboard a Finnish ship taking wood or wood-pulp to Ridham Dock. It was a pre-arranged inbound ship which had been anchored out in the Estuary for a day or two, presumably waiting for a berth at Ridham. It was then that I discovered that climbing the rope ladder up the ship’s side was a work of art, but the  ship was low in the water so, with Joe and the pilot pushing me from below and a couple of the crew pulling from above, they got me aboard. We had tea in the Captain’s cabin and then it was up anchor and away past Queenborough and into the Swale. Presumably because of the better view, the pilot took the open bridge on top of the wheel-house and I was allowed to sound the siren asking for Kingsferry Bridge to be opened. Somehow the pilot’s car was at Ridham and he took me home – I think it was my first ever car ride.

There was a gale on one occasion and a couple of lighters broke their tow off Port Victoria with a couple of men aboard and were being carried out onto the mud-flats off Grain. We watched in awe and with crossed fingers as Joe took the cutter out and took the men off. I don’t know if he got reported in the local paper, but he should have.

One night dad came in after doing his rounds to ensure all was secure and said “Southend illuminations don’t half show up tonight” – next day we discovered that it was a once in a lifetime display of the Northern Lights this far south!

Meanwhile the Spanish civil war went on, prolonged by the intervention of Germany and Italy on the Fascist side, and the International Brigade made up of men from a multitude of countries on the Communist side. For some reason a Spanish merchant ship had been interned and moored in the Medway, and our tug brought a member of its crew into the Camber strapped to a stretcher; he was put into an ambulance and taken away – rumour had it that he had ‘flipped his lid’ due to being confined on board.

In the Japan-v-China war the Japanese were considered the baddies and I remember my younger uncle, having won a vase in the Sheerness amusement park, smashing it because it was made in Japan

Newsreels showing the results of air raids in Spain and China spread the feeling that war must be avoided at all costs. I now remember that the Spanish refugees I mentioned earlier were children and the report said they were frightened by the cameras because they thought they were machine guns. Mum explained to me what a ‘civil war’ was, and that dad and my uncle could be on opposite sides – something I couldn’t get my head round.

There were a couple of searchlight emplacements at the fort, down at beach level and not on top like the guns, and if they were on an exercise we would go round on to the beach to watch. There was an air defence exercise in which sirens were actually sounded, and I remember some twin-engined bombers flying in from the estuary and low overhead, so presumably the Gun Wharf and Dockyard were ‘done for’.

And so came the Munich crisis of September 1938 and mobilisation. I remember troops marching along Garrison Road going – where? Somebody dug a trench in the road that ran alongside the wall that divided us from the dockyard and dad and I put boards across it with the intention of putting sandbags on them

But before we could do that it was all settled, when Hitler, having said “I have no further territorial claims to make in Europe”, was allowed to occupy the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain came back waving a piece of paper and saying “It is peace in our time”, to everyone’s relief.

Whether as a result of all that or not, dad got the offer soon after of the job of Resident Foreman at Chatham Gun Wharf. It was a wrench for all of us to leave Sheerness, but it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

So ended one of the most enjoyable times of my life, and dad took up a job with some real ’formaning’ to do

To be continued….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on January 30, 2014, 13:48:24
Fancy seeing the Northern Lights at Southend!!  :)  Lucky you!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on January 30, 2014, 14:40:54
The point is, we didn't  :)
Dad thought it was Southend illuminations reflecting on the clouds and so didn't call mum and me out. It wasn't until we heard about it the next day that he realised what it was.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on January 30, 2014, 15:22:21
What a shame you didn't get to see them PC, that would have gone down as a black mark in my Mum's book  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 01, 2014, 16:52:24
Part 5
To Chatham Gun Wharf, late 1938/early 1939.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/ChathamGunWharf1.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/ChathamGunWharf1.png.html)
•   Our bungalow is ringed in red at the right of the photo. We had a garden again, this time with a fish pond. We still had the luxuries of electricity and an indoor loo, plus a bath; not a bathroom, but a plumbed-in bath in the kitchen with a lid hinged to the wall, that could be let down to form a low level table.
•   My dad’s office was at one end of the Transit Shed and is also ringed in red at the left of the photo. The Transit Shed was, as the name implies, intended for temporary storage of goods on their way into or out of the Gun Wharf, but was in reality used for storing odd ‘junk’ and was almost empty most of the time. Outside of it was a German WW1 field-gun, a nice ‘toy’ for a 10 year old boy.
•   The big house ringed at top-centre we called the Colonel’s House, but I don’t remember any occupants. It only features in this story because the Gun Wharf’s air raid shelters were dug into its front lawn. After the war it became the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and is now associated with the bus station.

Next to the white roofed building at top-left is the Gun Wharf entrance, and this photo by Numanfan shows the WD Police post just inside:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/ChathamGunWharf3.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/ChathamGunWharf3.png.html)
Next to the first lamp post are steps up to the Police Sergeant’s apartments with his garden on top of the wall. Just visible through the trees is the shelter that now stands on the site of the Transit Shed. The Sergeant was known to us as ‘Stripey’ and our families became friendly – he had a son about my age who I can loosely describe as a ‘playmate’. (But I can’t remember his name!)

Next to the entrance, at extreme top left, the roofless building had a roof when I was there, and was against the wall at the back of the present car park. It had a door in the back of it, through the wall, which I believe led to a tunnel to Fort Amherst.

Just over the Gun Wharf wall, on the corner of Globe Lane and Medway Street, was a pub – but see the distance we had to walk, via the Dock Road entrance, to get to it. I say ‘we’ because my parents took me with them – either the pub had a Childrens’ Room or there was a corner of the bar where a kid could sit without being seen by a copper looking in the door. I think the latter, and may be jumping ahead to after the war started and the police had more important things to do than check for children in pubs. Does anyone remember the pub’s name?

I went to St John’s Primary School on New Road, near the viaduct – now the ‘Caring Hands’ Hall. I was in Mr Brown’s class and later met him again when my own children went to Glencoe Road School in the mid 1960s – I think some KHF members might remember him there. It was about then that I had my first serious career ambition – to be a draughtsman. As I understood it, he was a person who designed things that clanked and whirred.

I had progressed from ‘Mickey Mouse Weekly’ to a ‘semi-comic’ called (I think) ‘Modern Wonder’, a kid’s level weekly about technical stuff. Westerns were all the rage at cinemas and Tom Mix appeared in person at the Theatre Royal. The Picture House, underneath the Empire Theatre, became mum’s and my Saturday afternoon venue and programmes always included a serial that ended at a nail-biting moment, so you just had to go back the following week.

Dad bought an Austin 7 open tourer for £5 which, even at 1939 prices, guaranteed it to be a wreck. I think dad had driving lessons in the army but didn’t have a licence, so its use was confined to the Gun Wharf on Sundays. One Sunday afternoon mum and dad had to push start it because of a flat battery and I was put in the driving seat with instructions to let-in the clutch when told, then to declutch and apply the brake. But the car had a hand throttle set part way open and when it started the car went trundling off towards the river at a fast walk, and I ‘froze’ (well, I was only 10!):
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/800px-Austin_7_ACT_Historic_Car_195_interior1.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/800px-Austin_7_ACT_Historic_Car_195_interior1.jpg.html)
Dad jumped on the running board and yanked the steering round and the car ran into an ornamental brass cannon by the flagpole (where the dark rectangle is, near the Transit Shed). Dad said “silly billy motor cars”, or something like that – the cannon was OK, but I can’t remember what happened to the car.

I can’t remember if he occupied the other bungalow – the one that eventually became ‘Age Concern’- but on the scene came a person who held a rank unique to the RAOC, that of Conductor, a rank senior to Warrant Officer. The relevance here is that he owned a car (Ford 8?) and, being apparently single with no family, took us on the occasional Sunday afternoon car ride.

The Gun Wharf was an RAOC depot holding clothes, personal and domestic equipment, presumably receiving it from manufacturers and distributing it to units. Dad was the civilian foreman but presumably had an army boss, perhaps the Conductor mentioned previously.

And so daily life went on until Hitler broke the Munich agreement by occupying the rest of Czechoslovakia and demonstrating that he intended more than just bringing the German speaking areas of other nations under his control. When he began to speak of seeking ‘lebensraum’(living room) in Poland, Britain and France gave a guarantee that they would support Poland and sought an alliance with Russia.

I can’t remember what we thought about it in Britain - as a kid I was more interested in things mechanical. A main pre-occupation of everyone was with HMS Thetis, a submarine that sank in the Mersey, trapping all the RN crew and many of the shipbuilder’s employees aboard. A German Jewish refugee came to work in the Gun Wharf and dad affectionately called him ‘Jew Boy', something for which he would have been in trouble today. But Jew Boy was only too grateful to be safe – we had all heard of ‘kristalnacht’ when Jewish businesses were wrecked in Germany.

Conscription was introduced in Britain and war preparations proceeded. We were issued with gas masks and given advice about what to do in the case of gas attack, and how to deal with incendiary bombs. Stirrup pumps were distributed and Anderson Shelters were issued to certain households (not us because there were the shelters near the Colonel’s house). The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) exercised their pumps in the Gun Wharf and I remember seeing how dangerous a hose under pressure could be when a fireman lost hold of it.

Army lorries were parked round the Gun Wharf and, with open cabs, were ideal for me to play on. There were piles of 50 gallon drums of bleach by the quayside, intended as an antidote for mustard gas. Ruth, the crane driver’s daughter – about my age – and I climbed on them and I saw she wore knickers with a flower pattern.

An inkling that something serious was afoot was the cancellation of the annual Navy Week. Then on 24th August Germany and Russia signed a non-aggression treaty which gave Hitler the green light to do what he liked regarding Poland, and mobilisation began in Britain. There seemed to be coach loads of soldiers everywhere - rumour had it they were going to Poland.

On 1st September Germany invaded Poland, the black-out began and all places where the public could gather (cinemas, dance halls, etc) were closed, but not pubs. Evacuation began, but we had decided to stick together, so mum and I were not evacuated.

Britain and France told Hitler to withdraw his troops from Poland by 11 am on 3rd September or else…...! But he’d been allowed to get away with it for too long - right back to posting troops in the Rhineland in contravention of the 1919 peace treaty, just before dad left the army in 1935 - to believe the ‘or else’ bit.

I anxiously asked dad if he thought there would be a war and, ever optimistic within my ear-shot, he said “Of course not”. And so we waited with bated breath.

To be continued…
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 02, 2014, 21:36:47
Part 6
I think the pub on the corner of Globe Lane and Medway Street, mentioned in my previous post, was the ‘Old George’. Does anyone know?

On mobilisation some soldiers were billeted in the Transit Shed and on the morning of 3rd September 1939 I was talking to one of them on the quayside when the sirens went. A soldier called out through the doorway “We’ve declared war on Germany” – I ran home to find my mother at the door with our gas masks and we went to the shelter in front of the Colonel’s House. I had missed Mr Chamberlain’s speech. Apparently a civil aircraft had been mis-identified and the alert lasted for only a few minutes. Mum and I spent that afternoon sitting on a seat looking out over the river, thinking our own thoughts and expecting waves of German bombers to come over at any minute. Although the Spanish Civil War was over, newsreels of that and scenes from the recent film ‘The Shape of Things to Come” fuelled our imaginations.

The next ‘excitement’ was an alert early on 6th September, when the ‘Battle of Barking Creek’ occurred (Google it). We stood outside the shelters and watched 3 single engined planes being fired at by AA guns, and heard rumours of a “great big black thing” being forced down over Strood. Why was it not realised that single engined planes could not have been German, due to the distance from Germany?

Soldiers patrolled the Gun Wharf at night and if we had been out we would be met by the shout of “Halt, who goes there?”. We STOPPED, and dad replied “Friend”, to which the response was “Advance ONE to be recognised” – dad would walk forward and all was well, but if we had not acted as expected it could easily have gone wrong.

After that it was all quiet on the Home Front. As far as I can recall the memories of a 10 year old, 74 years later, there was no flag-waving militarism, but rather a feeling of sadness that all attempts to reason with Hitler had failed. There was also a feeling of bewilderment that it was all so quiet, leading dad to say “They’ll come to their senses and it’ll fizzle out”. The phrase ‘The Phoney War’ was born.

But there was no phoney war at sea. The liner Athenia was torpedoed on the first night of the war and other sinkings occurred; the Aircraft Carrier Courageous was sunk at sea, and the event that really shook us was the sinking of the Battleship HMS Royal Oak while at anchor in the security of Scapa Flow. I think there was a grudging admiration for the skipper of that U-boat

The war didn’t start well for the RAF either. Attempts to bomb the German fleet in daylight resulted in unsustainable losses. Due to restrictions on the bombing of inland targets where there was the risk of harming civilians, night raids were limited to the dropping of leaflets, against which the night defences of the time were impotent - a lesson not lost on either side, causing them to adopt night bombing as their main means of attack.

The blackout killed more people than the enemy, due to vehicles head lights being covered by a mask with 3 slots in it:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/WW2HeadlampCover.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/WW2HeadlampCover.png.html)
Side lamps and tail lamps had to be dimmed by a layer of tissue paper behind the glass, as did hand torches. Any chink of light through a curtain, or even a temporarily opened door while someone went through it, could result in a fine. Warden Hodge’s shout of “put that light out” was not just a figment of the imagination of the authors of ‘Dad’s Army’.  According to the phase of the moon and the amount of cloud, visibility could vary from almost being able to read a newspaper in the street to not being able to see a hand in front of your face. The night sky on a clear moonless night was a sight to behold, sadly denied to most of us to day, due to light pollution. An improvement came when white strips were painted on vehicle mudguards and white lines were painted down the centre of roads. There was a song advising those trying to get home after having had too much to drink to “Follow the white line all the way”

Songs of the times were ‘Bless ‘Em All’, ‘Roll Out the Barrel’, ‘We’re Gonna Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line’ (The German border defences- some hope!), ‘The Quartermasters Stores’, ‘Wish me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye’, and that Vera Lynn song that moistens the eye even today – ‘We’ll Meet Again’ (Soppy, innit?)

A couple of weeks after the declaration of war Russia invaded Poland, and Germany and Russia divided the country between them. Russia invaded Finland and we watched with admiration as that little country fought back throughout the ‘Winter War’. There was even talk of Britain sending troops to her aid.

Stripey and his constables on duty at the entrance sported revolvers and the ‘roofless’ building housed weapons handed in to the police when the war began – I gazed in wonder at the pistols and shotguns when dad took me  in there to look.

There was a magazine called ‘I was There’, intended for eye-witness stories, but it never caught on. I may be jumping ahead but the war prompted books on aircraft recognition and the weekly magazine ‘Aeroplane Spotter’, with its superb internal cut-away view of a selected aircraft each week – still an industry standard.

I don’t remember much about rationing, except that we got eggs in powdered form and never had anything like oranges or bananas – Bananas were a ‘no-no’ because banana boats were among the fastest of merchant ships and quickly requisitioned for more warlike purposes. Food was perhaps plain and monotonous, but I can say we never went hungry.

Cinemas, theatres, and dance halls re-opened after about 3 weeks. The winter of 1939/1940 saw the heaviest snow for years and I remember men clearing Military Road manually with shovels. Schools were still closed when, for a reason I don’t remember, we moved to 23 Ross Street, Rochester. It must have been early 1940, because it was after the winter snow.

For a layman’s overview of WW2, I don’t think they come much better than this:
http://primaryhomeworkhelp.co.uk/Britain.html

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on February 03, 2014, 14:46:30
A really nice commentary, PC
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 06, 2014, 12:51:00
 :)
Part 7
23 Ross Street was a 3-bed terraced house with a cellar, large by working class standards. Rented of course – home ownership for the workers was far into the future. A regular Sunday evening walk was to the ‘Prince of Wales’ in Strood High Street to pay the rent – it was about 10/- or 15/- (50p or 75p) a week, about 1/5th of a week’s pay (How does that compare with today?). We had electric light and a garden, and the toilet was inside the back door porch, but we had no bathroom. The cellar had been shored up to make an air-raid shelter and we had no Anderson shelter.

With the Phoney War continuing, evacuees gradually returned home with their teachers, and Troy Town School re-opened, I guess about March 1940. At first we just went in at a specified time to get homework, then it was for half-days and by the Autumn Term or sooner it was full-time.

Here I’m going to jump ahead and deal with all of my schooling. There was a fire station in Foord Street and the firemen were accommodated in the classroom next to my ground floor one. There was a bell system to tell them the state of alert – ‘yellow’ for initial warning, ‘red’ for imminent raid, and so on – and a fireman would put his head in the door to tell our teacher. I don’t know that it did any good to know that there was a ‘yellow’ on or that the bells for all-clear had been rung, because we went by the public sirens which sounded anyway for the ‘red’ and ‘green’. When the ‘alert’ sounded those of us who could be collected could go home and mum, being just round the corner, was usually waiting outside the school. When the ‘all-clear’ sounded we were supposed to go back to school, and at the height of the Battle of Britain it was a yo-yo existence. And it wasn’t unknown for the sirens and the presence of the enemy to get out of sync, so the teachers had to use their own initiative if guns started firing and there had been no alert. What with that and completely missing about 2 terms earlier, I think my parents worried about the effect on my education, although I probably thought it was great.

And so the 11+ came. In those days it was taken at the particular school on a Saturday, in my case the Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School (the ‘Math School’) and I failed. It was no ‘big deal’ because Mum’s elder brother had gone there and hated it (He was the one who became a policeman and taught me the value of the words ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘where’, what’, and ‘how’).

So I went upstairs at Troy Town to the ‘big school’ and into the TLC of Mr Marchant, noted for his enthusiasm with the cane. But I must have been a goody-goody or was crafty, because I escaped that pleasure.

There was a 2nd chance a year later with the exam for Rochester Junior Technical School (the ‘Tech School’) which I passed and got a free scholarship – it was open to my parents to pay if I’d failed (and for the Math the previous year) but they couldn’t have afforded it. I don’t think there were many paying pupils – we could only guess on the basis of a boy’s background because there was no distinction between paying and scholarship pupils as far as the school was concerned.

Thus in September 1941 it was to the Tech. We were combined with Chatham Tech at Holcombe, on Chatham-Maidstone Road, and spent part of the week at each. The advantage of the Rochester site was that the top floor was occupied by the Art School and up there were GIRLS – I still remember Gwen who I went to the pictures with (You can tell I didn’t go to a GRAMMAR school, because that sentence should correctly read  ”….Gwen, with whom I went to the pictures”) Her dad  paid for the tickets then spoilt it by coming with us! But at least we did walk to and from school a couple of days a week and exchanged Christmas presents – actually hers to me was a penknife which I had to buy from her for a farthing, because to give a knife as a present risked cutting the friendship, something I hadn’t heard of.

But back to school. Sports afternoon was spent at playing fields at Fort Pitt and my most hated lesson was PT. Favourite lessons were anything ‘mechanical’ – Maths, Mechanics, Geometry, and Engineering Drawing. Our Geography teacher was Mr McWillie who also ran an after-school class in German. He had been stationed in Germany with the army after WW1 and married a German girl – I think her family was still in Germany so the war must have been a worrying time for him. Not that I was much good at languages – I got a distinction in French by achieving 2% in one exam! Engineering Drawing was taught by Percy Hamilton who recommended a book to me that I still have, titled ‘Engines Today’, and it was from there that I learnt about steam engines and turbines, types of boiler, and 2-stroke and 4-stroke petrol engines and diesel engines – the book is not dated but it presents the LNER loco ‘Silver Link' as the latest and states that the rotary internal combustion engine (gas turbine) was far into the future. ‘Lucy’ Locket taught History and there was a ditty about him that started "There was a man called Locket, who went for a ride in a rocket, the rocket went 'bang'…..", but I’d better stop there! Gobby Davis had a son who was a Typhoon pilot and he visited one day to talk to the whole school assembled in the Gym – I wonder if he survived the war. Metalwork and Woodwork gave me the basis on which to build practical skills – the Metalwork shop at Holcombe had lathes and, I think, even a milling machine, to give me my first experience of handling machinery.

An altogether excellent couple of schools, attending which compensated for the time lost earlier in the war.

There was no fear of the cane because discipline was enforced by detention or by lines which had to be brought in the next day. By the time one had written “I will not run in the corridors” or “I will not talk in class” 100 times one took care not do it again. It was surprising how far pupils came, and the ‘Faversham boys’, as they were called, were allowed to leave 10 minutes early to catch their train. We made no concessions to Hitler regarding school hours – they were 9am to 4.30pm (12 or 1 on Saturdays), which meant coming to school in the blackout during  the winter – due to keeping BST – sometimes with the air raid alert still on. We were issued with an exercise book for each subject and had to write across the page ignoring margins, and couldn’t get a replacement until the front and back covers had been filled! Tragedy struck at first hand when a classmate who usually sat with me (surname Fox) died of polio or meningitis – I felt unwell for days, convinced that I had caught it.

Normal school leaving age was 14, but for the Tech the leaving exams were taken after the third year at age 15. The exams were set by the College of Preceptors – something between the School Leaving Certificate of the Elementary Schools and the Matriculation of the Grammar Schools. My best mate stayed at Troy Town and left school at 14 to earn a wage, and I think I must have become restless. So Dad (By now Foreman at the RAOC depot at Darland) used the ‘Old Pals Act’ to get me a job as Trainee Electrician with the Royal Engineers and – against the objections of the headmaster – I left school at Christmas 1943 without any qualifications. But that’s another story.

Regarding another aspect of my education, the minister of St Peter’s did call to try to persuade me to go to Sunday School, but more with the attitude that it was naughty not to go rather than it being good for its own sake, which stirred the rebel in me so I didn’t go. However, it is said that ’there are no atheists in a slit-trench’, so it’s possible that I did say my prayers during an air raid then hypocritically forgot them afterwards. As an ‘old soldier’ Dad’s attitude was “if it’s got your name on it there’s nothing you can do about it”

To save keep going back and forth in my narrative, let’s take Dad’s history to the end of the war. About 1942-1943 a large Ordnance Depot was opened at Darland, where Gillingham Business Park is now, and he moved from Chatham Gun Wharf to become Foreman there. I know he had an army boss then, a Major in the RAOC, because their working week ended with a session in the Central Hotel at Sunday lunchtime, and Dad commented that the Major drank whisky and he drank beer, making the cost of the rounds rather unbalanced! And it really was the end of the working week, because Sunday afternoon was usually his only time off. The Depot had its own Home Guard Platoon, but Dad somehow became involved with the HG rocket battery at Beatty Avenue and was commissioned:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/9a5579c2-d566-4675-aba7-ea954fbb17b9.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/9a5579c2-d566-4675-aba7-ea954fbb17b9.png.html)
I got a telling-off because I giggled when walking with him along Rochester High Street and people saluted him (almost every other person was in uniform). “It makes them feel awkward” I was told.

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on February 06, 2014, 14:58:54
Another good read PC.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on February 06, 2014, 15:19:18
PC this is great. I love reading these boards. These are what makes History live for me. Facts and figures are great but this is LIFE. My Friend I am enjoying your story immensely, thank you for taking the time to write this.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on February 06, 2014, 18:15:01
A thoroughly good read, really enjoying it PC.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on February 06, 2014, 20:04:57
Thanks again PC , I love all these Life stories . I wish my memory was half as good as yours  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 08, 2014, 12:05:47
Part 8
Back to the war. I will try to write from the aspect of what we knew at the time rather than what we learned later, but it’s not easy to distinguish.

There were photos in the local paper of the Royal West Kents in trenches in France named ‘Week Street’, ‘Stone Street’ and so on, but hand grenades in neat piles on the trench parapet showed the photos to be posed. British troops were actually along the border with Belgium, mostly in billets. Small units took turns at going into the line with the French along the German border for experience, and there were a few casualties sustained during patrol clashes – both sides withdrew well back from the border and it was as if they were deliberately trying to avoid each other. Dad still said “It’ll fizzle out”

At home there was the occasional alert but most enemy air activity was minelaying and we slept in our bedrooms. A German bomber laden with magnetic mines crashing on Clacton, resulting in much damage and many casualties, was big news.

The Morden Arms in Queen Street, Rochester, became our local:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/9628edae-02b8-4081-8100-e3a9c64bfed1.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/9628edae-02b8-4081-8100-e3a9c64bfed1.jpg.html)
It definitely didn’t have a Children’s’ Room or any corners where a kid could hide, and I sat openly on a seat inside the right-hand window – sometimes we were even accompanied by my policeman uncle (in civvies) and my aunt, although it might have been later in the war and he knew what police priorities were. After a while nobody carried their gas masks and, apart from the blackout, life was almost normal.

I may not have the time scale quite right, but the clocks went back to GMT as usual in the autumn of 1939, then on to BST in spring of 1940, staying there for the winter of 1940-1941. Then in spring of 1941 we had Double BST, followed by BST for the winter, and so on for the rest of the war. The result was sunset after 10pm in the summer and sunrise after 9am in the winter, even this far south. Weather forecasts ceased, to avoid giving information to the enemy.

We were excited by the Battle of the River Platte, when the German pocket-battleship Graf Spee was destroyed. The Merchant Navy prisoners that Graf Spee had taken off the ships she had sunk had been transferred to the tanker Altmark which sought refuge from the Royal Navy in a Norwegian fjord. HMS Cossack entered Norwegian territorial waters to board her and release the prisoners and the words of the officer who called down the hatch to the prisoners – “The Navy’here” – became almost a catch-phrase.

The Phoney War ended on 9th April 1940 when Germany invaded Denmark unopposed, and Norway by simply docking troopships alongside quays in ports. By the time the Norwegians realised what was happening it was too late to put up a meaningful resistance, although they tried. British and French troops actually recaptured the port of Narvik from the Germans and the navy inflicted a defeat on German warships in Narvik Fjord, but they couldn’t be reliably supplied and were withdrawn later.

PM Neville Chamberlain stated “Hitler has missed the bus” and initial public opinion was that it was a good thing because Hitler had bitten-off more than he could chew by attempting sea borne operations with his puny little navy (which did in fact suffer serious losses in relation to its size). In ship-v-ship actions the Royal Navy generally came off best, but against the Luftwaffe or U-boats didn’t do so well.

On 10th May 1940 Neville Chamberlain was told, during a debate in Parliament, to..... “in the name of God, GO”.(Even as a kid I knew that was strong stuff) and he resigned a broken man, to die a few months later with his hopes of avoiding WW2 shattered – an honourable but naive man. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and my grandfather said “he’s a warmonger”, apparently not realising that was what we needed. But home life was affected little more than the Afghan war affects home life today – mainly worry to families having men in the battle zones.

On the same day Germany invaded France, Belgium and Holland and we learnt the meaning of ‘Blitzkrieg’ – how to totally overwhelm your enemy.

Also on the same day there was an appeal for men to join the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), later to be renamed the Home Guard.

We followed the news daily as the Panzers swept across the Low Countries and Northern France and the optimists (including Dad) said they were stretching themselves too far ahead and would soon become easy to defeat. ‘No sensible soldiers would advance so fast without ensuring that their support troops were keeping up with them’ was the opinion. Rotterdam was surrounded and invited to surrender, the Luftwaffe gave a demonstration of the fate of cities that resisted, and Holland surrendered within days. We heard of refugees clogging roads and hindering the movement of our troops, and of how the Luftwaffe ruthlessly cleared the way for the army - if there were refugees on the roads when the troops and tanks wanted to pass, too bad for the refugees. How many of the atrocity stories were true, I don’t know – I suspect some but not all. Then rumour had it that the German tanks were not clad in armour but in plywood, such was the dire straights of the German economy – so it wouldn’t be long before the Panzers were destroyed and Germany collapsed!

Within a couple of week’s the German army had advanced as many miles as WW1 armies advanced in yards in the same time, the Panzers reached the Channel coast at Calais and the BEF was cut-off in Belgium. The Belgian army on its left surrendered, leaving its left flank open, and the retreat (or headlong race!) to Dunkirk began.

Home life continued as normal, except that there was an appeal for anyone owning a small boat to get in contact with someone or other. The Dunkirk evacuation went ahead but the only direct memory I have is of seeing trainloads of troops going through Rochester. Then it was over and ‘our boys’ were safely home, but without most of their heavy equipment – although we weren’t told that. Dad told of us of torn and bloodied uniforms, taken off casualties, piled in the Transit Shed of the Gun Wharf. Churchill stated that we should be grateful for the deliverance but should not look on Dunkirk as a victory because “wars are not won by retreating” We were reminded always to carry our gas masks, but I honestly can’t remember doing so.

German troops continued to advance into France and she surrendered on 17th June 1940 (The surrender documents were signed in the same railway carriage that the German surrender was signed at the end of WW1, just to rub salt into the wound), and the remaining British troops who were in France were brought home – apart from those whose ships were sunk, that is. The Germans occupied north and west France, leaving the east and south ‘free’ under the Vichy government. The Channel Islands were occupied – the only British territory to suffer that fate in WW2 – a soldier who worked in the Gun Wharf was there on leave and didn’t get back. French warships in British ports were boarded and their crews 'arrested' until they decided which side hey were on.

This cartoon appeared in the Daily Mail:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/AloneCartoon.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/AloneCartoon.png.html)
I think the guy in the water was the French PM.

It was about now that Churchill made 3 of his most memorable speeches, and I make no apology for reproducing part of them here, because we really did listen to them and were inspired by them.
•   I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory….however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

•   We shall go on to the end. We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

•   …. the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation... [and]... our own British life. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world…..will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ”This was their finest hour”.

Dad and my younger uncle joined the local Home Guard, which met in Troy Town School. Road blocks and pill-boxes started to appear. Bearing in mind the chaos on the roads caused by refugees in France, we were told to ‘Stay Put’. We heard of convoys being attacked off Dover and there was a live radio broadcast from Dover cliffs during such an attack – we could hear the guns, bombs and planes. I first saw that newsreel shot – seen hundreds of times since – of a plane flopping upside down into the water (the snag was, it was a Spitfire!). Mum announced that if the Germans occupied Kent she would put her head in the gas oven, and dad stopped saying “it’ll fizzle out”.

But we still went to work, school, the pictures and the pub, Dad did the Football Pools, and we probably moaned about the weather. In other words, life was almost normal…..

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 10, 2014, 11:18:50
Part 9
The name ‘Battle of Britain’ was coined by Churchill in his speech mentioned in Part 8, although we never knew it as such at the time. However it was definitely established by March 1941, when the Air Ministry published a book with that title – I still have a copy – which dates the battle between 8th August and 31st October 1940, whereas today its start is considered to have been 10th July.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/BofB1.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/BofB1.png.html)(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/BofB.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/BofB.png.html)
From it we learned for the first time of the organisation of our defences. Note that radar stations are not shown, although the text mentions information about enemy aircraft being obtained by the Observer Corps and “other sources”.

Anyway, guess what – after the ‘Battle of France’ life in the Medway Towns continued to be normal! The school summer holidays were approaching and, while boat trips to Upnor and the paddle steamer to Sheerness were not on, trips to the Strand and a paddle in the river were, and so were my Saturday afternoons at the pictures with Mum.

My first ‘warlike’ memory is of Dad coming home and saying the Germans had shelled Dover with guns on the French coast. Whether it was common knowledge or he’d heard of it through his job, I don’t know, but he said things were getting serious – perhaps he thought it was a preliminary bombardment to invasion. I remember being on Jackson’s Fields when the siren went and I saw some planes far away to the north and heard distant gunfire, but who I was with and what we did, I’ve no idea (According to book The Narrow Margin attacks on convoys in the Thames Estuary were common from early August on).

My first ‘strong’ memory is of the siren sounding in the night, and going down to the cellar to the sound of planes, guns, and the ‘thud’ of bombs. I was shaking and saying to my parents “you’ve done this before (WW1) but this is my first time” – I must have thought a previous bad experience inured them to later ones! (Book The Narrow Margin records scattered attacks by small numbers of raiders almost nightly at that time, but that was the only one I remember. Book Front Line County records bombs at Upnor on 19th June, so it was probably then – earlier than I thought)

Presumably that was when we started sleeping in the cellar. It had been shored-up by about a half dozen 4x4 timbers between floor and joists of the ground floor. We slept on mattresses directly on the concrete floor, with bare brick walls, and light was by Hurricane Lamp(s) - or had a flex and lamp-holder been run down from upstairs?.

During the day there was little more than aircraft passing over (ours or theirs?) and perhaps distant gunfire (Detling and Eastchurch airfields were attacked on 13th August).

Then on 15th August my ‘real’ war began! The sirens went about 4pm and there was the sound of many aircraft and gunfire, followed by that of bombs – guns made a sharp ‘crack’, distinct from the ‘thump’ of bombs, although we probably didn’t realise that at the time – but we did know that something big was happening so Mum and I went down the cellar – Dad was at work - and there was the roar of engines as the formation passed over. The overwhelming sensation of an air attack was the sheer ear-splitting NOISE, so we were surprised on venturing outside to see everything intact. News soon reached us that the airport had been bombed and some bombs had fallen on Delce Road. My uncle (Mum’s younger brother) was working as a plumber near the airport  and came home somewhat shaken (He lived with my Grandparents in Queen Street, just round the corner).

I think Mum must have had a friend who lived in one of the bungalows on the wall in Delce Road and we went to see her in early evening, or we just went to be nosey. Some of the bungalows and other houses had some tiles off and some broken windows, so the bomb (I think there was only one) must have fallen in the open, because no buildings were badly damaged – it was the first bomb damage I’d seen. The snag was the sirens went again while we were there. Nothing happened, but Mum didn’t want to walk home with an alert on and we spent some time in somebody’s house ready to go into their shelter if need be – but I don’t remember if it was Mum’s friend’s house, or if some strangers had asked us in. A ‘crater’ from a different bomb, about 3” deep and a foot across, stayed in the  concrete surface of City Way for a long time afterwards.

From then the B of B went on apace, and that will be the theme of my next post.

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on February 10, 2014, 13:22:37
Slightly off topic, but connected to the B of B. I lost an Uncle on the 20th October 1940 . He and my Aunt lived in Tottenham. They were on their way home when the sirens went, Aunt managed to get to the shelter which was just across the road from their home, but Uncle went back to get the dog from home, and they were both killed by the bomb.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 10, 2014, 16:15:17
Not quite the same thing, but illustrative of the risks of parting - our unspoken thoughts each day when Dad went to work or I went to school were "will we ever see each other again?"

Then an additional reason for parting was Dad's Home Guard duties - I can't remember now exactly what they entailed, but I think it was at least one evening a week training and one overnight a week guarding something. Dad and my younger uncle used to patrol somewhere, but I can't remember where. Then the Gun Wharf formed its own platoon and Dad transferred to that.

Another aspect of normality that continued throughout the war were visits to my policeman uncle at Eccles, and my aunt and cousins. On one occasion we were there when uncle brought back an escaped Borstal boy, and he had tea with us while awaiting for someone at Borstal to collect him. The 'Police Station' at Eccles was a desk in the living room of a house next to  the Recreation Ground! Borstal boys in parties of about 8, with a warder in civvies, out for walks were a common sight at Rochester.

Which reminds me of another 'recreation' - the bus ride. To Gravesend to go to the promenade was popular. Or just a bus ride for its own sake, to some destination and return without getting off the bus. However, it was about then that buses stopped running at 9pm daily and didn't start until 1pm on Sundays.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on February 10, 2014, 19:10:16
This is rapidly becoming a valuable social commentary PC.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 10, 2014, 20:56:40
Thanks  :)

I hope I'm providing the human background to the bare records, and trying to present things as we knew them at the time and not what we learned later. So when I say life went on as normal, that is as it was for me in the Medway Towns. I fully realise that someone living in Dover - and later London, Coventry, Liverpool and many other places - would have disagreed.

If it is necessary to provide later information for clarity, I try to distinguish that. But please ask if there is anything not clear.

But  jumping ahead as an illustration of learning later, we had been to London while the war was still on and saw that they had a rough time, but we went on a day excursion by train to Southampton immediately after the war, and were absolutely staggered to see what the Luftwaffe had done to that city.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on February 11, 2014, 11:37:22
Yes, PC: my mother lived through the 'Blitz' in the East End of London (I still have a dining table, a wind-up HMV gramophone and a tantalus with 'battle' scars) and she said that, provided all the family were in the Andersen shelter, her mother was happy. If it were hit, "they'd all go together".
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 11, 2014, 12:24:28
I haven’t got to my B of B yet, but recent posts have generated some memories of my policeman uncle which illustrate conditions of the times.

I don’t know if he married before or after he joined the police but my aunt had to be ‘approved’, and as the wife of a rural policeman did a lot of ‘support’ work.

As I’ve stated, the ‘Police Station’ at Eccles was the large detached house next to the recreation ground (I wonder if its present occupants know that) and he had a desk in the living room overlooking the large (and largely overgrown) garden, with shelves on the wall beside him for paperwork and the inevitable copy of the ‘Police Gazette’ lying around. The sole concession to modernity was the old-style telephone with a separate earpiece. Transport was by bike.

He was a sergeant and his territory included the villages of Aylesford and Wouldham, so there was presumably a constable at each village. His area included Maidstone Zoo and I remember he had to go there to supervise the destruction of some animals that had got foot-and-mouth disease. As well as the escaped Borstal Boy incident of my previous post, I remember him being called out because a body had been found in some woods – it turned out that some guy had drunk disinfectant- yuk!

There was a 999 system but that presumably was connected to police HQ, and I’ve no idea how he was contacted if he was out. All I remember is that, when we visited he seemed to come and go at any time and there was some system called ‘keeping a point’ whereby each officer had to be at a certain place at a certain time. Since he also had time to visit us, it all seems rather ‘hit-and-miss’. Are there any ex-police officers on KHF who could comment?

He later moved to a similar house at Mill Street, between East and West Malling, before retiring from the police in the  mid-1950s
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on February 11, 2014, 12:37:27
I don't suppose you recall any 1" to1 mile O.S. map(s) he might have had, PC?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 11, 2014, 16:04:31
No, but it brings back another memory of those times. All sign posts and any other indications of a locality were removed, including the names of railway stations, and I think there was some law against owning large scale maps.

Certainly anyone asking for directions was regarded with suspicion. A mate and I were in the Castle Gardens at Rochester and, as usual, there were some Sunderland flying boats moored in the river, when a man asked us how many of them did the Short Bros factory make. He didn't have a German accent, but we thought it prudent to go to the High Street and find a policeman but, needless to say, there wasn't one.

It was an offence to leave a motor vehicle unattended unless it had been disabled. With a petrol engine the recommended method was to remove the rotor arm - but since there were only 2 or 3 standard types that fitted most vehicles it would have been no deterrent to a thief anyway. I can't remember how diesel engines were supposed to be disabled.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: grandarog on February 11, 2014, 18:34:30
I remember him being called out because a body had been found in some woods – it turned out that some guy had drunk disinfectant- yuk!

Small World PC .If that was in 1945. It would have been my wifes grandfather, John Richard Fagg, I think . He was ill and said he was off to the woods to die one day.  Drank nearly a full bottle of benzine which did the trick . He was 71 . Coroner :-Suicide while balance of mind ......
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on February 11, 2014, 18:49:21
No, but it brings back another memory of those times.

I asked because some years ago I was given an inch-to-the-mile map that had been issued to a WW2 copper, and noticed immediately that the grid marked on it 'leant' somewhat to the right. And that the grid line numbers (written in manuscript) didn't match the National Grid numbers - it was a Military Grid map. I wondered whether these were standard issue to all emergency services (I would guess so) or just to those down in this little SE corner.

Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 11, 2014, 21:52:56
Grandarog, my uncle was definitely at Eccles in 1945 and such an event must have been a one-off. That your wife's grandfather had announced where he was going makes me wonder whether my uncle went to look for him and was the one who found hm. I remember Mum saying something about a policeman's lot not being a happy one, as per the cliché; small world indeed.

Chasg, this SE corner was most likely to be attacked but the police would need to co-operate with the military anywhere - locating crashed aircraft, escaped POWs etc, so it makes sense that the maps were universal issue to them, if not to the ARP services.

I have a very vague recollection of my uncle having a rifle at home. Dad, as a Home Guard member, definitely did, exchanged for a Sten Gun when he was commissioned - unlike Capt Mainwaring, he didn't have a revolver. I don't remember any ammo, though

Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 12, 2014, 08:35:30
More memories triggered by these posts.
There would be an announcement on the radio if a POW had escaped, giving the location, but I can't remember what advice we were given - try to detain, or not to approach, etc.

And this one, applicable from my earliest memory, throughout the war and after - the SOS message. It was usually of the form that "'so-and- so', who is believed to be on holiday 'somewhere' should contact home, where 'a relation' is dangerously ill"
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on February 12, 2014, 14:59:22
Home Service? Whitehall 1212?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 12, 2014, 17:28:56
I think we had Home Service and Forces programmes during the war, but can’t remember what the pre-war ones were.

Individual programmes were Tommy Handley’s ITMA (It’s That Man Again) with Mrs Mopp the charlady, Fumf the spy, and many others: ‘Much Binding in the Marsh’, set in an imaginary RAF station but believed based on RAF Moreton-in-the-Marsh: ‘In Town Tonight’: And that must - the 9 o’clock News.

Radio Luxembourg closed or lost its English language programmes when the Germans occupied Luxembourg.

Phone number Whitehall 1212 rings a bell :), but I can’t remember what it was for.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sirenetta on February 12, 2014, 18:15:16
PC Re Phone No. It was Scotland Yard (the old one)!  There were a lot of requests for relatives to get in touch with Scotland Yard between the weather forecast and the news on the Home Service.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on February 12, 2014, 18:43:36
I remember ITMA, and Mrs Mopps words....`Can I do you now Sir?'  and also Fumf's words, `This is Fumf speaking'.  Can't remember how old I was then, but those words have stayed in my mind. :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 13, 2014, 16:19:57
Part 10
The following events have come randomly to my mind, some exciting (that sounds more manly than saying ‘terrifying’) others less so but illustrative of day-to-day life. The undated events, listed first, are not necessarily in the correct order. Where the date is shown as ‘Probable’ I’ve shown why I think it was then, in italics.

A formation of bombers flying east to west, with their escorts weaving above them and AA shell bursts all round them, apparently unharmed.

About 4 planes, low enough to be recognised as Me109s, flying west to east in a hurry.

A single white parachute appearing high over the top end of Ross Street, then drifting the length of the street before disappearing behind the houses opposite. He was close but I don’t remember hearing where he landed, or if he was friend or foe.

Finding a 0.303” cartridge case in the road outside the house. Considering that a Hurricane or Spitfire spewed out spent cartridge cases at 160/second when firing, it’s a wonder that we didn’t find more.

Turning the corner from Foord Street into James Street to see a twin engined plane flying low towards us. I grabbed Mum and pulled her into the forecourt of a house and crouched down behind the wall, terrified, then felt a bit eggy-faced when an RAF Wellington passed over. Totally irrational because, if it was an enemy, I doubt if he would have been interested in us even if he’d seen us.

Probably 30th August. Rochester City Archive (RCA) entry “Aeroplane crashed at Strood”: Mum, Dad and I were in the garden watching some barely visible planes over James Street and flying south. Suddenly one came down in a vertical dive at full throttle, with an increasingly high pitch, which seemed to last forever and with the plane getting ever larger, finally ending with a ‘thump’. We looked at each other, and then Dad quietly said “Christ!”

7th September: Mum and I were in the Picture House when the warning ‘Air Raid Alert’ went up on the screen. After a few minutes the sound of aircraft and guns could be heard even above the film, and when we came out we found we had missed one of the sights of WW2 – a massed formation of German bombers had gone over on their way to London. Being a daylight raid it was considered part of the B of B, but it was followed up by a night attack so was really the opening of the blitz, which I will write about separately.

15th September: I was in the garden when I saw a single Dornier 17 to the east, flying north to south and low enough to see its markings. Some men baled out, close enough to see their individual legs, before the plane disappeared over the houses of Queen Street. A few seconds later it reappeared flying towards me but turning right, to disappear again over the houses of Church Street before a column of smoke went up from where it had crashed. I saw a single RAF fighter circling round and assumed it was the one that had shot it down. Rumour had it that the pilot had stayed aboard and tried to crash-land at the airport, but was driven off by AA fire, and that’s all I knew at the time. But here I’m going to break my rule of not adding later information because, via KHF 72 years later, I learnt the aircraft’s serial number, where it was based, and the names of its crew! It is a rather long thread with some controversy, but if anyone is interested it is here:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=6553.0

Probably September/October. Because we were at school: Mum had collected me from school, and as we walked home a twin-engined plane with smoke trailing from one engine was doing a U-turn overhead and making off eastwards with AA shells bursting round it – a sitting duck, I wonder if it got home

Probably 17th October. RCA entry “High Explosives, Borstal and Fort Bridgewood. Army lorry burnt out": Dad came home upset because an ATS girl who worked with him had lost her legs when her truck was hit by a bomb while at Fort Bridgewoods.

Probably 26th October. RCA entry “High Explosives, Rochester. 3 houses demolished, signal box damaged”: Mum and I were in the garden one Saturday morning and saw 2 formations of planes merge and mill around in the Maidstone direction – they were only dots but it was obviously a dog-fight. We saw a single-engined plane coming towards us and 2 dots fall from it. To the rushing sound of falling bombs we dashed indoors and made for the cellar. At the top of the cellar steps I felt a ‘thump’ through the ground and saw the living room windows fall in. Then it was over.
All the windows had gone, part of the ceiling was down, the front door was wide open but still on its hinges and (we found later) some roof slates were off. Stupid though it seems, mum and I laughed our socks off until the Air Raid Warden called through the door “Is anyone hurt in there?” We went outside and saw this scene, but before it was cleaned up:
 (http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/a73adcfb-4719-4b5c-82ae-1656807059ff.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/a73adcfb-4719-4b5c-82ae-1656807059ff.jpg.html)
Our house was 6 doors along to the right.
Dad was working in the Gun Wharf and saw the smoke go up. He had an anxious bike ride home and I remember him coming in the door saying “bloody mice” before almost crying with relief.
No one was killed or injured, probably being out or in their shelter. One of the houses belonged to Mr Brackley, the owner of a taxi firm having its garage in Foord street, either taken over for the fire station there, or next to it.

Probably 17th November. RCA entry “High Explosive on Gas Works”: I had a car seat as my personal roost just beside the French Windows, and was sitting there one Sunday morning – Dad was reading the paper and Mum was cooking the breakfast – when there was the sound of a diving plane and the ‘thump’ of a bomb – no alert had sounded – and that was it. A little later the gas failed – Rochester Gas Works had been hit. I don’t remember how long it was before gas came back on, but it was cold food for the rest of that day at least. This was after the official end of the B of B, but it was in daylight, so I’ve included it here. It shows the portrayal of the B of B ending suddenly in the film of that name to be ‘poetic licence’

So what were my general feelings during the B of B? It’s 73 years ago now and not easy to relate only to what we knew at the time. One feature was the frequency of alerts – perhaps half a dozen a day, or more – often with no more than the sound of aircraft, if that, and sometimes with the alert lasting for only a few minutes, and other times so long that we forgot there was one on. Hence it could total several hours a day, so we were not being heroic in not dashing for the shelter every time the siren sounded – it was just not a practical proposition. Nevertheless I find it incredible now that within 2 hours of being scared witless by the attack on the airport, Mum and I were visiting the Delce. It may have been due to some extent that we viewed the B of B as an RAF-v-Luftwaffe affair and felt that, while we could be bombed (vide Ross Street bombing), they were not deliberately aiming at us – it was not until the night raids on towns that it became personal. Anyway, in the shelters we couldn’t see what was happening, which sometimes made it more scary. Is there not a parallel today, when people take risks by standing on sea walls during storms?

We eagerly followed the daily score of enemy planes destroyed, culminating in the 185 claimed for 15th September. Although, as noted above, the B of B didn’t end suddenly, the mass bomber formations stopped soon after then, to be replaced by fast and high flying fighter-bombers. While more difficult to intercept, their bomb loads were far smaller, but less accurately aimed

So life carried on as normally as possible, including working weeks of 60 hours or more, which is probably why Dad didn’t come with Mum and I on our visit to the Delce - he was still at work.

Which reminds me of another feature of those days – he would have had his cooked meal at mid-day, probably cycling home and back from the Gun Wharf. In those days only posh people had ‘dinner’ in the evening, and well into my married days I had my dinner at home, my mother-in-law’s, a town centre workman’s ‘caff’, or the college canteen. Eating out as we know it today was not for us. The most you could get in the pub was a packet of crisps, or perhaps a cheese roll.

And so, although we didn’t realise it at the time, we watched history being written in the skies above Kent:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/VapourTrails.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/VapourTrails.png.html)
"A dog-fight over the Medway, September 1940"
From Front Line County

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: grandarog on February 13, 2014, 16:33:49
I remember ITMA. :)
I still remember Tommy Handley every week there was a little ditty .I can only remember this one.
Down in the Jungle living in a tent !
Cheaper than a Prefab ! No Rent ![/
size][/color]
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 15, 2014, 12:58:21
Part 11
The B of B and what came to be known as the Blitz overlapped from 7th September and German planes were over every night, with alerts usually lasting from dusk to dawn. Unlike earlier night raids, which were just a few odd raiders country-wide, they now came in a continuous stream at about half to one minute interval, not only with the intention of doing damage but, by spreading the raid over several hours, to wear the population down by lack of sleep. Because of several lines of approach it meant one going over the Medway Towns every 5 minutes or so.

It was then that I first heard that ‘whoom, whoom’ sound of an enemy plane, caused by the pilot running his engines at slightly different speeds, supposedly to confuse our sound locators. Once we realised that the target was London, life again settled down to a routine. Evenings were spent indoors playing ‘Snakes and Ladders’ or ‘Happy Families’ and listening to the wireless – my grandparents lived just round the corner in Queen Street so evenings were sometimes spent in each others houses, with Dad arguing that the ‘only good German was a dead one’ and the rest of the family arguing that they weren’t all Nazis; Grandad in particular asserted that if the left-wing slogan ‘Workers of the World Unite’ was put into practice wars would be impossible (The problem being, of course that that workers have greater loyalty to their own countrymen, whether workers or toffs, than they do to workers of other countries, as evidenced by him working as long hours as anyone else). But it never became serious enough to prevent Dad, Grandad, and my plumber Uncle going to the Morden Arms for a pint (or two).

That left Mum and I, and perhaps Grandma, indoors at one or other of our houses – going to the pub for us came later. My worry with the wireless was that it might prevent us hearing a falling bomb and hence saving ourselves by diving under the table – Mum said that was unlikely to do any good and she’d rather not know and Dad, as always, said “if it’s got your name on it…..” Nevertheless, when we heard a plane or the guns the wireless was turned down so that I could sit with butterflies in the tummy until it had passed over. I suppose it was too much to go down the cellar and up again every few minutes - it wasn’t a place to stay if not necessary. Dad always argued that a bomb had to be released before the aircraft reached the target (true) so if the plane was overhead you were safe (untrue because the bomb continued to move forward as it fell, and hit the ground roughly under the plane).

After the gunfire came the ‘clank’ of falling shell splinters, another cause of casualties among people out-and-about. It led to the hobby of picking them up in the street and taking them to school to see who had the biggest pieces. The nose cap of a shell was the ultimate trophy, but I never got one.

Daytime alerts were now rare and we began to hear of RAF fighters actually patrolling over France, and small raids by our light bombers – it was called ‘leaning forward into France’. We also noticed that our fighters had adapted the Luftwaffe’s loose ‘finger four’ formation, flying in two pairs like the finger nails of an outstretched hand, more effective than the RAFs previous Vic of 3 aircraft. Certainly a feature of the daylight skies was the number of aeroplanes - and they were OURS (Well, most of the time!).

So daytime life became normal (dark nights were still spent indoors), and at weekends and holidays I started going with Derek Sparks who became my pal for the rest of the war – for most of the time that is, because I remember a passing woman breaking up a mild fight between us at the top of Ross Street; I have no idea now what it was about. Derek lived only about 3 or 4 doors from my Grandparents in Queen Street.

We acquired a piano – Dad said if I learnt to play that, later in life, I would never be short of a free pint in a pub that had one. Jumping ahead a bit, I took piano lessons with Alice Rapley (not that I called her that – to we kids adults were always Mr or Mrs or Miss), who ran a music school from her home in Queen Street. I did learn to read music but my fingers didn’t do what the music said they should do, and I’m tone deaf so couldn’t play by ear – so I never did earn a free pint.

Alice’s daughter worked at Short’s as a Tracer, which involved tracing draughtsmens’ original drawing on to transparent tracing paper, which was then transferred by an old-style photo-copying process to produce ‘blueprints’ - white lines on blue paper. Who among our KHF engineers remembers those?

Back to the blitz:
On 14th November all was quiet for the first time since 7th September and we heard next day that Coventry had been blitzed. That was worrying, because if the Luftwaffe was attacking provincial towns they could attack us, especially as we lived in a military/naval town, although we took some comfort at being in one of the most heavily defended areas of the country. Thereafter it was a succession of quiet nights when the attacks were on other towns, ranging from Glasgow, Belfast, Liverpool, Bristol,  Southampton, Plymouth and Portsmouth (they were naval dockyards – oh heck!!!), and many more. When the raid was on London and the sirens went there was a stomach churning time while we waited to see if it was going to be ‘our blitz’. Once the first few raiders had passed over as in the old days, we relaxed a bit.

14th December must have been one of those 'tummy butterfly' times because I was part way down the cellar steps and calling for Mum to come down from the kitchen – it  was early evening and Dad wasn’t home from work - when there was an almighty ‘whoomf’ and everything shook. It turned out to be a couple of land mines that flattened the Ordnance Street area of Chatham, causing many casualties. I think it was the first time we had heard of ‘land-mines’ - naval magnetic mines that exploded if they fell on land. Particularly nasty because, being on a parachute, you couldn’t hear them coming, they didn’t waste energy blowing a hole in the ground and so did a lot of damage, and they were BIG.

On 29th December Dad invited a couple of ATS girls who worked with him to spend the evening with us, one of whom played the piano beautifully, which was a bit upsetting for me because it was one of those nights when London was the target, and I was half-trying to listen for bombs from the planes that were passing over. But I particularly remember that night because somebody went to the toilet - which was in the back porch – and said there was a big fire somewhere. We went outside and the sky over the houses of James Street was blood red. Next day we learned that the ‘somewhere‘ was the City of London. The Luftwaffe had planned well. The raid was mostly with incendiaries with some HE to blow buildings open (A technique that the RAF used to repay later with interest – truly a case of ‘he who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind’), it was a Sunday, so many of the buildings were empty and fires took hold before they were seen, and the tide was low so the fire brigade couldn’t get water from the river. I’m sure everyone has seen the newsreel shots taken from the roof of St Paul’s that night, and the photo of the dome of St Paul's rising above the smoke

The result was the introduction of fire-watching, whereby every premises over a certain size had to have someone on watch, and every residential street had to draw up a fire-watch rota – yet another duty on top of work, the Home Guard, and ARP. Every house had to have a stirrup pump or a bucket of sand and a shovel, or a sandbag – the ‘standard’ one was about 18” square divided into strips like a Li-lo mattress.

The attachment shows our neck-of-the-woods. 23 Ross Street is marked by the red cross at bottom-left. The red cross at centre-right is 2 James Street, which comes into my story later. ’G’, at the right, marks the approximate site of 88 Queen Street, my Grandparents hoise and where I was born. ‘D’ is roughly where Derek Sparks lived, and Alice Rapley’s house is ringed in red. The Morden Arms is further to the right in Queen Street, just out of the picture.

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: GP on February 15, 2014, 19:33:55
Went to the Chatham Historical Society last Friday.

Talk on Lord Haw Haw, aka William Joyce . Very interesting. Have you any memories of listening to the German propaganda  broadcasts. Pee Cee ?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: afsrochester on February 15, 2014, 22:13:38
Great read PC!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 16, 2014, 08:34:50
Thanks AFS :)

Yes GP, I do remember ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, and his voice best imitated by pinching your nose and saying “Jarmany calling, Jarmany calling”. I think he broadcast at the same time every evening and he was listened to almost as avidly as the BBC news, although mostly with a sense of amusement because he reported the same events in the worst possible light. For some reason the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal became iconic to us and his frequent announcements that she had been sunk were treated with derision. But I think he put the boot in one day by announcing her sinking before the Admiralty did! And he sometimes caused consternation by mentioning a small detail like “The church clock at Borchester stopped at twenty to two yesterday. Has it been repaired yet?” which created a feeling of ‘Big Brother is watching’ – how could he know that? It didn’t occur to us that Borchester probably didn’t exist. But I don’t remember the full details. Was anything like that mentioned in the talk?

That reminds me of another aspect of wartime life – the BBC bulletin that “The Admiralty regrets to announce the loss of HMS Wotsit. I can’t remember if they gave details of casualties or stated something like “Next of kin have been informed”. Being wartime we wouldn’t have know whether she was a Chatham manned ship anyway.

Which brings back another memory! Sailors hatbands showed only ‘HMS’ and not ‘HMS Wotsit’.

And there is now the memory of masses of sailors at Chatham station going on/off leave, I presume on special trains, but can’t remember how they got from/to the naval barracks. I only remember us thinking that if the Germans dropped a bomb….!!

But it’s a long time ago and I regret that I can’t flesh it out a bit.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on February 16, 2014, 08:45:07
Of course Borchester exists! It's the nearest town to Ambridge...  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 18, 2014, 12:25:30
Part 12
So into the New Year. There was some snow and we worried that it would make targets easier to spot. For the same reason we didn’t like moonlit nights and a full moon was called a bomber’s moon.

I mentioned in Part 11 how I was on tenterhooks listening for the sound of a falling bomb and we knew of ‘whistling bombs’, although I never heard one; but they definitely existed because I’ve seen a photo of a whistle that was attached to the fin of a bomb. The natural noise of a falling bomb was a sort of soft sliding noise and it was said that if you heard that you were safe because, if dropped from high enough, the bomb reached almost the speed of sound so that the noise of its approach and the bomb itself arrived only a short time apart. Thinking back to the Ross Street incident (Part 10) we may not have dashed indoors to the ’sound of falling bombs’, but because we saw two dots leave the plane. Anyway, having had that explained to me, I probably worried if I couldn’t hear a bomb falling!

So we carried on sitting and listening during the evenings when London was the target – but I don’t remember actually having to dive under the table, although there was an occasional ‘thump’ of a distant bomb. And we slept in the cellar every night anyway.

It would have been about then that ‘Jim Crows’ were introduced. These were look-outs posted on factory roofs after the alert had sounded, to give warning of an enemy plane that was considered a threat, when the workers would take cover, sometimes in shelters inside the factory buildings themselves. The only effect on us was that the ‘Danger’ signal for the Dockyard was the hooter, which could be heard from Rochester – not much help for our safety but a source of worry for families who had people working in the ‘yard. Grandad did his turns at night shift, but later moved to the Dockyard ‘extension’ at Wouldham, although I can’t remember when that was. A signal that would have been useful to us was from Short’s, but I think that was internal bells that we couldn’t hear.

We heard of a bomb that made a big crater in Rochester Cemetery and Derek and I went to look, probably with ghoulish thoughts of seeing bones scattered everywhere – we didn’t, although it was certainly a big hole, attributed to an ‘aerial torpedo’, whatever that was. The only other damage was to the roofs and windows of the houses and shops on the opposite side of Maidstone Road. Anther incident we only heard of afterwards was the oil bomb that burnt out the top floor of the Red Lion, on the corner of Corporation Street and High Street, despite it being quite close. Then there was the worst incident of the war in Gillingham, when 50 buses were destroyed when the depot in Nelson Road was hit, and there were heavy casualties when bombs hit other parts of the town. Apparently that one resulted in a motley collection of buses being drafted in from the surrounding area, but I don’t remember them. That was probably because at that time we rarely used the bus. I went to school just round the corner, Dad cycled to work, and mum could do all the regular shopping within walking distance.

Then one night I assume the enemy planes didn’t just pass over but must have circled around, but for whatever reason Mum and I were in the cellar when there was a clattering noise like machine gun fire, followed by shouting. We went into the garden to find the whole area lit up by incendiary bombs and there was one in the middle of the lawn – it gave off an intense white flame about 2 ft high and a foot across. Mum grabbed the sandbag which was kept inside the porch and approached the bomb, holding the sandbag in front of her face, as we had been advised, when I - fearless as ever - called to her to come back in case the bomb had an explosive charge, which many of them did, set to explode a couple of minutes after landing, to deter such behaviour. I can’t now remember what she did, but do remember that the menfolk were in the Morden Arms and came home and we were shepherded down the cellar. The next memory I have is hearing of Dad and some others tackling a bomb in the roof of the builder’s office on the corner of Ross Street and James Street with a stirrup pump. I don’t remember much more but have often wondered whether it was ‘our blitz’ that went wrong (or right, depending on which side you were on).

The next day we heard that there was an unexploded bob in the furniture repository in Dunnings Lane, at the back of the Foresters Arms – if that had gone off a later stage in my life would have been different. But at the time it didn’t seem so bad, because Troy Town School was closed for a few days, until the bomb was removed. (The most likely date I can identify in Rochester City archives is 10th January 1941, when there is the simple entry “Incendiary bombs Rochester. Houses slightly damaged”, and book ‘Front Line County’ lists 3 people killed in Chatham, but no other details)

I’m not absolutely sure of the sequence of the above events, so it’s rather like Eric Morecambe’s piano playing –the memories are correct but not necessarily in the right order.

But the next one is definite. On 8th April we were in bed in the cellar and heard/felt some big explosions. Next day we discovered that a parachute mine had demolished a large part of Wickham Street, and others had hit Short’s on the Esplanade and destroyed an AFS sub-station on the Esplanade, killing the firemen there. In the morning we found our budgie was dead in its cage – but whether due to shock or malnutrition, I don’t know; all we could find to feed it on was grass seed and bread.
(As with other aspects, there are more details on the forum, but this thread is about my personal memories).

We were in school one afternoon when there was an enormous bang, and when we came out we saw the sky covered by black smoke. From the Back Fields we saw a fire raging in the middle of the river – a tug and some oil barges had been blown up by a magnetic mine. (I had always believed it was another mine dropped unseen on 8th April, but some delving for KHF some time ago suggested it was earlier – so it might have been another ‘Eric Morecambe’ event.).

10th May was another noisy night with another big fire raid on London, possibly bigger than the 29th December one, and then the next night – nothing, and then – nothing! We didn’t know it at the time, but the blitz was over. This time it really was as sudden as the end of the B of B was portrayed in the film.

We must have continued to sleep in the cellar, because on the morning of 22nd of June I was still in bed when Mum came down to tell me that Germany had invaded Russia. I remember saying “good” because, like all the armchair generals and with the wisdom of my 12 years of life, I realised that, as in Norway, Hitler had bitten off more than he could chew and it would now soon be over…..(The Germans were at the gates of Moscow within weeks).

In September I started at the combined Rochester/Chatham Junior Technical School – see Part 7 (Reply#56)

Then on 8th December the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and invaded Malaya – again it was good because it brought America into the war. We knew that Japanese soldiers were puny little men with poor eyesight, that  the Mitsubishi ‘Zero’ fighter was rubbish and their ships sank if they were so much as looked at. It would now soon be over….!

Hong Kong fell to the Japanese on 25th December and we celebrated our 3rd Christmas of the war.

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: oobydooby on February 18, 2014, 13:02:34
Part 12

The next day we heard that there was an unexploded bob in the furniture repository in Dunnings Lane, at the back of the Foresters Arms


A great read, well written memories.  I bet bob was not very happy at the time. :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on February 18, 2014, 14:47:04
Interesting PC......I did laugh at oobydooby's remark.....I had read it as `bomb'!  Shows I'm slipping in the corrections mode!!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 18, 2014, 15:31:24
You won't believe how many times I checked that for errors before posting it - aaaah!!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on February 18, 2014, 15:34:33
I read it as bomb as well. I am now having a good laugh.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on February 18, 2014, 15:39:49
You see what you expect to see. And despite oobydooby's comment, I'd have bet that bob was a lot happier unexploded than he would have been exploded...   :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 18, 2014, 15:56:16
But it does highlight the sheer cold courage of those men who dealt with unexploded bobs, because an exploded bob made them into bits :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on February 18, 2014, 18:27:26
 :) :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on February 18, 2014, 19:32:19
I'm a little younger than you, PC, but I can remember a lot of time in an Anderson shelter. The worst sight I remember, was sitting on someone's shoulders watching Swansea burn. We were some way away but the whole sky was a flickering red. They reckon Swansea has never recovered.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 18, 2014, 20:30:01
Strange you should say that. My wife was evacuated to South Wales for safety, and one of her strong memories is watching Swansea burn from Ystalyfera, about 15 miles away. I think that her parents decided that, if she was going to be bombed, she might as well have it happen at home and brought her back. (Note that I wrote 'bombed' and not 'bobed') :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on February 18, 2014, 20:51:54
We watched from Llanelly (Llanelli), and shortly after I was evacuated to Queenborough on the Isle-of-Sheppey  just in time for Queenborogh school to get bombed
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 21, 2014, 21:42:59
Part 13
To set the scene:
By mid-1941 the Germans had occupied Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, and Crete, and by the beginning of 1942 the German armies in Russia were at the gates of Moscow and were laying siege to Leningrad (St Petersburg). In North Africa the long ding-dong campaign between the 8th Army and the Afrika Korps (and its Italian allies) had begun, with first one and then the other gaining the upper hand.

As 1942 got under way it seemed an unmitigated disaster. The German armies advanced across southern Russia as far as the Volga, the Battle of the Atlantic was at its height (and we weren’t winning), and we had to send aid to Russia via the Arctic convoys and through Persia (Iran).

We watched with disbelief as Malaya and Singapore fell and the Japanese pushed up through Burma. The battleships ‘Prince of Wales’ and ‘Repulse’ and a large part of our Pacific Fleet was sunk by just a few aircraft. Japanese armies occupied the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), most of the western Pacific islands, and Borneo – no one would have been surprised had they landed in Australia. The ‘Zero’ proved to be a superb fighter plane and the Japanese soldier was unbeatable - or so it seemed at the time.

It really was the low point of the war
.

At home in the Medway Towns, 1942 was much like peace time. Rochester City Archives don’t record a single incident during the whole year and Front Line County lists only one fatality in the area – at Cliffe on 24th October, due to a plane crash. While there was lots of activity near the coast, and Canterbury merits a mention of its own, elsewhere in Kent there were just 4 fatal incidents – 3 at Ashford and 1 at Tonbridge.

So here are my personal memories. As before, they are not necessarily in the right order:
The big one was the move to 2 James Street (see photos in Part 11, Reply#81), although I can only date it between Pearl Harbour (8/12/41) and the Dieppe raid (19/8/42). I don’t remember why we moved – perhaps the rent was less, or 23 Ross Street had some bomb damage. Nor do I remember how we moved – presumably by a removal firm, even though it was only just round the corner. It was smaller than Ross Street, with a front room, living room, and kitchen downstairs, and 3 bedrooms upstairs. We still had electric light but the big downside was that the loo was right outside, not in the back door porch like Ross Street. There was no cellar and we had an Anderson shelter with a fully enclosed ‘shed’ about 8 ft square round its door – that gave some protection from the weather and some storage space, and could even be heated with an oil-stove. But until the coming of the V1s we slept indoors again.

But however ‘normal’ life seemed, there was always the worry for families with members in the forces about what was happening to them. To hear that “Mrs X’s husband has been killed” or that “Mrs Y’s son is missing”, was common. It was relatively joyful to hear that someone previously missing was now confirmed as a POW – unless he was a prisoner of the Japanese, that is. We began to hear accounts of how they were being treated, but I won’t go into that here.

A favourite haunt of Derek and I was the footbridge over the railway yards along Blue Boar Lane, from where we could watch shunting and see right into the cabs of the locos, as well as watch the steam trains passing on the nearby main line. Derek’s father worked as a panel beater/paint sprayer in a  garage in Blue Boar Lane, opposite the Casino, and we sometimes earned a couple of bob there ‘rubbing down’ and helping to prepare a car for spraying. Labour was short and, even though it was not essential war work, his dad worked long hours. While the ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ meant that people helped each other when there was genuine need, there was often a drop in standards of service, and any complaint brought the response “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

What a horrible life it became in another way – they stopped making Dinky Toys! In fact, I think they stopped making most toys except model aircraft kits, and balsa wood was always available in sheet or rod form. I made model ships by gluing sheets about 1/16” thick together to get ‘depth’, and shaping them – well, sort of – to make hulls and superstructure, to a scale of about 200feet to an inch. I built docks on a sheet of plywood, again using balsa sheets glued together to give depth to quays and buildings. Then, having been scared stiff by real life air raids, I had fun bombing them with Dinky Toy aeroplanes! The Dinky Toys I remember are the pre-war Mercedes and Auto-union racing cars, London taxi, a pre-war army tank, and a gun with its towing vehicle. Aeroplanes were the AW Ensign airliner and the Short Mayo Composite, and there were liners and warships. Derek and I started to build our own model plane in his garden shed, consisting of cardboard ribs and stringers, intended to be covered with paper, but it didn’t get far.

In February the German warships Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen, which had been holed up in Brest, made a run for home, actually passing through the Dover Straits in daylight under our noses. Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde won a posthumous VC for leading 6 Swordfish torpedo-bombers to attack them from Manston – all the planes and crews were lost.

Even as kids we sensed that the country was becoming restless and the phrase “What a way to run a war” was often heard. But we plodded on and Mum and I still went to our Saturday afternoon pictures and we slept soundly in our beds on most nights. The ladies struggled to provide appetising food and the Ministry of Food gave all sorts of advice about making a ‘silk purse out of a sow’s ear’. We were introduced to powdered egg, spam, and even off-ration whale meat (rather like liver…err…leather). Bread, though unrationed, was made of more-or-less unrefined flour. The menu may have been boring, but we never went hungry. Sweets became rationed, to the good of our teeth! British Restaurants opened to provide cheap wholesome meals that helped out the rations. Newspapers were reduced in size to (I think) 2 sheets - 8 pages - of poor quality paper

We got boosts from the occasional Commando raids – on the Lofoten Islands in Norway and on St Nazaire – although I think we realised that they were only pin-pricks that did little towards actually winning the war. (But the St Nazaire raid did put the only ‘battleship sized’ dry  dock on the Atlantic coast out of action, thus preventing Tirpitz being based there and threatening our Atlantic shipping). The German Battleship Bismark was sunk after a chase that we followed on the news every day, from Norway, across the Atlantic and almost back to France – sweet revenge for her sinking of HMS Hood a few days earlier. On 30th May came the 1000 bomber raid on Cologne. Wow, that was paying the blitz back with interest – no nation could withstand that sort of thing for long. Except that it wasn’t repeated. (Later I discovered that the 1000 bombers were only scraped together by using aircraft from training units, and it was intended by the new head of Bomber Command – ‘Bomber’ Harris -  only as a one-off demo of what could be done if he were given enough bombers)

The Cologne raid provoked a series of retaliatory raids on our historic cities – Bath, Exeter, Norwich etc. The raids became known as the Baedeker raids and the centre of Canterbury, my grandparents’ ‘home’ town, was flattened at the beginning of June.

Mum, Dad , and I must have gone for a walk or bus ride on the evening of Saturday 21st June because I distinctly remember sitting outside the front of the Luton Tavern (Now the ‘Oriental Delight’ takeaway) when Dad came out with our drinks to say that the landlord had said Tobruk had fallen to Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Tobruk had become a major prize in the desert campaign, and to lose it was seen as another major defeat in the desert war (I looked up the date – my memory is not that good!)

With Russia bearing the brunt of the land war and America still reeling under the Japanese onslaught, there was a feeling that were weren’t pulling our weight and a campaign for a Second Front – an invasion of western Europe from the UK - began. Graffiti appeared, saying “Open the Second Front NOW”. So when during the day of 19th August it was announced that a major battle was taking place on the beaches of Dieppe, it was assumed that the Second Front had opened, only for it to be discovered next day that it was a large scale raid. Not only was there that disappointment, but there was no hiding the fact that it was a defeat even of that limited objective, with  heavy casualties – especially to the Canadians.

How much worse could it get? Even as a kid I knew that the government only just survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the conduct of the war, probably because Churchill said that he had never claimed that it would be easy – vide his ‘blood, toil, tears, and sweat’ speech when he became PM.

One Saturday afternoon in October Canterbury was bombed and its crowded shopping centre (or what was left of it from the Baedeker attack) was machine gunned by low flying fighter-bombers, causing heavy casualties. A few days later Mum and I and my Grandmother went down by train to visit my ‘Uncle Harry’ – my Gran’s brother - who worked in a garage there. I can’t remember whereabouts in Canterbury it was, but I do remember his graphic description of that afternoon, including a boy laying on the pavement opposite with his leg ‘orf’ (in his East Kent accent). It was my Gran’s first visit since the raid in June, and she was almost in tears when she saw what had happened to the city of her birth.

In the desert Rommel’s troops had chased the 8th Army all the way back to a previously unheard of village by the name of El Alamein, only about 30 miles from Alexandria, far farther into Egypt than they had ever penetrated before. There they halted because they had outrun their supplies. We probably didn’t realise it but Erwin Rommel, never one for missing an opportunity, had only to regroup his forces more quickly than the 8th Army and the way to Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and who knows how much further, was open.

Perhaps it was a case of ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ but, despite everything, I honestly cannot remember any talk of us possibly losing the war.

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sirenetta on February 22, 2014, 19:05:34
Well done, PC, that really brings history to life!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 23, 2014, 21:21:22
Thanks.  :)  I hope I’m succeeding in presenting things as we saw them at the time, even if later accounts prove some events wrong

Part 14
Some of my clearest memories of living in James Street are of standing in the garden during alerts at night and talking to neighbour Mrs Briggs and her son John, a bit younger than me. I don’t remember a Mr Briggs, so he may have been in the forces or Mrs Briggs may have been a widow. So I’m going to give that bit of my story a section of its own, and to set the background I’ve consulted Rochester City Archives, Front Line County and Blitz on Britain for details of attacks during 1943 and 1944 up to the advent of the flying bombs (All night attacks unless stated):
1943
•   17th January: Raid on London by 118 bombers, considerd big for the time.
•   20th January: Low-level daylight raid on London by 28 fighter-bombers, a few of which broke away to make a diversionary raid on Maidstone.
•   21st January: Fire bombs and UXB on open ground, Rochester
•   3rd March: Raid on London.
•   4th March: Fatal incident at Chatham.
•   16th, 18th, 20th April and 16th May: Attacks on London by high flying fighter-bombers. During the 16th April attack 4 FW190s mistook West Malling airfield for their home base and either landed there or crashed in trying to!
•   15th September: HEs on farm at Cuxton
•   Undated in October: Raid on London.
•   22nd October: Fatal incident at Hoo
So only 11 nights recorded, although attacks on other towns may have caused alerts in Medway, even though no activity resulted there.

1944
What came to be known as the ‘Little Blitz’, with the introduction of the Heinkel 177 bomber, the 2500kg (5500lb) bomb – the biggest ever used by the Luftwaffe – and a more powerful explosive. Beginning on 21st January there were 2 attacks on London in January, 9 in February, 4 in March, and the last ever manned aircraft raid on London on 18th April. There were also 9 raids on Hull, Bristol, and Portsmouth, ending with the last manned aircraft attack anywhere in the UK, on Plymouth on 30th April.
Locally there were incidents (summarised) at:
•   21st January: Incendiaries, open fields, Rochester.
•   29th January: Incendiaries, fields and foreshore, Rochester. Incident at Gillingham.
•   3rd February: Incendiaries, Rochester
•   18th February: Parachute mine, Strood – much damage
•   2nd March: HE, Strood. Heavy damage in Station Road.
•   22nd March: Incendiaries, Strood
•   19thApril: Parachute mine, Strood (Actually night of 18/19 April, the last attack on London)
.

Nothing was bad enough to make us sleep in the shelter because the attacks were always short - none of the all night alerts of the 1940/41 blitz - but they did result in loss of sleep, compensated for by the ‘social life’ of the back garden. We also knew of the frequent low-level daylight bombing and strafing attacks on coast towns, which is why we didn’t go to the seaside.

Here is what I remember, in no specific order:
•   The blinding flash and ear-splitting noise when the AA guns fired. I think the only ones we knew of was the battery at Fort Borstal. Later, when flashless propellant was introduced it was quite startling to have the noise as the first thing to happen.
•   The noise like an express train when the rocket battery at Beatty Avenue fired
•   Going down the shelter if there were AA shell bursts nearby because after a  few seconds there might be the ‘clank’, ‘clank’ of the  ‘shrapnel’ – as we incorrectly called it – coming  down.
•   For some of the time at least there was a searchlight in Fort Clarence, and stray light from that lit up the streets like daylight, tending to make us feel quite exposed with an enemy overhead.
•   A flare from an enemy plane slowly falling almost above us, also lighting up the streets like daylight. Since the plane that dropped it was obviously looking for something, Dad thought it prudent that we went into the shelter.
•   The astonishing sight of the night sky on a clear moonless night.
•   The twinkle of AA fire in the distance. Even today I can’t watch the bursting of rockets in a firework display without thinking of that.
•   Listening to a plane passing over and saying “It’s one of ours” – then the guns  opening up. An enemy only made that ‘whoom’ – ‘whoom’ noise if the pilot had de-synchronised the engines.
•   The smell of smoke from the smoke generators that were placed round the town to hide the dockyard. (See note)
•   I’ve put this on KHF before but make no apology for doing so again, because it was my defining moment of the war. A plane was passing over when there was a ’burr’ of cannon fire, and a moving light, which gradually got bigger, appeared  above us. It suddenly burst into 2 or 3 pieces and went down towards Strood. I shouted “Yippee, they’ve got one” and Dad said “Just shut up, there’s men in that”. Suddenly those flaming pieces said everything about the awefulness of war.
•   Similarly, we were watching an enemy plane caught in searchlights, weaving with shells bursting all round it. Dad said “Poor buggers!” What had happened to his belief that the only good Germans were dead ones?

Note: For part of the war smoke  generators were positioned round the towns -. In my neck-of the woods it was along Corporation Street, Star Hill, New Road, and Chatham Hill. They consisted of an oil burning furnace and chimney on a trailer towed by a 15cwt truck with an oil tank, and generated stinking black smoke, they parked up somewhere during the day and came out each evening just before dusk.
More details here for those interested: http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=4296.msg34933#msg34933

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on February 24, 2014, 00:36:53
Very interesting about the things your Father said about you cheering and aircraft down. My Dad was told the same, same kind of incident, almost word for word by his Father who also survived the horror of the Great War. My Grand Father maintained that there was no such place a Germany in truth because it was made up of several Principalities like Saxony (he liked Saxons and had learned the Saxon dialect in the trenches), Bavaria and Prussia and the best thing would have been to dissolve the German unity.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 24, 2014, 12:04:52
The irony is that my father was in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in WW1 and fought the Turks, yet he never said “The only good Turk is a dead one”, although I do know that he stuck a bayonet in one. I think it was just that he saw Germany as starting both world wars and it was an expression that ‘came out’ in an argument.

Regarding the different parts of Germany, I was once on a coach outing from Munich and the guide explained that “In Bavaria we work to live, but in the rest of Germany they live to work”.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 27, 2014, 08:39:49
Part 15
Back to 1942, with the Japanese having spread themselves across much of eastern Asia and western Pacific, the German armies in Russia on the Volga at Stalingrad (Volgograd), and Rommel halted at El Alamein in Egypt (Part 13 - Reply#97, P7). Having looked at the night air raids for 1943 and 1944 (Part 14 – Reply#99, P7), let’s set the scene to continue into other aspects of life in 1942 and 1943:
In the Far East the Japanese soldier, while still unbeaten, had at least stopped beating us. The Americans scored a major naval victory at Midway, the first in history in which the opposing fleets never sighted each other – all the fighting taking place between carrier borne aircraft and the ships. The German offensive at Stalingrad failed and the Russians began to push them back. In Egypt Rommel failed in his attempt to advance further (the 1st Battle of El Alamein) and in October 1942 the 2nd Battle of El Alamein saw the rout of the Afrika Korps and its long retreat across North Africa. Allied landings in North West Africa in November 1942 meant that the Germans became ‘Piggy in the Middle’. In May 1943 the Axis forces in Africa surrendered at Tunis and the Allies landed in Sicily in July. After landings on the mainland, Italy surrendered in September and declared war on Germany! But, already having forces in Italy, the Germans simply ‘occupied’ it and the long slog up the Italian mainland, from one fortress line to another, began.

So here is how we lived in the Medway Towns and viewed the events of the wider world, to the best of my memory:

As well as my Saturday afternoon pictures with Mum, we also went in the evenings. One of the features was looking at the screen through a haze of cigarette smoke. I now recall Mum’s habit of commenting on the film – a violent scene would provoke a comment like “Oh my God”, and the hero kissing the heroine brought forth “You naughty boy” – I tried to look as if she didn’t belong to me! Although there may have been appropriate noises from elsewhere in the audience anyway. Not that love scenes were particularly erotic – I believe there was some rule that actors had to keep one foot on the ground, and shots of a man and woman lying on the bed, however near to fully dressed, were a no-no. However, I think newsreel shots of violence became less inhibited and one that comes to my mind as I write is of an explosion in a hedgerow and a body rolling out onto the road. Winter conditions on the Russian front were illustrated by a shot of the bodies of German soldiers being loaded on to trucks, frozen solid.

It took a while before it became apparent that El Alamein was a major victory but, when it did, church bells were rung for the first time since they had been banned in the summer of 1940. As always Churchill warned against false hopes, saying “It is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning”. Later events showed that it really was a turning point – before El Alamein the British army never won a campaign, but after El Alamein it never lost one.

At some time the 14th Army in Burma had become know as the ‘Forgotten Army’ although I don’t know why because we remembered it as the army that was always on the run. Perhaps they were just forgotten when decent weapons and equipment were being handed out. Things changed when its new commander – General Slim – decreed that it would no longer retreat when the Japanese used their favourite tactic of outflanking through the ‘impenetrable’ jungle, but would stay put and be supplied by air if surrounded. The ‘Chindits’ operated miles behind enemy lines. The Japanese soldier was being played at his own game. It was probably about now that we heard about POWs being employed on the construction of the Burma Railway, and it was disturbing.

The Russians surrounded the German 6th Army at Stalingrad and we saw astonishing newsreels of lines of German prisoners stretching apparently for miles, thinly clad in the Russian winter. It became apparent that the war in that theatre was nasty, with atrocities on both sides.

Nevertheless, things were looking up!

Derek and I ‘acquired’ a dog. He was a big black and brown Labrador type who suddenly came up to us in the street one day wagging his tail, and followed us wherever we went. From then on it was the same every time he saw us, until either we went indoors or he decided it was time to go and just trotted off. He was a familiar sight in the area but I think we were the only ones he latched on to, and I think he lived in Church Street – he seemed to be well cared for and, according to his collar, his name was ‘Prince’.

When Italy surrendered and changed sides it was, of course, all soon going to be over, except that the ordinary German soldier didn’t agree, and newsreels and newspaper photos of the Italian front in the winter of 1943/44, with everything bogged down in the mud, were reminiscent of Flanders in WW1.

There were WRNS girls billeted in some of the big houses in Watts Avenue, and on warm summer evenings they would sit in the open windows. Derek and I, with all the panache of our 14 years, chatted them up and were rather surprised to learn what they would like to do to ‘little boys’.

Apart from the cinema the usual entertainment for the light evenings was the pub and walks, and for Derek and me it was just ‘milling around’ – the Back Fields and the footpath round the flooded field (an EWS source) by the river were favourite haunts, as was the Castle Gardens - it was surprising how much we could find to do. Watching Sunderlands flying from the Medway and Stirlings from the airport was another pastime. We played various ball games and the lady in the end house of Queen Street made us wash down her garden wall after we’d chalked something on it. With Double BST sunset was after 10pm in June.

In winter it was mostly messing about indoors for us, or joining the adults in listening to the radio, playing games, or in the pub. As previously noted, we were not bothered very much by air raids in 1942 and 1943.

However I was once at school at Holcombe when there was the noise of a diving plane and gunfire, and the teacher told us to get under the desks. Apparently a lone enemy aircraft had dived out of the clouds, and by that stage of the war the sirens were not sounded for lone raiders.

In May 1943 came the famous Dambusters raid, and we got the impression that the whole of German industry was flooded. Our bomber offensive began to make itself felt (although we believed that had always been the case) and city after city was devastated, so it would all soon be over…..! However, Churchill had made it plain that there would be no compromise, and nothing less than unconditional surrender would end the war.

I remember one night there was a continuous roar as our bombers passed over at low level, and occasionally one could be seen against the starlit sky. The BBC played a recording of nightingales singing against the noise of massed bombers going over – I think it was made somewhere in southern England and wonder if it was the same occurrence..

Large formations of American bombers went over Kent on their way to targets in France and southern Germany in daylight, going out in perfect formation and coming back later in not such perfect formation. Mum got as near as she ever did to praying when she said “Please boys, all come back safely” – unfortunately a vain hope! A 4-engined US Liberator made a crash landing at Rochester airport and slid onto the Rochester-Maidstone Road near where the caravan site is now. We went to look at it and were shocked at the bullet holes all over it.

American servicemen appeared on the streets of the Medway Towns – I don’t think any were stationed nearby, so were probably sightseeing, especially Rochester. But we couldn’t help but be impressed by the quality of their uniforms. There was a song called ‘The Yanks are coming….The Yanks are coming over there’, which gave rise to the complaint that they were ‘Overpaid, over sexed, and over here’. But all that was compensated for by the presence of Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in the UK, bringing his ever popular music.

As well as the Americans there were many foreign and Dominion service people, but while some of them wore their national uniform for a while when they first arrived, they eventually all wore British uniform with a shoulder flash showing ‘Canada’, ‘Poland’, and so on.

The V-for-Victory sign crept in. I think it started as a mark of defiance in occupied Europe, with the letter ’V’ chalked on walls but it also appeared in the UK, and as a poster simply stating ‘V for Victory’. Churchill started its use as a hand signal, putting up the first and second fingers, but with the palm outwards to avoid giving offence! It also manifested itself as the Morse code letter V (dot-dot-dot-dash), which formed the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, played by the BBC as the introduction to some programmes.

It’s ironic that a piece of music by a German composer should have been used by the British for propaganda purposes, but another case of music becoming used by both sides was the song ‘Lilli Marlene’. It was broadcast on the German forces programmes in southern Europe and listened to by our troops in Egypt – it was about a soldier having to leave his sweetheart to go and fight, thus striking a chord with soldiers of all nationalities. It was translated into English and became popular in the UK.

Other songs of the times tended to be more wistful than those in vogue at the beginning of the war (See Part 6, Reply#54, P4). ‘When they sound the last all clear’, ‘When the lights go on again’, and the immortal ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ come to my mind as I write this. Then there was the nonsense song called ‘Mairzy Totes’ that went “Mairzytotes an doezytotes an liddellams eeteyevee, kidseleeteyevytoo, woodentchoo”. Who can translate that into English?

Other memories are of getting a ride up Star Hill on a Churchill tank, with several other kids, after an army-v-Home Guard exercise one Sunday morning. Actually we had watched the ‘battle’ from further up the hill and saw the tank ‘destroyed’ by a Home Guard lobbing a bomb (a bag of flour!) on it from the flat roof of a shop on the street corner. Another memory is of a landing craft tipped off its trailer and coming to rest against the alms-houses at the top of Star Hill. (Unlike another one I can think of, this one was definitely due to taking the corner from New Road to Star Hill too fast!)

It was either in 1942 or 1943 that Dad moved from the Gun Wharf to the newly opened Ordnance Depot at Darland – See Part 7 (Reply#56 on P4)

As stated in the part about my education (also Part 7) I was at the Tech school and not due to take my leaving exams until I was 15, in 1944, whereas Derek was at Troy Town School and left at 14 in 1943, to take a job as an apprentice bookbinder at a printers (Staples?) in Love Lane, Rochester. My memory is a bit vague but I think I may have become restless at seeing him earning money, or I just wanted to ‘grow-up’ and go to work, or Dad just heard of the vacancy. Whatever the case, he got me a job as a trainee electrician with the Royal Engineers and I left school at Christmas 1943, much against the wishes of the headmaster and without any qualifications.

But that is for the next part…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on February 27, 2014, 09:20:08
the nonsense song called ‘Mairzy Totes’ that went “Mairzytotes an doezytotes an liddellams eeteyevee, kidseleeteyevytoo, woodentchoo”. Who can translate that into English?

I gather it was originally a demonstration by an American professor of English (could there be such a thing?) of how the English language could be mangled by an uneducated American. It translates as "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid will eat ivy too: wouldn't you?"
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on February 27, 2014, 09:22:36
Thanks again PC  :)

I was brought up on the song Maizy Totes, my Dad was forever singing it , and I'm talking the 50s , must have struck a chord with him  :) ( and yes , I do understand ALL the words )

Just seen chasg's response so he saved me the trouble of of explaining  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on February 27, 2014, 11:37:04
Another great chapter PC.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 27, 2014, 12:13:52
Thanks :)
I wasn't aware of the origin of 'Mairseytotes' but recall that after the first line it went:

"If the words seem queer and funny to your ear,
A little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing 'MARES EAT OATS and DOES EAT OATS and LITTLE LAMBS EAT IVY'
So - Mairseytotes....."

And so on; nonsense even when translated. But it helped to liven up the times and it was a catchy tune - having posted it here, I now can't get it out of my head!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on February 27, 2014, 12:18:08
 :) Nor me PC, and brings back some good memories of my old Dad.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 27, 2014, 12:55:45
Here is the detail of the nightingale and bombers event – Paragraph 15:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2093108/

Here is the recording. The bombers start to come in at about 2min 15 sec
http://www.scoop.it/t/460-squadron/p/1147526169/2012/02/08/nightingales-sing-in-1942-as-raf-bombers-fly-overhead

Since the plug was pulled on the live broadcast I must have heard about it after the war, or perhaps the BBC broadcast a recording later.

But I definitely remember the planes going over one night, although probably a different one – such was the density of the stars on a clear moonless night that an aircraft low enough to have any ‘size’ appeared as a ‘black hole’ in them.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: smiler on February 27, 2014, 14:51:28
peter and Lyn it was said on BBC news a couple of weeks ago if you cant get a tune/song out of your head then sing/hum God Save the Queen and it goes , never tried it but give it a go  :) :) :) thanks for a very good read.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on February 27, 2014, 15:08:11
Smiler.... I'll give that a try  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 27, 2014, 15:10:55
I'm not going to risk it - 'God save the Queen' might get stuck there instead :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on February 27, 2014, 15:24:04
I just Googled "Mairzy doats origin" and according to all the sites consulted I was completely and utterly wrong. I'm still sure I read it somewhere, but given my sieve-like memory these days...  :(
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 27, 2014, 16:19:49
No matter – it kept us amused at the time. Another one that has just come back to me is ‘Paper Doll’

I can remember the words of ‘Last All Clear’ to this day:

“When they sound the last all clear,
How happy my darling we’ll be,
When they turn up the lights,
And those dark lonely nights,
Are only a memory.

Never more we’ll be apart,
But always together sweetheart,
The church bells will ring,
And the whole world will sing,
When they sound the last all clear”

It might sound silly, but songs like that seemed to give some hope for the future – so don’t get me started on the ‘White Cliffs of Dover', and ‘We’ll Meet Again’ goes right back to the start of the war

I’ve found this very interesting link about Lilli Marlene:
http://lrdg.hegewisch.net/lrdglilimarlene.html
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on February 27, 2014, 22:29:42
"Whale Meat Again some sunny day"
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on February 28, 2014, 11:52:54
Addition to Part 15
Another memory of living at 2 James Street is of men with a lorry and oxy-acetylene cutting gear taking away the cast iron ornamental railings that were on the front area walls of the houses. There were all sorts of drives to collect scrap, and funds to raise money for weapons. I have vague memories of collection boxes on shop counters for things like the ‘Spitfire Fund’ – we were told that a Spitfire cost £5000.

There were fund raising weeks each year, marked by exhibitions and parades (I admit to looking the years up) – it seems that each town/locality chose its own dates, but I can’t find when those were for the Medway Towns:
•   War Weapons Week – 1941
•   Warships Week – 1942
•   Wings for Victory Week – 1943
•   Salute the Soldier Week – 1944.

A shortage of everything is probably at the root of the reluctance to throw anything away that I still have today.

I can confirm a statement in an earlier part of  this thread that Dinky Toys went out of production in 1941 and, for interest, I can add that, under the ‘Miscellaneous Goods (Prohibition of Manufacture  and Supply) Order’, from 30th September 1943 “No metal model or toy goods, complete or in parts, shall be sold, either new or second-hand”. So it looks as if I couldn’t even sell a toy to my mates!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 02, 2014, 18:02:48
Part 16
To set the scene for 1944, to be enlarged on in my personal account where appropriate:
At home and in north Europe were the ‘Little Blitz’, the Normandy landings, the V1 and V2 attacks, the Battle of Arnhem, and the Battle of the Bulge. The slog up Italy continued, with the Battle of Cassino reminiscent of a WW1 battle, and the capture of Rome, ending with the allies positioned along the River Po. The Russians started to regain the territory lost to the Germans.

In the Far East the Americans began to ‘island hop’ back towards Japan, and the truly forgotten war so far as we were concerned – between China and Japan – presumably continued. The Japanese were finally halted in Burma, on the borders of India, and repelled – it would be wrong to say they retreated, because to the Japanese soldier the concept of ‘retreating to fight another day’ was completely alien. The capture of an unwounded Japanese soldier was almost unknown, and even the wounded ones usually refused medical treatment and food, and could still be dangerous if capable of holding a weapon.


For me the big event was starting work as a Trainee Electrician with the District Commander, Royal Engineers (DCRE), presumably after Christmas. We were based in a couple of rooms in a big house near the Old Ash Tree pub, opposite the top of Canterbury Street, and did electrical maintenance work in army establishments in Rochester, Chatham, and Gillingham, but not across the river (presumably that was somebody else’s area). I was allocated as mate to Bert Poole (Mr Poole to me), an ex-RN man and veteran of the Boer War. I had a bike, but for jobs within walking distance Bert walked and, as befitted my status, if Bert walked, I walked, carrying his toolbox on the saddle of my bike. Other manual transport of the toolbox was by me with its (very narrow) carrying strap over my shoulder, or holding it in my hand – Bert’s toolbox was noted for its comprehensive contents, and I swear that I have a groove in my shoulder and am lop-sided to this day. For longer distances we were taken in an army Austin 8cwt utility, driven by the foreman (Dad’s mate who gave me the job and who told Dad about any of my misdemeanours, such as being late for work, for appropriate action to be taken!) or by Vicky, who was either in the ATS or the Women’s Transport Corps, a branch of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) - the uniforms were similar (Vide the driver in Foyle’s War, the TV series).

Our places of work were any of the army barracks in the towns, the Gun Wharf, my Dad’s RAOC Depot at Darland, an army camp at Wouldham (where there was a Bailey Bridge across the river), an army camp in Hoath Lane, some of the forts, the Military Detention Barracks also at Darland, and the Gun Operations Room (GOR) at the TA Drill Hall on Watling Street. It was mostly the sort of work that maintenance electricians would do in any field.

The Detention Barracks at Darland was a ‘prison’ for men of all 3 services who had committed military offences, and they were treated worse than any POWs – I think the general feeling was that it was rightly so, because by getting themselves in there they were not risking their lives fighting the enemy. Nevertheless, if Britain had a Gestapo or needed Concentration Camp guards, they could have been found from the guards at Darland. With the prisoners doubling everywhere with heavy packs on their backs - it was an unpleasant place to work. The Singles Block, where prisoners who had committed military offences while banged up for committing military offences were kept, was especially so, consisting of a passage with single cells along each side and a small area at the end for exercise. Bert warned me against getting into conversation with the prisoners, or ‘Soldiers under Sentence’ (SUS) to give them their official title.

We maintained the emergency generators at Fort Amherst and I remember seeing the tunnels full of radio sets and the yard outside criss-crossed with aerials. I learnt later of the ‘spoof army’ that was created in South-east England to deceive the Germans into thinking that the forthcoming invasion would be in the Pas de Calais, by dummy tanks and landing craft dotted around and by false radio traffic, and I wonder if those radios were part of that, or a genuine communications centre.

I remember a convoy of army vehicles coming up Star hill and along New Road for hour after hour. Were they just touring Kent as part of that deception? Again not discovered until later, but to help the Germans in their deliberations the radio signals were in easily broken codes and German recce planes were allowed to come over the south-east without too much opposition.

As far as I can remember my home life was much as before but the ‘Little Blitz’, from January to April, caused some disturbed nights (See Part 15, Reply#99). In addition to shrapnel we found strips of metal foil in the streets next morning, dropped by German planes to interfere with our radar. It must have been about now that large parts of southern England were made Restricted Areas in preparation for the invasion of Europe (I think we still called it the ‘Second Front’) and one had to live in the area or have special permission to enter it - I presume Medway was one because I remember having been to Gravesend with Mum and my Gran and the bus was stopped at the Coach and Horses at Strood while police checked everyone’s identity card.

Mum, Dad and I went to an exhibition for one of the fund raising weeks, held in the open basement of a bombed out department store in London. It was my first ever visit to London and for some reason we got the train to Woolwich and then the No 53 bus to central London (still running almost the same route today) As well as the exhibition, I saw Big Ben and Trafalgar Square for the first time. I had thought it was ‘Salute the Soldier Week’ in 1944 but, while writing this I have realised I was working then, so it was probably ‘Wings for Victory Week’ in 1943, and a bit out of sequence in my story.

In Burma the 4th Battalion Royal West Kents found glory at the tiny village of Kohima where, with 2 Indian Battalions, they prevented a Japanese breakthrough into India. After about 10 days of vicious close-quarter fighting round the Governor’s Bungalow and tennis court, they were relieved and the Japanese were driven back…..no – killed while clinging to their positions. But, as stated in the introduction, it was the turning point – the garrison at Imphal that had stayed behind to hinder the enemy supply routes was relieved and the final straw came when the decision was made to fight on through the monsoon. I’m not sure if we knew at the time that the RWK were involved, but the battle was followed daily by the BBC News.

Also followed daily were reports of our air attacks on Germany, which usually gave a brief statement of assumed damage and the number of aircraft missing (that averaged about 5% of the attacking planes, so commonly about 20 to 40), but on one occasion the newsreader simply stated “Last night our bombers attacked Nuremburg. 95 of our aircraft are missing” – really shook us (They didn’t tell us, but that was a loss rate of 12%).

Since the threat of invasion arose in 1940, BBC news always started with “This is the (whatever time) news and this is (so-and-so) reading it, the idea being that we would get used to the reader’s voice and so not be duped if the enemy tried to broadcast false news or instructions. Alvar Liddell is one reader who comes to mind as I write. I think Mum used to collect the newspaper from the shop at the top of Ross Street after Dad and I had left for work/school, and it was the ‘Daily Herald’ Monday to Saturday and ‘News of the World’ on Sundays, the latter for Dad to do the prize crossword, which he was always going to win ‘next week’.

We knew that an invasion of Europe was in the offing, with appeals going back months for anyone with photos of beaches and coastal towns along the French/Belgian/Dutch coasts to take them to a police station. Then about mid-morning of 6th June came the announcement we had been waiting for:
“This is the BBC Home Service - here is a special bulletin read by John Snagge….Under the command of General Eisenhower, allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France”'. I didn’t hear it myself because Bert Poole and I were working in the Singles Block at the Detention Barracks when one of the guards announced it, making some uncomplimentary remarks about people letting the side down by being in prison.

There was an anxious few days before it was obvious that we were ashore to stay, but I think the days of saying “It’ll all be over soon” had passed. By now we had seen too much of the quality of the German soldier (and nation in general for that matter) to expect a ‘walk-over’.

On the night of 13th June I was in bed when what sounded like a motor-bike passed over. I called out to my parents in the next room “That plane’s in trouble” and a little while later there was a distant explosion. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was one of the first V1 Flying Bombs (or Doodlebugs) and it had landed at Swanscombe. But about a week later we became all too aware, when they were first launched in quantity. I presume we were in bed as usual and got up to go into the garden when the sirens went (probably for the first time since 18th April, when the ‘Little Blitz’ ended). Then all hell was let loose and I can remember those funny sounding planes going over and continuous gunfire, mostly Bofors because they were so low. There was no sleep that night and they were still at it when daylight came. I remember my Grandad came over from his house to say he’d heard on the news that they were pilotless planes, and we imagined that they could manoeuvre and seek targets like a ‘conventional’ plane, although it probably wasn’t long before we saw one in daylight and the flame that it emitted at night.

The main feature was that after flying for a set distance the auto-pilot tipped to bomb into a dive that cut the engine, resulting in a heart stopping silence before the explosion. Being built to a standard necessary for only one flight, engine failure was common, resulting in a longer glide before impact. The Germans must have fired off an accumulated stock that first night because I’m sure there wasn’t another as hectic as that. In any case, our defences were soon re-arranged, including a balloon barrage west of the Medway, which reduced the number of V1s getting through – the whistle of the wind over the balloon cables could be heard in Rochester. Even so, many still did get through and at first their arrival was spread evenly through the day, so there was no relaxation as there was between manned aircraft raids. But I think later all the launching sites ‘fired’ together so that a number of V1s arrived at the same time to try to swamp the defences. But whatever the case we slept in the shelters and I often lay listening to one approaching and hoping it would pass over before its engine cut. During the day we went about our business with one ear cocked for that awesome noise – even today I can’t listen to recordings of the V1s without getting the creeps.

I think they had a psychological effect on us out of proportion to the actual harm they did. We had come through the Battle of Britain and the blitz, our forces were now getting the upper hand and ultimate victory seemed certain, even if there was still a long way to go. Then along came this inhuman thing that couldn’t be scared off – whether it came down as intended or was shot down, it was going to crash anyway and probably do some damage and kill somebody; if blown up in the air, some pretty big bits were going to come down. And we were war weary.

The Gun Operations Room (GOR) for the Thames and Medway South AA guns was in the TA Drill Hall on Watling Street, opposite Woodlands Road (now the site of some flats) and sometimes Bert and I worked there, maintaining the emergency generator or doing some wiring in the accommodation huts. But on a couple of occasions we had work to do on a switch panel in the Ops Room itself. It was similar to the fighter ops rooms familiar in films and photos, with a  plotting table, controllers on a dais, and a map on the wall showing the gun-sites, coded ‘Sugar’ (Fort Borstal was ’Sugar 7’). The panel was just inside the door, from where I could see the whole room and, given the choice of watching what Bert was doing and thus learning my trade, and watching what was going on, guess what I did! It was there that I learned that the V1s were code named ‘Diver’, and when the telephone operator said “diver, diver, diver” into her mouth-piece it preceded an operational message about them.

Here are some personal memories of V1s, as well as those I listened to in the shelter or saw passing, either in daylight or as a flame in the night sky:
•   Being in the garden when one came over the house with a fighter behind, firing at it. Dad said “down the shelter, quick” visualising a big bang right over our heads. Fortunately the pilot proved to be a rotten shot and, presumably, had to break off because of the balloon barrage.
•   Seeing one hit and explode in the air. Fortunately it was going across my line of sight, so the bits fell on someone else.
•   Being in the yard at Fort Amherst when there was a ‘rustling’ noise overhead from a flying bomb with a trail of flame coming from its engine, which had obviously failed. It was very low and disappeared over St Mary’s Church, presumably coming down somewhere near Frindsbury

And so it went on until the V1 sites in the Pas de Calais were overrun by the British and Canadian Armies that formed the left wing of our advance.

To be continued…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 03, 2014, 10:23:25
Something I meant to mention about the stand-by generator at the GOR that might interest S4:

It was a single cylinder Lister diesel with, if I remember correctly, hopper cooling. It was hand started with a decompression lever that lifted the exhaust valve so that it was easy to turn. When enough speed was attained the lever was released and Bingo, it started – hopefully!

Actually we didn’t just maintain it but we installed it – not just Bert and me but about 4 of us with the assistance of a crane. I remember the foreman had a hand-held tacho that he held against the crankshaft to check the speed.

Being 1944, I doubt if it was the first one, but probably a replacement.

It was in an outhouse in the yard and I think it was in connection with that I was required to go up a pole that supported the wiring running into the main building. Not having a head for heights it may have been part of  the process that eventually convinced me it wasn’t really the job for me – but more on that later, if it’s of interest.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on March 03, 2014, 10:37:48
Totally correct Peterchall. I really would not mind getting my paws on that set!. I did used to start a Meadows Searchlight set by hand. This was an auxiliary diesel back up genny at St Augustine's, it would supply the Boiler-house whilst steam powered the rest of the suite. To start this was a devil because you had to wind it up to TDC on No 1 cylinder then engage the decomp system and place the auto start onto a thread. The auto start then ran alomg the thread until it dropped on and, if you had got  a good swing going, she would rumble into life. Big thing was that you had twelve turns to get her up to speed. She had four cylinders. She had a very heavy fly-wheel. She was a real devil and rarely started first time, but if she fired on one or two cylinders you could wind like fury and help the engine until the last two fired.

Those little singles are great fun though. Lift the decomp and swing like mad the just down with the lever and away they go. I have not seen a hopper cooled diesel for quite a while (putting crash hat on as every member states that they all have one in their sheds), but I do remember they were nice and quiet and when hot had a smell of their own.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 06, 2014, 16:25:36
Part 17
After the D-day landings there was stalemate for about a month until the Allies broke out of the bridgehead and trapped a large German force in the ‘Falaise Pocket’. German columns were caught in the narrow lanes, with high banks and hedges, by rocket firing Typhoons, and newsreel shots and newspaper photos of what was left of those columns when our troops caught up with them were horrific - perhaps surprisingly, the German army was still heavily dependent on horse transport. What was left of the German army scarpered post-haste and the Allied forces were slowed down only by lack of fuel. Paris was liberated, and by September we were watching newsreels of the rapturous welcome given to British troops as they entered Brussels.

More important to us at home was the occupation by the joint British/Canadian army of the V1 launch sites by the end of August, and so that threat was over…..err, no…..it wasn’t. The Germans hung a V1 under Heinkel 111 bombers and launched them from over the North Sea. They weren’t as frequent as when they were land launched and some cities in the north were also targeted, but they were still unpleasant. The last fatalities caused by a V1 in the Medway Towns were at Rochester on 8th November, when 8 people were killed.

Anyway, there was some relief given by the replacement of the blackout by a ‘dim-out’ in September, when limited street lighting was allowed, but I think we still had to put up our blackout curtains each night. It was said that the first street lamp to be lit up was one in Darnley Road, Strood, when it was hit by an auxiliary fuel tank that fell off one of our fighters!

I remember being somewhere in Strood with Derek on a date with a couple of girls (Isobel and Rose) when a V1 came over from the north-east, obviously air-launched. It must have been after September because the street lights were on. I would like to be able to say that the girls flung their arms round our necks and cuddled up to us for protection, but they didn’t!

But even we realised it wasn’t soon going to be over – the Germans had wrecked most of the Channel port docks or still had troops holed-up in them, and they held the islands at the mouth of the River Schelde, thus denying us the use of Antwerp. The Allied armies halted roughly along the borders of France/Germany, Belgium/Germany, and Belgium/Holland. The artificial harbour in Normandy, with its distance from the front line, had insufficient capacity for them to proceed further.

I can’t remember exactly how the war progressed without looking it up and, since this thread is about my personal life, I’m trying not to do that except where needed to set the background. Suffice to say I’m not sure of when we first became aware of the holocaust, but I do remember stories of German atrocities against the general population as reprisals for the activities of the French Resistance, which did a lot to prevent German reinforcements reaching Normandy.

In September came the V2 rockets, against which there was no defence, but I can’t remember how we first knew of them – their existence was not admitted by the government until October. There is a map somewhere on the forum that shows that only 2 or 3 landed within earshot of Rochester, so they didn’t cause us any undue worry. My only recollection is of being in the Castle Gardens with Derek when there was an enormous bang and a rumble like thunder as the sound of its approach followed it. One fell at Strood on 18th February 1945, killing 2 people, the last ever incident of the war in the Medway Towns. It was a Sunday, so being in the Castle Gardens fits and it may have been that.

The islands at the mouth of the Schelde were cleared and the port of Antwerp was opened. In September came the attempt to end the war in 1944 by getting our armies across the Rhine. American airborne forces captured the bridge at Nijmegen and British airborne troops landed at Arnhem. The attempt by the land based forces to advance along a corridor from the Belgian border, little wider than a single road, faltered at Nijmegen, and the British troops at Arnhem were isolated – as per the film title, it was “A Bridge Too Far”. Polish troops managed to secure a crossing point and a small part of our force in Arnhem got back across the Rhine. Yet another disappointment!

Mum and I still went to our Saturday afternoon pictures and I still carried Bert Poole’s toolbox and cycled along to the RAOC Depot whenever I could, to have lunch with Dad in his office. There was a 0.22” rifle range in the Depot, used by the Home Guard, and I went there with Dad one Sunday morning and was allowed to fire off a couple of magazines. The weapon was a standard rifle with a Morris tube in the barrel to reduce its calibre. Derek and I frequented Jackson’s fields and the Castle Gardens to see what the opposite sex had to offer, to which I can only say – “not much”.

And so we hunkered down for the winter, or so we thought! In December the Germans launched an attack through the Ardennes, at the junction of the British/Canadian and US armies, and lightly defended because the forest was ‘impenetrable’. Within days they were half way to Brussells, in almost a re-run of May 1940, before the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ ran its course and they were halted.

So we came to the 6th Christmas of the war. I can’t remember much about wartime Christmases. I know we got together as a family in my grandparent’s house in Queen Street in the evenings, but we didn't do that for Christmas dinner because of the problems that rationing would have caused – there were no extra rations for Christmas. Similarly, the scope for buying presents was limited, and I don’t think there would have been Christmas cards. We made our own paper-chains by pasting strips of coloured paper together in the form of loops, and played games like ‘Murder’ – who remembers that? Christmas in 1944 was on Monday and Tuesday so, with Sunday, would have given 3 days holiday – there was no compensation in those days if it fell on a Sunday. Also, public transport would have run – probably a Sunday service.

But celebrating the ‘Season of Goodwill to all Men’ seemed hypocritical anyway. When would these Germans realise they were beaten?

To be continued….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 08, 2014, 17:23:27
Part 18
On New Year’s Day 1945 the by now supposedly barely existent Luftwaffe scraped together a force of several hundred aircraft and attacked Allied airfields on the Continent, disabling about 300 of our planes on the ground. It was a negative result for the Luftwaffe because it lost more aircraft than it destroyed, but it did hinder air support for our armies in the Battle of the Bulge – which was still at its height - for a few days, and was a further blow to our hopes that it was all soon going to be over.

The Western Allies crossed the Rhine in March and the full horror of the Concentration Camps was revealed. Contact was made with the Russians advancing from the east and Germany surrendered on 8th May 1945 – at last it really was over.

In the Far East the Allies were winning but with the prospect of having to fight for every inch of ground all the way to Tokyo.


Working for the REs usually meant being given a job in the morning and waiting for transport to wherever it was, perhaps to replace a light switch or something similar, then waiting to be picked up to do a similar job in the afternoon. Waiting about was no problem because Bert knew the location of the boiler room (civilian manned) of most of the barracks and camps – good for a warm-up in winter and a cuppa at any time and, if not, there was always the NAAFI for cheap tea and wads. Coupled with the interesting things I saw it was quite a pleasant job – apart from the weight of Bert’s toolbox. The snag was that, although I learnt a lot about the Navy and the Boer War from Bert, he made little attempt to teach me anything about electricity, although for most of the jobs we did there wasn’t much to teach anyway. Also the end of the war was obviously coming at some time, with the risk that the job would disappear, so we thought it prudent for me to find something else.

I was more interested in things mechanical than electrical, cars in particular, but realised that the only way I was going to get near them was to work on other peoples, hence the search for work in a garage. We took the direct approach by going into a garage and asking if there was a job available - I remember trying Rootes at the top of Star Hill because it was near home, Wallace Motors at the bottom of Marlborough Road because I happened to be passing on my bike while at work. Eventually we went across the road from the RE workshop to Mannington’s Garage, at the top of Canterbury Street (Now an STS Tyre and Exhaust Centre), and Len Mannington took me on for a trial period.

You had to get Ministry of Labour permission to change jobs, but there was apparently no problem and I started some time in the New Year – I’m fairly sure of that because I remember working on a car outside in the snow and wondering if the change of job was a good idea after all. But in any case, the only form of heating was a pot-bellied stove right at the far end of the workshop.

The ‘staff’ was Len Mannington; the foreman/fitter Mr Tapsell (I don’t remember his first name because to me he was ‘Mr’, and ‘Tap’ to Len, who was also ‘Mr’ to me); an apprentice named Dave Gigney who later started his own garage in Gillingham; an odd-jobber, not much older than Dave and me, named Gerald; a part-time office girl and another part-time odd-jobber past retiring age whose main function was as Len’s drinking companion in the Old Ash Tree every lunch time. Len also owned the detached radio shop next door which was staffed by a young man presumably unfit for military service. An insight into industrial relations of the time is given by the conversation between Len and Mr Tapsell just before Easter, when Len said “We’ll close on Friday and Monday, Tap, and I’ll pay for Friday but not Monday” - all perfectly acceptable to ‘Tap’. Generally speaking it was quite a pleasant place to work, although occasionally Tap stated that Len was getting too bossy and he was going to have ‘another’ row with him to put him in his place – out of Len’s earshot, of course, and I didn’t know of any row for there to be ‘another one’ to follow!

A large part of the main workshop was occupied by old cars, engines and other parts to be cannibalised because of the shortage of spares. Another mesasure resorted to was restoring engine valves by Stelliting. The vehicles we maintained were generally vans and cars belonging to people with a petrol allowance, such as doctors. One car was a Bull-nosed Morris that I think belonged to well known local personality Joan Batchelor, who owned the land that my present house now stands on. Another customer owned an original Morris Minor – the model preceding the Morris 8 – well ahead of its time in being fitted with hydraulic brakes. One of those cars, or perhaps both, was fitted with a Dynostarter – a unit that was an electric motor for starting the engine and a dynamo once the engine was started. The ultimate in modernity was the Morris 8 Series E. Len was a Morris Motors Agent pre-war, which accounts for the number of that make that we dealt with. I got my first drive, transferring cars between yard and workshop, under the tutelage of Dave Gigney to start with – no gear changing but I learnt precise clutch control and manoeuvring in confined spaces.

In the wider world our life continued much as before, but I think it was about then that Derek and I just drifted apart. Newsreels and reports of the discovery of conditions in the concentration camps horrified us, but at least confirmed that all the trauma of the past 6 years had been justified. Then VE Day came, marking the end of the war in Europe. I don’t remember a lot about it other than going to Rochester High Street in the evening to see the crowds jostling around, and a line of RAF officers arm-in-arm singing ‘Sussex by the Sea’. There was a general election in July but the results were not announced for about 2 weeks because all service people overseas had been given the vote and it took time for their results to be got home. A Labour government was elected by a landslide, and I remember Len predicting dire consequences for businessmen like him.

I joined the Labour League of Youth, open to 14-21 year olds, and helped in that election by poking leaflets through letter boxes, and also helped in local elections which also re-started after being stopped during the war. I wonder what Len would have said if he’d known. The L of Y met each Friday evening at Henderson House, at the top of Five Bells Lane.

In August the atom bombs were dropped on Japan. We had no idea what they were, although I did know about ‘splitting the atom’. A few days later Japan surrendered and WW2 was finally over. I know there are questions about the morality of dropping the atom bombs, but until then we had been anticipating months – perhaps years – of killing on top of the 6 years we had already endured, fighting for every inch of territory against an enemy who had no concept of surrender. (If that seems to be a contradiction it must be remembered that it was the Emperor of Japan himself – regarded as almost a God by the Japanese people – who ordered them to stop fighting, so that was done without question).

Anyway, I don’t remember any great change in our lifestyle – rationing continued and some foods that were not rationed during the war now were. The RAOC Depot moved to Ashford and Dad was faced with a daily bus ride to Maidstone and train from there to Ashford, so had to decide whether we would move there to live, or whether to find another job.

But that is for the next part, if you are not all getting bored…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on March 08, 2014, 17:48:52
Not bored yet.........

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on March 08, 2014, 17:56:10
Nor me  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on March 08, 2014, 17:57:40
Nor me  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on March 09, 2014, 11:18:38
Me neither.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: BobH on March 09, 2014, 12:35:43
Only just found this thanks to chasg's help.  I have a lot of catching up to do!

I have been missing so much that has been posted outside of the General Chat.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on March 09, 2014, 12:38:42
Glad to have been of help.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 09, 2014, 20:32:24
Having reached the end of the war I’d like to pause. I’d expected memories to come flooding back as I wrote, of how we celebrated and boasted of our success, but they didn’t because, apart from that one evening of VE night, we didn’t.

It’s 69 years ago now and my memory is rather frail, but I’m sure we didn’t treat it as if we’d won an Olympic Medal. We had learnt the true horror of the holocaust and the concentration camps and believed WW2 was one of those few instances of what historians call a ‘Just War’ – one that had to be fought. On the other hand we saw films of town after town in Germany razed to the ground, and knew that there were millions of homeless and distraught families of all nations all over the world and realised the depths of man’s inhumanity to man, and were just relieved that it was over.

Back to level-headedness and another wartime memory. At the bottom of the slope leading from the entrance to Chatham Gun Wharf was a building used as a lecture room by the Home Guard, and in there was a sand-table used for simulating different scenes for Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWTs). Dad borrowed some of my Dinky Toy vehicles to put on it and it was destroyed by a bomb one night. It is now the site of a small car park. Probably in a few hundred year’s time some archaeologist on a dig will find a toy lorry and say “I wonder what that is?”

The arrangements mentioned in my previous post about bank holidays were typical. While it may have later become normal to be paid for bank holidays, right up until the time I left ‘industry’ to go into teaching in 1954, bank holiday pay was stopped if you took the day before or the day after off, and that included ‘Easter Saturday’. New Year’s Day was only a holiday in Scotland, but Boxing Day wasn’t.

More memories of ‘Tap’: He was inseparable from his cap and worked in a small workshop right at the back of the garage, just big enough for his personal bench, the stove, and a couple of cars. He rarely worked on vehicles themselves, but usually at his bench overhauling engines, gearboxes and other components, telling all sorts of outrageous yarns. One of his favourites was of day trips to France before the war, when many of the men got off the boat at Calais and headed straight for the kind of establishment that was illegal in this country. His wife often brought his lunchtime sandwiches in during the morning and could get quite close before being seen, so we (usually Dave, Gerald, and me) thought he was running a risk if she thought he was referring to himself.

It may seem odd to today’s generation, but I rather liked Vera Lynn, and couldn’t understand his oft made statement that “Vera Lynn gives me the…….”

Perhaps it’s time to think about Part 19!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 11, 2014, 16:17:04
Part 19
We are now at 1945 with two interlocking chains of events – my job at Mannington’s and my Dad’s job at the RAOC Depot, but I’m not sure of the timings so let’s look at mine first because it contains some definite dates.

As mentioned in Part 18 I was at Mannington’s when there was snow, but that could have been up until say March. Good Friday was 30th March and I know I’d left the REs and was there by then. The results of the General Election were declared on 26th July, and I’ve mentioned Len’s reaction to the result.

As Labour supporters we were of course pleased, although I think everyone was surprised by the size of the majority. But there had been a coalition government since early in the war and the new Prime Minister – Clement Attlee – had been Deputy PM all that time, and many important ministerial posts had been held by Labour ministers. So I don’t think there was dissatisfaction with Churchill’s wartime leadership or the government's handling of the war at that stage, but it was like being pleased that the fire brigade had put out the fire and it was now time to call in the builders. Churchill himself had said on VE-day “The nation had the lion’s heart, I merely provided the roar”.

From then on the timing is a bit hazy. In those days in was the practice for apprenticeships to be ‘bought’ and it was all arranged for me to be apprenticed with Len for a premium of £40 (about 10 weeks gross income for Dad) when Dad found out – I think only by a chance reading of a newspaper – that the Motor Agents Association (MAA) had set-up a new apprenticeship scheme with no premium to pay, and apprentices were to be given day-release to attend college. We asked Len if he was going to join the scheme but he wasn’t interested (He probably wasn’t even a member of the MAA). Dad did the necessary and we were put in touch with Car and Electrical Services (C&ES) on Chatham-Maidstone Road, where I went for an interview and was offered a job.

But, as I’ve mentioned, you had to get Ministry of Labour permission to change jobs, and Len wouldn’t release me. I was present at the ‘discussion’ between Dad and Len, when Len said he couldn’t let me go because of the labour shortage. Dad said “What, an untrained boy?” to which Len replied “He’s not untrained after being with me for 6 months” (an indication of the time scale?). It was the only time I ever remember Dad losing his temper and using the F-word, and we both walked out. Presumably Len relented because, although I still worked there, the apprenticeship was obviously off and personal relations had soured, making it difficult for me to stay. Or perhaps Dad appealed to the Ministry of Labour – I just don’t remember.

But whatever, my Indenture of Apprenticeship with C&ES was duly signed and I wonder if you will find its terms interesting as an example of a very formal document of those days (I am amused by today’s talk of introducing apprenticeships as if they are something new).

In summary form:
It was made on 1st November 1945 between:
C&ES (the ‘Employer’) of the first part
My father (the ‘Guardian’) of the second part
Me (the ‘Apprentice’) of the third part
1.   The Apprentice agrees to serve the Employer in all branches of motor vehicle repairing as practiced by the Employer for 5 years, the first 3 months being a trial period during which either party may terminate this Indenture.
2.   The Apprentice shall on every lawful day during working hours faithfully honestly and diligently serve and obey the Employer in the art and trade of motor vehicle repairing and shall conform to any rules made by the Employer for the regulation of the workshops and shall at no time be absent without just cause or leave asked and approved. (There was not a single comma in the whole of the original sentence!) [It then goes on long-windedly to say the Apprentice shall not reveal any of the affairs of the Employer or do anything to prejudice his business, and to make payment for any loss the Employer may sustain due to his negligence or misconduct. Both the Guardian and the Apprentice are responsible for the lawful and obedient service of the Apprentice.]
3.   The Employer covenants with the Guardian (i) To teach the Apprentice the art and trade of motor vehicle repairing so far as the Apprentice is capable of learning the same. The Employer is not bound personally to teach the Apprentice but only to give him such opportunities of learning as may be obtained in the course of his employment. (ii) To pay wages and grant holidays and observe the conditions of employment laid down by the National Joint Industrial Council for the Motor Vehicle Retail and Repairing Trade.(iii) Permit the Apprentice to attend Technical College with full pay on one day or two half-days per week
4.   [States that if the Employer goes out of business the liquidator shall arrange for the Apprenticeship to be transferred to another employer approved by the Guardian]

The C&ES seal was put at the bottom;
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/Indenture.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/Indenture.png.html)
Then we were each required to stand, put a thumb on our respective seals and say “I declare this my word and deed” (honest!).

The point is that 1st November 1945 was a Thursday and I’m sure I started on a Monday with 2 other newcomers – Jackie Dunbar and another lad who didn’t come back after lunch, and whom we never saw again. I’m even more sure that we met to sign in Mr Kelcey’s office on a Saturday afternoon when the garage was closed, but that Mr Kelcey and I already knew each other. He didn’t interview me for the job so, considering all the events that occurred at Mannigton’s, and their timings, I can only conclude that I started at C&ES in October and that it was conventional to start an apprenticeship on the 1st of a month.

Regarding Dad’s job, it will be remembered from Part 18 that the RAOC Depot moved to Ashford and he was faced with the choice of us moving there or finding another job. In the event he decided to try to fulfil an ambition to run a pub, having been brought up in one. However, the address on the Indentures was still 2 James Street so either the decision had been taken but not yet fulfilled, or the RAOC Depot had not yet moved and Dad was still working at Darland.

Anyway, I’m not sure when it was, but know from memory of events that it was before the Victory Parade in London on Saturday 8th June 1946, Dad became landlord of the Forester’s Arms, on Maidstone Road, Rochester, and I moved into the 10th address of my life:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/ForestersArms.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/ForestersArms.png.html)
Photo supplied by Smiler

I got settled in at C&ES. There were 5 apprentices and at Christmas we got some mistletoe and used it to good effect with the office girls and the girls who worked in the machine shop. I took one of the office girls to the League of Youth Christmas party. “I’m going to like working here" thought I.

Looking back, 1944 and 1945 were two hectic years – I started work with the RE’s. There was the ‘Little Blitz', D-day, and the Doodle-Bugs, followed by the end of the war. I changed jobs to Mannington’s and then got the apprenticeship at C&ES by an off-chance and some very close timing.

The rest of my story might seem dull by comparison….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on March 11, 2014, 16:27:50
Part 19
The rest of my story might seem dull by comparison….
Somehow I doubt it, PC. Keep 'em coming, please!  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on March 11, 2014, 18:23:16
And so say I.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on March 11, 2014, 18:35:32
And me  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 13, 2014, 20:45:35
Part 20
In the Forester’s we had that luxury we had never had before – an inside toilet and bathroom, albeit ‘en suite’ with one of the bedrooms! On the top floor at the front was the ‘lounge’ with stairs up from the floor below, then directly behind that was my parents’ bedroom with the bathroom, and directly behind that again was my bedroom. On the next floor down was the Public Bar through the left-hand door, occupying most of the floor except for the serving bar in the front right corner, with a very small Private Bar accessed through the right-hand door. Below that was a floor containing the beer ‘cellar’, a living room, and kitchen. It was at basement level at the front and road level at the back.

Back to C&ES:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/f3948b85-9298-4a14-98bd-055f4d894ee9.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/f3948b85-9298-4a14-98bd-055f4d894ee9.png.html)(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/a32a75c1-00d8-4b1e-8f24-c0ef4371bd0a.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/a32a75c1-00d8-4b1e-8f24-c0ef4371bd0a.png.html)
Photos by Numanfan
At the front, flanking Maidstone Road, were two petrol pump islands, and attendant Charlie Dancey worked from the office just to the left of the doorway in photo 2. Evening petrol service until 9pm and at weekends was often provided by one of the office girls, and it was surprising how often that office became ‘double manned’ then, with one of we apprentices taking it upon ourselves to go there in our own time to ensure the girl didn’t get bored – petrol was still rationed so she was not rushed off her feet. If one of the older apprentices was on pump duty it was still a good reason for going back for a game of cards, with one of us getting paid. It became a general meeting place for many of the ‘youngies’ of C&ES. Unluckily Mr Kelcey came back to his office one evening and wasn’t too happy about it (He lived in the large thatched house near the bottom of the Ridgeway and usually walked to work)

C&ES had been part of the Shadow Factory Scheme in WW2, making aircraft parts, and when I first started most of the ‘top shop’ (the many-panelled windows in photo 2), and an extension on the far side of it, was still occupied by the ‘machine shop’ which made a lot of components for Winget’s, and any odd manufacturing jobs for anybody. The vehicle repairs took place in just a small part of the top shop and the whole of the ‘bottom shop’, accessed by the slope starting by the showroom window, and then where the tops of the bottom shop windows are just visible. The top shop was accessed by a ‘bridge’ over the slope from the road, just out of the picture at the left. There was a pit for working underneath vehicles in the bottom shop and a vehicle hoist in the open – that can just be seen behind the short length of wall in the foreground of photo 2, not a pleasant place to work in cold weather. Otherwise work on the underside of vehicles was done by lying on our backs on wheeled ‘crawlers’ for getting underneath them. The stores were in the bottom shop. Apart from the outside hoist the whole place was centrally heated – luxury!

Where possible the bottom shop was kept for parking vehicles not being worked on and also to garage the works van and breakdown truck. The latter was a 1920’s Austin 28 with open cab, like this car but with the rear replaced by a truck body with a breakdown crane, and painted green. It had a 4-speed gate-change crash gearbox (Ideal for clutchless gear change addicts!):
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/220px-Austin_Twenty_Tourer_19201.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/220px-Austin_Twenty_Tourer_19201.jpg.html)(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/220px-Lagonda_LG45R_Rapide_19371.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/220px-…..Lagonda_LG45R_Rapide_19371.jpg.html)
In the showroom was kept Mr Kelcey’s pride and joy, a white Lagonda tourer similar to the 2nd photo, although it was very rarely used.

In overall charge was Works Manager Alec Wallace, with his younger brother Jim as Foreman of the motor vehicle workshops. I was put into the TLC of mechanic Stan Hawley, who married Joan, one of the machine shop girls. Other mechanics – mostly arriving as they were demobbed - were Johnny Jones, who later passed me as fit to drive on my own (driving tests not having re-started after the war) and later became a drinking partner: Norman Sutton, an ex-air gunner and hence something of a hero, except for his common description of we apprentices as “those bloody boys”: An older one whose name escapes me but who was a father figure to the apprentices (one of their functions was to get the blame for whatever went wrong!) and who ran a fresh fish shop with his wife in George Street: Jock, another one who married one of the machine shop girls: And others I’ve forgotten.

Senior to me were apprentices Reg Erwin, Dave Sladden (who could lay under a car all day and come out as clean as when he went in), and Roy Pegler (who became a personal friend). Equal was Jackie Dunbar, and junior by starting later but mentioned here for convenience, were Fred Ballard, who became my Best Man and later I became his (guess where he found his lady-love!): And Eddie MacDowell, who became an instructor at the Borstal Young Offenders’ Institute (many years later, as an Examiner, I visited his workplace to test his pupils on how well he had taught them – and to pull his leg about teaching offenders how to nick motors!).

The workshop office was under the care of a mature lady, but in the front office (at the back of the showroom) were Peggy Tandy, Joan Cooper (who I took to the League of Youth party and was living in Gillingham having been bombed out in London during the war), and Bogie Boast (please don’t ask about the name!)

I don’t remember the name of the machine shop Foreman, but he had a staff of about 25, mostly female machine operators, with a few men, often disabled to fulfil the requirement that a certain percentage of appropriate jobs had to go to them.

Others were Jack Blanche, the panel beater and paint sprayer (who told hair-raising tales of Japanese soldiers’ fighting methods): The Smiths – father and son sweepers, humpers, general dogsbodies and tea-makers, always willing to help with any task: And there was Alice, the car cleaner, who was once heard to protest “I’m not cleaning that car, it’s filthy”.

We used to sit on the window sill of the top shop, with feet on the bench, to take tea-breaks (timed by a bell in the machine shop). I think it was Johnny Jones’s idea to solder a long nail to a 2/- (10p) piece and push it down into the cracks between the paving stones outside, and watch the antics of people trying to pick it up! Amusing until the solder broke one day and the bloke pocketed the coin (it was equal to about an hour’s pay for a mechanic)

As well as the vehicle repair shop, apprentices spent about a year in the machine shop and a few months with Jack Blanche in the body shop – down the slope next to the bottom shop. A widening of experience but I didn’t learn enough to earn a living as a machinist or as a body repairer, and later sometimes wished I’d had more experience as a mechanic. Jack of all Trades comes to mind!

Part of my apprenticeship contract, as already mentioned, was day release to attend college, and the plan was to spend 3 years studying for the City & Guilds Motor Vehicle Mechanics Certificate and 2 years for the C&G MV Technicians Certificate, ending the apprenticeship with a practical exam for the National Craftsmen’s Certificate. But the scheme was completely new and Gillingham Technical College, in Green Street, didn’t run motor vehicle courses. So from January1946 we apprentices found ourselves doing sheet-metal work and machine shop work for one day and one evening a week.

It wasn’t until September 1946 that we started on the proper C&G course, in a hut behind the GPO in Green Street, with lecturer George Goodyer, who was to play a major part in my working life. Consequently I was only able to complete the 1st year of the Technicians course and had to do the 2nd year at Shrewsbury Tech while in the RAF.

More to come later…...
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on March 13, 2014, 23:47:28

and it was surprising how often that office became ‘double manned’ then, with one of we apprentices taking it upon ourselves to go there in our own time to ensure the girl didn’t get bored

What a dutiful young lad you were, PC! And I'm still not bored...
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 14, 2014, 12:18:15
The snag was that others had the same idea, as on the evening when we were caught by the boss. Roy Pegler, Joan Cooper, and I were playing cards when a car came on to the forecourt. Thinking it was a customer, Joan went out to serve him and came back saying “It’s the Old Man!”. Strewth – scoop cards – and money – off desk and close door, hoping he would go past to his office! But no, he had to poke his head in the door, didn’t he? The result was individual carpeting in his office the next day. As I stated previously, he usually walked from home but fortunately didn’t this time or we wouldn’t have seen him and would have been caught with ‘our cards on the table”. That episode probably put paid to that activity, although a change in my personal life – to come later – would have done that anyway.

Thinking back, how times have changed. Joan was about the same age as me – 16 or 17 – yet it was quite acceptable for her to be alone in the petrol station in the evening.

An event to dread was Alec saying “K wants to see you in his office”, as when I’d upset a neighbour by turning a car round by reversing into the back alley opposite, and he had to wait while I did it. I got a long lecture about us being ‘industry’ in a residential area and so must always be considerate. But to be fair, it cut the other way – he had the apprentices in his office to review their college reports and general progress, and there was always praise when it was due.

K (as he was politely known) had a big Wolseley for his daily use and I don’t know why he rarely used the Lagonda. I got a ride in it one day when Alec took me with him on one of its ‘blow the cobwebs off’ runs. There were no ‘open country’ speed limits and it was a straight run down from the Upper Bell, so we topped the ‘ton’ past the airport – Wow!

I don’t remember why Alec took me with him, because I wasn’t his favourite, being a right little ‘bolshie’ full of workers’ rights stuff, even going to work with a Labour Party League of Youth badge on my jacket and reading the ‘Daily Worker’ at lunch time. K was showing local MP Arthur Bottomley round once – I’ve no idea why – when Arthur recognised me from the electioneering days and spoke to me (the L of Y met in the local Labour Party HQ at Henderson House). That got me some slant-eyed looks from K and Alec!

But I’m wittering on – I bet you wish you hadn’t posted that Reply, Chasg.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on March 14, 2014, 12:59:08
I bet you wish you hadn’t posted that Reply, Chasg.
Not at all. PC. I well remember the thrill of first doing 'the ton' myself. And I'm still not bored...
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 16, 2014, 08:40:28
Part 21
The run-down of the machine shop at C&ES and the expansion of the garage side of the firm started at about the same time as I started there, and after about a year the machine shop occupied just the extension behind the top shop in photo 2 of Part 20, with about 6 lathes, a milling machine, a shaper, benches for hand work, and its own store. One of the odd jobs it had was making mechanical darts scorers designed by a local publican. It was a metal box with 3 telephone type dials on the front that were used for entering a dart score; they operated cogs and levers to turn dials that showed at the top to indicate the score required. All the bits, except for springs, were machine made at C&ES, and the unit needed assembling by hand, with a bit filed off this lever or that lever until it worked. Since they were made in batches of only about 8, they must have cost a fortune. Garage staff got involved in their assembly if they were short of work. Variation in work-load was a feature all the time I was in the trade: We either had people twiddling their thumbs (overhauling various components taken off vehicles, to use as reconditioned spares, was a common occupation then), or we were snowed under with work and got bags of overtime.

The primary reason for the run-down was the demise of the Shadow Factory scheme, but to some extent also due to K’s split with partner Bill Hawkins, who became the ‘H’ of H&M Engineering of Gillingham. It happened just before my time at C&ES, but I heard a lot about it

This brings us to the day when there was a low-loader lorry up on the road, and a lathe to be put on it at the bottom of the slope. It was decided to simply drag the lathe up the slope with the breakdown truck, but the truck’s petrol pump (I think an Autovac, for the information of the buffs) chose that moment to pack-up. However, it had an old design of carburettor with a detachable top to the float chamber so - “No problem” said foreman Jim, “Peter can sit on the wing with a can of petrol and keep it topped-up”. So the engine was duly started and the slack in the tow rope taken up and ….the tuck jerked and I poured petrol over the hot exhaust manifold – WHOOSH! I don’t remember who was driving the truck, but in accordance with the principle I mentioned in Part 20 it was, of course, my fault, compounded by me dropping the can and burning petrol running underneath the truck – fortunately it was only about a half-pint, but it’s amazing how far even that can spread. At least I wasn’t required to pay to refill the fire extinguishers, which actually worked! But I don’t remember how we got the lathe on to the lorry.

Jumping ahead but mentioned now for being a similar topic, I was in a car being towed by Norman Sutton in the works van, a Hillman Minx (we only used the breakdown truck for suspended tows), with the tow-rope going from the offside rear spring shackle of the van to somewhere near the centre of the car. That meant that if I kept directly behind the van the rope was diagonal and passed behind the van’s exhaust pipe outlet - part way up Bluebell Hill the rope burnt through and away went Norman, apparently not noticing that the van had gained some extra oomph. It was some while before he came back for me and it was, of course, my fault – I should have kept out to the right so that the rope went straight back.

Another time the firm acquired a Ford 8 chassis and had it fitted with a shooting-brake body by Ryder’s of Plaxtol (near Sevenoaks). I had to take the bare chassis to Ryder’s in pouring rain without even a floor except in front of the driving seat, and a wooden chair temporarily bolted to the chassis cross members, with only a windscreen and bodywork ahead of that for protection. I’ve no idea how many laws I broke, but then in those days, perhaps none. Then I had to get the bus back (Service 9 to Maidstone, then Service 1 to Chatham). When it was ready I was sent on the bus to collect it.  Petrol being rationed I had to take some in one of the old-type 2-gallon cans and went upstairs. When the conductor came to collect the fares he sniffed and said “Who’s got petrol?”, whereupon I got turfed off the bus somewhere near the Upper Bell. Fortunately there was a nearby phone-box so I was able to get someone to pick me up and then take me on to Ryder’s, which meant using some of the firm’s general petrol ration, as well as taking up two peoples’ time. Guess whose fault it was - I should have put tape over the vent hole of the can!

Actually I think we did one or two others, but that was the only one I remember getting involved in. New cars were few and far between, available only to people having a permit to buy, and they had to sign a covenant not to sell without permission for, I think, 2 years - and then for not more than the current list price. When one did become available someone went to the factory to collect it, usually one of the mechanics (never an apprentice, although they would have been cheaper!). Stan picked up a soldier thumbing a lift when bringing a car back, and got prosecuted for carrying a passenger while using Trade-Plates. He got off when the firm’s solicitor discovered a still valid wartime regulation allowing that for service personnel.

But I’m jumping ahead again. As soon as I was 17, on 25/6/1946, Johnny Jones gave me 2 or 3 driving lessons and then deemed me fit to drive alone. (“Cover the brake” was his most common instruction – if my foot wasn’t actually pressing the accelerator it had to be transferred to the brake). It’s been mentioned recently on KHF how a ‘Tally Man’ named Johnny Johnson hired a driver from C&ES every Thursday to drive him and his lady assistant round the Hoo Peninsular in his Rover car, so suffice to say here that I took over that job from Roy and was stuck with it until the next apprentice, Fred Ballard, reached 17. The first time I took Johnny out was the first time I drove alone, with instructions from Jim not to tell him that!  Johnny (‘Mr Johnson’ when I spoke to him, of course) and his lady had their lunches in the ‘Five Bells’ at Hoo while I sat in the car with my sandwiches, and a memory that has just come back is of watching part of the wedding of the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Elizabeth on a TV in the window of the radio shop on the opposite corner – I think it was the first time I’d ever watched a TV.

I must have carried on with the League of Youth because I remember driving a car for the Labour candidate on election night. Other events constrict it to 1946 so it must haven been for a local election just after I got my licence in June. That, as mentioned above, could have been only a few days later. Really the only skill needed was the ability to control the car – traffic density was so light that ‘roadcraft’ wasn’t a problem. Anyway, the system was to find out from the exit polls who had not been to vote and, if they had declared during canvassing that they were going to vote for your party, to send a car to offer to take them to the polling station. I don’t remember who the car belonged to, but it was a large, ancient, and rather tatty Austin, and I wonder how many people actually voted Labour after a ride in that, especially after seeing the age of the driver!

Socially I became friendly with fellow apprentice Roy Pegler and we spent some evenings and Saturday afternoons playing billiards in the billiard hall in Chatham High Street. That broke my long standing Saturday afternoon pictures with Mum, although I think it was mutually agreed because after we moved into the Foresters Arms she was tied-up there. It didn’t close until 2 pm and re-opened at 6 pm. Dad got two complimentary tickets a week for the Empire Theatre for displaying posters in the bar, and Roy and I usually used those.

It was then that I started smoking. I’m not sure if Roy and I started together or if he already smoked and started me at it. But I do remember that at times things were so dire that we’d break a fag in two and share it. I’m sure Mum wasn’t in the habit of going through my pockets, but she found a packet of fags in my jacket pocket and I got a telling-off, not for smoking, but for hiding the fact that I did. Such was the attitude to smoking at that time that I was given a cigarette case for my birthday. Dad was a roll-your-own man and tried to convert me, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. Later I converted to a pipe but that wasn’t convenient in the RAF and I never re-started it (So I stayed a cigarette smoker until 17th March 1994, when I had my last fag and gave up with the aid of nicotine patches).

After our near-mss with K in the front office one evening (see previous post) I must have still gone there at 9 pm on some evenings to escort Joan Cooper home, until one evening Peggy Tandy was there and Joan said “Peggy’s coming home with me tonight”. I took it as a brush-off - I thought she had better judgement than that! (But she was an attractive girl and I probably had lots of competition).

Which brings us to the event that changed my life forever….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 18, 2014, 16:36:38
Part 22
By some means that I can’t remember I acquired a new mate, John Adnam, a Dockyard Apprentice. One evening in August 1946 we were sitting on the wall in the Castle Gardens, near the steps going down to the Esplanade, when 2 girls approached. “I know that girl” said John, and friend Barbara came over and spoke to him. Her friend was introduced to me as Sheila and it was decided that we would walk the girls home. On the way John said he could get tickets for Rochester Casino when a big-name band was appearing (I think it was Harry James touring the UK). That joint date led to one-to-one dates and it wasn’t long before Sheila and I both knew we were hooked. Home to meet parents followed – Sheila’s family was Mum and Dad, Brother Peter (which is why she recognised a good thing when she saw it!), and Gran, who lived in the front room of the house in Sydney Road, Chatham. There was a slight shock when a passing remark by her Dad about the government revealed that he was a Tory supporter, and there was me with a League of Youth badge on my jacket! I suppose I should have stayed loyal to my convictions like a true martyr, but I didn’t and from then on the Labour Party had to manage without me. Sheila was a shop assistant at Lefevre’s, Gillingham, and her Dad was their delivery driver. Brother Peter, being 5 years younger, was still at school. Since then nothing in our lives has happened without the other being part of it and – God willing – in a little over 2 weeks time we will celebrate our 62nd wedding anniversary.

I wonder if this photo, taken at a C&ES Social, adds interest:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/784daa7c-fb7c-45b5-89a5-8dbcd18432c2.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/784daa7c-fb7c-45b5-89a5-8dbcd18432c2.png.html)
 Photo by ‘Kent Messenger’
Yours truly is seated at extreme right. Next is Sheila, then 4 of the machine shop girls, with sisters Emmy and Connie West in the middle. In the centre is Mr Kelcey himself, with Joan Hawley next to him.. In front of K is foreman Jim Wallace and works manager Alec Wallace. Over Joan Hawley’s right shoulder is Olive Bradley, who took over the workshop office from the lady who was there when I started, with fiancé Frank – she was an attractive girl who put up with a lot of ‘chat’ from the workshop ‘lads’, but gave as good as she got. Bodyshop man Jack Blanche is in front of the right arm of the man in white shirt at the back, and the next man in the back row is Eddie McDowell. Under the ‘Y’ of ‘BUTTERRFLY’ is Reg Erwin. Johnny Jones is the chubby guy next but one, then comes Stan Hawley, Roy Pegler, ??, and Fred Ballard at the end. Bill Smith, senior of the father/son duo, is at the extreme right. I think the girl behind my left shoulder, presumably with her boyfriend, is Joan Cooper. Others that I‘ve mentioned in this thread I either don’t recognise or they were not there.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a KHF member recognised someone in the photo?
It would also be nice if someone could tell us where it was – all Sheila and I can remember is that it was a hired hall, we think in Strood; the banner reading ‘Butterfly School’ was nothing to do with C&ES.

We apprentices started our proper planned courses at Gillingham Tech in September 1946, with George Goodyer (a recently demobbed REME Captain) teaching Technology and Workshop Practice and Bob Hedley teaching Maths and Science, with a ‘twilight’ class (5:30 to 7:30) for Engineering Drawing. The latter reawakened a childhood ambition to design machinery and it was suggested that I should aim to get into somewhere like the Ricardo engine experimental laboratory at Shoreham after my apprenticeship. Thus it was arranged for me to continue the City & Guilds MV courses on day release, but to drop the twilight class and do 3 evenings a week for the 3 year Ordinary National Certificate (ONC) course in Mechanical Engineering.

As my employer, K had to approve the change in the day-release part of it, and he had me in his office to pat my back for being ambitious. “OMG” thought I, “I’m going to be branded an egg-head in the workshop”. Actually I don’t think it worried anyone too much, but it did make me unpopular with Jim and Alec when I declined to work overtime at busy periods – evening classes had priority. And it didn’t stop K giving me 3 days suspension after being late for work 3 times in one week. Dad had already commented on how fine I was cutting it leaving home in the mornings and, as an old soldier, I got scant sympathy from him. But there was some compensation - Kent were playing cricket at Gillingham and I could go to watch, except that when I got there I found the match had finished early the day before – aagh!

The winter of 1946-47 was one of those hard ones that periodically go down in history, especially as the railways were still in dire condition after the war and transport of fuel came to a standstill. Large swathes of industry were closed down, including C&ES, and I was on the dole for probably about a fortnight. Either before or after the lay-off Sheila met me from work one afternoon (probably a Wednesday, when she would have had a half-day off), and on the way to my home we slid on the ice from top to bottom of ‘The Cut’, between City Way and Delce Road. Each had tried to save the other from falling and a passer-by would have been surprised to see us lying in the snow having a cuddle – quite cosy, really!

Otherwise work at C&ES was uneventful. Nominally Austin dealers, we seemed to attract cars with pre-selector gearboxes – Daimler, Armstrong-Siddeley, Lanchester – although I don’t think anyone had any special knowledge of them. One Daimler was brought in by a customer who had a German accent and, in casual conversation, said he was an ex-POW who stayed here after release. To some of our mechanics who had been in the forces and who could hardly afford a bike, let alone a Daimler, that didn’t go down too well. Perhaps I should explain that the workshop office, where customers needs were sorted out, was on the opposite side of the workshop to the entrance, so that customers had to walk through the workshop and there was no objection to them talking to the staff.

Those were the days when cars needed a lot of TLC. The bane of an apprentice’s day was to hear Jim or Alec say “[Reg No] outside, oil and grease”, handing you the keys. It wasn’t the pleasantest of jobs working on a car on the outside hoist, greasing steering and suspension joints with a grease gun, draining engine oil, checking gearbox, axle and steering box oil, and cleaning and oiling road springs, a job that needed doing about every 1000 miles. An example of how communication can fail came one day after I’d done a service and Jim asked me if I’d finished, because he had to deliver it to its owner. “Yes, I’ve just got to refill the engine oil” I said, and went to get some. When I got back the car had gone, Jim having only heard the first bit of my answer. Fortunately he didn’t get far before he realised something was amiss and we were able to push the car back – in accordance with previously mentioned principles it was, of course, my fault, but I was able to show him the can of oil that I’d got ready to pour in.

Another job at about the same mileage interval was the ‘tune-up’ – clean spark plugs, contact-breaker points and carburettor jets, adjust tappets, ignition timing and mixture, followed by a road test (the best bit,  especially if it was a ‘posh’ make).

At about 10,000 miles the engine probably needed a de-coke – cylinder head off, clean carbon from combustion chamber and grind-in valves. At 30,000 miles the engine usually needed a complete overhaul and rebore. There was one waiting for a mechanic who could  use a boring bar to finish the job he was on when I said to Jim “I’ll do it”. “What do you know about boring bars?” he replied and, to his amazement, I told him that I’d been taught to use one at college. So new was the day-release scheme that the apprentices ahead of me didn’t start it and most of the mechanics thought our weekly day at college was some sort of skive.

Other components had equally short lives compared to today, and ‘king-pins and bushes’ was another common job. Brake shoes were not changed but re-lined with new friction material riveted on. A faulty starter motor would be repaired and not replaced.

I was given the job to sort out a car that wouldn’t start and I diagnosed a faulty ignition capacitor and fitted a replacement. But the car still wouldn’t start and I asked for help from one of the mechanics, who suggested it was a faulty capacitor. ”I’ve just changed it” I said, “it can’t be that”, but it was - a duff one straight out of the box. An object lesson in taking nothing for granted in engineering.

Such was the standard of equipment and finish that a heater was a retrofit for owners of 'basic' cars who wanted it, and any buyer who wanted to get a reasonable life from his new car body had it ‘undersealed’ – a protective wax coating sprayed under wings and the floor (a job for Jack Blanche in the body shop). Another bane of the apprentices’ lives was puncture repair – there were usually one or more wheels in the corner, waiting for an apprentice out of a job –tyres had inner tubes and patches were ‘vulcanised’ on

Broken road spring leaves were made individually by a firm in Fox Street, Gillingham, and ‘shiny’ parts (bumpers and headlamp rims, etc) were re-chromium plated by a firm next to the Jezreels.

Not only did you have to be rich to buy a car, but even richer to keep it running.

That’s it for now…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: chasg on March 18, 2014, 17:32:01
How well I remember grease nipples. And the joys of cleaning and resetting the plugs and points every Sunday morning...
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on March 18, 2014, 18:02:39
Great stuff PC.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 19, 2014, 12:43:13
Thanks :)
How well I remember grease nipples. And the joys of cleaning and resetting the plugs and points every Sunday morning...
And those grease nipples were usually caked in dried mud and were often blocked. Another joy was periodical removal of the sump and cleaning out the gunge, then running the engine with sump filled with flushing oil to clear the oilways. Also there was running the engine and squirting 'Redex' into the air intake to 'clear it out' - it could only be done in the open yard outside the bottom shop, resulting in clouds of oily smoke drifting down Cornwallis Avenue.

When we started to get cars that had been laid up during the war back on the road we found that the petrol had evaporated leaving a sticky mess like Golden Syrup, impossible to clear from the feed pipe between tank and engine, and sometimes even from the petrol pump and carb. Thus we had to learn the art of pipe making - taking copper pipe from a reel, cutting and bending it to fit and making the connections at each end. Many cars, having been lovingly stored during the war came to a 'sticky' end because their owners couldn't afford to restore them.

Another photo of C&ES, showing the full extent of the top shop, and the bridge over the slope:
 (http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/CarampElectrical-4.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/CarampElectrical-4.jpg.html)
The car at the front is probably Alec Wallace's Austin 10 that I took my test in, and the MG Midget is almost certainly the one belonging to Jim Wallace.

Social life of the times to follow, if of interest.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: ann on March 19, 2014, 13:15:00
Am not really into grease nipples or plugs, but love reading your 'social life of the time'.  What a great memory you have peterchall, fascinating to read.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 19, 2014, 16:34:05
Ann, I'm not so sure about the memory - there are people in that photo whose names I should remember. But because of Roy Pegler and Fred Ballard both being in it, and relating that to other events, it must have been taken in 1948.

Nor can I remember where it was taken, but since posting it I have been advised that 'Butterfly School' refers to a chain of dancing schools, so if anybody knows where there was one of those at that time....
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 21, 2014, 16:47:33
Part 23
Not quite the social life yet
In the background of all aspects of our lives was the cold war, when what Churchill described as the ‘Iron Curtain’ descended to divide Europe in two. I can’t say we became nervous wrecks but the possibility of WW3 was always lurking at the back of our minds. There was the Russian blockade of Berlin, countered by the Berlin Airlift, to worry us – it only needed some trigger happy twit on either side to start who knew what. The Russians developed their own atom bomb. Then the North Koreans celebrated my 21st birthday (25/6/1950) by invading South Korea and many of us thought WW3 was inevitable – not an encouraging environment to be planning a wedding, as Sheila and I were.

Wartime style conscription continued until it was replaced by National Service on 1st January 1949, the difference being that NS was for a definite period of 18 months, whereas previously it had been on an ‘as long as required’ basis. I became liable for call-up on my 18th birthday (25/6/1947) but elected for deferment until the end of my apprenticeship, so went in under the NS scheme, but that was increased to 2 years just after the Korean War began. Roy Pegler was called-up under the old scheme, before the end of 1948, and I think was in for about 3 years, so he must have been at least 18 months older than me. Fred Ballard opted to go in at 18 and finish his apprenticeship after discharge and he went in during 1949 and I think was out in 18 months, so must have been about 18 months younger than me (It’s only as I sit typing this, and checking dates on Google, that I’m realising how closely all the dates must have fitted in).

Work wise I managed to smash my left thumb-nail while using a drilling machine and got attention from the lady on K’s left in the group photo (Reply#137) – she was the firm’s first-aider, but I can’t remember her name – and was sent to the hospital, on the bus! The result was removal of the nail under anaesthetic, then being left to find my own way home with my arm in a sling – seemingly incredible today, but true; fortunately it was within walking distance. Then it was daily attention to have it dressed (No appointment time, it was just turn up and wait. It could have been before the formation of the NHS in 1948, or in its early days). It must have been 1949 when I took my driving test in Alec’s car (Reply#140), about 3 years after I first drove on the road alone.

At college I finished in 1950 with an ONC in Mechanical Engineering (subjects = Maths, Mechanics, and Heat Engines) and a C&G MV Mechanics Cert, and had completed the first year of the MV Technicians course. There must have been an error somewhere because I was awarded the Short Brothers Prize for achievement by a part-time engineering student at the college, for coping with 2 courses at the same time over a 3 year period. To be fair, one of them was on day-release in the firm’s time, although 3 evenings a week, plus homework, on the ONC course was a hard slog. Thinking back, I wonder how we fitted it all in. Working week was 48 hours (about 44 hours Monday to Friday and 4 hours on Saturday), which meant leaving work at 5:30, cycling home to eat and change, then bus to Gillingham for evening class at 7 pm to 9 or 9:30. Then I would get a bus to call in to see Sheila, which usually meant missing the last bus from there (about 10:30 from Luton Arches to Star Hill). That evening activity illustrates the ease of bus travel in those days. Walking through Chatham High Street one night on such an occasion, I was stopped by a copper who wanted to know what was in the case I carried my college books in – I accepted that as perfectly reasonable. Another memory – I had to get a certification from the college that I needed a slide-rule for the course I was on, because they had to be specially imported from Germany, whom we had defeated just 2 years before!

A look at the social life of the times next…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on March 21, 2014, 17:24:15
It all feels so familiar PC, and not that long ago....! I have often said, that everyone gets older at the same rate, it's simply that some had the good fortune to start earlier than others! :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 23, 2014, 16:12:43
Part 24
I’ve looked up various dates to put my memories into context
So to our social lives:
A one-off event was the Victory Parade on Saturday 8th June 1946. Roy Pegler and I must have taken the morning off, or perhaps it was a public holiday. But whatever the case we got an early train to London, which was a seething mass of people. I have only vague memories of the parade itself, and don’t remember where we stood. My main memory is of drinking outside a pub (it was packed shoulder to shoulder inside) at the bottom of Villiers Street, next to Charing Cross Station. Roy was 18 but I was 2 weeks short of 17, but who cared – it was a great day out. See:
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/victory-parade-reel-1

That was before I met Sheila, but even after we must have given each other some ‘time off’ because I remember some pub-crawls with C&ES mechanic Johnny Jones, the intention being to visit every pub in Rochester High Street (but not all in one evening!), starting with a free drink in the Forester’s (free to us, but at Dad’s expense!). Details escape me (well they would after an evening like those), but I think the party included Roy, and Fred Ballard when he was on leave from the RAF (as mentioned earlier, he had elected not to have his National Service deferred). I do remember being worse for wear on one occasion and Dad said it served me right for drinking Style and Winch beer – the Foresters was Truman’s.

Routine entertainment was, of course, the pictures, for which we sometimes had to queue. An usherette would come out and call something like “Two one and sixes”, when the next couple waiting for that price of seat took them. In those days you went in at any point in the programme and left when you recognised the point where you came in, or you could stay to watch the end of the  film again – times of individual films were displayed outside, so you tried to time your entry to coincide with those - it’s years since I went to a cinema, but think that it’s not like that today.

Sheila’s dad bought a TV, which had re-started after the war on 7th June 1946 - the day before the Victory Parade, which I think was the first live outside broadcast. Various factors make me think it was 1948 before her dad bought his, and there was only one channel, which didn’t start until about 7 pm, always with the news, and finished about mid-night. Programmes were mostly live and I remember a dancer collapsing on-stage, then the screens went dead until the next programme was due, so there was evidently no ‘fill-in’ film available. The only transmitter was Alexandra Palace and I think the Medway Towns were near the limit of its coverage. Sheila and I were, of course, selective about staying in to watch, but it was a nightly ritual for her Gran to come in from her room to join in. It was a console set with an 8” screen, similar to this:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/TV1.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/TV1.jpg.html)

The only sport we were involved in was tennis, not to any serious extent but on the public courts at Chatham Recreation Ground for 6d an hour. Mostly it was just the two of us, but sometimes with Olive Bradley and her fiancé Frank (See C&ES group photo).

Apart from bank holidays all we got was one week’s paid holiday and Sheila and I usually managed to get ours together. Favourite outings of hers were trips to London for clothes shopping, especially to C&A in Oxford Street, a Dutch firm that I think had just set up in this country and was noted for cheap but good quality clothes – clothes rationing ended on 15th March 1949. One year the family that Sheila was evacuated to in Wales invited us for a holiday. Both sets of parents agreed provide we were well chaperoned, and we were – dammit! But I had an interesting insight into life in a South Wales mining valley.

A popular event was gathering in the top front room of the Foresters Arms. Sheila and me, Roy Pegler, I think Fred Ballard and his (C&ES acquired) girlfriend, Helen, and perhaps others. They were occasions for a game of cards, chatting (all the world’s problems would have been put right if they’d listened to us) and drinking in quantities strictly controlled by Dad.

One evening Roy had the idea of trying to contact the ‘other side’. The letters ‘A-Z’ and words like ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ were written on bits of paper and laid round the edge of the table. The gas fire was turned off to lower the temperature and the room lit by a single candle, all essential according to Roy. We all then put a  finger on the bottom of an upturned glass so that they touched, Roy said “Is anybody there?” and – titter ye may – that glass moved across the table, no matter how hard we pressed on it. Somebody said “to hell with this” and put the light on. Roy was accused of fixing it but none of us could explain how he could have, and it may have been some sort of mass hallucination. But it was scary and to this day Sheila and I have resolved never again to get involved with the occult.

C&ES mechanic Norman Sutton bought a Morris 8 open tourer and overhauled it in a garage somewhere – I can’t remember where it was and it seems unlikely that he would have been living in a house with one. But he was recently married and I’d been invited to his wedding (No, he didn’t meet Edna at C&ES!) and she was still working, so…? But no matter – he roped me in with helping on two-man jobs, such as replacing the engine after he’d reconditioned it. Then, surprising though it may seem and despite me being one of those “bloody boys” as he called we appendices, he lent it to me for my week’s holiday. Petrol rationing ended on 26th May 1950, so it must have been for that year’s holiday. I don’t remember whether or not I paid him for it – presumably I did – but I kept it in the yard of the Foresters and Sheila and I made good use of it. One trip we made was to the Farnborough Air Show – not in the airfield but watching from a well occupied road nearby. At some time during the week I gave Sheila a driving lesson; Ye Gods – when I think back to the risk – her with no licence and hence no insurance!

On 31st October 1950 I finished my apprenticeship, and on Monday 13th November the RAF grabbed me for my National Service.

It was about then that ‘Le Folies Lefevres’ was set-up and Sheila became a ‘Lefevre’s Lovely’. Her dad also took part in the show, although not as one of those!
See the first page of this, if not all of it: http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=4776.0

Back later…
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: GP on March 24, 2014, 10:25:14


PC
Looking forward to your National Service stories. I just missed being 'called up', but now looking back wished I had that experience.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 24, 2014, 12:11:38
It will be a day or two before my next input but in the meantime I think you are right in your wishes. After my National Service was over I was glad to be out, but on the other hand, I was glad I went in. It was an experience worth having.

Back to the 'Follies' in my previous post: Sheila is at extreme left in photo 2, and next to the lady in uniform in photo 10. Her dad is at the right in photos 4 and 6.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 26, 2014, 14:03:42
Part 25
My National Service began with a week at the reception unit at Padgate, Warrington, Lancs, followed by 8 weeks Recruit Training at the same place, under the TLC of Sgt Knowles and his team of Corporals. I remember him as a demanding but fair ‘father figure’ to many lads away from mother for the first time in their lives. My Flight was on duty over Christmas 1950 and we had a superb Christmas dinner served by the officers and NCOs. The downside was that it was 7 weeks after going in before I got leave – the longest time since we met that Sheila and I have ever been apart (I know that many couples were parted for years, or permanently, during the war, so I’m not complaining at being hard-done-by).

As a result of already being qualified I was, after a Trade Test, rated as a ‘Fitter, Mechanical Transport’ with the rank of Junior Technician, which meant that I didn’t get near aeroplanes, the whole idea of opting for the RAF – intended as a couple of ‘gap years’. Fred Ballard (who, it will be remembered, opted not to take deferment) did get near aeroplanes, but as a semi-skilled Airframe or Engine Mechanic. However, my pay was higher so, since I was saving to get married, perhaps my fate was the best after all.

From Padgate I was posted to 30 Maintenance Unit (MU) at RAF Sealand, near Chester, just as the USAF was taking over the station, so that there was no job for me. Hence I found myself working in the kitchen of the Sergeants’ Mess under the command of the WAAF Sergeant ‘Queen Bee’, an awesome experience – she could spot a badly cleaned saucepan or an incompletely peeled spud from 100 yards.

After a couple of weeks or so I was attached to No2 MT Company, at Bicester, nicely near to home and, even better, my Flight Sergeant owned a Ford 8 and lived at Walderslade, so it was a lift home and back each weekend, for just the cost of half the petrol. When I didn’t get a lift home with the F/Sgt, return was by the Sunday 00:02 forces only train from Paddington to Aynho Junction, which was longer than Bicester station and so had to draw up twice – there were lines of Military and RAF Police alongside the track waiting for anyone trying to get off from the part of the train not in the station. While I was there I was given a mid-week pass to come home to receive my Short’s Brothers Prize at the college prize giving, showing that the RAF did have a human side, although much depended on the CO concerned. At that event lecturer George Goodyer said that he anticipated needing an assistant at some time in the future and suggested I should keep an eye open. Entertainment at Bicester included riding pillion (no crash helmet) on my mate’s motor-bike to go to Oxford Speedway and - perhaps hard to believe - visiting the pubs in Bicester. Since there was a large army camp nearby (hence the special train mentioned above) and the ‘Brylcream Boys’ didn’t always get on with the ‘Brown Jobs’ it was wise to keep watch for signs of trouble and be ready to get out of the pub ASAP.

But it wasn’t to last – any liking I had for RAF life vanished when 30 MU, having been turfed out of Sealand and its personnel scattered, gathered its waifs and strays and reformed at Stoke Heath, near Market Drayton, Shropshire. It was on the opposite side of the airfield to Ternhill, which may be better known to some readers, and was a wartime hutted unit with living ‘camps’ and working sites scattered round the area. Consequently everyone was issued with a bike, and the huts were heated by pot-bellied stoves – a drastic contrast to the centrally heated barrack rooms of Sealand and Bicester, where all working and leisure facilities were within yards of each other. Also, as I mentioned above, a lot depended on the CO, and while the first CO I had there, Flt Lt Critchley, was a real gentleman with the welfare of his men at heart, his soon to come successor’s aim was to increase efficiency, presumably with an eye on promotion (the origin of the soldiers’ prayer “Please God, protect me from officers who want to win medals”). But I got my first flight when there was a ‘first come first served’ offer by a Wing Commander at Ternhill of a lift to West Malling one weekend, in a Percival Proctor runabout. On learning that it was my first flight Winco said that if I was airsick in his aeroplane I’d have to clean it up.

30 MU’s function was to take in RAF vehicles for complete overhaul and I worked in the Flight that completely stripped down and rebuilt the chassis, sending the components for overhaul by other Flights. I was responsible for supervising 3 or 4 MT Mechanics or MT Assistants, the first time in my life when I found myself in charge of other people. But that had its downside when one of my ‘bods’ (an RAF term for ‘bodies’) told me he had filled a gearbox with oil when he hadn’t and I signed the ‘Form XYZ’ (everything in the RAF had an appropriate form) stating it to be ready for test; my Sergeant took it out – guess who got the blame when the gearbox seized! Paradoxically, being an MT Fitter didn’t entitle me to drive RAF vehicles and I went to RAF Weeton, near Blackpool, for a driving test, taking a long drive round Blackpool in a 3-tonner. At the end of the test the Sergeant said I drove OK but he would have to fail me for wearing RAF issue woollen gloves, against regulations because they were liable to slip on the wheel – I wonder why he didn’t tell me to start with! Stoke Heath was too remote for much other than the NAAFI and camp cinema for entertainment, but because the sites were dispersed it was difficult for the ‘authorities’ to arrange any booking out/in system at the guardroom – we had to go onto the public roads to get between sites. Consequently the Wednesday afternoon sports periods were often used by the mate with the motor-bike (he was posted from Bicester with me) for some lovely rides through the mid-Wales country. For me the ‘on camp’ sport was to join the camera club. Anything was OK so long as you weren’t caught in your billet on a Wednesday afternoon. Weekend passes began at 11am on Saturday (with one per month starting on Friday, plus Bank Holiday ‘grants’), and coaches were laid on to several destinations. For me it was coach to London, arriving about 5pm, then train home. Return was coach from the ‘Union Jack Club’, near Waterloo Station, at midnight on Sunday, arriving back at camp at about 6am, just time for a spruce-up and breakfast before reporting for duty at 8am. And I did that most weekends! As usual I had to poke my nose in and got lumbered with the job, albeit during working hours, of taking bookings for the London coach.

From September 1951 to June 1952 I was given day-release to take the 2nd year of the C&G MV Technicians course that I was unable to do before the end of my apprenticeship. It meant cycling to Ternhill station, leaving the bike and then getting the bus into Shrewsbury, all expenses paid. Then, jumping ahead a bit, in September 1952 I enrolled for the Higher National Certificate course in Mechanical Engineering, also at Shrewsbury Tech, with the intention of continuing it at Gillingham when I was discharged. Groups of bods on various courses were taken into Shrewsbury by RAF truck, in my case for 3 evenings a week.

The summer of 1951 saw the Festival of Britain, with events all over the country, the South Bank Exhibition in London (with the Skylon having no visible means of support), and the opening of Battersea Amusement Park. Sheila and I went during one of my leaves. We were finally emerging from the nightmare of WW2 and, apart from the Korean War, I remember it as a time of optimism.

Wedding arrangements proceeded at home, a date was fixed and I got permission to start 10 days leave on a Thursday (leave normally started at a weekend). During that week there had been a snowstorm down south and I remember coming down on the train to see a clear dividing line – snow on the ground to the south, clear to the north – at about Watford. However, the sun eventually shone upon the righteous and on Saturday 5th April 1952 Sheila and I were married at St Paul’s Church, New Road, Chatham.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/d3087b8a-a183-4c6e-9cbf-e89aafefe262.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/d3087b8a-a183-4c6e-9cbf-e89aafefe262.png.html) (http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/be757910-4fd6-4620-b37d-19d28648032c.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/be757910-4fd6-4620-b37d-19d28648032c.png.html)

Honeymoon was at Sheila’s cousin’s house at Wickford, Essex.

A shadow over it was that British bases in Egypt were being attacked by the locals – hinting that we had outstayed our welcome – and many people were being posted there (As a ‘second-line’ unit, 30 MU seemed to be a ‘feeder’ for overseas postings). But I was free of that worry from May because we were exempt from overseas posting during our last 6 months of service.

Our marital accommodation was the front top floor room of the Foresters as a living room, and the back bedroom accessed through my parents’ bedroom. The kitchen, 2 floors down, was shared with my parents, who had to fit their lives into pub opening times, and hence we into theirs. Perhaps it was as well that I was usually only home at weekends and Sheila stayed at her own parents’ while I was away. We had our names down for a council house, but the waiting list was centuries long.

Fortunately one of Dad’s customers was an army sergeant living in married quarters in Fort Clarence, Rochester and was posted overseas. I’ve no idea of the legality of it, but he let it to us. We paid the rent into his bank account but had a phone number in Brompton Barracks to contact for maintenance, so I suppose it was OK. But since it got us out of the Foresters, I didn’t care.

And that was the situation when, from 12th November 1952, the RAF had to manage without me and I took up civvy life again
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on March 26, 2014, 18:42:31
Another great episode...love the photos.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on March 26, 2014, 19:44:47
Same from me too  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on March 26, 2014, 20:56:09
I did my Trade Training at RAF Weeton, small world. Also did 2 years on the Motor Transport, Forward Repair Unit at RAF Butzweielerhof near Cologne

Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 29, 2014, 21:42:09
Part 26
Back to civvy life and the question of what to do. I was entitled to return to C&ES for 6 months but, it will be remembered from an earlier Part, I wanted to design things. Dad had been talking to a customer who worked at CAV and he had suggested I apply for a job in their design office (God knows what Dad told him about me). CAV made diesel engine fuel systems which I knew something about, so I applied and got an interview. Then it came out that my main ONC subject was ‘Heat Engines’ whereas they wanted a qualification in production engineering – knowing how something worked wasn’t the same thing as knowing how to make it. I suppose I should have known that, but Dad’s customer had put ideas into my head that even led me to tell my RAF CO that I was going into ‘research’ at my ‘discharge interview’ with him.

Ah well, back to C&ES then. K was actually outside when I turned-up and he said “Hello Challis, how are you?” (It was surnames only, even though he was a considerate boss). The smile vanished when I said I’d come to claim my job back, not because he didn’t want me, but because it meant sacking someone to make room for me (with just a week’s notice in those days). But it wasn’t the same – Alec and Jim Wallace had gone, as had most of the mechanics except Norman Sutton, and the machine shop had closed. I didn’t hit it off with the new manager (I can’t even remember his name), I made a cock-up on a job that would normally have been regarded as minor, and sensed that he was just waiting for the end of the 6 months. Somebody told me that a mechanic who was at C&ES while I was away was now manager of Balls of Gillingham and didn’t like the new C&ES manager, so if I went there and said I also didn’t like him he would look favourably on me.

From such tiny things do life changing events arise, and I found myself as a mechanic at Balls of Gillingham, at the top of Barnsole Road - now a branch of KwikFit. ( I had previously done jobs there when working for the REs in 1944-1945, when it was a maintenance depot for the vehicles that provided the smoke screen round the dockyard). It was a Rover agency but if the word ‘Up’ had been the second one in its title it would have been appropriate. Its owner was a rather elderly gent who we rarely saw, known as ‘Money Bags’, and the firm was nominally run by son Robin Ball, whose main interest was playing with vintage cars; his pride and joy was a 1920s open Talbot with left-hand drive. In charge of the ‘workers’ was manager ??? Collins (the ex-C&ES man), me and two other mechanics, with Poppy in the stores and office (and who married one of the mechanics). Time-wise I know I was there at the time of the east coast floods of January 1953. Work was not plentiful and I learnt a lot about vehicle electrics in my ‘spare time’ by re-wiring a Rover that belonged to the firm. I wasn’t exactly confident that the firm would survive for much longer.

I enrolled at Gillingham Tech to continue the HNC course I started at Shrewsbury but, while the syllabus was the same, different colleges tackled it differently and it was difficult to pick-up the threads. Also, while 3 evenings a week was OK in the days when Mum cooked for me, it was a different matter with Sheila and me both working and having to do our own housework. Anyway, I couldn’t settle – I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but knew I didn’t want to do what I was doing. Perhaps hard to believe, considering that I wanted to get out and was only in for 2 years, but I think I missed the comradeship of the RAF. Anyway, I soon dropped out of college.

Then came another of those times when a lot of things happened in quick succession and I can’t remember their exact sequence, so let’s look at home life.

Part 25 left Sheila and me living in a rented army MQ at Fort Clarence. The actual address was 5 Fort Clarence but, as far as I can recall, the only other resident was an army corporal. For those who know the fort layout, ours was a house facing down towards Maidstone Road. The house being on a slope, all the rooms were on slightly different levels rather than the conventional system of having the floors level and with steps up to the front door. Behind a dresser in the kitchen was a door and, being nosey, we opened this one day to find a passage with about 6 cells on each side, lit by roof skylights – evidently some sort of Napoleonic prison – spooky.

It was obviously not a long-term home for us and 103 Sturla Road, Chatham, just round the corner from Sheila’s parents, was for sale for £950. We bought it on a 1/3rd deposit & 2/3rd mortgage basis, the deposit being a loan from Sheila’s mum, from an inherited house that she sold for £450. Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing celebrated our move in by climbing Everest on the same day – 29th May 1953. The house was a large 3-bedroom terraced, but we were back to an outside loo (The one in the fort was inside).

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was a few days later, on 2nd June 1953.

It was also about then that I returned the service and became Fred Ballard’s best man. Soon after that he joined the police and we eventually lost touch Many years later I met his sister and found that he had retired as a police sergeant at Broadstairs. I contacted him and the 4 of us (he and me, Sheila and Helen) arranged to meet for a meal at a pub in Sturry, perhaps hoping to renew an old friendship. But it wasn’t to be – it wasn’t the same Fred that I knew, and he probably thought the same about me. While we parted with statements of “We must meet again”, we never have. It’s not the only example in my life where I found that retuning to the past was a disappointment.

Sheila’s dad bought a 500cc BSA motor-bike and sidecar with some of the rest of the inheritance and, until he found a lock-up nearby, kept it in the yard of the Foresters Arms, where the photo was taken (it meant a bus ride from Chatham to Rochester to collect it!). It actually became ‘family transport’ because he let Sheila and me use it and we had many happy outings with it.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/f8c9ab1e-f26a-457c-8731-acd5aa7d6273.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/f8c9ab1e-f26a-457c-8731-acd5aa7d6273.png.html)
No, Sheila didn’t ride it – she was just showing off!
I passed my motor cycle test on it but I never did ride a solo motor-bike.

Back to the job situation next time …..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 30, 2014, 10:05:31
PS to above, in case somebody questions it:
MKO registration was issued in 1950, so it seems as if Sheila's dad bought the motor-bike before I went into the RAF. Petrol rationing ended in May 1950, so that makes sense. Sheila's mum inherited the house not long after we met - about 1947/1948, which would  account for the difference in what she got for that and what we paid for the one in Sturla Road, plus the fact it was smaller.

Thus do vague memories fall into place.

Back soon.....
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 01, 2014, 20:52:30
Part 27
So in view of the conditions at Ball’s I thought it prudent to look for work elsewhere and I remember an unsuccessful interview at Barnes and Brooker. Then one of the other mechanics told me that Russell’s Garage in Medway Street, Chatham, was advertising for an Assistant Receptionist for the princely sum of £9/week. I applied and was offered the job for £7/10/0 (£7.50) a week, reduced for the first year on the grounds that I had no experience as Receptionist (in fact, I don’t think I’d even heard of one until then!). It was little, if any, more than I was earning at Ball’s but it was a safer job and the first step on the promotion ladder. It was then that I came to realise that a ‘salary’, as distinct from a ‘wage’, meant the hours were whatever was necessary to get the job done, sometimes resulting in an hourly rate less than hourly paid workers farther down the pecking order.

So I became part of the hierarchy headed by Harry Russell, a well known figure in the local motor trade, Major (ex-Para) John (Curly) Williams who married Harry’s daughter Madge and was the de facto boss (it was he who interviewed me for the job), Workshop Manager ‘Plum’ Warner (due to shape and colour of face), and Receptionist Les Cheetham. As a receptionist my job was to diagnose customers’ problems, issue job instructions to the workshop, and to cost the job according to labour and materials involved – it was before the days of standard times set by the manufacturer. Les usually had a last look at the account and would sometimes say “that one can stand a bit more” or “better knock a couple of hours labour off that”. Labour was charged at 3 & 1/2 times the mechanic’s wage. Workshops, Sales and Stores were run as separate ‘units’, each charging the others for services and materials. Thus work we did on sales cars was charged to the Sales Department at a discount; the Stores supplied us with spares at ‘trade prices’ Accounts for each department were circulated monthly, and it all made for friendly competition.

But I’d no sooner started than the RAF decided it couldn’t manage without me and called me back for 2 weeks reserve service at RAF Marham, Norfolk. It was a station that did what the RAF did best – fly aeroplanes – and hence belonged to a different RAF to the one I knew at Stoke Heath. Its squadrons were in the process of re-equipping with Canberra jet bombers. The Corporals and Junior Technicians had their own mess, the MT Officer took his tea breaks with the ‘erks’ and there was an altogether more friendly atmosphere. It may have been because I was only there as a sort of ‘visitor’ but the MT Officer even arranged for me to have a flight in an Airspeed Oxford trainer on air-test, when I found myself sitting on the wing-spar behind 2 Sergeant Pilots. One of them turned to me and shouted in my ear “Do you know where we are?” I said “No” and it was a relief when he said “That’s Kings Lynn and that’s Hunstanton”, because I thought he was lost and was asking me!

So after what was really a pleasant holiday it was back to Russell’s until, on the morning of 18th November1953, I rounded the corner into Medway Street and found this:

(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/RusselldsFire5.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/RusselldsFire5.jpg.html)
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/RussellsFire6.jpg) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/RussellsFire6.jpg.html)
Photos from Numanfan or AFS Rochester, with apologies for not remembering which one.

Being in a wooden building, the fire had taken hold within minutes and it was integral with Scott’s Wood Yard next door, so all the fire brigade could do was to prevent the fire spreading there and ‘damp-down’ the petrol pump storage tanks under the pavement, which held thousands of gallons. One or two cars had been saved and the landlord of the Eagle Tavern, in Military Road, was not too happy when I took his car back to him – he was already filling in his insurance claim.

Fortunately we were not entirely homeless. The Head Office and showroom was in Medway Street, where ’Carshop Medway’ is now, the Retail and ‘Large Unit’ (engines, etc) Stores were opposite, about where the car sales places are now, and there was a showroom on New Road, at the junction with Frederick Street. John Williams (‘Mr Williams’ to me) got me going through all the customer records in the office and phoning them to say we were still in business as usual. But we had lost all our workshop equipment, as well as each mechanics’ personal tool kit (including mine - although I didn’t use it I had brought it in from home). It might have been expected that other garages would try to pick-up our trade, but within hours Plum, Les, and I were drawing up a list of equipment and responding to offers of loaned items from Chatham Motors, C&ES, Rootes, et al. I was made responsible for drawing up a list of what came from where.

So we set up a workshop in the New Road showroom - which luckily already had a hoist – having room for 3 or 4 cars on the workshop floor and quite a large yard at the rear. Plum, Les, and I (the ‘office lot’) were squeezed into one corner. John Williams said he was sorry but he couldn’t keep me on and promised all the help he could give me to find something else. A few days later he called in again and asked me how the job seeking was going and Plum said that, paradoxically, he could find plenty of work for me, so that was settled – phew!

The circumstances didn’t prevent every employee being given a Christmas chicken, distributed by Madge Russell/Williams, with a glass of sherry as she did the rounds.

Then I went sick – I was mobile but got exhausted quickly. There was some restriction on my sick benefit because Sheila was pregnant at the time and getting maternity benefit, and there was some sort of cap on the total amount that one family could receive. John Williams actually visited us at home and said it was not the time to be short of money and he would make up my pay until it was sorted. I can’t remember why I was there, but I was in his office when this phone conversation took place between John and someone at the appropriate Ministry:

JW: “Madam, you are costing me money
Phone: “Twitter-twitter” (I couldn’t hear)
JW: “Because if you don’t pay him I will have to
Phone: “Twitter-twitter
JW: “I know I don’t have to pay him, but I promised I would, so please get it sorted
Phone slammed down.

Dominant character that he was, I doubt if he won!

Sylvia was born on 12th May 1954, while I was still off sick.

I was off for 6-8 weeks and had hardly started back, if I had at all, when an advert appeared in the local paper for an ‘Assistant Lecturer in Motor Vehicle Engineering’ at Medway Tech at Fort Horsted. Remembering what George Goodyer had said back in 1950 I applied and was short-listed.

Oh dear, after all that Russells had done for me I felt guilty and, before the interview, I went to see Les Cheetham at his home. He said “Curly (his name out of earshot) doesn’t own the rest of your working life, so go for the interview and take the job if it’s offered”. Which I did and was offered the job against one other candidate. I don’t know if George Goodyer had any say, but he wasn’t on the interview panel.

Not unexpectedly ‘Curly’ went spare – I was ungrateful, etc, etc, but nevertheless on 1st August 1954 I became a college lecturer.

But that is for the next part…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on April 02, 2014, 17:50:01
I found this very interesting, thank you
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 02, 2014, 20:56:39
Thanks :)
Any particular aspect, or just generally?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: GP on April 03, 2014, 08:51:17
Another interesting instalment !

Are you using your  old diary's, if not your memory for dates is impressive!!

I remember going and seeing the after effects of Russell's garage fire. Especially seeing the huge paint blisters on the front doors of the terraced houses opposite .
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 03, 2014, 12:13:54
Thanks GP. :)

Regarding dates, that of Russell’s fire was posted by member ‘afs-rochester’ some while ago, and others in previous posts I’ve looked up in order to keep my memories in the right sequence – I often remember an event, but not when it occurred. Otherwise I’ve tried to rely on how I think I saw things at the time and not altered by what I’ve discovered since.

But so far as starting at Medway College is concerned I’ve been caught out by relying on memory. Being monthly paid I assumed that I’d started on the first of a month and, for reasons that I’ll mention in my next instalment, I know it wasn’t 1st September. However, I’ve found a letter from Russell’s certifying that I was employed by them from 21st September 1953 (a Monday) to 14th August 1954 (a Saturday), so it looks as if I might have been employed by KCC from Monday 16th August 1954.

I see that the letter was dated 16th March 1961, so I’m now wondering why I must have asked them for it!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on April 03, 2014, 14:28:03
Your account is interesting on a number of levels, Peterchall.

1. It's a great social commentary.
2. The thumb-nail character sketches - elevate people from being simply names on the page, to real people.
3. Remind me of the RAF Reserve 'recall' that I had forgotten.
4. Bring to life the consequence of the fire by the introduction of timely/appropriate photos.
5. Remind us how random events can change our lives

Do you want me to go on?  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 03, 2014, 16:35:41
That's enough thanks, John38, or I shall need a bigger hat size :)

Seriously, if a future generation reads my thread and gets some idea of what life was like for a 'working class' lad/man in 1930s, WW2, and the years soon after, I will be satisfied.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 05, 2014, 12:19:09
Part 28
The buildings next to Fort Horsted were originally built post-war as a Government Training Centre (GTC) for retraining people discharged from the forces, but were never used as such (Though they were used for a ‘Medway Industries’ Exhibition in 1950 and C&ES had a stand there). I think it was September 1953 when the Gillingham Technical College, in Green Street, transferred to there and became Medway College of Technology.

Continuing from Part 27 and its follow-on, I’m not now sure when I actually started there – the college session started the first Monday of September with staff meetings, admin and general preparation, and the students started on the second Monday. But I went on a course at CAVs on diesel engine fuel systems because that was a gap in my experience, and think it was before I started teaching. So it seems as if that was arranged for after 14th August 1954, when I left Russell’s, but the details of how it was arranged and whether I was paid by Kent County Council now escape me. However, I quickly found that one of the most difficult aspects of the job was keeping up-to-date with technology, often achieved by going on manufacturer’s courses during college holidays. It was during one such course at Automotive Products that I discovered that AP’s brake fluid, dyed pink, was dyed blue on the production line on one day per week, when it became ‘Ford’ brake fluid, the only one approved by Ford for its cars!

To put my position into perspective, the college was headed by Principal Dr Orr, and under him were the various Departments of which mine was the Production Engineering Department under Head of Department (HoD) Alf Barwell. That was divided into Machine Shop, Welding, Sheet Metal Work, and Motor Vehicle Sections. The MV Section consisted of George Goodyer and me and, because he was my lecturer when I was a student, it was a long time before I was comfortable with calling him ‘George’ to his face. We also had some part-time evening class lecturers from time to time. The lecturer ‘ranks’, with their weekly teaching hours, were: Senior Lecturer (SL) = 18 hours; Lecturer Grade 2 (L2) = 20 hours; Lecturer Grade 1 (L1) = 22 hours; Assistant Lecturer (AL) = 24 hours. George was an L1 and I was an AL. They were paid different salaries of course, and the differences in teaching hours were supposed to reflect the level to which one taught – although in practice that was not strictly adhered to – and the administrative work involved. The contract was a minimum of 30 hours/week on college premises, spread over 10 of the 15 sessions (morning afternoon, and evening) per week. A typical week would be 8 morning or afternoon sessions and 2 evening classes. Any teaching hours over those specified for the grade were paid extra. If that seems a ‘cushy number’ I thought so too until I learnt that no way could the job be done properly (lesson preparation, setting and marking homework, setting end-of-term exams, etc) in less than at least twice the teaching hours, although whether those extra hours above the minimum 30 were spent at college or home was a matter of choice. Hence for the first time in my life I carried a brief case to/from work! But by bus – I couldn’t afford a car and was no longer able to drive other peoples – boy, did I miss those test drives in Jags that I did at Russell’s!

Courses we ran were day-release City & Guilds Motor Vehicle Mechanics and Technicians courses, adult evening courses and a car owners’ evening class (frowned on by the trade because it supposedly took away business and gave away ‘trade secrets’). Day release was still relatively new and there were still lots of journeymen who hadn’t had the chance of getting C&G qualifications, so evening classes for that were much in demand. Such was the pressure on accommodation that I ran an adult evening class at Rochester Tech, my old school.  Teaching time on day-release classes was roughly equally divided between Vehicle Technology/Science, Maths, and Engineering Drawing/Workshop Practice.  Adult classes were all theory because students were usually practising mechanics seeking paper qualifications. But there was a couple of ladies who were secretaries to self-employed husbands and who felt that they should know a bit of the technical stuff.

The MV Section was under the watchful eye of the Motor Traders Advisory Committee, chaired by Mr Shantully, who ran Llyods Garage of Rochester. Another member was Cyril Colville, boss of Wallis Motors, Gillingham, and who had married in to the Lumley-Robinson family, of Jubilee Clips fame. My contact with him was through him organising a monthly manufacturers’ lecture at the Sun Hotel, which my Thursday evening day-release class was required to attend. The periodic practical exam for the vehicle mechanics’ National Craftsman’s Certificate was run in the college workshops on a Saturday, supervised by Ernie Moon, manager of Strood Motor Co, and who was reputed to have said to a doctor customer with a complaint about work done on his car “My mistakes come back to me – you bury yours”. While KCC bought the college equipment, it was dependent on the trade to supply it with ‘left-off’ vehicles and parts. Sorry if this is rambling, but I thought how the college fitted in with industry might be interesting.

My first ‘industrial injury’ caused by teaching was to lose my voice towards the end of lessons for the first few days, and the first disciplinary problem was due to a couple of Russell’s apprentices who had known me as ‘Peter’ thinking it was amusing to see me standing in front of them spouting and expecting to be called ‘Sir’. It also cut the other way – I had known them by their first names and felt awkward using their surnames. It was also a shock to find that I was paid monthly at the end of the month, which meant 3 weeks with no income after being paid weekly. Payment was by cheque collected from the college office; I had no bank account and cashed the cheques at the Foresters.

Our private lives were largely governed by having a young baby, but Sheila and I continued to use her dad’s motor-bike, and her parents were willing baby-sitters, living just round the corner. I took the opportunity to repay some of their loan of the deposit on our house by doing some extra evening classes as overtime but, perhaps rightly, Alf Barwell wouldn’t let me do more than 3 evenings a week. We had no TV and, jumping ahead, as a toddler Sylvia went round to Sheila’s parents house to watch theirs, usually ending in tears when Andy Pandy finished, leading to threats that she wouldn’t be allowed there again if that was going to happen!

Then one Thursday evening near the end of my first term – just before Christmas – I was taking a class when Alf Barwell came in to say I was wanted on the phone in his office. It was the police to tell me that my father had been found dead in the Foresters Arms. After a quick ride home to collect Sheila (I was using the motor-bike) we went to discover that my mother had returned from a shopping trip just before opening time to find him collapsed in the kitchen. It says something about the emergency services of the times that she called to the neighbour for help, who went along to the GP’s surgery on the corner of Watts Avenue, and he came, only to have to say there was nothing he could do. Dad had collected the tontine money from the bank that afternoon and the police froze its pay-out, resulting in local newspaper headlines suggesting some attempted swindle had occurred. But it was all found to be in order and the inquest verdict was ‘Death from natural causes’. So ended a big chapter of my life – my mother moved into a flat in Corporation Street, Rochester and got a part-time job with Featherstones, a shop that will be familiar to some KHF members. She was still below pensionable age – my father was only 58.

The college was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 5th April 1955, to mark my 3rd wedding anniversary!
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/5444c85c-4817-4328-abc3-2cbeb06f4a24.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/5444c85c-4817-4328-abc3-2cbeb06f4a24.png.html)
The Duke was due to tour the college after the ceremony, but only to walk past the MV workshops. George said “We’ll start up an engine on the test bed as he goes past, that might attract his attention”. Sure enough it did – he stopped as he heard the engine start, turned and came through the wide open double-doors and spoke to George, who pointed to the engine with me standing beside it. As he approached the engine stalled and the Duke said “I bet it won’t start again”, whereupon I pressed the starter and it did.  He gave the thumbs-up, shook hands with George and went out through the personnel door. And that’s how I won a bet with the Duke of Edinburgh, but he still hasn’t paid me. And it was a long time before George washed his right hand.

This photo was taken on that day. The engine test bed is under the left hand of the 2 large windows. I’m the left hand one of the guys in white coats – the other is George. The car belonged to Alf Barwell – the college couldn’t have afforded that.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/MCTWorkshop.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/MCTWorkshop.png.html)
Photo from Numanfan

So I began a virtually new career, vastly different to what I had ever imagined when I thought I would like to ‘design things that made whirring and clanking noises’ as a kid. Now I was a teacher, and you know how they go on…and on…..and on….!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on April 05, 2014, 14:18:16
I always found that the Duke of E asked a question and, before the person could answer, the Duke would be talking to someone else  :)

Interesting to see the structure of the College teaching system, and the subjects taught. I know I'm old fashioned, but the Technical Schools and Colleges seemed so important to the sound engineering base upon which this country flourished.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Signals99 on April 05, 2014, 14:26:30
Peterchall,
Thank you for story so far. I lived in Union St. not too far from the area you write about. So a lot of the things and incidents are part of my life as well, especially the fire at Russell's.

My father worked at RNAD Lodge Hill, he was often given a lift to and from work by a friend who drove a Morgan three wheeler, unfortunately the car was in Russell's work shop awaiting attention on the night of the fire, I believe there was some disagreement over the amount of compensation paid, but I digress.

Please continue with this story, it brings back some lovely memories. I recall very well the demise of your father and the attendant stories that circulated in the Troy Town area, all malicious gossip.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 05, 2014, 21:26:32
Thanks for the compliments. :)

Signals99, a feature of Russell’s fire was the complete destruction of all the vehicles, and one of my tasks, once entry was made safe, was to identify individual vehicles for the insurance assessors. The value of a written-off vehicle for insurance purposes is, of course, dependant on its condition before the event that wrote it off, and I’ve no idea how that could have been assessed, and I can well imagine that disagreements arose. It was fascinating to see the steel shafts and gear-wheels of a gearbox more-or-less hanging in place after the light alloy gearbox casing had melted.

To complete the picture regarding my dad, the gas stove was on but not alight when mum found him, and we couldn’t find the tontine money that evening. Customers had been turning up for their pint to find the doors locked but my ex-policeman uncle was there and was familiar with the routine. Yet somehow the local paper had got the details and was published the next morning with headlines that can be imagined. However, the money was found next day – for obvious reasons we hadn’t looked too hard the night before, even though the police had asked me where dad was likely to have put it. No gas was found in dad’s body at the post-mortem, so it was concluded that he had turned the gas on to make a cuppa and collapsed and stopped breathing before he could light it.

John38, I ws surprised at the extent the college was involved in local industry, but from then on found myself more closely part of the trade I thought I’d left behind. That will be the theme of most of my future posts because my personal and working lives became more inter-related than ever before.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: GP on April 06, 2014, 14:21:10
Another interesting instalment

Did the fire start in Russell`s Garage and go over into the wood yard, or vice versa? I always thought it started in the timber yard?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 06, 2014, 15:44:41
It started in the garage and, miraculously, the timber yard was saved. Russell's had a night watchman and, so far as I can remember, he had gone to get a newspaper from a shop in Military Road and the fire started while he was away. But I don't think its cause was ever determined.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 07, 2014, 12:59:28
Part 29
My first year as a lecturer was probationary and at the end of the session I asked Alf Barwell if I still had a job – “Nobody’s said you haven’t, have they?” was his reply. However he did point out that it was a dead-end job if I wanted to go further – George wasn’t due to retire for about another 15 years and ‘internal promotion’ wasn’t the norm in Further Education establishments. So perhaps I should think of moving elsewhere after 4 or 5 years. To that end he suggested I should get a teaching qualification. (It may come as a surprise that such was not a requirement, technical knowledge being considered more important).

So after a couple of years I became a day-release student (every Friday) at Garnett College, on Old Kent Road, near the Elephant & Castle. It was after giving a practice lesson that my fellow students, backed by my tutor, said that they were more likely to remember how many times I walked to-and-fro, or waved my arms, than the subject matter of the lesson - such idiosyncrasies were common among all of us; I often think of that today when watching some TV newsreaders and weather forecasters. Whether or not it can be called a ‘qualification’, I have a letter stating that I successfully completed a course on ‘Fundamentals of Teaching’ in 1957-1958 (It must have taken a while to fit me in, or Alf’s suggestion came later than the end of my first year)..

George had been a pre-war apprentice at Strood Motors (about 1924-29), followed by experience in the trade, culminating as a Captain in the REME in WW2, so no way could I match his practical experience, yet I don’t think he had any paper qualifications and he relied on me to teach the maths and science. It was George himself who said he and I were equals and I asked the Principal about the chances of being made L1. He suggested I should improve my qualifications so that he could show KCC that something about me had changed. That could only be membership of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI).

So it was back to school and I found myself taking evening classes in ‘Motor Trade Law’, taught by colleague Stan Johnson (who taught all the ‘law related’ and English lessons in the department and who, with his wife, became a personal friend of Sheila and I), and ‘Motor Trade Management’ taught by Plum Warner, still Works Manager at Russell’s. IMI grades were ‘Student’, ‘Graduate’, ‘Associate Member’, ‘Member’, and ‘Fellow’, and my fellow students were mostly mechanics, body repairers, storemen, salesmen (and women) aspiring to IMI membership and promotion in the trade. Passing the exams at the end of the session was only the first step and I needed sponsorship (which Plum, although a member who knew me personally, couldn’t give because he had been my tutor). So I sought out Jim Wallace, of C&ES days, and I now think that the letter from Russell’s mentioned earlier, stating when I worked for them, was connected with that. Anyway, I became an Associate Member (AMIMI).

Then at some stage whose timing now escapes me, we were joined by Eric Flood, who had been a lecturer in the Dockyard College. George became L2 and Eric and I were L1s.

The IMI was divided into Centres and Medway Towns were in the West Kent Centre, who’s Secretary was Bernard Carlton, an insurance assessor and part-time college lecturer. Bernard persuaded me to attend the 1964 Annual General Meeting (AGM) and when I got there I found out why. The Centre Committee consisted of Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and about 9 members, and it was always difficult to get people to serve on it – Bernard proposed me and I was elected unopposed. Bernard also produced the bi-monthly Centre Magazine and the next stage in his ploy was exposed when he announced that that was too much on top of being Secretary – guess who was mug enough to take on the magazine! I was supposed to edit submitted articles but had to write a large part of it myself. The committee met monthly and its function was to arrange lectures and approve membership applications passed down from Head Office. Cyril Colville, mentioned earlier, took a keen interest in apprentices and junior IMI members and suggested that we should set up a Student/Graduate Section with its own Chairman, Secretary and Committee, and it should organise technical lectures, leaving the main committee to deal with management lectures. He also said it needed someone from the main committee to sit on their committee meetings to give them guidance, and thought that a college lecturer would be ideal for that job!!! So The West Kent Centre Student/Graduate Committee began to hold its meetings at the Vineyard pub, in Rochester.

Cyril also instigated an annual apprentices competition in the form of an essay on a subject chosen from a list, and it was held on a Saturday at Medway College – muggins doing the initial marking of course, and the final prize list decided by the committee. Shell Oil contributed £50 to the prize fund which, with other contributions from local firms, came to quite a respectable amount. There were plenty of candidates for about 3 years, and then one year it was just as if a switch had been thrown – there were more prize slots than candidates, and the standard of the entries didn’t justify the prizes on offer. We gave nominal prizes to the entrants and with reluctance and apologies the prize contributions were returned to the donors. It was not the only ‘failure’ about that time - the Student/Graduate events were always well supported until, suddenly, we were embarrassed by visiting lecturers having to speak to ‘empty’ rooms. It wasn’t as though the premises were unattractive, usually being the ‘Army & Navy’ pub, next to Chatham Town Hall. Date-wise, I think it was about 1968.

One Monday morning I was walking past Alf Barwell’s office window as I arrived at work when he put his head out and told me to come round to see him, where he told me that George’s house had burnt down over the weekend. George lived on a smallholding named Danaway Farm, on the Maidstone-Sittingbourne Road and, having a thatched roof in which the fire began, it was destroyed in no time at all. I think in less than a week he had acquired a caravan and parked it in his field and was back at work. We had always said that working in a technical college gave us access to all the expertise we needed for everyday life and, if it wasn’t for the students it would be a good job, because we could all work for each other!. There were surveyors, architects, brickies, carpenters, plumbers all ready to give advice, if not actual practical help, and George was able to employ people directly to rebuild his house in very quick time.

Things cut the other way at times, of course, and I got used to some maths teacher coming to sit beside me while having a cuppa in the canteen (sorry – Refectory in a college) to say ”Peter, I’ve got this funny noise coming from my gearbox”.

Strictly against KCC Regs of course, but doing some ‘private’ work in the college workshops helped to keep ones hand-in.

Perhaps time to get back to my home life ….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 09, 2014, 20:43:34
Part 30
Home life continued as one would expect with a young daughter, and additions came in 1958 (Caroline) and 1964 (Elizabeth, who has always insisted she is Liz). All Saints Hospital Maternity Ward could be seen from our back bedroom, and it was a ritual to wave to ‘mummy’ with Sylvia when Sheila was there with Carol, and with Sylvia and Carol when she was there with Liz.

I bought my first car about 1959 – a Ford E93A Popular with vacuum operated wipers that stopped when the throttle was opened suddenly – who remembers those? Its registration was VAT69, a brand of whisky! I had to park it in the street and it was before ‘no lights’ parking was allowed. I’m not sure if it was actually legal or just accepted, but it was lit by a Hurricane oil lamp hanging on a bracket that hooked over the offside window and with half its glass painted with a heat-resistant red paint. Attached to the bracket was a sheet of plywood that covered the window glass to protect it from the heat of the lamp. It was about a year before my name came to the top of the waiting list for a nearby lock-up garage, but that lamp was never vandalised.

That’s not to say there was no crime, and we were woken one night by the noise of a couple of blokes jemmying open the door of the corner shop opposite and disappearing inside (its living accommodation upstairs was empty). No one else seemed to have been woken, so all I could do was put on dressing gown and go to the phone box about 100 yards up the road. On dialling 999 I was asked to wait outside my house for the police, who duly turned up on a motor-bike and in a black car with a bell (who remembers the film ‘The Blue Lamp’?). The cops stopped to ask me for details then charged into the (now long vacated) shop. They did a search of the area and then the motor-cyclist stayed until the shop owner arrived to take over. Such was crime fighting in the 1960s.

Following VAT69 came a 100E Ford and then my first new car, in 1963. It was a Ford 105E Anglia (the model with the back window sloping the wrong way) bought on a ‘special deal’ from Swale Motors, Sittingbourne, whose manager happened to be a friend of George Goodyer.

We got our first TV about then, but I can’t remember if it was new or hired from ‘Radio Rentals’; bearing in mind the price and unreliability of TVs then, it was probably the latter - certainly in light of experience we later hired our TVs. But we got terrible interference from hospital machinery, only partly remedied by a filter in the aerial lead-in. The complete cure only came with a cable TV supply.

Followers of this thread will remember that I had an uncle only 9 years older than me who trained as a plumber. He worked for the War Department and became Clerk of Works at the army barracks at Gutersloh, Germany, and had a daughter about the same age as Carol. In 1966 he invited us to stay with him, and so we had our first excursion abroad, our Anglia taking 2 adults and 3 kids plus luggage. On the way we stayed at Ypres for a couple of nights to visit the War Cemeteries and see the nightly 'Last Post' ceremony by the Ypres Fire Brigade at the Menin Gate. Then it was on to Arnhem, and in some town along the way we passed a policeman directing traffic, and then on to where we passed a policeman directing traffic – at the third policeman directing traffic his face and the surroundings suddenly looked familiar; he also recognised us so, when I called out the name of where we wanted to go, he held up the traffic while he directed us into the correct lane. Two nights in Arnhem enabled us to see all the places we had heard of and to visit the museum in the Hartenstein Hotel, the British HQ during the battle, ending with a visit to the Arnhem War Cemetery. That, plus the visit to Ypres, was very thought provoking.

Looking back from this electronic age with its instant communication it’s hard to believe that it was all done by letter – the ferry and hotel bookings and even the arrangement that my uncle would meet us between 2 and 3 pm on the assigned day at a roadside café, to lead us to his home – we didn’t even have a landline phone, let alone a mobile.

My uncle had an ex-German Officer’s MQ in Gutersloh Barracks, and was allocated a housekeeper – ‘Kathy’ – a lady in her 40s who told harrowing tales of life under allied air attack during the war, without any suggestion of rancour. An interesting event while I was there was a ‘Schutzenfest’ in which the local riflemen shot at a plywood cut-out of an eagle on top of a pole, the prize-winners being those who fired the final shot to ‘chop-off’ bits of it, starting with the wings. The one who fired the final shot that chopped off its head became ‘Schutzen Konig’ (Shooting King) and, we were told, had to buy the booze, but he did hold some sort of privileged position for the year.

The Mohne Dam, of Dambusters fame, was nearby and it was ironic that, while the British had knocked it down, the Germans had made a tourist attraction of it, even having a museum. I’ve still got one of those ‘relief picture’ things, showing the dam with water pouring through the breach. We visited a place called ‘Herman’s Denkmall’ where there was a huge statue of some medieval soldier – presumably Herman – that was riddled with bullet marks where allied fighter pilots had taken a dislike to him in WW2. We visited Hamelin where almost every shop seemed to be selling something to do with the pied piper. On some days, if he was going somewhere interesting, I went to work with my uncle (He wasn’t on holiday himself all the time we were there) and, as a result, met a German colleague who had fought in the Afrika Korps and made no bones about being proud of it; but he wasn’t aware that some of the English words he’d picked up shouldn’t have been used in polite company – according to him the Ford E93A was an ‘ugly ******’. If my uncle was working and the journey wasn’t too long, my ‘lot’ and my aunt and young cousin all piled into my unprotesting Anglia (ie - 3 adults and 4 kids). Otherwise it was by train or, if my uncle was not working, in 2 cars. One way or another we saw a great deal of Nordrein-Westphalia, often visiting places at Kathy’s suggestion.

On the way home it was overnights in Cologne and Brussels. In Cologne we were 'semi-lost' when an 9ish year old boy on a bike spotted us and said “Car park?”, and when I said “yes” he said “Kommen sie” and led us through some back streets, pointed to a car park and held out his hand – with initiative like that it’s no wonder that Germany pulled herself up by her boot-straps after the war.

In later years we visited many places in Europe, but that was the only time in my life that I drove abroad. An altogether memorable holiday.

Otherwise holidays were mostly days out, by bus or train before we got our first car. Sylvia had joined the Brownies and graduated to the Guides in 1965, at age 11, where her Guider needed help and so Sheila became an Assistant Guider. Thus we tried camping with a ridge tent borrowed from the Guide Company. It must have been 1967 because we went to the New Forest with the Anglia where, on the first or second night, there was a storm and the tent blew down on us – a shorter holiday than the previous year in Germany!

About 1966 Sheila’s dad wrote-off the motor bike by wiping its sidecar off against a telegraph pole, and soon after pulled out in front of a car with Lefevre’s van. To a professional and life-long accident free driver who had once been chauffeur to Major Aveling, of Aveling & Porter, it was a disaster, and he withdrew into himself. He died of a heart attack soon after and we have always believed that was related. An indication of the standards of the day was that he was treated daily by his GP, who only decided to send him to hospital after being bed-ridden at home for a few days.

In 1968 I went against my principle of never buying a new model of car, or anything else, until it had been in production long enough to have the wrinkles ironed out of it, by buying a Mk1 Ford Escort, and never regretted it. I tried to teach Sheila to drive in it but, for the sake of domestic harmony, handed over to a driving school, and she passed her test.

Our house in Sturla Road was needing quite a bit of work done on it and, for reasons that will be apparent in my next Part, I wanted a house that I could sell easily. So, after invoking the college’s ‘Mutual Assistance Act’ by getting a colleague in the Building Department to do a survey, we bought a 3-bed semi with garage on the Downsview Estate, Luton, in 1970. For price comparison with today, we paid £4500, selling 103 Sturla Road for £1600.

Back to work next time…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on April 09, 2014, 20:58:59
This chimes with many of my memories! Young family, Radio Rentals TV and we lived in Cologne for 3 years in the 60s ... and next door(ish) to RAF Gutersloh in the 80s'

Great read many thanks

Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 10, 2014, 08:14:47
Thanks John38 :)
I've found Gutersloh airfield on GE, but can't find anything that looks like an army barracks. I think the Royal Artillery was the regiment there in 1966, but am not sure. I also remember a small number of German troops, usually drilling, and wonder if they were some sort of part-time force.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on April 10, 2014, 13:17:33
OOOps I've just remembered it was RAF Brugen near Wildenrath and not Gutersloh.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 10, 2014, 14:42:46
Forgiven :)
But isn't Google and GE wonderful?

The barracks concerned is on the SE edge of the town and named Mansergh Barracks, after British General Sir Eric Mansergh. In 1966 it was home to 6th Ordnance Battalion RAOC, but 22 LAA Regt RA had moved out the year before, which may be where I got the idea that the Royal Artillery was there.

It now houses 26th Regt RA.

Part 31 coming soon....
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 11, 2014, 21:29:16
Part 31
During the 1960s Medway and Maidstone colleges combined to form Mid-Kent College of Further and Higher Education, and Dr Orr became Principal and Alf Barwell became Head of Production Engineering for both Centres, and other departments were combined. But the Motor Vehicle Sections remained separate, with George Goodyer still L2 at Medway and Wilf Rowe L2 at Maidstone. Then came one of those times when everything happened at once - 1969:
1.   George announced his retirement and Alf said to me “I suppose you’d like his job”. To my “yes” he replied “OK, but you’ll have to apply for it when it's advertised”
2.   Doug Port, Senior Lecturer (SL) of the MV Section at NW Kent College (Gravesend and Dartford) was made Head of Engineering Department – a rare case of an ‘internal’ promotion. He was an SL because the MV Section was bigger than those at Medway and Maidstone.
3.   Wilf Rowe got the SL’s job at NWK College, vacated by Doug Port.

Thus there were two L2 vacancies and both Eric Flood and I applied on an either/or basis. On the day of the interview the candidates were Eric and me and another (who may have been an L1 from Maidstone or an ‘external’ – I can’t now remember). Long after the scheduled time the Principal’s Secretary came into the waiting room to say the interviews had been cancelled. Alf called Eric and me into his office to say that Maurice Matthews, MD of Dutton-Forshaw (a large garage at Maidstone) and on the panel for the Motor Traders Advisory Committee, had objected to what he saw as a ‘fix’, and that he (Alf) had received a roasting and been told to draw up a longer short-list. Despite Alf’s reassurance that it made no difference, both Eric and I ‘knew’ that our chances were nil. The interviews were duly held and a Mick Cottrell, from Newham College in East London, got the Medway job and a Barry (I can’t remember surname) from Birmingham, got the Maidstone job.

My ‘dis’ was ‘gruntled’ and my first reaction was to look at the job adverts in the ‘Times Educational Supplement’ and found that Newham College wanted an L2 in MV Engineering, and it turned out that Mick had made a ‘sideways’ move. So I applied for what had been his job and was short-listed. When I got to Newham I understood why he had moved without promotion – in my opinion the area and house prices there bore no comparison with Kent. However, I went ahead with the interview but was half-hearted and the interview panel, now realising that I came from where ‘our Mick’ had gone, hinted that my motives for applying for the job was ‘sour-grapes’ rather than desire for the job itself. So I wasn’t particularly surprised or disappointed at not getting the job, and by then the ‘job-hunting period’ for that year had passed.

Perhaps I should explain the appointment system in Further Education. New appointments began at the start of each term – early September (subject to a lecturer moving giving 3 months notice), after Christmas (2 months notice), and March/April, depending on date of Easter (2 months notice). So to get someone already in teaching to start in September, colleges had to get appointments made by early June. That often meant a vacant post for a term in the college ‘losing’ the lecturer, temporarily filled, if it was a post with responsibility, by an existing staff member hoping to get the job when it came to it being permanently filled, but – due to the usual policy of bringing in ‘new blood’ - usually disappointed. The short-list would be about 6-8 candidates including 1 or 2 ‘internal’ hopefuls – while bringing in ‘new blood’ was the norm their luck depended to some extent on the quality of the opposition or the desirability of the vacant post (there would obviously be more applicants for a post at Bournemouth than for one in the centre of Manchester). Probably not much different to industry thus far, but what was different was that there was no interview followed by a “we’ll let you know” while they considered other applicants. So usually the ‘externals’ turned-up in the morning to be shown round the college, and then perhaps joined by the ‘internals’ for lunch with the interview panel, and/or meet in the afternoon for the interviews. Perhaps half an hour after the last candidate came out, Mr X would be called in while the others sat hoping he would turn the job down. Then someone would come out to say that Mr X had accepted the job, and distribute forms for claiming expenses (If someone turned an offered job down, they didn’t get their expenses paid).

So we started 1969-1970 session with Mick as L2 and Eric and me as L1s. I continued on the West Kent IMI Committee with Doug Port and Wilf Rowe as colleagues – Doug was Chairman.

Mick was a pleasant enough person to work with, less dominant than George, and I had been content at Medway for 15 years, yet I was restless – perhaps it was getting ‘so near yet so far’ to promotion that did it. Anyway, it became a Friday ritual to go to the college library and scan the Times Educational Supplement for MV Lecturers’ jobs, and so began a series of job applications. As mentioned in Part 30, I bought a more easily saleable house in 1970 so that I could move quickly. I got interviews for L2 posts (not necessarily in order) at York, Crewe, Stafford, Aylesbury, Bournemouth, Canterbury, Southend, Tunbridge Wells (where the Head of MV Engineering was a fellow IMI Committee member), and Preston. Sometimes Sheila came with me to vet the area (it was before the days when you could get house prices and local information over the internet). Sometimes houses were too expensive, or we didn’t like the area, in which case I wasn’t too enthusiastic at the interview and hoped that I wouldn’t be offered the job. In one instance it must have showed because the Chairman of the panel said “You don’t really want this job do you?” and  when  I said “no” he replied “that’s a pity because you are an attractive candidate, but don’t worry, we won’t offer you the job, so you can still claim expenses” – I spent a long time kicking myself and wondering if I’d turned down the chance of a lifetime! (I think it was at Stafford, in the Potteries). Jobs I would have liked I wasn’t offered. I found that being at Medway for 15 years could be a disadvantage – it implied that I had no ambition (“You’ve been a long time in one post, Mr Challis” made me cringe) Later one of those rapid flyers became my Head of Department, changed everything, and moved on to the next rung of the ladder, leaving a successor to rectify the mess. But I digress.

Eventually I was offered the Section Head’s L2 post at Trowbridge, Wilts, but Sheila had come with me and we had decided that the area was ‘iffy’, and the college facilities were nothing like those at Medway, so I turned it down! Sheila had lived all her life in the Medway Towns, Sylvia and Caroline were at Grammar School and there were few of those outside Kent, and I was a Man of Kent (as well as being a silly mixed-up kid!) So dammit, in late 1971 we decided we were happy as we were.

Then in 1972 Wilf Rowe's No2 at Gravesend left and I applied for the vacancy. The interview panel was the Principal (Dr Woodrow), Doug Port, Wilf Rowe, another Head of Department, and a rep from the Motor Traders Advisory Committee. Hoping that being already known to Doug and Wilf wouldn't be a handicap  (I didn’t want to be caught up again in accusations of a ‘fix’) I went for the interview and got the job. It was over the head of the almost obligatory short-listed ‘internal' L1, who was once the Chairman of the Student/Graduate Committee of the IMI, to which I was advisor. Oh what a tangled web!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on April 13, 2014, 11:28:16
Another interesting episode PC.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 14, 2014, 20:32:57
Part 32
All the MV courses at NWK College were concentrated at the Gravesend Centre. The main site consisted of what was a school in Darnley Road (the Victoria Building) and a large house in Pelham Road with several huts in its grounds. The MV Section was at the ‘Maltings’ – an old oast house that is still there – on Lower Higham Road, just round the corner from the Lion Roundabout. Does anyone know what it is now used for?

MV staff was Wilf Rowe as SL, me as L2, and 5 L1’s (one of whom had once been one of my students at Medway). We also had some part-time lecturers and 2 Workshop Technicians. Off topic but for interest, Antiques Road Show recently visited Chatham Dockyard and featured a bottle collector who discovered that one of his bottles was worth (I think) £100,000. That guy was Johnny Ault, who was one of those Technicians

We ran the usual day-release courses for garage apprentices, a full-time course to give aspiring motor mechanics a ‘kick-start’ when seeking apprenticeships, and school-link classes whereby local secondary schools sent groups of pupils to the college for half-day a week in various subjects – the variation in standards of discipline between schools was an eye-opener. Wilf also ran an evening IMI course.

The Maltings was noted for being very low-pitched and dingy and its downstairs workshop wasn’t high enough to allow a hoist. It was used for the day-release classes, and the full-time and school-link classes were run in the Victoria Building. For much of the time Wilf based himself in the Victoria Building, leaving the day release classes under my TLC at the Maltings. One year George Goodyer came out of retirement and took a couple of evening classes a week there – nominally I was his boss (gulp!), but there were no problems.

At some time before 1977 (probably about 1975) part of the old Milton Barracks was up for grabs, and we grabbed it with glee. The old NAAFI Block would provide all the classrooms and staffrooms we needed, plus a canteen and kitchen, and the workshops would do a vehicle main dealership proud. So the whole of the MV Section moved there and I became responsible for the full-time course. Wilf and I shared an office and I became familiar with his common plea – “Have you got a fag, Pete?” Milton Barracks is now the site of a Sikh Temple but, although the workshops have gone, the NAAFI Block (as we continued to call it) is still there – does anyone know what that is used for?

I know we were there in 1977 because 1977-1978 was the time of the Fire Brigade strike, and the army moved in with their Green Goddess fire engines, taking over a classroom as a billet and Wilf’s and my office as a control room. (As a patriotic ex-para and Burma Chindit, I suspect that Wilf readily agreed. I remember that to some of the staff’s moans he rather strongly retorted that it was a ‘national emergency’). The public seemed to take special care because, during the 3 months of the strike, there were very few calls. Anyway we got our reward in the form of a handshake from some General as thanks for our help.

Overall standards in the road transport industry were under the watchful eye of the Road Transport Industry Training Board (RTITB) which imposed a training levy on employers and paid grants to those who gave approved training to employees. The Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP) started in 1978 to help young people find employment and our full-time course became part of it. The YOP later became the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) which I think still exists.

Unlike the Employers Advisory Committee at Medway, which took its membership no further down the ‘ranks’ than the Head of Department, that at NWK consisted of the Principal, Head of Engineering Department, Wilf, me, a rep from the RTITB, and reps from 2 or 3 local garages, meeting monthly. In Dr Woodrow’s days as Principal we met in the evenings, rounding off the meeting in the ‘White Hart’, by the Lion Roundabout. In his successor's days we met in the afternoon, during ‘working hours’.

I can boast that I went to Cambridge University – for one week while it was closed for summer holidays! It was a course on assessment and selection techniques and was attended by some foreigners – an Austrian in the hotel business was surprised when I told him that in this country anyone could run a hotel, garage, plumbers and most other businesses, the only qualification needed being the ability to please customers – in Austria one had to have a minimum government approved qualification to run any business where customers were charged. A lady from Norway said it was similar there.

Things were changing. I became a City & and Guilds Examiner – I needed some pin money – and at one year’s Examiners’ Meeting (to set marking standards) the Chief Examiner announced an intended change in exam paper format to multiple-choice. “Kids today can’t cope with essay type exams” was the reason, and I can confirm that for ‘craft level’ essay type answers we had been told to give technical correctness priority over correct grammar and spelling, I think rightly so. However, Wilf marked IMI exam papers and also was told not to take spelling or grammar into account when awarding marks, but that was an exam for aspiring managers. I remember a girl full-time student in a maths lesson saying “we shouldn’t be doing this”, and when I started to explain that even motor mechanics should be able to count she replied “I mean we should have done it at school”. A youngish lady was appointed to the college as a teaching advisor because the ‘in’ method was ‘Experiential Learning’ – giving the students an objective and the facilities to find things out for themselves to meet that objective – the lecturer being a ‘learning facilitator’ rather than a person who stood in front of the class and explained things. I had come through my schooling and further education being ‘taught’ and for the previous 25 or more years had used the same methods on my students, so perhaps I was out of date.

I tried to run the full-time course under the conditions that students would find in industry – 35 hours a week, the maximum college time available – which meant selecting a limited number of applicants (for which I got into hot water later). Public perception of the motor trade was revealed in some reference letters from schools, on the lines of “James is not very bright, but should be able to cope with the MV course”. L1 Harry Jones was made L2 with specific responsibility for running the workshops for all courses.

We relied on local garages to supply us with vehicles, usually those taken in part exchange by their sales departments and not worth doing-up for resale. At intervals we passed on our ‘left-offs’ to the Fire Brigade who used them for practising cutting out casualties. It made an interesting ‘end of session’ day out at the fire station for the full-timers and staff. On one occasion I was taken by a fireman into their practice building full of obstacles and smoke, with the lights turned off – terrifying! The vehicles were transported on a short-wheelbase 4-wheeled trailer towed behind the college mini-bus.

It was a time of inter-college quiz competitions, involving carting a team to various colleges in Kent in the mini-bus, but I can’t remember who organised it – possibly the RTITB. Generally speaking it was a happy time and I didn’t only teach the full-timers. I like to think that the (now not so) young ladies on the Gravesend Girls’ Grammar School link-class later benefited from what I taught them about ‘home maintenance’ of  cars, and how to change a wheel. And to those of them who left notes behind in the classroom saying “Mr Challis smells of smoke, so stop smoking” I can say “I did” – in 1994!

More later….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 17, 2014, 12:28:24
Part 33
Let’s have a look at an aspect of my life that spanned work and home – membership of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). Readers may recall that I originally became an Associate Member (AMIMI) to justify promotion from Assistant Lecturer (AL) at Medway College to L1 and first became a West Kent Centre (WKC) Committee Member in 1964. Membership grades reflected one’s employment status so, on becoming an L2 at NWK College, I was made a Member (MIMI).

The Institute’s Head Office is ‘Fanshaws’, a mansion set in lovely grounds at Brickendon, Herts.

Jumping ahead for the moment to give an overall picture, in 2004 I got a ‘Long Service Certificate’ from the IMI, presented by someone from Fanshaws at the start of a routine lecture meeting, and Sheila got a lovely bouquet given as thanks for letting me out of the house for all that time. It was at the instigation of Fred Holmes, who took over from me as Centre Secretary somewhere about 1990. I wondered why I’d been told that it was a meeting I must attend, and didn’t know that Sheila had been smuggled into the back of the room by our daughter. A conspiracy! Also, somewhere along the way I picked up Fellowship (FIMI). I finally retired from the WKC Committee about 2006/2007.

During those 42 or 43 years I witnessed a change in attitudes which I think reflected society as a whole. In 1964 the committee met in a room of the Star Hotel, Maidstone, with members sitting down each side of a table and the Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer across its head. However they were addressed over a pint in the bar it was always ‘Mr Chairman’, ‘Mr Secretary’ or ‘Mr Treasurer’ during the meeting, and the pints were left in the bar. Members always addressed the Chair and not each other. We met in many different venues over the years and there was a continual and almost unnoticeable change during that time. The pints were brought from the bar into the meeting, ‘Mr Chairman’ and ‘Mr Secretary’ became ‘Bill’ or ‘John’, and if you disagreed with what another member said you spoke to him directly, not “Mr Chairman, I disagree with Mr X”. Ties gave way to open necks and shirtsleeves. (One of the first clangers I dropped was to take off my jacket during a meeting without asking the Chairman). By the time I packed in we were meeting in one of the alcoves in the lounge of the Bridgewood Manor Hotel, sitting round in armchairs. The permitted size of the committee was Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and 12 members, but by then it wasn’t possible to get more than about a half dozen members in total to serve. Regarding formality, I know what I preferred from the aspect of comfort, but also know which was easiest from the aspect of being able to keep accurate minutes of the meeting.

The primary job of the Committee was to organise monthly lectures and visits, and while the members came up with ideas, it fell to the Secretary to do the correspondence, book the venues and keep the minutes. As time progressed not only did it become more difficult to form a committee, but attendance at lectures became less and it seems that members now use IMI membership simply as something to mention on their CV. However, according to Google, WK Centre is now the ‘WK Member Association’ and Fred Holmes is still its Secretary, although no activities are listed, apart from this year’s AGM.

Ironically, if we arranged a lecture or visit on a ‘non-motor trade’ subject, such as the talk we had from a Red Arrows pilot, or the specially arranged visit to K&ES Railway, or the talk on British cheese, attendance shot up. But having too many of those brought a letter or phone call from Fanshaws reminding us that such subjects were not really within the remit of the IMI – rather like a ‘keep to topic’ post from KHF’s Head Office!

The IMI spanned work and home because several work colleagues also served on the committee – at various times there was Doug Port, Wilf Rowe, Harry Jones, and some work colleagues and committee members also became personal friends.

Another event, although not run by all centres, was the annual Dinner/Dance, to which we tried to invite a Guest of Honour who, if not a national figure, was at least known in the industry. Again these were initially ‘bow-tie’ events with an MC, that gradually became less formal, eventually ceasing due to lack of support.

The IMI celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 1982 and Trevor Webb, MD of Cascade Motors, Dartford, fellow IMI Committee member and fellow NWK College Motor Traders’ Advisory Committee member, got the bright idea of hiring the hall at Cobham Hall School for a really big ‘do’, and the even brighter idea of inviting the Honourable Gerald Lascelles (a cousin of the Queen) as Guest of Honour. I don’t know what strings he pulled, but the invite was accepted. But I was Chairman that year and, never being entirely comfortable in formal circumstances, it was a case of “Thank you Trevor, I love being dropped in at the deep end”! Also John Williams (of Russell’s, from where I had left in 1954 with some bad feeling - see Part 27) was to be on the top table and phoned me to suggest (err… tell me) what I should include in my speech – oh heck! St Jame's Palace advised on etiquette and said that the name should be pronounced ‘Lassles’ and not ‘Lass-ells’. So it was with some trepidation that I – with Sheila by my side – chaired a dinner in that beautiful school hall with its Minstrels' Gallery, and I must say that the Hon. Gerald and his lady couldn’t have made us feel more at ease – phew!

Another annual event was the Chairmen’s and Secretaries’ Conference at Fanshaws. Centre Committees would submit items for discussion, manufacturers' and government representatives would be invited, and over about 3 days there would be speeches with questions and answers. Delegates would break up into discussion groups and, hopefully, suggestions would pass up the line as well as information down. I like to think that in a small way we contributed to the standards of education and customer service in the motor trade – whether it was in the repair, sales, insurance, or admin. sectors. All that was with excellent food in delightful surroundings. Not least of the pleasures was the bar which stayed open in the evenings for as long as there were ‘customers’ in it.

Back to college…..
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 20, 2014, 21:13:26
Part 34
Back to work.
Doug Port retired and in his place as Head of Department came Dr Tom Seddon, a bit of a whirlwind but very informal – he was a mechanical engineer knowing little about motor vehicles so, unlike Doug, left us alone so long as we got results (and looked after his car). Date-wise I think Tom was there at the time of the Firemen’s’ strike in 1977.

With regard to looking after cars, with a workshop as well equipped as any garage we obviously used it to work on our own cars, but the situation regarding other staff members’ cars was a different matter. We had full-time students to find work for and, as already mentioned, local garages supplied us with their ‘left-offs’, but it would have been nice if they had some more modern and actually ‘on the road’ cars to work on. The Catering Department at Dartford ran a public restaurant that served excellent cheap meals, cooked and served by students, and we investigated whether we could offer something similar. But the legal implications were too complex – there was a vast difference between a badly cooked or served meal and a car with a faulty repair. In any case, the local motor trade would probably have objected. The best we could offer was free labour to staff provided they supplied whatever spares we told them were needed and agreed with the condition that work was not guaranteed - not surprisingly, there were few takers. That is not to say that our ‘workshop team’, Harry Jones and Ian Bradley, wouldn’t ‘have a look’ at someone’s car, and the full-timers did repair my car, under Ian’s supervision, when its timing chain broke.

Then another Head of Department came whose name escapes me except that he was also Peter. What I do remember is that when he discovered that I was selecting a limited number of full-time students he wasn’t happy, because a full-time course could be as little as 15 hours a week, which meant that we could take twice as many students within the 35 hours a week of our full-time course. I argued that 35 hours teaching given to each of 18 students was better than 17 hours a week given to each of 36 students – it made them more attractive to potential employers and there was only a limited number of vacancies in the area anyway - but was told that NO students were to be turned away, in no uncertain terms

Wilf also got an ear-wigging but wasn’t worried because he retired in July 1982 – I know the date because he asked for the customary collection for a leaving present to be donated to the South Atlantic Fund (the Falklands War having just ended). So Peter X must have started as Head of Department (HoD) in September 1981.

There was no time to get a replacement for Wilf by September 1982 and Vice-Principal Dr Turner told me I was in charge, but he didn’t tell the others so there was a feeling among some of them that I’d usurped the job for myself (but not by fellow L2 Harry Jones – he and wife Eileen are still friends today). By now the MV Section had increased to an SL, 2 L2s, 6 L1s, and 3 Technicians. Drifting off-topic, Dr Turner had been a Navigator in the Far East Air Force and it was interesting to listen to him and Wilf reminiscing about life in India and Burma.

Wilf’s job was advertised and I was short-listed. The interview panel was the Principal (by then a Mr Jones, Dr Woodrow having left), Dr Turner, and Peter X. Unsurprisingly I didn’t get the job, which went to John Graves, from Andover College. I suppose I should have been miffed but, for various reasons, lecturing was losing its appeal and I was only 6 years from being able to retire if I wished. Then when John took post in January 1983 he said “Peter, you know a lot about the local motor trade and I’m going to need your help”, and sent me to a computer exhibition in London to see what use we had for those. Thus did John ‘fit-in’ and I became an advisor without responsibility – we still exchange Christmas cards and he was part of the conspiracy in fixing the evening when my IMI ‘Long Service Certificate’ was presented (see Part 33).

Peter X moved on, presumably up the next step of the promotion ladder, to be replaced by a HoD whose name I don’t even remember. However, I think it was under his ‘headship’ that, during the severe winter of 1984/1985 I was the first member of the MV Section to benefit from a new policy of seconding lecturers to industry to refresh their knowledge. Thus I spent the January to Easter term at Pipercams at Ashford (their MD, Bob Gayler, was a fellow IMI member), in their drawing office and laboratories which were doing research for Ford Motor Company, thus I fulfilled that childhood ambition to design things that clanked and whirred (well, I helped a little bit!). I know the date because of the weather. The term before or after was spent in Reception at Dutton-Forshaw, Maidstone, where IMI WK Centre Secretary Fred Holmes worked. (Part 33)

By 1987 my 4th HoD since Doug Port left in the mid to late 1970s was in post. That date is certain because he was there at the time of the hurricane and came to the barracks to see the damage caused by falling trees. Another mechanical engineer, he was a pleasant person whose name was – I think - Ian Goodwin.

Then in the late 1980s/early 1990s a purpose-built site that had been slowly expanding over the years was completed on Dering Way, off the Lion Roundabout and next to the Maltings. So it was almost back ‘home’ when the MV Section moved there. While the staffroom and classrooms were pleasant, the purpose-built workshops weren’t a patch on the ex-army ones at the barracks.

And so I started on the last phase of my working life with waning enthusiasm because things were changing – they may have been for the better but to me “fings weren’t wot they wos’. I could have retired at age-60 in 1989 on a reduced pension but needed 40 years service (to 1994) for a full pension, and had started doing sums to work out what I could afford when KCC asked for volunteers for early retirement – they wanted to replace expensive foot-draggers like me with younger and cheaper enthusiasts. So in 1992  I retired on a ‘split-the-difference’ deal – 39 years pension after 38 years service. I did a couple of years taking 2 adult evening classes a week – one at Gravesend and one at Aylesford School - until old enough to get my state pension, since when the working world has had to manage without me.

There was a remarkable example of the ‘Small World’ when one of the Aylesford students, on return from the Easter break, said “I met an old pal of yours on holiday – Wilf Rowe”. Knowing that Wilf had returned to his beloved Cornwall when he retired, having left it in 1939 when he was called up with the TA, I naturally assumed it was there. It turned out to be Stranraer, Scotland, where the student had gone to stay with friends who were near neighbours to Wilf, and my name came up in conversation. Wilf’s wife was Northern Irish with an equal desire to return there, and apparently they had hit on Scotland as a compromise! Equally remarkable was that the student’s friends came from Chatham and were at one time fellow worshippers with Sheila at Ebenezer United Reform Church.

But I digress – back to my  home life next time, if it’s of interest….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on April 20, 2014, 21:48:14
But I digress – back to my  home life next time, if it’s of interest….

Nope, still interested...............

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on April 21, 2014, 11:46:52
Carry on PC always interested.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 26, 2014, 16:45:18
Part 35
A look at home life. Regarding pay, as an Assistant Lecturer when I first started at Medway I don’t suppose it was any more than I would have earned at Russell’s after one year as Receptionist. As an L1 it might have been about the same as Department Manager (Service, Sales, Parts) in a small dealership, and as an L2 perhaps equal to General Manager.

So, apart from the holiday in Germany recently described, with 3 growing children, a mortgage and a car, we were limited to holidays in the UK. While we were at Sturla Road it was days out to the usual attractions – seaside towns, zoos, etc. Then when we moved to our present house in 1970 we had room for a camping trailer, so bought a tent and camping gear and had many pleasant holidays camping in the New Forest, Forest of Dean, and North York Moors (Rosedale Abbey). Near the latter is Chimney Bank - with a section at 1 in 3 it is the steepest public road in Britain and is, I believe, used by motoring magazines for hill starts in their road test reports. But I wouldn’t like to risk the clutch of my car doing that!

We supported 3 daughters through school, further education and into marriage/partnership: Sylvia into teaching, Caroline into nursing, and Liz, via a degree in textile design, into retail management. So, typically, as life progressed our income increased and our commitments decreased and eventually we were able to go self-catering – we latched on for several years to a flat or caravan at Keswick, in the Lake District, Liz still being with us for much of the time.

In 1990 we literally ‘pushed the boat out ‘ and did a Wallace-Arnold coach tour taking in Belgium, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, followed by coach tours of the Alps, Norway, Black Forest, Holland and Italy. Highlights of the Alpine Tour were visits to the Hofbrauhaus in Munich - where, in 1920, Hitler gave a speech setting out the objectives of the Nazi Party - and to the ‘Eagles Nest’, Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden. It was ‘creepy’ to realise that we watched a show on the same stage in the hall from which the ‘orrible little man spoke, and looked out from the same terrace at the ‘Eagles Nest’ as he did.

The following conversation with some Americans on one of those tours put my home town in perspective:
Americans: ”Where in England are you from?”
Me: “Chatham”
Am: “Where’s that?”
Me: “Kent…….down in the SE corner”
Americans obviously not quite sure.
Me: “On the Medway, next to Rochester”
Am: “Aw, li’l ole Rochester, we’ve been there” – and proceeded to describe it in detail.
I redeemed myself to some extent by saying I was born there but, to them, Chatham was unheard of!

While coach tours were OK for seeing a lot in a short time, after a while we found the constant moving from hotel to hotel a bit arduous – with one operator in particular it tended to be 8 am starts and over 3 hour stretches between stops. Even with a commentary on the passing scenery it could be tiring. A typical instruction from Mandy, the guide on the Alpine Tour, would be “there’s a café where you can get lunch over there, the cable car up the mountain is up that road, and the lakeside is down that lane opposite. Be back on the coach in 2 hours”. Also notable was the number of stops made where there was a souvenir shop! (A tip for the guide?)

Nevertheless, for a ‘one-ticket’ holiday where all the arrangements were made for us, those tours were ideal. They were also useful for spotting places we’d like to see more of and, as a consequence, ‘did our own thing’ by flying to Salzburg and on in successive years to Zell-am-See (the place that Mandy gave us 2 hours to sightsee) and Seefeld, near Innsbruck. At the latter there was a wood alongside the lake where the animals were completely tame. Birds actually settled in our hands to eat from them, and squirrels ran alongside us begging for food. I think it was 1997 and I sincerely hope that nothing has happened since then to destroy those animals’ trust in humans.

Another place we wanted to see more of as a result of a coach tour visit was the Berner Oberland. Once there we became ‘hooked’ by the scenery, and the efficiency of Swiss public transport. It is the location of the Schilthorn with its revolving restaurant on the mountain top – the site of the action scene in the Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” – and the waterfall where Sherlock Holmes fell to his death while fighting with Moriarty. There is actually a statue of Holmes in the main street of Meiringen, with several references to author Conan-Doyle. A feature of the area is that there is a cable car, funicular, cogwheel railway, or bus service to the top of almost every bump in the ground, where there is a restaurant with spectacular views. Down below there are Lakes Thun and Brienz with their networks of lake steamer services.

So in 1998 we stayed at the Hotel Beau Site, Interlaken, and found it to be a ‘Little Britain’ – for some reason it was a favoured haunt of the Brits. The Receptionist and Head Waiter were English, but its owner and his wife were Swiss and Dutch, so I don’t know why. (Similarly, the hotel round the corner was known as ‘Little Tokyo’). Thus it became our holiday home in successive years, often meeting the same Brits again. I remember a Yorkshireman telling us of his visit to Tunbridge Wells – “I thought I was on the set of East Enders when they spoke” he said, to which I could only reply “Then you weren’t at Tunbridge Wells”!

We missed only 2002, when Sheila broke her hip, and it eventually became a family venue with daughter Sylvia, son-in-law Stephen, and two grandsons.
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/BeauSite.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/BeauSite.png.html)

The view across the road:
(http://i622.photobucket.com/albums/tt309/petec-photo/BeauSiteView.png) (http://s622.photobucket.com/user/petec-photo/media/BeauSiteView.png.html)
Just visible above the chimney of the house in the middle is the Jungfraujock, the site of the highest railway station in Europe, at 11,332 feet (3454m).

We last went to the Beau Site in 2004, travelling by Eurostar and TGV – brilliant compared to flying – then old age kicked-in and that was it.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 26, 2014, 22:33:43
PS to previous post.
Since it was mentioned I thought KHF’s railway enthusiasts might be interested in the Jungfrau Railway. It is a remarkable feat of engineering and a most memorable trip in an area that abounds in memorable trips.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungfrau_railway
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on April 26, 2014, 22:37:41
It is on my 'Bucket List' Peterchall. One of those 'one day' things amongst many.

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on April 29, 2014, 16:54:36
I think Austria was our favourite holiday destination.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on April 30, 2014, 20:11:11
Part 36
It says something about inflation that the house I bought in 1970 for £4500 needed new windows in 1985 that cost £6000 (c£6500 if I had not allowed the installer’s name board to be on my house for a month), paid for by adding that amount to the mortgage. Since the original mortgage was for £3000 it trebled my repayments at a time when mortgage rates were 15 to 20%. However, I managed to clear it by the mid-1990s which enabled us to take some extra short breaks as well as the main holidays. Being retired and no longer tied to college holiday times, it was surprising how much could be saved by going away in May, June or September.

So we went self-catering to our old stomping ground in the Lake District, and to Snowdonia, with Caroline and youngest Grandson. Then in 1999, aged 70, I thought about that place where I lived about 68 years before and which my mother always enthused over – Guernsey. There I discovered that the army married quarters in Castle Cornet (Part 1) had been converted to a café and visitor centre, and couldn’t help wondering if we sat eating lunch where my cot once stood. Then we had a couple of visits to Jersey, having found another Hotel Beau Site, on one of them taking our own car by fast ferry (Seacat?) – we have never had a more uncomfortable ride.

On a ‘daily life’ basis our 3 girls took to Brownies and Guides and when Sylvia became a Guide in 1965 Sheila became her Guider’s assistant a short while after. Then when the Guider moved to Singapore with her navy husband Sheila took over the 6th Chatham Company as its Guider. I became involved via the annual camp at Blacklands, near East Grinstead. It consisted of 3 or 4 Companies, and Guiders’ husbands went along to do the ‘manly’ stuff, like chopping wood and supporting the bar of the local in the evenings. Thus Carol can boast of going to Guide camp as a Brownie and Liz of going before she was old enough to be a Brownie. Memorable events were hunting a man one of the girls had seen looking over the hedge from the next field in the night (it was a tree stump), getting rid of cows that got into the site, and taking the bedding for the whole camp into a launderette in East Grinstead for drying after a storm had flooded the camp one night. Today I doubt if husbands would be allowed near a guide camp.

Eventually Sheila became District Commissioner for Kent West District and became an Elder of the URC Church in Clover Street, Chatham. When Guiding ceased for a reason I can’t remember, a group of the local ladies, including ‘you-know-who’ and our son-in-law's mother, formed the Luton Valley Branch of the Women’s Institute (WI). Regrettably we were unable to persuade them to emulate the Nude Calendar produced by a WI in Yorkshire.

So, with my IMI involvement (Part 33 - Reply#176), one way and another Sheila and I have managed to keep ourselves mentally, if not physically, active – Fitness Clubs and sports have not been ‘our thing’. Along the way our daughters have presented us with 3 grandsons and a grand-daughter.

In 2002 Sheila fell and broke her hip, resulting in us spending our 50th Wedding Anniversary with her in Medway Hospital – I bet not many people manage that. She was already in a side room due to having an infection - so it wasn’t deliberately arranged - but the ward staff ignored visitor number rules and let us have 10 or more people in the room at the same time.

We did a ‘trial run’ visit with Sylvia and Stephen to the Dutch Bulb Fields in 2003, followed by a return the Beau Site at Interlaken. Then, as already mentioned, Sheila and I went to the Beau Site for the last time in 2004.

Since then the old bones have been progressively creaking louder, I had to give up driving about 6 years ago, and we’ve had to adapt to a sedentary life. So, unless some more memories return, or someone asks me to enlarge on something, that’s about it.

I’ve written a lot more than I expected to and, whatever the effects on the reader, I got a lot of pleasure remembering things I thought long forgotten and, I hope successfully, describing aspects of life in the old days that you don’t read about in history books – one of my main objectives.

So it’s thanks to Kyn for opening the ‘Life Writing’ board and giving me the opportunity to go on…and on…..and….
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on April 30, 2014, 20:21:36
Thank you very much for the insight into your life, Peterchall. It has been a very interesting read, a bit of an eye opener in places (your recollections of Wartime for one as I can compare them with my Father who was in the countryside through that). I have enjoyed the a great deal and really hope that a little more trickles into the little grey cells soon...

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: ann on May 01, 2014, 11:37:04
A great read and I have enjoyed each instalment.  You seem to have such a wonderful memory, especially for the all the little details (such as what you bought your house for, and interest rates etc. mentioned in your last segment) that I feel sure more memories are likely to surface in the not too distant future.
I echo Sentinel S4's sentiment and hope the trickle begins soon.
Thank you for sharing.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on May 01, 2014, 11:56:11
Thanks from me also PC,  I hope there will be more trickles too  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on May 01, 2014, 13:44:00
That was a thoroughly interesting series, peterchall. You gave an insight into so many aspects of life of which I knew very little. I hope more episodes occur to you, as this board won't be the same without Pee Cee's World.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on May 01, 2014, 16:03:34
Thank you also from me PC, I really enjoyed reading the memories of your life, which span many years, and have been so interesting.  I hope you manage to dig a few more out later.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: smiler on May 01, 2014, 16:58:42
Very good Peter a great read all the way, do us another in 20 years time  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 01, 2014, 17:31:03
Thanks for the compliments. :)

Regarding my memory for buying and selling prices of my houses, I still have the documents for those transactions. The £1600 I got for 103 Sturla Road is memorised because it was a rare case of a cash offer, which I took for a quick deal – I can’t remember the asking price, but I think it was about £1750.

I was guessing the mortgage interest rate at the time but have just consulted Google and found that it peaked at 19% in the early 1980s. In 1970 it was about 7.5% and, as it rose, existing borrowers were given the option of extending the period instead of making higher payments.

Bearing in mind that inflation in 1975 was 24.2% it was not an easy time – figure again looked-up, not remembered!

But, as I have stated, I find it relatively easy to remember what happened, but not when and generally have to relate to other events. For example, I would have sworn that Sheila’s dad bought his motor bike after we were married, but the photo I found shows it to have had an MKO registration, issued in 1950, and I know he bought it new. Similarly, I wrote that I was driving Johnny Johnson round the Hoo Peninsular in 1946, just after I started driving at age 17, and saw the wedding of Princess Elizabeth on a TV in a shop window in Hoo village. I’ve since realised that couldn’t have been, because her wedding was on 20th November 1947. What probably happened is that I saw the TV in the shop window – I think the first time I’d seen one – but saw the wedding on her dad’s TV and made 2 plus 2 = 5 for the purpose of my life writing! It shows how careful one has to be when dealing with memories long-ago. Anyway, nobody picked me up on it, or were you all too polite? :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on May 01, 2014, 19:44:43
Not too polite PC.....just not looking for technical correctness.  Memories are memories, regardless of date.  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: ann on May 02, 2014, 09:11:58
   Memories are memories, regardless of date.  :)

Just so busyglen.  Memories tend to slip into our minds as and when and without regard to chronology.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 05, 2014, 12:43:34
Getting this week’s refuse ready has reminded me of recycling when it was left to households to do it ‘privately’ and was not within the remit of the Council.

Apart from putting items aside for the ‘Rag and Bone Man’ on his occasional rounds, we bundled up newspapers and magazines and took them to a scrap dealer at the bottom of Cage Lane, Chatham, where we were paid for them by weight. They would also take old clothes in a similar way, but I can’t recall taking glass there.

My mind’s eye is seeing my Mk1 Ford Escort with its boot full, which dates it about 1968-1970’ish.

As far as I remember the practice of taking drinks bottles back to the shop or pub for a refund had long ceased.

Otherwise there was no restriction on what could be put in the dustbin. Black sacks had yet to come into vogue, so it all went into a metal dustbin which was usually knocked out of shape by the dustmen banging it on the edge of the dustcart when emptying it. The dustcart was no more than a simple 3-ton (or thereabouts) truck with about 6 compartments each closed by a sliding lid.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on May 05, 2014, 14:21:14
We used to get 2p (decimal) back on pop bottles (that was 1975 or so). The milkman collected his own so no worries there. What happened to the early morning collections of refuse? you never saw a bin-wagon after 9 am but now you see the things all day....

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 07, 2014, 12:43:50
Any new memories from now will, of course, be out of sequence, and one has been triggered by my previous post on salvage.

During the war there were occasional ‘Salvage Drives’ when collection points were set up to receive ‘strategic’ materials, such as aluminium saucepans. The collection points were places like church halls, not like the permanent ‘street-side’ ones that exist today.

Newspapers – much reduced in size – were kept to take to the shops for wrapping meat, fish, fish and chips, etc. I’m not sure if the shops supplied a first layer of greaseproof paper, but would hope so!.

Perhaps surprisingly in view of the difficulty and dangers in getting it, fish was never rationed although always in short supply, and news of its arrival at a nearby fishmonger’s would generate long queues.

Way back in Part 2 I wrote that medical treatment had to be paid for, which was my genuine memory of the times. However I have discovered that to be not quite true so, to set the record straight, I’m going to break my rule of not adding things I found out later.

From ‘1942 Pear’s Cyclopaedia’:
People who paid National Insurance got “free medical attendance and treatment, medicines and certain medical and surgical appliances”. National Insurance was paid by employees on non-manual labour earning less than £420/year, and by all employees on manual labour, although there were many exemptions. However, even if uninsured herself, the wife of an insured man got Maternity Benefit.

That means that my uncle mentioned in that Part (a plumber) would have got his treatment free and explains why dad had to pay the doctor for treatment for mum when she was bed-ridden at home on one occasion (another returning memory). It’s not clear whether children got free treatment, but presumably Friendly Societies like the ‘Oddfellows’ were for those who didn’t pay NI, or were for ‘top-ups’ for those who did.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: GP on May 07, 2014, 21:13:21
Do you remember 'pig bins', (dustbins on some of  the street corners, where waste food was put in for collection by pig farmers in the area).

I can still remember the smell !!

Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 08, 2014, 11:28:07
Strangely I had a vague memory of ‘pig swill’ when I was compiling my previous post, but the name was about all I could remember. Sheila vaguely remembered putting food waste in a kitchen bin, but not how it was collected from the house, so I decided that our memories were too fuzzy to mention.

Now you have mentioned it, GP, Sheila thinks she remembers the bins, but – again ‘thinks’ - they were collected by the Council (We were both in the town and wouldn’t have had any local farmers – were you in a more rural location?).

I still have no clear memories but do not doubt that it happened. However, how would the bins have been protected from the attention of animals, and how was it ensured that the contents were ‘fit for pig consumption’?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on May 08, 2014, 14:35:47
As mentioned in my `story' the man who lived in the next house further up the road, had a small holding, and he regularly went around collecting pig-swill. We vary rarely had any left overs as the chickens, mostly gobbled up the few bits that were left.  The smell of the cart going by used to turn my stomach over!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 09, 2014, 12:06:34
Part 37
After all this I realise I’ve left out an important part of the  family – the pets.

Both Sheila and I had pets when single but our first joint one was a dog aptly called ‘Nipper’, a whippet type Heinz mongrel that was never still. We got her about 1954 but she growled and snapped at Liz when she was at the crawling stage in 1965, so it was straight to the Vet, who examined her and found a lump in her tummy that he thought was causing pain. Actually I’ve sometimes wondered if he told me that to ease the anguish of the decision to have her put-down.

Not long after, Sylvia, Carol and I went to the pet shop for a replacement puppy which turned out to be a kitten. Apparently she looked at the girls with whatever kind of eyes that kittens use to hook humans, and that was that. A tabby named ‘Tigger’, she was about 18 when Sheila went downstairs one morning to find her dead, having been going down-hill for some time.

About 1985 Liz was finishing her textile design course at Loughborough College and rang to say that a fellow student’s cat had kittens and they had nowhere to go after he moved out of his digs, so would we take one? When we said “yes” we learnt that there were just two left and it would be cruel to separate them and unfair on Liz to have to decide which one….etc! Thus we acquired ‘Jessie’ – who was black and white – and ‘Daisy’ – who was white and black - bringing them home in a cardboard box with all the rest of Liz’s gear.

Both were about 20 years old when we had to have them put down because of incurable complaints, about 2 or 3 years apart – why do we expose ourselves to the pain of having to make such decisions?

Every 4-legged pet we ever had was female, so with a wife and 3 daughters I felt somewhat outnumbered at times!

I was taking a class at Medway College one day when a budgie flew in through an open window. It was pandemonium as about 15 students chased and caught it. A cardboard box was obtained and ‘Perky’ came home to join the family. He/she was blue and lived to a ripe old age for a budgie.

Perky was replaced by a green budgie of which I remember very little except its penchant for taking anything within its capability of the table and dropping it on the floor. One particular memory is of it bathing in the yolk of a fried egg on my plate – I will leave you in suspense as to whether I ate the egg!

And that, I think, is about it, although lines are still open!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 15, 2014, 17:39:49
The lines are indeed still open.

Sheila and I have just been presented with a great grand-daughter, courtesy of youngest grandson (Caroline’s son) and his wife. Mother and baby are well.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on May 15, 2014, 18:48:53
Congratulations to ALL of you PC. :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lutonman on May 15, 2014, 18:56:09
Goods news for once, many congratulations
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on May 15, 2014, 18:58:54
Nice one Peterchall. Congrats to you all (you smile anymore and the top of your head will fall off).

S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: oobydooby on May 15, 2014, 19:42:13
How fantastic, a great grand dad.  I bet you will get lots of pleasure with the wee one.  Hope you still remember how to put on a nappy!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on May 15, 2014, 21:39:16
Congratulations. :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 16, 2014, 08:13:16
Many thanks to all, but since they live in Hertfordshire, we won't be doing much nappy changing.

But we are pleased that she's been given a nice old-fashioned name - Jessica. :) :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on May 16, 2014, 09:54:00
Congratulations, peterchall. I became a great grandfather three weeks ago - the first boy in our family for over 50 years!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: John38 on May 16, 2014, 09:57:12
Old fashioned names seem to be in. My 6 month great granddaughter is named Daisy Morgan S.......
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on May 16, 2014, 10:32:40
Congratulations to you too then John38  :)

We became STEP great grandparents to a baby girl in January, Gracie Mae.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 18, 2014, 15:31:07
Just a thought 3 days after our Great Grand-Daughter's birth.

What will the World be like when she's my age?
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: oobydooby on May 18, 2014, 18:35:18
Just a thought 3 days after our Great Grand-Daughter's birth.

What will the World be like when she's my age?

When she is, perhaps you can tell us! :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 18, 2014, 21:27:36
I reckon by that time you and I will be neighbours, so I'll pop round for a cuppa - oh HELL :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on May 30, 2014, 20:45:25
Some recent news reports about parents keeping children away from school to go on holiday has reminded me of another aspect of my schooldays – the ‘School Board Man’.

He was employed by the LEA and his job was to visit homes to enquire why a child was absent from school. Presumably schools notified him of persistent absentees and he would investigate. In Part 2 I mentioned that I developed tummy aches on Monday mornings which my mum ‘fell for’ until she discovered that they got better after the time for school had passed. It was then that his name struck terror into my heart when she explained that if I missed school without reason dad would be sent to prison and we would have no income!

I think that was one of mum’s means of keeping me in-line – not by saying that I would be punished if I got into trouble, but that dad would be and the whole family, including me, would suffer.

I don’t remember for how long you had to be absent before the School Board Man called, but the school was usually satisfied with a note from parents on return to school. However, I have a vague memory of him calling when I had a long illness like measles.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: ann on May 31, 2014, 12:58:09
Love reading your recalls and as usual it has triggered another memory for me.
Back in the 1950's I was off school due (I think) to having had some contagious childhood disease and although I was okay to go out, was still considered to be 'infectious' and so not allowed back to school.  Anyway this particular morning mum had taken me with her shopping and we were just crossing over Darnley Road, near the junction with Cuxton Road when a smartly dressed man came up to us and demanded of mum why I was not at school.  I can remember the terror I felt (I had obviously heard of the Board man) but he must have been satisfied with mums explanation and nothing happened.  But even now after some 60 odd years I can still recall the incident vividly, and the fear.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Invicta Alec on November 20, 2014, 09:53:53
I've only just returned to KHF after a gap of a couple of years and I'm still finding my way around. I came across this thread by Peter and having read the first entry determined to read the whole lot. Its an epic and thoroughly enjoyable read and I'd like to extend my thanks to Peter for sharing all those memories.

Several times he jolted my memory on long since forgotten details of daily life. I found it interesting also that "memories are not what they used to be". I think we've all had that moment when a long held memory is proved false by some other event. (See Peter's references to the BSA motorbike).

I'm sure that my story is every bit as interesting as Peter's, but I'm not sure that I have quite the gift for putting all down like he has done. Thank you sir!

Alec.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on November 20, 2014, 11:56:09
It’s the content of your life story that would be of interest, not the quality of your written English and, judging from your post, I’m sure that is good enough to be understandable. So why not give it a go?

And thanks for the compliment :).
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: oobydooby on December 02, 2014, 16:30:18
I second that.  I find all the reminiscences poignant, especially as I have not returned to Kent for some forty years or more.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on July 29, 2015, 12:54:28
Mr and Mrs Peterchall became great-grandparents for the second time yesterday, with a second great grand-daughter. Nappy days!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on July 29, 2015, 13:36:20
Happy news ( or nappy news ) to both of you  :) My first Gt grandbaby is due in  January but don't know if it will be pink or blue yet 
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Signals99 on July 29, 2015, 15:30:04
Mr & Mrs Peterchall, congratulations to you and the proud parents, whether boy or lass they are going to have one of the best grandads with a vast knowledge of nothing in particular 😀 but almost anything about most things. 😌
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on August 02, 2015, 15:16:58
“Hello, big World”.

Great grand-daughter Amelia Lily now home and doing well – not even keeping mum and dad awake at night (so far!)

Old-fashioned names for girls’ seem back in vogue.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Bilgerat on August 02, 2015, 19:02:22
Congratulations to all of you :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Stewie on August 02, 2015, 20:17:10
Congratulations peterchall on the latest edition to your family

Best wishes from Me and Mrs Stewie

 :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on August 02, 2015, 20:31:01
Lovely pic of a sweet newcomer and her name is lovely too  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on August 03, 2015, 19:02:12
Congratulations from me also.  She is a lovely girl. :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on September 17, 2015, 08:27:47
A lightening of the load!

I've been informed by Medway Hospital the tests and scans following a major cancer operation are clear and  I am being finally discharged.

So  you'll have to put up with me for a while yet :).
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: GP on September 17, 2015, 08:30:16
That's good news. Glad you are back on the forum.

I wondered why you had not posted fro a while !
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: ann on September 17, 2015, 11:50:27
Great news all round.  For you obviously a great weight unloaded, and for us here on the forum too.  You are a major contributor, with a wealth of knowledge and memories that you share with us.  I always enjoy your postings so great to have you back at your 'desk'. 
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Dinsy on September 17, 2015, 13:05:19
That's great news, peterchall!  :)

Looking forward to your posts now that you're back!  :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lutonman on September 17, 2015, 18:52:31
Great news Peterchall, I know what its like, I still have regular tests and still not been given the "all clear" yet.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on September 17, 2015, 22:38:38
Happy dance :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on September 18, 2015, 17:38:36
Thanks for the compliments folks, although I haven’t actually been away – my drop off in posts is due to KHF going through a quiet time for me.

Check-ups after a cancer op become less frequent as time passes and the anxiety becomes less but is still at the back of the mind until that final check-up after 5 years clears it completely, which is why I had the impulse to share my news. So fingers crossed for you, Lutonman.

I’m off to St Thomas’s next Tuesday for a 6-monthly check-up on a long-running but not life-threatening problem. Pick up by patient transport two and a half hours before appointment, journey there - probably including tour of North-West Kent/South-East London picking others up, wait on arrival, up to 2 hours wait for transport home, journey home – probably including another tour dropping others off. Door to door time about 8 hours, all for about a 20 minute appointment. Great fun!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: peterchall on March 08, 2016, 20:59:29
Just to let everyone know that my mum and dad have been suffering from a viral infection since Friday and it looks as if they will no longer be able to care for themselves.
But when things are sorted dad hopes to get back on line again.
So watch this space.
Sylvia (Peter Challis’s daughter)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: conan on March 08, 2016, 21:06:26
Please pass on my hopes for a speedy recovery to the pair of them.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on March 08, 2016, 21:10:14
Thanks for letting us know.
Please pass on my best wishes.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Nemo on March 08, 2016, 21:14:25
Ditto - it's blooming boring with no-one to argue debate with, a bit like one-handed clapping!  Regards, Nemo
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: kyn on March 08, 2016, 21:54:54
I am so sorry to hear this, I hope they both recover soon!  If I can help with anything please message me!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on March 09, 2016, 10:24:47
     Very sorry to hear they are both unwell . Please pass on my best wishes to them both and I also hope they feel much better very soon.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: ann on March 09, 2016, 12:50:53
Thank you  for letting us know.  Really sad news and I hope they both recover really soon.  Your dad was a fountain of knowledge, and what a memory and recall he had, tell him we hope he's 'back on line'  very soon.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Stewie on March 09, 2016, 13:05:06
Have just read the post so a bit delayed. Please pass on my best wishes to Peter and his wife on my behalf please

Stewie

 :)
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on March 09, 2016, 15:38:35
So sorry to hear that they are both poorly. Please give them my love and best wishes and I hope that they soon recover and get settled where they can be looked after.  Look forward to catching up with PC when he can get back on-line.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: smiler on March 11, 2016, 12:08:38
Not been on line for a few days so sorry to be late. Give mum and dad all my best wishes and hope for good news very soon
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Bilgerat on March 11, 2016, 12:47:07
I'm also a late-comer to this thread. Please pass on my best wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery for them both.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: JohnWalker on March 12, 2016, 11:02:58
Wishes for a speedy recovery to them both from me too.  I always look forward to reading peterchall's posts - please give him my regards.

JW
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: ashwood on March 13, 2016, 15:32:53
 Hope you are soon back in action,Your comments are surely one of the building blocks of the forum.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: kyn on March 13, 2016, 16:15:04
I am so sorry to have to share this news with you all, I have been asked to post the following message:

Pee Cee’s World – The Closing Chapter.

Peter Challis sadly left us Saturday afternoon, 12th March 2016.  I know how much this forum meant to him, and for several years, was one his few contacts with the outside world, so I wanted to share my final thoughts with you all.  He passed very peacefully surrounded by all his family, safe in the knowledge that Shelia would be safe and well looked after.  We will never know if he was in any pain towards the end, but what we do know is that his love and determination to provide and care for his wife until he was no longer able to, was greater than any drugs that he could have been given. 

He was a fountain of knowledge, and loved to share his stories, facts and figures with people, how useful some of this was to every day life, is debatable, but never the less fascinating. 
I can’t think of any words to accurately describe how much he will be missed, so I will just quote my Nan.  “He was a good ol’stick”. 

Andy, Grandson of Peter
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lyn L on March 13, 2016, 16:45:22
Please pass on my condolences to Sheila and Peters family. Very sad news indeed, he was a lovely man and the forum has lost a great friend .
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Signals99 on March 13, 2016, 17:06:58
A sad ,sad loss ,I never met the gentalmen but felt a sense of loss at the sad news,I followed his submissions to this forum often ,and enjoyed them.fair well Peter.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: kyn on March 13, 2016, 18:28:04
It is a very sad day for the forum and its members.  Peter was one of our most prolific members; his loss will be very greatly felt.

Peter has been a member on KHF for nearly 6 and a half years, long enough to become one of the core members (part of the furniture) of our community and his posts have always been fascinating, he has had such a varied life and was more than happy to share his experiences with us.  He also provided entertainment for some of us, watching the very detailed and continuous discussions with the likes of Otis and some others.  He and I had many similar discussions via messages when guidelines were changed, he fought hard to ensure the forum and its guidelines were fair to all members and stopped me making many rash decisions.  A few years ago I had decided it was time to put KHF to bed, he fought hard to stop me – partly as he had no other way to talk to others as he was more or less housebound, but also because he felt it would be such a loss to you all.  I am glad he stopped me from doing that and KHF is still growing and our community is still as strong as ever.

In 2013 I arranged a small get together at Capstone Park; I was very excited when Peter said he may be able to join us with his family.  I love meeting members and this was the only time that there was an opportunity to meet a man who supported me through some of the tough periods on here, someone who gave us so much information and knowledge, someone who kept the forum going.  It was a real pleasure to meet him and to give other members the chance to meet him and each other.

I have asked his family if we may arrange a collection to show our respect and appreciation, the money to go to either supporting his wife Sheila or to be split between AgeUK and Crossroads Care – the two charities that have provided so much support to Peter and his wife.  If agreeable I shall provide a link for everyone to donate.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: prefabkid on March 13, 2016, 19:50:57
Rest peacefully Pee Cee.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Sentinel S4 on March 13, 2016, 20:01:04
Personally I am very upset to lose one magnificent sparing partner. Many of you have seen us clash several times, Slip Coaches and the accident on Maidstone Road. He could be infuriating with his demands for accuracy and would never accept 'Because that is the way we/it is/was done'. He wanted, nay NEEDED to know the intricacies, the minute details. He would then go quiet for a few days and come back with demands for more information as to why it was done that way and not another. I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife at the picnic and met a charming Gentleman with a cutting wit. There were times when I just wanted to take him and put him in a certain situation and tell him to sort it out, the slip coach problem for one, or put him in the driving seat of a 45 tonne artic at the top of Maidstone Road (Chatham) and put her in Neutral and tell him to stop at the bridge. However at the back of my mind was always the thought that this was all he had, during the year I was out I truly understand just why he relied on us so much. Has anyone watched daytime TV recently? It is dire.

I will miss him, I feel I have lost a decent and honourable Friend. If you could express my condolences to the family I would be very grateful Kyn. Good-bye old Friend, I'm gonna miss you a lot.....

The Sentinel S4.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: GP on March 13, 2016, 20:15:43
Sad news, always looked at his posts with interest!
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Lutonman on March 13, 2016, 20:49:26
Very sad news indeed, I am just grateful to have known him through the KHF, we will all miss his input and his attention to detail has to be admired. Hopefully the KHF maintain his sayings as his memorial.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: kyn on March 13, 2016, 21:33:01
I have received a message from Peter's grandson which I am posting below:

Hi Kyn

 Thank you for your kind words. We have been reading the comments posted this evening and didn't realise so many people thought so highly of him.  Many of the comments sum him up to a tee, especially those about his attention to detail and everything has to have a reason why. We have been reading through some of his many posts and have learnt many new things about a man who we though we knew so well.

 He was never one for a fuss and flowers was just not him. This may have something to do with the many years of assisting my Nan most Saturday mornings with the flowers at the church he never went to on a Sunday. With this in mind he would have preferred people to spend wisely and in this case to help others.
 If you would like to make a donation to the suggested charities he would be pleased that others my also benefit from the help that he and Sheila received.

 If you feel my words appropriate to post I have no objections as i would like to thank all those that helped to keep him sane during some difficult times and have benefited and enjoyed from his tails.

 Kind regards
 Andy.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Bilgerat on March 13, 2016, 21:46:25
I'd just like to echo S4's words. I met PC at the same picnic and although I was a relative newcomer to the forum, he was polite and kind. Please pass along my condolences to his family. He will be much missed.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Stewie on March 13, 2016, 21:47:51
This is very sad new indeed, I only met him once during a KHF day out to Capstone Park but I found his powers of reasoning on the forum to be some of the sharpest I have encountered, and his participation in the 'Slip Coach' thread was very thorough  indeed. I even exchanged 'offline' private messages with him on this and some other subjects.
 I live not far from Peter and passed his house each day on my commute, I am deeply saddened by the loss of this knowledgeable gentlemen.
Perhaps the KHF can think of a way of honouring his contributions and passing with an annual award for the most interesting thread!
My condolences go to his family.

Stewie

 
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: numanfan on March 13, 2016, 22:52:41
I met Peter a couple of times & quite often exchanged private messages - and he was always a gentleman.

Very sad news, the KHF will feel a little 'emptier' now.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: filmer01 on March 14, 2016, 09:37:05
I never met him but his posts were always interesting - they will be missed.

Somehow I suspect that by now he has proved, from first principles, and with diagrams, that Angels just should not fly. Concluding that someone is mucking about with the laws of physics....
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: mikeb on March 14, 2016, 11:50:53
S4 has said it all, far better than I can. PC will be missed, if you can log in PC, thanks.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: smiler on March 14, 2016, 12:01:07
Very sorry to hear this sad news, first met Mr Challis as he was then in about 1962 when I was an apprentice motor mechanic and Peter was a teacher at Medway College. Never met since but have messaged each other a few times. Will miss you Peter.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: scintilla on March 14, 2016, 12:24:19
Just wanted to add my condolences. As a sparse poster, but a daily viewer I always enjoyed Peter's contributions to the different threads, especially his wartime memories.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on March 14, 2016, 12:32:53
So sorry to hear this sad news.
Peter and I never met, but our interests overlapped. The forum has lost a good friend.
My condolences to his family.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: DaveTheTrain on March 14, 2016, 13:10:54
I was very sorry to read of Peter's passing.   I had read, just a few days ago, of his infection, and hoped that he would soon be back.  In fact, when opening this thread I had half expected a tale of his incarceration without access to the internet, his frustration that things had moved on in "Hit and Run Attack on Canterbury" and that he would now have to re-calculate his theory on the basis of new evidence.  Sadly, that was not to be.

I wonder what historians of the future will make of the legacy that Peter has left on this forum, thorough his first-hand accounts; his detailed analysis of past-events and his enduring interest in Kent History.  I suspect that their conclusion will the same as mine: Peter was unique and we don't see his like very often;  KHF is the poorer for his passing and Kent's social historians will have lost a great amateur historian.

Respectfully, DTT
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: KeithJG on March 14, 2016, 13:42:54
I am also very sorry to hear of Peter`s passing away.

I was a Junior Technician in the Maintenance Building Department at the Medway College of Technology Fort Horsted from September 1963 until June 1968 and I was introduced to Peter, he being a lecturer, when he came into our workshop to order parts for the Mechanical Engineering Department.

This was in late1963 and he was a tall, upright, proud man with a long legged walk, wearing a slick suit. I was only 15yrs and he must of been around 34yrs at the time. I was so petrified at anything new, especially being introduced to people.

But sadly that is all I knew of him, just visiting our workshop when it was needed.

This forum will miss him greatly, also my condolences to his family.

Keith Graham






Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Dinsy on March 14, 2016, 14:10:05
Such sad news to hear of Peter's passing, my condolences to his family.

Although I didn't get to meet Peter, I felt I knew him through his posts which were always fascinating, informative, detailed and witty, but written with the warmth and charm of a true gentleman.

He will be greatly missed.

Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Bryn Clinch on March 14, 2016, 15:49:07
Such sad news to hear of Peter's passing, my condolences to his family.

Although I didn't get to meet Peter, I felt I knew him through his posts which were always fascinating, informative, detailed and witty, but written with the warmth and charm of a true gentleman.

He will be greatly missed.

I could not and will not try to improve on this post. It conveys my own feelings exactly and possibly the vast majority of the members of KHF.
RIP Peter
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Desbrow on March 14, 2016, 16:59:04
As one who reads far more than posts I would like to add my appreciation of Peter’s huge contribution to the forum and to offer my condolences to his family .

His interests may have seemed esoteric to some but his passion for them was obvious to all.  As others have pointed out he was unfailingly rigorous in his examination of any data or argument, including those he put forward himself.  You could easily picture him examining each new post with a jewelers glass.  What always struck me was the way he conducted his engagements with good manners and respect.  It’s rare to find an online discussion thread with the number of posts of those that he built that doesn’t descend into broad generalisations and outright insults.  His posts may have been feisty from time to time but they always moved the debate on for the illumination of others (even if the ‘brakes’ did have to be applied eventually to those slip coaches…).   

Farewell peterchall - it will be very odd not seeing you pop up in the recent post list.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: Dave Smith on March 14, 2016, 19:38:18
Desbrow. Congratulations on your comments regarding PeeCee; He couldn't have put them better! For me, and I'm sure many others, your first and last sentences are very pertinent. RIP Peter.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: busyglen on March 14, 2016, 19:56:30
I am so sorry to hear of Peter's passing, he will be sadly missed, please pass on my condolences.  I know I am not alone in saying that he will be remembered every time we login to the forum, with admiration and fondness.  As others have said his dedication to correctness has been second to none, which has always filled me with admiration.

I have always read PCs posts even if they are about something I have no knowledge of, as each subject is so well written that even I have gained quite a lot of information that I might never have known.

The posts between Sentinel S4 and PC will forever be in my mind, as although both had knowledge of their subject, they also had respect for one another.  A meeting of minds.

R.I.P PeeCee.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: otis on March 14, 2016, 22:06:39
Very, very sad news.

I will miss our lengthy discussions ! This forum will be so empty without Peter.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: jimawilliams on March 17, 2016, 00:27:08
Rest In Peace peterchall.
Thank you for your amazing contributions in recording your life’s experiences in Kent, your memories and explanations engaged me so much.  Sometimes we miss opportunities during the short privilege of our lives.  Below is an image which I intended to post the next time I had the opportunity to in “Guess the place”.  Taken in 2013 it is of “The Maltings” (near the Junction of the Lower Higham and Gravesend Road near Gravesend), a building that you taught in, which I attended as an apprentice Automotive Electrical student back in the late 1970’s.  I had experiences there that bring back wonderful memories, and I would have liked to share these with you.  Like you, I spent many years teaching adults and youth (30 years in total for myself, 20 of which were Automotive), however for me it was in Australia.  So your influence spread far and wide.  God bless you.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: ann on March 17, 2016, 12:23:31
Everyone has already spoken of the high esteem in which Peter was held on the Forum and how much he will be missed, and no words of mine could add anything to the sentiments already expressed.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Peter but we did exchange  some private messages  and he was always ready to pass on his knowledge to others.  He always shone through his posts as a 'true gentleman', and like Busyglen  I too  always read PCs posts even if they were about something I had no knowledge of (or dare I say interest in) as they were so well written, I would always learn from them.
My condolences to his family and farewell PC.

Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: afsrochester on March 18, 2016, 16:19:35
A wonderful and most knowledgeable man whose contribution to KHF will be sadly missed. We must have all gained something from Peter's contributions over the years; I know his knowledge has certainly helped me with my research. We are all the poorer for his loss. RIP Peter and Thank You.
Title: Re: Pee Cee's World
Post by: StuarttheGrant on March 18, 2016, 20:40:48
Although I never knew Pee Cee, I followed his posts with interest.
It is always sad to lose a fellow forum member, so Rest in Peace, Peter.