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Thursday, November 4, 2010

28. Facing the consequences

Inevitably the time came when Tom and I had to visit my parents, now living in their house in Thundersley. I knew they would love him, everyone did, and once Father saw that Tom was a convivial drinking partner they became great mates. Mother adored him on sight and always did, just as he loved her to bits. She was a chocoholic, like the rest of us, and for her ninetieth birthday he bought several bars of Cadbury’s milk chocolate, broke them all up into ninety little squares, wrapped each one in silver tin foil and put them in a jar with a funny poem. He wrote many hilarious rhymes and poems.

One very sad thing happened on that first visit home. My grandfather was mowing his front lawn as we walked past his house. I stopped, called out and waved to him. He looked up, saw me, turned his back and went on cutting the grass. He never forgave me for eloping with Tom, just as my mother had eloped with my father, and I never saw nor spoke to him again.

Just after we returned to Great Sampford, the RAF Police School moved to Staverton, between Gloucester and Cheltenham, and not far from Innsworth where I had been billeted previously. This was not the scenario we had expected; I was supposed to be waving him off to sunny Rhodesia where I would join him in a month or so. Instead I moved into the WAAF billets and Tom moved into the Sergeants’ mess, he would eat with the Sergeants; I would eat with the airmen/airwomen and we would only meet up after supper. Because of our different ranks, there was nowhere on camp that we could go together. It was a very unhappy situation; we would walk round the country lanes, but it was now November - December and cold. There was nowhere to exercise our conjugal rights, and we sure needed the exercise. Married couples were not allowed to serve on the same station but Jonah turned a blind eye to the fact that Tom and I were married.

While I was still serving at RAF Staverton the CO called a meeting of personnel and one of the points raised for discussion was the poor state of morale on the camp. Policeman, white caps, snowdrops or whatever else they were called, were unpopular with all the other trades in the service and this gave them a complex. I made two suggestions, 1) that the station have its own magazine, and 2) that we form a dramatic society. Both suggestions were accepted. The dramatic society was very successful and the magazine was called “Provost Parade” which, after feeble beginnings, became the official magazine of the RAF Police and is still published today in large glossy format. The magazine naming competition was held and the winner was a Cpl Pigeon who won, I think, thirty shillings from the C.O.’s fund. I could never have imagined how successful the A4 hand printed, hand folded, coverless home made magazine would become. To begin with we had little articles, cartoons, a “Where are they now?” column, looking for old friends, “Points on Pals and Postings” “Births Marriages and Deaths”, jocularly called Hatches, Matches and Dispatches, and general bits of news. It sold for a shilling a copy. In the drama society, we had Peter Darby as a producer, and I began my amateur theatrical career singing “You Made Me Love You” as part of a concert party.

But it irked me that the other Sergeants could take any old broad into the Mess for dances and parties while I was not allowed in because of my lowly rank, and I was also fed up to find myself on another long roster of ST burning, so I applied for my discharge on the grounds of marriage, having served all of eighteen months in the WAAF. We rented two rooms in a little council house owned by Edgar and Betty, bedroom upstairs, living room downstairs and walk through their living room to get to the little kitchen, which we shared. My 21st birthday passed uneventfully. Near the camp stood a big aircraft factory called Rotols, where Rolls Royce aircraft engines were made, and I worked there as a typist in the Personnel Department. Although now twenty one I was still very na├»ve. To illustrate this I must tell you about a hand written accident report I was given to type by a very shy little guy in a wheelchair. The man in the accident report had injured his left tentacle. I said to the shy little guy “Is this right? I thought only octopus had tentacles” at which he went pink and said “just type what I wrote”. So the report went through as “tentacle” which probably caused endless amusement along the line. Eventually Tom told me what it was, and I was very embarrassed!

1947 was the coldest winter in living memory. The camp closed and everyone went on leave. Coal was rationed and we had none. The wire coal storage area in Betty and Edgar’s garden was empty but it backed on to the one next door which was full. We had not been allocated a coal ration so I crawled into their area, bent a hole in the wire and stole a piece of coal from next door - I was so tired of being cold. I would shop for our meagre rations, get home and cook some sort of meal and wait for Tom to come home. We had no telephone and I would wait and wait. It was obvious that he really did not want to be married, or at least he might not mind being married but he would rather be in the mess drinking and playing cards with his mates than be home with me. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I only had myself to blame, I should not have rushed him into the marriage, but it was the posting to Rhodesia that had caused it. I suggested we divorce before there were any children involved, but he said he loved me and did not want us to break up, so that was that.

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