Upon my return to Europe, I was
unsurprised that the ‘Cold War’ had been progressing very well without
It was a period of World lunacy.
There was still a small amount of
‘Sabre rattling’ going on, and it did not fail my notice that there
was one resemblance to 1939, when It may be recalled, all the people who,
(thought) they would not be in any danger were the very ones who were very
strong on aggression.
There was a difference however, this
time, because of the threat of the Atomic bomb, most thinking people
realised there would be no escape for little England, and in the event of
the unthinkable happening, the lucky ones would be the ones who died in
the first blast.
This truth did little to curb the
hard line idiots and so the world hovered on a precipice of disaster for
far too long
I rejoined my Regiment in Germany and
got caught up in real soldiering once again.
After a few months messing about in
tanks, I was selected to take a wireless instructors course at the RAC
training school at Bovington.
loved it, I always have enjoyed new challenges, the army had just started
the final moves to replace the old short wave transceiver with the latest
VHF models and I was lucky enough to be one of the first to receive
training on, and be given the opportunity to field test, these new models.
What a difference they made to our lives, from now on any person with
normal training was able to operate the wireless and maintain
communications. Morse code was now obsolete and was eliminated, that extra
skill required for the old shortwave sets was a thing of history.
just had to learn if she was married to, or even engaged to, some
undeserving slob who would be totally unworthy of her.
I was almost through my course at the
school, when to my total surprise I met up with my old pal George Goundry.
The first thing I asked him, almost before I had finished greeting him;
was how his daughter was getting along, he told me she was well and that I
was more than welcome to visit his quarters in Dorchester and find out for
myself. He knew I was head over heels in love with her and got no small
amusement from keeping me ‘on the hop’.
was both apprehensive and anxious to renew my friendship with Val.
just had to learn if she was married to, or even engaged to, some
undeserving slob who would be totally unworthy of her. I could have asked
George, but I just wanted to see her, and to be near her.
She was still free, and as she was
now almost nineteen years old and appeared glad to see me, I began to hope
my day had arrived at last.
Time flew, and all too quickly I had
to return to Germany and my Regiment. We kept in touch by mail for I did
not dare risk to lose contact a second time; telephones in those days were
not as ubiquitous as now. Letter writing was still the normal accepted
method of communication in the 1950’s.
Early 1959 was a busy time for the
Regiment, we celebrated the bi-centenary of the formation of the 17th
Lancers, (the 21st were a year later), and we received orders
for posting to Hong Kong.
The moment this news of an imminent
move was announced I decided it was now or never, and I immediately asked
Val to marry me. She straight away asked me why it had taken me so long to
make my mind up!
I ignored that.
You have to.
explained that I was off to the Far East once more and it would be at
least three years before we could possibly get together again, I pointed
out that if we got married right away we could possibly travel out there
together. What girl could resist?
you sure you know what you are doing?” asked the Church Minister. “It’s not too late to change your
this day am still not sure whether it was the thought of getting away from
home or the promise of a return visit to her favourite Continent, (the
Orient) that decided her to agree to my proposal, but consent she did, and
we arranged to be married on the 19th December 1959.
“Oh Valerie, you are not going to
marry a soldier are you?” was the reaction of both her grandmother and
her Aunty Jean. You could say their perceptions of
soldiers were somewhat biased, then again, maybe not.
The wedding was arranged totally by
Val, she did it all. The poor girl had to: flowers, cars, church,
reception, you name it she had to do it, her parents were uninterested in
such mundane tasks and there was no else to give a helping hand. She took
charge of everything that was required. I, of course, was in Germany,
thinking about it, and encouraging her to ‘get a move on’.
you sure you know what you are doing?” asked the Church Minister.
“It’s not too late to change your
mind” said Aunty Jean.
The day prior to the wedding I had an
altercation with Val’s mum. She ordered me to clean up the front yard. I
told her I had plenty of people giving me orders in the army, and I was
not going to do anything unless she asked in a more civilised manner. The
sparks were flying when George came to the rescue.
After this setback George took me out
and we attended an R.A.O.B. lodge. He did his best to ensure I would
have a hangover the next day.
stayed overnight at Val’s maternal grandmothers home and was kept awake
all night because the clock, situated in the church just across the road
from my window, had its clock chiming at fifteen minute intervals.
I was in poor shape when the big day
It rained, Val’s face broke out in
acne spots, one of the guests asked me if I was a friend of the groom,
(his best friend I replied) another asked me what it was like in the
Marines, (How should I know, I thought, my head throbbing, but I
controlled myself). One of the bridesmaids defaulted and my nephew got
forgotten and was left alone in the church for a considerable time after
the ceremony ended.
It was a normal wedding.
At the church the minister had
already given us both a lecture upon how we should show great decorum
during the ceremony and above all not to rush out of the church “in an
unseemly manner” at the close of proceedings, (I think it was the
uniform that did it) on the other hand he may have heard of my past
reputation, who knows? Anyway, he reminded us of this
instruction once again immediately after we had signed the registry.
I was trying to obey the instructions to ‘show decorum’...
and Val was dragging my arm, snarling out of the
corner of her mouth, telling me to hurry up...
It was this very directive that
caused our very first marital argument.
It was after the ceremony was all
over and when we set off to walk down the aisle, when it started.
Val was keen to get out of the place,
and I was trying to obey the instructions to ‘show decorum’, I was
trying to walk slowly and Val was dragging my arm, snarling out of the
corner of her mouth, telling me to hurry up, all the while trying to smile
at the guests.
These nice people were looking at Val
as though trying to judge how far pregnant she was (this, in consideration
of the haste in the arrangements for the ceremony). I had great difficulty trying to keep
a straight face and stop laughing aloud, poor Val was glad to get out to
the wedding car, it was still raining of course and so we had to ‘run
After the ceremony we gathered at a
meeting hall where Val had organised a reception and everyone seemed to
We honeymooned in London at a Hotel
close to Hyde Park and shared the train journey with some guests who were
returning to their homes. As we entered our room and opened our
suitcases we discovered that some joker had filled both cases with masses
of loose confetti, this exploded and flew out all over the place the
moment we opened them up, we both instinctively got down on our hands and
knees and started to pick it up, after a couple of minutes of this we
looked at each other and started to laugh, we said; “to hell with it”,
and threw the bits we had picked up, back on the floor and went out for a
We became quite expert at travelling
the underground. We visited most of the tourist places and managed a
couple of theatre shows but, with only one week available, there were a lot
we missed too. We promised ourselves we would return
‘one day’ but except for an occasional day visit have never managed
it, (so far anyway).
After it was all over, I had to
return to the Regiment, leaving Val behind to stay with her parents. There
were lots of things to do and boxes to pack, Val once again rolled up her
sleeves and, all on her lonesome, got it all done, leaving me little to do
except reflect upon how lucky I was.
...the ship passed through a huge water spout
system...it was for all the world as though the sky was being
supported by solid trunks of spiralling water...
We boarded the troopship
‘Oxfordshire’ at Southampton early in 1960 for the three week journey,
once again traversing the Suez Canal and calling at different seaports
along the way.
Whilst sailing through the Indian
Ocean the ship passed through a huge water spout system. I had (luckily)
decided to go on deck and was amazed to see immense spouts of water
seemingly joining heaven and earth, it is difficult to describe the
enormity of nature’s powers, try and picture a whole seascape filled
from horizon to horizon with gigantic pillars of water, column after
column, stretching from the surface of the sea to the lowering clouds, it
was mesmerising, it was for all the world as though the sky was being
supported by solid trunks of spiralling water, I had never heard of such a
phenomenon, I had read of the fact that water was absorbed from the oceans
into the clouds but had never imagined how this was done.
A couple of days after this I had the
extremely rare opportunity to observe another one of natures many wonders;
this was “the green flash”. Many people will insist that there is no
such thing, but I can assure you it is real, I have seen it three times
now, (once here in the Ocean, once in the Sinai and lastly on the Great
Lakes of Canada.)
The ship called in at Singapore and
we took a cab up to Fort Canning, I forget who was occupying the premises,
it was either the Malay Regiment or the Singapore Militia. The mess
steward was the same man that we both remembered. He recognised us both
immediately and we were made very welcome. We
talked over ‘the good old days’ as one does at such times and passed a
very convivial half day before it was time to re – embark on the
‘Oxfordshire’ for the final leg of our journey to Hong Kong.
By the end of March we were settled
into our first home together, which was a brand new sixth floor apartment,
in Ho Tung Road which ran off Boundary Street, quite close to Kai Tak
Our life together was off to a good
For those who may not understand this observation, consider a
situation that; in the event of an atomic attack on a small Island
like England, and we thought that this was a real possibility, there
would be very little left in terms of infrastructure and any survivors
would most likely be severely injured and/or suffering from fatal
doses of radioactivity. The likelihood of the availability of basics,
such as fuel, communication, water, food, shelter, electricity and
medical supplies would be minimal, there would most likely be nothing
available for some considerable time, if ever. We lived with this
potential nightmare for many years.
For those who do not understand this spectacle: if conditions are
right, exactly at the moment that the sun sets, at that very instant
of its disappearance over the distant horizon, there may be observed a
most beautiful and unforgettable ‘green flash’ at the place where
the sun has just been.
the next installment: Hong