I think it to be true that you
don’t know true happiness, nor sorrow, until you have children. They
certainly highlight your life.
Val rejoined me in time for Christmas
1962; we set up our home in an apartment at Schloss Neuhaus, a small town
in North Rhine Westphalia.
The Regimental barracks was about ten minutes down the road, and, because
I got allocated into an administrative role once again, life became almost
like being a civilian for me.
Our daughter, Angela, was born on the
30th of June, 1963.
I was worried stiff because of our past experience with the ectopic, poor
Val was totally fed up with me jumping every time she gave a cough, or
looked anything but in the best of health. As the time neared I was a
nervous wreck, I even felt ‘morning sickness’ pangs with the
accompanying nausea every now and then.
It may have been because of our Hong
Kong complications that Val got some extra careful attention, in any
event, as she became due she had to travel to a military hospital at the
town of Rinteln which is just down the river Weser from Hameln (Hamelyn of
the Pied Piper fame).
On Saturday when I visited her, the medical staff assured me that there
would be nothing happen before the following Tuesday, we talked about this
and we agreed that I would stay at home and do some work on the following
day (Sunday) and visit again on Monday.
Sunday morning I was ill at ease, and by the afternoon I decided I would
just pop along to see how things were going along and how she was managing
without my help. I could not rest.
It was about a forty or fifty odd
miles journey along a beautiful, scenic, winding road, via the Valley of
Eagles, (Adlerwald), and I arrived in very poor shape early that evening.
I parked up and wandered around the Hospital for about ten minutes or so
and stood in a long corridor, I had no idea where I was or what I thought
I was doing there. I was still standing there looking lost, when a senior
Nurse came along and told me, in no uncertain manner, that visitors were
not allowed in this part of the Hospital and, in any event, I was not
allowed to visit except at the published visiting hours.
almost immediately, gave me a broad smile and announced the arrival of my
I must have looked a bit “out of
it” as the saying is, for she suddenly stopped her harangue, and as she
did so, we heard a child cry within the room right next to where we were
She asked me for my name, told me not to move, and putting on her surgical
mask went into the room. She returned almost immediately, gave me a broad
smile and announced the arrival of my baby daughter.
She gave me some paper tissues to wipe my tears and sat me down, she
organised a small portable cot and wheeled the new arrival to where I was
sitting for an unofficial visit with Dad.
She took me into the delivery room for visit and a quick word with Val,
who could not have cared one way or the other by that time, after which I
was sent on my way home.
I think the rest of the local
population were very fortunate that night, as I must have driven home in a
Due to performing administrative
duties, I started mixing and working more closely with the German
Nationals and began to appreciate the difference in general attitude
between the way ordinary German and English people looked at life and
reacted to circumstances.
The first time it really hit me was when I went down to my garage, which
was one of a row associated with our apartment block. A German chap was
just getting out of his van that he had parked in front of my garage door.
I asked him to move it so I could get my car out, explaining that after I
had left it was OK by me to stay there until I got home. “It doesn’t
say ‘No Parking’ here” he said and walked away. He was right, there
was no sign prohibiting parking anywhere around the place.
officer appeared from a shop doorway and issued me an ‘instant’ fine
for Jay walking!
I solved it by waiting until he had
disappeared, and then broke his side window, entered the van and dropped
it down to the middle of the road where I left it to create some confusion
with the morning traffic.
I painted my own sign after that.
There was the time, it was almost one o’clock in the morning and the
roads were totally empty, I crossed the street at a point between
pedestrian crossings, a Police officer appeared from a shop doorway and
issued me an ‘instant’ fine for Jay walking! There was nothing else in
the street except for me and him.
I was sent on a course of bookkeeping
and accountancy and then placed in a job that involved looking after the
Regimental private accounts, a job that suited me and provided me with
some experience which I found more than useful when I left the army in
In my office there was a most efficient German civilian lady I shall name
Linda, she ran the day to day administrative details such as the typing
and other secretarial work answering the phone etc.
I sometimes used to wonder
who was in charge.
Stab-lez” she would say, “Herr so and so has phoned and I told him you
would call back when you got in”
“Thank you” I would reply and put it on the back burner so
This would cause her some agitation, “Herr Stab-lez, I told Herr so and
so that you would call back as soon as you got in, and you have not done
Time would pass and you could see her getting more and more distressed
until it reached the point where she could not stand it any more, she
would walk over to my desk, pick up the phone, dial the guy and announce
that; ‘Herr Stab lez’ was now in the office and was ready to speak.
was reported as ‘giving comfort to the enemy’... The police arrested
him and he was taken away in his night attire...
Her family, who were, and had been,
farmers for generations past, had received some harsh treatment from the
Nazis, her three brothers had all been killed in the forces, and she had
been called up and had been a wireless instructor in the Luftwaffe. It was
whilst visiting home on a weekend pass that she discovered that there was
a problem regarding her family and the local Nazi party. Apparently the
family farm had been allocated Russian prisoners of war to supply labour,
these men, who were starving, were usually escorted to and from their camp
by some guards who would look the other way whilst the prisoners ate some
of the swill that was destined for the pigs, unfortunately there was a
change of escort and her father was reported as ‘giving comfort to the
enemy’ and received the; ‘Two o’clock knock’. The police arrested
him and he was taken away in his night attire, his wife was allowed two
hours to pack and leave to wherever she might go. No one ever heard of
what happened to her dad, it was as though he had disappeared off the face
of the earth. The part that disturbed me the most was that the neighbours
were too frightened to tell Linda what had happened.
discovered that the camp engineer, with whom I had made friends, (a German
civilian) had been on the winning side at the battle of Dunkirk, during
the time in WW2 when the British army was sent packing over the channel. I
used to get him reminiscing about his army service, and it surprised me to
discover he had been a horse mounted dispatch rider, I found it surprising
at first that the much vaunted and all conquering German Army of those
days would rely on horses but it makes sense when the shortage of fuel is
taken into account. Len W, an old soldier whom I admired very much, and
who came to the Lancers from an infantry regiment was always telling
everyone (those who would listen) about the days when he was evacuated
from Dunkirk and how proud he was of having survived the experience, he
was full of; ‘ English = good, German = bad’.
You can imagine the, (mischievous)
joy I felt when I was able to introduce these two gentlemen to each other
and mentioned that they had something in common, and then, after a
moment’s pause, mentioned they had both been at Dunkirk. Herr Hartman
laughed heartily but Len was quite upset, I thought I had overstepped the
mark, but he rallied round as a good Yorkshireman does, but he did give me
am earful later on when he got me on my own. I did not hear Len mention
Dunkirk to me ever again.
Paul, our son, arrived on the 21st
May 1965. It was another panic time for me; Val seemed to have her eyes
permanently turned up to the ceiling, I was beginning to think that it was
the way she looked normally, especially when I arrived home one day and
told her we were moving to a different house!
In typical fashion Val set about packing up the old place and scrubbing
out the new place, she would not rest until it was all ship shape. Her
Doctor decided to place her in the local Medical facility in order to
‘tie her down’. She didn’t think much to this, and I got a nightly
earful when I went to visit.
Factory in the Ruhr valley... was quite an eye-opener for me and the first
time I had been subjected to the horrors of big industry.
During these years I was fortunate
enough to be able to take advantage of all sorts of courses run by the
higher education centre in Düsseldorf, I was also able to get on a really
excellent management course in Essen, (I may have got these places the
wrong way ‘round!), part of the latter entailed spending some time in
the Ford Factory in the Ruhr valley, this was quite an eye-opener for me
and the first time I had been subjected to the horrors of big industry.
The idea of ‘time and motion’ was just beginning to be accepted as a
way to cut costs. I became convinced that whatever happened; when I left
the army there was no way I would take a job in a factory, unless it was
at management level.
West Germany was a different place to
that which I had first experienced in the 1950s; there was a great deal of
prosperity around the place, built up by various factors, one of which
there was no defence budget to worry about, there was also a lot of
foreign exchange coming into the country, due mainly to the occupying
forces of France, England and the US of America. Oddly enough I believe
that the building of the Berlin wall and the strengthening of the border
between East and West, in the early 1960s also, in a peculiar way, helped
the West German economy.
We were able to travel most weekends
(when I was not taking part in army exercises). We visited many places
which, under different circumstances, we would have found impossible, we
spent an entire week camping in a vineyard on the banks of the river Mosel
just outside the old medieval town of Cochem.
We enjoyed trips to the Harz Mountains and down the Rhine and Mosel
valleys, we were able to visit the Tulip fields of Holland, in fact,
whenever we had visitors we got into a routine of visiting such tourist
spots as the Mohne Dam and other such spots to the degree that it became
I have a lovely memory of Val’s Uncle John arriving unexpectedly one day
when I was Duty NCO. John, his wife Connie and Val’s mum all arrived at
the barracks and enquired of the sentry where he would be able to find me,
“He is in the guard room” replied the lad, “Holy cow” exclaimed
John “How long will he be locked up for”?
“There is one
of our chaps here with a pistol and he is robbing a taxi driver”
The end of the sixties saw the end of
my army days and it was about three or four months before my discharge
that I had the final fright of my army service. I was duty NCO one
evening, and around about midnight on a beautiful moonlight night, I got a
phone call from the sentry on the back gate guard post: “There is one of
our chaps here with a pistol and he is robbing a taxi driver” said he.
“Lock your door, put your
inside light out and keep him under observation, keep on the phone and
keep the duty Corporal informed as to what happens” I replied.
I thought it over for a moment, thought of all the stinking luck, to be
shot by some drunken idiot just when I have everything going right for me!
There was only one thing to do, implement that time honoured ploy of
‘pass the buck’.
I got the guard on to ‘standby’
mode and went off to find the duty warrant officer, a big burley chap,
built like a wrestler.
“Hi Bill, we have a problem at the back gate” I announced.
“Well”, he replied: “fix it”.
Then, to my joy he said;” Come to think of it, I need a walk, I might as
well pop over and sort it out, I will see you later”
He started straightening his hat in front of the mirror.
“By the way, what is the
situation?” he asked.
I told him, and this was a mistake.
“Ah, on second thoughts, you go over there and I will supervise the
guard and maybe bring them round to sort things out” said he.
On my way over to the back gate I had
to pass some large bushes and from these came a young Trooper, a bit
boozed up and looking like a bad actor in a third rate ‘Western’ movie
weaving his pistol to and fro, pointing it in my direction and scaring me
not a little. Fortunately I knew him, and I was able to call him by his
name, thus putting him off his guard and giving me time to disarm him.
I immediately had mixed emotions.
Once I had grasped the weapon I realised it was a plastic
It occurred to me, that in every instance in the past many years, whenever
I have been frightened, it eventually transpired that there was no
necessity to be, and quite often, during moments of real danger, events
have happened so swiftly that my adrenalin had flowed so fast that I did
not become troubled until some time afterwards. Odd that.
As my service in the army came to an
end I was obliged to plan my future, I was fortunate in that I, together
with a pal of mine, who was discharged just about the same time, had
already been taking courses and working in our spare time towards creating
our own insurance and savings brokerage, we had registered a company in
Folkstone in Kent. We had built up a small clientele without having to
draw on the early income so were in good shape to make a career out of it.
When I went for my discharge interview with the resettlement officer, I
was able to see the funny side of it when he advised me to apply for my
old job that I had held before joining up!
What I would have done had I relied on his advice I shudder to think.
What, I wondered; did those people do, who had not taken precautions to
find employment before discharge?
It was ‘pack up the boxes’ time
again and we settled in Kennington, on the edge of Ashford, Kent.
the next installment: Emigration