The Definitive History of the Surname STABLES in Yorkshire

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The Autobiography of Brian Stables (Part 15)


Family Life Begins, The 1960s

This is the fifteenth part of Brian Stables's fascinating and very funny autobiography, which is written in his own words.

Brian was born in Tickhill in 1929 and emigrated to Canada in 1976. He is currently serialising his life story for us.

He has also provided a superb collection of photographs to accompany his story. Click the photo for a larger image.

brian early 1970s.jpg (23222 bytes)
Brian Stables. Early 1970s.

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.

She returned almost immediately, gave me a broad smile and announced the arrival of my baby daughter.

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 standing.
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 stupor.

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.

...a Police 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 1969.
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.

 “Herr 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 to speak.
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 so,”
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.

...her father 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.

 I 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.

...the Ford 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 routine.
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 replica!
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.

Read the next installment: Emigration To Canada

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Last modified: May 10, 2010