Jean Stables (nee Goundry) (As told to, and partially remembered by
was born in Grosvenor House in Swanage Dorset on the third of October
1940. She and her mother, (Vera May Goundry, nee Hodgson) moved to St.
Clements Road, in Bournemouth, shortly afterwards. Her only brother,
Michael was born here just two years later, it was a house that was
split into three apartments, and they occupied the bottom unit.
Val’s Dad, (George Goundry) was a soldier in the Royal Armoured Corps,
and was stationed at Bovington at this time.
The earliest adventure Val
participated in, albeit unknown to her, was in early 1942 when her Aunty
Jean was pushing her along the street in a pram, and an enemy fighter
plane came along and strafed them. This ploy of popping over and having
a few ‘squirts’ was quite a popular pastime for pilots along both
side of the English Channel in the early wartime years.
Her earliest recollections were of
the ‘blackout ‘and the air raid precautions. She can remember quite
clearly being woken up by the air raid sirens and being taken into the
‘Anderson’ air raid shelter in the garden. She also has memories of
the Nazi aircraft and the ‘terror’ weapons, the ‘droning’ noise
of the ‘Doodle bugs’ whilst flying overhead was particularly
Her first school was St Clements
where she stayed for about three years, (about the longest of any school
always a rebel and, on one early occasion had the whole of the
Bournemouth police searching for her.
Valerie Roberts, her best friend at
this period, lived next door and she encouraged Val to participate in
Ballet and Tap dancing lessons, they formed their own neighbourhood
group called ‘the Valerians’ charging the neighbours and friends
sixpence each to offset the cost of biscuits and chocolate drink
consumed during the intervals. Both girls took part in local shows put
on by the Bournemouth school of dance. Valerie Roberts went on to become
a professional dancer in London.
As a child, Val was always a rebel
and, on one early occasion had the whole of the Bournemouth police
searching for her. Apparently she had decided she needed a movie
‘fix’ and had sneaked into the local movie theatre. There was quite
an alarm about a missing child, but as she had sneaked in, passing below
the window of the ticket seller, she went undetected for quite a
considerable period of time.
Val’s’ maternal Grandmother,
(Emily Hodgson) had four daughters and she owned a Hotel in Southcote
Road, Bournemouth, where Val and her mother went to help with the
preparation of meals etc. With the exception of Vera and Connie, (who
had married a Canadian airman and immigrated to Canada) Emily’s other
two daughters became successfully involved in the Hotel industry in the
Bournemouth area, indeed their kin are still, (2003) involved in either
the catering or Hotel industry, with Connie, (belatedly) becoming
involved in this field upon her return, (with husband John Von Dette),
to England in the 1950s.
Early 1949 George was posted to
North Africa and the family quickly followed him. Vera, Val. and Michael
left Southampton in the troopship ‘Orwell’, a recently re-fitted
troopship converted to accommodate families. They
landed at Tobruk, which was very desolate and still surrounded by the
debris of war. Burnt out tanks and other military equipment were
scattered around, just as they had been left when they were destroyed
during the North African campaign of the 1939 - 1945 war.
Bananas were a
surprise for both Val and Mike, for they had never seen one before.
Grandma used to boil parsnips and flavour them with vanilla and covered
them with custard as a substitute
They journeyed from there to Barce
in an open army vehicle to set up home in a two story open house with
large verandas. The cooking was accomplished on a stove fuelled by wood,
the food consisted mainly of cabbages and goats meat, with ample
supplies of fruit.
Bananas were a surprise for both
Val and Mike, for they had never seen one before. Grandma used to boil
parsnips and flavour them with vanilla and covered them with custard as
a substitute, (real bananas had not been available in England since
1939). The bread was usually infested with weevils which George
encouraged them to eat; it was “Extra protein” as he was fond of
declaring! The only milk available was goat’s milk; a treat was when
the tinned army rations of sausages etc. were distributed from time to
Schooling was provided by the army,
the transportation was an army three ton truck which went around picking
up the (eager?) scholars. Lessons comprised of morning classes, which,
due to the lack of qualified teachers, were conducted by the Regimental
Padre, who had the misfortune to have all age groups under his care, the
sole subject was, (inevitably) religion -- his.
This continued for about nine
months, after which time George and family were moved to Egypt,
embarking at Tobruk on the ‘Empire Tess’ and proceeding via Suez and
down the canal to arrive at Ismailia, where they were accommodated in
‘Nissan’ huts situated within a large compound protected with barbed
wire and armed guards.
The home comforts were basic to the
extreme, with corrugated metal communal showers, ablution areas and open
bucket toilets. Food was
communal cafeteria style, served in a dining area comprising of a
corrugated steel mess hall. Flies abounded
everywhere and the toilets were overrun with frogs and snakes, these
buildings, being unlit, were a particular hazard at night.
An ice box was supplied for the
cooling of drinks and refreshed daily with what appeared to be a yellow
tinged ice block, rumoured to be taken from the (contaminated) ‘Sweet
water canal’. There were no air conditioning
units available but electric fans did help to disperse the heat which
occasion an authentic Arabian meal was organised for lunch, the goats'
eyes and piled up fried eggs were not the most popular dishes on the
menu for Val
School was about a half hours
journey in an army truck under armed escort. The basic three ‘R’s’
were covered during morning lessons, afternoons were for rest and
Some sightseeing to Cairo was
organised by the army authorities, the Main Mosque, the Pyramids and
Sphinx plus camel rides were all taken in and enjoyed by the family.
On one occasion an authentic Arabian meal was
organised for lunch, the goats' eyes and piled up fried eggs were not
the most popular dishes on the menu for Val, although, by perhaps, (?) a
quirk of memory, she remembers it, to this day!
Val’s very first swimming lesson
was taken in the (heavily polluted) Canal. ‘Daddy’, helpfully
assisting her to overcome her fears of water by unexpectedly lifting her
up and dropping her off the end of the jetty! Another memorable moment
for such a young girl.
After six months stay, the family
once more embarked in the troopship ‘Dilwara’ this time for a
journey further to the East. The voyage through the Red Sea was made
impressionable to Val by the vast amount of sharks that followed the
ship, feeding on the daily discharged refuse. Their
destination was Singapore, and stops were made at Aden and Colombo.
Her first home there was at Neesoon
on Singapore Island and her school was at Changi, (of WW2 infamy). After
about three months they moved to married quarters in Changi.
Singapore in those days was a place
rife with troubles, the most violent riots; called the ‘Bertha Hertog’
riots, (so named after a young Dutch girl who had become involved with a
young Eurasian man) were so volatile that Val, her mum and her brother,
were all obliged to pack an emergency suitcase each and were instructed
to hold themselves in readiness for immediate evacuation to safety in
Australia. Fortunately, (or, in Val’s view, unfortunately) this flight
did not take place, but Val has had a ‘yen’ to visit there ever
since. This posting lasted for about eighteen months, when the family
once again boarded the ‘Dilwara’, this time for a journey even
further into the Orient; Hong Kong.
Their new home was situated in
Lymoon but it proved to be substandard with the windows and doors all
falling off, thus enforcing a move, this time to an apartment just below
the ‘Nine Dragons’ in Kowloon, (the mountain profile of the New
Territories resembles ‘Nine Dragons’ when viewed from Hong Kong
Val once again travelled by army
truck to school, this was situated in the centre of Kowloon and was not
too far to travel. She joined the Girl Guides
in Victoria, (on the Island) and this she attended weekly by travelling
over to, and from, Hong Kong Island, all of it without escort using
public transport; the local bus and the ‘The Star’ ferry.
She found it stimulating to mix with
the teaming crowds of this great Oriental sea port. The
smells and vibrancy of the cities and teeming population were an
exciting new experience for such a young person, and she loved it.
There was a military swimming pool
open for families on the island at Victoria Barracks and Val went there
with her mother quite frequently. Swimming was also available in the sea
off several parts of the island and from various smaller islands around
the area. Air conditioning was not as widespread as today; hence a
favourite pastime was to go to the cinema, just to enjoy the air
conditioning in the auditorium.
They were in Hong Kong about
eighteen months when they embarked, (once again on the ‘Dilwara’)
this time for return to England. They made the usual stops of; Singapore
Colombo, Bombay, Aden, Port Said, Port Suez, en route.
Landing at Southampton, the family
went to Bournemouth where they once again stayed with Val’s maternal
Grandmother for a few months and Val attended the Bournemouth School for
George was stationed at the RAC
depot in Bovington, but it was not long before he was under orders to go
to Germany. The family eventually followed and
they set up home at Detmold, Val yet again attended military school,
first at Bielefeldt and then a military boarding school; ‘Prince
Rupert’s’, in Wilhelmshaven, situated right on the North Sea coast.
This place remains in her memory as
the first time she got interested in boys and for the icy winds blowing
off the sea, (a good mix in my, [Brian’s], opinion). The
school was run in a manner that appears to have been a blend of English
Public school and the military idea of; ‘bullshit baffles brains’.
Discipline was fierce; infractions of the;
arbitrarily chosen, bureaucratic rules were severely punished. Holidays
were spent with the family in Detmold.
made to settle into their new married quarter... a veritable slum which
dated back to Victorian days. It was so badly decayed that the floor
unexpectedly collapsed under them one night...
This lasted about two years until,
in the early fifties; George was posted to Catterick Camp in Northern
England, and for the umpteenth time, the family followed on.
Attempts were made to settle into
their new married quarter, but this was made difficult in what proved to
be a veritable slum which dated back to Victorian days. It was so badly
decayed that the floor unexpectedly collapsed under them one night, the
floorboards were rotted through due to a stream of water flowing
Off again to a more modern
establishment closer to where Val’s new school was located, near the
Camp Center was also was where the
cinema was sited, this place was a huge attraction to the young girls,
not merely for the films shown, but because of the plethora of
conscripted young men, who were experiencing the heady exhilaration of
being away from home for the first time in their lives, and who usually
‘hung around’ the vicinity of this ‘exotic’ establishment.
About 1954 George was once again
posted out to the Far East, this time directly to Malaya where the
Communist Terrorists, (called ‘C.T’.s) were creating a bit of a
problem, and then to Singapore. Here, there
was still a great deal of unrest and very soon, the ‘Merdeka’
(freedom) riots, were in full swing, this being a diversion laid on by
the civilian population for the entertainment of the troops!
As had now become customary, the
family followed as soon as accommodation had been arranged. The
first new home was at Serangoon Garden Estates. School was at Alexandra
Barracks and transportation was once more by army truck.
Her choice of
Elvis Presley plus all the other popular rock and roll artistes of the
day was often met with exaggerated groans from the members...She even
experimented with an “Elvis” hair style.
They soon moved to a quarter on the
hill at Fort Canning where George was now employed at Headquarters
Singapore Base District. It was, (is?) situated just above the Raffles
After school, leisure time was
spent playing tennis at the courts on Fort Canning and swimming at the
forces recreation center, the ‘Britannia club’ down town Singapore.
She attended Mess functions with her parents, which led to the voluntary
task that Val really enjoyed, which was to buy musical records for the
mess social evenings.
Her choice of Elvis Presley plus
all the other popular rock and roll artistes of the day was often met
with exaggerated groans from the members, but Val always disregarded
such unworthy criticism of her superior good taste, and so the Fort
Canning Mess became known as being quite “Mod”, as the expression
was in those days. She even experimented with an “Elvis” hair style.
During this period Val celebrated
her sixteenth birthday with a holiday in the Cameron Highlands. She also
met the man who was to become her future husband, (Brian Stables) who
was also posted to Fort Canning at this time, but, if only because of
the difference in their ages, neither she nor he, was aware that this
would be their destiny just three years into the future.
Her, never forgotten, (nor
forgiven) recollection of this unmitigated SOB, (her words) was when,
early one evening, and whilst bragging about her pay cheque from her job
as a Nanny to a British Government official, she was hoodwinked into
paying for a ‘Tiger prawn’ meal for Brian at Bedok beach, a well
known bathing resort on the coast. The swine, (her words), even had the
nerve to borrow her dad’s car to get them there!
When it became time for George to
be demobilised and to return to England, Vera, (Val’s mother) damaged
a disc in her spine, this hospitalised and incapacitated her so badly
that she was unable to travel on the ship with George and Val for the
journey home. There being no space available on a troopship places were
found on a civilian ship, a P&O Liner the ‘Stratheden’.
Val was in her element, being
squired by the young officers of the ship whilst George did his best at
holding up the bar. Thus Val, being released from parental constraints
and unexpectedly free of close supervision, had the time of her life for
the four weeks it took for the ship to travel to Southampton.
Vera eventually caught up with
them, travelling home in style on a BAOC ‘Comet’ airliner.
George, now at the end of his
service, was posted to finish his time at the RAC Depot in Bovington
camp; the family lived in a converted barracks in Dorchester. Val found
work at a Hotel and at this time quite, unexpectedly, met up once more
with Brian Stables.
Brian was stationed with his
Regiment in Germany, and he had come over to England to take a wireless
instructors course at Bovington RAC Depot, where he accidentally met up
with George, who promptly invited him home for a supper meal, an offer
that was accepted with alacrity.
At this point the lives of Brian
and Val became inextricably intertwined and when Brian had finished his
course and returned to Germany, they kept up a regular correspondence
which cemented their relationship.
They became married on the 19th
of December 1959 and, (of course) have lived happily ever after.
the next installment: Singapore