The Definitive History of the Surname STABLES in Yorkshire

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The Autobiography of Brian Stables (Part 9)


Valerie Jean Stables

This is the ninth 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.

val & brian 1956.jpg (17845 bytes)
Val & Brian Stables. 1956.









Valerie Jean Stables. Bournemouth.

Valerie Jean Stables (nee Goundry) (As told to, and partially remembered by Brian).

Val 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 disturbing.

Her first school was St Clements where she stayed for about three years, (about the longest of any school to follow).

...Val was 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 time.

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 was oppressive.

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

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 homework.

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 Island).

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 Girls.

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.

Attempts were 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 underneath.

Off again to a more modern establishment closer to where Val’s new school was located, near the camp center.

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 Hotel.

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.

Read the next installment: Singapore

Valerie Jean Stables. Aden.

Valerie Jean Stables.


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Last modified: May 10, 2010