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Chapter 7. Coming Home

There was a special train laid on to take us from Glasgow to London. I came home in Feb. of 1946. Harry was 4 and Andrew was 2 and they were toddling about. I hadn’t seen Andrew until then.

I had been away in Alexandria almost 3 years. Mavis was living in a bungalow which belonged to Jerry called Bundasheet, a German name. He allowed her to live there. It was quite close to the Glen, in walking distance. It was really quite isolated, orchards all around it, so that when the cherry blossom was out there was quite a different light. Mavis met me at the Sittingbourne train station. Martin was the result of my homecoming. I was still with the Admiralty, but I had quite a long period of leave—maybe they didn't know what to do with me.

I went to the Naval Auxiliary Hospital at Seaforth, Liverpool. That was a converted home for mentally retarded children and again people said: “that is what it still is.” The pharmacy was an awfully drab and dirty place that had been the medical officers’ mess. There was another pharmacist there as well and he had been there a long time and done all the work. I don't know what he thought of a senior pharmacist being sent to look after him after he'd done all the work, but he was a very nice chap. The war was over and a lot of the pharmacists who had been recruited during the war were leaving and he left quite soon.

There had been a medical store depot a little out from Liverpool and the pharmacist there retired, so I had to commute between the depot outside Liverpool and the naval hospital at Seaforth. There was very little work to do, the navy was running down and there were no casualties. The only patients we had were the badly injured patients who would be in hospital for months. Even they were transferred to more specialist hospitals to try and rehabilitate them, so we closed down the medical depot .

Then there was another naval hospital further north, that was in a converted hotel. The thing I remember most about it was the cockroaches. The pharmacist there retired, leaving the job of closing it down to me. I was the only senior pharmacist in the whole area so when anything happened it was my lot to deal with it. I closed down at least 4 hospitals and 3 store depots, packing their stores and sending them away. These hospitals were used during the war for all the injured.

Before my home leave was complete, we discovered that Martin was on the way, so it didn't seem right that Mavis should stay at this isolated bungalow and in those days the only way you could get accommodation was to buy it, so we decided to try and buy a house.

We were in quite a good financial position because I was quite well paid as a senior pharmacist and had various bonuses when serving in Egypt. When we could, we would send our salaries home to our families and just live on the foreign allowance, and that's what I did. Mavis didn't pay any rent for this bungalow and I think she soon got on good terms with the farmers so she had plenty of eggs and vegetables and things like that. The boys didn't eat as much as their rations were, so in many ways, although it was a very primitive bungalow, she was very comfortably off. Lots of people were far worse off. But we decided it wasn't good enough to have a baby in so we decided to buy a house.

I was only on temporary appointments going to all these places for the Admiralty. I asked the Admiralty "Where am I going to have a permanent appointment?" and they said: “Where did you go when you first joined?” and I said: "Chatham" and that's where they said I'd go -- to Chatham. So we decided although I was working up north to try and buy a house at Chatham and hope that one day I would move there. One Easter weekend I had leave to come home, so Mavis parked the kids on Grandma Myers and we went house hunting and we saw some dreadful places, dear oh dear! At last the land agent said: “There's a house just come in, I've not seen it, haven't even got the key for it but it's coming on the market.” I think the agent was going to close for the weekend (at 12 o'clock) and it was then about 11 so Mavis got on a bus, found this house and with the help of the neighbours managed to look into the windows. Mavis was very good at getting everyone to help her. The house owners allowed her to see round their house to see what it was like and so she telephoned me from the agent’s and I signed the papers sight unseen. If Mavis said it was alright, it was alright by me. We were happy in that house. It was a lovely little house but we didn't live in that house very long.

In Chatham when we lived in the house at Rainham (part of Chatham) it had a concrete path coming up the garden. I was putting up the hen run and we got some poles and an iron crowbar and I bashed the crowbar into  the ground and made a hole to put the posts in and I was taking the crowbar back to the woodsman who had lent it to me carrying it level with the ground like you would carry a rifle. Andrew came running up to the house and bumped his head on this metal bar and he took no notice but the metal bar went boong. He didn’t get a dent in his head.

Soon after we bought the house in Rainham, I think, the roof of Ida and George’s house fell in out and we stored a lot of their possessions. They were living on the outskirts of London somewhere. I know we stored some of their furniture. There was just about room to move in the house. Also George put up the curtain rails.

The Admiralty changed their minds about what was to be my permanent base and decided it would be Haslar, near Portsmouth. There were all sorts of regulations to help people uprooted by the war and so on. When I was living away from Mavis they gave us quite a generous allowance so she could have all my pay and I just lived on the allowances. Then they produced an order that the Admiralty should pay for the expenses of buying a house, solicitors fees, survey fees and all that sort of thing and the removal expenses, so we decided that's what we had to do. Soon after I arrived at Haslar, in peace time, there was a house in the hospital grounds for the senior pharmacist and I said: “What about it?” The Admiralty said: “Not a hope!” as some more senior officers were looking for housing and I'd have to look for my own. But of course there was this order to make the move financially reasonable. So all this had to go to the Admiralty and they looked up their books and there was a house for the senior pharmacist. It was attached to the hospital. There was lengthy correspondence as to why I couldn't go into this house and eventually it was decided I could have this allowance. So, armed with this, I went house hunting and found this house, “Cooleen”.

Mavis came to check it before we signed the contract. Martin had been born by this time so Grandma looked after the 3 boys while Mavis came down for the weekend. We hadn't sold the house in Chatham, but we did have enough money to make the deposit on this house. Miraculously we sold the house in Chatham. We paid £1250 pounds for the house in Chatham and we sold it about 18 months later for about £1800. We would have had a very big mortgage on this house if we hadn't been able to sell the house in Chatham. The price on this house had gone up. We moved here in 1948. Having got all the allowances together and bought this house with considerable expense to the Admiralty I saw an advertisement for senior lecturer at Portsmouth College of Technology.

 

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