Winnie was working at Stratford Woolworth's and they decided to hold a party for
local children. My brother Dennis and I were shanghaied into
helping - our first lesson in never volunteering for
anything. The venue was Stratford
Town Hall, with Al Bowlly – a well known crooner – as the star turn. . While Al Bowlly was performing, some people were chatting. Al stopped the music, came to the front of
the stage, and threatened to come down and "duff them up” unless they shut
came the talent contest. A popular song
at that time was The Fleet’s In Port Again, and we had to endure a constant
stream of kids, mostly girls, who had chosen that song, each singing their own
version, both tune- and word-wise.
Then came a
little boy of about four years old. To
say he was suffering from terminal stage fright was the understatement of the
year. He managed a couple of little
"eeks” then dried completely. This met
with tumultuous applause and he was adjudged the winner.
One of our
lads, Bobby Badkin, was going out with a local girl. She and her sister, we found out, ran a small
dance school and somehow or the other a group of our lads were dragooned into
attending one of their concerts. They
were called the Twenty Teeny Tappers.
Every item in the show featured the TTT’s and, whatever the music, the
same routine. After about six of them,
terminal boredom set in. To this day the
mention of TTT’s brings both Dennis and me out in a cold sweat.
While we were
stationed at Topcliffe, we once ventured as far as Newcastle- upon- Tyne. Most large towns had a snooker hall,
invariably above a Burtons the Tailors shop, and during the war these were also
used as Service Clubs. I found myself
sitting with a group of lads with no trousers on while some kind ladies sewed
on missing buttons.
As I’ve mentioned before, we used to go into
Scarborough to the Royal Hotel. The bar
there sold whatever drink they had managed to get hold of on a "take it or
leave it” basis. One night all they had
was gin, a drink which in normal circumstances I wouldn’t touch, but beggars
can’t be choosers and so I quaffed a few. After a while
I decided that I needed some fresh air.
Between me and the door was a pillar holding up a balcony and somehow
this pillar kept moving to be in front of me, whichever direction I approached
it from. I did eventually make it
outside and crossed the road to a small park opposite.
There was a
bench, it had been raining, so I lay down in a pool of water. Eventually the
other lads came out, found me, and helped a rather soggy me to Mrs Mac’s. Strangely enough I was the first one up the
next morning and I just had time to change into battledress before we reported
Pocklington we, the crew, purchased a car from a departing crew for the
princely sum of £5. It was a Vauxhall 12
- cheap to run, we filled up from a bowser on the airfield, as did everyone
else. However it had a few faults. Whenever we stopped we had to get out and
push the body back on to the chassis, then someone had to get underneath and untangle
the brake rods so we could get going again.
It served its purpose though as we didn’t go far. When we left we sold it to another crew – for
One day a B17
(Flying Fortress) landed with engine trouble.
Some of us lads were deputed to entertain the crew while it was being
fixed. First we suggested a football
match which didn’t last long, as the Yanks didn’t have a clue about
football. Then they proposed a game of
American Football to get their own back.
selected as Quarterback and we started.
I stood behind our man with the ball, shouted out a meaningless string
of numbers (as I’d seen in films) then "Hike!”.
The ball came back to me, followed immediately by a horde of Yanks and
before I knew it I was flat on my back.
This happened every time except at the end when they generously stood
back and allowed me to throw a pass. I
don’t know about quarter back it was more like flat back!
of being a Londoner "oop North” was that if you were at a dance and, as was
inevitable, trampled on your partner’s feet, you could always say "Oh sorry,
that’s a new London step which you wouldn’t know”. You couldn’t do that at home though!
Around 1942-43, before my Stacey
(my dad) got called up into the RAF he used to regularly play football at the Barking Road Recreation
Ground, near the Duke’s Head pub, in East Ham (East London).
Where the pitch had been marked out, one of the
corner flags was significantly but inexplicably higher than all the rest, so
much so that it was always a bonus to get awarded a "corner” from that
Sometime during 1945, before he eventually got
demobbed, he learnt the reason for the raised ground -an unexploded bomb had
been discovered underneath the corner flag.
"But didn’t they know it was there?” I asked;
"Surely even an unexploded bomb would leave a great big hole?”
Apparently not. Depending on the type of bomb
it was, and if it had gone straight into the ground nose-first, it could have
quite easily buried itself without being noticed.