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MEMOIRS 1939 to 1945 - Stacey Simkins

Further Memories

Christmas 1939

My sister 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 up. 

Al Bowlly

After that 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 for duty.



At 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 £5.

Vauxhall 12

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.

I was 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!


One advantage 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 particular spot.

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. 

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