Bob's Memoirs - 1940s - 7
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I was always a rather reluctant soldier and I was quite pleased that I had never been promoted. Early in September 1946 I was called into the CO's office. He said that in recognition for my work in the Orderly Room I was being made Lance Corporal. I was not impressed because he did not even know where I worked. Becoming acting unpaid lance corporal in five years made me tempted to say "Big deal!", but then he said "Paid and backdated for four months", and I was not going to turn money down.

Bob with family Kamerrer.  Cuxhaven 1946.
Me with Frau Kamerrer and friends. Cuxhaven 1946

I had now been in Cuxhaven for just over a year and had made many friends, so that while I was happy to be going home I had the sad task of saying goodbye to those I was leaving. I visited the Kamerrer family for the last time. Frau Kamerrer did the laundry for a number of us. Herr Kamerrer had been a U-Boat sailor. They had a son Peter who was about four years old.

I promised Ron and Ken that I would keep in touch and since their home was in Luton that should not be difficult. My last task was to see that my Luger did not get into the wrong hands. I reduced it to all its component parts and took a final walk around Cuxhaven so that I could lose the pieces on waste land, in the sand and into the sea.

I sailed on 23rd September 1946 to Hull and then went by train to the Military Disembarkation and Dispersal Unit at Guildford. I was given a grey civilian suit which was no too bad, but not memorable. The tie I chose was the most garish I could find being all shades of pink, and I remember that tie vividly! I was on paid leave until 5th December and then I would be transferred to Class Z (T) reserve.

I had been in the army for over five years. If you ask me what I had done in the war I could only say with certainty that I had put on weight. When I was enlisted I must have been quite a bean pole because my weight then was only 122lb (about 55kg). I had survived a major war unscathed which I had considered impossible on the 25th February 1945 when I set off for France. I had not fired a shot at the enemy and no one had fired an aimed shot at me. I had travelled a little and learned a lot. The most important event in those years was that I had met Una, now she was my wife and we were together. A new phase of our lives had started.

I had kept in touch with those I had worked with before the war and I planned to work freelance now that I was home again. I now think that was a wishful idea. I found that Beecher Stow was back and he was pleased to see me. He offered me employment at a good salary which was an offer I could not refuse (I remember it as 370pa). His studio was at 123 Queen Victoria Street in the City of London. The building, which no longer exists, was opposite to Faraday Building which was one of the main London telephone exchanges. The studio was on the second floor, on the first floor was the Queen Victoria Building Society and on the ground floor was the Civil Service Store with their restaurant on the mezzanine.

Dad was now back at Silver Studios and seemed happy to be back as a textile designer, although he had enjoyed his time at WEMCO during the war. He was, however, beginning to have heart trouble and said at times his heart "played boogie-woogie". Dennis was now in his late teens, and by 1948 would become a colour retoucher, first for Sun Printers and later at Odhams. Both these companies were in Watford and both produced magazines in full colour.

Me, Una, Dennis, my Mother & Father at Watford. 1946.
Me, Una and my family. Watford 1946.

Una and I were living with my parents at 74 Bushey Mill Crescent, Watford, which solved our immediate problem of accommodation but we hoped to get a house of our own in spite of the acute shortage of housing. We made an offer for the next door house, number 76, when it was put on sale and that offer was accepted. Foolishly we trusted people who had been neighbours for many years but when someone offered them more money our agreement was broken. Nowadays we would be less surprised at the practise called gazumping.

Early in 1947 Una was pregnant. We were happy, I had a good job and getting a house was just a matter of time. Looking back, and how easy it is to be wise now, we were stupid because Una could have worked and together we could have saved more towards a deposit on a home. In April Una lost the baby. We were both unhappy and I felt devastated. When I was told that "it was probably for the best" it was probably well meant but difficult for me to understand.

By August Una was fit again and we went on holiday to the Isle of Wight. My brother Dennis went with us and we took our cycles and had an extremely happy time exploring the island. We were able to see some of the remote beaches and countryside which we had not seen before. We stayed with Mabel and Joe Cooper (Joe's brother Fred had married my mother's sister Nellie Carpenter). Their son Harold had a small boat and so we had fun rowing, and catching shrimps, on the River Medina.

Dennis, Una, aunt Mabel and Harold. Isle of Wight, 1947. Me and Dennis on a beach. Isle of Wight, 1947. AJ Beecher Stow, Rowena Bishop, me and Tom Watts. On the roof of 123 Queen Victoria Street, London, 1947. Dennis Carter, me, Rowena Bishop and Tom Watts. On the roof of 123 Queen Victoria Street, London, 1947.
Dennis, Una, aunt Mabel and Harold. Isle of Wight, 1947.
Me and Dennis. Isle of Wight, 1947.
AJ Beecher Stow, Rowena Bishop, me and Tom Watts. 1947.
Dennis Carter, me, Rowena Bishop and Tom Watts. 1947.


By now the studio was prospering and we had been joined by Rowena Bishop, Dennis Carter and Tom Watts. There was plenty of work and the future seemed secure, but Una and I still had no home of our own, and this seemed worse for Una than for me.

In October 1947 we went to Nottingham. Una's cousin Eileen married Arthur Dransfield on Saturday the 3rd. After the reception Una and I went to the Nottingham Goose Fair but during the evening I became unwell and we returned to Wilford. The next day we travelled back to Watford. After work on the Monday I was so ill that I could only get from the bus into Euston Station by holding on to walls and railings. I managed to board a train but I can't remember how I got home.

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22-Aug-2009