My life#8 – The Army – (Quick March through many years)

This, and subsequent “The Army” entries, came about through my Niece requesting some information on my Army days. She was doing some sort of project that required a “behind the scenes” view of military life, so I started to jot things down.

I got a little carried away!

I suppose that this became the precursor to my blog, so I have Penny to thank for that!

I am offering these jottings exactly as originally presented, the only changes being the introduction of badges, where appropriate, and occasional comments, shown in blue.

This entry splutters to a halt, because I had started to include more than my Niece required. So, to give myself hints for extending this into more substantial record, I added a few reminders to myself. I will put more meat onto the bullet points (honestly!).

For more like this click on the Tag “My Life”.

I always moved as an individual and so, (if I wished), was able to reinvent myself every 2 or 3 years. Of course, I met people I’d served with before and some I served with several times. A few remained friends, and you kept a lookout for where they were and what they were doing, but there were always new faces, new places, and new tasks to master.

As a single soldier you didn’t see much outside of the barracks. For one thing we were not paid very well. Sometimes it was not very safe to wander around. In later years, with a little bit of rank, and thus more money, we were able to venture out into the big wide world.

My Best man and I, when we were single, and Corporals, used to go to the Mess on a Saturday night, stay until the bar closed, walk downtown (Herford, Germany), tour various bars until the last one closed, then go to the railway station and catch the first train to wherever it was going. We then spent Sunday morning sightseeing before returning to camp. We ended up in Köln (Cologne) quite often. What a fantastic Cathedral!


Tours to Bahrain, Herford -Germany, back to Bahrain, Catterick, Blandford Forum, Catterick, Gibraltar, Bünde – Germany, Benbecula – Outer Hebrides, Wildenrath and Osnabrück – Germany, Cyprus, Herford – Germany, Dover, Omah – N. Ireland followed and passed sometimes very quickly, sometimes very slowly.

Along the way I pinched my best civilian friend’s girlfriend and married her.

I travelled back from Gibraltar to get married. Dead easy for me, as I was abroad I couldn’t arrange anything except the honeymoon!

I arranged to borrow a friend’s flat for 2 weeks and on the strength of that Erica flew back with me. Another flat for 2 weeks. Not a friend, but the chef from the Sergeants Mess who had heard me saying we had nowhere to go!


Then nothing, but we managed to get a place in a hostel that the army had taken on. Optimistically called the Mediterranean Hotel, it was perched on the shore at the end of the runway. We had a room that, when we arrived, had one single bed, a 4 foot high table with 3 legs, no curtains, a bathroom with dubious facilities and everyone else there were privates in the infantry battalion.

Because I was a Sergeant no one spoke to me or to Erica. The language and night time activities were entertaining – not!

As soon as we could, we moved in to a civilian flat. We had to pay key money to an “agent” whose office was an alleyway half way down Main Street. The flat cost £14 per week and money was very tight.


Bullet points to continue the story……

  • We managed to produce a rather scrummy little baby girl
  • Attitudes to exercises, separation
  • Living apart, living together
  • Rejoining real life
  • Attitude to injury, death
  • Have you ever shot anyone?
  • Taking our world with us
  • MFO
  • Them and us
  • Houses and flats
  • The class element played a part in general Army life and it could be awkward in some situations. Young Officers often thought a great deal of themselves but were, for the most part, absolutely useless! It was the job of every Senior NCO to support and educate them and to help them progress and become useful leaders. I always found it immensely satisfying to happen across a good officer later whom I had had a part in training. The mutual respect it generated could not be bought.
  • Truly alone – getting my own back – Monarchs
  • I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

To follow – “The precis of Army life” and “A wife’s view”


My life#7 – The Army -First 3 years (very briefly)

This, and subsequent “The Army” entries, came about through my Niece requesting some information on my Army days. She was doing some sort of project that required a “behind the scenes” view of military life, so I started to jot things down.

I got a little carried away!

I suppose that this became the precursor to my blog, so I have Penny to thank for that!

I am offering these jottings exactly as originally presented, the only changes being the introduction of badges, where appropriate, and occasional comments, shown in blue.

For more like this click on the Tag “My Life”.

The first night is horrible, strange surroundings, strange people, strange noises, strange smells. Each barrack room has an A/T Lance Corporal or A/T Corporal in charge and the 3 rooms that make up the Squadron have an A/T Sergeant. They are not your friends! (A/T is Apprentice Tradesman – I started off at The Army Apprentices School, later renamed The Army Apprentices College, in Harrogate, Yorkshire)

That’s a good thing.

It means that we, the great unwashed, all 120 of us, have a common enemy, and that’s what good army training and discipline is all about. You are broken down, your persona is crushed, and you are built back up again. Deep inside you retain your personality to sustain the hard times and to use outside of army life but for the really hard times you need to leave it all behind and do what you have to do for Queen and Country, and I really do believe that! It is not an easy thing to understand if you have not experienced it!

The first 3 months starts off with a familiar pattern, 4 periods in the morning and 4 in the afternoon:

Drill, drill, PT, drill, Trade and Education

With Breakfast, Dinner, Tea and a night of kit cleaning, room cleaning and homework to intersperse.

One day each week we had a change:

Drill, drill, PT, drill, PAY, Trade and Education.

We were paid £2.12.06d a week but were only allowed to draw £1 one week and 10/- (ten shillings or £0.5) the next. If you needed to buy boot polish and brasso on a 10/- week you had to give up smoking! We all had to open a Post Office savings account and any left over money (commonly called credits) was given to you before you went on leave.

With lots of young men together, working hard, vying for position in the hierarchy, it was inevitable that swearing was part and parcel of daily life. So much so that, when I went home for Christmas, I said the F word in conversation with Mum for the first and last time of my life. She registered it with her eyes but did not comment!

The 3 years at Harrogate passed with varying degrees of horror, enjoyment, laughter and terror. Some fell by the wayside, some were pushed, some jumped. After the first term, if you wished to leave, you had to apply to buy yourself out of the army. I think it cost £40, quite a sum then!

As with many gung ho young men I applied to go to war and for my first posting asked for Aden, which had been a Crown colony but was in the process of being handed back, later to become South Yemen.

Back came the reply “posted to 15 Signal Regiment” – Aden here I come!

Not so fast – 3 Squadron, 15 Signal Regiment was being relocated to Bahrain.

October 1967 saw me in London, getting drenched through, in my suit and tie (as you did!) prior to my first ever flight of 13 hours in a turbo prop Britannia, via Istanbul. I landed in Muharraq at 3am to a temperature of 85°.

So, there I was, a real soldier, 3,200 miles from home, no television, no mobile phones.

I wrote to Mum and Dad less than I should have. The letters obviously meant a great deal because Mum kept them for many years afterwards.

We had to book telephone calls a week in advance and they had to take place between specific times, in the evening, because international lines were few and far between and very costly to use. You were given a ¼ hour slot. If the lines were down you lost it! Very often there was a terrible delay in transmission and inevitably an echo. Great times!

I did eventually get to Aden to help dismantle some equipment and deliver it to Bahrain but didn’t stay long enough to get a medal. Shucks! It was, however, a unique experience.

After 9 months I was allowed leave for a month. I could choose to fly back to UK or go to Mombasa, Kenya. I chose to go home and I’m still not sure that I made the right decision!

This first trip home after so long away set the boundaries for my family relationships for ever. I got used to lack of close contact, I couldn’t phone often and my letter writing has never been regular, even to girl friends!

To this day I do not have an urgent need to keep in constant touch with family. I know and cherish that they are special, I know that I love them dearly and that they love me. I have fantastic memories that I cling to. When I speak to or see any of them I pick up from where I left off and it is as though it were only yesterday that we last met.

(what was your name again?!!!!)

To an infantryman, who joins a Regiment where he may well serve the whole of his career with the same 600-800 men, the Regiment serves as his second family. In many cases it is the only family! They know each other, look after each other, cry together and die together!

My life#6 – The Army -First days

This, and subsequent “The Army” entries, came about through my Niece requesting some information on my Army days. She was doing some sort of project that required a “behind the scenes” view of military life, so I started to jot things down.

I got a little carried away!

I suppose that this became the precursor to my blog, so I have Penny to thank for that!

I am offering these jottings exactly as originally presented, the only changes being the introduction of badges, where appropriate, and occasional comments, shown in blue.


I joined the Army in 1964, at the age of 16. As I was under the age of majority I had to have my parents’ permission to do so.

Despite the image of the Swinging Sixties you must remember that the majority of youth was unsophisticated, untraveled and, despite what they believed, very naïve. We had not benefitted, or, perhaps, we had not been ruined, by exposure to mass media!

I had been inspired to join the Army by Ivan, my sister Janet’s husband. He had served in the Royal Signals Jimmyand appeared to me to be tall, strong, and self assured. He did not directly influence me but had, unknowingly, sowed the seed that led me to join the Combined Cadet Force at school and, subsequently, the Royal Corps of Signals.

Selection was by interview and test and, because I had a modicum of intelligence, (that sounds very pompous and demeaning), I came out in the top percentile and could thus choose from the highest grade of careers. My first choice was Royal Signals technician and second choice was RAOC Ammunition Technician. Thank goodness I got my first choice, as the majority of Ammo Techs (bomb disposal), at that time, had a very short career indeed! (Think Northern Ireland)

One of the reasons for joining the Army was to get away from school. I had no idea what I wanted to do and thought the Army would give me a bit of thinking time. It did, 28 years worth!

You may imagine my dismay when I discovered that, far from getting away from school, I was to attend college for 3 years!

Originally called the Army Apprentices School.


and later, The Army Apprentices College.


What a culture shock!

On 15 September 1964 I travelled up to Harrogate, North Yorkshire, dressed in suit and tie, as you did then! I carried a single small bag containing my few possessions, amongst them a sewing kit made by Pauline, my younger sister (I still have it). At the railway station I, together with a myriad of unknown individuals, was herded onto a bus and taken to Hildebrand Barracks, our home for the next 3 months whilst we undertook our basic training.

I had previously been to cadet camps, and had even spent 2 weeks with the Royal Signals in Bϋnde, Germany, but this was something quite different!

We were immediately given a number, our regimental number. It was, is, and forever shall be 8 digits long and I’m sure that it will be the last thing that I ever forget!

More gifts followed in rapid succession, too quick to comprehend, as we were herded from one place to another.

You’re in 2 Troop, you’re in Scott Squadron, you’re in Spider C (8 legged wooden accommodation blocks)

You are size small, what size shoes? what’s your regimental number? Suitcase 1, Kit bag 1,boots leather pairs 2, laces leather 2, trousers denim 2, jackets denim 2, shirts khaki flannel 3, shirts cotton collar detached 2, collars cotton detached 4, studs front 1, studs back 1, ties knitted 1, underpants cotton 3, socks woollen grey 4, vests cotton 3, underpants long 2, brushes polish small 1, brushes brasso 1, brushes polish large 1, button stick 1, knife 1, fork 1, spoon 1, mug 1 pint 1, housewife 1 (an army sewing and darning kit), jersey woollen v neck 1, braces 1, SIGN HERE. Pack it away, follow me! Dump it down there. Follow me! All shouted aggressively. We soon learned when to reply and when to keep quiet!

Mattress 1, mattress cover 1, blankets 3, blankets U/S 1 (unserviceable with a corner cut off, for under the bottom sheet) , pillows 2, pillowslips 2, sheets 2, mats bedside 1, SIGN HERE. Pick it up. Follow me!

Here’s your bedspace, in a barrack room that stretches into the distance. Half an hour to pack all your kit away, make your bed and change into kit that doesn’t fit then pack all your civilian kit into your bag and store it away. That’s the last you see of it until Christmas. [I can’t remember what happened to the used civilian clothes we took off – I rather suspect that they were packed away as they were!]

Of course, the bed is not made correctly, you haven’t packed your locker according to the picture that was hidden in the locker drawer and the whole room is like a pigsty – you ‘orrible lot!

You still haven’t had time to remember anyone’s name and, anyway, there are at least 10 people that you can’t even begin to understand. Geordie, Irish, both North and South, Liverpudlian, Norfolk, Devon and one from Galashiels – it took me an age to fathom that!

Exit Peter Matthews, Enter A/T Matthews P (apprentice tradesman)

My life#5 – Journey to school 1953 to 1964 and first motorbikes

Photo – Pinterest

To get to school I first had to cycle to the nearest village, a mile and a half away. I had the timing perfected and, as long as I left home at 8.10am, I could be sure to catch the bus at 8.19am.  Most days!

Infants and Primary School
Secondary School

I could normally see the bus slowly approaching as I came into the village. There, at a run, I left my bike to park itself, in a shed, behind the Methodist Chapel  and ran across the road to the bus stop.

The bus to the nearest town took 20 minutes, and, then, there was a walk through town to school. None of the Mum’s school run in those days!

If it snowed heavily, the narrow road to the village became blocked very easily. In such conditions, everyone who was travelling by car carried a shovel, or spade. A few of us riding bikes would return home and then return to the blockage with our spades.

I remember with some fondness, the great community spirit on these occasions. Don’t get me wrong, there was not a host of people all stuck at the same snowdrift, just a few, because not many people travelled that road!

So, there we were, my sister and I, a neighbour from a quarter of a mile away, and a local smallholder. We all set to, digging through the snowdrift. We eventually dug through, making a track big enough to get a car through, and moved on to the next drift. There would be a series of drifts within a 200 yard stretch, then a blissfully free section before we hit more drifts. Eventually, we reached the crossroads, and we knew that from thereon the road would be clear.

On one occasion, just as we had broken through the last drift, a Council snow plough appeared from the opposite direction and turned into our road. The blade was set about a foot above the road surface, and extended to a width of about 10 feet. All our hard work was destroyed and the road was, once again blocked,  covered by a  foot of snow all over! I think the adults said “Oh dear!”

There was never a question of giving up and going home because it was too cold, too difficult, or dangerous. We just assumed that we must make every effort to get to school, and we did!

Bus fare obviously changed over time but there was a fairly long period of time where prices (and wages) seemed to be constant. I remember my Dad, who was a farm labourer, earned £9 per week for quite some time.

The bus fare at that stage was 5 pence ha’penny each way, no return tickets available!  that is 5.5 old pennies, just over 2 pence today. I was given a shilling each day and allowed to spend the 1 penny change. Bliss!

You could go into the biscuit shop and buy a bag of broken biscuits, or into the sweet shop and buy 4 chews for a penny. Alternatives were liquorice root and, if you’ve never tried it, don’t knock it! (google the image!)

I did cycle to school a few times. Must have been mad!

Once I reached 16 I was able to ride motorbikes, firstly an NSU Quickly, basically a heavy bike with an engine, later, a Lambretta 125cc scooter, then Dad’s Ambassador 225cc motorbike.

Actually, my first motorcycle experience was at the age of 14, after dark, on my Dad’s 98cc James. I would sneak it from behind an old garage at the side of the road, freewheel it down the road until out of sight and hearing, then start it up and go for a jolly.

All was fine until one day I decided to go and visit a girl in a village about 4 miles away by narrow, twisty country roads. It was raining, and I misjudged a tight left hand bend, ending up in a heap in a ditch.

The bike had a bent footrest and the chain had come off but, other than that seemed OK. My body was not quite so lucky, my right thumb was broken, I had multiple abrasions and my clothes were rather the worse for wear.

Somehow I managed to kick the bent bits into their right places, and forced the chain back on to the sprockets. I then had to ride home. I did it, and it hurt! A lot!

When I arrived back home I tried to make the bike appear to be totally normal and then pondered how to pass off my injuries and appearance.

Dad, bless him, half pretended to believe my story that I had fallen down the steps at the front of the house. The details of what happened next are rather vague in my memory. Somehow, I ended up the following day, going to school with my right thumb in a splint! What kudos that pain brought!

I never did manage to get together with that girl! Maureen Stonehewer – if only you knew!

(To find out a little more about me, follow #My life below)

My life #4 – What’s in a name?

My big sister and little sister have always called me PETE. Unless, of course, I was being naughty or annoying, in which case I was PETER, spoken in the severest tone.

Mum and Dad also switched between the two versions. Dad would often call me “LAD”, and I liked that, especially in my fifties!

Throughout Infants and Junior school I was invariably PETE.

On the first day of secondary school (6th grade in USA), during a break in all the administrative tasks, the more outgoing amongst us (not me then!) decided that we should all get to know one another. Many had nicknames that they had been known by before. Others, like me, just had their given names.

It was decided that those without nicknames should be newly christened. There were the obvious names, Ginge for a redhead, Shorty for the unfortunate smallest boy, Earl for a boy named Lee, and I got POLLY, because someone noticed that I had a large nose!

It never bothered me that I was known as POLLY all throughout my 5 years at that school. It was an affectionate name and never used with malice. I wore the name, and my big nose, with pride!

I left school and joined the army, and acquired a number to go with my name. This was one of the very first things to assault my senses and we all had to memorise our number and be able to quote it instantly, normally in the format:

“24022702 A/T Matthews. P. Sir!”

This was repeated many times in the first few weeks, and became second nature. Without this magic password I could not get fed, get clothing, see a doctor, a dentist, and, most importantly, get paid each week.

After the first couple of days it seemed obligatory that everyone should have a nickname. I didn’t mention my name of POLLY. I thought it was time to move on. This time I was awarded the name of PROF. This was apparently due to the fact that:

  1. I had no accent and spoke with “received pronunciation”
  2. I had a better education than was the norm for those joining the army at that time.

As my service progressed the name PROF gradually diminished in use and I became PETE, or PETER again.

Here I digress a little. It is necessary!

All my life I have carried various items in my trouser (and other) pockets. As a small boy I would always have a handkerchief, a comb, a penknife, probably a bit of string, sometimes a conker. To this day I still carry a handkerchief, and a spare, in case of crying ladies (or gentlemen), or for stemming the flow of blood, or cleaning spectacles. I also carry a comb (it’s an Alfa Romeo one if you must know), but the knife is hidden away in a drawer at home as it is illegal to carry most knives! (thoughts inevitably turn to American gun laws!!!!!).

In the army, of course, when on active duty, or on exercise, I carried various necessary items in pockets, in pouches, and in packs. There was weapon, bayonet, ammunition, respirator, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) warfare clothing, spare clothing, sleeping bag, rations, portable cooker, mess tins, etcetera, etcetera. Depending on the task and circumstances the load was lighter, or heavier, and, of course, you always went for the least equipment required to fulfill the task. At all times I carried my weapon, ammunition, respirator, and NBC kit, clasp knife, First Field Dressing and steel helmet.

Being an electronic engineer I always managed to find space for a couple of screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, a roll of insulation tape and various odds and ends, and being a practical type I always had a couple of chocolate bars, some plasters, some mints etc. I gained a reputation as the “go to” person if someone required something obscure. Chalk, aspirin, throat pastilles, nails, cable ties, you name it, I could quite often produce it!

For some reason, I cannot understand, I acquired another nickname – POCKETS PETE!

I have, of course, been called many other things during my life but I’ll pass over most of those. During army service MATTHEWS, CORPORAL, SERGEANT, STAFF, Q, SIR, MR VICE, and in the early days YOU ‘ORRIBLE LITTLE MAN!

On leaving the army I reverted to PETER, but my little sister still calls me PETE!

There are still those around who would greet me with POLLY or PROF if we were to meet.

The best names ever, I’ve left until last, they are DADDY, and DAD!

My Life #3-Recycling newspaper!

I suddenly had this horrible thought. (Here I must warn readers that I am renowned amongst my close friends for openly discussing bodily functions.)

Having said, in My Life #2, that our house did not have a bathroom, I suddenly remembered that some, if not all, of my American readers will have read that as “there was no loo/toilet/lavatory”. Shock, horror. What on earth did they do?

What I omitted to say was that the lavatory, as we called it, was out of the back door and turn right. It wasn’t quite an outside loo, but it may as well have been, as it was situated in an open porch, with the coal shed forming the third side.

We definitely did not linger! The cistern was a high level one that froze in winter. The toilet had a wooden seat. The door had gaps at the top and bottom, presumably for ventilation. This was most definitely not required.

On the back of the door was a large nail sticking out some 2 inches. This, of course was for the newspaper, cut into small squares. Younger readers may need to ask someone why! When I was old enough to handle scissors safely, this task fell to me.



Later we had the luxury of Izal toilet roll, a bit like fine sandpaper on one side and shiny on the other!



The coal shed was filled to the brim during Summer months when the coal was at its cheapest. It varied in price according to the quality and size of the lumps. The cheapest form was “nutty slack” which was mostly coal dust, but with very small pieces within it, taken from the bottom of the extensive coal piles at the merchants. This was only of use once the fire was burning fiercely.

Fire lighting was a skill that needed to be learned by all the family. Sometimes embers were still alight in the morning so this made the job slightly less irksome. It also made it more dangerous, as the ash still had to be collected and emptied from the base of the fire. Normally the fire lighting task fell to Mum.

To start a fire we used sticks, chopped from a stock of logs we kept in the coal shed. To supplement the sticks we also all had to learn to roll newspaper and plait it into firelighters. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about you can learn here: .

In later years, when we had a television, we sometimes lit a fire in the “front room” by carrying burning coals, on a small shovel, through the house. I wonder what Health and Safety would have to say about that?

Don’t get too cosy sitting by the fire. The rest of the house, in Winter, was freezing, sometimes literally! We woke to ice patterns on the inside of the bedroom windows. Very pretty, but not conducive to getting out of bed.

If you needed to go to the loo during the night there was no nearby “convenience”. Under the bed could be found a chamber pot – Yes, REALLY! Emptying? Another job for Mum.

There were fireplaces in the two large bedrooms but these were reserved for times when someone was really ill, or dying. In the bottom of the wardrobe in Mum and Dad’s bedroom were a bedpan, and a “bottle”, a means of having a wee whilst lying down. These had been obtained when Dad had a serious accident at work, and was bed bound for several weeks. This is not a true memory as I was too young to register the fact. It is an implanted memory!

I can’t remember a lot of toys. I don’t think we had many. We played mostly outside, and used whatever was at hand. Dad was expert at making bikes out of old bits and pieces, trolleys for giving youngsters a riding platform, sledges, stilts. You name it, he made it. Where he found the time I have no idea.

We even had the top section of a trap (as in pony and trap) that became a ship, a shop, a lorry, or anything else that our imaginations could conjure up. (I had my first, very innocent, sexual experience in that trap, with a girl called Cynthia!) Later on we learned the skills to make our own bikes, sledges, huts, and so on. If I could freeze my life in any particular time I think it would be here!

We had a very large garden, as I’ve mentioned. For many years it was not accessible to vehicles. I remember that, several times, Dad brought a tractor from work, and accessed the garden from an adjoining field so he could plough and harrow to get rid of large sandstone blocks.

Eventually he brought a tractor, with blade and digger attachments, and carved out a driveway from the road into our garden. This was no mean feat, what with all the sandstone, and it also required quite a steep cutting. Another tractor, and trailer, carried away all the spoil. After completion, it took some skill to drive a car onto the property, as the surface was uneven bare rock, and the initial entry angle was close to 45 degrees.

No badges this time! See Here




My Life #2 – Birth and the very first badge

This is the first part of what could become my autobiography.  A previous post (A life of Badges) promised more to come. I have been slow in fulfilling the promise but here it is at last.


I was born on 19th January 1948 in the back bedroom of a farm cottage in Staffordshire. I arrived just in time for breakfast.

My big sister, who was 12, was delighted. I had been born on her birthday.

My little sister was probably not so delighted as she was now condemned to no longer being the baby. She was 3 and a bit!

I didn’t know much at the time!

One of the things I didn’t know was that Mum had given birth to another child, in between big and little sisters, and that child had died shortly after birth.

The farm cottage was actually a semi-detached house.

The living room was furnished with a dining table and chairs, 3 easy chairs, a sideboard and a large battery powered valve radio on a table in the corner. This room contained a coal fired range with a water boiler behind, an oven at the side, and a warming oven at the top. The boiler had to be hand filled with water every day and, in winter, topped up throughout the day to prevent it boiling dry. At the side of the fire was a homemade oblong stool with a lift up lid. Inside were a box of buttons and the current copies of John Bull.

The kitchen, or scullery as we called it, was a cold, tile floored space. It had a copper boiler in the corner, a large butler type sink, an electric oven, and a bath! The bath was a conventional type of heavy cast iron, enameled bath, it was fixed to the floor and was fitted with a drain but the taps were not connected to any water supply.

Off the kitchen was a pantry with stone floor and a cold shelf. This was a thick, solid chunk of some material that magically remained near to freezing, no matter what the outside temperature. This acted as our fridge, a thing we’d never heard of! Even in 1959, only 13% of British homes owned a refrigerator, compared to over 90% in USA.

The third room downstairs was the Front Room! This was used only for very special occasions. It had a 3 piece suite, a china cabinet, a small table and, of course, a piano. It also had a fireplace, although a fire was seldom lit here.

My immediate memories have this room being used for Mum and Dad’s silver wedding anniversary party, as a sick room for the only grandparent I ever knew, as a room that could be used by my big sister and her fiancé (with regular visits from Mum of course), as a birth room for one of my nephews and, later, when I was 14, as the TV room.

Upstairs were 3 bedrooms, 2 doubles and a single, and a boxroom that held a myriad of exciting treasures. Old watches and watch bits, a derringer pistol, bits of old material, old wallpaper, cases.

So, where is the bathroom you say? Simple, there isn’t one!

Next door, the Allman’s, had a conventional sized garden and we had the rest of the plot of about ½ an acre. Within this space we had a very large shed, pigsties, a hen house, and an open fronted lean to. A large area was cultivated and provided our vegetable needs in exchange for a great deal of hard work, mostly carried out by Dad.

I had an idyllic childhood roaming the woods, farmland, hills and valleys, with gay abandon. This was in the days before “gay” was hijacked.

When needed back home, Mum, if she could see me, would knock on the window with her wedding ring. If I was not in sight she would go outside and clap her hands. I could hear this for well over a mile. It was very quiet! There was very infrequent traffic, and there were no aircraft overhead. The road outside was so quiet in fact that we could, and did, play tennis on the road. We could hear a car coming, literally, for miles.


When I first started to  prepare this for posting it was entitled “Birth and life before badges” until a distant memory surfaced. Amongst all of the fascinating junk in the box room was a solid silver ARP badge. Dad, being a farm worker, was in a reserved occupation during WW2 but served as one of the local Air Raid Precaution wardens.


My Life #1 – A life of badges!

It was only in January 2012, when I was thinking about my retirement speech, that I realised my life had been following a path determined by badges. It had never really occurred to me until then.

Here are some of the badges that have been significant in my life. The more I think about it, the more I can think of.

Over the next few months I shall elaborate on each, thus providing a mini autobiography.