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15 October 2014
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Charlie's Two-shillings

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Family Life

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Charlie Pateman, William Pateman
Location of story: 
Biggin Hill, Edmonton
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4390445
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Stuart Marshall from Crawley Library and has been added to the website on behalf of William Pateman with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

My brother Charlie got up on Monday morning to go to work and an argument started between him and my dad. The following evening, Charlie did not arrive home from work and the whole family were very worried about him. It was four days later when a neighbour knocked on our door and told my mother: “I have come to tell you that Charlie has joined the army and he has asked me to say will you please not get him out even though he is underage”.
When my mother told my father she went beserk at him and said: “If anything ever happens to Carlie, I will never forgive you!” My dad replied: “he cannot fight abroad for another year and maybe the extra training will one day help him”. But sadly it never did.
It was on a Sunday morning that I went to Biggin Hill Aerodrome to visit my brother. He was in the army with the Royal West Kent regiment who were guarding the aerodrome at that time. This was his last weekend before going abroad. He was eighteen years old and we were saying goodbye. As we shook hands something told me I would never see him again. He asked me if I would promise him not to go into the army but to go join the navy instead. The following day I wrote off a request to join the Royal Navy and was called up within about two months.
On the 19th November 1943 my mother received a letter to say that her son, Charlie, was ‘missing, presumed killed’. Within two weeks she received the official letter stating that her son had been killed on the Sangro River in Italy. She had already received a lovely letter from him written just before he was killed saying: ‘Mum, the war is over, you have nothing to worry about, I’m coming home’. That was written the day before they crossed the Sangro River when their patrol unluckily walked into a mine-field and all were killed. He was just twenty years old.
My brother had fought from El Alamein to the Sangro River, from ’41 to ’43. He was within months of the war being over. I consider that his advice to me on that Sunday morning as we parted took a great part in saving my life.
When my brother was twelve years old, he took from his dad’s pocket a two-shilling piece. Before that letter from him arrived, he sent my mother fifty pounds from his army credits and said to her: “please give dad twenty pounds and tell him — this will make up for the money I took from his pocket when I was younger and tell him to go and get drunk!” My Dad’s reply to my mother was “I hope he took a bloody lot more!”

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