- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Frederick Arthur Broadley
- Location of story:
- England and Abroad
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 01 October 2005
AFTER THE WAR WAS OVER
I need to move on now, as I remarked earlier, this is only a brief outline in the life of one average working class human male, whose life and destiny were controlled by one stupid man from the year 1939. When the year 1946 arrived, having carried out all the tasks that were allotted to me, (and I can assure you that so much death, destruction, heartache and tears have been purposely omitted), I was, along with many more returned to my beloved Britain. The country for which I had given the prime of my life from 21yrs to 27yrs. When I once more saw the White Cliffs of Dover, I remarked with true feeling, “Drop me off anywhere, I’ll bloody well walk home!” What I’d learnt about being a soldier I’d already forgotten, all I wanted was peace and quiet, to live my life with my sweetheart Hilda, in our own little home. I worshipped my Hilda, so many letters had passed between us over the past 5 years. The love in both of our hearts was just as strong as it was on April 8th 1939.
RE-BUILDING OUR LIVES
On arrival in good old Blighty, I along with my comrades was taken to a discharge depot (I have no recollection where this was). We were issued with a pair of civilian trousers a jacket, a trilby hat, discharge papers, rail passes for our home towns and (this is a laugh) one King’s shilling. Hilda always saved this and I have it to this day along with a string of 5 medals that do not really mean a thing. On arrival home (this was now Hilda’s Mothers home), words cannot possibly describe the joy and happiness, in each others arms. Hilda’s life during my absence had been far from a bed of roses. She had nursed her Mother through an illness but her Mother had eventually died. Her Father, a miner, had sustained an injury down the mine after which he did not work. My Mother had passed away. Hilda was still expected to work at a munitions factory. Life had to start again for us two love birds, but we were together, thank the Lord, whatever else mattered. But we needed to eat and pay rent, I needed to be the breadwinner again, but what do I do? Do I request reinstatement at my pre war job in Derby? If I do that would mean reapplying for accommodation and would Hilda’s father be prepared to move to Derby? There are difficulties in all directions. I realised I was progressing favourably in my pre-war job, it seemed wrong not to return, but I decided to test the market locally. A granite quarry nearby was looking for men. Nothing special, track laying excavators, stone crushers and explosives, the maintenance of which I was now fully qualified. The money was only a living wage but I was prepared to work overtime so it was possible to save a pound or two and enjoy the odd luxury. Eventually Hilda became pregnant giving birth to a beautiful son on 14th December 1947, he weighed 8 1/2 pounds. We named him Robert. A little brother came along on 15th November 1949, he was christened Russell William, Russell being the surname of my war time pal (who was now back in South America and held the position of Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Peru State Railway). Life was beginning to get into some sort of rhythm and I had a devoted wife and two beautiful sons, work was the least of my worries with such happiness waiting for me when I got home. In my spare time I had bought and was running a couple of taxis. Of course very few people of working class were running cars in those days.
BACK TO SOLDIERING
Through the post one morning I received notification that I was to report for duty, a fortnights refresher course at Aldershot as a Z reservist. What a shock to us all! I did not know anything about being a Z reservist and as you know when I arrived back in England I said, ‘What I know about soldiering I have already forgotten.’ There was very little option but to carry out the instruction. I arrived at Aldershot and issued with a new uniform, stripes, medals, everything complete. One week was military training and one week engineering refresher course. On the very first morning, a complete company of men were on parade, from the colonel down, they were all reservists. Duties had to be allocated, orderly officers, orderly sergeants, section commanders and various other duties. I said to myself, ‘You’re an old soldier so volunteer for nothing.’ I stood well back and eventually all the duties had been allocated, there was only two N C Os that remained. The colonel said all that is left to do now is for someone to take the parade, and I was one of the two that remained. It was a toss-up who took the parade, you can guess who lost! Yes, it was I. If you remember I had forgotten all about soldiering, I had to think quickly. The sappers on parade all had rifles and were standing easy, I had to march up like a soldier, bring them to attention, slope arms, march up to the colonel, salute and ask permission to dismiss the parade. Move to the right in threes, move to the left, quick march, halt in front of the colonel, advance, present arms, another salute then dismiss. It was slightly wrong of course but the colonel must have forgotten anyway. During the week, after a refresher on the Lewis and Bren guns, I along with other N C Os were making their way to the canteen. Marching towards them was a very smart tall soldier, peeked cap, stick under my arm, badges of Regimental Sergeant Major on my sleeve, I thought, ‘I know him!’ The Regimental Sergeant Major turned also, then his face lit up, ‘It’s not Fred is it?’ There was shaking of hands, we were both highly delighted to meet, it was the Lance Corporal who I saved from being blown to pieces by just seconds! After the war was over he had joined the regular army and had become Regimental Sergeant Major, married and living in the barracks, quite a pleasant reunion it was, especially when you are only human.
MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS
Now comes the year 1952, transport was denationalised, the quarry for which I worked as an engineer use their own road transport at the same time hiring a considerable number of vehicles. A lot of time and thought was given to this subject, money for the purchase of a new vehicle was the problem but a partner was forthcoming to provide half the capital required, provided I could obtain a contract and allow the partners son to drive. Not ideal, but it did seem to be the only way I could get a start in haulage. The deal was made, a contract drawn up between the two as partners, I to be the operator and obtain the haulage licence. A new Dodge tipper with Perkins diesel engine was purchased. Unfortunately the sleeping partners son was a bit of a tearaway and not very reliable or a hard worker. He put the truck in a ditch once and he also had the spare wheel stolen while he was in a café I presume. The money was really a problem but I did manage to buy out my partner and also to dismiss the son. At that time I was very fortunate in obtaining a first class driver who worked hard and was paid on results but I would point out that I did not break the law. From that point profits were reasonable, a second and third vehicle being purchased, I giving up my role at the quarry to concentrate on haulage, the business side, maintenance and on occasion driving. I became well known by other haulage contractors for my expertise with diesel engines. The idea of a goods vehicle repair shop was forming in my mind
At this point I must go back to my family whom I cherished dearly, they were my life. The Lord, in His wisdom, was to take our son Robert from us. He was almost 8yrs of age, clever beyond his years, interested in, and played all sports. It was one very wet morning at school, they were playing football in the playground, and after break, returning into class and remain there for the rest of the day in their wet clothes. Robert contracted pneumonia, but this was not diagnosed because he had a small cut on his thumb. He was sent to hospital with suspected tetanus. He actually died in my arms behind the screens and in an oxygen tent. Artificial respiration and everything from past experience that I could do was done and I was yelling for help at the top of my voice at the same time. How I reached Coalville I will never know and to break the news to my beloved Hilda was the worst thing I have ever had to do. But life has to continue and with some form of stability because we do have Russell who we also love dearly. The effect on him must be very closely monitored. We did, on occasion discuss another child, but felt that to replace Robert was impossible. In later years our decision was questioned on occasion. We paid for Russell to attend Prep School, we bought and paid for a house but the prices were not as they are today. Russell followed on to Grammar School and when he reached the 6th form his decision was that engineering was not for him, his preference was to attend catering college.
WORKING FOR OTHERS
This was a shock for me, the haulage business and commercial repair shop I had always seen as a family concern, this was my desire. In my disappointment I dropped everything and obtained a post with a water authority as maintenance engineer. I was provided with a new house, we sold the house we owned; the proceeds had to substitute the loss of earnings, and keeping Russell at college was by no means cheap. At this point Russell’s decision was readily accepted, have no doubt at all about that, it was his life, and above all else, his happiness was our main concern. We must also remember that we are only human.
Life continues, jobs with better financial prospects in the water industry are searched for, eventually a post is obtained with the Wisbech and District water authority, as supply superintendent, with a house and a reasonable salary. The offer is made to me, I return to Hilda and say, ‘I’m going to ask you to move again sweetheart, would you mind?’ The answer she gave will remain with such great pride in my heart forever. ‘My darling, wherever you go I will make a home.’ I ask you, what man could have a better wife? We stayed just two years at Wisbech. During that time both Russell and Hilda spent time in Kings Lynn Hospital. Russell’s life was at one point in great danger and hanging by a thread. It was due to a gall stone operation that went seriously wrong. After this it was decided I must get my family back nearer their relatives. This I eventually did and on my retirement my position was Senior Maintenance Engineer with the Severn Trent Water Authority, the Soar Division, at the headquarters at Leicester. Early retirement was brought about due to me suffering a mild stroke. I have since suffered at least three major heart attacks but I have, thank the Lord, outlived my sweetheart and wife Hilda. I prayed so often to God that I would outlive her because my darling’s health was failing slowly. Although she was very brave, I was aware life alone for her would have been almost impossible. God did answer my prayers, but believe me, without my Hilda, each day is but a nightmare. The son we both loved and lived for unfortunately lives 168 miles away, he still has his fathers love and always will. But I am hoping that God will answer my prayers again because I need to be with my sweetheart, I am only human.
Eventually his prayers were answered - They are sweethearts together in Heaven - God Bless you both,
From Russell .......
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