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The Dance Hall, Wartime Escapeicon for Recommended story

by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Contributed by 
Frank Mee Researcher 241911
People in story: 
Frank Mee
Location of story: 
Stockton-on-Tees
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2553761
Contributed on: 
23 April 2004

On Leave in Port Said, Egypt, in 1948. I could always find a dance. The WVS ran this one and I am the chap in the middle with the flapping jacket, I never conformed. The ladies on either side were Miss Mary Coatson and Mrs O'Neal. Those wonderful WVS ladies made our leave very enjoyable, I remember them with love. They danced my feet off for a change.

A Morale Booster

Today's generation have no idea what part the dance halls played in keeping up morale during the war. Every town and village had a hall where dancing could take place. The bigger dance halls had orchestras, the smaller ones had a three piece band or records, sometimes only a piano.

In the large halls you danced on sprung floors, or at least highly polished and prepared floors. In small halls it was plank floors with nails sticking up or concrete with linoleum squares glued down. NAAFI or Garrison Theatre type floors were often polished linoleum.

Any kind of footwear would do, but some had dancing pumps and others wore what they had down to hob nail boots - this would be frowned on if it was a polished floor. Most people could dance, after a fashion, and get round a room without crippling their partners for life: well, usually.

The lights, the music and the company let you forget the misery, austerity and danger of the war for a few short hours. You could live your dreams in a make-believe world on a par with a Hollywood film.

I lived for dancing, young as I was. Dad said I would have danced on the pigsty roof if he had played the music - too true. Where most lads saw dancing as a means to an end, to me dancing was the end, the girls were the means.

My Personal Story of the Ballroom

At age 10-11, I had been given an insight into the wonder and splendour of the dance hall. Mother and Dad were competition dancers at a time when money or gifts could be won. They had different partners for the competitions and we had a house full of prizes of various kinds they had won.

As the babysitter was loathe to look after me (I was a bit of a handful, she said), I was dressed up and taken to the local Co-op. I would sit quietly and take it all in, overawed by the combined beauty of the music, lights and swirling dancers in their multi-coloured flowing dresses. That was the ladies, of course - the men wore sober suits or tuxedos. I would be taken home at the interval by a lady living near by and went to bed without argument to dream. I had found my Arabian Nights.

All my life I never failed to be amazed at the splendour and ambience of those large halls. The high, often domed ceiling, with masses of spotlights that changed colour as they turned. The huge mirrored ball with the spotlight in each corner of the room shining on it as it turned, casting scattered beams of moonlight on the dancers as the main lights dimmed to a soft haze. The coloured spotlights would weave among the dancers, wrapping them in a warm ethereal glow as it passed and I would be transported - it was wonder indeed.

Most halls had plush settees along the walls, with a scattering of tables and chairs. One end would be a standing area and the other end taken up by the stage. We had some large dance bands in some of those halls, the players would come on stage in their tuxedos and the Prima Donna Band Leader would stand up front. He waved his arms about, did his little dance steps and sang the odd song, smiling all the while at the ladies passing. Whether the players took notice of him was another matter - he was part of the whole kaleidoscope of music, lights and swirling dancers.

During those early days of watching, I was often taken on the floor by ladies during the interval between competitions. I was quite tall and a quick learner, so I could soon do most of the old-fashioned dances, as they were called. In the interval, records would be played of the modern dances, so I got a feeling for the quickstep, waltz and foxtrot. It got to a point where I did not sit many of the dances out, so it was an early learning curve without doubt.

The Next Level

At age 14 I had the ego to be MC (master of ceremonies) at the monthly cadet dance. After organising the program with the leader of the four-piece band I would stand on the stage and announce the dances. It usually took the form of 'Mary, Joan, Tansy', or whoever was flavour of the month. 'You are my next partner and the next dance is chrysanthemum waltz, foxtrot, dashing white sergeant, or whatever.'

The MC always led off the dance with the other couples forming behind him until the circle was formed. I do not remember any refusals, so I honed my dancing skills with the best dancers. There would be mature couples as well - we had guests and the officers brought their wives. Those nights were very popular, we were never short of girls.

Church and school halls often doubled as dance halls for the young ones, it was to keep us out of trouble. Whatever that was, we never found out. The vicar or church workers would run the dances, mainly to a record player or on occasion a three-piece band. We got a night of Victor Sylvester records though us scallywags would try and sneak a Glen Miller onto the machine.

We had to do a duty dance with the vicar's wife and the tea ladies as beholds young gentlemen of impeccable manners. One local spinster, of undecided age, took a shine to me and would come dashing over. She would wrap me in a wrestling hold from which there was no escape, pull me to her bosom and then do a sort of military two-step to whatever dance was being played. My memory is of an overwhelming smell of mothballs wafting round my nose, it ended all lascivious thoughts right there and the smell of mothballs was a passion killer all my life. I did get a tea and bun paid for, so stood the punishment.

I did have another brush with mothballs. A fill-in teacher whom we were all in love with came to help at those dances for a while and would dance with me. She raised my status in the school sky high, but the smell of mothballs and cigarettes was a little off putting, that story has been told on the site so I will not repeat it.

The Big Time

Stockton had some large dance halls. The Maison De Dance with Jack Marwood and his band. The Palais De Dance with Jack O'Boyle. The Jubilee Hall, which was the Co-op, and the Corporation Hall.

Having started work just before Christmas 1945 I met a group of older lads who went dancing and wished to go with them. They said OK we will go to the Palais, one of the larger halls with a Cafe and balcony were you could sit and watch when it got crowded. The big time at last, and with my usual confidence I had no qualms about going. An hour's preening and then two pence on the bus to town, one shilling in and then paradise.

What a site greeted me! Girls everywhere and only a few men, acres of floor space for me to open my legs and move, but no mates. I had not realised the form was to meet at the pub, under age or not, get some Dutch courage and then go in after the interval.

The band struck up and I was straight up with a girl I knew and did not sit down again until the interval.

My mates came in and asked where I had been, they took me aside and introduced me to the rules of going dancing. You must first get tanked up before asking girls to dance. You never go into the hall before the interval, it was unmanly. I then got a lecture on the various stratagems for getting a girl and dancing was only low on the list. They also told me I had to learn to smoke so I could offer girls a cigarette as an introduction.

I had never smoked and had no intentions of starting. I wanted to be in the dance and up on the floor at the first note, so with my usual bent attitude I did it my way. I could also fight so they did not argue.

After the interval the halls filled up and you could hardly move in the press of bodies. With a few adroit kicks you could clear some space or in the corners do a few twirls, but to dance you had to be in early.

The dances were full of uniforms of all nations, men and women, and it was exciting dancing with the women in uniform. They would be home for a short leave and then gone, so we had a good turnover of partners as well as the local girls.

Saturday Nights, The Highlight of the Week

I loved Saturday nights though we worked all day Saturday as part of the working week. It was home, bathed and changed, followed by a good tea, then make your way to town. A group of us would meet on the village green and then walk to town. We would have a wonderful night dancing, a relief from the constant austerity of the war, and then meet up again to walk home. We would be laughing and joshing each other, boys and girls arm in arm singing the latest songs. First stop, the Regal Fish Shop, and then on towards home, eating them out of the paper. Probably the reason we walked to and from town, to save the money for our supper.

A few minutes' chat on the green, where some of the girls' fathers would be waiting to see nothing untoward happened. Then home to bed to dream of the nubile ATS or WAAF I had danced with. I was a happy lad until the next dance night.

I had one regular partner with all the curves in the right places, who loved the Latin American dances. I thought she had a body like Carmen Miranda, a film star of the times. My mates would kid me up as facially she was not the best looking girl in the hall by any means. That attitude amazed me - if a girl was a brilliant dancer, why worry about looks? If you wanted a looker you had the last dance with her and took her home, a different thing altogether.

I had been having lessons for Latin dances and was stilted. During a tango she stopped and said, "Dance as if you were making love to me here on the floor." We started again, me bright red with embarrassment, but soon I melded with her and found out she was right. We often got space around us as we danced those sensuous dances and people watched, very heady for a young lad not old enough to drink.

Good Morale Booster

The local dance halls and the picture houses raised the spirits of the people. They were the escape from the mundane, the misery of rationing and the hard physical work most people did. You could live your dreams for a few sweet hours. Escapism? Yes, but we came out of those places light of heart and uplifted to another planet for a short while. We would come back down with a crash when some one asked whose turn it was to buy the fish and chips.

Throughout my life, dancing got me new friends wherever I was. I had some very unforgettable experiences and some very forgettable ones indeed. I danced in many of the largest halls in the country and loved every minute of it. Many of us met our partners in dance halls, as I did eventually.

Waltz Mecca

There is an end to this story. Many years later my wife and I were on holiday in Vienna. We went to the Strauss Waltz Hall on a stormy night. The doors to the patio and gardens were closed so only around half the dancing space was available. It was packed to the roof with tourists, which made dancing impossible.

The routine was that a local group in ball gowns and suits would give us a demonstration, then they would play a couple of waltzes for the tourists. We could not get near so I took things into my own hands.

Fighting my way to the edge of the floor as the demonstration was on, we waited. At the last note as the group swirled off to applause, my wife and I swirled on, right to the middle of the floor.

The conductor raised his baton and we were off. I suddenly realised after a couple of circuits we were alone, no one else had come on, so taking advantage we gave our all. Fast and slow turns, forward and reverse, measured swings and flat-out waltzing. We completed the dance to an ovation from the audience. I wondered if they had thought us part of the demo and am mystified to this day why it happened. We had danced in the Strauss Hall, that was all that mattered to me.

We did dance in the Sound of Music Pavilion, my wife with a Hungarian gentleman and me more sedately with his wife, to end a marvellous holiday.

The young people of today do not know what they are missing. My memories of those long gone dance halls lingers on. Once again I see the happy faces as I write, hear the music and am enclosed with those amazing lights. I remember how we all forgot the war for a while. They were truly one of the reasons we won the war, well that is my opinion.

Frank Mee

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Message 1 - The Dance Hall, Wartime Escape.

Posted on: 23 April 2004 by Harold Pollins

Dear Frank

A most interesting contribution. But I must say that when I was a teenager I didn't go dancing - that came later. I stayed at school until 18 and I suppose I was busy with studying or going to the Jewish youth club I belonged to. We certainly danced at the club but it was not ballroom dancing, rather it was what would be called nowadays Israeli dancing, usually in groups. As far as I recall the only ballroom dancing I did at that age was at weddings.

Best wishes

Harold Pollins

 

Message 2 - The Dance Hall, Wartime Escape.

Posted on: 23 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Dear Harold,
I came to realise years ago how lucky I had been during those years. Never hungry well clothed and shod and usually good for a couple of bob if I wanted it.
Most boys of my age did not go dancing until they left school, my parents being dancers was a mile start in my hundred yards of living.
Being taken at such a young age was the spark that set me off so I looked for dances and found them in the church halls and later at the Cadet Scout and other youth formation dances.
It did happen I went to a Jewish event, I am not sure exactly what it was but when it was discovered I could Vienese Waltz I had a busy night with the older ladies.
The only dancing I did in Palestine was in and out of holes trying to keep my scalp from the local Indians.
Dancing gave me the key to some wonderful times Harold and got me places I would normally never have seen. I loved it and wish I could still indulge but Tempus Fugit and takes your agility with it.
Regards FRank.

 

Message 3 - The Dance Hall, Wartime Escape.

Posted on: 23 April 2004 by John de Mansfield AbsolonResearcher 238443

Hi Frank.
I'm afraid my only real memories of dance halls is the really early days particularly the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill at the same time as Spike Milligan. Being in small detachments we rarely got a chance to get to the Saturday night hop in the village hall. I'm afraid we were very envious of units that could get out to those morale boosting functions. You can jolly well feel sorry for us Frank. So I will have to stick with Spike Milligan.
Yours Aye
John

 

Message 4 - The Dance Hall, Wartime Escape.

Posted on: 24 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello John,
Nice to hear from you as you were not feeling too well last time I caught one of your mails.
I was thinking about you last week after watching a program on TV. You are a Gunner as in muzzle loading I believe. The program was the refurbishing of an M10 TD with a 17pounder gun we called it an Achilles. They put it into full "D" Day livery complete with snorkells and the gun was refurbished too, it certainly looked the goods to me.
We apparently took off the American 75mm and fitted the 17pounder without to much alteration and made a tank destroyer that would take out a Tiger. It was operated By the Artillery, Tankees like a lid on their machines.
I thought I had seen most of the armoured vehicles made but that one escaped me. The M10A2 chassis was the Sherman M4 with twin General Motors Diesel engines the other chassis M4A6 had Catterpillar Diesels they were usually TD's as they did not fire up at the first hit on them as did the petrols.
I wondered if you had come across such a machine, I do know the 17pounder was a good gun with a proven record so some one had the bright idea of making it mobile.
After being forcibly ejected from the Infantry into the REME as they were short of Engineers I finally got over my pet lip at the injustice and got stuck in. I made WO1 Artificer Sergeant Major and not RSM as you thought. Same job same power but a lot more money with trade pay. In that time most things armoured went past me at some point but not an Achilles. I must admit we kept clear of the Artillery with their big awkward accumulators. We did get the odd Abbot self propelled gun to play with though.
Apart from anything mechanical with a shellback, my main occupation was dancing. The lads said I could smell a dance from fifty miles away and would be on the transport I would organise knowing they were onto a good thing. I pulled the trucks up at a lone public house one night to discover nurses from a local hospital having a party in a large back room and we all danced the night away. Dont ask me how I knew, it was that Infantry sixth sense that makes your hackles rise, I just had a nose for it.
Keep well John and best regards,
Frank.

 

Message 5 - The Dance Hall, Wartime Escape.

Posted on: 28 April 2004 by John de Mansfield AbsolonResearcher 238443

Hello Frank.
Thank you for your inquiry about my health I think it is probably the shock of waking up one morning and realising that one is old. All probably due to inhaling too much flash less non-highdroscopic cordite (I confounded my computer with that lot).
No I didn't ever run across this particular TD although you were probably aware that the 17 pounder was fitted into the turret of a Sherman tank and could traverse as the normal turret it was codenamed "Firefly" and issued to armoured formations although there were never enough. Although they could "kill" German armour at long-range they were just as vulnerable as the normal Sherman and Squadron commanders tended to husband them. There was always the controversy between armoured TD's and wheeled anti-tank guns and of course who should control and site them. The problem was always the height of the TD as to the low profile of a wheeled weapon. When controlled by the artillery network guns could be fitted into the general plan. With TD's they were often commandeered as tanks and it was difficult for gun Sergeant to resist the demands of Company and Battalion commanders who, naturally, wanted more armour. Twenty-five pdrs and 105 mm guns were mounted on armoured SP's codenamed if I remember rightly "Sexton and Priest". The 40 mm Bofors was also fitted on a "Valentine" chassis. Gunners don't really care for roofs over our heads and also like a low profile a gun pit for me any day. As you can gather from this I didn't ever meet " Achilles".
There was always a problem with individually sited guns both anti-tank and LAA as the responsibility and decisions to engage rested entirely on the gun Sergeant or Bombadier and as you can guess could be awesome in the heat of battle..
No I certainly didn’t run against the “Achilles” and I know our divisional anti-tank was wheeled as I have said we were not too keen on tracked anti-tank weapons mind you I could carry on for hours about 88 mm v. 3.7 in guns.
My best regards.
Yours Aye
John

 

Message 6 - The Dance Hall, Wartime Escape.

Posted on: 29 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello John,
I wake up each morning and open one eye if it looks like a normal English day, rain sun hail snow ice and sunburn all in the first half hour I know it is OK. If ever I wake up and see my old SSM or my old mates sitting on marble seats playing harps I know I am in trouble. I just dont worry about it.
I did come across the Firefly Sexton and Priest but they were not something I saw a lot of.
The Sherman M4 chassis had many uses and became the basis of many of the army's mobile Artillery weapons.
The M4 fitted with a 76mm gun was the Firefly the M4A3 had a 105mm in the turret. The M7B1 had a 105mm self propelled gun. M10 TD with a 3 inch gun in an open topped turret. The M36 TD with a 90mm gun. The M40 a 155mm self propelled gun and the M43 8 inch self propelled howitzer. There was no end to the uses of the Sherman chassis.
We saw the Abbot a full British effort that saw service for many years with a variety of weapons so the Tincan Artillery still ride into the sunset along side us Armoured bods.
You were right about the height of those things, I was walking towards my Comet one day and realised I could see the whole of the turret of the Sherman behind it above mine. I had got the Comet because I managed to set fire to a couple of Shermans firing them up with empty engine bay fire extinquishers so was not flavour of the month. I usually managed to be not flavour of the month with SSM Stone because I had a penchant for raggy shorts long hair and low slung pistol holster. You know the Army if you cannot control them promote them, I must have been a right handful to get where I got.
Happy days John in the old cannon ball era, I had fun and regret none of it. Keep well and taking the tablets as I do.
Regards Frank.

Message 1 -

Posted on: 23 April 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank-
your dancing takes me back to early lessons in Darlington when I was stationed at Barnard Castle with the 61st Training Regt.
Saturday afternoon was a run to Staindrop Staion to catch the train to Darlington - into lessons for an hour - tea - then the main dance in the evening at I think - the YMCA.Then the run to catch the last train - full of drunks to just make it by 11:59 !
There were six of us taking lessons and we were the experts so at the Barracks dance on friday nights we would lead off every dance - showing off the various steps to the peasants who only wanted to drink beer ! Sadly the other five became Officers and four of them were killed !
I too have danced in Vienna - at the Kursaal after the demonstrations of the real Viennese waltz. Happy days - we had it all - the kids to-day don't seem to get the fun we had. Mores the pity !

 

Message 2 - What you missed

Posted on: 24 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello Tom,
When you were in Darlington only 12 miles from me you should have gone to the Co-op Hall dancing. It was upstairs over the big Co-op in the Market Square.
There was a sprung floor for dancing and as I once slept on it found it was more like sleeping on a troopship. The same night a nasty German plane machined gunned us in the street as we ran for shelter, about the last attack we had. Some people are easily annoyed we only put two fingers up to him.
I suppose you also found that being able to move to music was a passport to the ladies.
As a young soldier stationed at Satan Camp Chester where there were camps of women all round and very few men, I was introduced to the table system. You walked in the Dance Hall and they could tell a dancer so you got grabbed and seated at a table with a group of ATS WAF or Land Girls (boy they could be rough) They bought your beer all night but you belonged to them and danced with all of them in turn. The fisticuffs at the end of the night as to who took you back to barracks had to be seen to be believed.
You could be poached with offers of Whisky from another table but it took a brave man to do a swap.
You could try and stay independant but try fighting off a dozen women who were determined to own you for the night. After a few bevvy's who cared, I didn't.
Barnard Castle Camp is now a Prison for young lads so dont go back they may keep you.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 3 - What you missed

Posted on: 24 April 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank;
you are right about the passport to the ladies although it didn't always work out quite the way it should have...at the Barracks dance one friday I caught up with a very nice girl from West Auckland, so at the end of the dance - being a gentleman - I took her home on the waggon - lo and behold - the waggon took off back to camp without me - have you any idea how far it is from West Auckland to Barney ? I'm not surprised that Barney is now a prison camp - sometimes it felt like it when the permanent staff were all Horse Guards - RSM Twyler - SSM Christie and his brother - God help you if you slouched - anywhere - even in the showers ! We had a great football team though as we had Bobby Combe - inside right of Hibernians and Scotland after the war - Jimmy Gordon half back of Middlesborough and me on the right wing - three PT wallahs at the back,we didn't lose many games !

sometimes it was awhole bunch of fun !
regards
tomcan

 

Message 4 - What you missed

Posted on: 25 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hi Tom,
Bobby Combe eh, his pal George Hardwick died last week and got the Teesside send off. They took him past the old Acklam Park Stadium now a housing estate. Gentleman George, he had an eye for the ladies.
Brought back memories of the free standing crowd with our hard pies and the brown bottle in your pocket after tanking up at the pub, we only offered a drink to people we did not know after refilling it. Fun days Tom.
West Aukland now there is a tourist trap for you. People walk around there for pleasure but then that is what you were doing.
West Aukland, Evenwood, Wackerfield, Staindrop, Stainton then Barnard Castle a fair old gallop but then you wasps could do it. We called our PT wallahs wasps because of their banded shirts and hated them whole heartedly.
We did our field training from Barny, down from Brancepeth that is not far from Aukland. I may have danced with some of your retreads long after you had gone.
Happy days, Regards,
Frank

 

Message 5 - What you missed

Posted on: 25 April 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank
- George Hardwick was one of the best in English football in the days before Pushkas, Hideguti, Koscis showed us how to play again. Amos Moss also died last week - he was left half for Villa after the war along with his brother Frank at centre half and my brother Larry. They stuck to-gether like glue.One match against Wolves Billy Wright brought Larry down - stepped on his inside thigh - twisted his boot so that the short nails tore the flesh open and blood poured out. Larry protested to the Ref who asked who did it - larry said Billy Wright - "Billy Wright" the Ref said " captain of England - never" ! After the bandages were on it was half time and so they had a meeting - Billy Wright was stretchered off two minutes after the re-start - the ref is still shaking his head !
Those names of Staindrop - Stainton - Brancepeth - Evenwood bring back a lot of memories Frank. I used to love Richmond especially when we were learning to drive Crusader Tanks - that cobbled hill near the centre was a magnet and too many times we missed the left turn at the bottom and went careering through a small house at the bottom. No one was ever hurt but it must have been annoying to the tenants ! they were inded happy days
best regards tomcan

 

Message 6 - What you missed

Posted on: 25 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Yes Tom,
I did follow in your footsteps. Different time different vehicle. I too slid down that hill but missed the house, it was a Bren Carrier and by the time I reached a standstill I was dizzy. We had spun as in a waltz from top to bottom missing every thing including a couple of trucks. Some one looked down on me that day for sure.
The same sort of vehicle nearly did for me in Cyprus, Mountain track and no brakes, not a good combination, the steep drop on one side did not give me confidence and I considered getting out, that is not me though and managed to shoot it up a narrow track bouncing a few trees as I went. The SSM told me to stop playing silly tricks and get on with it, no counsellors in those days.
The Crusaders I played with were the ARV's if we could keep the engine running they would pull anything out of anywhere. Some one decided that spending most of your time recovering your recovery vehicles was not efficient, I wonder why. I got a Ward-La-France the Canadian Mac with all electric winches and other goodies and then they shipped me out to Cyprus. Typical Army when you start having fun move them on.
George Hardwick was a super star in my day with Wilf Mannion who died in 2000. Rolando Ugolini Alan Peacock and John Bollands were among the bearers. I hated Billy Wright because he married Patti of the Beverly Sisters but forgave him when I saw him play.
They are all dropping off the perch the end of the conveyor belt is getting nearer Tom we better make good use of the next thirty years it may be all we have left.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 7 - What you missed

Posted on: 25 April 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank -
I've been planning on another 70 years as this is the only way I can get all my money back from the Government !

 

Message 8 - What you missed

Posted on: 25 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

To right Tom,
I got a rise on Friday with money back on my income tax, £3 how about that, PER MONTH. A whole £36 per year, I am going straight out to buy a Mars Bar.
Just back from having our evening meal with my daughter and told her she must take the money abroad when I tip the scales and get away from that income tax wolf. I suppose in a way I am lucky to be in a position to pay income tax, they must pay all the pensions in Stockton out of what I give them.
Have fun while you can Tom its the only way to go.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 9 - What you missed

Posted on: 26 April 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank - I get a hoot out of the largesse distributed by Governments these days - heating allowance if you live in the South of Spain. Just because we live in the "old Colonies" we are DEDUCTED by - at last count - 35% - the only way we can check is when we visit the U.K. - annually it seems (!)we can then get the full pension for the time we spend in the U.K. so at last count we got the equivalent of $Cdn 450:oo.... which would buy the groceres for at least three weeks !WE have tried all sorts of ways to get this fixed - no chance - so we have a South African pensioner sueing the Gov't - she lost - then it went to the High Court - she lost again - now it's in the House of Lords... if she loses again ( no bets)we can then take it to Strasbourg - which means we will all be long gone awaiting a decision from that lot ! The Irony is that - if we lived in Germany - Italy - Japan - Bosnia - USA - we would get a full pension ! Madness init !

 

Message 10 - What you missed

Posted on: 26 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Tom
You cannot believe the parsimony of governments.
My friend (passed away now) had a sister in Vancouver, they left their pensions in England and wanted to give it to Noel, my pal. He would have lost all his extras and been no better off if this had happened. They came to England every couple of years and took it out of the bank giving him it in cash that put two fingers up at those in charge.
I got a shock when I came on my last pension at 65. I was informed it was unearned income for tax purposes, UNEARNED income? it took the wife a week to get me off the ceiling. I agree that compared with my other pensions the Old Age Pension is not even pocket money but Unearned Income that was an insult indeed.
I never understood the law that gave some ex-pats the full monte and others nothing but then who ever understood government law or thinking. It is no wonder us poor military people have problems fighting their wars for them, no one knows what they are doing.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 11 - What you missed

Posted on: 26 April 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank -
as I understand the Brit pension over here ...it was the Labour Govt after the war who sent their con men over here to talk pensions - in effect they said - we will be sending you many people in order to fill up space in your vast land - and when it comes to pensions - you should be able to look after them if they run into difficulties. The various Colonies Govts snapped to attention - saluted - and said three bags full your Lordships. They then - chuffed with how easy it was - tried it on in the States - Get stuffed they were told. The Australians have now told the Brit Govt that the game is over and will not subsidise the Brit ex pats and so they are now in some difficulty,which is a shame as the Aussies thought they could shame the Brits into agreeing - no chance on that one ! The worst off are the South Africans - Zimbabawe's etc. we are not too badly off as the Cdn Govt is a bit more generous,they even kicked in $250,000 for the appeal of the South African ! and as a disabled Vet - our medical needs are free !

 

Message 12 - What you missed

Posted on: 26 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Tom,
The whole system is going base over apex. My children will get a partial pension but need to provide their own for the better living they are used to.
Luckily they took a page out of Dads book and looked after number one first. The first of my daughters to take early retirement (At Fifty) is now set for the rest of her life with money invested and a good pension she worked hard for.
My Grandchildren will need to plan from their first jobs for an old age that will seem donkeys years away plus what ever they get left. I am glad I had my time when I did, hard as it was I enjoyed life had fun and worked for what I have now which is comfort.
We can eat heat the place run a car and go on holidays. My wife can shop till she drops which luckily is taking much less time these days so what more do we want.
The government have found out they have a large group of militant pensioners marching on Downing Street so are suddenly taking notice. We may need you to blanco your belt and poilish your brasses to get on parade and help sort the B******s out though.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 13 - What you missed

Posted on: 26 April 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank-
the main reason that we left the U.K. in 1957 was that they no longer needed me for the Korea or the Suez fracas, and so inasmuch as both Eisenhower and Pearson stuck there noses in and declared that we were bad lads for trying to protect our interests in the Mid East...plus the fact that Britain appeared to be going down the chute at the time...Veronica and I decided to go around the world for a few years as we had no family after seven years, so I went on the recce to Canada and got a job toot sweet. The first letter from Veronica stated unequivacably that we were pregnant!
Big decision - do I go home and have the baby on the NHS or lump it over here and pay the shot. We stayed !
I then caught with my education with six years at University - part time - and was assistant Gen Mgr of a medium coy. in Calgary selling - Explosives - we had a booming business!
In 1971 we had another decision to make as the eldest boy was due into Junior High School - we didn't like the look of the graduates of the system and so sold everything and came back to the U.K. Managed to get them into Grammer Schools before they went ape and comprehensive and so the decision was justified inasmuch as the eldest is a Regional Director for a large computer living in Vancouver but HQ in Dallas. Elizabeth is a Director and Vice President of Merrill Lynch in London and Mark is doing genetic research at the Children's Hospital in Vancouver ! We too are not suffering as I started a company in the u.K. which managed to come up with pension which we spend on our annual trips to the U.K. and beyond. So life is good... now if I could get a couple of new hips - I could go dancing again ! I had a cap badge of the 16/5th sent out last year with a black beret for the November parades - they don't polish them anymore !

 

Message 14 - What you missed

Posted on: 27 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Tom,
You missed nothing worth doing with Suez.
I missed Korea by a few hours. Two Units for the same job kitting out together but the other unit worked all night and finished first so went. Much later I found out they lost half the unit in killed wounded and prisoners in the first few days.
Suez was a shaker as we took in hundreds of reservists and got them settled. As a young S/Sergeant I was overwhelmed by a flood of SNCO's with enough ribbons to wallpaper a room. They did not take kindly to being directed by such as I and let it be known I was on the slippery slope to perdition for trying.
The S/mess overflowed and then the records caught up with them. They all went to their War Sub Ranks and what a shock that was. WO's who had been bellowing at me were suddenly Sgt's or Corporals and some were found to be not even tradesmen so they went out. We finaly settled into a semblence of order for kitting up and at least I knew where I was in the pecking order.
The rest is history as we bowed our heads to America and as it happened just in time as Ammo was in short supply.
It was a cock up of the first water and the only good thing to come out of it all was the foundation of the modern army with far better weapons and kit. That is if you do not count the Multi Fuel Engine produced by Leyland on a bad day. That thing shortened my temper removed acres of skin from knuckles and caused blood vessels to burst in frustration.
You look back and wonder how anything got done by the military and Kipling got it right whith his poem Tommy Atkins. It is a good job soldiers have a warped sense of humour.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 15 - What you missed

Posted on: 27 April 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank -
I'm in the middle of a book which gives a great deal of the facts surrounding the ill fated Suez thing..
and it is the same to-day...with the takeover of most of the African nations to the exclusion of all the Europeans who brought some law and order into that savage land in circa 1800.

It's the same crowd and they all appear to work in the New York area who winter in Florida and the Catskills in the summer ! They are determined to have a one world government run by themselves and you'd better not protest or you will be in the slammer for years to come!
- until incarceration becomes too expensive !
We might be able to protest at the moment about Abortion, Euthansia, and all the other immoral acts we see all around us to-day, but that will be over very shortly and this is what I regret for the future generations.
And the stooge who is setting it all up for them - Our old friend Mikhail Gorbachev who has been beavering away for more than ten years on this project and what he has done to- date is the setting up of the International Court plus the One World Church. He operates from ex Miltary base - The Presidio in San Francisco, with funds from various tax free foudations !
This is not new news - they are quite open about it all.

There is very little we can do to halt this particular progress, and so I grieve for the grandchildren who will live in this state of slavery
- we can only pray !

regards
tomcan

Message 1 - The Dance Hall, Wartime escape

Posted on: 24 April 2004 by lizzies

Hi Frank,

Lovely memories, I enjoyed it very much, you have started my feet tapping. I am sure I would of enjoyed those dancing times!

Regards Lizzies.

 

Message 2 - The Dance Hall, Wartime escape

Posted on: 24 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello and welcome Lizzies,
I am sure we could have made your feet swing with the music as those lights dimmed and the coloured spots wafted over the dancers like a soft silken scarf touching your skin.
I was very young but so intergrated with those dance halls just living from one dance to another.
Before I joined the Army it was seven nights a week and we had to work over two of those nights. Monday was dance school and Sunday the Ace Dance club. They got around the law by being a club and a dance school but it was mainly dancing.
My mates never understood my being in the hall before the band was on the stage but I got nearly two hours clear floor, after the interval it was shuffling round to music. They never understood either how I came to get the last waltz and take home some of the best looking girls in the room, I had made my mark while the room was still fairly empty so had no problems. I was never daft enough to explain it all to my pals, if they were that dumb hard luck.
Good times Lizzies and very happy memories.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 3 - The Dance Hall, Wartime escape

Posted on: 26 April 2004 by lizzies

Hi Frank,

Nice to hear from you.
How lovely you make it all sound, I think to dance is one of the most wonderful pleasures of life.

I have always enjoyed dancing especially to a live band, although I don't have any memories of wartime dancing as I was'nt born till 1948.
My mum tells me of the fantastic dances at Biggin Hill when she was in the Naafi.

I think dancing brought people together, the joys of music is very special. It was only last Sunday in between cooking lunch that I was dancing round the kitchen with my grandaughter who is 7, we were dancing to Bill Hayley and the Comets, I did enjoy that!

I think if everyone was to dance the world would be a much healthier and happy place.

Kind Regards Lizzies.

 

Message 4 - The Dance Hall, Wartime escape

Posted on: 27 April 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello Lizzies,
Naafi girls were always a good source of dancing partners.
One large camp I was in held a dance in the Naafi hall which was Linoleum floor but the girls polished it for the dance. I arrived booked in got settled then asked about dancing. There is one tonight but most of the girls are booked. They had not seen me operate.
Into the hall as soon as it opened a couple of dances and I spotted the best dancer by far. She was a Naafi girl with a wonderful figure only she had a split lip. They did not mend them in those days so she spent most of her time dancing with other girls apart from some randy soldier trying his luck.
Waiting until she was up I walked over and cut in, she was turning away as I took her in my arms and started to dance. I could see the shock then disbelief in her eye's "oh not this early in the night" and knew what she was thinking so I told her.
I dance with the best dancers in the room because that way I learn, I love dancing and you are the best now walk away if you wish or enjoy the night just dancing. We danced most of the night and promised to be there the next week. A couple of nights later in town at another dance she was there so I went over.
Some one had wound her spring because her mood was caustic. "You dont have to feel sorry for me and it will not get you anywhere" I stopped dancing, "Why would I do that, feel sorry for you" "because of my lip" "what lip" and kissed her smack on the lips then whirled her into the dance. We ended up laughing and I had a partner until I was posted overseas.
It got me Naafi breakfasts round the back and suppers too so it was not all one way. The camp food was atrocious.

I always embraced new types of dancing so when the Bill Haley era dawned I was up there with them but still enjoyed every kind of dance.
If those dance halls were still running I think the world would be a much calmer place to live in and at least the youngsters would have something to do of a night. I never thought about hanging round street corners when there was a dance on somewhere.
Keep dancing with your grandchildren what would we do without them, I love mine to bits.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 5 - The Dance Hall, Wartime escape

Posted on: 27 April 2004 by lizzies

Hi Frank,

Thankyou Frank for your memories of your dancing times, I have enjoyed reading them, it has given me some insight of what fun I could of had during WW2.

If I could have a wish I think I would wish for just 1 night of dancing during wartime.
I could see myself dancing to Glenn Millers wonderful music, my favorite being Moonlight Serenade!

I love to read everyones memories and one thing sticks in my mind that although times were bad people carried on and still enjoyed themselves.

Thankyou Frank.
Kind Regards, Lizzies.

Message 1 - Dance

Posted on: 31 December 2004 by Audrey Lewis - WW2 Site Helper

Thanks Frank,
Lovely memories. Wish we could live them on the dance floor - all over again - but the joints might not let us. Notice - our names on the front page!! Have a lovely New Year!
Kind regards,
Audrey

 

Message 2 - Dance

Posted on: 01 January 2005 by anak-bandung

dear Frank, I bet the New Year's concert in Vienna this morning sent your feet tapping all over again and aching to get up and have a go.... or maybe you and your wife did, just for one more time between the furniture!! At least it will have brought back loads of memories.
I love dancing and did not do it often enough to my liking.
Congratulations on being on the front page!
love, Rob @->--

 

Message 3 - Dance

Posted on: 04 January 2005 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Yes the New Year Concert from Vienna had me going, I love every minute of it.
The opulence of the places they were dancing in brought back memories and once more I was lost in the beauty of the Waltz.
The Blue Danube was the first proper tune I learnt on piano and to dance to the music of The Blue Danube many years later in Vienna was my Mecca. All downhill from there as proper dancing vanished for the Pogo and the old joints stiffened.
Thanks to the Come Dancing program's lately they tell me there is a revival and not before time.
Happy memories,
Frank.

 

Message 4 - Dance

Posted on: 30 December 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Dear Frank et al

Before the site goes 'Archive' I've got to add my own little 'Dance Hall' story.

It was Sunday evening, on the 7th of December, 1947.

We, that's me and my ex-Army friends Lew Fox and Leslie Gilbert, had all decided to attend one of the Sunday night dances that used to be held Post-War in Woburn Square near Euston Station in London.

Across the dance hall floor a beautiful young lady caught my eye.

Later, both Lew and Leslie were to claim that it was their insistence that decided my asking her for a dance.

Be that as it may, the short story is that Nita, the young lady in question, was to become my dancing partner for the next fifty eight years and we were duly married on the Third of July 1949.

I do like a happy ending !

Ron

 

Message 5 - Dance

Posted on: 30 December 2005 by ritsonvaljos

Hello Ron, et al,

And to think a Sunday night dance in downtown London was even more memorable than all the events between 1939 and 1945! The date and venue are evidently etched on your memory, Ron.

Thanks for sharing another important memory from your life. You'll have to go to more dances with all the extra spare time you'll have when the "People's War" project ends in the near future.

Best wishes,
ritsonvaljos

 

Message 6 - Dance

Posted on: 31 December 2005 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Dear Ron,
Having seen the Photographs of the lovely Nita and then the two of us sharing the BBC Camera Crew experience I did wonder how you met.
Mystery solved, you could never see who you were dancing with under those dimmed lights and the multi faceted mirror ball casting its flitting moonbeams across the dancers mesmerized people. You had Nita hogtied and branded before the poor girl realised she could do far better.
Oh well 56 years is not a bad innings.
I wish Nita and yourself the very best for the coming year and a Happy New Year to you all on the site.
Frank.<holly>
PS I loved the Strictly Come Dancing series, it brought back memories.

 

Message 7 - Dance

Posted on: 31 December 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Frank -
You are not alone with your memories of Vienna and the Kursaal
and the Vienna ballet company demonstrting the Vienna Waltz to the music of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, as we had ample opportunity to partake in those pleasures when we occupied that great City.
The most memorable was in 1980 when my cousin, on a visit from New Zealand,
"wished" she could go to see the Oberammergau Passion play...somehow I wangled tickets and off we set with a slight detour to Vienna.
We settled comfortably near the Orchestra at the outdoor area, when I got the "elbow" - my cousin - in an Irish whisper asked me to ask the Orchestra if they could play the "Invercargill March" - in a lower whisper I pointed out that we were in the very heart of MittelEurope and it was doubtful if they would know where Invergargill was let alone their March !
Ten minutes later - I got the 'Elbow' again - She hissed - "this is a good band - I thought they would know the Invercargill March" - The Vienna Philharmonic "band" was playing Strauss' "Radetsky's March" !!!
The whole trip of two weeks was a hoot from start to finish ! Those were indeed happy days !

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