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15 October 2014
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Mum and Dad's War

by sloanhall

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Reginald Sloan, Doris Sloan (nee Hall), Valerie Dawson nee Sloan
Location of story: 
Bootle, Merseyside, Isle of Man and Germany
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
23 November 2004

I wasn't born when the war was on, in fact I was born a good eight years after the end of it.
To my mum and dad though, it was new as yesterday and my mum was always keen to tell my brother Howard and I, about her experiences during that time. I find I have followed in her footsteps and tend to recount the experiences I have had in my life to my kids too.
My parents, Reg and Doris Sloan (nee Hall) were married on 30th December 1939 at Christ Church, Merton Road, Bootle.
For the ceremony, my mother was, for the time, fashionably dressed in a dusky blue, softly tailored suit. The reception was held at my mother's home in Sidney Road, Bootle.
Like many other couples, they knew the war was imminent and felt that any time spent apart while their movements were free, was a waste. So they had a good few months together, as a married couple, before my father went off to war.
The war started for my dad at Altcar Training Camp. For him, a very short way from his home.
At first he was seconded to the Artillery, part of the King's Regiment.
In the meantime my mother moved back to live with her parents in Sidney Road.
She had to find alternative employment at this point because as she was previously a telephonist for the GPO, she was officially a civil servant. The civil service did not allow married women to work for them, at the time and my mother found herself out of work, once married.
She did work at the Royal Ordnance Factory and for an insurance company. I think she quite liked this job as she often told of how she would be out on her rounds, collecting from peoples' houses and the bombs would be flying around Liverpool.
She had to know all the relevant air-raid shelters on her round, so that she could dive in the nearest one whenever there was a bombing raid.
My dad was stationed in the Isle of Man for a while and about this time the bombing of Liverpool, especially the docks, became very heavy.
My grandparents advised my mother to move over to the island for safety and this she did. She rented a house which meant my dad had a home to go when he had some free time.
To earn some money while she lived there, my mother made crocheted gloves which she also hand finished with embroidery on the backs. My mother did exquisitely fine crochet work and equally fine embroidery, so I can only imagine how lovely they were and yet she earned just 1s.6d. per pair.
My dad eventually served in Holland, Belgium and Germany and told us he served in the 'Battle of the Bulge.'
He was transferred to the Catering Corps., from the Artillery, because, he said, he was flat-footed and not very good at marching.
Ultimately, my father, being fond of his food, found this suited him well and he never lost his love of catering.
After the war he and my mum would often have parties, which my dad would bake for, but like he was baking for a regiment. My mother often found herself passing on my dad's efforts to the local children's home!
When my brother Howard and I were little, my dad would entertain us, usually after Sunday lunch, by telling us how he helped to win the war by throwing buns at the German planes from the top of his tank!
Later, his recollections were more serious and sad.
He made us realise that, far from being a bit of a cushy number, being in the catering corps., it could be rather dangerous. After all, when a regiment is pushing forward in battle, the cooks have to be one of the first lot of soldiers to go in, to dig trench kitchens to feed the rest of the regiment when the fighting ceases.
There were a few occasions that really stayed with my father after the war and one of these was of sitting on the edge of his bunker, whilst in Germany I believe. It was one of those quiet times when there were others doing the same, spending the time cleaning things and polishing boots etcetera.
All was peaceful until one of his regiment must have triggered a hidden land-mine because there was an explosion and when the dust settled there was nothing left of his colleague.
Another clear memory was of a time when their regiment had captured a building, but to do so meant killing the German soldier on guard at the gate.
As my father and his colleagues marched through the gates, the young soldiers' body lay to the side, a single bullet through his head.
What most affected my father, a fastidious man himself, was the pristine condition of the young man's uniform and his beautifully shiny boots. It was at that point, I believe, that my father saw the futility of war and killing. Such a waste of life.
My father was a willing soldier, willing to fight for the freedom of his country at all costs, but seeing these things first hand, put it all in clearer perspective.
I'm not sure how long my father was in Germany, but during his time there, I know he and some pals befriended a German family, who fed them and obviously talked to them a great deal about their feelings.
He heard for himself how they worried for their sons in their army, fighting a war they didn't really want to fight. They hoped that their sons had found a friendly British family to look after them.
From this, my father left the army and the war, with a quiet, deep fondness for most of the German nation.

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