- Contributed by
- BBC Radio Norfolk Action Desk
- People in story:
- Frank L Scott. Private Sally Gray.
- Location of story:
- Hadleigh, Suffolk
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 May 2005
This contribution to People’s War was received by the Action Desk at BBC Radio Norfolk and submitted to the website with the permission and on behalf of Frank L Scott
Frequently one hears the phrase, “being in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
More frequently than the expression “being in the right place at the right time.”
So my story begins.
Having completed my initial military training by April 1941, my first posting as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery, was to a Searchlight Battery Headquarters in the delightful village of Hadleigh in Suffolk.
Within the grounds of ‘Friar’s Hall’ on the outskirts of the village, some thirty men were based forming the link between number of searchlight sites and the local RAF fighter station at Debden.
On parade on the day in question the squad was asked, “Are there any budding artists amongst you?” Without thinking I raised my arm (water colours having been my favourite subject at school) and was told to report to the MT (Motor Transport) shed where I was given the task of painting the regimental colours and numbers on all military vehicles on site.
Whilst in the process of doing so a utility vehicle pulled alongside, the driver throwing out a kit-bag and a bedding roll and proceeded to drive away leaving a somewhat bewildered, smartly dressed member of the ATS.
It having been decided that the ATS should become part of the establishment.
She introduced herself as Private Sally Gray.
Without hesitation I introduced myself and escorted her to the women’s quarters, which were strictly Out of Bounds, suggesting that, perhaps, she met me outside the OR’s canteen around half seven that evening be introduced to the other guys on the site.
Although it had been only a very brief encounter there was an immediate attraction, and I was comforted by the thought that I had the immediate advantage of having seen her first!
Additional members of the ATS were posted to the unit in the coming weeks and it became quite noticeable how changed the atmosphere of the camp became, not to mention the sudden appearance of white tablecloths and spring flowers on the tables in the dining hut. And I must admit that the conversations became a little more refined and the use of very strong language almost unheard.
It wasn’t very long before Sally and I were spending every off-duty moment together, either cycling locally, half-day passes into Ipswich, and enjoying evenings together in one of the local hostelries, singing the tunes of the day around the piano. The locals made us feel very welcome.
The war itself seemed many miles away, although the unit would be called into action as and when enemy aircraft were known to be in the vicinity of East Anglian air space.
A night to remember was walking back to camp following an exhilarating evening at a local pub when we decided to climb a five-bar gate and closely sauntered into a field of tall grass where we lay and watched a shooting star, and made a wish.
Under a pale moonlit sky, we embraced, kissed and made love
I was no longer a Virgin Soldier.
Our seven day’s leave passes we spent together, mainly with my parents in London who were delighted to know that we had found happiness in a war torn world. The London Blitz at its height continuing to cause much havoc and devastation.
During this period of time I had previously volunteered for airborne divisions, but a posting to a newly formed anti-aircraft regiment took me to Bath in Somerset. There we said our goodbyes.
Being a mobile regiment meant that the unit was not static for very long, but distance seemed to be no object and we continued to see each other.
Eventually our only contact was by letter and writing to each other became less frequent. With the approach of the Normandy invasion and with all that was to follow our world fell apart and sadly we lost touch with each other.
Some fifty years passed before an article that appeared in the national press brought us back in contact again. It was unbelievable that Sally should be reading that particular newspaper on the day she got in touch. It was too incredible to believe and I had the feeling we were destined to meet again.
We had so much to tell each other.
On her side she had married a Sergeant in the army, she had become a Sergeant herself and had settled down in the Midlands and had three children. She desperately wished to hear all about my parents and family and what path my life had taken.
She wrote that she had been widowed for some thirteen years and was living with an unmarried daughter.
With time passing much too swiftly, having corresponded for a year or do, we arranged to meet and decided on a suitable rendezvous.
My wife chose not wish to join me on this sentimental journey and so I set off for the Colne Valley.
Wishing to do things in style I hoped perhaps a dozen red roses would bring a tear to her eye, but had to settle for a miniature rose bush instead.
With great anticipation I awaited her arrival, naturally someone is inclined to be looking for someone they once knew, but, with so much time in-between it just doesn’t work out that way.
Although the passing years were beginning to show we recognised each other immediately. Within minutes the clock was turned back to the early 1940’s, when the glances, looks and personalities, as remembered, returned.
There was great joy and laughter as we exchanged experiences and went down memory lane looking through endless photographs of now and then.
We continued to write to each other often, keeping each other up to date with our every day lives. Eventually I could read between the lines that her health was failing.
It is my deepest regret that I did not get to see her again before she died in February 2004. A note from Sally’s Daughter told me that she had passes away peacefully in her sleep.
It is perfectly true that one never forgets their first love, but Sally will always have a place in my heart.
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